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Thread: Please help me make mistakes

  1. #1
    Seriche's Avatar
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    Please help me make mistakes

    I'm very much in need of advice, so please bear with me while I explain. Iíve never taken a landscape photo with a DSLR camera before and am just about to start, but am feeling rather lost.

    Iím approaching photography the same way as I do drawing, and itís said that you must make 10,000 mistakes before learning how to draw. I suspect that it takes many times that amount of poor photographs before a skilled photographer is made

    Iíve taken thousands of mediocre photos with a very cheap compact on auto, and learned that love for the subject and a passion for using the camera every day is not enough. All that repetition did not help me to improve. I want to start understanding exactly why my photos are bad.

    I bought a DSLR camera last year and have only ever used it on manual as I wanted to discover how the Triune works, but I became obsessed with close-ups and have yet to learn how to photograph anything more than a foot away.

    Now I also want to learn how to do landscapes, particularly seascapes. Iíve never been fond of full sun, but love all other weather conditions. I want to learn how to capture sea mists, rain and stormy seas. I donít mind how many years it takes as the only goal I have is to slowly improve, and the process of learning gives so much daily pleasure.

    So, I have the gear, mostly unused, and some nice PP software, also mostly untouched, and Iím ready to go. I live very close to the sea. Iím a very early riser and like to get out before dawn. Iím all set to go, but paralysed by indecision. I donít know where to start because thereís so much beauty all around me.

    If I was teaching someone how to draw, Iíd start them off with simple exercises and not a finished piece. I donít want to keep being disappointed by taking on subjects that are far beyond me in terms of skills. Likewise, there's no point in me presenting the first photo I take for criticism as there will be far too many things wrong with it

    I want to start small, but have no idea how to begin. I would be so grateful for clues on how to make the kinds of mistakes that lead to learning in landscape photography. When I go out to the coast again before dawn tomorrow, how can I best use that time?

    I work best when given boundaries, and am pleading for direction

    Thanks for listening,

    Seri

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Now, that's a biggy.

    I'd like to try and break down some of what you've written and take it from there. Also, I don't think it's very easy to teach people how to make mistakes. I think mistakes are a natural consequence of striving to improve. I think what can be done is that advice and guidance is offered to help you on a pathway to improvement, in the course of which there will be many mistakes.

    Firstly, in terms of inviting advice and guidance, and acknowledging what you say about not wanting to keep taking 'poor' photographs, I do think it is necessary for anyone who may want to offer support to be able to see examples of what you're talking about. In the same way that, I'm sure, you teach drawing by observing that your students are doing and commenting appropriately, any analysis by others of what is 'wrong' with you photos can only be based on an observation of them.

    In terms of your learning, I suppose the first question would be is 'What are your learning needs?'

    I think you've referred to two 'parts' or 'bits' in what you've written:

    1. The technical bits related to knowing your equipment inside out and learning how to get the most out of it.
    2. The art of creating a landscape picture

    You say you've only used your camera in Manual. You're not meaning 'Auto', are you? If you are meaning Manual - then well done. That indicates a knowledge and understanding of exposure and of the relationship between shutter, aperture and ISO setting. So, you're well down the road. If, on the other hand, you are meaning Auto, then the first step is to stop using that and get onto the Av, Tv and Manual settings. That opens up the creative door so that you start to take control of what's captured, not the camera.

    You say you've already being doing a lot of close-up stuff. So how do you rate the quality of those images? Have you analysed what works and what doesn't work in those?

    In terms of the images you want to produce - How much time have you spent studying the work of others and analysing what it is they have produced and then asked how they might have achieved that? How much time have you spent studying the 'rules' of composition? Have you read about 'light', given that that is the beginning, middle and end of photography?

    So, these are offered as questions for you to reflect on. They possibly provide a starting point for your analysis of the issues that are wrapped up in your initial question about how do you take good landscape photographs.

    The other aspect to it all is knowing what it is your trying to achieve. What is your vision? What it that inspires you and what is it you want to be able to capture and express in an image? What do the end products look like in your head? But that's maybe for deeper analysis at a later date.

  3. #3
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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Now, that's a biggy.

