004 - Me

So what's this one about... oh yeah Me... or rather my photography journey.

Well I’ve created a few blogs giving an idea of my photography, but why did I get into photography??... Only one way to find out… keep reading.

I’ve always been a creative person, loved drawing and still do enjoy the odd sketch. It’s also be shown in my work… 30 years as a draughtsman/designer. But photography is where I can get to really express myself and let the creativity flow.

I guess as kids we all had the small cameras, the one’s that popped out, or the polaroid ones, or the disposable ones. All with the built-in flashes that didn’t really do much. My first recollection of using a camera was a 110 camera, the long flat ones, flash at one end, a slider to change to the telephoto lens and the funny little cartridge style film container. I don’t however recall taking any great photos with it haha.

After that I don’t think I properly used another camera until my teens, my dad had used the disc cameras in this time. The film for these was unique in that it was basically on a disc and rotated to expose each slide. The cameras could be slid into a pocket they were so slim, and of course you could get the clip-on lenses to give them the telephoto and wider angles. But in my teens my dad had bought a Praktica 35mm SLR camera, I was really taken with this so that was my next camera. A black Praktica BX20. This was my first time with what I call a proper camera. I had great fun with that and had some decent lenses, helped by the fact that my dad’s ones would fit my camera. I used it for quite a while and was pleased with the results that I got from it. When you think of it, there was no autofocus back then at least not on the camera I had. I even took my photography into my schoolwork, for my computer studies (as it was called then) I wrote a programme to help people choose the right camera for them thru a series of questions. Then leaving school the world of work took over and photography took a bit of a back seat.

I was then in a wilderness for a few years with no camera.

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Photography and that creative side was still there, it was just being kept quiet, soon enough tho another camera was bought… another revolution in the point and shoot film cameras. The Kodak Advantix 35mm film. Now these were clever, these days you change your ISO with a button or a dial. Back then (yep some people won’t know this) you had to use a different film! Now when it gets dark, we just boost the ISO and carry on. Those old cameras you had to use a different film, if you took a film out that was only half used, you just wasted the rest of the film. The Advantix, you could take a film out halfway thru using it and the camera would remember what exposure it was up to when you put it back in! This camera could also do panoramic shots! This was witchcraft! I remember when you sent these films off you had to tick a box as to whether or not they had panoramic photos on them. Just laughed out loud then, remembering the stickers Boots or whoever was developing your film would put on the photos that came out badly due to focus, bad light etc. But that was the fun part, you send your film off, then wait a couple of weeks to find out how your photos came out. Just seems so surreal nowadays that you see instantly how the photo you’ve just taken looks.

After this camera there was another break in the ownership of cameras, until at the airport with my brother and our other halves we decided to get a digital camera… The Nikon Coolpix 3200, with the 3200 standing for 3.2MP… These were the point and shoot compacts with a 3x zoom! I’ll be honest it was a great little camera, and was the first camera that I had with me most of the time. I was getting hooked on the photography again…

When the iPhone cameras started to get the bigger resolutions, I used that camera less and less and started to really take an interest in photography with my iPhone. Now the beauty of the phone cameras is you have to think about what you are taking a photo of, and often move in closer due to the lack of a zoom. I think this approach has followed me from this time as I am always looking for a different angle or view to get my photo even now. I do actually have some photos on my wall that were taken on my iPhone, some with the clever but fiddly clip on lenses. They did actually work, the telephoto ones were a mare tho you had to be a statue to make them non blurry. I was getting even more hooked on the photography.

So much so, after a few years I got my first bridge camera.

