Tip #9: Practice

At the Rookery
Shot from a Canoe on the St. Croix River
Canon 7D + 300 f2.8L IS @f2.8

Strive to become a better photographer...
My deliberate focus on the art of photography began after a research excursion to the Pribilof Islands, AK. I was a data grunt; a field ecologist gathering data about seabird species reproducing on two island colonies in the middle of the Bering Sea. My three years of research became a pivotal moment in my life, and laid the foundation for the work I do today. My responsibilities varied, but my interests leaned towards the documentation of behavior. I carried a staff camera wherever I went as well as my own Pentax point and shoot body. This was 1987, digital was a thing of dreams, and autofocus was in its infancy. The field kit included an old NIkon F2 whose meter had long died and a 300mm f4.5 lens. While I had a teenage interest in photography, I left all that behind to focus on my studies in biology. After returning from Alaska I hurriedly processed my Kodachrome and black and white negatives. To my disappointment, the images were nothing short of crap. From that point on, I vowed to re-learn the art  and science behind photography. I spent thousands of hours studying images, exposure theory, and optics. While I know little about the physics behind the construction of a lens or the translation of light to bits and bytes, I now intuitively understand the essence of image making. 
In 1988 I returned to the islands with a Contax SLR and two lenses. Far from proficient with a camera, that summer of research began my deliberate practice in photography that continues today. I am a compulsive shooter. While I rarely produce images that make me proud, I’m on a daily quest to fulfill a vision and translate my perspective about the nature of life for others to see.
Canon 5D Mark II w/ Zeiss 35mm f2.0 ZE @f8
Tip #9: Practice your Craft!
Practice your focusing technique by shooting a familiar subject. Practice your exposure by shooting in challenging light. Practice changing lenses and memory cards quickly. You never know when you’ll be at the right place at the right time. Practice will make these mental stressors automatic.
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