Was there a defining moment in your photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Laird Knox, Oct 8, 2015.

  1. Laird Knox macrumors 68000

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    #1
    When looking at my images people often ask me how long I have been taking photographs. The answer is always the same but it was surprising when I was first asked. There was one photo that changed everything for me and I didn't realize it until years later.

    When asked, I tell people that I took a photography class in high school (before digital was even a twinkle in Kodak's eye). From there I took random vacation photos but nothing really very interesting. Photography was nothing more than an afterthought in those days.

    Sometime in late 2005 I bought a Nikon D70 before a trip to Belize. My film camera was a Nikon so I already had a nice 50mm manual focus lens. I loved the camera but again it was relegated to travel snaps. The D70 produced a 6.1 MP image that the "experts" said was approaching what you could get with film. Then in August of 2007 it all changed.

    I headed out to Red Rock Canyon for the Perseid meteor shower. There is a small overlook and picnic area that gets closed and gated at sunset. Even so, there were about 150 people there waiting for the night's show. I setup and experimented with some long exposures and got some basic settings dialed in.

    The Big Dipper was setting over the mountains and I decided to make it my focal point so I picked everything up and moved to another spot. My first test image wasn't framed the way I wanted so I adjusted the camera and took another test shot. During this test exposure a very bright meteor streaked through the sky. Did I get it? Back in those days I was still using long exposure noise reduction. After the exposure ended it seemed like an eternity waiting for the noise reduction to finish up its 30 second run.

    Finally the processing ended and the image flashed up on the screen. I let out a an excited shout and people ran over to look at the tiny image on the LCD screen. I had caught my first meteor.

    meteor800_205.jpg

    I was pushing the camera harder than I should. The CCD sensor was straining at ISO 800 and the image came out grainy and dark. Even so it was a winner. And later on I came to realize that it was a game changer for me.

    That noisy image sent me off on a journey exploring night photography. This directly led to light painting and many long nights under the stars. It wasn't until the D800 came along that I could capture the Milky Way with the detail I had been chasing for years.

    It has been an exciting ride and this one little image was the impetus that pushed me down the path to opening my own gallery this year. Back in 2007 I had no idea where this picture would take me. I look forward to where it leads from here.

    So have you have a similar moment that kick started or defined your love of photography? What started you down the path or what drives you today?
     
  2. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #2

    My moment hasnt arrived yet. I am still in search of that game changer, the one captured moment that announces to me that I am competent. I get where you are coming from but to compare to your journey, I am still at the random snaps stage.

    I have a couple of close images, my moon shots taken on a canon 650d, my moon rise shots from two weeks ago but I havent had my moment yet. I love this hobby with a great passion as I find it difficult and I hope I take my golden picture soon,
     
  3. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    #3
    Cool idea for a thread, and interesting story.
    I think I'm nowhere near as far along my journey as you are.
    I got into photography quite late in life, but had always had poor point and shoots and been disappointed with there auto approach to photography.
    So my first proper camera was a Nikon D3100 with the 18-55 mm kit lens.
    Because my daughter is autistic we don't get out as a family and I wanted a hobby that would get me out of the house at weekends.
    So buying that camera gave me a reason to go out and do something different.
    Since then I've been totally bitten by the bug. I don't think I'm ever going to make it as a photographer, but I enjoy getting out and taking photos.
    If I've not been out with a camera for a few days, I start to get an itchy trigger finger.
     
  4. Laird Knox thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #4
    Have you not? That is part of the point of the original post. I didn't realize now much of a game changer that single night was. It wasn't until this year that I looked back and realized how that one image was a key to me taking photography more seriously. It has been a long and slow path and it really didn't take off until about five years ago but now that I look back it seems so obvious.

    That meteor image is far from competent. From 2007 until about 2013 I didn't produce anything that I would be interested in showing but the progression is definitely there.

