Wednesday, 4 May 2011

D-SLR Photography in Focus - Day 3

Yesterday we heard from Jules about her first purchase of a 
D-SLR and today I would like to introduce Marie Goodwyn from Sky Blog Pink. After you have enjoyed Marie’s fact filled post hop on over to her site and see more of her lovely work.
 
One of the great things about being involved in this set of Guest Posts is that it has helped me to realise just how much I have learned about using a DSLR for the past two and a half years. I hope, in this post, to give you an idea of the things you need to keep in mind when you go to buy your camera. Choosing the right one is just the beginning of the story.
 
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Our Kit - A Nikon D90 with a 18-105mm lens, F3.5/5.6
 
Deciding to change to a DSLR is, financially, a big commitment even if you opt for an entry level camera. So don't be rushed into anything - as Jules mentioned in her last post, get hands on, you can't judge a camera until you can feel the size and weight of it in your own hands.
 
My partner,Brian, and I, after a lot of online research chose to go for a camera that we could share and invest in. Ideally it would be the last camera we ever bought! This led us to look at the mid to top end of the Nikon Range.
 
We had decided on a Nikon because of its substantial feel and the number of buttons on the camera body that enable you to change settings such as ISO, White Balance, Picture Quality, and EV Compensation. These are things you often want to change on the fly and pressing a button saves a lot of time over delving through layers of camera menus.
 
We chose the D90 in the end which has the same sensor technology as the professional camera - the full format D3 (£3,600). Obviously the difference in price was a big consideration but the D3 was a much bigger and heavier camera and for our use slots for 2 memory cards and an extra battery were unnecessary - I have never used a whole battery charge in a session yet and only once or twice, when I was doing a family photo shoot, got through a 4GB memory card.
 
As well as lots of buttons the D90 had an LCD display on top of the camera just behind the on/off switch so you can quickly check and change the settings you are using.
 
We also decided to buy a kit (different retailers may offer different kits). This means we got a camera body and a choice of one of two lenses to go with it. This is a way of getting a lens at a substantially reduced price. We chose the 18-105 mid-range zoom lens. It covers moderately wide angle photos to short range telephoto. We have been really pleased with it.

This is one of the first photos I took with my new camera.
I really liked the control I could get over depth of field and the true colour rendition.
 
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After getting your new,  probably expensive camera, you are possibly thinking that another lens or accessories are the next thing. There are some things that are really useful to have but the first thing to think about is INSURANCE.

This is learned through hard experience - make sure your equipment is covered out of the home and for loss or damage. We took my camera to the Museum of Photography and Film, stopped to watch a bit of 'Blakes 7' (It was definitely a lot better when I was 8) and wandered on without picking up immediately. It next appeared on CCTV footage as a man and his small son walked out of the museum with it. We are all human and when you are carrying a quite heavy bag of kit it is not too hard to forget in a distracted moment or even drop or knock it while moving it around.

Another little insurance policy you will need to invest in is a filter - either a 'skylight' or 'UV' to put on the end of your lens. This will make little or no difference to your photos but will protect your expensive lens from being scratched or damaged.

The next thing to think about is how you will safely carry everything around. I'm assuming that the majority of people who read this are female and probably already carry some kind of handbag around with them the majority of the time. This presents a conundrum: do you change your handbag to one that is big enough to put your DSLR and spare lenses in; do you find a camera bag that you can fit your purse, phone and other essentials into; or something else.

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This is the solution that is currently working for me.
 
I have managed to hone my handbag needs to this small Kipling bag. It is about 9 inches wide, 8 inches high has a long strap that you can use over your shoulder or- more usefully for me like a mini rucksack. I have had this bag for over three years and it looks as great as when I first got it. It has room for all my essentials, including my art journal and some pens in the front pocket.

