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Shooting in the Dark

Being a two person team, it’s often difficult to cover every destination on our list without splitting up. Chris is much more at home in the field with his keen visual media skills, while I wind up botching photographs or missing opportunities.

This lack of photographic experience became problematic during the making of our first issue. On our last morning at Half Moon Bay, we split up to cover two different destinations, the Half Moon Bay Coastside trail and the elephant seal tour at Año Nuevo State Park. As the trail involved the use of a GoPro, a long lense, and considerable biking skills, I decided that Chris was better suited to cover that destination. While the elephant seal tour was packed full of interesting facts, there wasn’t much time for photographing the elephant seals (at least not enough time for a noob to get a few good shots). With no time to waste, I slapped my camera on to a tripod and did my best to focus in on the giants lounging on the beach below. Hundreds of photos later and a few minutes of video, I was sure that I had enough material for the article.

Once we returned from our trip and began the editing process, I realized that only three photos were good enough to publish and even those has barely made the cut. Our next issue couldn’t afford to have the same thing happen again. Learning photography became a top priority.

(Caption: Chris describes the basics of photography to his cousin Danielle.)

During my first lesson, I was reminded of how much I had forgotten about cameras. How the shutter speed works, how the aperture works, what the ISO does, how everything works together, the difference between shooting in manual mode versus AV mode, etc. I had learned about all of these settings in college but it wasn’t until I was shooting spider webs under Chris’ tutelage that it all started to make sense.

After several hours and countless images of dogs, insects, leaves, snakes, and rope, I was starting to feel much more confident about my skills as a budding photographer. Here are a few things I learned throughout the day:

  • You can’t let a perfect photographic moment slip by with the assumption that the scene won’t change in the next few minutes.
  • When shooting portraits, the closer you are to the subject, the better, you can’t be afraid to get in the subject’s face.
  • Depth of field is a term that I have trouble remembering and even more trouble implementing. 
  • Chimping is a useful activity. (Chimping is a technical term used by digital photography instructors to describe nubes. It is the activity of taking a single photo, immediately looking down at the result, and then ooing and awing a little before taking another photo.)
  • Photographers are blessed with an overabundance of patience.
  • You can’t get attached to an image you think is brilliant. The chances of your instructor shooting it down without warning are high.
  • No matter how bad the exposure was on the original photo, Photoshop will breath life back into it until it looks natural again.
  • Cropping is awesome.
  • I have a knack for post-production editing in Photoshop.
  • I have a long way to go before I’m ready to wield a camera successfully and I will need to choose my assignments carefully when investigating destinations for magazine issues.
  • I have what it takes to be a decent photographer. But that won’t happen unless I keep practicing.  

By Clare Hancock

June 3, 2014
This lovely lady is called Booty (as in Pirate's Booty). She came with Chris' cousin, who joined the photography lesson. Booty was the perfect subject.

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