Welcome! I am an amatuer photographer with a desire to actual sell my work. I will probably not post often, as I have a real job and a real family to take care of. I hope to provide some enjoyable reading on the adventures of a photographer that doesn't shoot as much as he should.
So, if you visit or participate on a photography bulletin board, the question "How did you become interesting in photography?" will eventually be posted. If you participate on any of the boards I frequent, you will have read all of this before, if not, read on!
My grandfather made his living in photography. He was a portrait photographer for Glenn Glenn studios in Hollywood, CA. The previous sentence sounds much more glamorous than it really was. My grandfather's job was to go door to door selling protrait coupons to families. Then, similar to the modern day business model, he "upsold" his client more photos after the shoot. The photo shoots did not take place in some fancy studio, but in the client's own home.
My father worked for Mitchell Camera Corp. Mitchell Camera made motion picture cameras and sold them to the studios. The company experienced a measure of success, but was eventually squeezed out by Panavision, whose business model of renting the cameras to the studios was more cost effective than having to buy and repair the cameras. My father was very good at his job, and Panavision offered him a lucrative offer to come and work for Panavision once they bought Mitchell Camera out. My father's experience in still photography was as an advanced amateur. As you can see though, he possesses a wealth of technical knowledge born from the manufacture of these cameras and just being in the business.
My first exposure to photography was in the living room of my grandparent's apartment. My grandfather was not a technical photographer. From what I have gathered through my memories and conversations with my father, my grandfather learned photography on the job. My father, on the other hand, was nothing if not technically oriented. He knew all about what made a camera work. Since my father's and grandfather's knowledge came from different points of view, this lead to some fairly heated conversations on photography, both in technique and equipment. These conversations became so famous, or infamous within the family that we would say "they're talking cameras again, stay away."
The funniest conversation that I can remember was my dad and grandfather arguing about lighting. My grandfather was showing my father some portraits that he took of a dark skinned family. In every shot, there was a giant white spot on the subjects forehead where the lights had blown out the shot.
My grandfather would say, "Louis, there is nothing you can do about that. It is what it is. To get the lights bright enough for the right exposure causes this on dark skin."
My dad would counter, "Dad, your nuts. bounce the lights. Use a diffuser. Use anything but that reflector dish that creates a laser beam on the face of those poor people."
My grandfather would counter, "You obviously have no idea what you are talking about." This would go on and on for hours. The entire time, the rest of the family would be rolling their eyes or laughing at them. You thought they were arguing about the cure for cancer based on how passionate they were.
Initially, these conversations made me want to do anything but pursue photography as a hobby. Besides my father and my grandfather, photography was almost hated in my family. Besides the conversations, what also contributed to the hatred was the fact that my father had issues focusing his camera. Cameras in those days were all manual focus. Many of them came with split focus screens. Split focus screens worked by creating a little circle in the middle of the screen. Within this little circle, the image would be split, not aligned, if it were out of focus. As the image came into focus, the image would align in the little circle. I don't know if it was a vision problem or just that my dad was a perfectionist, but he would take FOREVER to focus his camera. It was so bad that no one wanted to have their picture taken. If we did pose and my father took a long time focusing, the ranting and raving from his subjects could be heard far and wide. "Hurry Up", or "The food is getting cold", or even, "My face hurts from smiling" were familiar chides. You can imagine, the last thing I wanted to do is be subjected to that kind of vitriol.
The event that changed everything was the birth of my daughter. My father had given me a Canon AE-1 and a few lenses to go along with it. He also gave me a Vivitar 285 flash and a motor winder for the camera. I had used it from time to time, but shelved it after the Disneyland incident.
The Disneyland Incident...Ahhh that brings back memories. My wife and I made a trip to Disneyland and I wanted to take photos. I decided I would take the AE-1 with motor winder, flash, and a 35-105 lens attached. This ten pound boat anchor was then placed around my neck. Boy, did I look professional. It didn't take long for me to realize that having 10 pounds around my neck was not the best thing to have if you are trying to enjoy an amusement park. I took precious few photos and shelved the camera for a couple of years.
So, back to the birth of my daughter. My daughter was born in 1992. If there was digital photography at the time, I surely didn't know about it. So, I started taking photos with the AE-1 and an F-1 my father had given me. I quickly understood why my dad took so long focusing to get the shot right. A split focus screen is great if you want to take shots where there is a clearly definable line that you and use to focus your shot. Try it on a human face, especially one that is moving around, and it gets much more difficult. I quickly realized that I would need an autofocus camera. I didn't have money for an autofocus SLR, so I settled for a Pentax point and shoot, which suited my purposes perfectly for family snapshots.
So, there is a brief, or not so brief, history of my family and photography. Hopefully it gives some insight to my viewpoints on photography and equipment.
