With the emerging of a new day or even a new season, there is a sense of hope and the embracing of dreams. I love spring. It’s my favorite time of year. Watching the dormant winter landscape awaken with the budding of emerging vegetation and colorful blooms lends itself to a feeling of new life.
I think we can all agree, it has been a challenging year. A year filled with uncertainty. A year filled with a roller coaster of emotions. And just like the tiny plant that has the strength to break through rock crevices and thrive, we too shall emerge from the past years’ challenges stronger and maybe even wiser.
Perhaps our socially distanced year has enlightened us in new ways. Perhaps, we have discovered new hobbies or developed a better understanding of ourselves. As we emerge from the stressful year, it’s time to think about our dreams. For me, that means I’m knee-deep in travel planning and excited to get our RV wheels rolling again soon.
I’m emerging from my cocoon with a new spring in my step and can’t wait to frolic in the beauty of nature!
We were off to an early start. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I was on a mission. I was in desperate need of blog material and photogenic subjects. I needed some inspiration and knew Scottsdale, Arizona, was just the place to visit.
I enlisted the company of my daughter and husband. Although I’ll admit, neither were particularly eager to join me on my photographic outing. I remember there being some eye rolls and me being the subject of their amusement, but when I bribed them with mouth-watering treats found at the Scottsdale farmers market, they quickly jumped on board …. and they didn’t even complain when I told them I wanted an early start to the day …. much to my surprise, I might add. (This walk was taken 11/2018 when life was normal ).
(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simple click on any image. To return to the post, click on the x found at the top right corner)
After we were fueled with coffee and filled with sustenance purchased from local vendors at the farmers market, I consulted my little map of downtown Scottsdale. We would be going on a walking tour visiting seven of Scottsdale’s most beloved public art sculptures.
Sculptures in Historic Old Town Scottsdale
It’s impossible to visit Old Town Scottsdale and not walk by our first sculpture on the tour; The Yearlings by George-Ann Tognoni. This is a monument to wild horses and depicts three bronze yearlings galloping in full stride.
This sculpture serves as a backdrop to family photo shoots and is especially popular during the holiday season when the sleigh and Christmas tree are set up.
Another popular photo shoot spot is at the LOVE sculpture. LOVE by Robert Indiana was conceived when the United States was involved with the Vietnam War and became a symbol for peace. This famous sculpture is one of the most celebrated works within the pop art movement.
Robert Indiana created the first version of LOVE with stacked capital letters for a personal Christmas card designed for friends in 1964. In 1965, the Museum of Modern Art selected Indiana’s LOVE design for its official Christmas card.
The original sculptural rendition of LOVE was fabricated from Cor-ten steel in 1970. It can be seen at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Dozens of other LOVE sculptures are now on display around the world.
Our walk takes us into Scottsdale’s Art District
With two sculptures checked off the list, we continued our walking tour which found us venturing into Scottsdale’s Art District. The Jack Knife sculpture serves as the center of attention for the art district and sits in the middle of the road.
Jack Knife by Ed Mell is a giant bronze sculpture of a cowboy on a bucking bronco giving a nod to Scottsdale’s Western heritage and the city’s official seal.
On to the Fifth Avenue Shopping District
Who knew Scottsdale had a “Fifth Avenue” shopping district! Now for those of us that have actually shopped at the real 5th Avenue …. as in New York City’s Fifth Avenue, this Fifth Avenue is quite a bit different, but still fun. It’s kitschy, small, and is a long-time favorite with tourists boasting dozens of unique shops, award-winning restaurants, and the famous Bronze Horse Fountain.
The Bronze Horse Fountain was created by Bob Parks, who owned an art gallery in town. This piece showcases the beauty of five Arabian horses as they play in the fountain. I love how they were decorated for the holiday season with wreaths.
The Scottsdale Water District
We continued our trek. Not far from the Bronze Horse Fountain, we rounded a corner and walked up some stairs. We found ourselves along the Arizona Canal and noticed the bronze sculpture on the other side of a bridge.
Colorado Artist Herb Mignery is a noted western artist and sculptor. He gained early recognition for his classic and humorous western cartoons and rose to fame when he started sculpting scenes from his early Nebraska farm and ranch days.
