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Author Topic: Where to learn?  (Read 4458 times)
SkipMartin
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« on: March 04, 2007, 10:30:14 PM »
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Hey everybody,

I feel that I've hit a wall and taught myself just about all that I can (have the stack of  how-to books to prove it).  And short of posting every photo I take and pestering all of you till you ignore me, I'm at a loss.

Question is, what shoudl my next step be?

 I've found a few sites that offer online courses, but I'm a little skeptical about them.  Tried to find reviews ont he web, but all that came up was advertisements.  Are there any good ones?

Classes int the traditional class setting are kind of out of the question.  I literally live in the middle of nowhere, 20 miles from a gas station and 130 from the grocery store.  Not complaining about the isolation, the scenery more than make up for it.

Clubs or other groups are also mostly out for the reason I stated above.  Just not enough people around.

Not quite ready for an intensive software classes.  I see a new mac in the near future (tax refund!) to replace the crippled PC that I'm typing on right now, so I've got that learning curve to tackle first.  

Now that i think about it, I've got a few hundred dollars left to throw at some software for the mac.  Suggestions?  

Thanks in adavnce for the input, this site has taught me tons in the few days since i found it.  Amazing what you can find out by just lurking around.

-Skip
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I apologize in advance for typing/grammar errors, I'm closer to a heavy equipment operator than an english professor.
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2007, 04:40:35 AM »
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Hi Skip,

Have you considered attending a photography workshop? They are not cheap but are said to be good value.

I have personnally had the chance to attend one of Alain Briot's WS and found it interesting.

Besides, I would advise you to read the articles he has published on this very site. This should give you some basic pointers, but does of course not replace the interaction you can have with an instructor.

The key really is to have at least some idea of where you are, what you find unsatisfactory about your images.

Regards,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
LoisWakeman
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2007, 05:57:34 AM »
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Hi Skip, it sounds to me that your block is possibly more creative than technical: perhaps you need to throw more time than money at it?

You say you live in an amazing place: so get out there and make the most of it whenever you can. I find that getting very familiar with a certain location is a good way to try new takes on familiar subjects: I write a bit more about this on my web site here.

Repetition is a good way to embed all the techniques you have learned in your subconscious, and taking the time just to be in a place and reflect on what makes it special is not only good for the soul, but may give you some insight into what is the essence you are trying to capture. Consider going somewhere and leaving the camera behind, to give you the time for this without worrying about missing a shot.
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boku
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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2007, 07:09:07 AM »
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Skip,

I am not sure this directly pertains to your circumstance, but please read a small white paper I wrote for people in dilemma making progress. It is  entitled "Pathways to Distinctive Photographic Accomplishment". It is available on my website at...

http://www.bobkulonphoto.com/dp/pdf/Pathways_v01.pdf
« Last Edit: March 05, 2007, 07:11:28 AM by boku » Logged

Bob Kulon

Oh, one more thing...
Play it Straight and Play it True, my Brother.
Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2007, 07:14:05 AM »
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Skip: I read your post twice but am still unclear what you are trying to do as a photographer and what you still need to learn. Do you feel you still don't fully understand some of the technical issues of photography like DOF? Or how to operate your camera? Are you steering toward art photography, including landscape, or non-art (documentary?) photography? If so are you looking for help with composition, etc., on the art side?

On-line courses on technical aspects of photography and camera operation may be competent, but I'm having a hard time seeing how a pre-packaged course would be materially different from just reading a book. (Perhaps some of the courses have exercises at the end of each lesson that are graded by the teacher?) This free and extensive tutorial is certainly dated, extremely thorough ... and occasionally opaquely written. But optics are optics, and learning about film photography remains very good background for a digital photographer, since you'll find endless references to things like density curves and the relative latitude of slide vs neg film vs. digital in any discussion of digital photography. Similarly, the two books The Camera and The Negative by Ansel Adams (2nd edition) remain definitive and excellently written instruction material for beginners. In both cases just skim the material that only relates to film while mastering the material on optics, exposure metering, etc. that apply equally to both.

Once you get past the technical basics, it's more a matter of needing answers to specific questions/problems, which is something that can be done on-line.

If you are doing art photography and feel stonewalled about your development in that area, I'd say photosig.com is as good a place as any to get feedback. Someone here astutely commented that sites like this serve to turn all participants into carbon copies of some middle-of-the-road standard. But that's not necessarily a bad thing for a beginner, since that standard is at least a competent one - IOW, a reasonable starting point.

Quote
And short of posting every photo I take and pestering all of you till you ignore me
What you have here is a clutch of strongly opinionated photographers who are at the least very competent in technical matters. IOW: the signal-to-noise ratio is unusually high on this forum. It probably wouldn't cause you too much permanent damage to post one picture per week for critique. I suspect you'll find that the compositional comments you get will effectively cancel each other out, but people here can certainly point out technical issues, such as over-exposure or a sub-optimal point of focus.

