Photography – What’s the right path?

Bull Elk in morning mist. Cataloochee Valley, NC
Bull Elk in morning mist. Cataloochee Valley, NC

Photography does not have to be difficult. Some photographers work hard at trying to learn everything first, then venture out with the camera. And that’s OK, obviously for those who are attracted to that road. But, there can be many potholes as well as paths.

For me, many years ago, I came to the realization that in nature most things that speak to us are provided and that my real job is just to be there, to record the event. But what about the technical parts of the camera. Actually there are only three major parts to a camera – Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO – film or sensor (digital).

Now, one can study about each of those controls and how they relate to each other – nothing wrong with that. Or one can set even the most expensive camera on point ‘n shoot and go out, learn to sense light changes, take good images and learn the various elements of the camera that way.

I’m not talking about setting it on automatic – which gives the camera control over the settings – but on a mode that will reduce the number of settings and still provide you the photographer with control over the image.

Back to the three basic controls of the camera.

Aperture controls the Depth Of Field by adjusting the size of shutter opening to let light into the camera.

Shutter Speed controls how long the shutter stays open to let light into the camera.

ISO controls the sensitivity or how much light is needed.

Of the three, for most situations the Aperture is the most important control, in my opinion. Why? Because it is the Depth Of Field that provides the effect you choose.

Cataloochee Grass
Cataloochee Grass

Minimum DOF to create Bokah – for flowers, etc.




LJ sunrise w-ducks 8X10or

Maxium DOF  for landscapes.


A rule that I have found helpful when I first started in Photography.

FAST or F.A.S.T.
Set the Camera controls in this order until it becomes second nature…
F – Focus;
A – Aperture;
S – Shutter Speed;
T – Think (check for distractions)

Once you have done that, just press the shutter button.

Now if we move our camera off Manual to Aperture Priority, we can cut out one of those steps. The camera will automatically set the Shutter Speed – and our F.A.S.T. becomes F.A.T.

The options are still ours. We can still shoot in Manual if we choose or in my example Semi-Manual. Focus,  Aperture, Think then shoot – three steps.

Once we get our minds off our tools (or they become second nature) we can begin our real journey – Seeing Light.

Natural Light is the single element that will effect how well our image speaks – once we recognize how it effects our image.

How quickly that process moves along, will be a in direct proportion to how much time we spend in the field with our old friend – Practice.

…for our real job, as photographers, is to communicate to our audience.


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