A new path

A new path

Joe has been staying with his grandparents for a few days. He's been to a museum and today is visiting the zoo, then Blackpool Illuminations this evening (complete with fish and chips to keep the cold out).

I decided that I'd try and get to grips with using my camera properly. I've always stuck with Auto mode, then gone back later to edit my photos. I actually enjoy editing - I find it a really creative process - but I'm aware that using the camera in Manual mode gives better results in the first place.

So all the images in today's post are straight out of the camera, warts and all. 

I decided to finally make the leap for several reasons: we have a couple of very good cameras and it seems silly not to use them properly. We're moving to the famously photogenic Inner Hebrides later this year. And I have a good friend who happens to be a professional photographer. She gave me a quick tutorial last week when we were out walking with our boys. It made me want to leave my comfort zone and experiment.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons for me not to budge from Auto mode. I'm not technically-minded at all. I started an online photography course once and it was just too much so I gave it up. It cost me £500. The idea of moving to Manual is daunting; I use different types of photography for blogging, for business... there's a lot to learn. What works when I'm outdoors taking close-ups of plants won't translate to indoor product photography on a cloudy day.

But I decided to give it a try. One step at a time (although I haven't started with Aperture Priority first). I'm not worrying about the fact that we have both a Canon and a Nikon, or that I need to know about white balance and all the rest of it. So here's how I'm going about things, if you're interested:

1. I read an inspiring post by the lovely (and very talented) Annie Spratt. It got me motivated to sort myself out. Part of this was to think about the type of photography I admire, the styles I find visually appealing, the images I'm drawn to. For example, I love sites and blogs like Our Food Stories, Cannelle et Vanille, Babes in Boyland, Local Milk... 

I like that slightly underexposed effect. Rich colours, moody lighting, elements of nature, the fact that the pictures tell a story. OK, so a lot of this type of thing is food photography, but that doesn't matter; these are the images I collect, magpie-like, for my Pinterest boards. In fact, I made a secret board called 'Blog photo inspo' for my favourites.

2. I put together another Pinterest board for basic photography tips and tutorials. There are lots of them out there. Then I made notes of the fundamental stuff. Yes, this did mean using a brand new notebook. I like new notebooks.

3. I actually looked at my camera's settings and worked out how to change them. I didn't read the manual. Not that this is good advice, but I dislike manuals as much as I like notebooks.

4. I set aside time to do my homework and to get practising. Procrastination comes very easily to me; it's always tempting to get stuck in research mode and to avoid actually Getting On With It. So today I went out and had a go.

I went somewhere quiet as I'm also a bit of a one for feeling self-conscious and didn't want to be observed a) fiddling with my camera in a bewildered fashion and b) obsessively taking endless close-ups of the same twig/leaf/fern.

5. I played around with ISO, shutter speeds and aperture sizes. I looked at the display screen after each adjustment to see what I felt was working and what wasn't. Then I came home again for a lunch break and a cup of hot chocolate.

6. I uploaded my photographs onto the computer, selected the ones I thought were OK (this is a first attempt, remember, so no masterpieces) then looked back at their properties. I noted down the lighting and time of year, the type of photos and subjects - close-ups or scenes, plants and trees etc - and the ISO, shutter speeds and aperture settings.

From there I had a basic 'recipe' of how to set my camera for a cloudy day outdoors. I prefer overcast conditions anyway and as I said, I tend to opt for the slightly underexposed look. So it's a start.

There are, of course, other things to master. Like ovens, all cameras are different. Settings aren't one size fits all. I need to familiarise myself with the Canon too, but not just yet. I want to know more about lenses, metering and so on. And I would really love to learn how to use Lightroom. But all in good time.

So, as well as embarking upon this new journey, there are a few other changes afoot. We exchanged contracts on the house today so we'll be moving up to Skye in around five weeks. Lots to think about and do (and pack).

And I've taken the 30 day Vegan Pledge. I was interested to see how it made me feel; I know I fare better without dairy but thought a month eating purely plant-based foods could be a good thing. So that hot chocolate in the photograph: well, it's made with dairy-free cocoa powder and hazelnut milk and it's worryingly moreish. Best be careful.

Have a great weekend.