Above all, persist. Don't let misunderstandings or differences of opinion get to you and don't hesitate to ask any number of what you may suspect are beginner's questions. For example, if you try to work your way through the Navy photography course I linked to above and hit one of those opaque spots, just quote the passage with a link to the page and ask for clarification.
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2007, 07:48:39 AM »
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Bob Kulon wrote
Quote
read a small white paper I wrote
Very nice, Bob! I like the presentation, content, and tone. I esp. like the part about meditating and/or listening to music before shooting to switch into aesthetic mode.
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larryg
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2007, 09:19:29 AM »
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Back a few years when I decided to focus on Nature/Landscape I did as you did and purchase quite a library of books on the subject, especially exposure and composition.  Also John Shaw has some great material including his video library on how to.

Beyond that I took several workshops to put into action (under some guidence) what I had read.    

If this is not possible then get out there and shoot (trying different things to compare the results)

Once you have the technical knowledge the best way to apply it is by doing it over and over.   Plan you outings (even if it is your backyard or down the road).

You can do it if you put your best efforts into it.
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SkipMartin
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« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2007, 12:09:42 PM »
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Wow, thanks for the responses!  I'll respond to your points one ata time.


Bernard,
Workshops-  Yeah, I've considered them.  My problem is that most of the workshops that I've seen advertised for Alaska are wildlife.  Honestly, I'm not really super interested in wildlife but I do manage to get some decent ones just driving around at work.  All the workshops that I'm interested are in the lower 48, which is just not practical for me.  Actually let me take a half step back, I bet there are some workshops this summer around me, I'll have to keep an eye out.  Thank for the advice.
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Lois,
I loved your article, remends me of a little lake that is not too far from my house.  I can't drive by it without stopping and something is always different.

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ent][attachment=2024:attachment]

(going to answer these in installments so the computer doesn't crash and I lose all this typing)
« Last Edit: March 05, 2007, 12:49:24 PM by SkipMartin » Logged

I apologize in advance for typing/grammar errors, I'm closer to a heavy equipment operator than an english professor.
SkipMartin
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« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2007, 12:41:46 PM »
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(continued...)

Bob,

Thanks for the link, looks great!  It is bookmarked and I'm going to read it better and digest it totally as soon as I'm finished with this reply.

Dale,

Hmmm... Tough one, how do I rate my skill level...  Advanced amateur to serious hobbyist.  Up to this point I've just been printing for friends and family and giving as gifts or selling for my cost.  I've got a great handle on f stop, dof, shutter speed, iso, and how the camera works.  What I guess I'm struggling with are the little tidbits that I run into once in a while like how f/22 can really hurt an image.  Things like that are what is hard for me to figure out on my own.

Thanks for the links, that tutorial in particular will take some serious time to digest.

Larry,

I have at least one of John Shaw's books and it isn't bad, but my favorites are Freeman Patterson's and the National Geo series.  Got the Nat Geo books when I was just starting out and they were great!  Just the right size to throw int he camera bag.

And I am pretty proud of my backyard, I live about a mile and a half from the boundary or Denali national Park.  I don't have to go far for some of the most beautiful scenery in the world!

(here is a picture of my house!)
[attachment=2023:attachment]

I'm going to tack on a few of my favorite recent shots to hopefullygive you all a better idea of my style/skill level.

Thanks for the feedback!  You guys are great!

-Skip

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« Last Edit: March 05, 2007, 12:44:46 PM by SkipMartin » Logged

I apologize in advance for typing/grammar errors, I'm closer to a heavy equipment operator than an english professor.
jule
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« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2007, 04:33:55 PM »
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Skip, From the images you have posted I think you have grasped the technical aspects of photography pretty well. Although you state that you are struggling with "...little tidbits that I run into once in a while like how f/22 can really hurt an image."... (which can be easily explored with digital by practice, experimentation and looking at metadata), I think the real 'brick wall" you have hit is about wanting your images not only being good, but GREAT!

The first step over the wall is to acknowlege this and move past thinking that you need little tidbits to get you past the wall. I am sensing that you are perhaps lacking a vision or a unique way of looking at the world, so that your images capture and reflect a unique expression of yourself.

You have recieved very sound advice above. Books, internet, workshops and articles by practitioners who have connected with their own vision within their photography.

I think that some good old mentor inspiration is often just the thing to get out of a hole. Look around at the work of some of the world's leading photographers, and determine whether you resonate with their images. Does their work inspire you? If so - see if they offer trips or one day workshops.  You might have to save up for a year or so to attend, but often it is just the inspiration you need.

If you cannot manage that with one of the leading photographers, really look around to attend another workshop and do your homework on the workshop leader, to ascertain the focus of the workshop. It may be 'wildlife', and you do have wildlife around you, but it is the sharing of different perspectives and vision which is often the catalyst to artistic development rather than photographing a specific subject. Sometimes it is not actually the information in the workshop which helps you, it is a friendship or connection with someone which ends up affecting your photography.

Look on-line at photographic exhibitions and find artists' work which inspires you. You may be able to find their website and bio. Often artists run their own workshops or work in conjunction with artist centres or universities and run short courses or workshops.

