Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Photography and Pride

It's not the best picture of Elijah I've ever taken, but this photo marks a photography milestone for me: it's the first one I've taken successfully in my camera's manual mode, selecting the aperture and shutter speed myself. At this point in my amateur photography adventure, I know just enough to be dangerous. I have a long, long way to go.

My camera--a Nikon D50--takes great pictures when everything's fully automatic, just point and shoot. But it has the potential to take fabulous pictures if you fuss with the settings more. The problem is, it also has the potential to take terrible pictures because you're fussing with the settings more. I learned that the hard way on Sunday, when we tried to take some family photos. A friend of ours was shooting for us, but he knew nothing about the camera, so I had pre-adjusted the settings and was tweaking periodically. Unfortunately, since I wasn't behind the camera, I couldn't see the effects of my tweaking, and to my dismay, about half of the photos turned out too blurry to use because the camera adjusted the shutter speed to be too slow. Obviously I'm not the budding expert I'd like to think I am--or would like you to think I am ;)

Like many things in life, I guess it gets worse before it gets better. Though it was incredibly disappointing to see what would have been fantastic pictures ruined because of blur (one of them was wonderful--I would totally blow it up and frame it if it weren't so fuzzy), it sent me back to my manual. There is so much information in that thick book to absorb and apply, and I guess screwing something up will help me remember to do it correctly next time.

I realized that there are some spiritual parallels to be gleaned here. Mark Lauterbach often writes of the folly in being disappointed with yourself. In one post about the thought processes behind pride, he writes:

God is without flaw so I hate anything that shows I have flaws, since I am God. I tend to be a perfectionist. I can't stand for little things to be wrong because they reflect poorly on me. I have a hard time putting my mistakes behind me. This is subtle. I do not desire godliness, I desire freedom from the daily necessity of the cross. I do not want to drink grace as a jet engine drinks fuel. I want to get a one shot for life experience. So, my critique of myself shows up in disappointment and despair – because I become weary of being a sinner. I am self-preoccupied. Disappointment is different than conviction of sin. One is I am disappointed with myself, the other is I have offended my God.

He's right, of course. My photography reflects my life in general. I want to have it all figured out, right now (in part to impress others). But screwing up sends me back to the Book (at least I hope it does) and going back to the Book is good for me. It humbles this proud heart; it reminds me that I am daily dependent on His grace.


Anonymous said...

Do you have any good suggestions of books on shooting manually? I have a D40 and love it, but reading the owners manual hasn't been too helpful. I actually took a semester of photography in college and shot everything with an old manual camera, but all that knowledge has grown rusty and I need a refresher course.

Hey, and thanks for those camera bag links!

Amy said...

Danielle--I did a search for "Photography for Dummies" on Amazon.com and in reading the reviews, ended up buying "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson instead. I'm loving it so far. It's very understandable but more of the nitty-gritty technical stuff (which is what I needed) than the Nick Kelsh books I've read ("How to Photograph Your Baby"). There's a link to the Peterson book over in my sidebar.

The thing I love about it is that it has exercises to practice what you're learning, which is exactly what I was looking for. That's how I ended up with this shot--he had you set your aperture to f/5.6, then adjust your shutter speed until the camera indicates a correct exposure, and voila! you've just shot your first photo manually.

It has also sent me back to my owner's manual, but rather than just reading aimlessly and trying to absorb the info, I'm searching for specific things and thus actually learning more.

I'm not very far into the book at all--the exercise I described is the very first one--but so far I'd definitely recommend it. I also have a friend who's taking photography courses at a local college and she said it's a great book.

TKB said...

good word...

Bethany said...

You did a great job on this shot. The best thing is practice practice practice. If you right click on your images before you mess with them you can get the info for what you shot at and that starts to help you understand mistakes. Digital is so much easier to learn on than film because you have that immediate result to check. Shoot and then check your histogram and images right away. There are lots of great books out there I will try to pull some links for you later. IT is a little harder for me because I learned film first a long time ago but it is till the same basic info. Another wonderful site is www.ilovephotography.com there are pros and those just starting out on there and lots of great info...it can be a time sucker and overwhelming too though. Hop on there and read the articles first which are located on the sides...do that before jumping in on the forums. Flickr is a good place to learn from people too....although I am not as big of a fan there because of all the photo theft from people in other countries.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Amy. My local library has it, so I'm going to put it on hold and check it out!

Zoanna said...

Good post and analogy. Without applying the Book, my situations seems fuzzy at best.

I, too, have had little or no success with manual on my D50. I would rather be shown how than read a manual about ANYthing. Much rather read How to Photograph Your Baby or Dog or REfrigerator or Nose Bleed. My local lib's the same as Danielle's. I hope there are 2 copies available!

Amy said...

Zo, you're so punny :)