How to Practice Photography

I want to start practicing photography. I’ve shot for a while now, but I haven’t really practiced.  I’ve only shot when it’s convenient.  That’s been fine up to this point in my journey, but it’s time for me to start becoming an active vs. a passive photographer.  

So how do you practice?  In The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, he talks about the difference between practicing and deeply practicing.  To practice deeply is to practice with a purpose.  If I simply set the goal of shooting a roll of film a day, I will get better, but a lot of my improvement will come haphazardly.  However, if I set out to push a roll of film 2X and test the results, or if I set out to see how close I can get to people when I photograph them, then I will walk away from each practice session with an outcome and a lesson learned.  

My rules of photography practice: 

1.  Shoot for one hour  a day - (Forces me to get out and work)

2.  Have a learning outcome for each session - (Forces me to practice deeply)

3.  Carry a notebook and document my learning - (Forces me to learn)

4.  Set up a specific time each day that I can shoot and calendar it - (Forces me to not come up with excuses)

I don’t want to make this too complicated.  If I do, it won’t happen.  

Time to go to work.

John Free - Master of Street Photography

If you want someone to look up to as a photographer, I would suggest John Free. John is one of the photographers that understands a powerful moment. Here is one of my favorite shots from him.

 I love it for several reasons: 


I am extremely patriotic. I have an American flag in my home and in my office. John is using some of the most powerful concepts we can all relate to which are death, honor, and freedom. When you look at this image, what does it do to your emotional state? Do you feel sad? Do you feel grateful? Do you feel moved to protect what you love? 


John is always talking about a center of interest; without one, a picture is rarely worth looking at. In this image, the veteran is our center of interest. His image is right in our face and we are instantly connected with him. 


 John Free works hard to get three things into each image that tell the whole story. When you look at his work, see if you can count them. In this picture, we have the veteran crying, we have his outfit which shows pride and respect for his fallen comrades, and we have the graves. All three things serve to smack you right in the face with a message. I love it. 

If you want to learn more about John’s work, check out his gallery at You can also do workshops with him! For $400, you can spend an entire day shooting one-on-one with him and learn from the best. I can’t image a better way to improve doing what I love. 

As a final note, if this blog ever makes its way into John’s hands, I would love to tell him thanks for his work. His dedication to photography is something that pushes me to keep working at it. 

Photographing Majestic Mount Rainier

Sitting in the airport now waiting for my flight back and reflecting on how crazy this day has been.  Let me start from the beginning.  

My alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. but I was up 30 minutes earlier excited with the thought of decent weather and seeing Rainier.  I had been listening to the rain all night and as morning came, the rain slowed down and eventually stopped.  At 5 a.m. I ran outside and looked up at the sky.  Stars.  I could see stars.  That meant that the sky was clear and the weather forecast had been accurate.  I got ready as fast as I could and headed up to the mountain.  

When you enter a National Park that early in the morning, there are no lines or people to deal with; you just drive right on in like you own the place.  The road had iced over and I had to slow down as my truck took a slight spin and righted itself.  My spot was about a 30 minute drive into the park.  I got there at 6 a.m. and waited.  First light would be in an hour and shortly after the sun would come up.   

And then, as if the sky hated me, a single cloud came out of the north east and slid right in front of the volcano and parked itself.  It was like the wind blew it in and then ran out of gusto to keep pushing it on. I panicked, prayed, and waited.  Nothing happened.  As first light appeared, I could see the entire park and sky except for Rainier.  I was crushed.  Then I thought of another lookout that was quite a bit higher in elevation that might give me a better view so I took the car another 15 minutes up the road and parked.  The mountain looked exactly the same and I gave up.  

I had a beautiful sunrise on my hands and I wasn’t going to miss it waiting for Rainier to stop being shy so I pointed my camera in the opposite direction and got a shot of a beautiful landscape.  Since I was in the blue hour and shooting Velvia, a slow film at 50 ISO, my exposure required that the shutter be open for over 2 minutes.  Halfway through that exposure, the sun burned the clouds off of Rainier and there it was - the Volcano with it’s snowy glaciers turning golden in the morning light.  After the final minute of my current exposure, I ran across the viewpoint to face Rainier and got my shot.  Relief flooded through me.  I must have checked the settings on my camera a thousand times before I pulled the shutter.   

Through the rest of the day, I looked at Rainier from a few different angles and got my last shots before packing up and heading home.   

I will say this, the shear size of Rainier cannot be understood.  Sitting at the base of it and comparing it to the surrounding mountains made it look huge, but it wasn’t until I got back to the airport that I fully understood its size as it loomed over Tacoma.  All of the mountains around the area look like dirt piles as Rainier takes up so much of the horizon and sky.  It’s so big it looks unnatural, like it had been built by man and set there as an attraction to be seen for miles and miles around. 

Rainier is truly one of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen. 

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