30 Minutes


A few weeks ago we had family stay with us for a weekend, and it’s always a bit chaotic (in a fun way) when our house is bursting at the seams with in-laws and cousins and all the running and chatting and eating and laughing that comes with such events. My niece, who is 14, spent a lot of time that weekend taking pictures with her mobile phone and I really enjoyed seeing her enthusiasm and energy for this newfound outlet of creative expression. It was fun to watch her look at ordinary objects–flowers in the back yard, fence posts, bumblebees–and see them as beautiful creations to be photographed and shared with others. Of course most of those images ended up on her Instagram, and she liked to use filters and effects, but even though that’s not really how I operate I had to continually remind myself that it wasn’t about me. It was about her, and if she was happy doing what she liked then I wasn’t about to stop her.

The evening before they left she asked if she could use one of my cameras. Delighted at the chance to show her a bit more about photography, I let her have my Nikon D7100 with a 50mm lens and showed her how to control the lens aperture and what effect that had on the resulting image. She was pretty excited with this newfound level of control and wanted to try a bit more, so we went out to find some flowers to photography. I brought my Nikon D750 and 85mm lens, and we drove a few blocks from my house where we came across a patch of tulips someone had planted in an acre of grass near the road.

We spent the next half hour taking photos of the flowers, and I gave her some pointers about composition, lighting, and changing her angle of view. I showed her what happens when you shoot at f/1.8 vs. f/4 and how the former makes the background super blurry, but using physics instead of a filter. Through it all I tried to be careful to not downplay the pictures she had taken with her phone, but instead explain the reasons someone might choose a dedicated camera as well as what you can do when you take control over the exposure settings.

This picture (which I shot, though she has others very similar to it) demonstrates something we played around with during our time that evening: the idea that ordinary objects can become beautiful compositional elements when shot properly. The patch of blue with the white and orange lights on the left is just my 2007 Toyota Matrix but, with a little sunset lighting and the right perspective, can add a really neat splash of color to a photo :)


  1. What a wonderful story and what a beautiful picture. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Simon the Mentor, as usual!

Speak Your Mind