On Saturday morning, I joined over 20 other photographers for a photo meetup at Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. I belong to two photo meetup groups on Flickr – Capturing Maine and the Maine Photography Meetup group – and these two groups arranged a meetup in conjunction with East Coast Photography, which has members from throughout New England and beyond. Normally the gates to Fort Williams Park, home of the lighthouse, aren’t opened before dawn, but the police chief arrived at 6 am, which allowed plenty of time for folks to park and set up before the 6:30 sunrise.
November mornings can be pretty chilly, but there was no wind, so the mid-30’s temperatures were easier to bear. The clear skies revealed the planet Venus bright in the eastern sky, upon which I kept my eye as I made the 40-minute drive from Brunswick. I didn’t manage to get any shots of the bright star, but my friend Beth arrived early and captured a nice photo of the star shining alongside the lighthouse.
Sunrises and sunsets are usually most spectacular when the colorful light has clouds to bounce off. We weren’t so lucky as to have any cloud cover whatsoever, but we did benefit from a nice glow along the horizon, as seen above, not to mention some delicious light on the lighthouse from the Sun’s first rays of the day.
I post what I consider to be my better photos to Flickr, but I also post some to Facebook (sometimes the same ones, sometimes different ones). I’ve received some compliments from my Facebook friends, who think I have some talent as a photographer. I find this interesting, because I have no formal training in photography, nor do I have anything resembling top-flight camera equipment.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, whether or not one has any particular talent for photography, at least half of the battle for getting a good photo is won by being at the right place at the right time, and having your camera ready.
This summer I made an effort to get my daily exercise by taking a bike ride in the early morning. I always took my camera with me, because the hours surrounding sunrise and sunset provide very photo-friendly light. As a bonus, the summer mornings also often provide a lovely mist over the rivers, lakes and fields. One need only snap a few shots to be rewarded with a couple of winners.
That’s not entirely true. The other half (or so) of taking a great photo is to be able to control the light. Light is really the most important facet to a photograph, and getting the tones right can be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, this is accomplished mostly through mechanical means, so anybody can learn how to improve their exposures. And even if you don’t get it quite right with the camera, most digital cameras capture enough of a dynamic range (light to dark tones) that you can spiff up your photo after downloading it to the computer.
The third aspect to a really good photo is proper composition. Or, as I like to call it, “taking enough photos that you get a couple that look good.” Composition is the artistic part of photography, in my opinion, and what sets the great photographers apart from everybody else. But like everything else, composition can be learned. This is why I love the meetups, and the Flickr community. Nothing will help you improve your photography more than seeing the beautiful pictures that others have taken, and learning how they got those results. And photographers are always happy to discuss the craft.
So if you really want to be a good photographer, all you have to do is work at it a little bit. Getting together with other photographers is fun, fulfilling, and educational.