Three Exercises for Photography in a Time of Quarantine
As someone who has been relying heavily on my photographic hobby during this time of Staying Safe, I thought I would mention three photographic exercises that I have found useful. In order of easy to difficult, here they are.
1) Shoot every day. With modern digital cameras, this is not as big a deal as it used to be. The idea is to get a keeper every day. Some days this is more difficult than others - it’s a rainy yucky cold day up here in the woods of Northern Wisconsin. But in the end that made today’s keeper possible:
Rain on the window. Exercise 1 is about finding opportunity even when you don’t think there is any. Not an especially great photo but it does what I set out for it to do in that window with the cat mangled shade :D
2) Another exercise I’ve been doing during this time is to artificially limit myself to an absolute maximum of either 24 or 36 exposures on my shoots. Just like going out with one roll of Kodak Tri-X or Fuji Reala. I go out on a drive and, rather than point and spray like I was shooting a mad minute in the Army to use up all the ammo we didn’t want to turn back in, I have to pause, think, walk around a bit and look at the images in my mind before trying to make them in electrons.
Now if I were to come upon a once in a lifetime shot, I’d probably grab and run - say like Ansel scrambling to get set up before the sunlight went away during the moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico. But most photos aren’t like that and you can take your time. This is the flip side to the lack of expense of images in exercise one - it makes a photographer lazy when he can just hold down the shutter release and get a bunch of images to choose from.
When I was shooting my previous digital Olympus E-P3, I’d usually have it set to 1x1 format and B&W; those day’s I’d force myself to stop at 12 shots like a roll of 120.
But even I never was as sure of myself as the old photo journalists with a 4x5 Speed Graphic and one 2 shot holder.
One example from a 24 shot trip:
3) The last exercise is about limiting yourself even further to try and force your self to get to really know your camera and your lenses. Or in this case, that should be “lens”. What I am referring to is Michael Johnston’s “One Camera, One Lens, One Year” project.
The idea is to separate out the mechanical bits - the camera and the lens - by making that decision in advance. The photographer is then free to concentrate on the image instead. You may find you need to use that two foot zoom every camera comes equipped with much more than you used to but the exercise (heh) is well worth it. While it is up to the individual doing the exercise, it is best, I think if the photographer uses the “Normal” lens or 50mm equivalent for the camera chosen.
There’s something unique and challenging about the range where the angles of view transition from “wide-angle” to “telephoto.” With a 50mm-e, you can “mimic” somewhat wider-angle lenses, and you can also mimic longer lenses. Really it is more challenging to see interestingly with it—it’s not actually an easy angle of view, at least if you are keeping your standards high.
Another reason to choose it is because it just doesn’t let you have any “specialness” imparted by the lens itself. No wide-angly effects, no automatic creamy bokeh. You really have to do everything yourself. If it’s not a focal length you use much, it might be frustrating at first. But this is an exercise, remember. It’s meant to improve your understanding and your skills, not to be a permanent way of working.
So there are my three exercises. I hope that someone might find something useful here but you have to decide for yourself. You’re not paying for this, there are no grades, and I’m not actually a teacher. Just a dude who gets a bit of fun out of the landscapes of Northern Wisconsin.