Photography and its difficulties

As a daily selfie taker and one who can't live without snapping a photo every few seconds, I'm naturally quite interested in photography. Every time I travel, I take many many more photos than when I'm at home. NEWT 2016 afforded me an opportunity to compare my own photos with those taken by others. There are thousands of photos in total and one thing is clear to me – although I take a lot of photos, most of my photos aren't really all that great.

It's very easy for me to blame it on the quality of my camera which is the idiot-proof automatic kind but there are many in NEWT who don't use the DSLR camera either and yet they take great photos. Richard, Ian, John and many others don't use the DSLR and yet there is something about their photos that seems lacking in mine.

I now know what it is. I haven't got an eye for a good photo opportunity. Sometimes when I see one of them taking a pic, I take the same pic but when I look at both pics, mine somehow isn't quite there. It's that 'blindness' in me that makes my wife sometimes quite mad with me – I don't seem to notice many things around me. It's like when we enter a restaurant and I don't notice friends who are seated in it but my wife whose range of vision seems to extend beyond the outer extremities of my normal visual range is able to spot them immediately. I've examined other people's photos very carefully. They just seem to know how to get their photos right from the angle they take the pics and what photographers call the 'composition' of the photo.

There are many excellent photographers in NEWT and there is no space in this short write-up to mention them all. Yesterday I showed a few photos taken by Jacques Marie and Pascal to my wife and kids and they were particularly stunned by the beauty of the scenery as captured in these photos. As my wife rightly pointed out, my own photos are huge in quantity but small in quality. Some of the photos taken by Jacques Marie and Pascal seem to have been taken from a height and one gets to see the entire valley and all the mountains and in the distance, one sees a line of naturists hiking in the sun and oh my God! – that's me in the red cap right smack in the midst of such an incredibly beautiful scene.

One of my kids then made the suggestion that I should buy a Phantom drone. That will be unbeatable. Taking pics that show the mountains, the valley and all of us hikers would be a cinch if I used a drone. It would be like having a mechanical Jacques and Pascal up in the sky snapping pics – any selfie-addict's dream. But I dismissed the idea completely. If I want to use the drone, I need to check on the laws of the different countries regarding this. I need to know if there are military installations nearby and I certainly don't want to end up in an Austrian prison. And it's really not practical. A drone is quite heavy and bulky and I can't imagine lugging it around with me when I prefer to travel light. It's certainly not suitable for the kind of hiking that we do. A drone drains up its power very quickly and I'll end up carrying it around more than flying it. It's absolutely out of the question.

I suppose in the final analysis, there is no need for a drone. If my pics don't look good, there are at least 30 other people whose pics look much better. And besides, my pics only don't look good when they are compared with other people's pics. By themselves, they are impressive enough. And all I've to do is to be on the lookout for good photo opportunities. And honestly, when you're on the Alps, even a badly taken photo looks stunning.

60 thoughts on “Photography and its difficulties”

  1. It's worth trying to get the composition right, or at least reasonably good. A book is helpful, and look at what professionals do in newspapers and on TV. I think most photos can be improved by cropping which I do to most of my shots.

  2. Yes, thanks – you all give very good advice. Whether it's reading more about the art of photography or training the eye to be more attuned to proper composition of the photo, this is all excellent advice. It also helps to be a good hiker. I haven't got much experience in hiking and I found some stretches very exhausting. One person who doesn't seem to be exhausted is Jacques Marie. After a gruelling hike uphill, the one thing anyone wants to do upon reaching a stop is to plonk oneself down and rest. But not Jacques Marie. He will disappear for a while and the next moment you see him high up on some rock snapping away with his huge camera. The same with Pascal. With these two on any hiking trip plus the 30 odd other hikers snapping away, we really don't need a drone. But I've done some homework too. I've studied the photos carefully and I'm positive I'll improve quite a bit by NEWT 2017. So, keep your eyes tuned to naktiv next summer and you'll see some pretty ok photos from me, even if I say so myself. LOL.

  3. Further on Joe's comment, spend some time looking at pictures and set aside the ones that you really like – and I mean really like, then look carefully at each one for a while and ask yourself why, possibly apart from the subject, you like it (colours, composition, lighting etc). Do this lots, and you'll then see when you're lining up for a picture if there are any of these things present or could there be if you recomposed the picture slightly. My definition of a great picture is one that can be hung on a wall in your main room and enjoyed for years.

  4. There are numerous ways to improve your photo quality; from 'how to' books and videos, to photography courses at art schools, to retouching with Photoshop or other enhancement software.

    In order to develop an 'critical eye', I suggest two things: 1. A number of fine art photographers have posted videos on photographing the nude; this will help with posing and lighting/shadowing.

