Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts on Photography


Name's Mary, blogging grasshopper

Yesterday, temps around 70 under sun, overnights around 50, cool and clear…oh my. Pond needed work, but no hurry…

For a month, I’ve been taking photographs in automatic mode. I’ve taken a few shots I thought were good, but, something just wasn’t right. I thought about it every day but didn’t take the time to discover what I was missing. With a new camera that’s somewhat more sophisticated than the other, I thought I’d better be brave and learn through experiment…maybe, turn the dial? Push a button? Read a menu? Not a manual - no way. Convince myself if I push a button I won’t break the camera or cause it to explode in my hands? The options in picture-taking are endless and tempting. I tried something new and I like it. I took one small baby step and turned the dial once…


Ahhhh. A course in amateur photography would be good for me. I don’t know much about it, i.e. aperture and f-stops…what do they really mean?


I realized the pond work would take longer than anticipated. I was thinking about my picture taking habits. One is using digital zoom often. It isn’t always necessary.


Get closer, if you can.


I netted an excess of at least fifty lettuce plants as round as small pizzas and weeded for three hours. The Koi were spooked and my knees are still sore but it was a fun job.


As always, little things grab my attention like a single green blade growing on driftwood.


The Hibiscus was calling me. I dropped the pond net, rinsed algae from my fingernails, and tried a macro shot that sent me flower hopping.


Did I hear the Gardenias call me? No, their fragrance drew me there. White flowers are difficult to photograph.


The harsh winters in the Mid-Atlantic states killed them before December so I’ve always disliked Mums until now. Here’s a robust returnee.


Back to work…found a frog unhappy with my intrusion.


When my back was turned, I knew they were there - irate and noisy Tufted Titmice. This one paused for five seconds. How unusual!

My commitment to following the police cadets has made me think more seriously about photographing people. If the landscape is part of the story, it makes sense to keep your distance.


Otherwise, go to them. See and read their expression during the most difficult physical workout they’ve ever experienced. I’ve relied on zoom too often out of laziness or being timid. With their permission, I can be with them.


Now I’m remembering to sit or recline on the asphalt, or get on my knees. My slide show will tell their seventeen week story on Graduation Day, when the dark days are behind them. They’re delighted to view it with families and friends and will have their own copy.


On a chilly morning, how can you capture the steam rising from his body after he finished the workout of his life? You walk up to him and fire away. Don’t be shy.

Yes, that’s Nikki Parker (Johnson) on the far left :o)


Angie said...

Mary, do your ears do a slow burn almost EVERY day? ;d My sister and I talk about you all the time. HOW DOES SHE GET THOSE CLEAR PHOTOS? What is SHE doing that we're not? etc, most recently, like uhh yesterday ROFL we've decided we will just have to get that camera she has...what did she wait until we caught up with the latest Kodak to break her other one and get this damn Fugi....ROFL

Well, no, we just need to LEARN HOW TO USE THIS I've just used up all the ink in the printer...after FINALLY finding a site online that's in English with lots of photos for the challenged LIKE ME!!! (And anyway, forget the damn manual, Mary, they might as well be non-existence as far as info, well, at least in this one for the Kodak :()

Your photos are absolutely stunning, woman---I really am a MARY-WANNABE!!!! :D

NCmountainwoman said...

Another great post, Mary. I especially love the get-in-your-face shots of the cadets.

You must be having great fun with your new camera.

Mary said...

Angie, thank you. My only suggestion to is take loads of photos - almost every day if you can. That Kodak I had (I still have and would like to have it repaired - we all need a back-up camera...)amazed me. It was a Z612. Is that the one you have? I haven't used the newer Kodak cameras but something tells me that Z612 is the best. Keep practicing!

Kerri Farley said...

Wow Mary...the grasshopper is out of this world! FABULOUS!!
Great work!!

The Quacks of Life said...

the grasshopper is awesome

Ruth said...

