I’ve been busy taking photos, graduating, working my summer job and just living life recently hence little time to post things here. But over these past 4 years at Cambridge I’ve managed to build up quite a collection of photographic equipment, including one lovely new purchase that I’m particularly proud of and unbelievably excited to use!
I started getting into photography around 2001 when my parents bought me a (then very awesome) Practika digital camera. It had 1.3 megapixels, and, with a 32 Mb Compact Flash card, I could take around 500 photos at 640×480 resolution. Impressive huh? Despite the quality being below god awful, and the photos now just looking like a weird assortment of pixels, it was great, and I was hooked!
A few years later on holiday in Iceland I managed to come across a camera store and try out a whole bunch of then new digital cameras! These things had zoom, could take video and had marginally more than 256 pixels on the back LCD monitor! As before, I was hooked with this new technological development, and as a result I forked out a couple hundred pounds to purchase a Kodak DX6340 digital camera, a whole 3.1 megapixels of fun. It was super easy to use, and compared to my previous camera, produced freaking excellent photos (however to this day I still wonder why I thought putting a date stamp on each photo was a good idea…).
Fast forward to 2005. I had been using my Kodak camera pretty happily for the past 2 or so years, and I happened to be on holiday in Japan – the mecca of all things electronic. Every (and I mean actually every) camera store there allowed you to go in, and try out any camera. Regardless if it were a small point and shoot, or the most expensive SLR. And so as a result I went for the more expensive things. The SLRs looked cool, they had real weight, and produced seemingly better pictures. Plus they had far more awesome lenses. You had manual zoom, and you didn’t have to look through a stupid viewfinder that gave you an idea of what you were going to shoot, you could look through a viewfinder that showed you exactly what you were going to shoot. Far more manual, but far far better. I caved early the next year and bought a Canon EOS 350d with the kit lens refurbished from eBay for the wonderful price of £500 in 2006 pounds! I think it was retailing new at £700-800 around this time, and frankly that sort of saving was incredible. Little did I know how good this camera was when I got it.
I’ve used and loved my 350d for many years now. It’s small, and an absolute workhorse. The kit lens you get with it is unbelievably shitty, but I had no idea of this, and so, for the first 4ish years of owning this camera, I made do with an 18-55mm lens. I had some M42 Pentax lenses from my dad that I used with an adaptor, which worked actually rather wonderfully, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t appreciate how wonderful those lenses were back then (especially the 17mm fisheye). At some point, I figured I should probably get a new lens. I might have decided this after I kind of broke my 18-55 by sort of landing on it when in Southern Alberta (Crowsnest Pass). Somehow someone had mentioned that a 50mm might be a good choice, and so for my 21st birthday, some of my friends chipped together to get me a nifty fifty (EF 50mm f/1.8). I think I first used this lens on a punting trip out to Grantchester, and I guess I must have put in in Av mode and shot at a widish aperture because those photos looked dreamlike and wonderful. It was just incredible to get such results from a camera you had been using for 4 years but not realised the potential! I immediately got far more into photography as a result, shooting people’s birthday parties and black tie dinners, all through applying the basic principle of natural low light photography with fast prime lenses.
And I thought this was the end of it. Could it get better than this? Obviously it could, but at what price? It turned out a flashgun, could add even more to the kind of photography that I was doing. No more of this deer in a headlight look, I could bounce the flash off the roof or wall, softening the scene and make it look spectacularly wonderful and naturally lit. And yet no-one had told me that I could get such results from just changing the direction of light! I gradually figured I should get more and more fast prime lenses, particularly one a little wider than 50mm (on a APS-C sensor, it’s a little telephoto for me), so I went ahead with the 35mm f/2, which, could I believe it, was sharper than the 50mm. Now there’s more to this story, but it will be continued in a second part…