30 July 2010

Aperture control--retitled Belated Wednesday whine!

About 3 years ago, I got my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens, known as the Nifty Fifty, or the Thrifty Fifty referring to its extremely low price.  It took me a few months to mount it onto my D80 (an ancient body that's not been listed on the Nikon line for quite some time now), and then an additional number of months after that before I even started to realize the true capacity of the lens.

Exposure has 3 basic prongs, ISO (light sensitivity), shutter speed (do I freeze action, do I blur it?), and aperture control (depth of focus--how much of the image do I want in focus?).  Well, the Thrifty Fifty is amazingly fast compared to kit zooms (i.e., those lenses that you get when you buy consumer SLR sets that come with both the camera body and a lens), which is just another way of saying that it is capable of really shallow depth of field.  This lens changed the way I photographed by an enormous measure...and since then, I've snapped over 36, 000 images, the vast majority of which was via this lens.

Why in the world did I take so many photographs?  Well, first and foremost, it was because I enjoyed it!  And second, it was because I wanted to get better at it.  At least half of those images were immediately deleted, and half of the remainder were nearly unusable (but I have a hard time deleting images of my kids).  And a tiny fraction ended up posted here--an even smaller percentage ended up on Facebook.  Certainly, as time passes and the more portraits I make, the bigger the proportion of usable frames.  Don't get me wrong, I still have a looooong way to go before I stop feeling like a total hack and a fraud for having the audacity to offer to sell my photography services (because, yes, I experience those sentiments on a daily basis).

You know, I'm starting to think this post should have been written under one of my Wednesday Whine headings because, folks, that's exactly where I'm headed.  Here's the thing: I hear people saying they'd like to be better photographers all the time.  Really.  ALL the time.  And then somehow they surmise that I have better equipment (I don't...remember that dirt cheap lens and the dinosaur of a camera body?), that I have a better eye (I don't...I regularly spend hours examining others' photographs and reading about composition).  These statements undermine the WORK I have put into this craft.

What I'm trying to say is that I've gotten better because I read through my manual (many times) and worked every dial and button on my camera until I knew them all.  I've gotten better because I've read, and continue to read, many books and articles on the matter.  I've gotten better because I constantly study others' images to learn from their viewpoint.  I've gotten better because I use my camera.  Every. Single. Day.

I'm so happy to help others figure out their cameras (these darn SLRs can be very complicated!) and learn about those aforementioned prongs of exposure.  Well, I'm happy to do it for the casual user.  For the aspiring photographer who laments their lack of success, I'm less happy.  If you are genuinely interested in photography, how can it be that you have not even read your camera's owners manual?  Did you, by chance, receive the Russian version and all that Cyrillic confuses you?  Okay, then, I'll buy that excuse.  Otherwise, get off your lazy butt and do the work, or stop complaining that you're not good enough, because let me tell you, you haven't even begun to try (I don't even think that *I* am working nearly as hard as I could/should be).  And when you attribute my improved photography to some sort of mystical reason or mere happenstance, you're insulting me and undermining the effort I've put into this continuing process.  Stop it.  It annoys me and it hurts my feelings.

ETA on 9/6/11: I wrote this a year ago and nearly immediately pulled this post because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings or offend the casual reader.  But over a full year later, I appreciate the sentiment and that it pretty much still holds true and I'm proud that I expressed myself in an all-text, no-photo post so I'm republishing it a full year later!

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