    You say you "love this hobby with great passion." I'm curious if there was something that sparked that passion or has it always been something you have enjoyed? I didn't start shooting seriously in 2007 but I did keep coming back to night photography in an effort to take better pictures. Heck, I probably shot less than half a dozen times in 2008.

    The question is more about the passion than it is about the "golden picture." For me it just happened to be one lucky night at Red Rock. :)
     
  5. anotherscotsman macrumors 65816

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    #5
    Great idea for a thread discussion Laird Knox. For me, there hasn't been a game-changing photo: more of a journey towards realising that I can do some passable stuff that can bear public scrutiny (thanks in large part to this forum's members). I'll never make a photo pro but I'm getting enjoyment from exploring photography and the impetus it gives to try new things and to get out and see what I can capture.
     
  6. Laird Knox thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #6
    I understand that. I sometimes wonder where I would be today if I had taken the same interest in photography 20 or 30 years ago that I have in the last five years. ;)
     
  7. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    #7
    I think you're doing alright! You take cracking photos and you have your own gallery! Not bad at all.
     
  8. The Bad Guy macrumors 6502a

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  9. fieldsphotos macrumors 6502

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    Cool thread. I had a passing interest in photography in the film days, but never had the $$ or time to actually learn it well with film, so pretty much was a snapshot shooter. I got my first digital point and shoot in the mid-2000s and was blown away by the ability to see the photos instantly! Suddenly I could much more easily perform experiments to really learn depth of field, aperture, shutter speed, etc. I took a class given my a local camera club, and eventually joined the club.

    Joining a local camera club was a huge driver in increasing my photography skills. They had monthly competitions that were critiqued live by a outside judge that really kept you working to improve your images each and every month. It also kept me shooting since I always needed new images to compete. My first "golden" image was taken when an actual great blue heron landed underneath a statue of a great blue heron in a local botanical garden and literally posed for me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment that I was prepared to capture and was sooo stoked when I got the shot (I wish I had it online somewhere - I need to find it and post it).

    Since then I am working on my photography "bucket list" of golden shots. I got an image of a moonbow at Yosemite Falls (https://www.flickr.com/photos/fieldsphotos/8523712686/in/album-72157632899048033/) that I am very proud of. I haven't yet captured that perfect milky way shot yet, but I am working towards it (night photography is a challenge). I have captured a lightning bolt, and at the Grand Canyon no less! I trekked out to Racetrack Playa in a very remote part of Death Valley to photograph the moving rocks. Each time I check something off the list it really renews my love of this hobby.

    So I can say if you want to improve, join a local camera club! You can meet with fellow photographers and really learn about the art and craft of it.
     
  10. The_Martini_Cat macrumors newbie

    The_Martini_Cat

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    #10
    Yes, there were a bunch of defining moments & I still have the photos to prove it. :) Cheers!
     
  11. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #11
    Ah, OK. Got you.

    This is a long one, get a cuppa and take a seat or skip past it. I have kind of written an account of how I got here rather than answering the question. You may lose the will to live half way through here... sorry...

    For a long time I have been mildly interested in photography as I was always told that it was expensive and very hard, I began to associate photography with the rich and put it out of mind. I remember when I was young, (1980s) that a work mate of my fathers had a Nikon and his car was broken into but they didnt take the camera and he was so relieved as apparently it cost a fortune again putting cameras out of reach to a working class lad growing up on a council estate.

    Fast forward to 2003-2007 I went on multiple amazing holidays and business trips to awesome places like Florence, Paris, Barbados, Singapore, New Delhi, Dallas, New York, Miami to name a few. My now wife and I did as much as we could. Before meeting her I hadn't been abroad EVER and she fixed that for me. Lot's of places of great photographic beauty where I used a point and shoot camera - a Sony DSC-P5.

    Coming back, I fast noticed I had a story for most images but the story was usually relating to something out of frame so they were crap, dark, grainy, poorly focused, you know the script.

    2007 the iPhone came out with arguably the first decent camera on a phone. At this point through convenience, I began taking pictures with it and its successors up to an iPhone 4. Still terrible shots as I wasnt really researching or learning at that point.

