Over the last two years I've taken nearly 25,000 photos all over the world, I've bought two cameras, I've spent hundreds of hours reading and studying and learning about photography, and sometimes after I go out and take pictures I wonder what it's all for.  I look at what I've got on my camera and I can't believe I would put such poor quality images on the internet.  So sometimes what I need to do to keep from quitting altogether is to go back through my old photographs and look at the difference all that work makes.  So this post is all about the process of getting better.  What it looks like to get better.  These ten photos show where I'm at right now, what I can do today with a camera and a computer.  The pictures on top show today.  The pictures below will show where I was a year ago.  A year and a half ago.  I'm not always happy with my photos, but it's nice to see what all the work I've done looks like.  I think the biggest takeaway for me is that I know how to use my camera now, I understand most of the functions and settings, and I've got Adobe's Lightroom.  As always, here's 10 pictures and some foolish comments.
I think the biggest difference between these pictures is that I might want to print the top one, look at it in my house, while I'm happy to just keep the bottom one on my computer and look at it every now and then.  I think the best way for me to think about it is the difference between pictures and photographs.  I'm slowly moving away from taking pictures to taking photographs.

The bottom picture is one of the first temple pictures I took with my d7000.  It's an extremely straightforward picture.  Yes, I was here.  Yes, there's a temple.  Yes, I took a picture.  The one of top has a bit more strength, a bit more drama.  I think it captures my version of the place.

Light painting is awesome.  There are some incredible light painting photos out there.  But it's not easy.  It requires a pretty good understanding of how your camera works and what your camera sees.  The picture on top was made by my brother, while the picture on the bottom was made by some of my sixth graders a year ago.  A big difference in my understanding of what the camera can do.

I like the picture on the bottom, but we were trying to do silhouettes in the sunset.  But we had no idea how to force silhouettes, they only happened accidentally.  The picture on the top was made on purpose, with a full understanding of how to get it done.

I've taken thousands of pictures of Sara, but the one on the bottom is one of the worst.  Bad lighting, bad editing, just bad.  The one on top is by no means perfect, but it's certainly better.
Sunsets.  I'm looking out my window and shaking my fist at the grey skies of Korea.  It's always grey here.  Plus I work nights, so I rarely have the opportunity to shoot sunsets.  I was shooting the bottom picture on a break from work and was so happy to see the sunset and so proud of this shot, but what is it?  The one on top is indicative of sunset in Tucson almost every day.  It's not the world's greatest sunset picture, but it's an improvement.
Eighteen months ago my sister took us to Gates Pass in Arizona.  I took this picture on the bottom with my Samsung EX1 and thought, man, that's awesome.  Three weeks ago we were back there with my Nikon and I took this picture on top.  This is the set of pictures to me that says, wow, keep hitting those books and keep taking pictures, you'll get better.

My wife and I started a kindergarten program at our school and one of the things I do for it is run a blog with pictures and updates on the kids.  The picture on the bottom is pretty representative of where I was at last year.  A little out of focus, too dark, something you might be able to take on your phone.  The picture on top seems like a bit more than that.

Until I've got a press pass around my neck and get all the access that the professional photographers do, I'm never going to be perfectly happy with my pictures from the fireworks festival.  But I do think this years were an improvement.  They're over edited and a little sloppy, but I know how to take a long exposure, and I know how to fake an HDR, two things I had no real understanding of a year ago.

I basically bought my camera because I wanted to take awesome pictures at Homigot and other weird places in Korea.  I was pretty proud of that bottom picture when I took it.  But, looking at it now, it's just kind of boring.  Why is there so much sidewalk?  I don't know.  The one on top is just a big step forward.

So that's it.  Here's where I'm at today, fifteen months after buying my first DSLR.  I've worked nearly non-stop over the last year to get better, and it's paying off bit by bit.  My goal this year is to stay hungry.  Keep taking pictures, keep reading, keep learning.  Hopefully if I do this post next year, my "good pictures" will be on the bottom, and there'll be a whole new set of photos I'm proud of.

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