My Current Equipment...Camera: Olympus OMD EM1; Lenses: Olympus M. Zuiko 9-19mm, 12-50mm, 60mm lenses.
Tripods: Benro C0681T carbon fiber tripod and a Manfrotto 190XB tripod
Why photography? What made me choose to get into it?
I've always had an artistic side to me and have enjoyed taking pictures for years but as with most people I used to limit myself to taking plain snapshots. That all changed 8 yrs ago. There were two reasons that made me more serious about pursuing photography. The first was stress. Running a business can be challenging and after 10 yrs of pouring my heart and soul into it, I thought it was time to delve into something that was a complete departure from my daily routine and responsibilities. Secondly, digital photography has made it easier for the average person to experiment with this unique art form. No longer is it necessary to mess with film, chemicals and a dark room to take and process your pictures. With digital, you can take many pictures, easily discard the ones you don't want and process and print the ones you do with your digital darkroom at home.
What I truly enjoy most is that it allows me to take in and view my surroundings differently. I enjoy the challenges of trying to create unique and interesting images and I think possibilities are limitless. They say you should stop and smell the roses from time to time and this is a fun way to accomplish that.
How did I get started?
I actually started my journey into art with a drawing class. I've always loved to draw but had never taken a formal class. This turned out to be a good starting point because it taught me about the common elements that are needed in most expressive forms of art. I learned about the concepts of using light and shadows, perspective, lines and many others. I was all set to take more drawing classes but decided to take a beginning photography class since I had just purchased a fancier point and shoot camera for an upcoming New York trip. As with most people, I was quite intimidated by the all the knobs, settings and buttons so what better way to learn, right? Well, things just took off from there and after several equipment upgrades and additions, I'm still here pushing my creative envelope. I've been flattered and pleased with the feedback I've gotten.
Could you recommend some books on the subject?
After taking the class, I began buying more books about photography. I read books on the mechanics of photography, composition, use of exposure and light. I bought books that taught me how to process with photoshop and to use it to manipulate pictures into all sorts of creations. I also learned about printing and displaying my images. After all of this there is one thing I know for certain, there is so much more to learn. What books would I recommend? There are many but here's a short list:
Digital Photography Vol 1 by Scott Kelby
Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson
Adobe Photoshop for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby
Layers by Matt Kloskowski
301 Inkjet Tips and Techniques by Andrew Darlow
How to Cheat in Photoshop by Steve Caplin
Other reading material?
There are numerous magazines out there. My favorites are Outdoor Photographer and Shutterbug magazine. Popular Photography isn't bad but I found it to be repetitive after awhile. For info on Photoshop, I like Photoshop User. You'll come across some specialty magazines like Advance Photoshop or Photoshop Creative which are British publications so they can be a little expensive but they have some really interesting tutorials. Many of these are now available for your computer or the iPad at Zinio.com.
What kind of camera should I buy?
Prior to getting into the hobby I asked this same question to sales clerks, patients and friends. I got the same answer, "It's a personal choice. It all depends on what you want."
Remember the fancy point and shoot camera I told you about? Well it was Canon S3 IS (fancy in 2004 terms) and I chose that model because of the solid ratings it received online and in various reviews. After a while, I simply got used to the Canon interface and when it came to finally upgrading to a DSLR, I chose to stay with it.
In 2014 I decided to make another change and switched to a mirrorless Micro 4/3rds camera by Olympus called the OMD-EM1. Micro 4/3rd cameras are a newer breed of DSLRs that have no mirror system thus making them smaller and much lighter. As much as I loved my Canon 7D camera, the weight became an issue particularly when traveling. The heaviness caused many head, neck and back aches and I made a decision to change after our 2013 trip to Europe. I had read numerous articles on the up and coming mirrorless technology and finally decided to make the jump. Although I still retain my Canon system, I am mostly using the Olympus OMD EM1 camera. You can see the results in both the Big Sur and Oregon galleries. So far I have been very impressed with the results.
So when it comes to choosing a camera, my advice is to list the attributes you would want in a system. What's important to you? Narrow it down to a few models then do your research before heading into the store. Pay attention to strong and weak points of the cameras your considering. Handling them in person can also make a huge difference. For me a camera has to be easy to handle i.e. are the buttons in a logical place? I want quick focusing and good stability. I want good lens options and it all has to be within my budget.
There are many good cameras out there and the choices can be overwhelming. If you're just getting started, don't make it too hard on yourself. No matter what system you choose there will be a learning curve so don't go for the $5,000 pro level camera body right away. Give yourself some room to experiment and grow. Upgrading will always be a possibility later.
What kind of editing software do you use?
So far I've used Photoshop. When I was enrolled in a photo class many years ago at UCSD extension, I was able to purchase the full version of PS and was able to do so with a sizeable "student" discount. I've been using it ever since. A lot of my Photoshop skills were learned from reading books on the subject along with lots of experimentation. It no doubt takes time and effort to learn it but what I like about Photoshop is that the creative possibilities are endless. You can not only edit pictures but you can eventually do so much more especially with creative composition. If you don't want all of this you may want to consider just using Adobe's Lightroom instead. In fact that would be my advice to any beginner. This program has two advantages. It is not only a powerful editing tool but it provides an excellent means of organizing your archives as well. Many of us use both......Lightroom for organizing and editing, Photoshop for taking things a step further. Adobe software can now be purchased as cloud based programs. You simply pay a subscription fee, which can be as low as $10.00/mo, and this allows you use of the latest versions without ever having to worry about buying future upgrades as in the past.
What kind of pictures do you enjoy taking?
Landscapes are a favorite. I must say that I've gained a new appreciation for true masters of photography like Ansel Adams who not only successfully applied many of the artistic elements but did so with none of today's technological advances.
Floral photography is fun too. Think of the countless images of flowers that have been taken. It's a challenge to try and create something that is unique and different.
I enjoy night time photography and macro as well. I am just starting to explore the possibilities with creating surreal images and look forward to learning more. I hope to also expand into digital art and painting. You can see some of my efforts in the illustrations gallery.
What's been the hardest thing about photography?
Printing, hands down. I came to find that I wasn't alone. I found it very difficult to match what I had edited on screen to what was actually printed. I started with an iMac and am now using a 2014 mac mini with an Asus PA249Q screen which came recommended by David Brooks from Shutterbug magazine. Why the switch? Because iMacs are difficult to calibrate. It is because of this that my prints would consistently come out too dark and the colors were never an exact match.
The answer is to have a screen that you can accurately adjust the colors and brightness settings. These variables are best manipulated with the use of calibration software such as those made by companies like XRite. They make devices that utilize special software who's sole purpose is to calibrate and adjust your screen.
You can find many articles, books and youtube videos on the subject. I would highly recommend researching this so that you avoid being disappointed with the prints you make. I'm still learning about all of this too.
I currently use an Epson R1900 printer which is a great machine. It can output prints as large as 13X19 or you can even use photopaper in rolls which allows you to print large panoramic shots. I've found the best results so far using Epson brand paper but have had some success with Ilford too. Paper, BTW, is yet another subject that can be very involved.