In Passing the Legacy, a vintage 1860s horse and rider represent the original Pony Express. The lead rider reaches back to grasp the passing legacy, ready to plunge forward into a new era. It took twelve months for the artist and fabricators to refine and create the life-and-a-quarter size bronze monument, which is 20’ long.
As we continued our walking tour along the canal and amongst a beautiful park setting, we took great pleasure in the wonderful winter weather that Phoenix is known for.
Water is a precious commodity in a desert and controlling flood water is crucial, especially in a high density urban environment. Phoenix and her surrounding suburbs do a great job in beautifying these man-made waterways. More efforts are ongoing toward waterside recreation and beautification along these canals.
This Scottsdale section of the Arizona Canal is particularly attractive and popular with cyclists and pedestrians alike. Lighted art over and in the water are changed up regularly and the picturesque park setting serves as a great spot for festivals.
TheSoleri Bridge & Plaza was designed by the late Italian architect Paolo Soleri. The bridge was designed to demonstrate the importance of solar movement.
The bridge is anchored by two 64-foot pylons and is twenty-seven feet wide on the south side narrowing to eighteen feet on the north. Situated at a true north axis, the bridge is intended to mark solar events produced by the sun’s shadow. The six-inch gap between both sets of pylons allows the sun to create a shaft of light as the earth moves.
Most Entertaining Sculpture
The Doors by Donald Lipski is an interesting and entertaining work of art. The structure consists of three 28 foot tall doors that lean against one another on an angle. They are made of Brazilian hardwood, mirror polished stainless steel, and thousands of hand forged steel rivets and strapping.
When we stepped in between the doors, we were met with a kaleidoscope effect that shines from sunlight during the day and LED lights at night. We were entertained by multiple reflections of ourselves. The experience is enhanced with sound … various sounds of bells, chimes, swooshing, and flute can be heard in and around the sculpture.
I’d have to say, we found this sculpture rather entertaining and found ourselves lingering in and around it. I’d love to go back at night to see what it looks like all lit up from the LED lights.
End of our walking Tour of Scottsdale
Our Scottsdale walking tour visiting the most popular art sculptures in the area took us less than 2 hours full-circle and accounts for all the photo-op stopping and playing around that we did. The sculptures gave us purpose to meander down streets that we had never ventured down before. What a fun and special excuse to explore this entertaining desert southwest city!
This leisurely city walk allowed us the opportunity to see interesting sights and take note of eating establishments for future visits. There’s no shortage of fantastic eateries in Scottsdale. The biggest problem is deciding where to eat when given so many choices.
Okay … time to plan our next adventure!
Additional Scottsdale Information
For more information and downloadable maps – click here.
We all have a story to share, and as bloggers, we love sharing our stories. Some of us tend to lean toward visual inspiration and share our tales via photographs while others are gifted with words and the ability to write. But when photographs and words come together, it’s pure magic. Well, in my book anyway!
Think about it … many of us have a favorite children’s book that is filled with a combination of images and words. I still have a few of those books from my childhood tucked away in storage. And then there’s my collection of cookbooks. I love cookbooks but rarely buy one without a healthy dose of tantalizing food photos to accompany the recipes. But my favorite is a beautiful coffee table book filled with stunning photography taking me on a visual adventure.
Storytelling with photographs is all about the images with just enough words to enhance the story.
Visual storytelling with photographs
The photographs we share depend largely on how we want to tell the story. As someone who enjoys travel in an RV, the majority of my photographs, and thus my stories, are centered around the places we visit along with my personal experiences and thoughts. There’s an excitement to traveling, to seeing new sights, meeting new people, having new experiences, and capturing those moments and memories is important to me. The ability to share them with you is a bonus! 😁
When I think about my adventures and how I want to preserve a memory and how I might want to share a story, I keep a few thoughts in mind …
5 Elements to help tell a story.
Idea: what, where, when?
Plan: execution, how?
Memory: preservation, what do I want to remember most?
Emotion: feeling, sentiment, how does it make me feel?
Narration: words to complement the images and help deliver the story.
It doesn’t matter what kind of camera we use to capture our story. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite recent fall photographs was taken quickly with my iPhone. Al and I had gone on a scenic drive and stopped to explore a national forest campground on Lake Namekagon in northern Wisconsin. It was a gorgeous fall day, and I was easily distracted by the beautiful autumn colors. While Al strolled back to the truck, I ventured down a trail.
