Learning My Camera

When I became serious about my photography, I thought that if I could just have an expensive, professional level camera, fantastic images would pop out like cookies from the oven. I thought the resulting images would instantly be even better than any I had ever captured with the point and shoot cameras. I had a lot to learn.

Thus began the learning curve!

In 2011, I began my journey in prosumer digital photography with a Nikon D7000. I had no clue how to use it. One of my best friends gave me the kindest gift — a personal teaching session with Kevin Brian Toohey of LearnYourCamera.com. Kevin taught me how to change lenses, format a memory card, and how to get correct exposure with ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. He even showed me how to use exposure compensation on my camera. I didn’t get it, but I listened intently and took mental notes. This session was an essential introduction for venturing into this amazing world of looking at God’s creation through the lens of a camera.

Once I learned where everything was on my camera, the real process of learning my camera truly began. I soon found the best way to learn was to get out and shoot lots of images, day after day, experimenting with all the settings that captured the best image. Exposure compensation became a highly valuable skill to me. Kevin had given me an introduction, but I had no clue, really, how exposure compensation could help me capture a better image. I’ll never forget the first time I began working the buttons and dials on top of my camera to slightly lighten the image through exposure compensation. Very cool, I thought. I got excited. And I learned through this experience. And now, I use exposure compensation all the time.

Then, I received the gift of a professional full-frame Nikon D800 series camera. I remember using it to capture some images of a ministry event. Someone looked at my camera and said, “Wow, your images with that camera are going to be incredible because it’s a pro camera.” Oh how wrong he was. In the beginning I called it “a beast of a camera!” At 36.3 megapixels I had to learn how to work the settings for exposure and clarity all over again. I thought I would never “get it.” I literally lived in the camera manual at first, learning how to change the ISO to allow for a faster shutter speed. And this was a huge lesson for me to learn in photography. As I focused on clarity and composition in my photos, I worked with the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed to get clearer images. I could never have done that if I didn’t know how to change the settings in my camera. I know this sounds obvious, but so many people never take the time to actually discover what their camera can do. I was one of them. Once I grasped this concept, I saw the beauty of a high megapixel camera. You can take one composition from a distance, and then crop in to catch a smaller detailed area of the image, and still have an absolutely clear photo. Oh how I love that.

The image I am sharing here is taken with my Nikon D810. It was very dark outside, just before sunrise. I drove to one of my favorite desert places, the Coachella Valley Preserve, Palm Desert, CA, to take the shot. I like to go there to practice composition, clarity, and creativity in my photography. I decided to shoot the scene handheld, at first, just to see what I could capture without using my tripod. I almost always use a tripod and ultimately, I did switch to a tripod that morning. This image is handheld. Because I know my camera setitngs better now, I knew I needed to go with a higher ISO (1250) and allow for a faster shutter speed to capture the image. I wanted enough aperture (f/8.0) to have more clarity throughout the field of the image. I feel like I pushed the envelope with the shutter speed of 1/60 second in a handheld position. I usually don’t go below 1/100 sec to 1/125 sec for handheld shots with the Nikon D810. But I always love the challenge of catching the rainbow glow of colors as the sun just begins its appearance above the horizon.

So, regardless of the camera you choose for your photography, the first and foremost thing is to learn your camera. Find out what it can do, how to maximize the settings to capture the best image. Then, most importantly, get out there and shoot thousands of images with it. In photography especially, you learn by doing. And that’s the joy. Getting out there and just looking at the beauty of God’s creation through the lens of the camera. You notice so much more because you slow down to really focus on the details. The more you focus, the more you see. And realize that you can make beautiful images with any camera. I’ll save that thought for another of my Photo Tech Talk posts.

As Ansel Adams said —

The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.
Ansel Adams

I love that Ansel Adams quote and think about it often. You will notice my myPhotoWalk Smugmug Devotional Photography Portfolio images are taken with many different cameras. I’ve included images captured with cropped sensor Nikon D7000 and Sony A6000/Zeiss cameras to my full-frame Nikon D800E and Nikon D810 cameras, and even one photo of a misty, ethereal Coronado Bridge, San Diego, CA, titled In The Fiery Trial shot with a point and shoot Canon SD1100 back in 2008. Essential to capturing all these images was learning each camera, all its capabilities, and how to effectively maximize the settings.

Once you have learned how to use your camera, the real excitement of devotional photography begins — capturing images and catching glimpses of God’s glory through the lens.

♥ Blessings and Grace to You!


myPhotoWalk Devotional

… He has given us great and precious promises
2 Peter 1:4

myPhotoWalk Technical

  • Title: When Desert Skies Glow Bright
  •   Request This Image > SmugMug Image Request
  • Description: Watching God’s colors light up the desert at sunrise in Palm Desert, CA, USA.
  • Creator: Catherine Martin
  • Date Created: 12/03/15
  • Camera: Nikon D810 24.0-120.0mm — FL 62.0mm, ISO 1250, f/8.0, 1/60sec.
  • Photoshoot: myPhotoWalk PhotoShoot at the Coachella Valley Preserve, Palm Desert, CA, USA.
  • Post-Processing: Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop, RadLab Software, Topaz Software, OnOne Software.
  • Copyright ©2018 Catherine Martin — myPhotoWalk™ — Quiet Time Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
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