2012 Wedding Prep

Its been a long while since I posted but I have to confess I have been super busy. I spent most of the first two months of 2012 prepping for a wedding shoot. I did it for experience and for good friends.

I never learned so much so fast and although not everything went as planned overall it was a fairly successful day. I rented two lenses for the weekend a 24 – 70mm F2.8 Carl Zeiss and a 70 – 200mm f2.8 monster. To assist with using the telephoto I bought a monopod (which I love!). I shoot Sony so those were my only two choices.

Based on personal style I was less then happy with the 24 – 70 lens. Experience would have helped but I found photos to be soft, not out of focus but clearly a look I am personally not so fond of. The telephoto on the other hand gave crisp, clean photos even at f2.8. Would have used the telephoto more but I was shooting in tight quarters at a hotel. Not a lot of room to use a telephoto at max zoom or use the monopod.

Funny story and with apologies to the rental place I thought there was a problem with the 24 – 70 lens when I was shooting at 30mm (50mm or so on my cropped frame camera). Discovered it was a glitch with the Lightroom 4 beta. For some strange reason after I reopened Lightroom out of focus photos were now fine. Gave me a bit of a panic attack and a whole lot of anxiety. At first it felt like I failed an exam! All is fine lesson learned when using a beta.

Now the fun part editing, although most just need some cropping and not a lot of fixing. Which is great news because in years past editing took more time than shooting!

Will share photos soon.

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Through the Eyes of a Child

It is an interesting fact of life as you get older you forget about how it felt to have that new found sense of wonderment that a young child gets when learning a new task or just exploring their world.

On July 9th I decided the little girl we have been taking care of since she was a baby was mature enough to handle my entry level Sony a300. Kaede has over the past few years shown an interest in taking photographs with us. We even bought her one of those kid proof cameras, the ones that can be dropped, drowned or tossed without breaking. Not the greatest camera but it served its purpose.

More recently Kaede has been trying out my Dad’s Canon camera, a little heavy for a six year old but she still managed to take some pretty good photos. As expected there are still a few framing issues and the horizon is a bit skewed. I thought she would have better luck with a lighter camera.

On the Saturday at Rattlesnake Point in Milton, I set her up with the Sony and the 28mm prime. Thought a prime would be a bit easier than a telephoto. Plus one less thing to worry about getting accidently misused. I also had the camera on aperture, set at F-8 and one stop underexposed. With a 8gb card Kaede had the ability to take 1800 photos. Dad got quite the chuckle since it would be him sorting through whatever she happened to take.

I started with some pretty simple instructions, like if you want to get closer you will have to move your feet. We then had to amend instructions to include what was too close. Incredibly this photo worked for Kaede:

The only other rule was camera strap had to stay on her neck and if not in use to turn the camera off.  Kaede got the hang of it pretty quick although a faster shutter button in the hands of a six years old means a lot of photos. Still need a few extra lessons on framing I noticed a lot of heads getting chopped off!

After watching the fun she was having, Dad took the camera back to Fort Erie. Chloe and Kaede spent  nine very fun and busy days with them.

Post has been updated since photos have mysteriously reappeared from Dad’s black hole. Note the two photos posted here by Kaede are unedited except I did remove lens dirt from sunset photo. I didn’t have any expectations of the lens staying completely fingerprint or smudge free!

Next up camping in the Allegheny National Forest for five days which will be a great break from the outside word. There is no cell or wifi signal in the area (partially picked to keep Dad from working!). Biggest issue is keeping electronics charged, Dad’s new car does not have an electric plug like his old car.

Birth of a (small) Photography Monster

This is my contribution to ongoing discussions about gear collecting among all types of photographers. This is not me passing judgement just a blog post from my point of view.

The “monster” as my family calls it was born out of a gift one Christmas a few years back of an entry level Sony DSLR. At first I was shocked at the price of lenses, flashes and accessories but that wore off quickly. Thank fully my limited budget prevented me from expanding my collection too quickly. The other reason I have not become a gear monster is that I meet a person at my camera club that taught me that you really should only buy something if you really needed it. No point slapping a boat load of cash on an expensive piece of glass if it was only going to gather a lot of dust. I also learned early on I can purchase old Minolta digital lenses, great glass at great used prices.

This is the equipment I have as of today, all of it fits neatly into one back pack:

Sony a550 – just recently acquired this. My first camera was a300. I upgraded solely to reduce noise in low light situations, gain a little more fps and reduce the amount time I spend editing. It is a discontinued camera so bought it open box at a great price. Came with a Sony 18 – 55 SAM lens. I have not had a chance to try it out.

Sigma 55 – 200 F4 – F5.6 – my go to wildlife lens or when I want stealth shots at an event. This is a little short when trying to shoot wildlife since you have to get close for them to here you! May eventually try to find a longer lens but in no hurry.

Minolta 28mm F2.8 – My go to lens now. Bought it used. Funny story spotted the lens and at first thought it was a 50mm. Once the sales person confirmed it was a 28mm it was mine! This lens produces really sharp photos with soft backgrounds.

Sony 30mm Macro SAM – lens I bought to assist with taking close-ups of flowers and other items. Also the closest with a cropped camera to a 50mm. I have gotten really good photos with this even with hand holding the camera. One of the only lenses I have bought brand new.

Minolta 50mm – Another used lens but one that needs repair. Not sure what is wrong with it but it consistently is blowing out my photos smaller than F4. I tried a few tests with no luck solving the mystery. Currently this is not in my bag. Good thing because it would be a tight squeeze.

Flash Sony HVL-F42AM – a mid-level wireless flash that my sister just about passed out when she saw I much I paid for it. Even after I used a gift certificate and price matched. Big issue had to also purchase reusable batteries with charger. No point dragging around disposable batteries. Goal this year is to master this beast. I also need to purchase a reflector and diffuser for it soon.

Flash Sony HVL-F20AM – a small compact flash I got as a Christmas gift. Works great in casual situations where carrying the larger flash is not practical to carry. Only flaw with this flash is that it eats through AAA batteries.

Filters – Have a set of filters that were purchased in the US for the same cost as one. I have a 49mm ND filter, 49mm polarizing filter and a 55mm polarizing filter. I also have a UV filter that I need to use more but its tough to constantly flip between lenses. Plus I learned on one trip in certain weather conditions it can get jammed.

I also carry two batteries, an extra memory card and a small silver/white reflector. All of which is neatly packed in my small Lowepro camera backpack (although it barely fits my iPad in the front pocket). The other bag I have is a small holster Kata bag, which holds camera plus one lens. It includes a great water proof cover. This bag is great for quick trips and when you don’t want to look like you are carrying a camera. Kata’s are little expensive but make great bags. At the moment I am not carrying the a300 but keeping it as back-up and when I would like a second body with me. It is still a great camera for certain situations.

Now that I have all the primary gear I need the next step in my evolution is to master my camera and push myself to the next level. I have a seminar booked with Jay Maisel in June and full day conference in July with Scott Kelby. I am also trying to explore my city with camera in tow. I know the more I shoot the better I can get. Practice makes perfect.

As others have said it not about the gear its about the person behind the camera. It is also about understanding your strengths and weaknesses and not comparing yourself to others.  Studying other photographers is important but I know it’s about developing your style and voice (see I have been listening David DuChemin!). My photography will eventually be as unique as my fingerprint.

The fun part this summer will be to go out, take lots of photos and to keep learning & challenging myself.

Till next time!