Knowing Al would be waiting for me (patiently) and realizing we still had several more places to visit, I was rushed, but I felt compelled to capture snippets of my experience. Without much thought, I pointed the iPhone … click to the left, click to the right, click up high, click down low, time to go! Regrettably, my Panasonic stayed slung across my body.
Trust your instincts when capturing the moment. Try not to overthink the composition … unless your goal is for professional reasons or a wall hanger, in which case you’ll want to pull out the good camera, tripod, and spend some time composing. But for storytelling, go with your gut and capture what makes you happy at that moment … it’s your story.
Memory / Emotion: The image above evokes a calming joy within me and that’s exactly how I felt strolling through those leaves, and for some reason, those leaves almost looked like rose petals guiding me further into the forest. Whenever I look at this photograph, I’m reminded of the wonderful autumn day that I shared with my husband. I realize the way the image impacts me is unique to me personally.
I’m curious though … how does the image make YOU feel? What does it say to you? Perhaps you don’t even care for the photo, and that’s ok, but the photograph is part of my visual story from that day.
Idea / Plan: The whole reason for us to remain in northern Wisconsin into October was so I could capture autumn foliage. So with that in mind, I set about planning where I wanted to go. For three weeks, starting in mid-September, whenever the weather was agreeable, I was off in search of color.
I was rewarded with stunning colors in all directions. Sometimes I was able to pull off to the side of the road and snap some photos and other times I wasn’t so lucky, in which case I would have to savor those views in my memory. I knew when I planned these photo outings that I’d want to share my tales here on the blog. Therefore, I made mental notes and had an idea of what kind of images I wanted to capture to help tell my story … visual storytelling.
“A picture is worth a thousand words“
Narration: Years ago, long before personal computers, the internet, and digital photography 😵, I was into scrapbooking. I have about three large storage containers filled with photo albums. I treasure those albums, but when I recently started flipping through one, I noticed the lack of narration. Writing has never come easy to me and that was more apparent than ever when reviewing that photo album.
Oh, how I wish I had shared more information about the photographs, about the events, about the places and people. Even though a picture may be worth a thousand words, adding additional information via words will enhance any story. Besides, there’s a little storytelling in all of us.
Timing is everything when it comes to most things in life, and we seemed to have timed our recent travels perfectly. It was the second full week in October and the leaves were changing from brilliant hues of reds, oranges, and yellows to varying shades of brown. Those dry rust-colored leaves were a clear indication that the trees would soon be bare and winter would be nipping at our heels.
With a memory card full, I was satisfied with my collection of autumn foliage images and ready to get the RV moved to a warmer climate. Bye-bye Wisconsin, hello Arizona. After seven straight days of driving and 1,900 miles later, Al and I made it safely to our destination in Phoenix, Arizona, and managed to escape the snowstorm that targeted the upper Midwest.
Currently, there are six inches of snow covering the ground where our RV once sat. Yep, good timing on our part. Now it’s time for us to settle back into our RVing community in the desert southwest, but first, I need to share a few more photographs of nature’s beautiful landscape.
Beware of what lies beneath.
With our departure date looming, I took every possible opportunity to get out into nature to soak up the colors. I hadn’t been back to this part of the country during this time of year for probably thirty years. Oh, how I’ve missed this! The western United States has its own unique beauty that I love, but these past months back in the Midwest have felt a bit like a homecoming. I was in my comfort zone, in my element, and enjoying every moment and what a treat it was. But as we all know, life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
Wanting to capture images of sunrises and morning reflections on the lake required me to set upon my explorations early in the morning. It was usually just me, my camera, and the wildlife wandering the forest before sunrise, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to startle one another. Fortunately, these encounters were in the friendly form of deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, birds, but thankfully no black bear. Mind you, I was ever on the lookout.
When exploring, I do my best to be aware of my surroundings at all times and avoid potential obstacles that could end in injury. So there I was, traipsing through the forest, stepping over and under branches, and immersed in the sights and sounds. The air was crisp and fresh. The leaves crunched beneath each cautious footstep while I listened to Loons calling in the distance.
