Monday, April 11, 2011

of photos, feet and sunsets

Some days are just...different.  Yesterday was that kind of day.  It started late because I had business to take care of first.  The afternoon was spent at my daughter Jenny's home.  I had an assignment to shoot with Big Girl (more about that another time), so we spent the afternoon grilling hamburgers and taking photographs.  Part of the assignment involved my youngest daughter Deborah (Wretch) and granddaughter Maddie Kate. 

I sat Wretch and Maddie on the couch in the living room and explained to them what I was trying to do.  Then I gave Maddie a few minutes of lessons on operating Little Girl.  I had this setup in my mind, and had worked it out perfectly over several days so that I figured this would be a piece of cake.  I did a practice shot to test the camera and light. 

I studied online tutorials for my camera.  I completely understood aperture, shutter speed and ISO.  I was stoked.  Ready to shoot the most amazing photos of my life.  Convinced this would be a matter of about fifteen minutes and it would be in the bag. 

WRONG.  As soon as I started shooting, I realized I had totally forgotten all those lessons that the tutorial maker told me would come as second nature, that would be easy to remember and be easy to figure out for each photo.  I overexposed my light, (set my ISO too high, my aperture too low), which blurred the shots because of camera shake (my excitement I am sure), then when we went outside the photos were too dark because the light coming from behind Wretch and Mad was too bright.  And at that point I couldn't remember what setting to use to compensate for it. 

Maddie understood Little Girl.  I set it to auto shoot so that she could have the enjoyment of actually taking photos while I did my thing.  Might as well reward my girl for helping her Grammy, right?

WRONG.  She was so into taking her OWN photos that she kept moving at the wrong time, because she was capturing her own magic.  On MY camera.  In her defense, she did move this way and that way, and I kept telling her not to LOOK posed, even though at times she was VERY posed. 

On top of it all, it was hot as a fourth of July firecracker on that porch, and I was sweating bullets.  I wasn't sure I was getting anything out of this.  Hopefully Maddie was and I could use HER photos.

Then Duncan showed up.  Maddie had dressed up in a new little outfit her mommy had gotten her for school.  Hair in piggy tails, she looked cute.  There stood Duncan in front of me saying he wanted to take a picture.  I thought he meant be in the photos.  I looked at him.  Still dressed in pajamas with food stains and holes in the shirt, and bedhead hair shot straight up to the moon.  I told him if he wanted to be in the photos to get dressed, and comb his hair.  He stood there balking.  Turned out he didn't want to be in the photos, he wanted to TAKE some photos.  With Little Girl.  (*sigh*)  This was getting more difficult to orchestrate by the minute.  But I am a fair Grammy, so we turned Little Girl over to him for some photos.

We spent two sessions and about two hours taking photos.  Here are some of mine:

And here are some of Mad and Dunc's shots:

Not bad for 5 year olds is it?  I honestly believe the biggest lesson I learned yesterday was that kids love to learn new things, and that the twins are going to be better photographers than I am.  All they have to do is learn focus.

Before we left Dunc wanted a candid photo of the foot he dropped a five pound weight on, so I obliged:
Then we had hugs and more hugs all around, and Steve and I headed home.  I was glad Maddie and Duncan had enjoyed the camera, and thought about their joy and excitement at discovering photography with a "real" camera.  I was also tired and frustrated with myself, wondering if I would EVER learn the art of photography, and hoping I could salvage something from all the photos I shot.  Professionals make it look so easy.  As I sat and pondered as Steve drove, I suddenly focused on the sky.  And saw this:

So the day was ended photographing a beautiful sunset through the windshield of my car.  I was in awe of the way the sky had been painted by the creator in shades of blue, pink and gold.  And reminded that nothing I created would ever surpass what was in front of my eyes.  It humbled and centered me again, and suddenly the stress and frustration from the day disappeared, and all was right with my world.

Of course, you aren't seeing the sunset shots with the bug smears on the windshield in them.  The creator also made me smart enough to be able to delete.


  1. Hi Cath, I know exactly what you mean. I'm also trying to get to grips with ISO, aperture and shutter speeds. I set out with the camera and try to work on what I'm learning. At the moment I'm trying to get to grips with aperture. So I shoot the same shot with the different aperture. But when it comes to taking the "real shots" it all seems to go out of my head. I'm hoping one day it will gel. Most of my best shots are pure chance. Children are wonderful, they just "do" They don't get hung up in all the rules:-)

  2. @hocam
    It all makes perfect sense when I am sitting at the computer reading this, and even when I am just dinking with settings at home. But when I am focused on getting that perfect leaves my brain...the only thing I can figure is that I am using the organized rational side of my brain for learning, and when I am photographing, I am using the creative side of my brain. I just need to figure out how to bring the two together! :D

    By the way Mary, you have some awesome photos on your blog and need to check Aaron Outward's blog ( kindred spirit for those of us who like to write and photograph.

    Thanks for the comments Mary!

  3. Lovely photos :) I especially liked nos. 1, 3 and 4 from the top in the right hand column. Your grand-daughter has such an expressive face :)

  4. Hey,
    Like your post. It really does take a long time to have exposure become second nature. The best is to take it slow. Make ISO the last thing you worry about, leaving it on auto.

    Start in Aperture priority and play around with that learning how your apertures affect the photo. The switch to shutter priority and see how that affects your photo.

    I mainly shoot I A mode only changing when I need to do something creative.

  5. Thanks for your comments Cath, I used to think I took nice photos.....then I joined a camera club. I have become a lot more critical of my photos and while I think I have the "eye" I now need to learn the technique. Like Aaron suggested I have been working on Aperture and taking the same photo at different settings to see the effect it has. Shutter speed is next.

  6. I think all the photos look great. As the mom of 15 year old twin girls, i wonder sometimes if i will ever have another photo of them that isn't pointed slightly above their heads and taken as an above shot. ;-)

  7. Maybe what you should have learned is that the grandbabies inherited a good eye and a wonderful talent from you! :)

  8. @Aaron
    Thanks for the feedback Aaron! I have taken your advice and am working with aperture only right now. Still reading a lot and trying to gain better skills. Your opinion and critique is always welcome!

  9. @The Wanderer
    Thanks so much for those comments! I always say Maddie Kate has a face like Play Doh. It bends in the oddest ways. :)

  10. @hocam
    I know what you mean Mary! I am a card carrying member of the "Click and Pray it Turns Out" group! :) but I think I am gaining a bit of knowledge along the way. My background in art has helped a lot. I can look at a scene as though it is a painting and frame it in my mind before I shoot. Seems to help. :)

  11. @PCN
    I agree Julie! Shooting the kids is like nailing jello to the wall!

  12. @Beckey
    Aww thanks Beckey. I hope one of these whippersnappers will show an interest in art and photography. So far Maddie seems to be the lead on that. :)

  13. The feet photo and the sunset photo are very beautifully taken! And I agree with you on the kids being better photographers! :)