Photography Learning Summary & Final Reflections

If you look at my Flickr account, I don’t believe you can really trace a progression of “worse” to “better” photos. Part of this is because I deleted the not so good photos – I realize now that, in future learning, I need to keep those bad examples to show students because they are just as much of a learning queue as seeing the good examples.

The other part is because I opted to try such a wide variety of photography that I didn’t really have time to perfect it – I would just do it and move on. I discovered as I was learning that I wanted to take the approach of comprehensive learning and experimenting – trying to take photos in as many different ways as possible. I introduced myself to many avenues (portrait, landscape, lightbox closeup) and basic tips, so that I have a solid base to go forward from. I thought that would be a better use of my time and learning than taking one path and really perfecting it. This way, I know which avenues I like most. After I put myself out there and tried different things, I still realized I like landscape photography the most. Next steps forward would be exploring landscape photography in more detail, and trying to get those breathtaking shots you see online and in museums and on travel brochures, etc. I have been told by those close to me that my photos are good, and I know their opinions may be biased, but it still gives me confidence to keep trying and expanding my horizons.

I have been trying to get my photos out there through sharing them in groups and contests. I think it has increased my views a little bit, but sharing my photos on Facebook and my blog have generated the most traffic. I will need to keep pushing for feedback on public platforms like Flickr to get more noticed.

One major point I reflected on as I did each mini project was how photography requires both a reactive and proactive mindset. You have to be an opportunist who simultaneously sees something beautiful as it is and react to it, but you also have to have tools and the eye for how to plan and stage a scene for when 100% natural beauty is scarce (something I learned when I prepped for portrait photography, when I made a lightbox, and when I took photos at different times of the days to play around with lighting).

Below is a list of my most important blog posts and a concise summary of my learning in each.


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1 – Beginning of my Journey Pt A

Beginning of my Journey Pt B

Me rambling on about what I am hoping to get out of this learning experience. I was also very excited to try out the new photography technology I bought online!


done

2 – Puddle Photography and Double Exposure Idea

My Face, My Yard, and I

Really Cool Photo of My Eye

This first progression of blogs shows my interest, and then pursuance of double exposure-style photo editing. I counted it as part of my photography journey because, ultimately – why are we taking photos, if not to do something with them? Whether we frame them, edit them, combine them… we are always creating and improving.


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3 – In Person Learning with Corla Rokochy – Definitely Worth a Read!

I am friends with Corla through The Lyric Theatre. I knew she was a professional photographer, but she actually approached me through Facebook after I put it out there that I was taking photography for my class. Thanks so much Corla!!!


Portrait Photography in Colour!

4- Preparing For Portrait Photos

After the Photoshoot

Further Reflections

I only did portrait photography once (not counting my self-portrait photography which you can find on my Learning Project page) and my friend was my reluctantly willing participant. We both ended up having fun and the photos turned out great. We both learned more about posing and working with light. Our favourite agreed-upon photo is the one above – I followed the tips of shooting when she wasn’t locked into a pose and got this gem!


5 – Making a Lightbox (Mini Photo Booth!)

Using the Lightbox

I loved this project (another idea from Trish) and am so grateful I have a resource I can use whenever I want, to take crisp, professional photos of objects on a white background.


Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

6 – Flickr Friend Advice on Photography (Great Resource For All!)

Day and Night Comparison

I was blown away by how this woman did not know me at all, but saw I was beginning to learn photography and, out of the kindness of her heart, shared her photography experiences and tips she has learned! She gave me project ideas, theories on good photography (the Fibonaccci sequence, having an asymmetrical amount of objects in focus, and so on), and a lot of motivation to keep on shooting. In the second blog, I document me following her project idea of taking photos of the same place at different times.


Landscape Photos March 5

7 – Landscape Photography Tips

Landscape Experimentation

The first blog shows a great resource that helped focus my attention for taking landscape photos instead of just snapping at “whatever looks good”. You can see the fruits of my labor in the second blog post.


Spur of the moment sunset photos turned out better than the (poorly) planned ones! I remembered the tips of using foreground elements and silhouettes. The train light in the distance is a nice touch!

