Be a Better Photographer in 2013

Tomorrow at midnight we welcome a new year.  2012 was an exciting time for New England Photo Workshops.  We held more training classes than ever, we conducted more workshops than ever, and we explored more of New England than ever before.  The year 2013 promises to be just as busy and even more exciting.  Bob and I started this venture 3 years ago and neither of us anticipated “it” ever growing as it has.  We are humbled, we are proud, and we are profoundly thankful to say the least.

Every workshop is designed to offer attendees a variety of subjects at carefully chosen locations throughout New England.  We believe it is essential in your growth as a photographer to be as multi-dimensional as possible.  Being a photographer is much more than just pressing the shutter to take a picture.  Photography is a process that requires attention to detail, knowledge, and commitment.  Technology and modern digital SLR’s open up vast potential for successful image making but, there are a few other things you can do in 2013 to make yourself a better photographer as well.

KNOW YOUR TOOLS:

Your camera is just a tool.  Like any tool, the more you understand how to use it the better your results will be.  Many times in the field, or shooting a job, you HAVE to know how to make adjustments quickly and effectively based on changing conditions.  You invested a lot of money in your camera so invest your time in learning it as well.  Take time and become comfortable with your photographer gear. Review your menus, understand how to make changes in the functions of your camera, and learn where all the buttons are.  Yes, your camera is nothing more than a tool but, if learned and used properly, it can become a powerful extension of you.  The more you know about your camera, and your lenses, the greater potential you have to be a successful photographer.

BE A NATURALIST:

I cannot stress this point enough.  Knowing your subject is critical to success when you are in the field.  This holds true for nature and wildlife photography more than anything else.  You cannot photograph a Lady Slipper if you do not know when and where they bloom.  You cannot consistently photograph wildlife if you do not understand their behavior and their habitat.  Just as it takes time to know your camera, you have to invest time in knowing the environments you photograph in. New England is a very diverse region of the country with many habitats, varied landscapes, and numerous flora and fauna.  The more you understand the many elements of nature the more your library of successful photos will grow. Study your environment and learn.  If nothing else, its fun to know stuff!

BE A CONSERVATIONIST:

We cannot photograph subjects if they are not here.  It is as simple as that.  Take care of the world we live in and yes, your photography will prosper.  Take responsibility for YOUR impact on the world around you.   Clean up after yourself, use common sense, and obey rules laid out to protect our environment.  Support local community organizations that protect our natural resources, our historical locations, and our many parks.  Monies and budgets are constantly slashed from many worthwhile organizations so, your contributions are critical to their continued missions.  Their missions are for the benefit of all of us.  Help them help us.  None of us can afford donating to EVERY organization but, I would suggest you pick one and support it.  The money and effort you invest will be returned in the form of opportunity and knowing you made a difference for generations to come.  Preservation and conservation is a must for everyone, not just photographers.

PRACTICE:

It is difficult for anyone to take their camera out and, in an instant, create a great image if you don’t practice.  No one can expect to create a great image during a once in a lifetime trip if you cannot create a great image in your own backyard.  Practice, practice, and more practice.  Think globally and shoot locally.  Take a ride or walk and explore your neighborhood, your town, or your county.  Not everything you shoot needs to be for a class, a competition, or a purpose other than learning.  Hone your skills by shooting often and practicing the proven fundamentals of photography.

SET PERSONAL GOALS:

In photography, just like life, it is important to know your strengths and your weaknesses.  One significant benefit of the digital era is you have immediate feedback to your success or failure with any image.  We all celebrate our keeper images but, study your mistakes and learn from them as well.  Identify shortcomings in your photography and set goals to improve upon them.  Even the best of photographers still set goals to push themselves and challenge their creative vision.  Combine your goals with the other points on this list and your photography WILL improve.