Now for the life of me I can’t remember what my first bridge camera was. But it was a decent camera I know than, and the first one that I used to the motorsport photos with. Fantastic zoom on it. But it was at a car show at Santa Pod that it became an ex camera. I was sleeping in a tent, well my fishing bivvy to be exact and the weather was crazy wet. To keep the camera safe while I slept, I tucked it away in the corner of the bivvy away from the door. What I hadn’t realised was the cover on the vent at the top of the bivvy had come loose… and the rain came pouring in. I didn’t notice as I was fast asleep in my warm sleeping bag… but when I woke at about 5am… the horror became clear. I wasn’t set up on level ground and the corner than my camera was in was lower… the rain collected here… my camera didn’t float in fact it did a great impression of a submarine, but without the torpedoes and periscope. That was the end of that one.

For a long while I went back to the iPhone photography, upgraded phone and better camera, but it just didn’t cut it at the motorsport to I needed to get another bridge camera. The previous one (the forgotten camera) was no longer available so I went for a Fujifilm Finepix S4300. This was a 14MP camera, complete with a 26x zoom! That was a decent zoom, but when at full extent the even with the image stabilisation it was so difficult to get a non-blurred photo. I also found that I couldn’t get the photos that I really wanted with this. I couldn’t slow the shutter down enough to get the motion blur photos as the cars went past. I needed something a bit more.

Unfortunately, my Gran passed away, I was left some money from her will. I wanted to get something to remember her by. One of my funniest memories of Gran was how many times she cut the heads off us in her photos. This was what I was going to spend the money on, a DSLR! My first DSLR, I spoke to a few of my motorsport contacts and the general consensus was a Canon was the way to go, and here started my love of the Canon cameras. My first one was a 600D. It was the perfect beginner’s camera. With all the bells and whistles you need to get to grips with this new equipment. It came with the standard kit lenses. Not bad but obviously they come with the cameras for the reason. They are cheap, but functional. After a couple of trips out to the tracks, I was getting the hang of the settings. But was getting let down by the lenses. It was time for an upgrade, the bonus with a DSLR is that you can upgrade the lenses and keep the body going. Like most things I like a bargain, but I also like a bang for my buck as they say. Now while I wanted decent glass, I wasn’t ready to spend the thousands on the Canon L lenses. I opted for a Tamron (and to this day these are my lens maker of choice) A 70-300 zoom lens. Now I was getting somewhere. I started to really push my photography and not just sticking to the motorsport I started taking myself out into the countryside and getting photos of landscapes and wildlife. My zoom lens was sorted… but now I needed to sort the wider angle one. This meant more research and this time I opted for a Sigma lens. This was a great buy and did everything I wanted it to and more. I was really moving along with my photography, getting additions to my gear, like filters and the likes. I was totally hooked. At motorsport I would fire of thousands (yes you read that right) of photos. Being a spectator there’s one thing that is the worst… fences! I was pleased with how my photography was coming along. I was getting more and more into the landscapes. The next few years that camera was well used for all kinds of photography. Even with favourite “genres” I found taking photos of things that were not my normal subjects gave me a different perspective and this again helped me take steps forward. You are always learning with photography, every time you press the shutter you learn something new, partly due to being your own worst critic with your photos. “what could I have done to make that better” that’s the question I ask when I review all my photos.

We now get to 2017 and I’ve booked a holiday to the Isle of Skye, basically to take photos. I now wanted a camera that would have a better handling of high ISO’s and a better dynamic range. In steps the 80D, I’m now down to double digits on the Canon – Quick explanation for those that don’t know. With the Canon range the XXXXD’s are the entry level ones now, tend to be smaller bodies and less featured, then you get the XXXD’s a bit of a step up and a slightly bigger body, next up the XXD’s bigger bodies, better features, these are the enthusiasts cameras. Then we get serious with the XD’s these a where the PRO range cameras fit in the 5D and the 1D being the camera of choice with a lot of PRO motorsport togs – Now I was in the enthusiasts range, I took my first workshop, a landscape one. This was supposed to be a class of 5 but I was the only one booked in on the day so luckily I got the option to pay a bit more and get a 1 to 1 workshop. We visited a few of my regular haunts for photos. I was impressed with how much I had taught myself from magazines and YouTube, but I did pick up a lot of useful tips and tricks. And had to buy a new addition to my kit, a “loupe” that magnifies the LCD screen, but also blocks the light out if you are trying to focus in the bright sunshine and can’t see the screen because of the glare. I was now ready for the trip to Skye and couldn’t wait.

