By Pat Ford

Friends are always asking me for photography tips and I share as much as I can, once I get past the cliché that “You must have a really good camera”.  That’s sort of like telling a chef that he has “a really good stove.

Nevertheless, the recent advances in digital photography are astronomical.  Instruction manuals are now an inch thick and the important settings are numerous and complicated, but some basic elements still hold true… no matter how complicated the camera.  Anyone wanting decent photos needs to know his camera and why different settings are required for different situations.  The only way to accomplish this is to review all the U-Tube videos on your exact camera that you can find and then go out and practice.  You only really learn from your mistakes and the rule is that your first 10,000 photos will suck.  You can practice on anything…pets, kids, yard, birds….anything that’s convenient.  It also helps to shoot what you love. 

Once you’ve spent some time with your camera and are pretty confident with your abilities, it’s time to go on a “photography workshop”.  A ‘workshop can be an afternoon with a professional photographer but pick someone who uses the same camera that you do.  I took my new Canon R5 to a workshop hoping to get dialed in on the settings only to find that the instructor was a “Sony guy” in spite of the fact that he made a video on how to use the R5.  There were several people in the workshop most of which had the new R5 and we learned a lot from each other without the help of the instructor.  Truthfully that’s a rare instance and most photographers holding workshops will be up front on the cameras and lenses they use.  I recently went to a Bear photography workshop with Ron Niebrugge in Alaska…it was excellent.  We stayed at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park and Ron set up the whole operation.  We met in Anchorage, were flown to the Lodge and spent most every waking hour eating, sleeping, editing photos or photographing bears.  We’d rove around vast meadows and shorelines where the bears congregated in June with their mates and cubs.  We’d travel is wagons drawn by 4 wheelers with a guide and Ron.  We’d leave at 6:30 am, return for breakfast at 8, go back out at 9:30, return for lunch at 1pm, go back out at 2:30 till dinner at 7pm, then go back out at 8:30 till 10 pm.  Ron was with us the whole time and not only described the bears’ actions, but gave pointers on settings, exposures, shutter speeds, etc. as needed.  He wasn’t bragging or showing off; he was just there to answer questions and help out as needed.  One afternoon we took a boat trip and shot puffins which I had never even seen before.  They were small, extremely fast birds and a real challenge for the camera.  We also saw eagles regularly along with an occasional wolf, which never stuck around very long. It was a pleasure hanging out with Ron and his collection of photographers for week. Most of my photo workshops have been extremely helpful not only in shooting but also in editing.

It’s important to find a workshop that fits your time and budget and it helps if it focuses on a topic that you love…like bears.  I really love bears!  Finally remember…. It’s the Indian, not the arrow, but the Indian needs training…it also helps to have a really good arrow!