Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to Take a Photograph

At a camera club meeting last night, there was a short discussion on how to take a photo: instinctual or technical.

One club member said he's been taking photos long enough, he doesn't often have to think about the technical aspects of composing an image. He doesn't consciously consider where the third lines are, or how the viewer of the image will "enter" the photograph, or directionality of lines. He's able to see a moment and feel the best way to shoot.

Another member disagreed. She considers all those aspects for her images. She feels that if she begins to rely on instinct, she'll get into a photographic rut.

I'm trying to decide which method is better, which is probably an impossible question to answer because each method has it's merits. However, I'll relate my current photographic habits to two of my former careers.

When I was a golf pro, I practiced individual skills. 
On the putting green, I practiced short putts, long putts, uphill, downhill, right breaking, left breaking, etc.
I practiced chipping to close holes, and holes that were farther. I practiced chipping with different clubs.

On the driving range, I practiced with each club.
I practiced drawing the ball, fading the ball, hooking and slicing, hitting it high, hitting it low.
I practiced hitting off fairway, rough, hardpan and long grass.
I practiced hitting out of bunkers.
Each individual skill, I practiced because I knew at some point I would need that skill.

When I play golf, I need to focus on playing golf, not on individual skills. On the golf course, during a round of golf is not the time to be focusing on technical skills. On the golf course, I was very much a "feel" golfer.

In graduate school, learning to become a counselor, I practiced individual skills. 
I practiced using minimal encouragers.
I practiced how to paraphrase and summarize.
I practiced reflecting emotion, using the right question, and finding the meaning beneath the client's words.

When I enter a counseling session, I need to focus on the client, not the individual skills.

I think my photography follows a similar path. I practice individual photography skills.
I practice using my 85mm lens. I used it the other day while photographing architecture. It's not a good lens - in my opinion - for photographing architecture, but it was a good exercise.
I practice looking for lines to help the viewer enter a photograph.
I practice quickly switching settings on my camera.
I practice looking for images that are better in B&W, and those that are better in color.
I practice landscapes, and action, and street photography, and portraits, and candids.

On these "practice" trips, I might find some good photos, but if I don't, that's okay. If I don't take any good photos on these days, I don't mind. I'm practicing.
There are other photo trips where I'm trying to make good photos. If I don't take any good photos on these days, I'm disappointed. That would be an indication that I need to practice my skills.

The thought comes to me: What skills should I be practicing for life? Obviously I only get one chance at life, but every day, I get opportunities to display my human skills. Chances are pretty good that my patience will be tested in the next few days. That's a good skill to practice.

As my life becomes more intentional, I'm trying to discern which skills I need to practice in order to be a good person.
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