Yesterday on Facebook and Twitter, I invited my followers to submit questions to me about photography, travel, nature and wildlife, or anything else they were curious about. I received over 300 questions in less than 24 hours via Twitter, Facebook, and emails! I obviously cannot answer all of them here (some are redundant) but over the next 4 or 5 days, I will attempt to tackle at least a portion of those I received.
Do you shoot exclusively with a DSLR? Or are there times when you still use film? – Deirdre from London, England via Twitter
I’ve used various digital SLRs exclusively since 2005. At first, I sort of missed film a little bit but I quickly came to realize and understand the benefits of digital imaging. Film, what I remember of it, was rigid, inflexible, and severely limited my creative options. Funny, I didn’t even realize any of it at the time either.
When your looking at a scene and thinking composition, what metering mode do you select and why? Or do you primarily use only one mode like Evaluative Mode? – Otis from Carmel, Indiana USA via email
I use evaluative metering almost exclusively (Evaluative is Canon, Matrix is Nikon). I see zero advantage with using “center-weighted” metering nowadays and there is almost zero advantage with spot metering as well. I’ll run into people who say they use spot metering all the time, but I honestly doubt they even understand what it is how how to properly use it. During my film days, I would use the spot meter for high-contrast scenes or tricky lighting but I’ve never had to use it with digital. The reasons? The histogram and the relatively pliable RAW image format..
Why do you look so unhappy? - Ken in Columbia, Missouri USA via Facebook
That’s because happy, cheerful artists can’t be successful or do deep, meaningful work. Everybody knows that. You have to be unhappy, sullen, moody, dark, angry, depressed, insane, or an alcoholic or drug addict to do meaningful art. Since I’m none of these, I have to put on my game face and pretend as if I am.
When you are setting up the composition of a photograph – what are the three (or four or five) “rules” that you follow to make it an exceptional shot? I have mastered the rule of thirds and leading lines. Now what? - Karen, San Francisco, California USA via Facebook
Karen, when I am putting together a composition – either in my mind or through the viewfinder – I am not thinking about rules. I am not thinking about anything, really, I am trying to feel and connect. It’s a difficult thing to describe and I’m not even sure the words “think” and “feel” are appropriate. First of all, rules are important to the learning process. But once you learn them, you need to move on and not think about them too much. I don’t think about compositional rules when I’m behind the camera any more than I think about precisely where my fingers should go when I pick up the guitar to play it. It just happens.
But you still need to practice in order to get to that point. Things to practice seeing – in addition to the rule of thirds and leading lines – would be balance. negative space, image flow, perspective, shapes, and their relative relationships to each other and the image frame. My eBook, Essential Composition covers many of these concepts in more detail.
Once you learn these “mechanical” ways of seeing, you will want to move on to “intuitive” feeling and how the image makes an emotional connection to both yourself and hopefully, the viewer. This article I wrote on creative photography goes into more detail on this process.
Is travel really about the journey or is it all about the destination? - Ben from Asheville, North Carolina USA via Facebook
After spending nearly 30 mind-numbing hours on planes and in airports getting home from Patagonia, I can definitely say that it’s not the journey. Sorry if you were looking for a more high-minded answer.
The Netherlands are not know for outstanding or overwhelming nature, yet there are some places really worth visiting. When can we expect you to visit our little country? - Marcel from Groningen, The Netherlands via Facebook
Waiting for an invitation, Marcel
What’s better, Nikon or Canon? - Nick from Orlando, Florida USA via Twitter
Not going there, Nick. This might help though.
What’s the best way to travel with all of your camera gear, getting on and off planes, etc. How do you pack? - David from Calgary, Alberta Canada via Facebook message
I want to carry on as much of my equipment as possible in the event of my luggage being delayed or lost – not to mention destroyed. I’ve tried to include my tripod as carry on but I’ve been denied each time. I suppose it has too much potential as a weapon. So I pack my tripod into my checked luggage and pray like hell. Cameras and lenses stay in my F-Stop Sartori EXP backpack and I carry it onto the plane. It’s legal carry on size and fits in most overhead bins.
More questions and answers tomorrow!
Enjoy this post? Please leave a comment or Subscribe to Earth and Light!