Getting Started in Photography

I wanted to write a blog post about a question I am asked fairly often that goes a bit like this:

“I have $600 to spend on a new camera / and lens, what should I get that will enable me to take awesome pictures?”

I would be lying if I told you that there is not a relationship between a camera’s performance and its price tag, but I can also say that there are many many ways to stretch your dollar into deeply artistic and empowering frugal territory.  The story starts long ago…

In 1959, Nikon first introduced the lens mount that it still uses to this day on its wide range of DSLR cameras.  What this means is that any vintage lens, going back to 1959 can be used on your modern Nikon with only a few limitations.  It also means that you can shop for decades of really cool old used lenses and save a ton of money getting unique vintage and artsy looks from your modern Nikon camera body.

In addtion, Nikon uses sony sensors in its camera bodies these days, and sony simply makes the most advanced sensors on the market today.

A $250 used Nikon camera body gets the same sensor performance as a 2,000 – $6,000 Canon body, as the sensors that sony makes, simply kick so much ass.

So, to break it down.

Nikon D5100 Camera Body – Used, mint condition on ebay for $250.00

Nikon 50mm 1.8g Lens – New $200

Nikon NIKKOR 85 mm F2 Ai-S Lens – Used $200

Here you have a $650 setup that you could rock a wedding with. :)

RAW vs JPEG

Whether to shoot in RAW or JPEG is a question that photographers have been challenged with since camera manufacturers first started to offer RAW image recording. The perks of shooting in RAW are many, but they come at a price.

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Fire Spinning in Bulb Mode

There are a number of both tutorials on fire spinning & photography, as well as a huge number of stunning images that people have made with long exposure and steel wool. The other night, I wanted to try something different – a really simple approach to this technique – exploring a complete black background and as much pure symmetry / reflection as possible.  I also wanted to be able to capture the entire spray of sparks – with a wide enough lens that the whole scene was captured.

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Developing digital photos

A friend of mine once posted a pro-photo that he took at a wedding. There was something special about the photos that could not be missed. The colors popped in some rich ways, were subtle and almost mute in another way, and the photo as a whole had a subtle but magical quality about it that simply made it special.  He had taken a good shot, and made it fantastic.

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50mm Nikon 1.8g Review

There are many articles and videos made that describe the importance of ‘good glass’. Your choice of lens makes a profound impact on image quality. In this video, DigitalRev compares banking on a super high end camera body paired with a cheap lens, and a low end body paired with a high end lens.  The results are very clear. In most shooting conditions, the quality of the lens you are using will make for a better image then the quality of your camera body. Read more

Sigma 70-300mm SLD DG Macro Review

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SLD DG Macro Lens with built in motor for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras Review

I think its fair to say that no one should expect a 70-300mm lens, in a sub $200 price range to match the performance of a prime lens, or $2000 zoom. In this light I have to say that a week into playing with this budget lens, I am starting to warm up to it.

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Fire and Sky Tutorial

I spent an evening in a remote canyon trying to get a good shot of fire spinning within the canyon walls.  The shots did not work out so well, and as I was leaving, I noticed how many stars were in the sky above the river at the canyon entrance.  I wanted to get a shot that both captured the faint star light, and the intense light from the fire spining.  I set the camera on the tripod and took a few super high ISO shots that were too noisy to use, but that I could use to frame the shot in the dark quickly.

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