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