A self-flattering photograph first…
As a photographer and a blogger, after churning up so many articles about photography I somehow have this inkling of a sense of guilt building-up inside. Well if I’m a photographer, then why do I blog so much? Where’s my work and portfolio? Where are my clients? I bought my camera in 2008 (well at least the first one that I put to use). I have taken over 15000+ photographs since then. So where do I stand as a photographer? I think it’s time everyone should know.
- I’m not a professional photographer: As much as I’d like to call myself a photographer, photography doesn’t make me money and I’m a website developer by profession.
- …but my father was: My father photographed for commercial projects and looks like somewhere that thing was lying dormant inside me.
- I just happened to be by accident: …until one day, just for the fun of it, I bought a DSLR. I never had a reliable camera. The toy film camera required me to buy films. And get them developed. And every developed copy looked different. And I was prone to lose the negatives. (Also happened to my digital pics one day when I lost my entire collection of digital photographs in a failed hard-drive and was lucky enough to get them recovered for over $1500). The DSLR was a curious looking thing with so many controls and an expansive manual. It caught the fascination of the tech freak inside me. Looked like I could do a lot of things with it. And then I tried, read books, talked to my father and something clicked. Afterwards when I looked through the viewfinder, the world expanded in a new dimension. I was no more photographing the objects around — I was composing my own world and organizing it the way I always wanted it to look.
- My knowledge about photography is by no means bookish or authoritative: I never attended a photography course. I did attend a two day photography workshop and found that most of the things were the ones which I knew already. A camera is just like any other tech-gizmo like a cellphone. In that workshop I realized that photography is not about shooting pictures, it’s all about making use of and capturing “light”. I’ve often being drawn into heated discussions of pros and taken the flak. Unfortunately not every word from the book can stand the test of the field.
- …but it is experience and practical oriented: I’ve spent crazy time experiment with the camera and lenses in variety of conditions, experimenting with different controls and various settings and a combination of them. After all this painstaking investment of crucial hours I now know that my camera behaves, and it behaves in a very predictable manner. And I know how to use this behavior to make good pictures. Thus I could see what all these books are about.
- I’m (very) shy to go around carrying over a pound of a camera in public: Just happens to be a part of my personality. Or also because maybe the place I stay, photographers are not a part of the usual scene. India is a place where any unusual looking element (or person) will catch the fascination of simpletons. A big camera in my hand makes me feel as if I’m the centerpiece of everyone’s attention.
- Not comfortable carrying expensive equipment in secluded areas either: Crime and notoriety is a concern. You don’t want to be surrounded by 3 strangers and being parted away from your equipment. So I generally stick to going around with a friend when I plan to go out shooting.
- I don’t have fancy gear — just carry my D80: As much as I like to share my know-hows about photography, I only have a single DSLR — my Nikon D80 when it comes to counting cameras. But when I carry it, I have the complete kit, a clear filter by default, a circular polarizer, extra batteries, charger, the lens cleaning kit and the works.
- I don’t have several lenses either: I’m not a very rich person (for someone who doesn’t make a dime with photography). I saved for several months before I was in a position to plan a purchase. I stuck to a general purpose AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR which did everything I imagined at the time.
- I don’t shoot regularly: Doesn’t even need a mention as someone who doesn’t photograph for living, I only photograph as and when life allows the luxury of pursuing my interests.
- But when I do I come back with over 2000 images: And when I do get lucky I shoot all the photos I can. I want to take good shots, and make sure it’s not blurred, and try it from different angles and take an extra one too before I lose the scene.
- Most of pictures I shoot are portraits, family functions: Naturally for someone my kind who doesn’t travel too often my memory card and hard-drives are populated with photos of friends, family and family functions. My family treats me as a professional photographer (who is supposed) to offer free service to them. There are some folders in my hard-drive which contain my personal picks. These are the ones which my wife doesn’t find anything worth appreciating. So I keep them for those who talk in the photography jargon like DOF, DR, etc…
- I still feel lucky when I get a killer shot: A killer shot is in no way guaranteed. The more I photograph, the more are my chances of striking gold. The less I think while shooting the worse the chances. And I never realize I’ve got that shot I was looking for until I come back to my pc and view the image full size, verify it for noise and blur etc. I can understand perfectly; it’s tough being a photographer and making a living out of it.
- I love natural light: Natural light has a certain thing about it… something that I’m yet not able to describe. Even the hard light is so flattering in a natural way — no doubt it’s called natural light.
- I dislike flash: And primarily for the same reason I have a strong disliking for flash. Not that I have a professional flash light or have tried one, I’d prefer the ring flash if my back is against the wall.
- I read books and view photographs of other photographers more than my own: I shoot them and archive them. Being into so many things it’s difficult to go reviewing each photograph and classifying the keepers. And sometimes it’s such a tough decision that I let them be. I just finish the ones I like and print them on my Epson TX700W (and I’m always turned-off by the unavailability and the lack of ink supplies).
- I’m not scared of reading my camera manual and being called an amateur: That comes as a part of being a perfectionist. Does the depth-of-field-preview button even work? How does it? And what should I be seeing? Could never make much difference because I wear glasses. Had to try real hard to make out the difference. But the point in being thorough with my knowledge of things.
- I do know my camera like a writer knows his pen (or a programmer his keyboard): That’s because I’ve spent time reading the manual and exhaustive experimentation. After all I don’t want to be looking for the space-bar when I’m typing. I know how my camera behaves, all the controls are under my grip, I’m able to tune the camera in real time and make it sing. And if all goes well, lucky enough to get the dream shot. But everytime I read the manual I do come across something about a functionality that I didn’t know before.
- I do yearn for a better camera: And a better lens. I yearn to use a portrait prime someday on a body that allows me to photograph in low light at high ISOs (something that can give me clearer pictures in low but natural light). I wanted a Nikon D700 which seems to have been superseded by the Nikon D800. I’m now waiting for a Nikon that has the picture quality of the D800 but the pixel size of D700 (for obvious technical reasons).
- I could get more practice: Like any other form of art, I wish to perfect it. And in this endless pursuit, I only wish I could get more practice. I make it a point to at least go out and try every new thing that I learn, if not master it.
- I’m still not at a stage where I can get away without some kind of basic off-camera adjustments or post-processing: I know of purists who don’t like someone to even blow the dust off their photographs. They are comfortable seeing the paper age and the natural grain in it. But this day, I am still not content without doing some basic fine-tuning like contrast, color adjustments etc. I primarily use Nikon Capture NX2. Once I have a good output I move them to Lightroom where I can just flag and sort them or try some filmsy effects.
- I wish to work for a commercial photographer someday: Just for the sake of the learning involved and being called a professional photographer. I know of enthusiasts who can put some of the so called pros to shame (which seems like more of an exception than a rule); I though wish…
In the coming days I’ll share some of my personal shots and how I took them with the intent of just sharing my experiences first-hand. Do you have any confessions to make? Haven’t you felt like this at some or the other part of your photographic journey?