Evolution of a Photographer

Evolution, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is a ‘progressive change and development over time’. It’s wild to think I’ve been photographing landscapes and the natural world for just over 10 years now. That journey began with a fairly basic point & shoot camera with a desire to explore and capture images of the natural world. It wasn’t work to me, it just came natural. A little over 2 years ago I decided: “This is something I want to do as a professional”. A lot has changed since I picked up that first point & shoot: technology, equipment, image processing software, financial ability to travel, business growth, well you get the point. Today I’m going to focus on the path of my education & experience. I believe they both go hand in hand, or at least should. I’ve chosen several images from one location: Mount Rainier National park. My decision was based on allowing you to get a better feel of the progress my images have take over the past several years by comparing a location I’ve been to several times over that span of time.

My first digital camera was a Fuji Finepix 3800. That brings back some memories….3.0 MP with a 6x optical zoom. It even had threads to add a filter! My first experiences taking that camera out were very basic, frame a shot and capture the image. Simple, right? Now I’ve always had a eye for art, photography being my passion of all the arts, but I had no idea in buying that camera that I needed to know more then frame. point. shoot. I had only dipped my toes in the water a bit, understanding some affect on my images was provided by using filters while shooting. I began to use a circular polarizer or warming filters and with fairly happy results (at least at the time I thought). The images below are two I captured from Mount Rainer National Park in 2003. To me they almost look rudimentary, very basic images. The color was flat, poor lighting, and limited contrast. I understood framing and composition, but not much beyond that. I captured these images as jpeg, that’s it. No RAW files….and what the heck was Lightroom (which didn’t even exist then) or Photoshop?

DSCF0033-2 DSCF0025-1

The next step was purchasing a DSLR, I purchased my Nikon D40x in summer of 2006. I was almost overwhelmed by the ability to adjust settings, shoot in new file formats, use various lens – the list goes on and on. The world of photography was much bigger than an automatic setting. And within 2 years I wore out the shutter mechanism and purchased a Nikon D90. Over a 3-4 year span I began to read more about what f/stop, shutter speed, film speed, and depth of field meant to the images I created. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t take learning how each of those components affected my images a serious as I should have and my images suffered because of it. I began to see elements in my images regarding depth of field, exposure, over exposed skies or underexposed foregrounds. I learned more and more about post processing, using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 for editing all my RAW images. Still, I feel like what I was outputting didn’t meet my personal expectations. The below images are from summer of 2008. As you can see a marked improvement from 2003. The images were taken as RAW files, processed in Capture NX 2. What do you see that could be improved upon? I feel the red channel is blown out in the below photo. I also would’ve liked to have a less depth of field to make the flowers pop from the background. Simply, I didn’t think thoroughly enough about what I was doing. The next image? What are your thoughts?

Mount Rainier NP 206 (1 of 1) Mount Rainier NP 028 (1 of 1)

Two years ago I made a decision that I was going to pursue my dream as a landscape photographer seriously. I have spent hours reading, searching the web, asking questions, having conversations with some great photographers, experimenting, and shooting. The effort has paid dividends in the quality of my work. I made the decision to move to a full frame senor with my camera, purchasing a Canon 5D Mark II at that time. But to be honest, as much as I love that camera, it’s not what has made be a better photographer. Education and going out and shooting, shooting, and more shooting was the key yo better photography. I also expanded the use of my post processing techniques, using Lightroom and Nik software (which is incredible, but another post on it’s own). The last images I’m sharing are form the past August at taken Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park. Much more dynamic images. Increased contrast, depth of field throughout the images, and one key the above images lacked – good lighting. Letting the natural light speak for itself allowed me to create some images I walked away very happy with.

Mount Rainier 2012 - Paradise - 178 Mount Rainier 2012 - Paradise - 233

My evolution has taken many steps the past 10 years, but here are my take away points that can lead you to being a better photographer. 1. Learn. I mean really invest in learning, read, experiment, ask quesitions. 2. Spend time. Now that you’re educated yourself, spend time taking photographs. Not just here & there, but as often as you can. 3. Gear. Nope, not what you’re thinking. The latest gear is great and I’ve worked hard to have nice gear. But now a days a DSLR whether $600 or $6000 can take quality images, but it’s not about the gear. It’s all about your education & experience. I’m excited to continued progress and change as a photographer, continuing to evolve as my career grows.

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