    2. For becoming aware of surroundings, I would suggest an online Art Appreciation Course. You might not be crazy about Renaissance Art or Impressionism, or Surrealism, but the focus on how the artist recreated a scene, what he/she chose to include/exclude, and hidden details will help you notice more in the surroundings beyond the immediate subject.

    Best wishes for getting 'knock out' photos…but unless you are trying to sell them, you've already captured the moment and preserved memories; that's success! 🙂

    • I go by the basic principle of mathematics on probability. If I take 5,000 photos, at least a few must be reasonably good. So, I just keep on taking like there's no tomorrow. But you are right. I really should sit down and read a book but like most lazy people, I prefer to just do the photograph-taking without having to pore over a book. LOL

      • A lot of professional photographers use probability. If they get 5 really good shots out of 100, they're happy. I've always been impressed by Ansel Adams – dragging hundreds of pounds of camera gear into the wilderness for a chance to take maybe 20 photos, total. He couldn't afford to trust to probability!

        • Ansel Adams had not only "the eye", but talent in the dark room.

          Still, back in the film days, when I didn't have access to a dark room with color capabilities, the route I took with Kodak was to print only the proof sheets. Then pay to print only the images I thought might be keepers. A slow process, but I was able to save a little money while shooting many photos at a time.

          I sure do like this digital age, though 🙂

  5. One useful way to get good pics is to copy others. Whenever I see Jacques or Pascal or Richard getting excited over a scene, I know it's time for me to get excited too. People may think I'm just copying them and they ARE right. Up on Ahornstein, there was one area where I saw Richard posing for pics with Sandara. I waited for them to finish and I did PRECISELY the same pose. And you know what? It's the best photo ever. If one has no talent and no artistic soul, one can at least copy others who have.
    My current profile pic and cover pic came about after I copied John Murray's pose. We were all standing there waiting for the rest to catch up and I was so blind I didn't notice the mountains behind me. Actually, even when I did the poses, I didn't notice the mountains until I looked at my photos when I'm home and oh my God! There were lovely mountains behind me. I'm famous for not noticing anything. My wife and daughter are very sharp. After meeting people, they can remember every detail right down to what they were wearing while I naturally don't notice external things like clothes.

    • They are still quite big. I saw the latest model; I think it's a Phantom 4. It's still very big if you want to put it in your rucksack and hike. The four spokes will very much be in the way. And they can't fly for very long before they need to land or crash. Then there is the law. Most countries have some kind of restrictions on the flying of drones. In some countries, if there are military installations nearby, you'll get arrested. It's really too much trouble and if you have seen some of the photos taken by the people who went to NEWT 2016, they look as good as any photo taken by a drone. 🙂

  6. Dear Lim,
    I spent a whole day traveling with my best friend (photographer) in a city. When he showed me his photos in the evening, I asked him where you did this, he looked at me questioningly. Yes, he saw the city with his eyes (camera) and I with mine. Both picture series were great, only its naturally top. Conclusion; Stay cool and grab whatever you want, only you have the emotions and that is what counts.
    lg roger 🙂

    • That's precisely what happened to me in NEWT 2016. I have two photos at the same place – one taken by Pascal or Jacques and the other by me. When I looked at their pics, I saw a magnificent mountain range looming behind me. But in my pic, the mountains were blurred. It's like that for my other pics when I compared them with the pics of the others too. But I don't mind. I'm learning from them. Next time, I'll keep a look out for the scenery behind me when I take a pic.

      • I share your dismay when comparing photos.
        I used have some success at holding the camera steady but now just standing steadily is hard. I try to keep my portable tripod with me and use a two second delay when shooting now. I just started so I have yet to see the results.

        • I'm sure you will be all right with a tripod. My problem requires more than that to be solved. I need to learn to be alert to my surroundings. I need to be able to see a beautiful scene and figure out how to compose that in a pic. What I lack is artistic skills. Some people have an eye for beauty. I need to acquire some sense of that. I need to be imbued with artistic sensitivity which alas, I haven't got naturally. I'll try to do better in NEWT 2017!!! Let's all go and have fun!!!

          • I was referring to your comment, " behind me. But in my pic, the mountains were blurred."
            I have compared my photos of the exact same scene as other people.
            Clarity and brightness were a major difference. The slightest movement of my camera showed in the blurred background. Then photo-processing finishes it.

          • This is my problem. I need to get better at composition. I've got the technical aspects of photography, and I can take pictures that clearly document something, but making that next step to pictures that are actually artistic is the hard part. I've started working on that lately, reminding myself to actually look at things and think about composing a better photo rather than just take a snapshot. It's like anything else worthwhile – practice, practice, practice! And then practice some more.

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