Creating Opportunities.

I spend a fair bit of my free time looking at photographs by other pro and amateur photographers. And when I see a great photograph, there’s a question that keeps bugging me. Given the same opportunity, would I have the talent to get the same shot? Obviously there are some variables – the gear used, experience, different specialities etc. But I can’t get that question out of my head. So, every now and again I decide to give myself an opportunity. About 18 months ago I went on a Wild Arena photography day to the Living Rainforest in Hampshire.

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The day was a chance to go behind the scenes and work with some pretty dudey animals. Yes, dudey is a word and its my word. Normally there is no way in heck I would get the opportunity to photograph these animals up close and personal. But by going through a company that runs special photography days I got not only the animal handlers help, a pro’s help and the access – I got a window to see if I could get a good shot.

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Now these photos are not going to be gracing the glossy front page any time soon, but they keep me going. Not only because I got shots I was happy with, but because I got them with my old camera – proof of the saying “the best camera in the world is the one you have with you”. The group I was shooting with that day comprised of a pro with a Canon 5D mk2, and three amateurs with a variety of DSLR’s. When we first arrived, we sat at the table and one by one, the hefty DSLR’s with specialist macro lens’  started to be plonked down, cleaning cloths and lens hoods were deployed and the gear parade started. Now red with embarrassment I unzipped my little holed camera bag and pulled out my fuji bridge camera – which by now was looking pretty battered. “Ah” was the best the guy running the group could come up with. Followed by “you won’t be able to use the flash lamps we brought”. So, after getting off to a shaky start we began to take photos.

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And I’m proud of the ones I got. Not least because I am terrified of spiders! Of course I had to make concessions to the gear. As I didn’t have a macro lens I had to get close to the critters, but that limits the time I will photograph them. I did my degree in Conservation Biology, and there is no way on this earth that I will cause unnecessary stress to an animal for the sake of a photo. Not for all the glossy covers I could lay claim to. Nor did I want to stop any of the other photographers to be able to get a shot because I was being selfish. And not all of them worked, try as I might I could not get a good shot of this Madagascan hissing cockroach:

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And this snake wasn’t exactly being helpful either!

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The Geldis Monkeys gave me perhaps the most difficult challenge with the lighting. In the end, the only way I could rescue the shot was by going monochrome, as I could not alter the ISO, or shoot in RAW as I would now.

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So to answer my own question – Can I get shots that match the pro’s? Well, partly that’s up to you to decide. I don’t think so. Not yet. Not yet. Those two words that keep me doing when a shot fails and I want to sell my camera because I think I don’t deserve it. I’m not there yet. But that’s not the same as no. No would be a failure. But selling the camera would be a greater failure, a failure to try. And to me, photography is too important to quit.

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Lomography, sort of.

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As I did my first bleary – eyed check of the internets this morning, I saw that the BBC are running an article on Lomography, and the possibility that it may have saved film. You can read the article here. Incidentally, thats the first time I’ve tried one of those linky things, so apologies if it doesn’t work!

Whilst I don’t own a typical Lomography camera, I have mucked around with film. I’ve been lucky enough to inherit a few film cameras from my Grandparents – from a Minolta XG-1 SLR,  a Rolleicord 120mm, A Robot 35mm to a Epsilon Rosstar bellows type 120mm. So far I’ve got all of them working, but only been brave enough to put film through the Minolta and the Robot. If you will allow me a tangent – the Robot was the first camera to have automatic wind on film, which used a clockwork mechanism. This is very cool, but I can’t help but be disappointed that there is no giant wind-on key.

I love the Lomo way of doing things, and I agree with most of the 10 Rules I don’t think that you should have to go into the Lomo shop and buy lots of expensive film and cameras. Just pick up any cheap film camera, and auction sites tend to have plenty job lots of old, sometimes expired film you can buy cheaply.

For me, the beauty of using a film camera is the way it forces me to think before every single shot. I remember vividly getting my first roll of film developed and being so dissapointed with it. There was not a single good shot amongst them. On the verge of throwing the camera back into the cupboard and never using it again, I looked at my digital photo files. And realised that it wouldn’t have been unusual for me to have taken 70 odd shots a go and only keep 3 or 4. So I slowed down. I thought about every shot before I clicked. Was the film wound on, were the shutter and aperature set? Had I changed the ISO from the last roll of film I used? How many shots were left? Was the focus ok?

I found that by slowing down, I became a better photographer. Composition and the technical details came to the forefront of my mind before I clicked the shutter. Of course I still make mistakes and have a pretty impressive blooper reel, the hit rate has become much better. There is no denying that I am a child of the digital camera – but I still have a lot to learn from my analogue parents.

The 25th.

The 25th.

As photographs go, its not a great one. It certainly is not going to win any prizes, or be hung on any walls. So why am I posting it here? It’s my first blog, an opportunity to show off a little – so why ruin that opportunity with a not fantastic photograph?

The photo you see was the 25th photograph I ever took with my first proper camera. A little fuji bridge camera that was given to me on Christmas day, 2008. After a few blurry attempts, the obligatory family shots and the back of my dog (he moves faster than expected!) this happened. This photo happened.

And like I’ve said, it’s not fantastic. But it made me stop and look at the back of the camera. It made me want to try again, and do it better. It turned every dull, cold and tedious walk into an opportunity to take a photograph. I suddenly stopped and saw the light. And it made me want to take more photographs. Some would be good. Many would be rubbish.

And that is where you join me! 4 years ago, with my first proper camera. Now I have a DSLR, and the rate of good photo’s vs rubbish is getting better. But I still have a long way to go. And I’d like some company along the way.

Hello world!

Hello world! A title given to me by wordpress, but I think I like it. I’m an amateur photographer, and I’d like to get better. So here I am! My plan is that by sharing my wins and disasters with you will help me articulate why some photos work and some don’t. I’d like to learn from others, and I’ll always listen to constructive criticism.

So, Hello World! Lets move on…