At the risk of this blog turning into a David DuChemin fan site, I’m going to review my second DuChemin work. Ten is an e-book I found once I wandered over to DuChemin’s blog, Pixelated Image. The subtitle pulled me in: Ten ways to improve your craft. None of them involve buying gear. My wife wishes I’d pay more attention to books like this.
For an amateur photographer, Ten has a lot going for it.
- It’s cheap: Regularly $10, on sale for a few more weeks at $5!
- It’s short: 32 pages.
- It’s dense. 10 ideas in 32 pages doesn’t leave a lot of room for fluff. I value concise writing.
- It has exercises! I haven’t been in any sort of school for over a decade, yet I still find assignments valuable for self-guided learning.
I don’t recommend Ten as your first book on composition. It’s too brief to succeed if you’re getting exposed to these ideas for the first time. Where the e-book shines is focus. As an amateur, I’m easily overwhelmed by all of the things I could be doing to make better images. Ten has helped me organize my thoughts and focus on ten things I can do over the next few weeks to improve.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the ten ideas in the e-book. The book’s so short, I fear if I say too much you won’t want to buy it. And you should buy it. I’ll give you a small preview by sharing the first exercise in the book: Get Pickier. The exercise:
Head out with your camera for an hour and force yourself to shoot a hundred frames – push yourself creatively. Lots of people do this as a creative exercise. But now do the opposite. Go out and shoot only 3 frames… With each image really look at it…. Would you put this on your wall? No? Delete it. Try again. Is the light the way you wanted it? The framing? Is it the right moment? No? Delete it.
I tried the three-frames-in-an-hour exercise on Sunday, and it was both valuable and really, really hard. I love how this mindset forced me to frontload all of my thinking. I find it too easy with digital cameras to shoot indiscriminately and only turn my brain on in front of the computer, during editing. I also feel this enormous pressure when shooting: It’s rare to get time away from the kids, in good light, with interesting subjects. I feel I need to maximize my use of the time by taking as many photos as possible. For example, I shot close to 1,000 frames in two hours at the Prosser Hot Air Balloon Rally. I was shooting by instinct instead of by careful thought.
So, thanks to reading Ten, I brought a different mindset to the Washington Park Arboretum this past Sunday. Even though I had just a precious hour to capture fall color in early morning light, I set a goal of only coming home with three pictures on my SD card. I was immediately more relaxed because I wasn’t trying to bring home every possible image I could find. I was only looking for the best. I set up my tripod, I watched the light. I walked by countless plants that were showing some fall color in my quest for the best. I know if I hadn’t been working on this assignment, I would have stopped to snap every one of those trees and shrubs.
Even with all of this attention, I wasn’t picky enough. I had six photos on my card when I made it back to my car, and only one photo I really like: The photo of the leaf at the top of this review. I don’t feel too bad about only having one keeper. However, in hindsight, I think the other two images I brought home would have been stronger had I taken more time to work on them in the field. Take this photo, for instance:
I like the color of the leaves, and I like the contrast between the leaves and the bark, but in the end this photo doesn’t do it for me. The entire tree had a beautiful shape, though. Maybe I would have had a stronger photo had I backed up to take in the whole tree instead of going for a close-up. Or maybe that wouldn’t have worked either, but my failure is I didn’t even try. This exercise is deceptively challenging.
If there’s that much value in one paragraph, imagine what you’ll get from 32 pages of similarly excellent content. The ebook is just $5 right now. If you’re trying to make your photography better, just get it. Start at this link.