8 – Photoshop Tutorial on Editing Layers

Timelapses and Sunset Photos

Sundown Photos (Showing Learning and Progress)

This selection of links show a progression in my use of Adobe photoshop to do timelapses, and also show my progression in photographing dusk/sunset scenes. If you look at the bottom of the 2nd link you will see a photo of a colorful sunset, and I think that symbolizes the end of my learning journey perfectly. The sun goes down as this class ends, but will be back again tomorrow as I continue my passion of photography outside of class!


9 – Tracing the Progress of my Alphabet Project

I thought it would be fitting to incorporate my learning project into my final summary of learning so I decided to make an alphabet poster that would be transformed into an interactive image map of different things I learned in this class!

You can view my journey in its entirety documented here, on my Learning Project category page. I did not include all blog posts in my summary above – only those I thought were most important.


Important links to check out, where I documented my learning and final products:

My Padlet

My Flickr Albums

All photos on this page were taken by me. If you want to relax and scroll through some photos of what I perceive (and you may perceive) as beautiful, please be my guest!

Please leave a comment, either on my blog or on my photos!

Returning to the Tracks – “Natural Beauty” of the LG G4

Disclaimer: These photographs are uploaded to Flickr with ZERO editing in terms of lighting, cropping… the whole deal! The only time one is edited is for a cropping that I specifically draw attention to.

I played chicken with the train again. I was out and about and decided to stop a little bit earlier than sunset time, when the sun was still up. Dusk.

I found a great example to model the advice Corla gave me, way back when, and reiterated when I watched a Youtube video on taking landscape photos.

I try really hard to have a pattern in the photo that the viewer follows. If you look at this photo, I was too focused on rule of thirds (not having the silhouettes in the middle) that I forgot about leading lines. Look at the entire left side of the photo – there is nothing of interest for the eye to wander. It is dead space. There is no path leading fully across the photo. The railroad tracks would have been perfect to line up from one corner of the photo to the other.

Train at sundown 7 pm

Now, look at this photo. I switched perspective (crossed the tracks) and took another shot. This time I had the railroad giving wonderful leading lines. If we read left to right we see the tracks get smaller as you get farther away, and then you see a train as the main focal point, framed by the two crossing posts. The only thing I did not like is the top right corner, where there is another post in the way.

Train at sundown 7 pm

A simple crop… and here we are!

Train sundown APR 9

Of course it is always nice getting that shot that needs zero cropping. Look below. The leading line is the silhouette, a mix of trees, the grain elevator, and the train. There are some vertical lines that draw attention too, but everything is symmetrical and there is no real dead space (the sun flare reaches to the top of the photo – it is beautiful, I think!) I casually snapped it as I was walking across the tracks. The train was stopped, folks, don’t worry!

Train at sundown 7 pm

Check out all of the train photos here.

 

Scavenging for Sunset Photos

I saw this photo idea on Pinterest and remembered a nice place to get a wide shot of skies. My purpose? To show SK skies transforming from fluffy clouds to a majestic magenta sunset. We aren’t called “Land of the Living Skies” for nothing.

I staged my spots so I would take the same photo each time. I didn’t touch the legs on my tripod and I used environmental cues like leaning the tripod against a special fence post or lining my camera button up with the tree line.

I also happened to stumble into an area with a nearby wildfire where firefighters were out in full force. I am learning as a photographer that you have to answer the door when opportunity knocks because you don’t just get to photograph open flames and smoke every day! I took some photos then casually swung my camera the other way to photograph the creek.

Here are three cropped and filtered photos. One of the fire and two just of the beautiful sky.

My afternoon shots were good but evening not so much. I realized this is what I need to do next time: map out a good spot OF A SUNSET and take a quick photo to remember. Then come back the next day to start business. Work backwards because my purpose was a nice sunset… So find nice sunset and track its time first. I did not check the weather or my location and overall it was just not good for a sunset. Also next time I thought I should find a more interesting foreground with a specific point for the eye to focus OR I should find a way to naturally frame it (as I crossed the railroad tracks I realized the two vertical bars would make a perfect frame and possibly silhouette).
I Googled whether or not there is a good direction to take sunset photos. I never found an answer but this site did confirm my thoughts about planning ahead and showing more sky than I did in this shoot, and about focusing on a foreground object. I had completely forgotten I could do silhouettes too (would not have worked with the weather and lighting anyway). Also a further investigation into this string of posts uncovered this beautiful Suncalc app that gives the sun’s exact location anywhere in the world! Check it out, it is a cool visual!