And then it happened … in a split second … beneath the thick carpet of leaves hid a twig. When I unknowingly stepped on it at just the right angle, it flipped up and one of the edges scraped down my shin. Ouch! Ah, the perils of walking in a leaf-covered forest, but nothing a little time wouldn’t heal.
What a treat!
Spending time with family on lakefront property these past four months was a treat … add in beautiful fall colors and it just doesn’t get much better … such a treat!
Photo challenge: Lens-Artist Challenge #120 – What a Treat! This week, Tina asks us to share photographs depicting a ‘treat’. Spending the autumn season in northern Wisconsin and seeing the changing of leaves was indeed a very special treat for me.
With each impending day, winter is inching closer and closer here in northern Wisconsin which is our cue to ready the RV and start our journey to the desert southwest. Although 2020 has presented all of us with a lot of interesting challenges, Al and I are fortunate to have enjoyed a great summer and fall on lakefront property with family.
But speaking of challenges, this is my first post using the new WordPress editor. Like anything new, there’s a bit of a learning curve, and it has taken me a tad longer than normal putting a post together, but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Anyway, I’ll keep this post short and sweet.
Also, we’ll be hitting the road bright and early in the morning and need to continue getting the RV ready to roll. After sitting in one location for four months, it’s always a little nerve-racking preparing the RV and ourselves for the 1,900 mile journey.
Time to roll
The weather is certainly changing and getting a little too cold for a couple of desert dwellers. Ok, we haven’t always been desert dwellers. We actually grew up in the Midwest and then lived in Colorado, but after spending the past eight years in the south during the winter months, we’ve become accustomed to more moderate temperatures. Seems we have lost the ability or rather the desire to deal with cold and freezing temperatures.
Additionally, the skies have been gloomy and overcast the past few weeks with intermittent rain. Those depressing skies are one of the reasons I’ve rarely missed living in the Midwest. One gets easily accustomed to climates offering 290 days of sunshine a year.
Funny how a few short months can change our mindset. When we first arrived in Wisconsin in early June, the overcast sky and occasional rain were a welcome change from the continuous sunshine we experience in Phoenix, but now, those grey skies are getting old, and I once again long for that western sunshine.
Ah and those temps … the temperatures around here have been way too cold for tin can RV living. Overnights have been in the 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit range and the days have struggled to get into the 50’s F … brrr. So yeah, it’s time to head south. I’m longing to feel warm again. Will I ever feel warm again? 😎
Photo Challenge – Sunday Stills. For today’s photo challenge, Terri asks us to share images of fall colors, particularly ‘ochre’. Fortunately, autumn in northern Wisconsin made this challenge easy for me!
Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support❤
It was the third week in September when I was finally able to explore a couple of Duluth parks on my must-see list. Since Duluth, Minnesota is almost a two-hour drive north of my summer home base in Wisconsin, I was really hoping that the fall colors would be popping more than they were. Oh well, the parks were lovely all the same.
Even though I was slightly disappointed with the fall colors, I was very impressed with the trails. Folks around here love their outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, I was in Duluth just for the day and my time was somewhat limited, but at least I was able to take in an overview and walk the trails a little bit.
Lester Park, Duluth, MN
Located on the east side of Duluth, Lester park offers over nine miles of hiking and biking trails and sits along a creek. This is a popular park with locals since it offers picnic tables, a children’s playground, access to a great trail system, and a refreshing river complete with waterfalls. I spent almost two hours meandering trails, crossing bridges, and giving my camera a workout.
(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)
The Lakewalk Trail – Congdon Park, Duluth, MN
Also on the east side of Duluth and along the Tischer Creek is Congdon Park. The park was once part of the Glensheen Estate. Owner, Chester Congdon donated the land to the city of Duluth and paid for its development on the condition that the city would stop using the creek as an open sewer. We thank you, Mr. Congdon!🦨
The park offers beautiful hiking trails, unique bridges, and lovely waterfalls begging to be explored. However, after having spent a couple of hours at Lester Park, I found myself short on time and was only able to walk about 15 minutes out and back on The Lakewalk Trail and never did make it into the heart of Congdon Park.
Although there’s a nice size parking lot near London Road and 26th Ave, I ended up parking the truck on a side street on 32nd Ave so I could view the Tischer Creek and bridges. The Lakewalk Trail is a beautifully paved trail perfect for cyclists, moms with strollers, or anyone wanting to go on a walk and take in nature. I know I’ll be back next summer for further explorations.