Keep posting images, but always remember that any advice you receive is just another person's opinion and ultimately you are the one to decide about the direction your image takes.

I think a workshop with a photographer whose work inspires you is the best way to go.

Have fun, Julie
« Last Edit: March 06, 2007, 01:05:18 AM by jule » Logged

jule
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« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2007, 06:42:03 PM »
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Hey Skip, I was just doing some research for a project I am doing and came across this site,  

http://www.oatney.com./collections/collections2.html
 
http://www.oatney.com./collections/specialfeatures.html

I thought you may be interested in looking at how this person expresses his passion about the natural world in which he lives...and his interperetation of 'nature photography'.

Whether you like, or even think his work is good, is irrelevant for this example - because my point is that he has developed his own unique style and his images tend to speak on another level than just the subject matter he is photographing. When I read the short statements for each section and his bio, I then had a greater understanding of the way he expresses his art.

another link - http://www.oatney.com/endangered_species

Julie
« Last Edit: March 05, 2007, 06:42:35 PM by jule » Logged

SkipMartin
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« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2007, 09:22:12 PM »
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Julie, you hit the nail on the head and put into words what I hadn't even managed to put into coherent thoughts in my head.  I know I take some good pictures, but I want them to be great.  Thanks for the short essay, I've already read it over twice and that is exactly what I needed to hear (read?).

I'll definately look into the workshops.  I make a decent living up here and have nothing to spend it on.  Alaska wages go a long way when I'm in other parts of the country.  

Wow, Mark Oatney has a very unique vision.  I love it!  And that is the sort of thing that I need to see to try to take the next step away from the same old stuff that I see in the how to books.

I also realized today, during a long cross country ski, that a lot of my frustration is that I haven't been able to do much in the last couple of weeks.  We've had a -40F (which is also -40 C) snap up here and my camera is a little cranky at those temps and the tripod is next to useless.

Thanks alot!

-Skip
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David Bathgate
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« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2007, 01:59:58 AM »
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Online photography and videography courses taught by top working professionals
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Whether you're an impassioned hobbyist, an aspiring professional or you've only just begun your visual journey of expression through
pictures and video, there's a whole lot more for you at The Compelling Image - THE WAY to make good pictures!    
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bertiep
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2007, 04:38:37 AM »
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Been taking photos for just over 50 years and have had regular success in camera club circles and exhibitions. I appear to be technically very competent (books plus a technical mind) and can control my photography as necessary. Going digital about 7 years ago has increased my level of activity immensely but I am of an age where I accept that I have several limitations. Despite living in Scotland and close to the English Lake District, I have NEVER taken a landscape that I am really proud of. However I have taken a few excellent portraits and enjoy projects such as photographs of choirs and events. My main specialisms are now digital audiovisuals and stitched panoramas for Quicktime which can't really be submitted to fellow photographers for critique or hopefully admiration.

I say all this to emphasise that amateur photography is an individual thing and that a lot of discontent stems from trying to follow and perhaps beat the herd. I judge for the Scottish Federations and can assure you that if your technical competence is good and your composition basically sound then you are head and shoulders above most of the photographers on the planet

Bob P
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santa
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2007, 07:35:39 AM »
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Photographers often study other people's work when they should be studying their own. We often look at what we shoot with less of a critical eye than when we look at others. Get a notebook. Start keeping records. Become a bit anal retentive in the sense of recording what you shoot, when you shoot it and an evaluation of your images as you do them. By turning your search a bit inward you will be asking yourself important questions like "what did I want to capture here", "what worked and didn't work" and you will find your introspection broadening your personal perspective on where you are and where you are going.
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2007, 09:25:32 AM »
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This is an interesting thread.

First, kudos to Bob for an excellent article!

Second, here's another perspective, in line with "mastering the tools of the craft".  If you're after "great" photographs, as you've indicated, you need to be a master of post production, and the bottom line of that is Photoshop.  If you're not already a PS guru, that's an area to explore (but I acknowledge it depends in part on temperament),  in any event my point is that it's an absolutely necessary component - once you've pressed the shutter, you're only half way to a photograph.  Obviously excellent skills in BW treatment spring to mind, but less obvious are a couple of more esoteric treatments - eg: Orton and Dragon (actually usually applied to portraits, but interesting when applied to landscapes).  Once your arsenal of post production tools increases, you can start to expand your "seeing" in the field.

One valuable site is http://www.radiantvista.com/  Craig Tanner has a daily critique that is part of my daily routine, and there's a weekly photoshop tutorial.  I've been on one of his workshops and am scheduled on another - if you want to break out of your comfort zone, check out their "Next Steps" workshop.  They are reasonably priced as workshops go.

If travel is out of the question, then a couple of folks who I respect have recommended http://www.benlifson.com/  I'm a bit over-committed for the coming year, but it's on the schedule to pursue for 2009.

Finally, if you haven't already done so - check out the essays by Alain Briot on this site.
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