    Then my first daughter arrived in 2009 and I realised I wanted to take pictures of her so I started taking pictures of her with my then Sony DSC-W35 P&S. Again not great.

    Through all of this there was a mild curiosity about my original impression of hard and expensive that was stopping me exploring it.

    Anyway, my wife's friend got a bridge camera in 2012 for a safari holiday and I had a play with it and was fascinated by it (my wife obviously noticed this and stored it away). Shortly after the arrival of daughter 2, I was going through a crisis of purpose - bored and depressed about rinse-wash-repeat at work. I was trying to find peace in the fact that my role in the world seemed to make a series of rich people richer, that I dont actually create anything other than money for someone else. SO was feeling a bit crap. This is a bit cliched sorry... I wanted to actually create something and up to this point I thought art as a whole was a futile valueless world full of charlatans and wasters - I didn't get it. Still don't but I am less negative. I am hard wired as an engineer so find the let go and express yourself approach a bit alien.

    Parallel to this, a number of photographers came into my life via my wife's family. Three mega serious pros and an amazing amateur who I enjoyed their work. I bought their books, went to their shows and tried my best to understand their pictures. I started to appreciate images and really look at them.

    My brother in law and I are best mates and we have tried a series of hobbies over the years and he got a Canon 1100d kit in Feb 2013 to capture moments with his growing kids, and something clicked, my wife noticed it and she said I should get a "proper" camera. So I did. I got an 1100d with a kit and then the bug bit. I took some pictures of my daughters and the quality blew me away compared to my P&S. The shutter noise and engineering of the shutter mechanism of the dSLR fascinated me. I took my first camera apart to see how it worked. I hope I dont do the same with a rangefinder if I cave in and get one.

    Something just clicked and I locked on to it as a hobby. Normally I lose interest and get bored after 10 months or so but here I am 4 years later still absolutely hooked.

    I suppose the picture that sealed my fate is my first "holy crap" moon shot. Obviously being a techie I love all things space and Nasa related. In Feb 2013 I took a picture of the moon that blew me away, 1 that I had taken it, 2 that I had the equipment to make an image like that. It was crap compared to what was to come. That started my GAS, my quest for ever better glass to get images of the moon. Silly as it was, I strapped Canon L-series glass on my 1100d... so then the body upgrades started. I got bored of taking pictures of the moon on a black background and started pointing my camera lower at the landscape and things, stuff. Since then I have been exploring to find my style, my niche, my muse.

    I have had no formal training at all, everything I have learned I have learned from Kindle books (LOTS of them), lots of hours reading web sites and how-tos, and interacting on here. The only reason I think I am improving is that I now have had three people ask for a print of an image. All friends and family but it is still very flattering. Also, four key events on facebook where each of the photographers above liked an image I posted on my timeline.

    I am still on my quest to make beautiful images. I still crave ever better glass and bodies in search of my defining moment...

    Still awake?

    K.
     
  12. rick3000 macrumors 6502a

    rick3000

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    #12
    My dad had an AT-1, and I took two different film photography classes in high school. I was always interested, but it didn't click until college. I went to film school (not for cinematography), and a friend handed me his DSLR, and asked me to take some set photos so they would have some behind the scenes.

    I took a few hundred photos in 3 days, and they all looked great because the film set was lit really well. I discovered candid photography, it clicked, and I bought my own DSLR.
     
  13. Cheese&Apple macrumors 68000

    Cheese&Apple

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    #13
    My first of three defining moments in photography happened in 1974. My Dad gave me the 1956 Lordomat C35 rangefinder with two lenses that my grandfather left for me when he passed away. Even without a roll of film, I was hooked. Yes…I've had bad GAS for a very long time.

    I was truly fascinated with the quality and workmanship that went into this little piece of equipment and how each of the many parts and controls were designed to work together for a singular purpose.

