J gave me a Nikon D40x, ie the geewhiz camera, for Christmas way back in 2007. It takes great photos, but for seven years I only used the automatic settings because I had no idea how to work the bloody thing.
It was soo frustrating you guys. It was like having the most unreal 4WD-Batcar-even-sticks-to-walls-and-goes-underwater super car and keeping it in the driveway to use as a table. I read and re-read the manual and checked out photography blogs and tried instructional videos on YouTube but there seemed to be a lot of extremely basic, even-a-total-dropkick-knows-this-shit information that was assumed I knew so they didn’t tell me. But I didn’t know. If you told me to open the aperture to infinity, I’d say fine… how do I do that exactly? I need details!! And my understanding of technical stuff like depth of field and f-stops was hazy at best… I tried many, many times to assimilate this crucial information but it always just bounced off. I was much the same with learning to drive a manual… tell me again why I need to push the clutch in? Why does this car keep stalling? Stupid car. Why does it hate me?!
I’m not dumb, there’s just certain things I have an inordinate amount of trouble with. Everyone has a thing; Einstein couldn’t tie his shoelaces. What’s yours? …It’s normal, and human… so I don’t feel bad, just annoyed that I seem to need a manual to understand my camera manual. Over the years I’ve spent loads of time playing with the settings, trying to reproduce what I see in my head. Long exposures have been particularly irksome; I’ve accumulated dozens of hours getting eaten alive by mozzies at home or freezing my arse off on crystal clear winter’s nights in New Zealand, trying to figure out how to achieve a starscape for not much result.
So after a ridiculous amount of time trying to muck along on my own, I signed up for a beginner’s course with Bluedog Photography. There were 7 or 8 of us, ranging from a grandad who’d just received a geewhiz camera for a big birthday to a cake decorator who did her own marketing. I’d thought it was going to be all technical jargon and button pushing, but our tutor David first taught us the basic basics. Like
- NEVER stick anything inside the camera body to clean it (whoops)
- Always have a spare battery and memory card handy
- When out sightseeing keep your camera turned on and in your hand ready to shoot not in the camera bag or turned off slung around your neck like a tourist (also guilty)
- And just stop and think about things like composition and lighting before madly clicking away (very guilty).
Then we learned about some buttons, and after each new feature learned, we headed outside to practise; make the background blurry while the subject is in sharp focus? I can do that. Increase the shutter speed and ‘freeze’ water droplets? I can do that. Take a long exposure? I can do that too!! And it’s so simple. Isn’t it reassuring to know you felt stupid for a good reason? I should put that on a postcard. Everything seems happier and more uplifting with a picture.
Anyway I went home super stoked at my newfound knowledge, then didn’t practise for a couple of days and *BAM* I forgot it all again.
But practise I did. A lot. It got to the stage where the husband would groan and the children would squeal and hide when they saw Mummy coming with the camera.
Portraits are particularly difficult.
The wildlife around here is plentiful, and indifferent. I can pester them with taking photos as much as I like.
Oh, remember that noisy blue wanderer from before? This shot is from our last night at Kaka Point.
I was up til nearly 1am that night; with all the light pollution from Surfer’s Paradise at home it’s not great for astrophotography. I had my brand new remote shutter release and a sturdy tripod and a clear night sky and I was not going home without some goddamn twinkle twinkle! I tried for star trails and cranked the ISO as high as it would go. Took exposures several minutes long but got black screen after black screen; it’s only supposed to take half a minute! I finally cracked the shits. Opened the shutter, went to brush my teeth and got changed for bed, then came back and closed it. It processed for a good long while but when it was finally done:
I finally DID IT!! WOOHOO! My jubilation at success offset the agony in both my kneecaps from walking into a fence in the dark on the way back to the camera.
So while I still have a ways to go, and a lot of work to do to get where I want to be, I’m not stressing; my goal is progress rather than perfection. Bluedog have a great Facebook-based support group, there’s lots of mini courses yet to do (star trails, light painting, action shots, sunsets…) and I’ve found photographers both local and abroad to follow and be inspired by. One in particular, Sean Scott, who lives on the Gold Coast, uses one of his two Instagram accounts to publish his incredible underwater shots with background info and metadata included (ie information on lenses used, aperture, shutter speed etc) which is extremely helpful and encouraging to budding shutterbugs like me.
His stuff is completely mindblowing and I’d be stoked to get half as good. Actually since beloved hubby got me a GoPro for Christmas last year underwater photography is another area I’m getting into… stay tuned.