Saturday, March 15, 2008

Photographic Experiences

This year is a little different for me. I've become much more interested in Photography. Well saying that I've become "interested" is a little misleading. I've always been interested - but perhaps I've become more than the "casually interested" me of before - excited being a much better word now.

I've had access to a camera right since I was at least 6 or 7. In fact I recently came across an old photograph of our family with a visiting cousin from back in 1970. There I am at age 6 or so, with a camera hanging on a strap around my neck. Something like an old 35mm Ilford (or maybe Minolta) camera. These days, we'd mistakenly call them a rangefinder camera, however strictly speaking there was no rangefinding capability on it - you had to figure out focus by dead reckoning. All the way when I was growing up, I had a 35mm camera and used to take photos on holiday - using the handheld meter and trying to figure out the distance to focus with best I could. I used to shoot mainly on Agfa 64 slide film.

Having grown up, finished school and gone to University; when I had finished my undergraduate degree, I felt the need for something a little better and more usable as a camera. I'd been looking around at SLR 35mm cameras for a year or two. Finally, I bought a Nikon F301 camera and a couple of lenses. This mainly as I was involved in the creative arts (as a musician and composer) and wanted the ability to document performances, for myself and other creative artist colleagues. From here on, I ended up shooting mainly print film, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was a little cheaper (University students not being known for lots of money), secondly I could shoot faster film which was better for indoor work and thirdly the extra latitude of the film helped get over any inconsistencies that the lighting or situations provoked in getting a good exposure.

Time passes (boy isn't that the truth) and other things become important, like family, work, career etc. The photography, while not at all major, was still there to some extent. Photos of family mainly. The biggest issue, probably was that lack of consistent practice, means that one's skills and confidence with the camera are affected. I ended up not shooting because I was only putting a couple of films through the camera per year. Not enough to be confident of getting the shot or knowing really what I was doing.

Come the new Millenium and I was in a different sort of job. Working for a network development company in a fairly senior role. Travelling on business frequently and needing to document locations and events. Basically the company decided to buy a couple of the new latest Sony Cybershot F-505 Digicams. The first time I used one of these was on a trip to a conference in Europe in 2000. I was with a colleague and we had the camera with us at the time. I remember suddenly understanding the point of the immediacy that digital offered. Being able to see immediately, what had happened. I really enjoyed the experience and became quite excited by the future, until I realised how much still that a digicam cost. On that trip, I took some photos that I really liked (and would like to see again) - but that's the problem when you are sharing a camera with someone else - things get lost along the way. Over the next year or two, I borrowed one of the Sonys here and there for special occasions and found the experience wonderful.

So, somewhere around 2004 we bought a Nikon digital compact, a Coolpix 4300. The prices of digital had been coming down sufficiently that we could afford to do something about having one in the house. Of course this revolutionises how you and the rest of the family relate to photos and photography. The move to having pictures on a computer. The ease of having immediate feedback of what happens and the low cost of taking a photo of any occasion you can think of means that the who family gets much more photographically aware. What it didn't really do however, was give me sufficient flexibility and scope to feel properly creative and able to photograph what I wanted.

Somewhere around the last few months of 2006, I started feeling like I wanted to get back more to the "hobbiest" mode of photography that I had enjoyed when I was younger. To me this meant some sort of decent camera - most likely of the SLR type. Having looked around - I wondered about a so called "Bridge" camera (sometimes called a Super-zoom as they often have fixed lens zooms with a large range). I figured out that given the way photography was going, having a camera with RAW capabilities was much more flexible and most likely the better way to go. Most bridge cameras were in some way compromised, either in image quality, lack of RAW or suffered from noise issues in low light. Having realised this,  I then started concentrating on finding an appropriate DSLR (in kit form) that did what I wanted without breaking the bank. Finally, just before Christmas, I went out and bought a Nikon D50 twin lens kit (18-55mm and 70-300mm zooms included). The reason for buying Nikon was simply that I already had some Nikon 35mm gear, and figured that it was reliable, good quality and I might be able to use some of the lenses I had.

This triggered a year of playing around, using the camera where I had been previously (on holiday and family gatherings) and a little bit of trying out some other things I wouldn't have (see the previous post re: comet photo). I guess that while I had the camera, that wasn't still sufficient. Making time to actually go and do things is important and also working on my skills of "seeing" the photo first, being able to work with composition within the frame was just as important.

So, then we come to this year. I had decided by the end of last year, that I wanted to know more, get involved with others in some way and basically improve my ability to "see" a photo. Basically the aim was to deliberately go and enjoy taking photographs, but also to find some creative outlet and direction for what I was doing. Therefore, this year I've joined the local Photographic Society - looking for enthusiasm, expertise and camaraderie along the way. So far I've found all of that and more. For the first time for quite a while, I've been consistently enthusiastic and excited about photography for 2-3 months now and getting out and taking photos.

I've also started contributing more to Flickr, joining a few groups and enjoying interacting with other photographers there. You will notice that this site now has, a side bar with a slideshow of my current Flickr photos. Please feel free to click through there, and leave comments on individual photos.

So far, that is what there is to say. However if you keep watching the Flickr feed you will see more. Also, I'll see whether I can document and discuss a little more on this blog, some of the experiences as I go on the journey.

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