Candice Does…Photography?

Before Christmas, I put out a call on Facebook for DSLR recommendations. The response was a little overwhelming, and I unintentionally started a Canon VS Nikon war. I knew nothing about photography; I didn’t even know what DSLR meant. But I realized to be an upstanding travel blogger I would have to expand my skill set. Plus after reviewing the MatadorU Travel Photography Course and following the work of people like Lola Akinmade and Paul Sullivan, I was itching to try it myself.

Thank gawd for Boxing Day Sales, amiright?

So I went with the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS. I bought the body, standard 55 mm lens, camera bag, and a 75-300 mm zoom lens. And when it showed up on my doorstep, I had no idea what to do with it.

First snow day of the year. The boarded up crackhouse in my backyard looked pretty. I like pretty things.

First snow day of the year. The boarded up crackhouse in my backyard looked pretty. I like pretty things.

The learning curve is a steep one, and I fear becoming a photography snob since everyone is doin’ it these days. Kickass cameras make it easy. When I first started flipping through user manuals, my head exploded. Wtf does aperture mean? Why is ISO so important? I had an embarrassing moment where I emailed my colleague Dan freaking out about a spot on my camera’s mirror, which actually turned out to be on my viewfinder because it wasn’t showing up in my images. Durrr.

I dismantled my roommates bedroom window to get this shot. Im lucky to live here.

I dismantled my roommate’s bedroom window to get this shot. I’m lucky to live here.

I’m also learning that the hobby ain’t cheap. According to the Photography Gods, I need a wide angle lens. The blocky, massive bag I bought also won’t cut it while travelling, nor will it do anything to limit my douchebag factor. I need to buy a good, discreet bag, clearly.

I like snow when its not falling sideways.

I like snow when it’s not falling sideways.

But I’m having fun. I find myself paying more attention to details I wouldn’t normally observe. What other excuse could I find to drag myself to the eastern tip of North America on a freezing winter day to capture the scariest waves ever?

Cape Spear madness.

Cape Spear madness.

If you can’t commit to a course, here’s a lovely article from my friend Michael Hodson where he asks top travel photographers, “What makes a good photograph?”

If you’re a seasoned photographer, throw some tips at me. Teach me, wise ones.

  • January 16 2011

    You’re doing a great job so far! The shots you have here are great!
    My biggest tip is to keep the camera on aperture priority and adjust the only aperture when you’re shooting. You can pretty much put the ISO on auto unless there is an odd lighting situation. I don’t think you “need” a wide angle lens, but you may want one if you like big, “landscapey” type shots. Also, get Adobe Lightroom for your computer asap. It will change your photography ten fold. The power of editing changes everything.

  • January 16 2011

    Just my two cents since I’m not a photography god . . . but, I would wait on buying any lenses. We photographed with our basic body and the lens that came with the body (an 18-55) for about three months before we decided to buy anything else. The reason why: everyone shoots differently and you won’t know what you need until you start taking lots of pictures. We realized very quickly that we wanted a lens with higher zoom so we went for the 18-200 mm VR lens for Nikon which is our all-time favorite, most-used lens. About a year later, after we realized that we wanted something for scenery shots b/c we shot so much scenery, we purchased a Sigma 10-20 mm wide angle lens. After we went to Australia and started shooting wildlife, we purchased a 150-400 mm lens solely for wildlife shots which made photographing wildlife in Africa very easy. Then, last month, I bought a 35 mm/f 1.8 lens because I wanted something small to take close up portrait shots in low light.

    So, now, we have a lot of lenses: 5, in fact, but we’ve bought them over the last 4 years which spreads out the cost. When we buy a lens, we make sure it’s one that we want and one that we’ll use. At the end of the day, a good lens is often more expensive than a body and will last you much longer because, at some point, you might want to buy a new body but as long as you stick with a new Canon, you can use all your old lenses.

    As far as buying a new camera bag, we are huge HUGE fans of Kata and Crumpler. Both make seriously awesome, comfortable, convenient, and unobtrusive bags.

    I love that second photograph. It’s really lovely! Have fun with your new camera – it’s so much fun getting into photography.

  • January 16 2011

    lovely wave shot! :D (can’t believe you’re referrign to yesterday as “freezing”, it was such a lovely perfect day!! ;P )

    really all very lovely photos :) I think it’s hard to live here and not want to take 50 million photos… so pretty! all the time! Even when it’s foggy as anything and I can’t see across the harbour anymore, let alone signal hill.. I feel like taking a picture ;p thankfully, i don’t take my photography seriously, else I could easily end up spending a lot of money on it…. Now I’ll just enjoy your super awesome photos ;D (and still take my decent enough for me photos ;) )

  • January 16 2011

    I agree with Teacher Girl. Lightroom is great (I use it, love it), but any post-processing tool will do at first.

    There’s a false mentality that editing on a computer is somehow cheating or less pure, but what you have to remember is that digital camera sensors have no real character. Instead of shooting Velvia 50 or Kodachrome 64, you get a somewhat bland and generic representation of whatever you pointed your camera at.

    Basic photo post-processing is good. Also, shoot all the time. The best camera is the one you have with you.

  • January 16 2011

    I´m so excited for you Candice!

    First rule is just take a lot of photos. They say your first 10,000 are crap. Also shoot what you love.

    The rest will come.

  • January 16 2011

    Beautiful photos, Candice! I don’t have a camera bag,I just use a holster and a little padded bag for my extra lens, and throw both into my knapsack when I’m traveling. It’s worked for me so far.