    I'd like to try and break down some of what you've written and take it from there. Also, I don't think it's very easy to teach people how to make mistakes. I think mistakes are a natural consequence of striving to improve. I think what can be done is that advice and guidance is offered to help you on a pathway to improvement, in the course of which there will be many mistakes.
    A pathway to improvement is exactly what I'm seeking. I agree that mistakes are inevitable; I'm just trying to find a way to avoid making too many in my very first attempts

    Firstly, in terms of inviting advice and guidance, and acknowledging what you say about not wanting to keep taking 'poor' photographs, I do think it is necessary for anyone who may want to offer support to be able to see examples of what you're talking about. In the same way that, I'm sure, you teach drawing by observing that your students are doing and commenting appropriately, any analysis by others of what is 'wrong' with you photos can only be based on an observation of them.
    Agreed. I'm not an art teacher. I've taught people the basics, one-to-one, for barter, but being an old-fashioned, freehand drawing type I start them off with cones, spheres and cubes under varying lights, but with the emphasis on learning how to see and to forget the names of things, Betty Edwards-style. So maybe I should be going out taking landscape photos of very simple objects, and try to make them look how I see them? Then I could post the results one-by-one and ask specific questions about how to improve them? One of many reasons I was drawn here was because of the truthfulness and depth of the criticism.

    In terms of your learning, I suppose the first question would be is 'What are your learning needs?'

    I think you've referred to two 'parts' or 'bits' in what you've written:

    1. The technical bits related to knowing your equipment inside out and learning how to get the most out of it.
    2. The art of creating a landscape picture
    Yes, that's it.

    You say you've only used your camera in Manual. You're not meaning 'Auto', are you? If you are meaning Manual - then well done. That indicates a knowledge and understanding of exposure and of the relationship between shutter, aperture and ISO setting. So, you're well down the road. If, on the other hand, you are meaning Auto, then the first step is to stop using that and get onto the Av, Tv and Manual settings. That opens up the creative door so that you start to take control of what's captured, not the camera.
    I meant Manual I used a compact on auto for a few years, but when I got a DSLR I used it on manual from the very first day. For now my goal is still process-oriented. I want to learn the craft of photography. The end result is only important to me as a means of making better photos in future. I don't even know how to use auto, AV, TV etc. It was a conscious decision as I wanted to learn as much as I could about how a camera works. I feel that I do now have an understanding of the relationship between shutter, aperature and ISO, but since I confined my activities to close-up, I need to learn how they work long distance now

    You say you've already being doing a lot of close-up stuff. So how do you rate the quality of those images? Have you analysed what works and what doesn't work in those?
    I've posted a few on the wonderful 'Post your Spiders' and 'Post your Insects' threads. At least 99% of what I do I think is very poor (and it takes much courage to post anything here with the standards being so high ). I've never been completely happy with any drawing I've done, even when others like them, and I know it will be the same with my photos. If I was, there'd be no point carrying on. I'm pretty blind when it comes to what works and what doesn't in my own work. That's why I need other eyes on it.

    In terms of the images you want to produce - How much time have you spent studying the work of others and analysing what it is they have produced and then asked how they might have achieved that? How much time have you spent studying the 'rules' of composition? Have you read about 'light', given that that is the beginning, middle and end of photography?
    I've spent the last year immersed in studying macro photography. I know a great deal more than I have ever put into practice because, in the end, I decided not to go down the route of ever-increasing magnification, no matter how stunning those photos can be.

    I've only just started learning about landscape photography. I know a lot about the rules of composition from a lifetime of drawing, I have read about 'light' and think there are few subjects that cannot be made beautiful given the right lighting. Since I started to see things in terms of landscapes I'm noticing the effects of light everywhere I go. I used to see drawings, now I see photographs.

    I'm reading books, I'm looking at the EXIF data on photos I admire, but for all that, I'm still going to be producing very amateurish shots for a long time until I learn how to apply the theory. Now I finally have the equipment I'm very keen to start

    So, these are offered as questions for you to reflect on. They possibly provide a starting point for your analysis of the issues that are wrapped up in your initial question about how do you take good landscape photographs.
    I'm very thankful for such an in-depth reply.

    The other aspect to it all is knowing what it is your trying to achieve. What is your vision? What it that inspires you and what is it you want to be able to capture and express in an image? What do the end products look like in your head? But that's maybe for deeper analysis at a later date.
    I don't have a vision as far as I know. I'm not very deep. So far, I've always just gone out wandering along coastlines just for pleasure, and let serendipity have its way. Something inspires me and I want to draw or photograph it.

