Better Habits for Better Photography

Kali Climber
Kali Climber, Eastern Sierra, California. Developed habits allowed me to get this shot off quickly after diving for the dirt to create this unusual composition.

Today over on twitter someone reminded me of something Galen Rowell taught me many years ago, and I realized the subject required more than 140 characters to explain. The basic idea sounds simple to start with: Essentially, after you shoot, the idea is to leave the camera back at some “default” set of settings. In my case, that’s typically auto-focus, ISO 100, aperture-priority, f/16, RAW, mirror lockup enabled. (Except when it’s something else.)

At first glance that’s sensible enough on the face of it. Those are some pretty reasonable “will work with a lot of landscape images” sorts of settings, and having relatively reasonable settings in the camera will reduce the chance that I forget to change some setting (ISO 12800, or f/32) that I won’t want on the next shot.

But the benefits of this habit go deeper than that.

Galen took this idea to the next level, in what he described as expert systems for photography. If I know (because I have great habits) that my settings are what I’ve described above, I can respond more quickly. Imagine that I’m walking down the trail with my camera backpack, and I turn a corner, and there it is. “Celene Dion riding a unicorn through a field of baby animals under a big blue sky“, (warning: link is a silly video digression) and I’ve only got three seconds to get the shot. (more…)

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I Have a Little List….

It’s time to pack!

In two days I leave to begin scouting for my upcoming photo workshop in Oregon, today I’ll start some of the necessary packing for the trip. It sure seems like there’s a lot of stuff to remember to bring, as much as I’ve appreciated a digital workflow, there’s just a lot more stuff to bring along. This used to drive me crazy, because I could never shake the idea that I’d forget to bring something, even when I hadn’t forgotten anything. Eventually, I just made a list, and then refined it over time. My standard list contains some things that won’t be necessary for every trip, that’s fine, it’s very easy to cross out things that you decide not to pack. (more…)

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