f8 Photography Working towards the goal

Throughout my life, I've always felt a creative need. I've tried drawing, writing, woodworking and more. But I've just never been satisfied with what I was ending up with. Folks were like "You should draw more...you're really good!" But I never really liked the results of my efforts. They would say..."You should write more...you have a knack for it!" But, I never really felt accomplished at it. For years I always felt that photography was something that I really wanted to try. I even asked to be a Photographers Mate (now called a Multi-media Specialist) in the Navy, but they said that I was a tiny bit color-blind in the browns, and I was denied the request!

Closeup of a Sunflower in field in South Dakota.

So, about three years ago I got on a trading sight and "sold" a bunch of stuff that I had for "points" and traded them in for a small, high-end, point-and-shoot camera. I was so excited to get it. I went out...thinking that I was going to become a "photographer" within the month. Boy...was I ever surprised to discover how much I had yet to learn! Come to find out...anyone can take a automatic camera and go out and take "pictures"! But...that isn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to create something more...I wanted to create images. So, I saved up some money and bought my first Nikon. I can't tell you how excited I was to get it. But then...the learning curve kicked in. Taking pictures is one thing. Photography is a whole other game! I soon learned that it was going to take both TIME, and a lot of practice to get to where I wanted to be.

Night-shot of clock in Rotary Club park in downtown Palestine.

First, I had to decide what genre it was that I wanted to develop my skill in. What type of photography did I want to shoot. But that would take a little time to figure out! At first I shot flowers, bugs, birds...pretty much anything that would hold still long enough for me to frame up. There was just so much to learn. But, I went all out. I just grabbed the camera and started shooting. It didn't take too long before I realized that, in order to get good photos, I would have to slow down, read up, and learn HOW to take good photographs. Man...what a bummer. But, if I was to ever get to where I wanted to be...I would have to learn it. So I started buying classes online, learning how to use the camera, and the hardest part...learning how to "bend light"! That is what photography is all about...light!!

South Dakota Landscape. This might look like a pretty descent photo, but the sky is all washed out in the background. Learning how to get exactly what you see is a challenge when learning photography.

I've only set my Nikon on "Auto" twice since I've had it. Once was at a wedding with a friend while shooting "second camera", and once right after I got it. I've always wanted to learn to "master" the camera in manual mode. Doing so means you have to learn what settings on the camera you need to get the desired affect in the photos that you're shooting. Shutter-speed, aperture, white-balance, ISO, lens settings (focal length) for depth-of-field, focus...all of these are left up to the photographer in "Manual" setting. You also have "Aperture Priority", "Shutter Priority" settings on the camera, and you need to know how and when to use each one for what you are wanting to shoot, and the type of results that you are looking for. Yep...lots to learn.

Sand Hills of Nebraska. Natural evening light shot is black and white (monochrome).

I finally, gradually, began getting a little better. After thousands of shots, I find that I can eventually get something close to what I'm looking for. A photographer actually sees the shot in their head before ever taking it. With me, it never shuts off. "Seeing the shot" is always on. But seeing it, and getting what you see is two different things. The camera is a tool, and just like any other tool, you have to learn how to use it to get the optimum results! There are so many variables involved. But...the most important is the all-powerful LIGHT! What type of light do you have to work with? Natural light? Studio light? Harsh light? Soft light? What are you working with, and what type of settings do you need to set your camera at to get the "shot" that you are seeing. Herein lies the challenge! And...I still struggle with it today! 

Little Kat outside under an awning using natural light. The blurred background is called "bokeh" (pronounced bouquet). Another aspect of depth-of-field with a particular lens!

After three years of practicing and struggling. I've finally decided that I want to pursue portrait and fashion photography. I really enjoy working with people (models) and having the ability to use a studio and studio lighting. Natural light can create some great results, but it can also be a challenge. I enjoy being able to create just the type of lighting that I desire for the affect that I'm looking for, and, I still have many years of learning ahead of me to get to where I want to be. The real drawback is the cost of setting up a studio with all of the equipment needed to get optimum results.

Emily outside under natural light (overcast skies).

So, this is the struggle. And, it's real. To become a successful portrait/fashion photographer is something that I long to do...even at this late stage in my life. I hope I have the time left to get to where I want to be one day. They say that you never stop learning...I'm apt to believe this is true. 

Cassidy (Kat) under studio lighting.

So, I still struggle with lighting. It's everything in photography. But, with each shoot...I learn and gain more knowledge. Hopefully, I will one day have a studio in which I can capture the photographs of both my dreams, and the paying clients aspirations. Until then...I'll keep doing what I'm doing...in hopes of getting to the point to where this is all I do...because it's what I love to do!! 

Lareina under studio lighting.
Created By
Phillip McKay


All photos property of Phillip McKay (f8 Photography) All rights reserved!

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