Photography is very difficult to be good at, and it takes a great amount of understanding and practice. I have learned many things from Dave Shumway's Digital Nature Photography class this semester that has made me a better photographer. This semester was frustrating because at first I was having trouble understanding concepts and also I had some trouble with a camera setting that was on making all of my photos look terrible. I slowly started to understand the concepts and finally was able to see how to apply what I have learned in the field, making my photos look much better -- especially when Dave discovered the setting that was on making my pictures look bad.
I started off the semester with absolutely no knowledge on how to work a digital SLR camera, let alone understand how it works. I learned that knowledge about the camera you are shooting with, as well as understanding how to use the settings appropriately is extremely important. It was very difficult to get exactly what I wanted when taking photos but as as the semester progressed, I began to look for things all of the time like the thirds rule and the seven important things to remember. The concepts were tough to grasp for me and so was learning how to adjust the settings was slow and took a lot of practice. Once I learned the relative idea of these concepts and began to play with them slowly on my camera, understanding more and more how to take some good quality shots. Both shutter and aperture priority settings are my favorite to toy with because there are so many opportunities that you have with these settings.
Another important thing that I learned is that having the proper equipment is extremely important if you are expecting great quality shots. Having a vest or something with big pockets is helpful in the field when you have to bring along another lens, filters and any other equipment. I found this out on our Yellowstone National Park trip when I had to carry my other lens, polarizer, and my macro lens I'm my pants pockets. This was not only uncomfortable but I'm sure I looked extremely goofy walking around with a huge lens in my back pocket. I'm very happy I had a tripod that I used many times throughout the semester, as well. I truly realize how important one is now, and wish that I had a better one that was more smooth to pan and one that could get lower to the ground for cool perspective shots. I found out that having a graduated and neutral density filter on hand is also beneficial while taking certain photos that required it. There were a few photos that I took this semester that would have looked much better and would have taken less time to edit if I had those filters on me when I took them. I would also have liked to have a super telephoto lens or at least some doublers making my focal length better for wildlife shots. A super telephoto lens helps because getting close enough to some animals is dangerous and difficult, when tyring to get good portrait shots. I also got in a good habit of making sure I was prepared with enough space on my memory card and had a sufficient charge on my battery before I went out.
The book also did a good job of explaining and giving good examples on how to compose a shot. By remembering the seven important things to think about while taking shots, I could focus on the more appealing subjects in the field. It helps to really think about the shot before you take it so that you don't have to throw it out a bunch or spent a ton of time in photoshop. I learned to put things in the foreground making good size cues for perspective. This made a shot of a lake on the Beartooth pass with the reflection look 100 times better when I took another with rocks in the foreground. Also, paying attention to lighting type is one of the most important things to remember when composing an image. Having good lighting make a world of difference when getting the right exposure. Some lighting makes it extremely frustrating to take correctly exposed and in focus shots.
This class greatly improved my skills and knowledge in photography making me much more interested in the other variations of photography such as macro or underwater photography. I have always been interested in macro photography and would like to purchase a good macro lens, other than the small attachable one I have, so I can get even closer with a greater chance of getting what I want in focus. There are so many times while hiking up in the mountains that I have taken some good macros of spiders and flowers with my little Nikon coolpix point and shoot. They are some cool photos but they would look much better with a higher pixel density and higher quality. Another interest of mine that I have explored a little but would like to continue to explore some day, is underwater photography. I have taken underwater pictures with a waterproof disposable camera in both Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands. It was so amazing to see all of the aquatic wildlife that I have never seen before and wanted to have a visual record to show people. As expected, my pictures came out faded as well as a large amount of noise because of the suspended particles in the water. By having an underwater housing for my digital SLR and a light I could take some cool shots that I would love. The only disappointing part is that underwater housings for SLRs are extremely costly for how often I would get a good opportunity to use it. I am glad I took this class because it made me enjoy taking pictures and I think that I will have to add this to another one of my hobbies.