    But interesting weather conditions always draw me out of doors. A compact was great for that as I could take it far out onto the rocks with me in a force 8-10 and as close to the sea as possible. I'm still trying to work out how to protect my 5D II as I tend to get pretty wet

    When there's a huge wave arching over me I would like to make a photo that would let a viewer feel the emotions I feel, and hopefully fire their other senses too. I would want them to feel the rocks vibrate, to know what its like to have the words stripped from your mouth by the wind, to feel the taste of salt on your skin, and the indescribable ecstasy of getting so close to such drama.

    I don't ever want to print or sell. I only ever share photos with friends via email. I want them to see what I saw, as much as possible. But if I'm honest, I do it mostly for me. Nothing has ever given me greater pleasure apart from my wonderful daughter

    Thank you so much for giving me such a comprehensive answer, Donald. I'm not at all introspective and it was good to be inspired to think more deeply. I don't ask myself 'why?' very often; only 'why not?'

    Seri

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Seriche View Post
    When there's a huge wave arching over me I would like to make a photo that would let a viewer feel the emotions I feel, and hopefully fire their other senses too. I would want them to feel the rocks vibrate, to know what its like to have the words stripped from your mouth by the wind, to feel the taste of salt on your skin, and the indescribable ecstasy of getting so close to such drama.
    That's as good a vision as I've seen set out anywhere else. Hold onto that. Make it your goal.

    Sure, there's a lot of learning involved in being able to put it all together to produce the images that you see in your head. But the fact that you have that vision in your mind is, I think, a huge step in the right direction.

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    Seriche's Avatar
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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Thank you, Donald

    But the weather's set fair, so what shall I do for those first shots early tomorrow? I'm still in need of a simple quest to perform

    Seri

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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Go out without any intention of making a photograph. Go to where you think you might, sometime soon, want to make a photograph. But just look. Stand/sit there and look and study. If you're on a shoreline, then stop and study it. Really look. You have already 'felt' the sense of thrill and excitement that moving water causes. But why. Have you studied its movement? What is the effect of the water and the light on the rocks and/or the sand? Because that's what you are going to capture to convey the sense of excitement to other people.

    Study the scene. What's in it? How would it translate into a photograph? Compose the photo in your head. What's missing? What is the light doing? What would it need to be doing to provide you with a better/different image? Make the final image in your head. Does it make a good picture?

    As Pops Carter said on here many times - "The camera is a box in which you store photographs. The picture is behind your eyeballs." It's you that sees the picture, not the camera.

    And then, later on or the next day, make some photos of rocks and some water, varying your shutter and aperture settings - just as an exercise in playing with different options and, later, see what the differences are (do you have a tripod?).

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    Seriche's Avatar
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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Just what I needed! Thank you so much

    I shall do exactly that. It will be interesting as we have a 10m tidal range as well as changeable weather so things transform quite quickly.

    I have a nice Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod which I've hardly ever used. As I've never wanted a car, and can't easily strap the Manfrotto to my bicycle, I've ordered a Hahnel Triad 40 Lite which I don't have to worry about so much in terms of sea water or replacement. Should I use a tripod for these exercises? I have a monopod that I use for close-ups too.

    Seri

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Seri

    Next to a camera I (and I know many others) believe that a tripod is the most essential piece of equipment for landscape work.

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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    OK. Will do I thought it might not be important until I was taking 'real' photographs

    Seri

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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Mind if I make a suggestion, but as an artist you may be aware of it anyway...

    When I get to a location I don't get the camera out immediately, I sit. I take in the SPIRIT of the place. I'm not one for big skies or panoramic's, I'm a bit of a pre-raphaelite, I like details, I go in close.

    Donald is correct regarding equipment, A Tripod is essential, so too are:- Shutter release, stop watch, torch etc. waterproofs! (for the camera)

    Manual setting is cool, f22 or the smallest aperture you can get with your lens; Focus on the foreground, set the shutter to the correct exposure and Robert's your dad's brother!

    Sunsets/Dawns: Do them at least 20 mins after the sunsets.

    Check out Fay Godwin

    Now... Go out and make mistakes

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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Donald and Seri,

    Thank you for this conversation. It has been extremely helpful to me. I have been struggling... much as Seri has, although I am not an 'artist'. Well, not in the same sense anyway... paper... cards... that is my art and it comes so very easy to me. But capturing what my heart sees in my life... not so much.

