“ You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” –Ansel Adams
It’s a well known in our family of five that I’m the fifth best photographer; the last resort in any situation that requires a picture. In reality, if we still used film, and not digital cameras, it’s likely that the only time I would actually be trusted to hold a camera would be if it were safely stored in the camera bag. We have two nice DSLR cameras in our home; one belonging to @techieang and the other to our 16 year old son Peter.
There was no chance that I would be bringing either of those cameras with me to Montana this week for the Discovery Education Network Summer Institute (#DENSI2012). No. Chance. Period.
So, I grabbed the Panasonic Lumix DMC from the bureau, found some batteries and a 4GB card and headed off to Bozeman. I was aware that I’d likely be some serious photo masters among the group but rather than be fearful of this I thought I might pick their brains and try to learn a few things about photography. On the bus ride, I was fortunate to sit with @jeffwhipple, who knows a thing or two about taking pictures and, as it turned out, the folk at DEN invited professional photographer (and Montana resident) Daniel J. Cox to join our group on our excursion to Yellowstone National Park and he led us gave us a little workshop on the nuts and bolts of good nature photography. Between these two kind mentors I headed off the bus ready to roll.
Here’s what I learned:
Proportion and Balance ~ just like we need to use a balance of evidence, tools and approaches when creating a learning environment, balance and proportion is a critical component of any photo. Photos are representations of light, colour, textures and shapes, the ‘rule of thirds‘ presents a framework for the photographer to account for all of these elements and look at the image as a whole, and not just the central focus of the image.
Feedback Counts~I learned that almost every digital camera has a feature called a histogram in the display settings. I had actually seen this feature in the past, but had no idea what it was there for. It turns out that the histogram provides a graphical representation of the light spectrum in the frame. Moving from left, the black, to the right, the white. If a photo is skewed too far in either side of the spectrum, then the image will suffer. This feedback allows the photographer a set of real time data to improve the photo. That is so much better than finding out the photo was not very good after~sort of like how on-going descriptive feedback is much more useful than a mark at the end of a unit or task.
Tell the Story/Trust the Tool~ Dan shared that, in his professional opinion, the quality of the equipment we have access to today is incredible. The technology of modern digital camera is such that the Auto Settings address the light and shutter speed issues as the photo is being taken, allowing the photographer to focus on the subject or story they want to tell with the photo. We have access to lots of technology in our classrooms, but do we focus too much on the way it works? Or, instead to we think about how we can use the tools to tell the stories? I wonder about that…
It was a good learning day and I feel a little more knowledgeable as a photographer. Earlier in the day, Dean Shareski, Shelley Wright and I had been talking how adults use their hobbies the same way that children often use play, to learn in an optimal learning environment. I think that the habits of mind that we learn at play lay a neural foundation or framework for all learning. Learning is something that is constant, persistent and pervasive, it is what we do, at work and at play.