Marnie Parker

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I started doing photography in 2001 (approximately). I had moved in with my mother, who had dementia, to take care of her. Feeling more and more "housebound" I wanted a hobby that would get me outdoors and moving around in nature. I had always been at lousy photography, having used several film point & shoot cameras over the years. So I decided to try a class and see if I could get half-way decent at it.

I bought a film, all-manual camera, (this was before DSLRs had really taken off), the Pentax K1000, and took a beginning photography class. While I found a lot of things frustrating, to my amazement I improved tremendously. Having interchangeable lenses and more control over exposure (f-stops, shutter speed, etc.) gave me a sense of how a good photograph could be produced. I was very proud of my first "successful" efforts, although I look at them now and think they were just passable. :-)

After that first class with Stephanie Williamson, I went on to take intermediate and advanced classes with Bill Helsel. He ends his advanced photography class with a little “show” (mainly seen by family and friends). Having taken the class twice, my focus has shifted more and more (also as I have gotten better), from just shooting what is out there to shooting what is in my head (adhering to a theme). Thanks, Bill.

I have also taken several Photoshop classes at a local city arts program, a studio portrait class with Jerry Ott, a landscape photography class with Christopher Foster, and attended two seminars: one given by John Shaw, and one by George Lepp. Each photographer/teacher has had something to offer and I've learned a lot from each. While none of them has been in the field with me helping me with my camera (I wish), or pointing out things to shoot, each has had some unique expertise, that shared, enlightened me.

Somewhere in my photographic journey, I evolved the idea of combining photography and art work and am still working toward that end. I started out life as an artist and once oil painted (but got sidetracked by computer science, i.e. programming). The idea of merging the two excites me.

However, the users of PDML (Pentax Discuss Mailing List), tend to prefer their photography "straight," so most of the photographs you will see here are fairly unmanipulated. About six months into my photographic exploration I discovered the PDML email list online, and sharing my photos with its supportive and highly experienced members has been invaluable. So you will see many references to PDML, PESOs (Picture Every So Often), and GESOs (Gallery Every So Often), on these pages.

Equipment-wise, I migrated from the Pentax K-1000 to the Pentax ZX-5n, then to the Canon Elan, Canon Digital Rebel, Pentax K-100D, Canon XT, and now the Canon XSi. Most of my equipment I have bought used, except for two cameras and two lenses. When something no longer feels comfortable, when it feels like it is starting to limit me, I sell it on ebay and use the proceeds to partially defray the cost of another camera and/or lens. Thankfully, PDML members still welcome me, although I am 99% a Canon person now (I still have a Pentax Optio).

When I have a camera in my hands I look at the world differently -- appreciating everything more. But my photographic journey is far from complete. I now find myself almost compelled to shoot what is in the world that matches what I see in my mind's eye, or what I see happening around me that my wayward mind puts into some kind of a narrative. We shall see if I am successful.

Note that there are very few comments in these web pages, except for the two shows. So, although not a professional or great photographer, to help newbies, I decided to add some tips. Those below are culled from the classes I've taken and my personal experience.

All my photographs are copyrighted and none may be used without my permission (in any form -- web page linked, downloaded, printed, etc.).

Seven steps to becoming a better photographer:
  1. Learn. Take classes (or read). Starting with an all-manual film camera is not a bad way to learn the basics. Since film availability is now limited, try to start with a more basic DSLR (or start using only the basic features of your bells and whistles camera). Learn about f-stops, shutter speed, ISO, etc. and practice exposing manually. (Nowadays, also learn about camera raw and other relevant digital matters.)
  2. Copy. Find photographers you admire. Study their photographs and attempt to copy some of what they did/do. The attempts will help you discover your own style.
  3. Share. Share your photographs with people you respect (online is good). Listen to their feedback.
  4. Simplify. Shoot less in the frame and try to simplify your shots. Overly complex and/or "messy" pictures are hard for most eyes to process, so some of the very "best" photographs are very simple. You will find the level of simplicity that you like and that works for you.
  5. Slow down. With the arrival of image stabilization in all camera brands (in camera or lenses), many no longer use a tripod. (I don't, but past famous landscape photographers like Ansel Adams used large cameras which required a tripod.) This means one can go too fast. Slow down and spend more time setting up your shots and studying what is in the frame. (This is good practice even for street photography. You can always speed up later.) What you frame is what you get and the key to successful photographs.
  6. Shoot. Get out (or in) and take lots and lots of photographs. Shoot all kinds of things in all types of conditions. One doesn't improve when one only pulls out the camera occasionally. (It will also help you discover which subjects you like best.) In photography, practice does make perfect (or better, anyway :-)).
  7. Enjoy. Find subjects you care about and really want to shoot. Most of all, (learn to) relish taking pictures. If you don't enjoy the process, you are unlikely to enjoy the results.
Note: I am very flattered that when I sent Bill Helsel a link to this page, he came and looked at my seven steps and decided to use them in his photography class. Maybe he's not still using them, but he used them at least once. So there, Rockwell! Heh. My photography web page is quoted too! (This will be completely understandable to PDMLers.)



59 Photographers, 16 Countries, 1 Book

Preview the inside of book and/or order online

"The Online Photographer's" comments about the book

Editor, Mark Robert's, web page about the book

Steve Cottrel, Cotty's, generous review of the book
(It's almost as good as he says it is.)




Otherwise known as Doe (aka eactivist). 

© copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Marnie Parker
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Copy and redistribution is prohibited.


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