    I have read and read and have a lot of knowledge trapped in my head and can't seem to let it out. And when I do, I am afraid to post the pictures here because of the fear of excess criticism. Some hurtful words have been sent to my in-box. Sadly, I have my camera and lenses safely tucked in my Tamron bag sitting in the corner of my bedroom.

    Tripod... I know I need one, but don't have a lot to spend...

    I have the beach, marinas galore, an oceanfront boardwalk with vendors, festivals, live music, ocean side cafes etc. There are three military bases with F A/18s everywhere and all the Navy ships you want to see. There are state parks, the aquarium, and I know I have driven past some nature reserves. I have so much to see and photograph that I don't know where to start. But I will. The next two weeks I will have more time on my hands than there are hours in the day. I'm going to have to pull up my big girl panties, put on my flip flops and go make mistakes.

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    Seriche's Avatar
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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Mick View Post
    Mind if I make a suggestion, but as an artist you may be aware of it anyway...

    When I get to a location I don't get the camera out immediately, I sit. I take in the SPIRIT of the place. I'm not one for big skies or panoramic's, I'm a bit of a pre-raphaelite, I like details, I go in close.

    Donald is correct regarding equipment, A Tripod is essential, so too are:- Shutter release, stop watch, torch etc. waterproofs! (for the camera)

    Manual setting is cool, f22 or the smallest aperture you can get with your lens; Focus on the foreground, set the shutter to the correct exposure and Robert's your dad's brother!

    Sunsets/Dawns: Do them at least 20 mins after the sunsets.

    Check out Fay Godwin

    Now... Go out and make mistakes
    Dia dhuit, Mick

    I'm grateful for all input as I have so much to learn. I shall be printing out all the advice I get and taking it with me tomorrow.

    It's certainly true that when drawing it's equally important to sit and connect in some way with the subject, and work out the best way of depicting it before picking up a pencil.

    I'm usually asleep by sunset, but will be out a couple of hours before dawn tomorrow. I like to race the pipistrelles down the lanes on my bike

    I have bookmarked Fay Godwin to enjoy later. I love black and white photography, so I'm really looking forward to it

    Thanks a bunch,

    Seri

    P.S. I like your Memento Mori, but can't place it...

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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Hello Mary

    I'm glad you're finding this conversation as enlightening as I am. It's hard sometimes to feel so much yet be unable to express it in full.

    It makes me very angry to hear that hurtful words have been posted to your inbox. Not only is this cowardly, but the senders can't be very good as photographers themselves, because in any of the arts the true masters never behave like that. Only the dregs would do such a thing.

    If you haven't already, just put them on 'ignore' and just remember the old saying: The people who matter don't mind, and the people who mind don't matter.

    I think you're like me in being surrounded by so much beauty that you don't know which way to turn sometimes. I'm glad to hear that you're going to be getting out there like I am and having the courage to make those mistakes

    Nice meeting you, Mary,

    Seri

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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Seriche View Post
    OK. Will do I thought it might not be important until I was taking 'real' photographs

    Seri
    Hi Seri, once you have "looked" and see something you like, take a few shots. Critique them. Decide what you like and don't like about the images. Select one that you feel could use improvement and post it on the forum along with your thoughts. Ask some specific questions about what you feel needs to be improved. There are a number of folks here that can offer helpful suggestions. We look forward to seeing the world through your eyes!

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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    Hi Seri, once you have "looked" and see something you like, take a few shots. Critique them. Decide what you like and don't like about the images. Select one that you feel could use improvement and post it on the forum along with your thoughts. Ask some specific questions about what you feel needs to be improved. There are a number of folks here that can offer helpful suggestions. We look forward to seeing the world through your eyes!
    Many thanks, Frank.

    I'll do just that. I promised myself that I would post just one image by tomorrow afternoon. I'm lucky to be able to do exactly as I please at last, so I have time to relax and gaze upon the world without other thoughts intruding. Tomorrow I'll be out from around 3 am until midday, which will give plenty of time for reflection.

    One question though...I haven't used a hood before as I've only done close-ups. Should they be worn at all times when taking landscapes, or only when there's a possibility of lens flare?

    The world through my eyes is likely to be a bit blurry and out of focus for a while

    Seri

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    Mary... or Lucy... either is fine with me. ;)

    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Seriche View Post
    Hello Mary

    I'm glad you're finding this conversation as enlightening as I am. It's hard sometimes to feel so much yet be unable to express it in full.

