Dianne Blankenbaker really looks up to her photography subjects. That’s because they’re sometimes soaring above her head.
Blankenbaker has been involved in raptography (the combination of birding and photography) for a few years now, and the work continues to fascinate her. That’s significant because some of her other hobbies haven’t lasted.
“Figure skating, rock climbing, and other hobbies I’ve had have just been passing things,” Blankenbaker explains. “I get excited and then the feeling wanes. Photography is different. It is steadfast; my ‘go-to’ creative outlet for stress. It’s complimentary to my desire to get out and experience new things.” For Blankenbaker, photography is the hobby that has endured and is now a passion.
Blankenbaker’s life has been a series of transitions. Her varied career path includes working with AT&T in the corporate environment, then getting her Masters degree in education. Meeting a photographer and modeling for him was a turning point in her life. “Photography for me seemed complex and overwhelming,” she admits. The photographer’s explanations of what he was doing and the advent of digital photography allowed her to quickly go from appreciating the work of others to making her own photos. When her husband needed help with an eBay project she used an early digital camera to get needed images.
A move to Chattanooga in 2012 saw Blankenbaker, a bird lover, become involved with “Wings to Soar,” a non-profit education organization that uses unreleasable birds of prey (raptors) in educational programs. It wasn’t long before the educator in her saw the opportunity to combine the program’s ability to show people about birds with her ability to teach photography. Her work helped her to develop good rules for photographing birds, something that can present a challenge. “I teach people how to get that bird in flight without blurring and how to follow the bird as it moves,” Blankenbaker says. Teaching the art of raptography has been positive for her and for her students. Her use of live birds in her workshops keeps the students’ attention.
Blankenbaker’s workshops feature small classes for beginners and more advanced photographers with a wide range of subjects including raptography, how to pan, photography with slow shutter speeds, and even iphoneography.
Photography is different. It is steadfast; my ‘go-to’ creative outlet for stress.
Recognizing that photographers are always looking for ways to grow, she offers ways to improve existing skill sets. “It can help you form a framework for thinking and identify areas you need to grow as a photographer,” she offers. “Having a complete view of the areas we can potentially grow in can help us find avenues to to reinvigorate our interest and our creativity.”
Those of us who join photography clubs are generally looking for ways to improve as photographers and clubs certainly offer a lot of opportunities for growth.
What we often fail to do, however, is to assess the landscape of skills required for photography and consciously choose where we most want to develop. For beginners, this process offers a way to categorize what you don’t know and begin to tackle it one step at a time. For advanced photographers, when we reach a plateau, we may experience a loss of inspiration. Having a complete view of the areas we can potentially grow in can help us find avenues to reinvigorate our interest and our creativity.
Blankenbaker will present her lecture “Growing as a Photographer: A Landscape (with Birds!) for Learning” complete with amazing photographs and tips on bird photography to the Cookeville Camera Club on Monday, August 25 at 7 pm at the Cookeville Presbyterian Church just off the square.
“In this presentation, I will share my own view (based on both personal experience and research on how people learn and perform better) of 6 sets of skills successful photographers bring to the table, thoughts on evaluating what “successful” means for you and where your own skills are, and guidance on how to be your own best teacher. I will use bird photography as the main examples for how each of these skill sets are applied and, of course, provide tips on photographing birds of prey along the way.”
For more information visit Blankenbaker’s website at www.snapgreatphotos.com.