With all the advancements in technology I still find that in a lot of situations it is easier to set exposure and focus manually. It does not mean my camera is broken. The camera simply does not know what I want to photograph. I always have white balance on manual and often use manual focusing. During last trip at some point I’ve also realized that I was fighting with automatic exposure with compensations, and eventually gave up and set it to manual. After that I could do much more and better photographs easier.
This reminds me when back in high school I had completely manual rangefinder camera. Then my parents gave me SLR with a built-in exposure meter as a birthday present. I was relying on it completely… and have not had a single frame with good exposure.
Automatic settings are great for casual photography but when I try to get an image as close as possible to the one in my mind’s eye automatic settings often get in my way.
This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko. The question from the interview: “What are your most favorite and least favorite moments while photographing?”
Favorite moment #1: I get a photograph just the way I wanted or even better. Or a surprise – did not expect to find such beauty but nature presents a surprise and I am impressed take my camera out and start photographing.
Favorite moment #2: After hard day of photographing tired and excited at the same time after seeing lots of beautiful places, talk slowly with fellow photographers over dinner about things we’ve seen, impressions we’ve got and photographs we’ve made, relive the day’s experience and get a feeling the this day in my life was worth it.
Least favorite moment #1: When someone comes over and starts asking about my camera, lenses or simply compliment me on my gear. Gear is not why or what I’m interested in photography. It is just a tool, not a goal. Better ask me what I see, what I like about a landscape, how I compose a photograph.
Least favorite moment #2: When someone asks me if I got a good picture. While in a field I don’t know, I’ll know when I get back home. Small preview on a camera screen gives too high level overview of a photograph. I cannot say whether it is good or not.
It is important to work out a routine of taking camera out of a backpack and putting it back. Routine will turn into habit that will ensure that nothing gets broken or lost over time.
I realized this after one incident while photographing in Yellow Stone National Park. One time I though I would leave my camera backpack open in the trunk of my car. I thought why bother opening it and closing every time I need to reach for a camera.
Then I was in hurry to catch a sunset and I completely forgot that I left my backpack opened. I needed to run to get a better angle for a shot. I quickly pulled the backpack out of the truck and threw it at my back. That sent my DSLR and filters flying out of the backpack.
I was very lucky that time – my camera landed onto a level inserted into the camera hotshoe. The level was crushed but it saved the camera – it did not have any damage. Needless to say that I did not get any sunset shots that time.
That taught me an important lesson not to skip on important routine of packing camera after doing photography. The lesson cost was $25 – the cost of a new level.
I have similar routines for extending/collapsing tripod legs, placing camera on tripod, for placing and removing a filter, changing lenses. These routines are very important. Eventually they turn into habits that you do very mechanically, so you can focus more on photography instead of these small things.
Do not turn camera vertically while shooting video even if the shot would be best composed vertically.
Every tool has its reason and its purpose. While I enjoy DSLR for my fine art photography, a point-and-shoot camera is essential for a family vacation. For quite some time I’ve been using DSLR for both. Recently I’ve bought a point-and-shoot camera in addition to DSLR and I can say that I enjoy family vacation more now. First, I have to carry my son’s stuff and sometimes my son himself, additional weight and size of DSLR with lenses does not make it more enjoyable. Second, with point-and-shoot I can take pictures with one hand while holding my son’s ice cream in the other – can you do that with DSLR? Third, it fits into a pocket.
There are lots of other reasons why point-and-shoot is more appropriate for certain cases. I’m wondering why I did not buy such a great tool earlier.
Too bad we just lost it today in Disneyland. I don’t care as much for the camera as for the day worth of photographs of my family. If you happened to find a camera with someone looking like me in photos or know someone who did, could you send photos my way, please?