It’s All Practice!

September 8, 2021

I recently ‘celebrated’ the one-year anniversary of my newest camera, a Nikon D500, and wondered how many pictures I had taken over the past 12 months. In camera terms, those pictures are referred to as shutter actuations. The process for determining shutter actuations for any digital camera is quite simple. For my Nikon D500, I had to first clear my memory card of all pictures, take one shot, and then upload that shot to the website In a matter of seconds, I had my answer!

Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly
My favorite amphibian, the American Bullfrog!
A beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush

Over the course of this past year, I have taken 47,294 pictures, which averages out to 129 pictures a day! This may seem like a huge number, but it doesn’t surprise me. My last camera was well over its recommended lifespan of 100,000 pictures before I decided that it might be time to look for a new camera!

Common Green Darner Dragonfly shortly after emerging

I go for picture walks almost every day —partly for the exercise and partly for the pictures. In truth, though, I need the exercise more than I need the pictures, but I love the pictures more than I do the exercise!  It’s not that I need another picture of a robin, or a frog, or a butterfly —I just love being outdoors, observing nature, and taking pictures! So, instead of heading out with the expectation that I will find something new or different, or exciting, I just consider every picture walk a ‘practice session’. Every day is different, even if the subject matter is the same.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth on Bee Balm

For me, the ‘practice’ part of taking pictures involves three basic settings: ISO, f-stop, and shutter speed. I make adjustments to one or all of those settings every time I take a picture.  If I’m lucky, the subject I’m trying to capture will sit still for a minute while I pause to adjust one setting or the other. If I’m not so lucky, I’ll only get one chance and hope for the best! When I go through my pictures at the end of the day, I’ll evaluate which settings worked and which ones didn’t—and hopefully remember what I’ve learned the next time I go out!

Cardinal Fledgling looking somewhat apprehensive
Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Orange Jewelweed

It’s a bit of a game for me, really; one that I thoroughly enjoy. How often can I get the settings right on the first try? How often can I get the settings right after only a few adjustments? My end goal is to have as many pictures as possible that won’t need editing —which would be an indication that I’m getting better at predicting which settings are needed for any given picture.

Green Heron voicing his opinion!
Great White Egret– a rare sight for me!

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy editing, I do! There are only a few features I know how to use and they serve me well: cropping, saturating, darkening, lightening, sharpening, and cloning. Of those six features, my very favorite is cloning! Cloning allows me to remove unwanted things from a picture that I couldn’t actually remove when I took the shot —like branches, leaches, bugs, and poop! Just the other day, I took a sharp, clear picture of a grasshopper perched nicely on a leaf, but there was poop all over the leaf! It seemed like an otherwise flawless picture, so, I used my cloning tool to replace all the unsightly dibs and dabs by copying the clear, green parts of the leaf and covering up the excrement!

Mallard Duck on a clear, calm morning

It doesn’t really matter to me that I already have thousands of pictures of bullfrogs, or bluebirds, or bunnies, I’ll still go out again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next because it’s fun, and because it’s all good practice!

Sandhill Crane, always a delight to see!!

Every once in a while, I’ll catch something new out there and all that practice pays off!!

Orchard Oriole, another rare find for me!

3 thoughts on “It’s All Practice!

  1. Love the latest blog! I hit an emotional wall today. And I will certainly have to play with a cloning tool. You will laugh but my search is deer taking a leak. It’s rare enough that it is a true hunt. I will have to email you one I guess……..

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