    My second defining moment happened when my first roll of film from that camera came back developed. They were shots of a sunset taken from my bedroom window. From my current perspective, they were terrible shots but they were my shots and I still have them carefully packed away in a box in my basement.

    My love affair with that camera continued for many years until work, a career, family and financial obligations got in the way and I resorted to the lazy point and shoot approach to photography. This went on for a very long time. But, through the dark days of various point and shoot cameras, film then digital, my keen interest in photography never faded.

    Fast forward to my third defining moment in 2012 when, with many financial obligations squared-away but GAS still firmly driving my actions, I dove back into photography with a passion and a full frame DSLR, the Nikon D600. The first images from that camera that I viewed on my computer blew me away with their colour, clarity and sharpness.

    All of that brings me to where I am today and where I'll be in the future…photography married with three other passions: wildlife, the great outdoors and travel. For me, they all fit together perfectly.

    ~ Peter
     
  14. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #14
    Awesome... any chance of scanning those sunset pictures? I bet they are cracking!
     
  15. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #15

    I have an AE-1 loaded with Ilford 400 B&W right here beside me. I am taking VERY selective pictures with it... given it by my wife's uncle who was clearing our his cupboard.

    Really enjoy looking at it and it just feels so damn nice in the hand. Saying that the Nikon FM that is next to it feels silky too... my wife gets jealous when I fondle them in front of her... :)
     
  16. Cheese&Apple macrumors 68000

    Cheese&Apple

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    #16
    LOL..."cracking" is not a term I would use for my first shots and a whole lot of shots after that. Next time I'm digging through those boxes I'll pull them out and scan them Ken.

    Funny...I haven't looked at those shots in a very, very long time but I remember them as if I took them yesterday.

    ~ Peter
     
  17. MacRy macrumors 68040

    MacRy

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    #17
    Awesome idea for a thread. My story is similar to others on here:

    I've always loved the idea of photography and have at various times in my life had a camera of some description (usually just really cheap 35mm film jobbies to snap photos of friends when out on the razz). I loved the feeling of having a camera in my hand and making memories with it. I never had an eye for composition or an understanding of how cameras work, I just knew that I liked having one and always wanted to learn more. I'm a bit ADD so that never happened as I usually move on to the next obsession really quickly. This happened in my teens and I tried again in my late twenties by spontaneously buying a used Olympus OM10 from a camera shop one day and running through a few rolls of film before giving up again as I didn't know what I was doing. It wasn't until my wife was given a Pentax K100D for work a few years ago that I thought I'd try again to see if I could get into photography. I borrowed the Pentax and for a few months shot with it, again without knowing how to operate it or what composition was all about, but due to the size and inconvenience of it I found that I never took it anywhere and would resort to using my phone to capture photos whilst on holiday. The bug had burrowed into me though and micro four thirds cameras had started to become popular and I really wanted an Olympus OMD but couldn't afford one, so I did some research and bought a Panasonic GF1 with a kit lens and had another go. Again, I neglected to do the homework and figure out how to use it properly and just snapped away like a maniac without a clue. The frustrations of the GF1 got the better of me and I really wanted to upgrade to something faster so looked at the GX1 as it was in my price range. All of the while, lurking in the background, was the beautiful Fuji X100 - taunting me with it's retro good looks, large sensor and rave reviews. But I couldn't afford it...... or could I? Some creative accounting and a bit of saving later and I had managed to secure myself a lightly used X100 and all of a sudden photography started to be fun and exciting for me. The physical controls satisfied the old school part of my brain and the image quality was a revelation. I wanted to learn how to get the best out of it and started devouring information from the internet about composition, aperture values, shutter speed, ISO etc. It started to click and I understood it and wanted to put it all into practice. Being a long time member of MacRumors I started to become active in the picture of a day thread and receiving great advice from members of the forum. That has played a massive part in my growth as a photographer and I will be forever grateful to those who have nurtured me on my journey.

