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Got to thinking about things – all manner of abstract and oddity – during my drive to Lock Haven last weekend. Mandy was asleep in the passenger’s seat, traffic was sparse in the early morning hours, and my mind wandered as it usually does on long trips. I won’t bore you to deal with a full account, such as the 20 minutes I spent with my substandard math skills trying to calculate how much time another 2 mph would save.

But something that did come to mind was a recent change in trends in my shooting style. These days I’ve found myself getting back to the very basics and shooting in full manual mode. All the time. And interestingly enough, I’ve been enjoying it very much, to the extent that I’ve avoided the other shooting modes completely.

To be fair, the only shooting modes I ever use are M, Av, and Tv. (Those are the Canon designations, which my brain still defaults to – on the Olympus, they are actually M, A, and S. Same thing, different names.) M and Av are the main two, comprising 98% of situations. Tv comes out during airshows or a few other random situations.

I learned to shoot in Manual mode. My mentor insisted on it, and around the same time I was still playing around with a Canon A-1 film camera, which was largely manual as well. So it was a dual-training period and I pretty quickly became comfortable with M mode. I liked controlled all three aspects of the exposure (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) manually. It fits with the whole Type-A personality, OCD, control freak nature.

But over time I came to appreciate the convenience of Av mode, where I could set the aperture I wanted and then more or less not worry about the exposure, save for some exposure compensation adjustments. Av was great in any situation where the lighting is fairly static – it just hums along without much input needed from the photographer.

For the past several years most of my shooting was done in Av mode. Portraits, events, landscapes, wildlife – anything that didn’t require very specific exposure settings, where I could trust the camera to make the right calculations. Cool.

But I’ve realized that lately, I guess just before I ditched Canon for Olympus, I’ve been making the switch back to M mode. I like manipulating both controls. It comes naturally. It’s quick and easy.

So what does all this mean? Damned if I know. I’m just sharing what ran through my mind while driving I-80 West. I don’t think there’s any stigma from shooting in any of the manual modes (M, Av, Tv) – although I firmly believe that Auto and P modes are for point & shoot users only. But for whatever it’s worth, there’s a little insight into how I do things. Now on to more pressing matters.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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