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The Birds of Paradise in Palisades Park.
Photo by Barbara Bishop
The Birds of Paradise in Palisades Park.

Santa Monica, Columnist, Photography, Hot Flash

Hold The Camera Steady, Fill The Frame, Keep The Sun Behind You

The cannon near the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.
Photo by Barbara Bishop
The cannon near the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.
Barbara Bishop, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Barbara Bishop, Columnist

Posted Dec. 4, 2013, 9:18 am

Barbara Bishop / Hot Flash Columnist

While some might swear by sudoku or word puzzles, there’s evidence that something much more near and dear to our hearts could help prevent cognitive decline: photography. In a study published in Psychological Science, a group of senior citizens who took a three-month photography course saw a significant increase across a number of mental tasks.

Okay – I am not quite a senior citizen yet, but I am interested in making sure I don’t lose my brain power. So I called a friend of mine, photojournalist Fabian Lewkowicz, to give me a short lesson on photography.    

He explained to me that street photography, walking around the streets of Santa Monica for an hour or so is a great way to capture Santa Monica’s beauty while getting exercise and learning photography skills. All that, and preventing cognitive decline at the same time. Let’s go!

We agreed to meet at Palisades Park. I did not have a camera, so he brought an extra one for me to use. The top three things he said I had to remember was hold the camera steady, fill the frame, and keep the sun behind you. Okay, sounds relatively simple.  

I started off just holding the camera, looking through the lens, pressing the button to take a picture and learning to use a zoom lens. I never really thought I liked taking photos because I hated learning how to use a professional-type camera. But Fabian was patient with me, and I quickly got comfortable with using it.  

We started taking photos of the beautiful Birds of Paradise grouped together in the park.  Fabian reminded me, “Hold the camera steady, fill the frame, and keep the sun behind you!” Sun behind me – check. Fill the frame – check. Hold the camera steady – check. I was ready to take the shot. I clicked the camera.  

Somehow, the clicking sound of the camera motivated me to take more photos. I eagerly moved on to other flowers close by. Click, click, click! Oops, I held the clicker for too long. I only wanted one photo. Okay, Barb, focus. Fabian suggested we move on to something other than flowers. We walked over to a cannon.  

What could I do with this? Fabian requested that I take a picture of a portion of the cannon that seemed interesting to me. I love those kinds of photos, so I honed in on a portion of the cannon and clicked away.

An hour went by so quickly! Walking for physical exercise, taking photos for mental exercise. Loved it.

Fabian has a photography class – “The Santa Monica Close-up Photo Walk,” – to register, go to his website It’s a two hour guided tour led by Fabian, a freelance press photographer for several local newspapers and publishes, a photo journal of everyday life in Santa Monica.

The photo walk tour is conducted in a small group setting and is for beginners to advanced photographers. Photos can be captured from camera phones, to point and shoot cameras, to advanced single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras – the one I used.

After our session, Fabian sent some of the photos I took to my e-mail. They were pretty good!

Hot Flash Universe is the go-to source for women over 40 seeking insight into the hottest, most current trends, products, and issues. Topics are approached with candor, intellect, and a healthy dose of humor.

Barbara Bishop is President of Santa Monica-based BBPR, Inc. For comments or suggestions, email

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