Self Expression Through Photography with Bret Webster

For a large part of my life, I had only used cameras for typical family and travel snap shots. A time did come when my wife wanted us to get a "better" camera. I actually argued with her energetically for some time over it because I didn’t see the sense of spending that much money. Ultimately, she prevailed, and we got a nice DSLR. Within a few months after we bought it, I actually picked the thing up and started to mess around with it – see what it could do. It interested me, and suddenly I was fascinated with super rapid shutter actions and slow exposures and just began to test this contraption at the extremes of its ability.

We have always spent a great deal of our spare time in Moab and the canyon desert. I found myself up early one morning looking at the vivid Milky Way on a clear night, and I wondered if the camera would be able to capture an image. I fiddled with it for quite a while, failing every attempt. Finally I set the ISO much higher than I thought was reasonable and the exposure time to 30 seconds or above, and lo and behold, it actually had captured a reasonable image of the Milky Way! Actually, the image was quite terrible—full of noise, grainy, and unclear, but I didn’t care at the time. I was hooked. I thereafter spent a lot of free time running around in the desert capturing similar images and improving my technique and equipment and understanding of the physics involved in the whole process. Since then, my photography has expanded into many realms, and I enjoy trying to capture fleeting moments of nature and rare locations whenever I can.

The fairly simple message that I always try to share that is central to my enjoyment and satisfaction with photography basically is this:

1. I’m mightly glad for a chance to be alive. It’s a mighty good gig for the most part, and I’m grateful for the chance!

2. I marvel at how much beauty surrounds us and fills our existence both inside and out when (and if) we take time to really notice it. It's almost as if we were designed to appreciate it and then were placed in a giant garden full of beauty and wonder. It seems…purposeful! We all know how good it feels to be in—and spend time adoring—the natural beauty that fills our existence, both inside and out. I marvel at how much beauty exists in each and every person. A universe exists in all of us—how can we mistreat each other when we are all so special?

3. It follows, then, that as photographers we directly exercise the act of adoring this beauty and capturing it in an attempt to share what we thought was special. It is a good thing we do when this happens, and it feels good—especially when the circuit is completed and some special moment that moved the photographer is actually conveyed to some other soul and reaches into their heart and mind and moves them, too. What a meaningful achievement and form of communication this is!

I think for someone who is just becoming interested in photography, they should not worry too much about whether they’ve yet figured out how to master each and every camera control and obtain or remove bokeh and depth of field etc., etc. That will come in good time with only some study and practice. The important thing is to realize that photography is such a venue of self expression—to describe and convey what you thought was so cool or so beautiful or dramatic and attempt to share that with another person. It is a precious endeavor and much more meaningful than folks may initially understand.

The photographer's heart and mind are joined with the image and expressed to others. I hope they would always realize the technical aspects will come with time. It's their own heart that they must learn to hear and listen to. It's not always easy! That voice is not always loud. In fact, I believe that so many epic shots are often found (or missed) with the quietest voice inside a photographer saying something like "Hey, look at that. That’s pretty cool. I wonder if I should pull over and actually get all my gear set up and try to capture that." Most often, it's "nahhh sheesh, I’m in a hurry, and it's inconvenient." A lot of epic shots beckon to you at inconvenient times eh?

I suppose I might mention that if you’d like to shoot some night shots of stars and maybe even the galaxy and really don’t know how to begin, then a good place to start is here:

  • Wide, wide angle lens at f/2.8
  • ISO 1600 or higher (if you want galaxy)
  • ~ 30 seconds (but not too much longer unless you want star trails)
  • Moonless night
  • The higher the elevation the better
  • tripod required
  • full-frame sensor helps a ton, but not necessarily required.

There’s a lot of wonder and beauty out there—enough for all of our expressions—so go get 'em!

I want to thank pictureline for the role they support so well in helping us along in these endeavors! I just love spending time in their store and browsing and wishing and dreaming and buying! I always learn something from just wandering through the store, and I really like the people there. They’re always so genuine! We’re fortunate to have Pictureline in our community!

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AstrophotographyBret websterMarch 2013Night photography