Photography is like any art form, the art is independent of the tools used, the art comes from the artist (see Your Camera Doesn’t Matter). But a nice instrument sure makes it easier to get the results you want. Naomi has a nice violin that was given to her years ago, but if I pick it up it sounds terrible. She, however, can make beautiful music on it. But I digress..
Over the last 7 years that I have been doing photography my pictures and cameras that I use have improved. Here is a flashback to shutters of yore..
Pentax ME F
My first camera that I used for serious photography was a 1978 Pentax ME F. I dug it out of the closet back in 2000 and continued to use it for four years. This was a great camera for me to learn the technical side of photography on as everything was manual. No autofocus or easy exposure settings for this beginner. The camera was pretty basic with it’s manual focus, manual aperture priority (you turned a ring on the lens to adjust the exposure to the desired exposure setting), confusing flash settings (a couple of sliders on the back of the flash that had to be set to match distance and ISO of your film), and hand winding of the film. With my main lens that I used you would have to adjust three rings on it: focus, zoom and aperture, meaning that quick action shots were difficult to get.
While it was good to learn on, it was, however, expensive to operate. I always knew that to press the shutter button was another 25 cents, so I didn’t frivolously take pictures. I had to consider each shot more carefully back then, and always in the back of my mind was the questions: “Is it worth taking another shot of this? Will I be able to get a better picture? Probably not. One shot will have to do.” This tended to keep me from experimenting much with my photography.
Using this camera was also an exercise in delayed gratification and disappointment. There were times when I could fill two rolls in a day, but most of the time I would only shoot one roll every week or two. Then it was a few days to get prints back, and I could never remember what my settings were that worked or didn’t work for a picture. Back then, I used to be happy if I had one or two pictures out of a roll that I liked.
Dad used to have two of these cameras but one went missing during a family reunion years ago. He had set it down somewhere to join a game of baseball and then forgot about it when he went off to do something else. He realized it was missing once everyone else had left so we all went outside to look for it, but the search was in vain. It did turn up again several months later. One Fall morning after a particularly windy night that had blown off most of the leaves, I was eating breakfast by the window and looking out at the now naked trees.
“Hey dad, what is that black thing in the tree?”
“Oh no.. I think it is my camera…”
Cameras don’t usually work well after four months in a tree.
After using some point-and-shoot digital cameras I swore I would not go digital until I could get an SLR. But this was back in 2003-4 and the basic digital cameras were really limited and slow. Anyway, the Lord unexpectedly provided the funds for a new camera in spring 2004 and I purchased a Nikon D70. Finally, a modern camera, and a digital one at that! I was so excited that I hardly slept for two whole days. The sign of a serious geek.
I finally had a camera that would do some of the technical thinking for me and allow me to concentrate on the subject and composition .. Auto focus is way better than sliced bread. With a digital camera I could also experiment a lot more, take shots without worrying of the expense and see the results right away. I had to learn to use it fast because four days after I got it I had the first of many photo shoots for Word of Life promotional photography. Within 6 weeks I had taken my first 5000 photos on this camera and I could really see serious improvement in my photography skills.
Unfortunately, this was a very early production camera, one of the first off the line and it gave me some problems. Like when it died shortly after Ellie was born.. Imagine the predicament of an aspiring photographer being without a camera at such an important time! Out came the Pentax while the Nikon went into the shop to fix a problem most early versions had. After a few years it developed some other problems where it would randomly turn itself off repeatedly. This continued to get worse through the Fall of 2007 until we decided to replace it as it was sometimes almost unusable. Gone are the days when a good camera body will likely last 20+ years (unless you leave it in a tree, of course). But after 45,000+ photos, it has been a very good camera.
Purchased in January, 2008, the Nikon D300 has been a joy to use. A much more professional and advanced camera than the D70, it has many new features that I have been using to improve my photography. I think I have taken some of my best pictures in the last few months with this camera. With its higher resolution, an image stabilization lens, greatly improved image noise reduction (great for shots of the night sky), auto ISO adjustments, etc etc, I have much more flexibility that has enabled me to get some shots I know I would have missed or not been happy with before. I have already used this camera quite a bit to do some stock photography for GoodSeed and had lots of fun using it outdoors capturing the beauty of nature or quirky moments with the kids.