Thursday, June 15, 2006

Learning from Taking Photos

By Christina VanGinkel

I snap photos of everything. My kids, our dogs, the moon, and the local black bear population among my favorites. I will also snap a photograph of a spider that was kind enough to spin his web on the opening of an empty birdhouse, an upended wheelbarrow with a flat tire that is in the middle of a field and a close up of a Sandhill Crane (the feathered kind) after it landed in our yard. He appeared lost, and in need of a break. Our yard must have looked appealing for some odd reason.

I have photographs of all sorts of odd and unusual things, and just as many of more ordinary happenings and items. Sometimes something catches my attention and I am just compelled to take a photo of whatever it is, and other times I am just in what I call a snap happy mood, literally snapping photos of anything that is lucky (or unlucky depending on your own point of view) enough to pass in front of my lens.

Back before my ownership of a digital camera, many of these odd photo opportunities were developed into the traditional 4 x 6 format. With the advance of digital ownership, I have accumulated hundreds of these photo opportunities that are stored in a folder on my computer labeled simply as Tina's Snapshots. A friend who knows of my habits asked me what plans I had for all of these assorted photos. Why, I use them all the time was my instant response.

As a scrap booker, some have ended up as page backgrounds; some have been used as layovers, with journaling added, and some have actually been used as the focal point of a layout, as was the spider.

I have included some of my more silly photos in cards I send to family and friends. This has become sort of a tradition actually, and if I send a card to someone and do not include a snapshot or two, I am always asked why they did not get any! My Sandhill Crane photo was sent to a friend who had become totally lost the first time I had given her directions on how to find my house.

I once used a bunch of them to create an alphabet album for my two older kids when they were little, and in remembering this, I should make another one for my grandson. He loves to look at Nana's photos, so I imagine he would enjoy a book of twenty-six of them!

I have also discovered some amazing photos among the mix through the years, and these have been enlarged and used as art in my home.

Lastly, I learned so much taking all of them, and continue to do so each time I depress my shutter button, that the main thing I have gained from taking all of these 'silly' pictures is the knowledge to take better pictures of my kids, my dogs, the moon, and the local black bear population. I have learned about lighting, about moving in to get a shot of the subject itself and not all of the empty space or distracting background around it. I have learned that my flash is not always just for indoor shots, that it comes in handy for dispelling shadows even on outside sunny day shots. I have learned that the best composition does not mean that the focal subject of the picture always ahs to be in the middle, that moving it off to one side or the other will often give me a much better photo than I ever imagined. I have learned more in taking all of my silly photos than I could have ever learned by just taking the photos that I wanted. The learned knowledge has been indispensable when it comes to taking good photos. The next time you have your camera out take a few unexpected pictures. Experiment with the settings; learn what works and what does not through trial and error. Only by using your camera as much as possible will you ever learn to use it with comfort and ease, and only then will you be able to get that perfect photo (perfect to yourself that is) you have always wanted to capture!

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