    So even though I have had a lifelong interest in cameras it's only really been the last couple of years where I have started learning about it and putting that knowledge into practice. Some of my early shots with the X100 really kickstarted this passion as I lucked into some wonderful shots (in my eyes) that stood out from what could be considered snapshots taken by any Tom, Dick or Harry. Sometimes it is about having the right gear - if that gear motivates you to take photos and improve. I feel like I'm at the start of a lifelong love affair with photography and have loads to learn. I only wish I'd have got into it years ago in my youth.

    I still hate a lot of the photos I take and days can go by without me picking up my camera but the draw is always strongly there and when it's back in my hands again I'm so happy. I'm glad that I'm so critical of my work though as it means that I still have a lot to learn and the impetus to do so.
     
  18. Floris macrumors 68020

    Floris

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    #18
    I am learning, and learning way too slow. But there was a moment where I realised it's not what I think I want, and how it comes out, and how impossible it sometimes feels, versus hoping that hardware / software can help me. It's when I realised that I could capture the mood and not just the instant (moment).
     
  19. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

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  20. kallisti, Oct 22, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015

    kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

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    #20
    I don't have a defining moment from a creative standpoint. I have several defining moments from a "learning about photography" standpoint. Never took a photography class, but read many, many books on the subject--more on that below.

    I started shooting film in 1995 during my internship when one of my co-interns (who became a close friend) was also interested in photography. He had a Canon, I had a Nikon N90. We bonded over spending our few days off going out shooting together. While there were many good times, it was comparatively harder to actually learn in the film days as we sent off our rolls to be printed as 3x5 or 4x6 prints and had to wait for them to come back. The black box of the commercial printers "fixed" our prints to what the machine thought was best which didn't often correlate to what we had intended. I experimented and had the bug, but the results were usually not satisfying.

    My "defining" moments:

    (1) Digital: transformative. Being able to see results instantly and tweak things in a rudimentary fashion on my computer screen. Got me much more interested in photography.

    (2) Some fantastic advice on this forum from Compuwar when I first started posting here. We had several PMs back-and-forth about some of my images and I learned one of the most important lessons that is still true to this day--pay attention to the background. Like many photographers starting out, I only "saw" the subject when I clicked the shutter and my brain blotted out everything else. I ignored (and was blind to) all the distracting crap that littered the rest of the frame. This was actually the most important lesson (and the hardest lesson) for me regarding photography. Even today when reviewing my pics, I look first to see if the subject is in acceptable focus, then I ignore the subject and look at the rest of the frame to examine the background. Only then do I assign it one star and think about spending more time with it making adjustments.

    (3) Buying a rangefinder camera (my Leica M9). While I could have (and should have) switched to manual mode with my Nikon DSLR at the time, I didn't. Using the M9 exclusively taught me more about the technical aspects of photography than all my previous shooting had. I had to think every time I pressed the shutter. Using the M9 radically changed my thought process when I was shooting (put another way, I actually started thinking when I shot rather than just pointing and shooting). It was also so small and light that I took it everywhere. Not using it anymore, but the lessons I took away from it, while expensive, were very, very valuable.

    (4) Learning about shooting position as it relates to perspective within a photo: one night on my deck I started experimenting as I took a shot of the doorway into my kitchen and dining room beyond. At first was just snapping, but then something clicked as I was reviewing the initial images: there was a grid on the glass of the door and I started noticing how radically the composition changed depending on how that close set of lines interacted with background lines deeper into the room. This became a compositional "holy ****" moment for me. Going back to point (2) above, I started really "seeing" for the first time not only distracting background elements but more importantly how to manipulate the relationship/alignment between foreground and background elements through subtle changes in shooting position.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    (5) Tripod: transformative not in the way usually thought about. Yes, sharper images and all. But really spending time shooting only with a tripod was another useful lesson. Setting up a shot with a tripod can be time-consuming. For me this turned out to be a good thing. Not rushing, but really working a composition. Taking the time to optimally frame a subject, find the right perspective, exclude distracting elements, choose your aperture/shutter speed/ISO with test shots. Once you do all this, you can step away and not stress anymore. Just wait for the right time as all the "work" is already done. Wait for the clouds to pass, wait for the light to be "just" right, wait for a bird to fly through the frame, wait for the waves on a body of water to be "just" right, wait for the wind to either pick up or die down. Similar to how shooting with a rangefinder changed my mindset when shooting, using a tripod also caused something to "click" in my brain that changed the way I take photos.

