Saturday, 9 April 2011

Happy Birthday To You...

...dear little plastic box, and happy anniversary.

It's one year now, since I got my little beginner's DSLR, and it's been one year of exploring, experimenting and learning. It's been a great journey so far, into this wonderful world of (digital) photography. When I first got my camera, I didn't have a clue about how to use it. I used the "beginner's modes", i.e. landscape, macro, portrait etc. in the first few weeks until I was ready to move on to aperture priority mode after a National Trust photography working holiday in the Lake District last May. The firts thing our tutor made us do back then actually was to shoot in manual mode and trying out all the different settings, especially white balance. I found it all rather confusing and overwhelming, and so confortably settled for aperture priority for the next 8 months, ignoring all the other settings and taking my time to discover all about depth of field, focusing and how everything worked together (it's really not much use having someone explain it all to you, you just have so see it for yourself).

Macro mode, 135mm, 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 100, WB: auto. Taken 29/04/2010 (processed 09/04/2011)

By the end of last year, I decided that it was time to move on and signed up for an 8 weeks e-course on how to shoot in manual mode, starting in February. I must admit that when the course began, I was sort of secretly convinced, that it was nice to know all about manual mode, but that I really would go on using aperture priority mode and maybe just pay more attention to ISO and white balance. However, after the 8 weeks, I must say that I quite enjoy shooting in manual mode. It does mean a lot of settings and adjusments to do before you can actually take your picture, but I quite like the feeling that I'm in control of all the settings and decisions. It needs more time but then, all this fiddling with aperture, shutter speed, white balance, ISO etc. really is what a DSLR is about, isn't it. And although I haven't been doing it very long, I do feel that there have been times, when I'm quite sure that I'd never managed to get a satisfactory picture if I had just used aperture priority mode and nothing else. There are, of course, still pictures that go straight into the bin, but that's the limitations of photography. There are certain conditions, where it just isn't possible to get a good picture, and that's another thing one has to learn by experience and trial and error. But I don't think I'll go back to aperture priority mode as my main mode of picture taking, but stick with manual mode and continue on the learning path.

As it's now a year since I got my camera, it means that I'll now be able to compare my pictures with those from last year. I like to believe that I've made some progress and am getting a bit better at it (though when looking through my old pics, they aren't all that bad). Of course, photography is more than just the settings on your camera. It's as much about seeing, about composition, colours and catching moments that mean something to us, that tell our story and our way of looking at and seeing the world. But knowing something about the technical stuff certainly doesn't hurt, and in fact can help you to achieve better results.

Manual Mode, 50mm, 1/1000, f/1.8, ISO 100, WB: daylight. Taken 09/04/2011
Another thing I've started to learn about in the last 12 months is post processing. I got PSE8 almost three months after I got my camera and really started using it about another two months later, mostly doing a bit of levels and saturation adjustments. I also used the straightening tool a lot because I seemed to be absolutely unable to take a straight picture (something I've managed to get much better at). I also used Picnik a lot for my post processing, because it was so easy to use, but I was also often a bit frustrated about its limitations. I felt that I didn't have much control about the processing and I really wanted to learn to do it myself. I found some e-courses (what a great thing they are!!) and learnt first the basics and then all about working with textures, which I really enjoy. I processed the top image with a lovely Kim Klassen texture, the one in the middle using a close-up of one of the blinds in the living room, and the one below with a number of adjustment layers and cross processing. The possibilities really are endless.

Manual Mode, 50mm, 1/1000, f/1.8, ISO 100, WB: daylight. Taken 09/04/2011

So that has been my first year with my little camera. I'm still at the beginning of my journey, having taken only some small steps so far. There's still so much to learn and to practise. Portraits, for example, is something I'm no good at at all but would like to do more often. And there's still a lot to learn about all the settings, most of all about white balance, which I often find very confusing and probably really the most difficult thing of all. But I'll write a separate post about that, I think. All I can say is that I enjoyed the journey so far and I'm looking forward to many more months and years of following the path, and keeping practising, practising, practising... :-)

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