a teatray in the sky

six months later

at some point during the yellowstone trip, my camera’s counter ticked up past 9,999 and struck 0,000 for the first time.  my 10,000th photo with the new[ish] camera.  almost exactly 6 months to the day that I first opened the red white and black box from Canon USA, the day that I decided to start this blog.  how much can happen in six months?

do you suddenly manage to hit every shot?  I wanted to post my 10,000th shot up at the top of my post.  I figured it would be a junk shot, and we could all have a little laugh at it.

turns out, shots 9,999 and 10,000 were both such trash I had deleted them directly in the camera.  at least that answers the question: no, you do not become an awesome photographer in six months.

but if you do the math, you realize that 10K photographs in 6 months equates to over 50 photos/day on average.  if you do anything at a rate of 50 times a day, you are going to find that you are accomplishing one of the following:

  1. improving rapidly, or
  2. developing some terribly bad habits that will be impossible to correct in the future


with a little bit of homework and a lot of paying attention to what you’re doing, you should find yourself in category number 1.  because photography is, when you give it a cold look, pretty easy.  compared to anything else you have to actually practice for, photography has got to be the most straightforward.  compare to the following:

  • playing Bruch’s violin concerto no.1 in g minor (op. 26 for those of you who care)
  • hitting a backflip mute grab on the slopes … and not landing on your neck
  • kayaking Gorilla Falls / Scream Machine / Go Left and Die on the green narrows (the names are a pretty accurate description, in case you’re wondering)
  • running a 4 minute mile
  • achieving a 7-dan rating as a go amateur
  • getting into the diamond league on battlenet 2
  • nailing a triple axle and not getting sent to the ICU immediately after


I have done none of these things, and most likely (I will put money on it) never will (maybe with the exception of kayaking the green narrows).  but, I can take a photograph.  in the past six months, I have learned to: 

  • handle my camera.  I can do most adjustments (changing ISO, aperture, shutter speed, AF point) purely by feel.  not as quick as I’d like, but I’m sure I’ll get there.  I’ve also moved from using Av mode with exposure compensation to just using full Manual.  shot manual my whole way through yellowstone and I don’t think it slowed me down; it actually let me get more precisely exposed shots
  • manage my post-processing.  I’ve streamlined my workflow a lot (again, still a long way to go before it’s really efficient) and I’ve greatly improved my ability to create natural-looking images.  still trying to figure out how to make my images pop more, but at least I’m not using the “bleach bypass” filter for every photo, fun as it may be.  software is an important part of this; if CS4 didn’t have such a great photomerge function I would not be making images like the one at the top of today’s post
  • get comfortable with speedlites.  I’ve improved a lot at learning how to balance light, how to choose output, and how that affects the camera’s settings
  • pick the right aperture.  this seems like a really easy thing, but it is actually something that requires a lot of experience and feel for.  I’m still shooting stuff at the wrong aperture sometimes, and it’s a far bigger mistake than shooting at the wrong ISO or shutter speed, because you can’t gain or eliminate DOF in post-processing
  • make friends with my tripod.  if you want to take good landscape photos, or wildlife photos, at some point you need to make friends with your tripod/monopod.  deal with the fact you have to lug the extra weight around.  practice adjusting all those stupid knobs until you’re quicker with your tripod than Forrest Gump with a rifle
  • establishing a sustainable pace.  I don’t force myself to photograph anymore.  if there’s a day I don’t feel like bringing my camera somewhere, I don’t.  that’s what point-and-shoots are for, recording memories on your off-days.  if I don’t feel like post-processing stuff until two weeks after I’ve shot it, then I wait two weeks.  for those of us not making money from photographs, you should never feel the pressure to have to go out and shoot, otherwise, it’s just like tom cruise said, you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’


there’s plenty of things I’d like to improve on, still:

  • envisioning.  starting to be able to get a feel for how I want a shot to look and how I want to post-process it before I even take it … but I’m at the infant stages still.  also need to think more about how I’m composing my panoramas, not just spray-and-pray
  • relaxing.  I often have a shot I think I can get, and it frustrates me that I don’t manage to catch it.  tina’s trying to get me to just chill and enjoy it with my eyes if I can’t get it right in the camera.  I am getting better about it.  the other night in Shenandoah I took some horrid night sky shots … but hey!  I’m hanging out at night, seeing stars, on a hillside in shenandoah.  totally worth it even if the pictures are blurred to oblivion
  • birding.  or getting used to shooting AI servo in general.  I have not put it to the test much and I really want to get better at this aspect of wildlife photography

I know a bunch of people reading my blog regularly are in the same boat as me, amateurs out to enjoy their new cameras but also out to improve on the photographic skills.  if you’ve ever feeling in a rut about it, think about where you were at six months ago in terms of your photography, and where you are now.  pretty big difference, eh?

2 Responses

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  1. Truels said, on October 6, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    You are right! My “Blog-history” started about the same time as yours – around 6 months ago – and SO MUCH has happened for me since then, and when I read your post – much of the words could be about myself. Interesting.
    No matter if the he upper shot is number 9999 or 0000 or …. : I think it is VERY fine, I liked that as I liked many of your Yellowstone photos. The colours and light here over this magnificent landscape are great!

  2. […] been in a bit of a panorama mood ever since I got back from yellowstone (see?) and I wanted to keep that streak going.  my tripod handling speed is still not quite where it […]

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