    (6) Tilt/shift lens: this was less of a transformative moment in the big picture, but playing around with a tilt/shift changed how I compose even when not using one. It made me more conscious of converging/diverging lines and perspective to a degree that I hadn't been before. It also made me think more about the plane of focus.

    (7) Reading less, shooting more: when I was starting off I read countless books on photography. *Most* of my "photography" time was spent reading. Considerably less time spent shooting. Now it is the opposite. Possibly because I've internalized all the reading at this point. But there is something to the old adage to shoot more, shoot more, shoot more if you want to get better.

    (8) Semi-random experimenting: trying crazy things while thinking about what I was doing and learning from the results.

    I can't pinpoint an event that sparked my passion for photography, but part of what has sustained this passion is the feeling that I am improving over time and learning from past mistakes. Or stated another way, that my past experiences are pushing me in new directions that may prove fruitful or possibly result in dead ends. Either way, I am enjoying the process.

    [Edit: added pic of an example of the earlier composition]
     
  21. kenoh macrumors demi-god

    kenoh

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    #21
    Point 3 says it all for me. Moving from auto pilot spray and pray to becoming deliberate, measured and and specific about what to want. I think this is the stage I need to get to. I rely too much on mega pixel cushions where I crop heavily, where I take a few images of the same thing and chimp for the best with a coffee later.

    I want to be good at this one day. I really really want to be good at this one day.
     
  22. EmaDaCuz macrumors regular

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    Apr 30, 2012
    #22
    Photography is only my 4th hobby, after playing music, swimming, and history. So, no much time for it. I have never taken any course, I know nothing about optics, I just shoot how it feels good to me.

    I had three defining moments in my short photo history.

    The first, when I realised that my pictures were good enough even when taken with a cheap point and shoot camera, (we are talking about 55€ in 2003...) and the camera was indeed the limiting factor. I invested some money on a second hand Sony a100 with some nice lenses back in 2009, and I must admit I was right: finally I could get the DOF and exposure my pictures always needed.

    The second was in 2010, in Dublin. I was visiting the Guinness Brewery, and I started shooting TVs and maxi-screens. For no apparent reason, it just felt right. What I realised when I "developed" the pictures, was that I have a fetish for multi-plane scenes. The subject may be uninteresting, but its relation with other elements on different planes is the key. From that moment on, I always try to shoot with extreme DOFs (when appropriate), creating blurred foregrounds and backgrounds and pushing perspective to the limit. Most of the times I fail, because I am impatient and I don't dedicate enough time to the study of the scene.

    The third defining moment was last year, while visiting St Petersburg in Russia. I understood the importance of light. It sounds naive, yes. But I always composed my images from the shadows, as I found (and I still do) them fascinating in the way they contribute to give depth and perspective. Pushing shadows to the limit, that had been my motto. I however realised that shadows have to be kept to the minimum and they serve better when they are there just to smooth a well lit scene.
     
  23. MCAsan macrumors 601

    MCAsan

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    #23
    Taking a landscape photo workshop with John Shaw.
     
  24. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    #24
    So what did he teach you?
     
  25. MacNut macrumors Core

    MacNut

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    CT
    #25
    So I haven't really posted a lot of stuff online. Mostly because I didn't think any of it was worth wasting bandwidth on. Last week I decided to go on a nature walk and the 6 photos I posted really got nice responses. I know it's not a huge sampling but that little encouragement is enough to really boost my hunger to get more active in the hobby. I will never be a professional photographer with 1000s of amazing photos but that small encouragement helps. I won't say there is a defining moment but even small praise is enough to want to keep going and improving.
     

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