I've been taking pictures for over 40 years. I got my first professional camera in Panama in 1972. It was a duty-free shop not far from the docks where tourists disembarked from cruise ships to shop.
People from Europe, the Orient, and North America would shop before passing through the Panama Canal on to distant destinations.
The shops smelled of incense, cedar, and aromas I could not name. The stores carried hand-carved boxes from India, porcelain from China, stereos, and cameras from Japan.
I decided on a Canon FTb with a 1.2 lens. I think it was $120. That lens alone would cost upwards of $800 today, but I digress.
I bought that camera and I studied the settings. It was fully manual, so you had to turn on the light meter before adjusting the shutter speed, F-stop, and of course the focus. Different combinations yielded different results.
For years I thought good photographs were the result of capturing the angle of light and the perfect combination of manual settings.
After I got out of the Army, I landed a job as a writer and photographer at a local community newspaper. My pictures were in focus, and the settings were near perfect, but my pictures were – ordinary. Now and then I'd get a good shot or two, but as they say, "Even a blind pig will find an acorn or two."
Then my lovely spouse gave me some of the best advice I've ever had. JIlda told me, "Don't fret so much about the settings, look at the subject and make it look as good as you can."
It took some time to get it. Mainly because I'm bull-headed, as my mama used to say, but I kept thinking the magic was in settings.
As it turns out, Jilda was right. When I started looking at the subject of the picture and how to make it look as good as possible, the quality of my photographs improved dramatically.
Here's a picture of an autumn leaf on the path this evening on my daily walk.