Skye really opened my eyes to the world of landscape photography. You get a whole new appreciation for the world around you. With the landscapes I tend to set my camera on a tripod to compose the photo. This slows you down and gives you the opportunity to really get the composition that you want. It also gives you the chance to look around you without the camera pressed to your face to really see the world. You will see from my second blog that Skye has a special place in my heart, and this was the first of a succession of trips there. The wildlife and landscape photography was now a big part of my shutter presses. It also meant I could enjoy getting out more with the camera.

By now I was totally utterly hooked on photography. My camera bag came with me everywhere. I wanted to make sure that I was covered if there was a photo-op. It was towards the end of 2017 that I decided I wanted to step it up and start to try and make some money from my hobby. I bought a domain name and started to show my photos off to the world. Son of Leòd Photography started. I was basically putting my photos up for sale as prints and the likes on my own website. This was all quite exciting. I had a few sales, not many but it makes you happy that other people want to show your photos on their walls.

I upgraded again, remember those canon numbers, I stepped in the big leagues now. I got myself a Canon 5d Mk4. A totally awesome bit of kit. Much larger resolution, bigger body, more features. This was the camera I had been building up to from that first 110 camera as a kid. It was about now I was given the opportunity by friends to take photos of their Ice Driving school (see blog 003) in Norway, this was my first gig and hugely excited. It was a brilliant couple of days in the winter wonderland and really was the point that I realised all I wanted to do was drink coffee and take photos (and drink beer and whisky). Now I wanted to set a plan in action as to what I wanted to do. I had another trip to Skye booked as well for this year so that was something to look forward to. Now every time I was out with my camera, I was pushing the bit harder to get better shots, I was upping my processing game as well. I took a few online courses for using Lightroom (the digital darkroom) so all my photos have my twist, my style to them and not what the camera decided they were going to be.

This is the thing that always amuses me in the various photography pages on the likes a Facebook. A frequently asked question regards the “editing of photos” with so many people proudly proclaiming that “I don’t edit my photos, I get it right in camera” Now there’s two thoughts here… Editing and processing. My take has always been the processing of photos has been done since day one of the camera. If you take the photo on your camera and leave it at that then you have basically sent your film to a generic company to develop it to a standard set. If you take the photo in RAW then go home and process the image yourself, you have done exactly what the people used to do in their home darkrooms. Added your style to the photo. Now the editing, that’s different. That’s taking your photo and making changes, the furthest I would go with a landscape for instance is to take out an unwanted object or person. But when it comes to the light painting style I will overlay several photos and take out areas from each layer until I get the final Image I want. Some photographers will add different skies and the likes, I have no issue with this as it’s creating a unique piece of art.

But back on track, now I was taking online courses and reading up on different styles to add to the photography kit bag in my head. I had also decided where I was going with my photography, I wanted to pursue Pet and Automotive photography with my landscapes and the likes being the hobby side and making a large gallery of unique stock images. With the automotive photography I had a huge bank of images to get content for that part of my website. But I needed to get some content for the Pet side. To get a kickstart with that, a lovely friend of mine who basically has a mini zoo of animals she’s rescued and rehomed, invited me to take photos of them. This really cemented into my head that this was the right way to go. (see blog 001).

As before my camera(s) are with me all the time and I take all the opportunities I can to take photos and learn. Just the other day I bought a cake when out shopping and made that the subject for some food photography, making up and little temporary studio in my flat to take the photos.

Well that’s where my photography journey has taken me so far, I’m hoping that 2020 will bring in some more clients for my photography. My tagline is “creating memories” and that what I want to do for people, not just take a photo, but to catch a moment, create that memory.

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