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on Jul 1, 2006 in Thought of the Month

What's Going on In There? – 07.01.06

California Gulls (c) Moose Peterson

This photography thing, it’s quite a mental game. Ever notice that? Whether it was the brain power to earn the money to buy the tools, selecting the right tool out of all the ones purchased or then thinking about the best way to apply that selected lens for the given subject, the whole thing is a mental process. You can go even deeper realizing that selecting the right f/stop and position for the right composition takes even more brain power. Going all the way, you have to take your brain in combination with your eyes and analyze the light to determine not only exposure but if the light itself is worthy of your photographic efforts. Dang, this is one brainy hobby/avocation or occupation!

Ever upload your photos and ask yourself, “What was I thinking about?� Your images are missing something obvious. Perhaps you used the wrong AF sensor so your focus point is off, you used too much DOF or not enough. You simply blew it because, you weren’t thinking fluently enough for the situation at hand. It would be nice to be able to blame Nikon or Canon for the problem, something they goofed up in manufacture. Would be handy if we could blame the subject but as we all know the subject gives us enough excuses for failure that this one just doesn’t fit. It all comes down to us and thinking.

How can we get past this problem? Thinking, practice thinking. Now how do you do that? The best way I know of is simply shooting, shooting and then shooting some more. The more situations you expose your mind to, the more situations become second nature and learned mistakes get corrected. You can take classes that again expose the mind to situations so you have answers to fall back on. I’ve been very fortunate to take Joe McNally’s lighting class a half dozen times now and it’s radically improved my use of flash taking my flash photography to a whole new level. And finally, you can learn a lot by just reading and looking. There’s a great Blog out there, The Strobist who invites you into the creative world of flash with great lessons, assignments and humor.

“Engage the brain before the mouth� is something my dad told me a lot, a lot! These words of wisdom I turned around long ago into “Engage the brain before shooting� and I found it helped me a lot. While this might seem difficult in itself, you have to take one more giant step further by thinking and then connecting that thought with your heart to bring out in your photography the passion that wildlife photography so cries for. I was having a photographic conversation with a good friend lately and I accused him of thinking too much. Perhaps he doesn’t think too much, perhaps I think too little. Perhaps the middle point is where we want to reach but on a subconscious level for the best photographs. I don’t know, I’ll have to think on it. I need to consider for myself just what’s going on in there.