Wish me luck on future sunset endeavours. For now check out my timelapse photos minus the spectacular sunset.

Here are two different blending versions I did:

Timelapse1Timelapse2

I also documented how I set them up to rotate them. I did not explain blending – it seems straightforward to me, erasing/deleting where artistically necessary!

Overall I did not like the final product, BUT I liked the process. Another day I will take better photos and try this again. 🙂

To end on a good note: Here is a beginning-of-Spring plantlife shot I took while crouched on my gravel walkway. UNEDITED! Out with the old, in with the new!

Every photo with this blurb is unedited and no filter. So happy with how they turned out. Today was a juxtaposition of end of life (a fire) and new life (plant growth at the beginning of spring). These shots are the beginning of life. I followed the gener

 

UPDATE…

The next day I thought about what I had reflected on (using silhouettes, waiting for a nice bright sky, finding the right direction to take photos, having focal points) and saw a bit of pink sky out to the West, so I packed up and headed to the train tracks. Completely spur of the moment (no tripod or remote shutter or anything) I got this snap, as a train was coming towards me. Like I say, you really gotta be an opportunist, and strike when the moment is right.

How to Edit Multiple Layers at Once in Photoshop

Here is a quick tutorial I made on editing multiple layers (images) in photoshop at the same time (ie. getting them all to do the same thing).

I made this immediately after teaching myself. I was excited because I actually thought of being efficient and was resourceful in going to Google (instead of playing it safe, thinking – I already know how to do each one individually so I will just do that). I was so exited I wanted to share my knowledge with others in an accessible, visual, quick way!

 

 

 

Long Exposure Fails and Night Photography Highlights

I still can’t get a handle on long exposure. I can do it, but I can’t do it WELL. I tried to have a funky line of cars going past the church and ended up with this.

Creek & 1st United Church March 19
It just doesn’t look like those professional, intense citylife shots you see. I had initially tried long exposure with running water at sundown… That was a fail too. 
Long Exposure... 2-4 Second Shutter Compared to 1/2 or faster. Darker shots are faster and sharper. Just experimenting... I realize these are not great.
Fluffy overexposed water or…

Long Exposure... 2-4 Second Shutter Compared to 1/2 or faster. Darker shots are faster and sharper. Just experimenting... I realize these are not great.
Dark sharp water. 

But on the plus side…

I got some really cool angled and lighted shots and had a wonderful time editing them! I love how there is just a sliver of light bouncing off the fir tree from the streetlight. So spooky. FYI this gem was taken without tripod, through the windshield, in nearly complete darkness:

Creek & 1st United Church March 19
And you can’t beat the overexposed oversaturated rainbow over First United Church as lazerbeams shoot down the street:

Creek & 1st United Church March 19
Check out my full landscape album here

Alphabet Photography Project!

 

 

This site gives a few ideas for projects and one stood out enough to me enough that a) I wanted to try it myself and b) I thought this is also a great potential lesson students could partake in for Art class!

They talk about doing an Alphabet Project where you find different shapes that look like letters, but they are found naturally (or manmade) in society.

The entire alphabet found on Pinterest.

http://yhsphoto1meghan2015.blogspot.ca/2015/04/no-way-jose.html?m=1

Here is the URL to the No Way Jose photocollage made by Meghan that nicely sums up the final product of the project.

Here are some example photos by a photographer who did this project.

This helps me in my photography project because the site explains that this can help you develop your artistic or creative eye (looking at things in a different way). I may take unique angles of something that ends up looking really cool that I otherwise may not have tried. This also helps me majorly in photography because it helps me narrow down a focus. I can apply all of the learning up to date in this project because it involves taking several photos. I am always wanting to be outside photographing the environment but it is such a big place with endless possibilities and so sometimes when I go out with my tripod I get overwhelmed!

In regards to how this can help me as a teacher: This resource inspired me to think about how I can encourage students to “read” their environment. With young students we could do a nature walk and try to find alphabet letters in the environment (choose word or look for name) and then take some photos to document our findings. Students can get to know community/environmental as well as their English literacy… For example looking at the golden arches and knowing it can be the letter M and the sign for McDonalds. Or looking at a wheel but knowing it also looks like an O.
Older kids could get more independent and do photo collages with phone cameras or borrowed iPads.

