Master Photographer Steve McCurry & my initial reflections

This morning Penn State photographer (and Vespa driver) Steve Williams shared the link to a series of 1-Minute Master Classes from Steve McCurry available on Phaidon’s site. McCurry is a Penn State graduate and captured perhaps the most famous photograph of the 20th century: Afghan Girl. I encourage you to go and take the few minutes necessary to watch these “Master Classes” with McCurry. They are simple, practical tips for anyone who wants to get beyond the simple point-and-shoot stage. The most important tip: be intentional. Go with the intent of taking pictures and allow yourself to absorb your surrounding and be aware of it all.

I also wanted to update you all on my own photography experience this fall. It has been almost 2 months since I received my birthday present, a Nikon D7000. I absolutely love it and, thanks to shooting my sons soccer games in high frame-rate mode, have taken over 6,000 pictures already. You can see a sample of my photos on flickr. I have created the set “D7000” for all of these pictures. Just this Monday, in the few hours in the early morning before the clouds rolled in, I was able to catch a few shots of Old Main that I am fairly pleased with.

In the one below the challenge was to have the nice bright sun on the columns without blowing out (making too bright) the sky. This has been the task of the last two months: play with the camera’s settings and learn how to get the most out of it. In this case making sure that the exposure is set based upon the “center weight” of the picture.

A little unexpected tip I picked up: read the manual before you ever touch the camera. My gift arrived a week before my birthday and my wife would not let me open it until the day of my natal celebration (the nerve!). I was, however, able to download the manual and read it on the iPad for the week before I started shooting away. The result was that I was keen to try all the different features I had read about in the manual. I think that had I not done that I would have simply started shooting with the camera since it is so easy to use in Auto mode, thus missing the incredible potential of this “prosumer” camera.

Old Main Columns

In my second shot below, “Old Main Bell,” I didn’t quite get the foreground as light as I wanted in the camera. The solution? Use “dodging” in Aperture to lighten just the foreground. In addition to the new camera, learning how to better use Aperture was also on my “to-do” list this summer. It was wonderful to discover that in Aperture (and many other apps, I am sure) I could easily dodge and burn, making just certain areas of the picture lighter or darker respectively. While it is always best to get it right in the camera if you can, post processing is now a LOT easier and again, taking a little bit of time to read the manuals or watch tutorials can really pay off.

Old Main Bell

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