Photography is my second obsession. I take pictures every day, and much like writing every day, it's all about finding inspiration and being willing to try something different. I started a Picture of the Day Blog on January 1, 2007, and I haven't missed posting a picture for each day. The pictures are taken on the day they're posted.
Some pictures are better than others. I feel it is important to practice every day and see where it will take you. I started photography back in the film days. For many years, I even had my own darkroom and I still have my enlarger and many of the other pieces of equipment. Creating black and white photos was wonderfully fun. I also did some color print and some color slide work. I miss some of it, but I have to say that the new world of photography does give a lot more room for expression.
I have a fascination with glass plate negatives, though I've never worked with them. However, if you are writing anything that requires truly old-fashioned photography, this is the process you want. Here is a very short explanation of the two types of glass plates:
Photographers traveling through the old west would have used glass negatives. The pictures they created are iconic and the only true glance we have into the past.
Let's talk about one huge mistake often seen in shows and books when it comes to the intrepid reporter who has shot a photograph with his trusty camera and hurries back to his home or office and the dark room where he works. He sets things up, turns on the red light to see by, and develops the film and makes a print. The red light goes off and the regular light goes on. There he has a lovely color print that shows the bad guy in the midst of doing something ... bad.
It doesn't work that way. Color film and printing must be done in total darkness. Film and paper are developed in closed systems where you pour the material in one end, close that, and then open an inner door to let it inside. After the allotted time and a lot of sloshing around, you drain that back out, making certain everything is closed, and then do the next step. I had a wonderful tube system for color prints that was fun, but expensive to work.
Oh, and let me tell you, there is nothing quite so annoying as trying to get film out of the original case and onto a spool to be developed -- and doing it in total darkness.
Red light can be used when developing black and white film and pictures, though. The film and paper is purposely created not to interact with red light. Color materials, though, interact with all types of light which is why you get colors.
As much as I loved working with film, I was an early adapter for digital photography. The reason was that it cost a great deal less and that allowed me to do far more experimentation. I had my first digital camera, a Sony FD7, back in 1998. No, the pictures were not great, but the digital photography revolution was fast to move ahead. I currently use two different Canon cameras, a T4i DSLR and an SX50HS. The first uses multiple lenses which makes it closer to a professional model. Picture taking itself is mostly the same as the old days, though, with most of the work being done with aperture and/or shutter speed. Most cameras include a lot of bells and whistles, but those are the two bottom-line controls that a person needs to understand.
Probably the most confusing aspect of photography is understanding the numbers for aperture and how they work. First, the wider open the aperture, the less depth there will be to what is in focus. This is because it is letting in more light and that fuzzes out more of the picture (for a very non-technical description). So, if you want a picture that has a large depth of field -- say a landscape with flowers in the foreground and mountains in the background, then you want a very small aperture. Here is the second thing to remember: the numbers related to aperture are like pieces of pie. 1/2 of a pie is far more than 1/22 of a pie. So, the larger the number, the smaller the aperture. For really good depth of field, you will likely need a tripod.
Digital cameras let you experiment and erase pictures without worry. You don't need any fancy equipment to go from camera to sharing the pictures. It's instant gratification, which is kind of nice for writers who often have to work years before they can share their written art.
There are programs that can help you go beyond digital photography to digital art. Adobe's Lightroom is a wonderful tool for both cataloging pictures and for doing basic changes with things like contrast, color, and exposure -- plus a lot more if you want to play with it. The program also allows you to catalog and tag your pictures so that you can easily call them up. I have over 180,000 pictures in the database right now. It's handy.
I also use Adobe Photoshop for some work, but that's usually my program for making cover art. You can get Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 a month. If you have the money and really want to work with your digital photography, consider it. http://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/photography.html
I would also like to suggest the Topaz Labs collection. This is a wonderful set of tools that you can buy singly or as a group. I love playing with them! http://www.topazlabs.com/
Oh and how about 2 Lil Owls Studio's gorgeous textures to add to pictures? http://2lilowls.com/
Yes, there are far too many fun toys for those of us who enjoy playing with pictures. Those of you who are interested in doing cover art might want to look into these additions to help make your work unique.