Our truck parked on a neighborhood street with access to the trail.
Goodbye for now!
Unfortunately, with winter inching closer, my visits to Duluth have come to an end … temporarily anyway, and I’m already formulating a list of things to do and places to see next season. Hopefully, I’ll do a better job of planning for next summer by making some Duluth RV reservations well in advance. This year, my last-minute planning didn’t work in my favor. Guess my luck had to run out sometime. 😏
Photography Challenge … Lens-Artists #117: A Photo Walk. For this week’s photo challenge, Amy asks us to share photos taken while on a walk. She encourages us to pause for a moment and observe our surroundings. Fun time!
Photography has surged in popularity in the past decade with the emergence of social media and smartphones. Even though we’re all taking more photographs, many of us assume we’re limited in our talents due to our equipment. I’m here to say it’s not about the equipment, and you can create great, even amazing, photographs with any camera.
I’ve had an interest in photography as long as I can remember, but my true passion didn’t emerge until we hit the road full-time in our RV several years ago.
After wearing out a couple of point and shoot cameras, I upgraded to a Bridge camera. I still suffer from camera envy and may one day switch to a Mirrorless Camera, but for now, my Lumix(s) fits my needs … certainly not professional-grade cameras by any means.
We’ve slowed down our travels somewhat and now spend our winters settled in an RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy this RV community and the friendships that have developed.
Although I don’t engage in many activities at the RV Park, I do co-host a photography group … a group of like-minded RVers who share a passion for photography. Not only have I learned a few things, but I’ve also been able to teach and share a few tidbits of my own photography knowledge.
I still consider myself a novice photographer, or rather more of a photo snapper and try to improve my skills with every click of the camera.
Being involved in the RV Park Photo Group has served as a great learning experience for everyone involved. Our group consists of every level of shooter along with every level of camera. Yes, we are indeed a diverse group of photo enthusiasts.
Here are a few tips that our RV Park Photo Group discussed on how to create more professional-looking images with any camera.
15 Beginner Tips – How to take better looking photographs
1. Learn your camera inside and out. This might mean diving into that owner’s manual and actually reading it. If you don’t have a manual, no worries, a Google search will come to the rescue. And don’t forget YouTube tutorials. It really is necessary to know how all the settings work and what they mean. Even if you won’t use all the features, it’s important that you’re comfortable navigating the camera’s menu and settings with ease, especially in the field.
Always half-press the camera’s shutter button before taking the shot. On an iPhone, simply tap the screen for your desired focal-point (a little yellow box appears around the item when you do). Once you know where your camera is focused, you can decide if this is where you want the focal point to be in the image, and if not, start over.
One of the best things I did when I first bought my iPhone 8+ last year was to attend some free seminars at the local Apple store. Needless to say, there were a few ah-ha moments by many of the attendees … me included.
2. Shoot regularly. The best way to improve your photography and get comfortable with your camera is to shoot often. Considering digital photography is free, there’s no reason not to spend hours behind your camera clicking away. Learn to love the delete button but always delete in your computer (unless you’ve taken a complete dud, like your lap or something 😆). You’ll be surprised by how an image might appear on your LED screen versus your computer screen. Sometimes it looks better in the camera and sometimes an image looks better on the computer. So give the photo a chance and review it on your computer screen before deleting it.
Experiment with different subjects, different camera settings, and different light. Over time you’ll develop a style and voice that will be authentic to you.
3. Stabilize your camera to achieve sharp photos. Obviously, the best way to stabilize a camera is by using a tripod, but that’s not always convenient, especially if you’re lazy like me and leave the tripod at home. So, the next best thing to do is to use a wall, fence post, or another stable surface to minimize camera shake. Learn to hold your camera correctly and pay attention to your breathing when pressing the shutter. And be sure to have stabilization turned on when handholding and turned off when using a tripod.
4. Use the Camera’s “scene” modes. Cameras and phones are smarter than ever before. Therefore, take advantage of the camera’s preset scene modes. The various modes optimize your camera’s settings and do the thinking for us. Depending on your camera various modes may include; landscape, food, action, portrait, night, and more. I love using these settings, but I always shoot the same image in P (program) mode or A (aperture priority). Remember, taking digital images is free. So shoot away and shoot the same subject using different settings.
