On or about my birthday last fall, I was the grateful recipient of a new camera, a Canon Rebel T3 digital SLR. Up to now, I’ve been using a nice little Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot to take pictures for this blog and The Garden Bench, for travel stories and for other general picture-taking needs. In a pinch, I use an iPhone, which captures remarkably satisfying images.
I was surprised by and delighted with the gift. It feels good to hold a “real” camera again. It has a dandy ‘Auto’ setting that automatically assesses the light, the focus, the depth of field and so forth, and provides a generally suitable image at the push of a button.
But what’s the point of having a “real” camera if you don’t learn to fiddle with the controls? You want to know how to adjust the settings, consider the best shutter speed, nudge the f-stop – all the things you have to do to get the image and effect that you want, not just what the camera wants you to have.
I haven’t thought of things like f-stop and shutter speed since back in the film days, so for spring semester I signed up for a Beginning Digital Photography class at Watkins Community Education. When Sam, the teacher, asked us what we hoped to get out of the class, just about everyone had the same answer: “I want to get off ‘Auto.’ “
So right away she had us turn our camera dials from “Auto” to “M,” and we spent the next nine weeks learning about our cameras’ manual controls, along with features we didn’t know existed. We spent time in and out of class working (and playing) with the settings, considering subjects and composition, capturing images of people, pets, landscapes, flowers and more, and generally having fun.
These are some of the images I turned in for our class critique sessions.
Planted this week in the perennial beds out back
Over the weekend I succumbed to some of the cheap and easy offerings at the nearby big box garden center: