My Phases of Photography Part 1

I’ve gone through my share of phases. In this post, I’m coming clean.

See if I’m an aberrant, an anomaly.

Lusting over Gear

I really can’t say I’ll ever outgrow this one. It’s an ongoing  battle which my wife–the breadwinner– wins each time.

Except these days, the evil camera manufacturers have enlisted software  and computer makers like Apple, in my case. Once you get an Apple computer, pack it in. You’re toast.

If you can’t resist, drive to the nearest Apple store and fondle some of their floor models and get your fix. Leave the plastic (credit card) at home.

I only buy what I can justify like this MacBook Pro I’m writing with. It’s not unusual to see my students walking in with better cameras than the one I use.

When I was in college, I had a classmate whose dad bought him a new car, couple Canon F-1 bodies, a 300 mm f2.8 lens and a whole slew of lenses. He ended selling all that gear. He didn’t finish in the photography program.

Don’t get me wrong. You need to have decent gear. I worked in the airlines, saved my pennies and came to the US with quite a bit of gear.

I knew I was going to major in photojournalism and I paid for everything on my own.

Moral of the story: just because you have all the gear there is, it doesn’t make you a photographer.

Wide angle

Remember the first time you ever put one of these lenses on? I used it at every opportunity.

Actually thought it was great to include my feet in the pictures when I took verticals.

I remember being issued an 18 mm lens when I was shooting film. Must have driven my poor boss/photo editor batty.

Guys, you have to remember when the newspaper issued a new piece of glass, they bought one for each staff photographer.

Not only did my boss have to put up with my fascination with this lens in just about everything I shot, he had to see 15 others in the department do the same.


windsor_of_delia After I learned to shoot my 1st silhouette, I remember squinting and peering into bright light sources, even the Sun at times.

I tried  to turn even the most ordinary, mundane  things into silhouettes.

It was as if I had bought a silhouette filter and forgotten to take it off.

Some might say that I have a obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Confession is good for the soul.

Those dancing, barely naked,silhouette ladies which accompany the opening credits in countless Jame Bond movies had a profound influence on me.

Above,  you can see how my influence is rubbing off on my students. Thanks Windsor for sharing your picture.
Thanks to Delia for modeling on our recent field trip to Fairmount Park.

Fancy Filters

Thankfully just about any filter you want to use in film photography is available or can be faked now in Adobe’s 800-lb gorilla, Photoshop.

neutral_density_filterIf that’s your thing and you can’t get enough, try Nik Filters.

I have never used those. Some might say it’s too cheesy, but we won’t go there.

I tend not to use photoshop a whole lot preferring to shoot an image as close to how I want it to look in its final form.

I am, after all, not a graphics artist.

If someone claims to do both well, more power to them.

It’s a matter of preference.

Previously when I shot film, I must have spent a fortune on filters: polarizing, starburst, sepia, gradual, rainbow and the most requested–make-your-subject skinny with beautiful complexion filter etc.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some which you’ll have to pry out of my dead fingers if you want them. The two I can think of are:

  • ND (Neutral density) filters
  • Graduated neutral density filter.

The regular ND filter comes in different strengths. If you like to photograph waterfalls, but arrive when it’s too bright to use a slow shutter speed to give the flowing water a flowing fabric-like look, this is handy to reduce the light reaching the camera’s sensors your  intentionally.

They are also useful in reducing the depth-of-field in a scene. Say you are at ISO 100, your minimum ISO, but want to shoot with still wider apertures to blur out your background,  you can use those ND filters.

If you do any type of landscape photography, these two filters, especially the graduated neutral density (shown in above picture) is a must-have. It allows you to hold the detail in the sky like snow-capped mountains, clouds or other extremely contrasty scenery in check while you expose for the foreground.

To make this more digestible, I’ll continue this post in Part 2

10 thoughts on “My Phases of Photography Part 1”

  1. Yep DeeAnn,
    Sadly it’s a phase that every photographer goes through. Some get over it sooner than others. Those who don’t sometimes end up selling a lot of their gear or giving it away when they lose interest.

  2. Peter you are right, lusting & fondling for gear is a pitfall that can be never ending. Maybe working for poor tri-weekly and daily newspapers where I could barely afford my own gear got me over this quickly. Plus I like using what works for me and don’t like being a pack mule. Ownership of gear doesn’t mean knowledge though, and newbies should recognize that before blowing wads of $ they don’t have.

  3. Hi Nancy,
    Very kind of you to stop by and leave a comment. Sadly, the job market is seeing more and more former journalists abandoning the industry, some on their own accord, but most through “corporate downsizing.” Whatever buzzword they use, it’s heartbreaking.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Hello Christina,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. One of the problems with any digital SLR is the dizzying number of settings to choose from.

    The one that pertains to your question about taking pictures indoors in florescent lighting has to do with White Balance.

    Very briefly this has to do with telling your camera’s light sensor what color temperature the scene is being lit by to render the best color.

    Florescent lighting is mostly green. If you have a room that is totally lit by just florescent lights and no daylight coming through windows or incandescent lights, then you will want to try and set the White Balance on your camera to the “Florescent” setting. There may be more than one “Florescent” White Balance setting on some cameras.

    Refer to your owners’ manual. If after trying that, you still don’t get good color, then you will need to do a Custom White Balance.

    The owner’s manual should explain how to do this. Briefly, that means taking a picture of anything white then telling the camera to use that particular frame to set white. I very quickly found this how-to video on White Balance.

    The 3rd possibility is to buy a special filter such as an ExpoDisc or a Colorright Disc which is about $100 that essentially does a Custom White Balance, but in a quicker way.

    If you plan to use flash to supplement the lighting in the florescent room, then you’ll need to get a green florescent gel for your flash. That is necessary to make all the light sources the same color temperature.

    Let me know if this helps.

  5. Pls give tips about taking pictures indoors with florescent lighting! Loving the blogs!

  6. Hi Peter,

    I wanted to send you a note to let you know that I enjoyed your most recent Pixel Pete’s World blog with all of your photo confessions! 😉

    I also linked to your page, and LOVE what you, Carlos, and John did with the Shoot, Spot, Shoot program–that’s awesome!!

    Keep up the great work, and I look forward to reading your future blog posts!!


  7. Tony! Welcome back. Now that you mentioned polarizing filter, I may have played with one.

    I suppose these phases depend on your choice of subject. Since I didn’t shoot a lot of landscapes and scenics, I didn’t feel I needed a polarizing filter to enhance the blue skies or whiten the clouds.

    The more likely reason is I had too many lenses and to outfit every lens with its differing diameters means some big bucks.

    I did have one of those Cokin filter systems after a while. I probably lost the holder but I’ve hung on to a few of the filters.

    Thank you for sharing.

  8. If I may comment on the article, I’m surprised that you don’t feel as strongly about polarising filters as you do about ND filters. These definitely still have a place.

    I have an 8mm fisheye lens – this is a full-circle fisheye, producing a circular image on a full-frame 35mm SLR. That circle captures everything in the hemisphere ahead of the lens – it’s 180 degrees coverage horizontal, vertical, diagonal. If you thought you had issues with feet in the picture with an 18mm lens, you really should try this lens. As far as I know, only Sigma makes this lens. Oh, and it’s comparatively cheap – cost me about the same as an 85mm f/1.8 or the 100mm Macro. Much cheaper fun than the 200mm f/2L IS lens of lustfulness 🙂

    You are not aberrant. Well, no more aberrant than a lot of us…

  9. Hello Kevin,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your footprint.
    The way these things work, you could speak with the event coordinators and ask for permission or you can do it and hope no one complains.

    Either way, you need to dress appropriately and appear as non-threatening. Your dress code and body language is just as important as how you conduct yourself.

    Where children are concerned and the way the world is today, I would call make an appointment with the coordinator. Then give them an idea of your proposal but don’t take no for an answer over the phone if possible.

    You might offer a cut of your sales to the soccer league for their allowing you access. If the parks are open to the public, then they really shouldn’t have a reason not to allow that. Again, your creepiness factor comes into play here. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about having spent 22 years as newspaper photographer driving around looking for feature pictures.

    Hopefully the soccer league hasn’t made an agreement with other photographers to allow them exclusive access. You never know with these things. Best of luck with this endeavor Kevin. As for the School and Church Carnivals, you should also speak with organizers. They might say no ,but you can attend as “Joe Public” and bring your camera.

    The important thing here is, never insist on taking someone’s picture if they don’t want to be photographed. Especially if it’s on private property like a church. You’ll be told to leave and hopefully that’s it.

    It’s also a good idea to explain that you wouldn’t be posting any names of the people you photograph if nothing else to alleviate whatever fears they may have.

  10. I am a student at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. I saw your e-zine article titled “Tips For Street or Candid Photography in a Post Sept-11”. I’m hoping you can take a moment to answer a question for me.

    I am looking for a way to earn extra money while in college and was considering “event” photography. My idea is to attend Parks/Recreation sporting events; School/Church Carnivals; etc. and take “candid” photos of the event. I would at the same time be handing out “business cards” to the parents, fans, etc that tells them they can go to my website to see all the photos I have taken. The site would be categorized by date and event and each individual event would be password protected…so only those with the “business card” can access the photos.

    Sales would be made directly from the site.

    Is there normally an issue going to such events and taking photos and posting them on the Internet for sale? Do you think most event coordinators would have a problem with this? Or parents of the little league soccer player?

    I would appreciate your thoughts.

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