Sunday, July 28, 2019

Use Limitations To Unleash Your Creativity

Over the years I have gathered quite a collection of cameras and lenses.  So much so that when June decided to try her hand with an interchangeable lens camera I was able to give her a mirrorless camera and three lenses.  This is my backup camera and three lenses that I no longer use but never got around to selling.  Not counting the three lenses I gave June, I have six lenses covering focal lengths from 12mm to 400mm (18-600mm in full-frame terms).  Because I use a cropped sensor mirrorless camera system I can easily carry all those lenses in a single backpack.  I pretty much have unlimited flexibility with which to create my photos.  I found this flexibility was putting me into a creative rut. I was relying on my collection of lenses to come up with a good composition. 

Don't misunderstand -- each of those lenses serves a different purpose, from fast wide 12mm lens for night sky photos to the 100-400mm zoom for wildlife photography.  Sometimes I would use a lens that is typically not used for a given style of photography, such as using the 100-400mm zoom for landscapes, but most of the time I was relying on a zoom lens to compose the photo without making other efforts to be creative.

Recently we took a couple trips to Knoxville Tennessee, Michigan, and Indiana.  For a couple outings on those trips, I took only one lens - a 35mm f/2 prime (no zooming) lens for my Fuji XT-3 mirrorless camera.    I recently added this lens to my collection because the 35mm focal length is close what our eyes see (normal lens) and the wide f/2 maximum aperture allows me to shoot in low light conditions and to blur the background in my photos.  It's a tiny little lightweight lens on a small mirrorless camera that doesn't attract much attention or weigh much at all.  I can carry it all day long and no one pays much attention to the little camera and lens.
f/2 at 1/50 sec, ISO 800
By limiting myself to a single focal length I had to compensate by moving around to get a good composition.  The wide f/2 aperture allowed me to shoot in dark places I couldn't with other lenses, such as the bar, but at the same time, I had to think about creatively using the depth of field.

f/4, 1/1600 sec, ISO 4000
f/2, 1/10 sec, ISO 400

I found myself having to look around and find new perspectives.  While waiting outside a gift shop, I found a whirlygig that had some cool shapes.  I could use the f/2 aperture to blur out any distracting elements in the background.  I focused on water dripping from a pipe.  I found a single yellow petal from a Sunflower in a bed of red leaves (I didn't put it there, this time.)

f 5.6, 1/90 sec, ISO 320

f/2.8, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200
Sometimes the 35mm focal length worked out, such as the bridge photo.  Other times I had to work to create a pleasing composition because of physical barriers that kept me from being able to stand where I wanted, such as the boat and lily pad flower and the red/orange flowers where I had to cut off the left petal.
f/7.1, 1/100 sec, ISO 200

f/16, 1/120 sec, ISO 640
I found that I enjoyed my single-lens outings and found some creative photos that I might have missed if I had relied on my arsenal of lenses.  My new photos don't look like the thousands I have already taken.  By restricting one area, I have opened up my creativity and made photography fun.

Give this a try.  You don't have to restrict yourself to a single fixed focal length lens.  Restrict yourself in other ways -- only make photos that contain a specific color.  Only do portrait orientation photos.  Limit yourself to a specific aperture or shutter speed setting.  You might find you have more fun while learning to be more creative.

Here are a few more photos from those single-lens days.
f/5.6, 1/105 sec, ISO 400

f/5, 1/150 sec, ISO 200

f/2, 1/125 sec, ISO 160

f/2, 1/50 sec, ISO 1000

f/4, 1/45 sec, ISO 160

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Don't Be A Digital Hoarder

Here are a few tips on dealing with something that can be difficult for some people to do - deleting photos.
Violets from a walk in a local park.

In the age of high-speed digital cameras and huge memory cards, it's easy to make several hundred photos in a day.  This is especially true when visiting a place rich with photo opportunities, such as a National Park.  It can be true when just going for a walk with your camera.  Sometimes when I load the photos on my computer I will have an overwhelming number to deal with.  Here's what I do to manage those.
Sandhill Cranes from Hiwassee, TN.

  1. I use Adobe Lightroom to manage all my photos on my home computer. First thing I do after loading the day's photos is to quickly go through and mark the obvious duds as rejects, then delete them.  There is nothing special about how Lightroom does this. Other software tools allow you to quickly get rid of the duds.  The important thing is to get rid of those bad photos.
  2. I find I want to pick a few photos to quickly edit and share online.  There is nothing wrong with this, as long as I don't stop there, leaving a lot of abandoned digital images on my computer.
  3. Wait a few days then go through the photos again, picking out some more favorites to edit and more importantly, deleting more.  I always have lots of photos that are just so-so that I will probably never touch.  My camera will shoot 11 frames a second on high-speed mode so I find I also have many images of the same thing.  I use the Lightroom compare feature to cull those down to one or two to keep.
  4. The final step is one I don't always do but can be the most important.  I will go back to the photos several months later and go through them again.  At this point, I will have several that I edited, and some of those are marked as my picks or favorites.  I want to be aggressive here, deleting the majority of those unedited photos.  Sometimes I'll find a photo that I hadn't edited that turns out to be a keeper, like the two in this post.  Most of the time I find I still have a lot of photos not worth keeping.  It is this final step where I do the most clean up.  When we come back from a photo outing we are excited about our photos and don't want to delete them.  It's amazing how much easier it is to get rid of them a few months later. This morning I went through just three photo outings and deleted 549 images.  
Like a closet or garage, it's easy to let digital images get cluttered on your computer.  Be aggressive and don't become a digital hoarder.