On how we are, where we are
Photography is so accessible in this day and age. Remember when it was still film days and there was a certain awe when you gazed upon an image that spoke to you on some level you couldn’t define? Well I guess it’s still the same… just that now, there are so many more people calling themselves ‘photographers’ I feel it’s almost disrespectful to those that came before. That certainly isn’t to say that there’s any less talent around. Perhaps you could even say there’s more talent now, just because it’s so much more affordable, and more opportunity for exposure through the million and one gadgets we have at our disposal.
Well, my husband and I jumped on the photography bandwagon in 2002. We had planned an overseas trip to Vietnam, and wanted a camera that could take postcard-worthy images for us to remember. What we didn’t realise at the time was that there was so much more to it than just having a fancy SLR camera and something to take a photo of.
We bought the Pentax MZ-50; a tiny little film SLR that cost us $600 Australian dollars for a body + lens kit, which was terribly expensive to us at that time. In Vietnam we spent most of the time with the dial on the green auto-shoot mode, occasionally changing it to the Tv or Av setting. When we returned I felt disillusioned (why didn’t my photos look like the postcards?) and decided to take a crash course in photography by attending a WEA how-to course over an 8-week period. At the end of it, I had a lot of notes (which I don’t remember any of), a lot of photos (which I don’t like any of), and some idea of how to use the camera we had bought 5 months ago.
For the next three years we brought out the Pentax every now and then, and tried to improve our photography. It was too much work – we graduated to a Canon 20D in 2005 and bought the 17-85mm lens with it. We had decided that film was costing us too much to develop – and the learning curve was limited to when we could be bothered to take the film in for developing, and then sitting down and finding the notes we had scribbled down, such as shooting conditions and exposure settings, to see the effects changing these had on our images. So we went digital. It was the best thing we ever did.
Digital cameras allow you to see instantaneously how your chosen settings rendered the subject you deemed interesting enough to capture. If you don’t like it, you change your settings and have another go. What better, faster, and cheaper way to learn than taking 100 photos, and deleting all those that didn’t work out? We found that every time we used the camera we improved. This is still true today; there is always something new to try.
Over the last few years we’ve saved and treated ourselves to an assortment of lenses, tripods and other necessary accessories. Just recently last year we bought the Canon 40D body, so that we could have one camera each, and not argue over the compositions and lighting conditions that presented themselves when we went out shooting. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your partner set up a shot while the light’s disappearing and the composition you had in mind is fading with it.
We’ve made a bigger committment to waking up early, or staying up late, or standing in cold water, or taking the time out to set up and carefully compose. How did we ever think that a quick hand-held snap would ever compare to taking those extra 10 minutes to pull out the tripod and assessing the subject more thoroughly? It never ceases to amaze me what we thought were ‘good’ photos 3 years ago!
Last year I took a leap of faith and managed to arrange for some exhibition space to display our images. To our amazement, 75% of our work sold. A second exhibition 5 months later had a 50% success rate. I was stunned; whilst many friends and relatives had told us our photos were beautiful, there’s nothing like public success to cement your confidence in your work. And the funny thing is – we look back at our first exhibition images, and we know that we’ve improved our images since then, and it hasn’t even been a year past yet.
So go out, keep shooting. Make the opportunities happen, don’t wait for them to come to you. It’s never too late to start over.