Photography is, and can be, many things.  As an art form, it is dramatic and powerful.  As a visual form of communication, it is bold and captivating.  Nonetheless, most importantly, photography is a highly personal method of self-expression.  Much of your success will be based upon how much time you are willing to invest in your creative vision and voice.  Achieving success as a photographer, to me, means first investing as much of yourself as possible in the process of photography.  Enjoy all that photography has to offer, practice sound fundamentals, and compelling images will happen.  Above all else, always remember, success is only measured by your own standards.  You have no one to please but yourself.   Everything after that is just a bonus.

Express yourself visually more than ever in 2013, be happy, and be safe.  Happy New Year!.

“Photograph What You Feel”

Don

 

Some of my personal photography goals for 2013:

1)      To be a better leader and instructor

2)      To continue work on my “Haverhillat Night” series

3)      To display more of my personal work

4)      To write more and post more blogs

5)      To become a better portrait photographer

6)      To learn more about location lighting with my Nikon speedlights and light modifiers

7)      To become a better Black and White photographer

8)      To become a very good print maker

9)      To learn more about, and explore, more ofNew England

10)  To be a more patient photographer

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A Good Day

Life is busy.  Life means family, friends, work, responsibility, and, hopefully, some fun along the way.  Everything that touches our lives requires a great deal of time, effort, and more work.  Life is beautiful in many ways but, at times, it can be exhausting as well.  Amid all of that busy life stuff are good days and bad days.  Hopefully, for all of us, there are many more of the former and far less of the latter.  We never wish for bad days but, they can, and do, happen.  The best thing about good days is that we can plan them.

Quite often good days happen of their own accord.  Perhaps the weather is just right for working in your yard or taking a walk, maybe you laugh with your kids and share a moment that makes you smile, or possibly you simply enjoy the beauty of the day.  Good days happen, but many times you can, and should, create your own good day.  In the past many weeks I have been on the run with work constantly.  I love what I do, very dearly, but, months have slipped away quickly while I dashed from job to job.  Sadly, I have had very little time to myself which means I have had very little time for family, friends, and other responsibilities, let alone some fun.  Lack of time also means little energy for practicing my craft or tapping into any personal creativity.  That is not good.  I have burned the candle at both ends and subsequently life becomes a blur.  Photographers can’t have blurry vision!!!

I spent last week in Florida covering a PGA tournament.  The work schedule was incredibly hectic but, I managed a few free hours on Wednesday morning.  A long time friend was working with me and we had not been out together shooting in a few years; we used to go often.  I planned a trip to a swamp for both of us and we spent our time exploring, talking about everything, laughing, and making images of nature.  The time spent reconnected me to a wonderful friend, rejuvenated me for the week, stirred my creative vision,  and motivated me to start the new year on a energized note.  It was a much needed break from what felt like a never ending schedule.   So often, a little can go a long way: much like a kind word, a helping hand, and being nice to each other.  It was a very good day.  For me, being out with my camera puts me in a special place where I see and feel the world to such an extent that it makes “me” better.  My photography is my solice.  We all need to find that niche that soothes our soul and fuels are drive to be the best we can be, always.  Little did I realize that just two days later, December 14th, my beloved New England, and our country, would have its collective hearts broken in the wake of senseless, cruel, and unspeakable violence.  My good day no longer mattered but, for us to all heal, especially those devasted families, we need to somehow move beyond the worst of days and plan for better ones ahead.  Better days start with us, at home, around our kitchen tables talking to each other and to our children.  Better days start with us once again embracing the value of life and instilling those values, and common sense, into our every day living.  Lets plan for better days.  Our children cannot afford for us to accept, live with, or disregard the worst of days.

Do not be greedy.  Do not be selfish.  Do not forsake the needs of others.  However, take time and invest in yourself and your self.  We cannot begin to move forward as a whole until we heal as individuals.  For us to be at our best as a nation, we must first be at our best as individual people.  Take stock of your self and make the changes necessary so our children grow to be better than we are, or ever could be.  Everything in our lives begins, or ends, with us.  Right now, more than ever, we must reflect upon ourselves, our communities, and our society.   Right now, more than ever, we all need the solice of a good day.

Peace to all.

Don Toothaker

“Photograph What You Feel”

 

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