Heading off overseas almost always leads to something very exciting for me: tax-free shopping before departure. I usually need something new and expensive before I go and I'm particularly excited about one of my purchases this time around.
Before we headed off on our around the world sabbatical, we had a tough decision to make regarding a camera. We were already carrying a netbook and an iPad and there was no way I could take my old film SLR with me. Would I finally use the trip as an excuse to buy a new DSLR camera? I had significant fears about buying such an expensive piece of equipment for our itinerary. We would be trekking in South America, staying in hostels and catching public buses and trains all year. I couldn't even find any travel insurance to cover a pricey camera and my tiny collection of lenses. John also thought it wise to take either a netbook or a larger camera, not both.
So we took off travelling with a Canon Ixus 980IS. I have mixed feelings about the decision though they're weighted more towards being happy with my choice. Yes, I missed out on the better shots I could have taken with a choice of lenses and a more powerful camera body. Even with the manual settings on the little point and shoot, it's limited in what it can achieve. That said, I'm a firm believer that photography is not about the camera, it's about the person behind it and I was determined to still document the year with some great photography. In many situations, the little pocket camera proved invaluable. I was able to shoot while hiking on glaciers in the rain, climbing a windy, snow-covered volcano in Chile and I didn't have to worry when whipping out my camera in the driving rain and snow of Torres del Paine. I also carried a lighter load and never worried about losing it.
But now that we're back to shorter trips and a bit more stability (relatively), it was time to upgrade. So I'm excited to introduce my new buddy, the Nikon D7000. We've been so busy preparing for our move to Norway that it took over a week for me to get out and have a serious play with it. But I'm completely smitten. It works with my old lenses (though I did pick up the 'kit' 18-105 lens) and has more functionality than both the old SLR and the Ixus put together. Of course, this also means I have a bit of learning to do. The transition from film SLR to DSLR is interesting, eh? Especially when my SLR was a beginner body with only the most basic functions. I used to shoot on slide film so I wouldn't waste much money developing pictures that were often exposed incorrectly. I taught myself when we were living in Paris and I can't wait to get that box of old material out of storage and have a good chuckle at my work.
How nice is it to check your exposures right away? To have a decent light meter? Buttons for ISO and white balance? The first thing I did was purchase Bethany Salvon's (the talented photographer from Beers and Beans) Getting Out of Auto eBook. I needed a refresher course and some help figuring out what all these buttons on my camera actually do. There's no way I was going to spend all that money on a new camera just to shoot with the automatic settings. But it had also been awhile since shooting with a SLR - I needed some quick tips and shortcuts to feeling comfortable using the camera in manual.
Can I just plug this book for a moment? It's a seriously helpful guide written by a woman with over a decade of experience shooting commercial, news, documentary, fine art and wedding photographs. I'm always blown away by the photography on her's and Randy's blog. The book starts with basic lessons in aperture, shutter speed and ISO and the interplay between those in creating perfect photos. But she explains these in a way that really helped me to understand the concepts and feel ready to go out and shoot with confidence. When I was teaching myself in the past I went and surfed the net for photography 101 articles, but I haven't seen any that really put it all together for me as well as this book.
Bethany then goes on to the topic of composition, providing tips and tricks for improving the pictures that you shoot and, most importantly, the chapter on light pulls it all together. I know that lighting is an area where I really need to focus on to improve and she gives really helpful advice for dealing with all kinds of lighting situations, including how to create light when it's inadequate. The final section is packed with tricks and cheats, including an introduction to HDR and black & white photography, with some handy tear-out cheat sheets to help newbies both in the field and during the post-production process. It's a bonus that the book is beautifully illustrated, with sample photos (including the exposure settings used to create them), fun photography facts and quotes from some of the most famous photographers of all time. A guide like this will inspire any budding photographer to get out there and improve her work, with plenty of slightly more advanced tips to hold the interest of anyone who has been behind the lens for a little while already.
Pick up the Getting Out of Auto eBook today!
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