I am passionate about getting kids interested in the natural environment and getting them outside when I teach them. I want them to treat their surroundings well and learn to do so by experiencing it and cherishing it enough to know it needs them as much as we need it.  After our walks kids can reflect on what they saw (was there garbage strewn about? How many natural things did you use? Manmade? Why do you think natural/manmade was more difficult to find words in?). This lesson could also be applied in Math with identifying different geometric shapes and photographing them.

In this case though, kids have to consciously think about how to form letters and compare.
We could choose one theme like trees or street signs or go really broad and do everything!
I will continue this endeavour using a mix of my different steps of learning (rule of thirds, try new angles, stop motion, lightbox, Adobe photoshop, etc) and creativity/trying new things. I want my final message to be something educational or inspirational… Using letters of photographs. For now I will just keep collecting letters… Whether I see them in trees, whether I get people to pose as letters in portraits, or whether I photograph unique letters on signs. Another cool idea would be cropping parts of photographs I have already done and making a message, to show that photographs always have hidden messages and that the beauty (or in this case usefulness) is in the eye of the beholder.


 

I did a notepad checklist of the letters I had. When I had enough to make a sentence that could communicate my learning journey, I made one ^ see above. It was tedious trying to get the A, B and C when I could find Hs and Ys everywhere, but I kept at it…


 

… and the final product. 🙂

Photo-Experiment at Doc’s Town Church!

 

 

 

I followed Trish’s advice of taking photos from different angles and at different times of the day. I edited both sets of photos but I will draw attention to how they still manage to look different – beyond the scope of what editing can do. I am realizing that, even with the professional editing at our fingertips today… lighting. and. timing. still. matter. The differences were, literally, “night and day”.

I took the daylight photos around 11 am. It was a sunny day – it had just snowed but it was quickly melting. I took the evening photos around 8:00 pm, and as you can tell some are significantly darker than others because I took them as the sun was setting. I took all of the photos in a Westward direction – some straight West, some (the left wagon wheel) to the Southwest, and some (the right wagon wheel) to the Northwest. I tried to take similar shots in the daytime and nighttime to show how lighting ALONE can change mood and story.

For the nighttime shots, I loved working with the harsh directional lighting. I loved seeing the glow of light off of the tree branches, and the point of interest that showed up on the door of the church, like it was beckoning someone to come closer. I loved how creepy it all was. The poor lighting + phone camera = shots that were grainy and off-colour, and I loved it all. Some of them look like movie covers for 1970s horror films.

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

 

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

For example in the daytime I took this shot of branches in front of the church and the branches just looked like a nuisance, like they were in the way. However, look at the same shot at night, and suddenly the branches help tell the story (am I right?) – they are hiding this creepy church from view.

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

The daytime was fun insofar as working with colour and shadows. I could artistically shoot the “Doc’s Town” sign shadow, and in the nighttime I obviously couldn’t do that because there were no lights close enough to the sign. I could also play around with the royal blue sky, the burgundy wagon wheels, and contrast them against the white church and fence and snow.

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

Recap: In the daytime, I find shadows and colour. In the nighttime, I find light and stories. I still managed to find shadows at night two (see the photo of the trees shadowing the fence) but it was not my main focus. It just distracted me… I am often distracted!

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

As you can tell, I had to think of a lot of different things at different times of the day. I am so glad I did this “experiment” (trying to keep all variables except 1 – the time of day – the same)! I felt a bit like Jekyll & Hyde – is it just me or do the two sets of photos look like they were taken by two different photographers?!

Lastly I wanted to point out how I am able to see my own growth as a photographer. When I first got out and snapped my photos I snapped them instinctively, looking at the sign and wanting things to be “noticed”. However, this doesn’t tell a story – the sign interrupts the church, nothing seems to have artistic purpose. It is just a “Hey, I’m at Doc’s Town” photo:

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

Then, check out these (UNEDITED! RAW!) photos I took as I continued to think about angles, creativity, telling a story…

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

Night and Day... Comparing 11 am shots to 8 pm shots of same place.

You can see all of my favourites (plus the one “beginning” shot) here.