Friday, October 1, 2010


So I have been at this for a little over a month now, and there have been ups and downs to my experience of taking daily photos. I have also learned so much, and I thought that I would share some of the things that I have learned and some of the difficulties that I have had.

Let's start with some of the difficulties.
  • I finish work at 4:30pm.
    I choose not to bring my camera to school with me everyday because I am worried about the way that my students and colleagues will react to it. This means that after work, I head home and have to leave immediately to take my photos if I want to catch the last of the sunlight. Often I can't bring myself to do that, and end up taking night photography. While this has been an advantage in that I have been learning how to do night photography without a flash and have been forced to play with shutter speeds, apertures and ISOs, it is also a giant disadvantage in terms of the quality of the photos that I take. I do not have a tripod (something that I definitely need to invest in) and so I am forced to shoot with low shutter speeds, wide apertures and very high ISOs, which often presents problems in terms of noise.
  • People.
    Most of my photos are of flowers, trees, food, things that I do not need permission from. I have not gained enough confidence at this point to walk up to people and ask if I can take their pictures. The few photographs of people that I have taken are either of my friends or else at other people's requests - the girl on the swing being the only exception. I do want to further my portrait photography and that means that confidence is definitely something that I need to work on.
  • Monotony
    I have been feeling myself slipping into a pattern of taking pictures of the same things. As I said earlier, most of my photographs are taken at night, and most of them are taken along the same path. Everyday I walk to Taekwondo, and this is the most convenient time to take photographs, since I am walking around the city in any case. But what this means is that I keep taking pictures of the same scenes (or very similar ones) and I find myself getting bored with my photography. I need to reach inside myself and draw out some of my creativity. Trips are an easy way to do this, and I never seem to have trouble taking photographs on the weekend. It is the week that I am worried about and any suggestions as to how I can get past this would be appreciated.

So now I have explained a couple of my problems, let me tell you some of the things that I have learned over the last month.

  • Aperture and shutter speed
    A friend sent me a message a couple of weeks ago and was talking about her photography course and how confusing she was finding it simply because she couldn't understand how aperture and shutter speed related to each other. This was something that I learned very quickly in my photography. Because I was taking photos at night, I needed to find the best way to lighten my photos without a flash. This meant a lot of fiddling with the aperture and shutter speed, and I quickly learned what I would need to capture a scene the way that I wanted it to be captured.
  • ISO
    Early on in my project, someone commented on my butterfly photo, saying that "an ISO of 3200 is too high for outdoor photography in daylight". While I will admit that the ISO was a bit high for my liking, I was still learning at the time, and if it came to taking the photograph again with just a month's experience under my belt, it might have come out better. On the other hand, considering the shade, the clouds and the situation of having a butterfly about to fly away, I might have done exactly the same thing. I have learned a lot about ISO, especially having to do night photography, and little ways of keeping it lower and still having the photo come out as bright as I want it, or lowering the ISO for bolder shadows. I still have a lot to learn, but I am making strides and experimenting with ISO as much as I can.
  • Camera shake
    This was a major problem for me early on, and a number of opportunities were ruined by it. This problem comes from using low shutter speeds without a tripod, and I particularly struggled with it in the beginning. Now, I try to make use of anything I can find to hold the camera still when shooting at low shutter speeds and it has been a long time since I missed taking a good photograph because I was shaking too much. It still happens occasionally, and always will until I invest in a tripod, but I have learned to deal with and correct it, and that is what is really important in my mind. I am always going to come across problems. Nothing can change that. But at least now I know how to deal with this particular one.
  • Skies
    Over Chuseok, the skies were mercifully blue white meringue clouds floating through them, and I tried again and again to capture the skies the way that I wanted them. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn't, but I did learn a couple of things about capturing skies and clouds. One of the techniques that I returned to again and again was setting the ISO on 100 and taking photographs like that. This led to a number of problems in itself, one of the main ones being that everything else in the photograph became impossibly dark, and didn't always work the way that I wanted it to, but it is a technique that I feel worked fairly well for the most part. I know that there are other ways to go about capturing a blue sky, but lacking that knowledge, I am particularly proud of myself for figuring out a way to get it done.
  • Lights
    One of the first photos that I took was of the view of Cheongju from a bridge in Shinae. My friend, Maria, was getting increasingly irritated with me as I kept trying and failing to get the photograph right and I was getting increasingly frustrated with myself as well. The lights and reflections just weren't coming out the way that I wanted them to. I was very VERY new to photography and was still reluctant to play with settings too much and was still having big problems with camera shake. When I finally got the photograph right, I couldn't stop grinning. It felt like such an accomplishment! Since then, I have come to learn how to capture lights in photographs and have succeeded in doing so on a number of occasions, low shutter speeds, wide apertures and medium ISOs being the trick as far as I can tell.
  • Panoramic

    I only started playing with panoramic very recently, mostly because I only figured out I had continuous shooting recently (with my manual on my computer, I don't find myself turning to it all that often but prefer to find things for myself). Once I figured out I had continuous shooting, I had to try it out and my first panoramic image was born. I have already received criticism about it (the same someone who criticised my butterfly image), but again, I was particularly proud at having accomplished something new. Once the pictures were taken, the next step was learning how to put them together, and I tried three different programs before finally braving Photoshop. So the resulting image was a particularly special one to me - not only was it my first panoramic, but it was my first Photoshop attempt as well. I am looking forward to playing with them both some more.

So my month of daily photography has not been without it's challenges, but it has been a month of learning, and I am certainly looking forward to doing more of that. Some of the things that I am looking forward to learning more about: Shooting in black and white (rather than editing into B&W later), more panoramic and of different types, playing with exposure settings, fiddling with photoshop and shooting videos.

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