On my iPhone 8+, I use the portrait mode to capture food or flowers and create great Bokeh (blurred background).
5. See the light. Before clicking that shutter, observe and assess the light. The first step to creating better photographs is understanding light. Think about how the light interacts with the scene and subject. Is the light highlighting an area or casting unique shadows? Light plays a vital role in the mood and interest of a photograph and is the most important element in creating a great photograph.
Composition guidelines for newbies
6. Rule of Thirds. This is one of the most common tips when it comes to improving your photographs. It’s an easy technique and will aid in making an image more interesting. Think about cutting the frame into thirds by using both horizontal and vertical lines. Then place your point of interest over the cross-sections of the grid.
I have the gridlines always turned “on” on both my camera and my iPhone. By doing so, it aids in composing my image and keeping my camera level. Actually, when I attended a seminar at the Apple Store, the first thing they recommended was to turn on the gridlines on the phone.
7. Leading Lines. This is probably my favorite form of composition. I’m always looking for leading lines to photograph. This type of composition draws the eye into the image.
8. Interesting foreground. Adding an interesting foreground object will give depth to a photograph, especially in landscape photography.
9. Patterns are a repetition of objects, shapes, or colors. Patterns are everywhere if we once train our eyes to notice them.
10. Negative space. When shooting people, animals, or birds, always leave a little extra room in the image toward the direction the subject is looking. This creates interest and mystery. The viewer may wonder what the subject is looking at.
11. Rule of odds. While composing an image, try to include an odd number of elements in the frame. This is a common practice in interior design. With an odd number of subjects, the image becomes more balanced.
12. Include a frame. A natural frame around the main subject will add depth to the image by drawing the viewer’s attention into the photo. Think about a window or tree framing a subject.
13. Move your feet. Learn to shoot from different angles and varying heights. Moving your body closer to or further away from your subject can often create a more dramatic shot. Walk around looking for a unique perspective. Don’t rely on a zoom lens … move your feet and body and explore the subject’s surroundings.
Final thoughts for beginner photographers
14. Get good at processing. Every image needs some amount of processing, some images more than others. Embrace the process, learn the software, be creative and comfortable with whatever program you use. I’m a huge fan of Photoshop Lightroom while others prefer Photoshop Elements (similar to Photoshop, but geared toward beginners). These days, there are a number of photographic editing platforms to choose from. Some are free and some subscription-based. Find something that works for you and get good at it.
15. Slow down and don’t rush the process. Take the time to think about what is going on in your viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Think about the composition and what you’re trying to capture. Understand the creative process and make intentional decisions. Learn to tell a story with your photos. See the light, the lines, the moments, the little things, BUT be willing to put the camera down awhile and truly experience your surroundings and then photograph whatever makes you happy.
(This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support ❤)
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with a blogging pal. He had recently purchased a new Panasonic camera at my recommendation and was interested in a little help navigating the camera’s settings. Since I’ve been shooting regularly with a variety of Panasonic cameras for the past six years, I was more than happy to assist.
Actually, I loved the opportunity, and we had a fantastic outing where I think we both learned a few things. It’s always fun shooting with another photographer considering we all see things differently. We might be photographing the same subject, yet our images won’t look anything alike.
As my new friend and I were discussing this fact, I made the comment, “As photographers, we all see things differently, and therefore, create our own unique image”. My friend was very quick to respond to my comment by saying, “Oh, I’m not a photographer”. I immediately knew why he said that and could totally relate.
For years, I have felt uncomfortable referring to myself as a photographer. I consider myself more of a snapshot taker, picture taker, a novice, newbie, amateur, beginner … photographer wannabe.
What is a photographer?
So, after pondering those thoughts, I did a little Googling and this is what I came up with …
Photographers create memories and make special moments unforgettable. (check, that’s me)
Photographers produce and preserve images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event. (again, check)
Okay, well then maybe I am a photographer according to these two sentences. But then I dove a little deeper.
A photographer is a person who takes photographs, especially as a job.
A photographer is a professional that focuses on the art of taking photographs.
Photographers are artists with a camera.
Photographers can work as fine artists, wedding/event photography, or sell their photographs to commercial clients.
