Before I get to deeply into this blog, I might as well tell you a little about myself and where I sit in the universe of photographers. You can then use that to evaluate whether or not you think there is any value in anything I might write on the subject. I think this is only fair.
Let's start with who I am not. I am not a professional photographer by training or experience. I do not hold a degree in photography. I have never been a photojournalist. I do have a profound respect and appreciation for the guys who developed their passion through these time honored channels, and I hold them in the highest regard. Many of these guys are excellent teachers, writers and mentors to folks like you and I...the masses who bought their first camera to take pictures of kids, pets or other forms of flora and fauna in order to fuel other passions in their life.
Who I am is a little more simple.
I am a degreed engineering professional whose day job provides me with the resources I need to passionately pursue this hobby of photography. My engineering studies required several courses in physics and optics, so the concept of lighting and angles comes easy to me. My affiliation with an ecclectic group of artists, architects, musicians and other proponents of right-brain exercise has given me the opportunity to develop my composition skills - what I will refer to as my mind's eye.
The one thing that most engineers will tell you is that they have an aptitude for tools...and so it is with me. My camera is a tool. It so happens to be a Nikon, but brand warfare bores me. There are many brands of cameras available to all of us, and a good photographer can make an excellent picture with any of them. I also have some skill at deciphering the language used by accomplished photographers and breaking it down into layman ready concepts.
I dabbled in film photography when I was in college. Then, as I started developing my own career, I put this (and many other hobbies I pursued) on hold due to the lack of time and energy to do it well. The advent of digital photography has re-energized my interest in this field. The instant feedback and the ability to reverse engineer my mistakes and correct them on the fly has certainly made learning the technical aspects of photography a lot less painful. And the willingness of some of the true giants of the industry to step forward and give details on the how-to for some of their finest shots has greatly accelerated our chances to be successful when we step forward to document those special moments in our own life. It is this kind of "pay-it-forward" spirit that I hope to perpetuate.
I may never have the opportunity to shoot an image of a prima ballerina for the American Ballet Theater - but if I can translate some of the techniques that Joe McNally, for example, uses into something that is easy for you and I to understand - Well, pardner...we might just be meant for each other!
Just so you know that I didn't pull that example out of the hat, here is an actual example of my daughters first dance recital, which I fully profess to have butchered (I had my Nikon D70 for all of 1 week!). And this was the best of the lot!:
And here is an example taken a year later after gleaning some very important "lessons" from professionals who were all to willing to share their technique. Because of that largesse, I think I can safely say that I hit this one out of the park.
I have had a friend ask me why I wanted to give away the "secrets"? These aren't secrets - if you had the time you could learn camera technique from a book... or by trial and error. But you shouldn't have to roll the dice when you have the opportunity to capture a moment in time...and a professional photographer is nowhere to be found! That is what I have to offer. If it is worth it to you, come along for the ride. We might see (and make) some pretty pictures along the way.
Keep the faith.
Lighting 103: Takeaways
2 weeks ago