The Difference Once Year Makes - Torre Flavia

Do you remember all those Eureka! moments when you've finally made something click?  How do you measure improvement?  For me, it's two specific locations in Italy.  These two locations are Torre Flavia, an ancient Roman tower that was destroyed by the Allies, and the infamous Colosseum.

I don't want to toot my own horn, here - if anything, this is a testament to what one year of study can do, and I use "study" loosely - I did not pay for classes, I did not buy fancy, unnecessary gear.  This is self-taught, confused, fumbling, and many, many, MANY mistakes were made. 

These are my mistakes.  This is a showcase of how I learned from my failures.

Tell me what you're working on in the comments below.  Are you going to school, are you working on a new sewing technique, trying to improve your mental health?  Let me know!

MARCH, 2017

17mm, 1/200s @ f/2.8, ISO 100

17mm, 1/200s @ f/2.8, ISO 100

What a mess.  I thought this was great when I took it, but I knew that I had zero handle on editing, and that SHOWS.  But let's scrutinize the horror that is the single shot this is.

This was taken as a single shot, no tripod, no filters.  Naked T2i.  Now, for experienced photographers, you're going to laugh hysterically at that f/2.8.  I am a little shocked at myself right now.  To you who isn't laughing, for architecture, unless you're highlighting a very specific feature, you want a small aperture, meaning a bigger number as the f/, such as f/18, maximum.

Let's take a closer look. 

I have absolutely no idea what I was aiming at. Not a clue. With f/2.8 on architecture from many feet away, no one will ever know.

I have absolutely no idea what I was aiming at. Not a clue. With f/2.8 on architecture from many feet away, no one will ever know.

There is zero detail.  No cloud detail, fuzzy bricks, no depth of field, and a bad edit.  It seems like the sky is neon with the contrasting orange of the tower.  

Things I did well: exposure and ISO, but, overall, it's a bad photo because of the obvious little thought that was put into it.


July, 2017

17mm, 1/50s @f/18

17mm, 1/50s @f/18

What's the most obvious thing I was missing?  What was I much too lazy to do?


Tripods save lives, guys.

This is one where I've obviously learned a thing or two about photography: I'm trying leading lines and depth of field, trying to add some foreground interest.  My exposure, my aperture, ISO, all fine, but this would have been fifty times better if I used a tripod and focus stacking.  I'll talk a little more about that later.

There are... 1, 2, 3....  six?  Six leading lines, and where they are all aimed at the same spot, they all have chaotically different angles.  Where I did consider composition, it's obvious that I didn't think much past foreground interest with the rocks and water.  If I did this again, I would have lessened the distance between myself and the tower and gotten much lower, which would also have improved the exposure.


The tower is out of focus and extremely far away because of the wide angle lens I was using.  If the rocks had some interesting texture to look at, and that interest continued to a very small tower, alright, but that isn't happening here.  The contrast is flat, the colors are dulled, and the rocks are out of focus.  Not pictured here, I focused on the rocks closest to me, but since physics is a twisted mistress, nothing else is sharp.

As for the edit, this was around the time I started playing with split toning.  The photo is extremely blue, but some purple split tones are tossed into the shadows, reddish in the highlights.  The photo would look better cropped tighter to the tower, but since everything is out of focus, your hands are tied on the crop - cover up your mistakes by making sure they are far away!

It's better than what I produced in March, and you can certainly see improvements in both the photography and the edit.


August, 2017

40mm, 1/100s @ f/14, ISO 100

40mm, 1/100s @ f/14, ISO 100

I totally gave up editing this - I was so disappointed with how this shoot turned out.  I knew it was crap.  I didn't consider composition enough, and I was more salty that I didn't use a polarizing filter.  I've been trying to kick myself to do so for months, but I keep forgetting that I have one.

But the composition, looking at it now, sucks.  That island and tree are popping out of the left like your uninvited Aunt Betty, and there's no way to convince her to go home.  I could move the log over to the right in post, but that wouldn't save this photo enough to spend the time doing so.

BUT, the good news is, I knew this was crap because I had learned over the course of the year, whereas I thought the images above were gold when I shot them.  I returned after more study, and I came up with the following.


17mm, 1/8000s (one photo) @ f/13, ISO 800

17mm, 1/8000s (one photo) @ f/13, ISO 800

This is two images stacked into one - the foreground and the background.  The editing is obviously heavy, so I'll add some more honest photos below, but I'm adding this because this was my favorite from this particular shoot: the ones above were my favorites at the time.

Yeah, I know.

It's funny now, but I cringe at having shown anyone the above and having been proud, but, damn it, that's the learning process, and I am so darn lucky to have the love and support that I do.  I feel like Kino one year ago was a child proudly proclaiming her work to her parents in the kitchen.

Part of the process, but I can't help laughing about it.

Alright, so this image can certainly be improved.  I have some gripes, and since this image is still fresh, I won't have as much criticism 'cause I'm not at a professional level, so I can't pick apart every flaw, you know?

I asked my friends to help me out.  Some of them wanted context as the tower is silhouetted.  Perhaps sneaking in some of the details would have improved it, but I'm not convinced it would.  Another opinion was to leave the sand detail that I photoshopped out, and now that I'm looking at what a terrible job I did, I have to agree.  The two strings of sand closest to us are natural, and the two lines thereafter are fake.  I should have kept those out and, perhaps, stamped the very last one out.

This photo was a mess of footprints.  Another photographer said to leave some footprints in the sand, but I thought that adding a horizontal leading line would confuse the eye, so I didn't try.  Maybe if I got lower and detailed the footprint more, that would improve it.


Now... guess what I forgot to do?  I forgot to take a proper exposure of the tower, and it could have been a faster shutter speed, a slower one, whatever, as long as I took one!  But I didn't! 

The tower is actually out of focus because I only took two photos.

I'm not sure why I kept the rainbow within the flare, either... I certainly don't catch little details like that in the editing phase.  I'm also learning as I type this.  I should really write these more often.  :D

This isn't meant to gloat or flex, ah, what an incredible photographer I am!  No, I, uh... I understand that I have a long way to go.  Last year, people agreed that I was a good photographer, but I had poor follow-through, little practice, and I thought I was great.  I thought I had "the eye," I thought I could get customers, but, oh my god, I'm so glad I left the country before trying to get paid because DAMN, I needed some humility.

But I do want to honor that I have improved.  Another year is coming, and I can't wait to see what happens, especially after this past year.

What a journey it's been.

What are you working on?  Tell me what you've been improving this past year!

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