Hmm, we’ve got some keywords there that definitely don’t apply to me. Therefore, I am not a photographer but merely a snapshot taker … or am I? I’m so confused!
Professional vs. Amateur
Have you ever entered a photography contest or read the rules to one of those contests? They seem to always use the terms Professional Photographer and Amateur Photographer making a decided distinction that there’s more than one kind of photographer.
Perfect example; The Washington Post sponsored a photo contest a while back. As I read the rules, this sentence really resonated with me.
Only amateur photographers are eligible. Professional photographers (i.e., anyone who earns more than 50 percent of his or her annual income from photography) are not eligible.
The distinction has nothing to do with the quality of a photographer’s work, but rather with his/her income, and both amateurs and professionals are considered photographers.
After my research, I think I finally feel comfortable calling myself a photographer … an amateur photographer that is because I am most definitely not a professional photographer.
Whether its a hobby or a profession, we all love this thing called photography. The difference is we either sell our images or give them away. Does it really matter to those admiring a beautiful photograph? So, snap away on that iPhone, point & shoot, or nifty mirrorless camera and embrace calling yourself a photographer. After all, it’s so much easier than referring to yourself as a snapshot taker and a heck of a lot more fun too! 📷
Ever return home from an epic day of adventure filled with amazing photo-ops only to download the images onto the computer and realize your photographs don’t appear sharp? Unfortunately, that has happened to me more times than I’d care to admit. You’d think by now with all the photographs that I take, I’d know better.
Making our photographs sharp, clean and crisp is something most of us want, but isn’t always easily achieved. Camera shake, subject movement, and poor focus are usually the main reasons behind poor image quality.
So, let’s talk about some ideas to help capture sharper photographs.
6 tips for beginners to take sharper photos.
1. Is it me or the camera?
The first thing we need to consider is our vision. When was the last time you had your vision checked? Oh, how embarrassing to have learned this lesson the hard way. Amazing how much sharper my images appear with new glasses.🤓 Or consider the resolution on your computer screen. Computer screens can have a huge impact on how our images are displayed. So, let’s make sure it’s the actual photograph that isn’t sharp and not our vision or computer screen. Have someone else review your images and then check the images on different devices.
2. Holding the camera steady.
Camera shake is a common reason for blurred photos. While the best way to tackle camera shake is to use a tripod, there are times and situations where using one isn’t always possible … and then there’s lazy ole me who usually leaves the tripod at home. But there are other options such as holding your camera with both hands, keeping the camera close to your body, and using a wall, tree, or another solid object for support, all of which, can help steady and minimize shake. Also, be sure your image stabilization is turned on.
3. Make sure the equipment is clean.
Make sure your lens and sensor are clean of any dirt and dust. Eliminating smudges, dust, and grime can impact your photographs.
4. Exposure Triangle
Understanding the exposure triangle is huge; ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed. The first thing we need to think about in our quest for sharp photos is the shutter speed we select. I’d like to think the camera gets it right when we shoot in auto, but that isn’t always the case. Plus, if we want to improve our photography skills, we really do need to move beyond auto. Remember, the faster the shutter speed, the less impact camera shake will have on our image and the better chance of freezing any movement. But we still need to think about aperture and ISO.
Aperture impacts the depth of field, the range that is in focus in our image. Decreasing the aperture to F11 will increase the depth of field meaning that both close and distant objects will be in focus. By doing the opposite and moving your aperture to F2.8, we’ll need to be more exact where we focus. With a large aperture, only our subject will be in focus.
ISO – When I think back to the era of film photography, ISO was directly correlated to the speed of the film loaded in our cameras. I still think of it that way. To achieve the sharpest and most crisp image, shooting with an ISO of 100 or 200 is ideal, but lighting conditions may not always be ideal. We’ll need lots of light to shoot with an ISO of 100.
ISO has a direct impact on the noise and grain of our images. If we move up to an ISO of 1000, we’ll be able to use faster shutter speeds and a smaller aperture but we’ll suffer by increasing the noise and decreasing crispness in our photos. Depending upon our camera and how we intend to use the photograph, we can usually get away with using an ISO of up to 400 or even 800 without too much noise. A good quality DSLR/Mirrorless can easily go up to an ISO of 3200 or more. My Panasonic FZ300 is good up to 400 and then noise really starts to set in and I lose the sharpness to the image. Each camera is different which leads me into the next tip.
