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Did you take your photo today?

As the story goes, a tourist in New York asked a passer-by how to get to Carnegie Hall. The answer was “practice”. I think Gladwell’s idea of 10,000 hours of practice has been debunked though, as hours alone won’t do it. As proof, I’m sure I smile at someone at least once a day, but in all these years it’s not made me a nicer person.

So what I’m talking about is mindful or reflective practice. And while it’s possible to get all Zen about the meaning of mindfulness, what it really means is trying things, looking at your results and picking out the good stuff. The thing about the good stuff though, is that it doesn’t happen without the other stuff. You may have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that prince, but you’ll never find the prince without some froggy-snoggy action.

This is where digital beats film. Your snaps are essentially free, and the camera usually records in the picture file what its settings were. So there is no excuse against trying variations to see what works best. The mindfulness bit comes in when you pick which shot you like most, then look at what settings made it happen.

If you do this at every opportunity, you should begin to learn what you like and how to get that sort of picture. It’s a lot less stressful to know what sort of shutter speeds you need or how high you can push the ISO before you are doing it for real. Always dig your well before you are thirsty, Grasshopper.

This ties-in with the idea of journaling or keeping a notebook. Jot down ideas for or about pictures as they occur to you. Then try those ideas out and see what works. Or do it the other way round: take lots of pictures at any time, then make notes about the ones that worked so that you can do more of it.

Possibly the most-photographed viaduct in Yorkshire

There is also the benefit that the more you use your camera, and the more often you use some of the obscure features it has, the better you will be able to use the camera. As an example, I went out to do a bit of night photography. It took me a while to find out how to dim the rear screen. I did remember that it could do in-camera HDR though, so I tried that on a few things. What did I learn? That I need to set a wider range of exposures to get the full range. I also had a go, while out for a walk, at some ICM. My Canon G9 has a built-in ND filter function. Couple that to its lowest ISO setting and shutter-priority mode so that I can dial the speed right down and I might get some nice blurries. Save the configuration to one of the user profiles and I can have this ready to use when needed.

The Ouse, oozing

Except it seems the G9 can’t have both the ND filter and aperture priority at the same time. No worries, and better I found that out when I’m playing than when I try to use it. This is where the notebook comes in useful again.

So what did I learn? Well, I dragged the dog out on a couple of walks around previously boring landscapes so that I could play with some ICM. I learned that there is a knack to using old manual lenses on my dSLR that is not obvious but works perfectly, and I will now remember. I made a couple of impressionistic autumn landscapes that I actually like. I didn’t take any of it too seriously, so there was no pressure to be a Real Photographer. I had some fun, and having reviewed the results I’ll be out to try this again. But better.


Author: fupduckphoto

Still wishing I knew what was going on.

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