Learning a Craft

I’ve discovered that learning photography is not unlike studying writing. Everyone seems to think they can write a book, but it takes a lot more than just putting some words on paper to weave a good story together. There is an art form to it. The same goes for photography. Now that cameras are in plentiful supply, mostly on everyone’s phones, there is a huge surge of amateurs trying to be artistic without actually studying what makes a photo good.

Don’t get me wrong, I still consider myself to be an amateur in many ways because I’m still learning. Plus I have nothing against the average person wanting to take pictures. But there are many things that I’ve finally mastered and a lot of trial and error that has made me realize why photographers do what they do, and it’s given me a little more respect for the ones who go above and beyond.

Getting up at 4am to go for a hike so you can get to a particular location by 7am is not necessarily the most fun thing in the world when you’re not a morning person. (Which I’m not.) But I gotta tell you, that light makes for some pretty spectacular photos.

Case in point:

UpperFalls1

That flowy water effect? Not possible unless you have softer light. Just after dawn or right before dusk is best. (There’s a reason they call it “Golden Hour.”)

So how much of a difference does the proper lighting really make? Well, I happened to come across one of my first photos the other day, after I visited the exact same spot nearly two years later. It’s not a bad photo, and to be perfectly honest I was quite proud of it when I first took it. I had just barely started taking photography seriously, and this was a completely new location to me. It happened to be at the lovely Green Lakes, located in my beautiful home state of Oregon. It’s a very popular hike, often used as training grounds for marathon runners. It’s a full four miles to get to the lakes themselves, but once you’re there, it’s spectacular.

The lakes are nestled in between two large mountains, the South Sister and Broken Top. As her name implies, the South Sister is furthest south of a trio of peaks known as the Three Sisters. They’re all roughly around 10,000 feet in elevation, with South Sister as the tallest of the three.

As I went through my current pictures, I remembered taking similar photos two years ago and decided to see how far my photography has come. Low and behold, I found my original:

DSC_0835

Again, it’s not a bad photo. The lakes really are that emerald color (hence their name) and the looming peak of South Sister is much more intimidating in person. I used this photo in my first ever calendar that I gave to friends and family as a Christmas present. However, this shot was taken mid-afternoon, probably at the peak of the day, which is the worst lighting one can ask for when it comes to photos.

When I hiked it again this year, I went much earlier in the day and got to the lakes while it was still morning. That meant we missed a lot of the crowds, and because the sun wasn’t directly overhead, the lake looked like this instead:

SouthSister1

Technically, a little bit earlier would have been even better, but I’m quite happy with how these turned out overall. Within the space of an hour, this reflection was no longer visible and there were several other people in the area, including several who decided to go for a swim. I don’t begrudge them wanting to swim, of course, but that would have put quite a crimp in my style if I had still been trying to capture images.

I still have a long ways to go, I know. But I’m really happy with how far I’ve come. There are lots of doors and opportunities opening for me, and I’m thrilled to take advantage of every single one that comes my way.

A New Year Begins!

Well, unfortunately, part of that new year started with me finally fighting the crud that’s been making its way through all of my friends. I don’t get sick very often, which is a plus, but when I do get sick, it just completely zaps my energy. Honestly, I haven’t felt *too* horrible this time around – I mean, I’ve certainly had worse. But there have still been minor aches and chills, and a darn sore throat.

And the phlegm. UGH, the phlegm.

Again, I’ve had worse. It’s still dang annoying. Not to mention my voices cracks at any given moment, so I never know what to expect. Also, am I the only one who gets kind of loopy when they’re sick? I don’t know if the phlegm, like, prevents coherent thoughts from entering my brain or what, but it clearly blocks more oxygen than usual. Maybe it’s because I feel so tired. I do tend to get loopy when I’m tired. In fact, I probably won’t remember writing this post by the time tomorrow comes around. I can totally see myself wondering why people are liking a post that was published weeks ago.

But I digress.

What IS exciting about 2018 is that it’s a new year of hiking! I gotta tell you, I have become more and more outdoorsy the older that I’ve gotten. It was part of why working inside a building all day every day made me die inside a little. I live in this utterly gorgeous, amazing state, so to be unable to enjoy it except on the weekends is pretty much torture.

How beautiful is it, you ask? Well, let me show you!

BRHWY33

It’s primarily because of these beauties right here. See, there are two small cities about twenty minutes apart from one another (I live in the smaller of the two) that are nestled up to the edge of the forest that surrounds the Cascades. The larger city is more in the pine trees than my town, but both have fantastic views of the mountains from almost anywhere. This photo was taken on a back road that used to be the main highway between the two cities before Highway 97 was put in. There is still lush farmland and beautiful viewpoints, however, so a lot of us locals still tend to take this back road.

BRHWY4

Broken Top is on the far left, and the Three Sisters huddle next to it.

I mean, seriously. How do you not love these? What I’ve discovered most about my own personality is that I don’t ever want to live somewhere without mountains. Granted, it doesn’t necessarily have to be these mountains in particular, though I am rather partial to them, but I have to have them in my life. I have to be able to hike. The forest has become such an incredible therapy to me, that I can’t honestly picture living somewhere without that as an option.

I have access to hundreds of trails, some of which are available year-round. That means that more often than not, I can still keep training even in the dead of winter. Some of the trails have a very low elevation, meaning that the snow melts quickly. For someone like me, that’s huge.

Whatever makes you happy, please be sure to carve out some time for it. Maybe it’s not hiking or being outdoors. Maybe it’s painting, or decorating your house. Maybe it’s curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. Whatever it is, make it more of a priority in your life. Too many people get through the drudge of everyday life in the hopes that someday they’ll be able to retire and finally have time for these things, but I encourage you to enjoy some of the small pleasures now. No, I’m not telling you to quit your job, or to spend lots of money on a hobby.

I’m talking about the simple pleasures. The things we don’t always make time for because we’re too busy thinking about what needs to be done. The dishes will still be there in the sink, so go ahead and play with your kids for a while. They won’t be kids forever, after all. Enjoy that morning outing with your friends. Don’t worry about what tomorrow brings when you still have time left today.

When I’m out hiking, I try to take just a moment or two to simply enjoy my surroundings. Forget the camera, forget the perfect shot. Forget the business and the stress that comes with it. Enjoy what you have while you have it.

I’m excited for 2018, guys. There are a lot of great things just waiting to be snatched up, great moments to be lived, and great friends to be made. Make the best of it, and live life to the fullest.

AdventureAwaits1

Here’s to a great new year!