Updated: Jan 10
Photography isn't entirely a new thing for me. In my 20s, while guiding fishing trips in the arctic, I had my Dad's camera in the boat at all times. It was loaded with slide film and fitted with a polarizing filter on the kit lens. Today, I own a couple of cameras, including the one on my phone. What is new to me today is performing photography well, or at least attempting to do it well.
I am by no means an expert in outdoor photography, however, I thoroughly enjoy the learning curve of a modern DSLR camera that keeps my brain active most of the time that I am using it. There are so many skills involved in composition, lighting, focus, and the camera settings themselves. In the beginning, it is a little daunting and I still make many mistakes. Little by little, however, it becomes methodic and natural. The camera becomes familiar and together, man and machine are able to perform some pretty cool visual art together.
There is also an added component of the photography hobby these days, post-editing photos. This is almost another art form in itself. Previously, the ability to edit photos after the camera clicked was severely limited. You would compose the photo in the viewfinder, make the camera settings appropriately, and press the shutter button. Then you had to take the film to the photography shop and wait for it to be developed.
Software is inexpensive and the results of post-editing photographs can be startling. Startlingly bad or good! Another advantage of photography today is the volume of learning opportunities on platforms such as Youtube. The hobby has really evolved in a short amount of time, and it is so enjoyable to me as an art form. Right now, my favourite photo editing software is an app on my iPhone. Snapseed. This app is free and very powerful. There are a ton of tips and tutorials on its use here on youtube. My son Garreth uses more expensive image editing software. Kevin too.
Photos, done well, with good equipment, add a significant layer of emotion to my outdoor activities. A quick snap with the iPhone almost never elicits the same feelings as some of the photos taken with either Kevin or my own Canon cameras.
The photo on the right (above if you’re reading this on your phone) was taken last fall after I shot my whitetail fawn on a grey November morning. Kevin arrived a little later and he took many photos. Some of those photos are joyful and lighthearted, and some are introspective of the event. This photo though. This one gives me emotion when I look at it months after the fact. I was alone, I had been successful in the hunt. It was quiet, cold and I was full of emotion. The depth of field and colour invoke feelings in me that would've been lost had I simply taken the grip n grin selfie. It isn't a perfect photo either, but it doesn't need to be. A photo like this simply would not exist in my possession had I not started down the photographic journey that I am currently on. There are many examples of what I am talking about in the photo files of my computer.
Good quality DSLR cameras and lenses and related gear are not cheap. That is definitely a barrier. But here's the thing, it doesn't need to be. Used DSLR cameras are incredibly accessible. The camera that I mainly use now was almost $2000 when it was new. It is a professional grade Canon 7D from perhaps 2010. Major award-winning film footage was shot on a 7D, along with shows such as The Avengers and Saturday Night Live! A twelve-year-old first-generation 7d Canon camera in perfectly usable condition cost me $0. That was a special deal from a friend. Today, as I write this, it looks as though I can purchase the same camera on eBay for around $300 CAD, and for a few tens of dollars more, it will come with lenses and accouterments. The camera was given to me by a friend who wasn't using it any longer. I was appreciative. This new camera replaced my previous used camera purchase, a Canon t3i, which I paid $250 for. For that money, a couple of lenses, a case, and a spare battery and charger were included.
DSLR vs Phone
Phones are now taking perfectly acceptable photos. The technology in phone cameras is a priority for companies, and they are doing a great job on that front. I don't like the built-in obsolescence, but that is another discussion. These new phones are phenomenal when it comes to picture quality and I've shot footage on my iPhone that has been used in From The Wild episodes. However, the newest phone is still not as efficient at taking great photos of high resolution and in different conditions as is a basic DSLR camera. Relatively modern DSLR bodies have better resolution and can be manually manipulated to take photographs in a huge range of conditions that a phone simply cannot. Low light, astrophotography is difficult with a phone as are myriad other photographic effects.
There is simply no question that taking pictures with my DSLR is opening up a large number of new opportunities for my photography.
I talk a fair bit about thrifting in my outdoor activities. In today's consumer culture, based on a perpetual growth economy, everyone wants the newest and latest technology. The "unboxing video" still startles me when I stumble across them accidentally. This pervasive attitude creates so many opportunities for folks like me who like to avoid spending money unnecessarily. With some searching, I can, very often, find a used piece of kit that is essentially new, for very little money. If I had to spend the going rate for professional-grade photography equipment, I just wouldn't do it. Purchasing a great quality camera in used condition, now gives me the financial flexibility to afford great quality lenses and other accessories which add to photographic success. Newer cameras definitely have upgraded sensors and make better pictures, and with money saved at the outset, I am that much closer to being able to find that camera someday soon. Used of course.
What do you think? What have I missed? please share any of your photographic thoughts in the comments!