The day before we left on our Mystery Vacation, I had the opportunity to go with my good friend Mary Bartnikowski up to the Kaua’i Hindu Temple in Wailua to learn how to take better photos. As you know from her posts here, Mary has been a professional photographer for many years, and one of the services she offers here on Kaua’i are one-on-one or small group sessions where she shares her experience to help you improve your picture taking . . . with any camera. When I had mentioned to her one day that I honestly needed one of her sessions, Mary’s reply had been, “Let’s do it!” The stars aligned with good weather and time off for both of us on that Tuesday.
My camera is a five year-old Panasonic Lumix with a Leica lens, which I learned from Mary is actually a pretty darn good camera (she has used one for paid commercial photo shoots). However, other than knowing how to charge the battery and use the zoom feature, my camera was mostly a mystery to me. I knew nothing about how to use its many features, or what it was capable of.
A few days before we were to get together, I downloaded Mary’s free book, Secrets of Stunning Photographs, gleaning lots from the great tips she shares. It was genuinely a fun and interesting read and I learned quite a bit. But, as I’m primarily a hands-on learner, I was especially excited about the opportunity to actually get out and take pictures, getting feedback from Mary as I snapped away.
The day of our session, the first thing we did was to sit down and go over the features on my camera, and how to access and use them. For example, I had no idea how to use the manual setting, and set f-stops and such. I learned about all sorts of other options on the camera that I had no idea existed, let alone how to find them (like leveling).
Then we were off to the temple, which turned out to be barely a mile away from our previous house! Why had we never visited the temple while we lived there? It’s absolutely gorgeous. Entrance to the temple grounds is free, but women are required to wear a skirt, and men in shorts need to cover their legs as well. The temple thoughtfully and thankfully provides sarongs for visitors to meet the dress code.
It didn’t take much encouragement to begin taking pictures immediately, with Mary offering feedback about lighting, and how to best position my photo subject in the frame to create a more interesting photo. We wandered through the breathtakingly beautiful temple grounds for nearly an hour, while I practiced both close-up and distance photos as well as using the automatic and the manual settings. I found myself using tips from Mary’s book as I went along, and watched and learned as well from what and how she was photographing as we walked through the grounds.
When we were finished at the temple, we headed back to Mary’s house to look over all the pictures I had taken. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was to never delete my “bad” pictures until I had looked at all of them side by side, because it’s those less-than-perfect photos that will show you which ones are the keepers. As I went through my photos, and listened to Mary’s feedback, I could see the difference between pictures, what I had gotten right as well as wrong, and what made one shot better than another.
What I learned in my session that day greatly improved the pictures I took on our vacation (until my camera battery died). I was more conscious of what I was doing, and what I was photographing, rather than just snapping away at anything, which is what I tended to do in the past. I got much better vacation photos than I ever have before.
My photo session with Mary was a great way to not only learn how to take better pictures, but also learn a bit more about our beautiful island, up close and personal. Mary’s an insightful, patient teacher, and she’s happy to share her vast knowledge on how to get better photos no matter where you are or what camera you’re using (because great photos are more about who’s taking the picture rather than what camera they’re using). I’m looking forward to visiting the Hindu temple again with Brett and the girls in the not-too-distant future, and plan to sign YaYu up for one of Mary’s sessions later this year.
If you’re visiting Kaua’i, you can book a photo session with Mary by contacting her via bartnikowski.com!