Saturday, April 19, 2014

Inspiration from a John and Barbara Gerlach Nature Photography Seminar

Detailed How-To Presentations Make a Difference

by Don Davis

April 19, 2014

With clear crisp blue skies over Walla Walla, we have surprisingly warm sunshine on the front porch.
While son Jon drills holes, etc, and attaches handrails to the concrete steps, Darlene stands by providing moral support.
Nora the Schnauzer, Jon’s Pugsley and I wait inside.
Nora and Pugsley watch (Pugsley whines) from behind the storm door.
I feel like a broken thumb as I nurse my aching back and right leg on the couch.
Sitting, I feel great.
Not so much when I stand or walk for too long.
So, I sit and ponder my limitations: the hitch in my get-a-long for one thing and my development as a photographer for another.
I’m sure I could ponder issues of greater significance, but these suffice.
I can’t do much about the get-a-long, alas, but I do have looming appointments: at the Spinal Center on Tuesday and an MRI on Thursday.
It has literally been a pain in the ass.
I’m not sure about the photography, either.
My moping about photography goes back a few weeks to Ian Plant’s Outdoor Photography column about High-Concept vs. Low-Concept photos. (See previous column)
His approach sounded vague and pretentious although his point that photographers should represent their subjects as thoughtfully and creatively as possible certainly makes sense.
Then I attended a one-day John and Barbara Gerlach Nature Photography Seminar on April 11, in Portland, Ore.
It inspired me where Plant’s column irritated me.
And here’s why:
The Gerlach’s presented a day-long nuts-and-bolt exploration of how to make great photos.
Some of the information I knew already, especially about appropriate cameras and lenses.
Nevertheless, their “Equipment for the Nature Photographer” session worked for me.
I resolved to make more and wiser use of the two tripods that I own, as well as the sliding ground-level plate and the macro focusing rail slider.
Their detailed presentations (“Mastering Digital Exposure,”  “How to Shoot Great Nature Close-ups,” especially mastering the art of fill-flash and main flash, “Light is Everything” and “Composing Pleasing Images”) each lit light bulbs for me. I vowed to employ many new tips from that moment on.
Yes, I regret the gap between the Gerlach’s deep knowledge of photography and my comparatively shallow understanding, especially since I have been involved in outdoor writing and photography nearly as long as they have.
Well, now I have an opportunity to use what they shared with the seminar, the thorough notes they provided, the recording I made and with the three books of theirs that I bought.
So, on the way home from Portland, we followed the scenic Highway 30 so I could practice.
But I had left my tripods at home, of course, so I tried some handheld shots of of Crown Point, Latourell and Horsetail waterfalls and scenes from the cliffs at Rowena.
I failed, however, to work the scenes as thoroughly and John Gerlach would have. Consequently, the photos
lacked something.
When I looked at them  on the computer the next day, I did push a button in Elements 12 to remove the color cast (if not the haze)  from some shots.
Then, of course, Darlene liked the blue ones better.
So did I, perhaps.

I remain inspired, however, and I've been pouring over the seminar notes and the three Gerlach books that I bought.
Who knows, I may get out soon with a gimbal head on a tripod and several quick-release plates.
Then I will eventually see improved photos.
Well, surely?

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