This is the time of year that photographers make their New Year's resolutions, and if Santa's sleigh stopped at your house and inside the gift wrapping was a digital camera then your fun and work is about to begin.
Since we live in a beautiful part of the world, with four distinct, colorful seasons, and many wonderful photographic sites only a short drive or walk away lets plan to make four resolutions to start the New Year.
First, plan to take your camera with you every day and not just on vacation or special holidays. How many times have you said to yourself, "that is a really cool scene" and had to rely on a friend to capture the moment and they partially edited or blurred you out of the picture?
Second, this will be the year to take the blur out of your pictures. Buy a tripod and a cable release for your camera and put them right alongside your camera bag. I know it's a pain, but once you start this practice of shooting with a stable platform, instead of your hands shaking the camera in the freezing weather, you will never turn back and your friends will be saying, "I wish my pictures looked like that!"
Third, here is a novel idea and one of my favorites I teach in the Vineyard Photography class, experiment with your camera. Try different settings with the white balance and switch the camera to manual and try the aperture and shutter settings. Just because the instructor or your friend say they used a certain setting for one cool picture, remember it was just for that picture and may not be the correct setting for yours.
Four, review your computer and editing software right now. Most photographers and those in the media are Mac, but PCs can be cheaper and offer an alternative if photography is just a hobby. Most importantly choosing the right software and learning how it works is the real challenge.
I recommend starting out with an easy software program like Adobe Elements, Lightroom, or Apple's Aperture. These programs offer a variety of options for your photographs from editing, cropping and color correction to direct transfer of the images to social networks.
Now let's take a brief photographic journey and I will incorporate some of the above Resolutions to get everyone started.
I have always been fascinated with grape vine tendrils so last week when the temperature was 16 degrees and it was clear I grabbed my camera, tripod and cable release and walked to a local vineyard. (A tendril is a specialized stem with a threadlike shape that is used by climbing plants for support and in the case of the grape vine the tendrils hold the vines onto a wire trellis.)
There is nothing like walking in a winter sunlit vineyard with the white soft fresh snow and viewing the stark grape vines looking almost golden when stripped of fruit and leaves. I walked several vineyard rows looking for the most unique tendrils and also enjoying the silence and solitude that was wonderful after the holiday season.
Once I found several unique tendrils I picked up my gear and proceeded to photograph them with a 60 mm macro lens, with an aperture of f16 to sharpen the image and blur the background, set the ISO to 100, set the image quality to RAW, and set the white balance to cloudy for a warm look, and filled the lens with these unusual and minute threads. The final work was to edit and further sharpen the tendrils with Adobe Elements and Aperture.
I have found over the years to only make a few New Years resolutions and actually try to keep them. Keep in mind there are some wonderful online courses on how to master your camera and software programs in addition to taking a local college course or reading the manuals, and that is usually the first resolution to be broken.
At mid-year lets review our progress and by all means have some digital fun in 2011.
Don Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he is on Facebook, Twitter, and at donfleming.photoshelter.com.