You certainly perfected your white flower shots. The lighting on the gardenia is perfect. Your camera is excellent, but the photographer is even better. People pictures are a challenge and I love your candid shots.

Carol Michel said...

That chipmunk looks so cute, but they are little devils in the garden! Bad!

But your photography is Great. Eye candy. Love seeing them. Sometimes, I'll even make one of them the wallpaper on my PC for awhile, like that picture you took of sheeps' behinds. Remember that one?

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Jayne said...

Well Mary, here's the thing about shooting in program mode that's hard for me... I have to stop and really think through the photo, and many times, that's hard to do when you know that in a wings movement, your opportunity is gone. You can alter the exposure and increase your depth of field for more light and better focus on cloudy days etc., but in the end, did you get the photo? I find that I am so often not paying attention to what my exposure says, and so now, with my photo programs, I can lighten or darken as needed. It takes the pressure off me to create something while I am behind the lens.

You are doing a wonderful job with your new camera. Like you, I really don't want to read a "M" word and get all bleary eyed. Just shoot away Mary, just shoot away!

NatureWoman said...

Mary, you take the best photos, and I know what you mean about getting close to humans, but your photos are so worth it and the people will love seeing what they went through in the end. You totally rock, Mary!

Anonymous said...

Your photos are very good and they also convey that you really enjoy photography! Good work! Thanks for sharing.

Debbie said...

Mary, you just getting better and the photos, love the conversation, love your blog!


Dog_geek said...

I'm so jealous of the koi pond (and I really love the pictures below of the koi coming out of the water!) And it is great to see more of the cadets - I've been wondering how Johnson is doing. I hope you'll keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

Sheesh, Mary, I think you're doing fabulously in "auto" mode. And your advice to Angie is spot on -- just take a ton of photos. Soon, your fingers and eyes will learn what makes good shots. Love that one you got of that dandy grasshopper.

Corey said...

Good shots Mary. Sign up at . I did recently, there's a lot of good information to be learned there.

Wendy said...

Oh that sweet little froggie with it's leg dangling down. That must be Freida from Cheryl's blog. No wonder she got lost. It's a long way from the U.K. to your garden. LOL!
Love your photos. They are really clear and good. The cadets made me laugh. But - they will make for good memories later on.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have been beguiled by the centers of hibiscus before. I too struggle with photography. I think the more you take the better you get with it. I am still afraid to "waste" time with the manual settings. You get some great things with those manual settings. I just don't get it all. I love that grasshopper picture too.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Oh, yes, shut 'er down for the white flowers and open 'er up for the shady bits, it's all fun and good and essentially free, but for a bit of RAM on the computer. I adore twiddling in AV mode. Newest tip from Lillian Stokes (Stokes Birding Blog) is to keep the ISO number as low as you can (100 or 200) for the sharpest, least grainy photos. I know, I know, it's Greek, but it won't be for long. And photogs in the know (like Timmo) will see that you're twiddling dials and cheer you on.
I love this post, love that you're owning your growing expertise.

Angie said...

Well NO!!! LOL If it was raining soup, I would have a fork! ROFL I have the Z812IS...and I do take photos almost every day...and almost every day I learn a little more about this baby. :D Thanks bunches for sharing your life with us, and all of those tips you've ALREADY learned. :D

Mary C said...

Beautiful, crystal clear pictures, Mary. Great job! You're certainly doing something right! ;o)

Peg Silloway said...

After sighing, "Oh, WOW!" at the grasshopper, I ran out of "Wows" scrolling down through the rest of your photos. Mary, you long ago left the ranks of the amateurs with your artist's eye and compassionate heart.

dguzman said...

I too am a Mary wannabe!

I'm happy with the Kodak Z712IS, but the macro mode on it blows.

I'm especially envious of your people photos; I can never get good people shots!

Cheryl said...

Mary I am loving the photos with the new camera.....the blade of grass on driftwood, for me, is have to have the eye to pick these things out and know they will be something special......