5. Sweet Spot
Cameras and lenses have spots in their aperture or zoom ranges that are sharper than others. In many cases, this ‘sweet spot’ is one or two stops from the maximum aperture or zoom. So instead of shooting with your lens wide open (ie where the numbers are smallest) pull it back a stop or two and you might find you get a little more clarity in your shots.
The same with zoom lenses. I know with my Point & Shoot as well as my Bridge camera, I don’t shoot with the lens zoomed in or out all the way and I also know F4 is my FZ300’s sweet spot (F8 equivalent to a DSLR). It just takes some trial and error to get to really know and understand your equipment.
6. Check focus
Always check what part of the image is in focus before hitting the shutter. Consider setting the camera to one autofocus point instead of several. This is especially important when shooting wildlife or people. Also, depth of field is something we need to consider. A large aperture like F2.8 will usually have only one autofocus point in focus versus a small aperture like F11 will have several of the autofocus points in focus.
Final thoughts …
Practice, practice, practice! And remember, photography isn’t a science. It’s a creative art of expression. And in the end, what matters most about an image is how it makes YOU feel and the memories that photo evokes within you.
Looking at life through the lens of my camera has helped enlighten my awareness of the world around me. I notice little things and details in my everyday activities that I may not have noticed if it weren’t for my interest in photography.
“Through the Lens”
The “through the lens” idiom came from philosophers who viewed life in a way that a lens can distort vision. The idea is that there are many dimensions and shades of life and everyone has their own reality.
Photographers like to borrow the phrase “through the lens” … a different lens with a different focus gives us a different view. We all have our own ‘lens’ that has us see things, events, landscapes, and ideas differently.
Gosh, even eyeglasses are lenses. We’ve all heard the expression of a person seeing things “through rose-colored glasses”. Our perception is completely unique to each of us and how we see the world around us.
When you look through a camera lens, that lens can make things look different. A telephoto lens makes things appear closer than they actually are while a wide-angle lens can make things appear further away.
A lens or a filter can change or transform what we see. It can also alter reality or distort a view. It might help us focus on special sights that we otherwise might not notice.
Looking at life through the lens of my camera has taught me a few lessons ….
What photography has taught me!
Slow down. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the journey. Life is not a race, and I need to stop and smell the roses along the way.
Details. Beauty is in the details. Whether I’m confronted with in-your-face stunning beauty like the Grand Tetons or enjoying a taco at the local farmers market, I enjoy looking at not only the big picture but also the little stuff, the details.
Patience. Photographing birds, other wildlife, and even people requires a certain amount of patience and observation. That patience has translated into other aspects of my daily life. Yep, my children will tell you that I’m a lot more patient these days than I used to be. I’m sure it has nothing to do with old age but rather photography.
Control. I’m never in total control, no matter how much I try. I may have planned the perfect day, but if the weather doesn’t agree or there’s a mechanical problem with the truck, it’s time to rearrange the plans or as our GPS says, “Recalculating”. Life happens and recalculating is just part of it!
Share. I love sharing my story, my adventures, and my photographs. Sharing has given me purpose and encourages me to search out new sights and meet new people.
Be spontaneous. Changing plans or even direction on a whim has become my new norm. I’ve captured some of my favorite images with spur of the moment decisions.
Learn. We are never too old to learn new things. I’m constantly reading articles on photography and trying out new settings on my camera. But when WordPress changes things up, I’m not interested in learning their new and improved system, but that’s another subject. 😏
It’s okay to make mistakes. I try not to allow fear of failure to hold me back.
Practice and improve. In order to improve on anything, it takes a great deal of practice. I shoot lots of photographs. Digital photography is the best. I’d be in serious trouble if I still had to buy film and have it developed.
There are no shortcuts in life. Success at anything takes hard work.
Finding myself. I love being creative. It makes me happy. Even though my creative skills may be average, it’s still a passion. I took a painting class not too long ago, and let’s just say, I need to stick with photography … canvas, a brush, and paint ain’t my thang unless I’m trying to humor folks. Yeah, that canvas painting of mine provided a few laughs before being tossed in the trash.
Memories are important. Live in the moment. Life is short.
How about you? Has photography changed the way you look at things, your life, your perception, yourself?