BY KATY SPENCE
A photography enthusiast since grade school, I’ve taken classes, attended workshops and picked the brains of countless photographers as I’ve worked to improve my technical skills through the years.
Yet Ann and Rob Simpson still managed to teach me a few new things during their pre-conference photography workshop in July in Billings, Montana. Here are the new lessons I took away from the workshop.
- The polarizing filter.
I’ll be honest, I keep the UV filter on my camera because I shoot outside a lot and there’s UV light outside, right? Right, but filters have so much more potential than being glorified lens protectors. Ann and Rob showed us an unfiltered photo of a caiman lounging on the shore. The intense midday light on its scales and on the shore destroyed any detail. The next photo, shot with a polarizing filter, was richer in color without harsh reflections. The ridges and grooves of each scale were sharp and visible. You could even see the color of its eyes. Set side-by-side, the two photos looked like a Photoshop before and after. The polarizing filter caught details that were blown out in the unfiltered photos. It’s a built-in tool to reduce harsh light and reflections, no post-production necessary.
- The histogram.
Ann and Rob presented the histogram in a brand new way for me. The histogram is a tool for photographers to quickly assess their exposure without trusting their eyes and a misleading LCD screen. In the field, a bright or underlit screen may make your photos look properly exposed, but come post-production, you find them much darker or lighter than you expected. Quickly scanning your camera’s histogram after taking a photo ensures that you are getting the proper balance of darks, grays and lights in the image. But, the much-desired bell curve might not be appropriate for each photo, Rob said. Each photo will have a different amount of lights, darks and grays in it, and the histogram will reflect that. He said to be aware of the “devil zone,” which is at the far right of the histogram and indicates overexposed areas of the photo which will have no detail and cannot be fixed in post-production.
- The hood.
I don’t like camera hoods. They don’t fit in my luggage, and they feel flimsy. I’m always afraid I’ll crush one in transit. But shooting at Pompeys Pillar with my UV filter creating sunspots in my lens converted me, especially when Ann came up and asked, “Where’s your hood?” I sheepishly smiled and held up my hand, which I’d been using to shade my lens like a person without a visor shields their eyes from the sun. She smiled and told me to always carry a hood. Your gear is supposed to be used. It does you no good sitting in your closet — or your office or wherever I left it — when you’re in the beautiful Montana wilderness. Ann and Rob said they don’t go anywhere without their hoods, and from now on, I don’t think I will, either. At least, I won’t as soon as I can find it. ♦
— Katy Spence interned with OWAA in summer 2016. She is a journalism graduate student at the University of Montana. She enjoys new recipes, new places and old souls.