I have at last taken the new camera out of its box and am trying to work it out. AAAaaaaargh

Rose said...

Mary, I ask myself each time I come here, can her pictures get any better?? Amazingly, they can! I've forgotten now what kind of camera you bought, but they ought to pay you for the free advertisement:)
I used to be the yearbook advisor at our school and tried to give new student photographers some tips on shooting better pictures (what a joke--the blind truly leading the blind). Some of the tips I READ ABOUT and passed on to the students were the very ones you mention here--get up close, try a different perspective like on your hands and knees.
I am nowhere (underline that!) near the photographer you are, but I sometimes wonder what the neighbors think when I am lying on the ground trying to photograph a flower:)

Unknown said...

Wow your pictures are really awesome...the frog and the last 'steam' pictures are my favorite. Who needs F-stops when you're THAT good??!! ;)


Your photography is always fresh and delightful, Mary. Thanks for sharing your talent!

(When are you going to publish a nice big coffee table book?)

dmmgmfm said...

So love the grasshopper.

JeanMac said...

Your camera and expertise are terrific. glad to see pics of the recruits again.

Anonymous said...

What a series of beautiful natural shots.

The grasshoper shot is the best

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Mary, one of these days I'm going to practice in manual mode. For the nature shots that happen so fast I always use Auto. I have all kinds of photography books, even the Dummy books but my mind just wont wrap itself around the aperture and f-stops.

Good for you for taking the bull by the horns and really getting to know your camera. Great job!

Susan Gets Native said...

Mary, you and Lynne are putting us amateurs to shame.


Anonymous said...

Mary, whatever you are doing with that new camera, you are doing it right. I love that grasshopper shot.

Q said...

Dear Mary,
You and your camera have bonded!
Wow and double wow...
Amazing photos. I love the steam rising off the cadets body. Fantastic picture.
I read that people look best when photographed from above...I do not know about that, your pics are wonderful.
I think you have taught your camera to get the picture you see. It is in the have it!
Thanks Mary, for sharing your art, your humor and your compassionate heart.

Naturegirl said...

Mary your nature photography on this post are incredible! Stunning! Bravo for turning the dial! I am still experimenting and after taking over 3000 photos while in Europe recently and having to edit so many that I felt did's time for me to take a photography course! It is always a JOY Mary to stop by and see
"Mary's view" Enjoying your view a weary traveller hugs NG

marmee said...

wow mary glad i found your blog.
i too love photography! great images of the police academy.
love the gardenia, the frog, the grasshopper. they are all just great.

Annie in Austin said...

Your other fans have used up all the words, Mary...but as long as you click the shutter, I'll click on the link that gets me here to see each wonderful post.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Donna said...

Absolutely fabulous photos!

Larry said...

Every time I try to wander off the auto-mode, I fail miserably.-The only settings I can use are the predetermined ones offered by the camera manufacturer like the fireworks setting for fireworks or landscape for landscape etc..-I wish they had given me a sports or action mode.-I think a lot of photography is just having the knack to know when, what and at what angle.-you obviously know what you're doing when it comes to that.-

Anonymous said...

HI, Mary,
I found you through a link on the Crayons blog (we will miss her!)

You are off to a great start with your photos. I just wanted to let you know that I teach an affordable and wonderful online workshop that would be exactly what you are looking for. Because it's wether based (lots of shooting assignments outside), there won't be another session until Spring but if you bookmark my blog, you will see the announcement of the next session.

We have turned out some fabulous photographers so far - and put them in a free magazine here:

And here is the workshop description page:

Hope we see you in the Spring! Meanwhile, keep shooting - your hummingbirds are great - and I can't wait to hear why you put the birdfeeders away.

You also might enjoy my recent blog post on "guerrilla" photography. (Click my name for the blog)


Anonymous said...

Sorry - that blog link was screwy. Here it is:

The "guerrilla" photography is a new, fun approach.