Picture this: An introduction to the world of photography
How many parenting patterns have you repeated in your home? I have lost track in the nine years we have been parenting Lydia. Earlier this year, a pattern that made a vivid memory for me 43 years ago was repeated – purchasing your child’s first camera. Unlike me, Lydia very seldom used our camera. However when we moved into the modern mode of having a smart phone, she quickly caught onto the camera function. Before I knew it, there were photos of me bending over the kitchen trash can or sleeping with my mouth open. She has enjoyed taking equally flattering pictures of Jan – such as the snap that was taken after she had finished mowing the lawn on a hot day.
With this bit of fun, however, did come some learning and that made me smile. Lydia quickly realized that often cellphone photos were simply terrible and this motivated her to want a real camera. I wasted no time in passing on that photography has become, in a rather quiet and unassuming way, a major influence in our lives. With books, ads, magazines and television, it dominates a large portion of our visual world and entertainment – not to mention the role it has played in education and information services. Photography has also become one of our most popular and accessible hobbies, enjoyed equally by both men and women and providing a satisfying means of recording and preserving our most memorable experiences. On her ninth birthday, Lydia received a bright blue Canon digital camera. She was excited to take the camera for the first time on her third-grade field trip to the Turtle Mountains. Her images include friends and one very nicely composed scenic.
Memories of my mom explaining and showing me what makes a good photograph quickly came back to me. Back then, I had used her camera. It was a bit more expensive as film (remember that?) was used to expose each photo, and several of my first attempts were not good. Her first lesson on photography still remains strong with me today. She explained that the difference between a snap shot and good photograph is usually just a little extra thought and care. The image of me rolling out the cookie dough is the perfect example of her eye. She had the ability to see a photograph, and she often had her camera handy.
For my 11th birthday, I received my first camera from my parents. It was a Kodak Instamatic 44, which featured a manual knob instead of the usual lever to advance the film. It listed that you could use color, black and white, or slide film. It retailed for a mere $9.95. A very cool feature was the automatic advancing of the flashcube during winding which proved to be very handy when I captured a few photos of my brothers
darting about our Underwood home in their undies! Nothing like a bit of overexposure to calm the hotshots. So I have to admit Lydia comes by her mischievous photos naturally.
I took to heart my mom’s advice about extra thought when taking a photo, and it was for this very reason I actually did not take my first photograph with this camera until August of that year. Each summer day I kept thinking about what would be my first photo. I wanted it to have fine composition, impressive lighting and meaningful subject matter. Finally I discovered the image while riding in the car and on the way to swimming lessons in Riverdale. It was in a beautiful golden wheat field south of the Underwood Cemetery on land farmed by Gary and Doreen Miller. Gary’s black and white International Harvester pickup with the red fuel tank in the back was parked in a swathed field of perfection beneath a serene sky, which was painted with white shadowed plump clouds. Upon returning from swimming lessons, I took my camera and walked north of our home. I captured this common harvest scene. I guess in a sense, it was my first introduction to “depth of field!”
I wasted no time in taking the other 11 photos needed to finish this roll of film, and then it was processed by taking it to Evander’s Rexall Drug Store. I am sure employees Carol Oie, Larry Evander and Agnes Berg were tired of me asking if my pictures were in. The pictures from this 126 film were processed so that the customer received two photos – one which was a 3 1/2-by-3 1/2 and the other being 2 1/2-by-2 1/2. As I opened the packet, the harvest field was first and it was simply beautiful. In time, I went on to study professional photography, and as I view this photo today, it still proves a point. Good photographs clarify, emphasize and dramatize the essence of the subject while capturing a moment in time. It also reminds me that thoughtful and keen waiting can help to develop our ability of selecting viewpoints that will achieve simplicity by subduing the distracting elements that nearly always exist. Now that is advice that goes beyond picture-perfect!
Often I am asked for tips on taking better pictures. Here is a list that I have found to be helpful with all types of photography, traditional, digital and even with cellphones!
Realize that the most necessary ingredient in any photograph is light. Watch it and study it in different times of the day. Learn to control it.
Look your subject in the eye. Stoop for children, use a ladder for tall folks. The light their eyes makes the image come alive and is striking.
Use the rule of thirds for composition. Watch where horizontal and vertical lines meet; this is often an excellent subject placement.
Avoid bright sun as it causes people to squint and it will create deep facial shadows.
Move in on your subject and be amazed at the details.
Look for the unexpected viewpoint. It is one of the qualities that makes “wow” images.
Always be sure to hold your camera steady. Jittery hands cause blurs.
Learn to use natural light, reflective light and back lighting to add warmth and interest.
Study composition, line, form, pattern and color. Use these elements to enhance images.
Remember the most creative element is the person holding the camera. Use your imagination.