The Site

About This Site and Learning Photography


 four images of Nicole

This site is an educational resource for photographers who want to learn about creative photographic variables. I made an early decision that the site would be more useful if the basic subject was always the same. I think this was a good decision even though some subjects really don't lend themselves to portraiture, like macro photography.

I tried to explore a single variable on each page, such as exposure or aperture, but some topics — like aperture and focal length — are very hard to separate, so those are somewhat smushed together.

Every decision I made excluded other options, even other people and cultures. There is an entire page devoted to issues that bother me because I know I have annoyed some people. Visit my apologies page to see what bothers me about this site, and compare to what bothers you.



acorn in ice

How We Really Take Pictures
I think that in most cases photographers see a potential image and without much conscious thought reach for the proper lens, and choose the right angle of view, aperture and shutter speed, much the way an athlete reacts in the moment without too much thought.

But knowledge of WHICH lens, angle, and aperture comes from experience, from learning about each creative variable.

Hence this site.

On the other hand, I think that there are often situations where even a professional photographer has to stop and think carefully about how to balance such things as f-stop, shutter speed, etc. And to complete the athlete comparison, a smart athlete has thought about what might happen before each moment of action comes around.

I think that spending time on this site is valuable, but nothing takes the place of trying these things out on your own, with your equipment, your subject, your eye, and your judgement. Digital allows you to experiment for free, so go for it. I did my main experimenting back in the film days, and paid about a dollar per mistake. Would you like to see my collection of 20,000 slides with bad focus, bad exposure, bad composition?


utility grate 

I Really Dislike Photography Rules
I took a lot better pictures when I stopped thinking about rules and starting asking myself just this:

"What is this picture about?"

If you can answer that question — in words — you can answer most of the other creative questions. If the photo is ABOUT texture, then crop out everything else and fill the frame with texture. Keep it all in focus.

Think about it like this: if you look at the photo before you take it, and the subject feels right centered, then listen to that feeling and ignore any rules you have heard.

If you end up with a somewhat 1/3 composition, fine. If you end up with a horizon that is centered and that feels like what you wanted to say, fine.

I want to mention that reading the books of Freeman Patterson helped free me from rules and started me toward taking much better images.

8 ball 

Square Images, 8 Across
The idea is to compare variations, and 8 was a good number: 8 f-stops go from almost white to black, and 8 squares fit fairly well across the page. (Horizontals ate up too much space, and verticals are less common so I compromised on squares. I really love squares and you'll see squares in many of my website designs.)

In some cases using 8 forces me to eliminate extras, and editing down is usually a good thing. Other times the need for 8 forced me to think harder about other ways.

eight exposure

Here is some help on using these wacky pages.