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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 18

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 18 - Tree Reflections on Ilford Delta 100 filmTree Reflections - Irvine, CA
Friday, August 30, 2013 at 6:42pm
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For Day 18 of my Photo a Day Challenge, I had a new lens to play with on my Mamiya RZ67. I'd just purchased an excellent condition 180mm f/4.5 lens off eBay (which is about equivalent to 90mm or so in 35mm format). This is high-quality glass for a whopping $66.65 including tax and shipping. Man, I love buying film gear. The digital guys can keep lining up to pay $2,500 for a new lens with less resolving power than this, I'll stick to my cheap old gear.

Anyway, I digress.

My girlfriend and I ventured to a nearby park here in Irvine with a small artificial lake. Surrounding the "shores" of this lake are some beautiful eucalyptus trees so common in this area. My plan was to photograph some of the water foul or the fountain in the center of the lake. But when I arrived, I was immediately drawn to the reflections of the trees in the water. From our vantage point the trees were backlit, which created some awesome contrast in the water surface. At first, I didn't want to take this photo because I'd just recently done something with a water surface and plants reflected in a body of water. But the contrast and abstract shapes were just too enticing.

I didn't want any rocks or animals disturbing the reflection but I did want some ripples to create interesting lines out of the tree trunks. I moved along the edges of the lake, trying different shooting heights all the while, until I found the right framing. Reflections can be a little tricky to meter because of the movement of the water, but I was able to calculate my exposure at 1/250 of a second at f/11 with no filters.

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

The Best Way to Learn the Photography Basics

The Best Way to Learn Photography BasicsLearning the photography basics can seem like a daunting task for beginners. Shutter speeds, apertures, ISO settings, white balance, and all the rest of that photography jargon can really make your head spin. These photography basics are important for any photographer to learn regardless of their style or niche. When taught correctly, these topics are very learnable by even the greenest students.

There are endless free resources online to learn this material, but unfortunately, there is no way to verify their validity. As a novice it's essentially impossible to determine if the information taught in, say, a YouTube video or a free blog post is actually correct. As a professional photography teacher, I can tell you honestly that it's astonishing how prevalent false information is online and how many "teachers" are unknowingly spreading blatantly incorrect material. Just because the guy in the YouTube video sounds like he knows what he's talking about doesn't mean he actually does.

The Pitfalls of Unstructured Study

Take it from someone who has worked with over a thousand photography students of all skill levels: Attempting to learn the photography basics through piece-meal videos and articles is slow, inefficient, and counter-productive. Often times the result is an over-emphasis placed on insignificant topics (like ISO noise) and a complete disregard of the most important stuff. The student will also inevitably run into a lot of conflicting information, and with no stable resource to reconcile it, the student will just be left confused and frustrated. This method of learning photography results in unnecessary confusion and a much higher probability of failure. My toughest students are the ones who do the most independent online study through unverified resources. They tend to place too much emphasis on trivial topics that the internet has blown way out of proportion like megapixel counts, lens choice, full-frame vs digital crop cameras, and high ISO noise. While, at the same time, the really important topics of exposure, manual metering, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation are taught inefficiently and riddled with errors.

But here's the biggest problem with independent, unstructured learning: things are learned out of order. There is no lesson plan or curriculum on YouTube. You learn this thing over here, then that thing over there... it's all out of order. Learning these important photography basics out of order can be worse than not learning them at all. If you're studying advanced topics before the basics are well-understood, you are far more likely to give up because it seems too daunting and too confusing. It's really not too confusing, it's just that you're trying to learn it out of order. The photography basics are learned best through a structured lesson plan that keeps things in the proper order for maximum efficiency and understanding.

Learn Photography Basics From a Reputable Source

Look, I know that it's impossible for this to not sound like one big sales pitch. After all, I am trying to convince you to let me teach you the photography basics. But let's not even talk about my courses for a second. I'm begging you to learn this information from someone reputable - even if it's not me! Learn photography at a local community college or from a reputable online course provider or from a book by Ansel Adams. Learn photography from someone with experience and credentials. Learn it from a professional teacher. Someone who teaches for a living has a vested interest in teaching things well and correctly - that's how we get more clients. The guy who posted a YouTube video for free doesn't really care if the information is taught poorly or incorrectly - he's got a day job and he's doing this for free.

Professional teachers like me charge a fee to teach photography because it takes a lot of work and experience to teach these things well. I've invested over 5 years of my life to teaching photography full-time. I know how to teach it poorly and I know how to teach it well. So even if it's not with me, learn the photography basics the right way. And if you do like my teaching style, please check out my Introduction to DSLR Photography online course covering all the photography basics here or any of my other online photography courses here. Download a free preview of any of my courses using those links. Let me prove to you that I can explain this photography stuff better than you've ever heard before. And be sure to check out the testimonials from previous students here.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 17

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 17 - Morning Shadows on Door on Ilford Delta 100 FilmMorning Shadows on Door - Irvine, CA
Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 8:03am
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Day 17 of my Photo a Day Challenge and I was up early to catch the first light. I decided to venture back to the Irvine Ranch Historic Park near my home because I'd yet to really explore the area in morning light. I had a roll of Ilford Delta 100 film in my camera from the previous days but with only 3 exposures left.

Eventually I found my way to the back end of the park where there are some very old homes lined up side by side. Most of them were blocked off due to renovations, but I found one with dark green walls and a white door that had some interesting shadows on it. I liked how the shadows here hinted at the overhang covering the porch and that the angle of the shadows gave a good indication of the time of day. I wanted to leave a little bit of mystery as to what might be behind the viewer's back, so I positioned myself square with the door as if walking right up to it. Perhaps there's an open prairie behind me, perhaps there's a bulldozer.

The porch was set up in such a way that I couldn't get very far back from the door and still maintain the proper shooting height. This meant that I had to use my wide angle 50mm lens on my Mamiya RZ67. I knew this lens, like all wide angles, would create at least a little bit of distortion in these perfectly vertical lines. As you can see in the shot, the door has a bit of a fisheye look to it. Normally this doesn't show except for when you have clearly defined vertical lines to reveal it. I'd rather have perfectly true verticals here, but beggars can't be choosers. A little bit of distortion is no biggie. I metered the scene at f/11 at 1/250, no filters.

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.