Saturday, October 25, 2014

Learning New Things

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Just because you get pretty good at one or two types of photography doesn't mean you're automatically an all-around good photographer who can produce good images shooting almost anything outside what you're already pretty good at shooting. (Sorry for the excessive "goods" in that sentence.)

For instance, while a fair amount of my skills and knowledge would translate to shooting weddings, I don't know jack about shooting weddings and wouldn't agree to take someone's hard-earned cash to document and shoot what will be, for many, one of the most important days of their lives.

Does that mean I could never shoot weddings? No. Of course not. What it means is I would never present myself as a legitimate wedding photographer before doing lots of homework and paying my dues, probably in the form of being a second photographer working with an experienced wedding shooter at a number of weddings. When I finally felt I had some real and meaningful experience to offer, then I might sell myself as a wedding photographer. Until then, I'd be little more than a wedding shooter version of a GWC (Guy With a Camera) in spite of my lengthy experience shooting glam and tease models and other sorts of portraiture.

Lately, I've become fascinated, intrigued, interested in, and generally enamored with long exposure photography. (Both daylight and night-time long exposure photography.)  To say this sort of photography is far from what I usually shoot -- even farther away than shooting weddings -- is an understatement. In fact, the more I learn, i.e., by doing my homework, the further from my photographic comfort zone long exposure photography appears to be.

But that's okay! I love a challenge and I love learning new things! I'm confident that, when I get my ass out there and try shooting some LE (Long Exposure) photography after doing said homework, I'll be prepped, informed, and have a clue about what I'm doing. Probably more than a single clue. Perhaps a bunch of clues!

I've broken down my homework into two, general, categories: gear and techniques.

Gear: What will I need that I don't already have to begin my LE journey? Been reading and learning a lot about that. Once that's determined, I'll decide what specific types and/or brands or models of that gear seems right for me in terms of quality, functionality, and budget. You see, my kit (as it is right now) isn't an LE photographer's kit. Heck. It isn't even a landscape photographer's kit for that matter. Sure, some of my gear will work just fine, e.g., the camera bodies I already own and a few other things. But in terms of glass, filters, and more, well, I'm going to have to open my wallet and buy a few things... which I've already begun doing. In fact, the only thing I still need to purchase (to get started) is a good wide angle lens. It looks like, after a fair amount of research and asking around, I'm going to go with Canon's venerable EF 20mm f/2.8 prime. (Which works nicely into my current gear preferences as I'm getting rid of my zoom lenses, except for my Canon 70-200 L, and becoming nearly an all-prime-lens guy. But that's another story.)

Techniques: Just because I add the necessary gear to my bag to help me shoot LE images, coupled with my long-time experience shooting models in studios as well as at practical locations, daylight or otherwise, doesn't mean I automatically know how to make best use of that gear or my skills in order to produce decent, hopefully better-than-decent, LE images. So, in order to elevate my knowledge -- that is, to get a clue, perhaps more than a clue -- I've been reading lots of articles, plus a few ebooks, as well as watching a variety of educational videos on the subject. I've also gone online and viewed many, many LE images, both the best of the genre as well as some of the worst. (Yep. You can sometimes learn a fair amount by looking at poor examples of various types of work. Occasionally, believe it or not, you can learn more from viewing some of the worst examples of something than from viewing some of the best. But that's also another story.)

Once I get my gear together -- and I'm saving for that lens, it's about $500, because I don't like banging credit cards for gear if I can avoid doing so or be patient enough to wait which sometimes I can, but only sometimes -- it will be time to get out there and try out what I've learned. As I've said many times on this blog and in my ebooks, getting good at shooting something requires learning and then practice. Plenty of practice. Practice, practice, practice! (And more practice!)

The pretty girl at the top is Paris. I snapped it in studio against a grey seamless. I used three lights: Main light camera-right, about eye level, modified with my 33.5" Mola "Euro" beauty dish, plus a couple of medium Chimera strip boxes, either side from behind for some highlights.


Kevin H. Stecyk said...

Gorgeous photograph Jimmy!

Jerry Stachowski said...


Another lens to consider is the Rokinon/Samyang/Bower 14 MM F2.8. It's manual focus, but there are versions that will meter with canon or nikons. In term of long exposures I was doing some night photography at Grand Teton NP with it.

jimmyd said...

Thanks Jerry!

I was looking into the Samyang 14mm but one of the problems with it is the difficulty in putting filters on it because of its bulbous front end. You can't thread filters on front or rear from what I've read, and while they've recently come out with a square filter holder for it, it looks cumbersome to use. I want to shoot daylight long exposures as well as night light photos. For the daylight, filters are needed. I recently purchased an ND 30, which is -10 stops, and it needs to screw on.