My camera bag is a Lowepro Off-Trail 2 Belt Pack bought from ebay. There are many reasons why I chose it.
1. It fastens around my waist/hips so that I can have it behind me out the way when walking around, and swizzle it (that's the technical term, you know) when I want to get at the camera and/ or lenses.
2. It also has a shoulder strap - this helps support the weight (one camera and a couple of lenses gets heavy quickly- particularly with my 70-300mm telephoto.)
3. The two lens cases can be taken off - so if I want to travel light I can just have my camera and one lens (whichever one I choose).

The combination of these two bags means that if we are out for the day I can have the camera bag around my waist and my handbag on my back leaving two hands free. I can even tuck my monopod into the belt if I want to take that too.

So now your lovely new kit is all protected, both physically and financially. What's next?

There are two pieces of equipment that can potentially have the biggest positive impact on your photography for a modest amount of money.
The first is a tripod. One of the quickest ways to ruin a brilliant photograph is camera shake - another lesson learned from bitter experience. I imagine, though I could be wrong, like a lot of you; first and foremost I want to capture that great moment in my lens - the image is the key. I have been making art for a long time and generally my composition is sound - I know to fill the frame etc. But however great the composition or perfect the light there is a limited amount you can do with a fuzzy photo.

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This photo was taken at 1/8th of a second as I needed a long exposure to capture the effect of the moving blades.  An ND (Neutral Density) filter was fitted to allow such a slow shutter speed in the bright conditions. This shot would have been impossible without a tripod.

A tripod will enable you to take photos that are perfectly sharp in most situations. Scott Kelby, in his best selling book; 'The Digital Photography Book' says that the most important way to get 'tack sharp' photos is to use a tripod. We spent a lot of time researching and got a tripod with a ball head which gives us lots of flexibility in setting up the position of the camera and the ability to move the camera around for fine adjustments without it suddenly losing grip and slipping around. It also has a quick release plate that we leave permanently attached to the base of the camera. This means that we can quickly remove the camera from the tripod or quickly snap it on.

The final item that I would recommend is a collapsible reflector. You might think that these are just for serious or pro-photographers but they are inexpensive to buy. When we get another one we'd get a squarish one, rather than round, as a square one can be propped some where if you don't have a spare pair of hands. A reflector can be used in two ways: the first is to bounce light into harsh shadows to soften them. Great when you have lovely light coming onto one side of your subject from a window. The other way is when you are trying to take photos in very bright light conditions. You can strip off the cover and use the translucent centre section to diffuse and soften the harsh sunlight falling on your subject.
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I took this a couple of days ago with my 300mm telephoto lens, which is superb for candid shots. I am beginning to work in monochrome more and more. As I develop as a photographer there is always more to explore.
This post has really just scratched the surface of my experience with my DSLR so far. Please ask any questions if I can help you any further. I am hoping to follow this up in more depth on my blog at a later date!

Thank you for that very informative post Marie. It does sound like you have learned a lot in two years and it gives me hope and encouragement!

Thank you for joining us. Marie is open for questions and comments so don’t feel shy . Tomorrow we will hear from Sue of  Taylor Tattle  so please come back.

6 comments:

Margie S said...

I liked hearing about your experiences and the lessons you've learned. Helpful reminders! Your photos look great.

scrappysue said...

Great post Marie, I certainly learned a lot! And also has me wondering why I have never insured my kit?!! Lovely photos too!

Photographing Mom said...

Enjoyed reading your post!!

Lorraine said...

Hi Marie,
I was very impressed with the technical info you gave on the windmill shot. You mentioned a book about digital photography and i am just wondering what has been the most helpful to you over the last two years in terms of learning all about D-SLR photography.

Linda said...

Interesting article Marie. Off to look at your blog now! WE have an ND grad filter that we've never used! And only used our reflector once!! You've inspired me to give them a go. I love your bags! That's made me think some more about how I manage.

Rebekah said...

Thank you, I am wondering about getting a telephoto zoom lens for my Canon Rebel! Will have to do some research!