Remember, this is a blog!
Last Sunday, my wife and I attended the Taste of Marietta. This is a one day event where restaurants all over Cobb County set up booths in Marietta Square and the public pays for small portions, or tastes, of what their restaurant has to offer. Melissa and I love these types of events, so when I passed a billboard advertising the event, we put it on the calendar to attend.
I wrote in an earlier post about the whole "which camera to take" dilemma. I won't rehash it here, suffice it to say that I decided to go without a DSLR or compact camera. The only camera I had was the one built into my phone. I made this decision because I figured this one day event would be crowded and a camera bag would just make the crowds harder to navigate. Also, I wasn't sure if there was going to be anything of interest to photograph. I work close to Marietta Square, and while beautiful, there isn't much to photograph.
The place was packed! Even though we arrived a half an hour after the start of the event, the crowds were already voluminous.
The above shot was taken with my HTC Thunderbolt. As you can see, the camera in my phone struggles with highlights. One humorous side note. The ladies in the lower right of the photograph were handing out free samples of Tums Freezers, which are a mix of antacid and mint. There were at least 8 of these ladies around the festival, and if I would have taken a sample every time I was offered one, I would have had 200 of the things in my pocket.
After making the rounds twice, Melissa and I decided to seek some shade. The only shade to be had was in the middle of the square, so we decided to watch the band on the main stage. Classic AOR is not my bag, but they were obviously very talented.
Again, from the camera in my phone. I editted this shot using a Google Chrome App called pixlr. I am going to cover free and online photo editors in a future blog post. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised at the capabilities of this online app.
My favorite performers of the day were the two man band. I don't know the real name of their band, or even if they have one. These two young men were playing instrumental covers of what I like to call "Party Metal". Bands like AC/DC, Van Halen, Aerosmith and the ilk. They were fun and extremely talented.
Overall, My wife and I had a very good time. I even got to eat some sweets!!! Melissa and I shared some Hedgehog Pie from the local Austrailian Bakery. Hard chocolate topping a chocolate and coconut cake. Delicious!!!
Okay, lots of stuff about the Taste of Marietta and a little about photography and the crappy camera in my phone.
Thanks for reading!!
This is not a product review, although I will write about some of the specs and about the performance of my Pro-Optic 8mm Fisheye lens. If you want a full blown product review, go somewhere else. If you want to read about some average guy's experience with a low priced, entry level fisheye lens, then you have come to the right place!
So, it was Christmas 2010, and my family had no idea what to get me for a gift. To be honest, I didn't know what I wanted. I was reading a review of this fisheye in Shutterbug Magazine, and the lens looked promising. I have always wanted a fisheye lens, but the Canon offerings were too expensive for my budget. The article promised full 180 degree fisheye performance in a lens with a price under $300.00! I thought, "Can't beat that with a stick!", so I ordered the lens.
I love Adorama. I think they have great products and for the most part great service. I have to tell you though, their decision to partner with Streamlite to ship their products have made me reluctant to purchase anything else from them. I ordered my lens the Monday after Christmas. Now, Adorama is in New York, and I live in Atlanta. Normally, when I order products from New York based companies, I can choose normal shipping and I will see my order within 5 days. With Streamlite, my order took over 2 and and a half weeks to show up. Streamlite's business model is that they will pick up the packages for shipping from vendor, ship them via USPS, then pick them up at the destination and deliver them. Huh? Why not let the Post Office handle this directly? Why add a middle man? By the time my lens arrived at my house, my head was ready to explode with frustration. If you decide to order something from Adorama or any other business that offers Streamlite as an option, pay a little more for UPS or FedEx. Streamlite blows. Okay, that is the end of my rant.
The Pro-Optic fisheye is only for cameras with an APS-C sized digital sensor. It will fit on film cameras or full sized digital sensor cameras with the same mount, but the image circle will not fully cover the sensor or film. You set the aperture manually and you focus manually. There is a funny thing about the manual focus. At 8mm, I can't see anything out of focus when looking through the viewfinder or after looking at the images on my computer, regardless of the focus or aperture settings. So, all I do is leave the lens on infinity and set the aperture to f/22. For me, the point of a good fisheye photo, is that everything in the shot is in focus. Fisheye shots are not the place for bokeh.
If you don't know the fisheye effect, basically, the lens captures everything in a 180 degree field of view. It does this with a severely rounded front optic, which looks like a fish's eye, thus the moniker. The photo below shows the effect well, I think.
I was right under the pedestal of this sculpture. The angle is so wide, I couldn't lay down to get further away because my feet were getting into the photo. You can also see that the severe curvature of the front optic bends the vertical and horizontal lines in the composition as they move farther away from the center. Some will use corrective software to straighten the lines, but personally, I love the effect. The fisheye lens gives a unique perspective to the world.
