Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

December-January 2001-2002

Tip of the Month

Take a Workshop First!

All of us are occasionally guilty of impatience. Perhaps of expecting results without, necessarily, paying the price to properly achieve those results. We've just returned from 11 weeks of leading photo safaris in Kenya and for several participants, I suspect their successful shooting ratio would have been improved had they first taken a photo workshop where certain skills were firmly implanted into their routine, and only afterwards then taken an expensive photo safari.

By stating this I mean no disrespect for anyone who participated on the safaris, and I'm confident that the majority of their images will be fine. Especially when they were shooting on a programmed mode with evaluative or matrix metering. I'm smaking this statement, here and now, because it is so current, but I could just as easily as offered this tip any time in the past, or certainly after conducting any of our photo tours where we encounter similar situations.

Depending upon the photo tour or photo safari you take, whether that is with us or with another vendor, you may find yourself with either a mixed group of shooters, or a group of inexperienced or very experienced shooters. Sometimes, when inexperienced photographers, and by that I am going to say photographers that either have not been shooting for a very long time or who are always shooting on a programmed mode, well, sometimes when these photographers are shooting alongside experienced shooters that are shooting on manual mode, or using a programmed mode and compensating with exposures by changes in their EV dials, the novices are tempted to do likewise. They'll overhear what the other shooters are saying or listen to their explanations, which impart information, but not in a systematic, comprehensive, and logical way. They may hear the summary without hearing the reasons why, perhaps because that person isn't explaining the reasons. But, in ones natural desire to improve, one is tempted to try the new technique to better improve their own photos. But I must emphatically state: A photo tour is not the place to learn new skills. Learning will produce mistakes -- that's how you learn, by your mistakes, and on an expensive photo safari or a photo tour to a great exotic location you want to come home with great images, not with a bunch of disappointing mistakes.

True enough, the programmed mode of your camera -- Aperture or Shutter Priority with Matrix or Evaluative Metering -- will produce satisfactory or near perfect results 80-90% of the time, a far better percentage than you'll have if you try new tricks for the first time. Remember, on a safari or on a photo tour there probably will not be film processing available so any experiment, any endeavor to learn a new skill, won't be verified until after your return home.

As I just said, the programmed modes of your cameras work extremely well much of the time. Yet in our workshops we teach manual mode techniques with spot metering. Why? Well, that's the Question of the Month for December-January, and it is a good one! And, if you are interested in learning and mastering your photography skills, including manual mode and spot meters, two essential tools for serious and fully controlled photography. Check out our brochures for our Complete Nature Photo Course or, if you are interested in flash photography, our Advanced Nature Photo Course.

Not convinced? Here's a letter I received only days after this Tip was posted, by an alumni of the CNPC who then went on one of our 2001 Kenya safaris. It says it all. Testimonial.

Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:

  Aug./Sept.,1999  oops, NA!   Nov./Dec.,1999
 Dec./Jan.,2000  Feb./March, 2000  April/May, 2000
 June/July 2000  July/August 2000  September 2000
 Oct./Nov. 2000  December 2000  January 2001
 Feb//March 2001   April/May 2001   June 2001
  July-August 2001  September-October 2001  November 2001

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