    It makes me very angry to hear that hurtful words have been posted to your inbox. Not only is this cowardly, but the senders can't be very good as photographers themselves, because in any of the arts the true masters never behave like that. Only the dregs would do such a thing.

    If you haven't already, just put them on 'ignore' and just remember the old saying: The people who matter don't mind, and the people who mind don't matter.

    I think you're like me in being surrounded by so much beauty that you don't know which way to turn sometimes. I'm glad to hear that you're going to be getting out there like I am and having the courage to make those mistakes

    Nice meeting you, Mary,

    Seri
    Nice meeting you, Seri.

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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    IMO, the sea alone is a rather boring subject but, for me the interest lies with the meeting of the sea and the land. Waves over rocks, points of land jutting out into the sea, etc., etc.

    Early and late or during stormy conditions is the time to shoot seascapes (or landscapes for that matter).

    Automatically grabbing an UWA lens for seascape or landscape photography is a recipe for boring imagery. UWA lenses are a special tool to be used in a limited fashion with a interesting foreground included.

    IMO, shooting a good landscape or seasape should be second nature for a painter. if your paintings are interesting, I am sure your images will be interesting. However the reverse is not necessarily true. I would love to paint a beautiful image but don't have the skills with the brush to accomplish that. However, the camera allows me to capture pretty decent landscapes or seascapes...

    Please help me make mistakes

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    Seriche's Avatar
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    Re: Please help me make mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    IMO, the sea alone is a rather boring subject but, for me the interest lies with the meeting of the sea and the land. Waves over rocks, points of land jutting out into the sea, etc., etc.
    Absolutely! But I'm very fortunate. In a small area I have small islands, cliffs, beaches from rocky to sandy, fabulous ancient rock formations, low dunes, etc. So many habitats to explore (and inland meadows, wooded valleys, and salt marshes).

    Early and late or during stormy conditions is the time to shoot seascapes (or landscapes for that matter).
    I'm not fond of crowds so have always gone out in the very early mornings or in weather that keeps others home besides their fires, so that works out nicely

    Automatically grabbing an UWA lens for seascape or landscape photography is a recipe for boring imagery. UWA lenses are a special tool to be used in a limited fashion with a interesting foreground included.
    I don't think I have a UWA. The 17-40mm is a WA, I think, and I bought it mostly for skyscapes. I have a brand new 24-105mm which I've never used, and will take both lenses with me tomorrow. Considering what I most like to draw, I'd imagine I'm more like Mick, going for closer views.

    IMO, shooting a good landscape or seasape should be second nature for a painter. if your paintings are interesting, I am sure your images will be interesting. However the reverse is not necessarily true.
    I'm interested to hear you say that. I would have thought that a good photographer would certainly make a good painter as the only thing he or she has to learn is the techniques. There are so many painters out there who are skilled technicians but don't have the feel for making a good painting at all, whereas a creative photographer already has the eye for all the things that matter. I'd like to see a thread on that one day as I don't recall ever seeing it discussed anywhere

    However, although I know how to use watercolours, I only use them to draw with, so I am not a painter. Freehand drawing (from life or photographs) is all I was ever interested in, and in recent years has mostly been applied to single subjects from nature.

    I would love to paint a beautiful image but don't have the skills with the brush to accomplish that. However, the camera allows me to capture pretty decent landscapes or seascapes...
    Well, I have always considered photography an artform like all the others, and your photo is superb! It's very kind of you and others here to help beginners like me.

    In return I hope I'll be forgiven for posting just two drawings here as illustration of the way I see things now. I would have liked to have had more time to spend on drawing, but I have now and I find it twins very well with photography.

    I draw using many different media but these are coloured pencil on coloured paper. The Chinese lantern isn't much good, but tasted great. The feather was found, and the tree drawn from a photograph I discovered online but it wasn't attributed (I'd like to find the photographer one day to thank him as I enjoyed drawing his tree very much, and I never sell, of course.)

    Thanks again,

    Off to bed now so that I can make that early start, but will take a peek in the morning just in case any more tips arrive

    Seri

    (Apologies for the quality. I took them with a compact and they're pretty grainy as a resultm, and the black paper came out brown.)

    Please help me make mistakes

    Please help me make mistakes

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