If you do not have a fisheye lens, I highly recommend that you buy or rent one and give it a whirl.
Most of the photographic blogs out there today focus on instructional content and product reviews. While there is nothing wrong with that, it sort of goes against what "Web Logs" were supposed to be, which is a log of what you are doing and why. So, while I may still may give my opinion on some, or all, of the equipment I use, or give instruction or opinion on certain photographic techniques, I am going to try and record my photographic journey as well.
I went to the 76th Annual Dogwood Festival on Sunday, April 22. I always have an inner arguement with myself when going to events like this. I usually consider three options; no camera, the Olympus E-410 kit, or my full blown backpack full of Canon gear. Sunday was no different as I waited for my wife to get ready to go.
My first option is no camera at all. Now, that is really not true, as my cell phone has a camera built in, but, I would not have to carry any sort of camera bag of walk around with a camera hanging off of my neck. Besides the advantage of not having to carry around the gear, not bringing a camera also frees up my mind to really enjoy the event. When I take a camera, regardless of event or location, I go into "photographer" mode. Every thing I look at, every location I visit, is visualized with a potential photograph in mind. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does put me in a different frame of mind. I tend not to enjoy the show on stage, but instead think about the lighting, or the composition of potential shots. I also tend to drive those around me a bit crazy, as I linger in areas that hold no interest for a non-photographer and want to hurry past those happenings, that while entertaining and interesting, hold no photographs for me. So I have found myself more and more not taking a camera to events when I go with family or friends.
My second option was to take my Olympus E-410 kit. I really like this kit. I have the camera, a 25mm lens (50mm equiv on a 35mm camera), a 14-45 lens and a 40-150 lens. All three of these lenses are considered consumer grade lenses. The zooms are slow f/4-f/5.6, kind of soft, plastic items. The 25mm is a bit faster at f/2.8, but is not tack sharp by any means. With that said, I don't want to confuse "not sharp" with an inability to produce an in focs shot. This camera and lens combination is very capable. There are just sharper lenses out there. What I really like about this kit is the weight. Everything about this kit is lightweight. I don't need a neck strap with this camera, only a wrist strap. The camera is very small in comparison to other DSLRs on the market, and almost invisible in my hand when coupled with the 25mm pancake lens. That is the main reason why this is what I use when I attempt to do street photography. I do have to wear a camera bag, and even though it is small and light, it is still there. I have to make sure I walk on the non-bag side of my wife just to be able to hold her hand. My biggest concern when I take this kit out and about is that if I encounter that once in a lifetime photographic event, I will only have mid level equipment that will not do the best jog in capturing the shots I want. This kit is the best compromise between no camera and the Canon kit.
Ah, Canon, my first love. My first camera was a Canon AE-1 that my father gave me. He also gave me a JC Penney brand 35-105 zoom lens. The camera, lens, motor winder and flash together must have weighed 10 pounds.
Canon DSLRs aren't much lighter than that old AE-1 boat anchor. I own a Canon 50D with a battery grip installed. My favorite lens is the 24-105 f/4 L lens. It has a great zoom range and does a great job reproducing the colors I see. The back pack has an 8mm fisheye in it, a Tamron 11-16 lens, a Tamron 17-50 lens, the 24-105, and a Canon 70-200 f/4L, a Canon 580 EX flash and other odd ball accessories. The back pack weighs a ton. It is worth taking on those photography only trips. On events like the dogwood festival though, it is questionable. The positives are that I will get a sharp photo with great colors and a huge RAW file created my the 15MP sensor of the 50D. The downside is that carrying around a heavy camera and lens combination along with a backpack full of equipment is that it can seriously hinder my enjoyment of the event. And, if I am not having a good time, chances are, the people with me are not having a good time. Some have told me to only take the camera and one lens. That's easy for them to say, but what if I take the 24-105 and need some serious zoom, or visa versa. Nope, I bought all this equipment to use it, so if I take the Canon, all the crap goes with it.
For Sunday's trip, I decided to go with the Oly E-410. As it was the first time at the Dogwood Festival, I wasn't sure what the photographic opportunities would be, so I didn't want to be weighed down with the full blown Canon kit, but I definitely didn't want to be without a camera.
The Dogwood Festival is held every year at Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta. Piedmont Park is the Central Park of Atlanta and a lovely place to hold an event like this. It is the first festival of spring, so, as you can imagine, it was packed. Luckily, my wife and I attended the Atlanta Art in the Park event last year, so we knew that the crowds would be heavy. With that in mind, we left early on Sunday. If you are ever in Atlanta and decide to go to the festival, go early to beat the traffic. You might need to hang out a little while before the performances start, but it is worth not having to sit in traffic for hours. Below is a shot of the typical park path lined with art vendors.
I really enjoyed walking the art vendors. There were a vast array of different art offerings, with more than the usual number of photographers offering their wares. Most of the photography displays were very good, good enough for me to mention to my wife that the quality of work had me a little intimidated, but that is for another blog post. What the art walk did teach me is, if you are going to print your work, print it BIG!!!
From the art walk, we stumbled upon the International Stage. An Irish Dance school was just about to start a performance. My wife, Melissa, loves Irish dance, so we grabbed a seat to watch. They were great. From a photography aspect, it was a tough venue and a difficult time of day to capture anything but a snapshot, but I gave it a go.
As you can see, the subjects were shaded, the sun was bright, the flags were made of plastic and very reflective. The fact that more of the shot isn't blown out amazes me. Here is where the Canon kit would have helped out, but I don't think a technically better shot would make it any more interesting. Still, it documents the event adequately.
From there, we perused more art vendors, and then we got thirsty. Nothing quenches my thirst better than over priced event beer. Melissa had some luke warm chardonnay. Still, as long as the goal is to quench your thirst, and not to get drunk, there is nothing better than a cold beer on a hot day, regardless of price. I started to get hungry, so we walked over to the food court area. First big mistake of the day. The place was packed. I was going to have to go without food until after the event.
Then, as we wandered down to the main field, we were treated to an amateur frisbee dog competition. This was the most enjoyable event of the day for me. They were definitely amateurs, but the cuteness and atleticism of the dogs overcame any skill deficiencies. We watched for about an hour before leaving and saw most of the dogs. This is where the Canon kit would have helped. The Olympus 40-150 is slow at the long end at f/5.6 and not the sharpest knife in the toolbox. With that said, it did an adequate job and I am okay with some of the shots that I got of the event.
All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable day and one where I had the opportunity to shoot a few photos. Hopefully your weekend was as enjoyable as mine
I love digital photography. I was an early adopter, buying a 1.3 megapixel Olympus D360 way back in 2000. I still own that camera and it still works. It uses Smart Media Flash cards and actually will capture photos in the TIFF file format. I paid $300.00 for that camera. From there, I upgraded to an Olympus C-3000, then the Fuji S-7000, and then to the Canon 20D. My current digital SLR is the Canon 50D for most of my photography and an Olympus E-410 for street photography. So, why am I listing all these digital cameras? It is not to brag, but simply to illustrate that I am not a digital hater, or some sort of luddite railing against windmills when I tell you that I love shooting film.
I am not a photographic historian, so feel free to call me out if I get something wrong. The earliest forms of photography were similar to Polaroid photography in that the photography used a camera to take a photo, applied a chemical, or chemicals, to the capture medium, and the photograph, seemingly by magic, appeared on that medium. I used the phrase "seemingly by magic" because I believe the first photographers were magicians in that they used new science to create art. Athough I shoot negative film, I still feel there is magic in film photography.
For me, there is something magical about using a piece of equipment to capture a photograph on film. There is no reviewing on the LCD screen on the back of the camera. There is no deleting the shot and trying again. There is no adjusting the ISO to get the perfect aperture and shutter speed combination. You have what you have. The photographer needs to use his skills and problem solving ability to get the shot when using film. Everything I just mentioned is what makes digital photography great. For the professional the must get the shot, I don't think there is any substitute for digital for the reasons mentioned above. Luckily, I am an amateur. When I shoot, I shoot for me. I can use whatever I want.
Pictured above is my Bronica medium format film kit. Currently, when I shoot film, this is what I use. The negatives are big and wonderful and create wonderful prints. The files that are created when I scan the negatives in to my computer are massive and full of information. Shooting with this camera is a completely manual affair. You need to either be able to intuitively judge light or use a light meter. Aperture and shutter speed are set manually. The film is advanced with a crank. It is very cool. For me, having to do all of this to capture a photo creates a very real connection to my photography that digital does not.
Another reason why I love shooting film is the anticipation of receiving my exposed negatives and seeing how successful I was in capturing the photographs I intended. There is so much in this world that creates an "I want it now!!!!" mentality, that having to wait, even for an hour, to see how my photos came out creates an almost palpable sense of anticipation. Now, the flip side of that coin is that anticipation can turn into disappointment rather quickly if the photos do not come out the way I expected. For me, possible failure is part of the allure of film photography. You have to be good at what you do, anticipate problems, think on your feet and be able to visualize what the photo will look like to be consistently successful with film photography.
If you want to get into film photography, there is no better time. Film cameras are so cheap right now, they are almost giving them away. Check out KEH or the used sections of B&H Photo or Adorama for some great deals.
To wrap it up, this is not a manifesto to say that film is better than digital photography. Far from it. This is simply a small article explaining why I still shoot film, and why you may want to shoot it as well.
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