  • January 16 2011

    Candice apparently does photography quite well. Love the one of the waves. Giant kudos.

  • January 16 2011

    You rock Candice! Great start (no I’m not just being nice).

    As already said, shoot A LOT! And learn from your mistakes.
    I actually started by putting my camera on Manual mode and figuring out how to take a decent picture by changing settings. Once you master Manual mode, unleash your creativity!

    Feel free to ask me anything!

  • January 16 2011

    For being such a newbie to the DSLR thing, you definitely have an eye for it! Keep it up!

  • January 16 2011

    Way to go, gal. I agree with the holster and backpack way of toting. My advice would also be to shoot lots. Use Manual Mode, only. Throw the crappy shots away. Don’t edit unless you want to become an editor. Anybody can create digital pictures; you don’t even need a camera for that. Decide whether you want to be a photographer or a digital artist before you invest any more coins in the art of picture-creating. Manual Mode will kick your butt and you’ll make lots of mistakes. Then, you’ll get better. You’ll develop your own distinct style. You’ll stand out above the herds of wannabe digital photographers. You asked. My two cents.


  • January 16 2011

    Jeez you’re clearly not short of a few bob, that’s some kit!

    I wouldn’t bother with tonnes of lenses to start with. Especially as (like everyone else at that stage) you don’t know what you’re doing or will appreciate how much better they are.

    Best advise is to just take lots of photos and adjust as accordingly, you could spend your lifetime reading on how to take the perfect shot, but like lots of other things, experience will help more.

    As for the bag – again personal preference. If you end up with lots of lenses you’d probably want a dedicated bag. Originally I bought one that fits in my day sack so I don’t have the extra bag to carry at times. But now when I travel I just wrap up my camera in some clothing in my day sack and don’t carry a separate camera bag. It adds another load of weight to get in your baggage allowance at airports and more strain on your back. Save the spare 500g-1kg to carry some water or inevitable battery charger instead

  • January 17 2011

    No tips from me. I’m definitely not a professional, but I like your photos. Esp the crack house.

  • January 17 2011

    Whoohoo! Don’t you love it when you have a new toy? I lost mine early last year on a trip and didn’t buy a new one until I was in Alaska and couldn’t justify not having one. Don’t you love how even the most boring walk is suddenly more interesting when you look for stuff to photograph?
    As for your questions –

    high ISO is used when your pictures turn out too dark and you can’t adjust aperture or shutter speed any better. It makes the shot brighter, but also more grainy.

    low aperture is good if you have too little light, and it also makes the background blurrier (think 1.4 or 1.8 for portraits.) For landscapes I’d use like 8.0 in order to get all the detail, but the higher the number, the more light you will need.

    fast shutter speed is good for anything involving movement, low shutter speed is great if you have a tripod and want to make the water in a river look all foggy, or photograph the night sky.

    I’ve been all up in photography back in the day, lemme know if you have any questions!

  • January 17 2011

    No seasoned photographer here (although I like to think I have an “eye” for it, but that must just be in my head only), but I do like the first pink of the branches! I want a “snobby” camera, but I am also afraid that I just won’t know what to do with it!

  • January 17 2011

    How exciting!!! I’m also JUST about to make a big camera purchase. Great pics!

  • January 17 2011

    Awesome shots Candice! I am impressed already :)
    I bought a smaller camera bag for mine to travel with and I rarely use it personally. I always stick my camera in whatever purse I have on me if its not hanging around my neck and I’m not taking photos constantly.
    Also when I travel often times before I leave my room I know if I’ll be in a place safe for taking my camera or not and if I’m unsure I’ll either just take my point and shoot or just hope for the best!
    The best tip I can give is always remember the lens cap!!

  • January 17 2011

    I’m with you on the steep learning curve. There is so much to learn about taking a great shot let alone learning the intricacies of photo editing. Advice above is great. I think the more you photograph the more you want to photograph. Then you’ll know what type of shots you’re after. Your interests and needs also change over time. Since you’re usually broke I’d stick with Akila’s advice and hold off on any more gear for a few months. Get the hang of what you’re doing, see what appeals- people, food, landscapes, action??? and then go the next step. Perhaps you can get a used lens at a good price when you’re ready to take the next step.

  • January 17 2011

    I know nothing about photography but if that’s your starting point I’m impressed!

  • January 17 2011

    your photos are great so far, better than mine

  • January 18 2011

    Great first shots! I just got my DSLR too and I assumed that the second it landed in my hands I’d be a pro. So not the case!

    You and I will have to share photog learning tips! Good luck! Enjoy!

  • January 18 2011

    You’re off to a great start! My photography journey began with the Canon Rebel XSI – very similar to yours. I’ve begun writing easy to understand (I hope!) photography tutorials on my blog. Check it out!

    ~Catherine :)

  • January 18 2011

    Love it! And congrats on your new camera. Please feel free to email me or Paul anytime if you’ve got any questions at all.

  • January 18 2011

    Again…your photography is already amazing!!! I thought of some editing tools I like. I have some on my iphone (I don’t know if that’s what you have). The other one I love is picnik, which is very cheap. If you have an iphone and are interested in what apps are out there, I would be happy to send you a list!

  • January 18 2011

    Hey guys, thanks for the lovely words, encouragement, and tips…I’ve taken every one of them to heart and actually have a Word doc. opened as we speak, haha. General consensus: shoot lots, hold off on the lens, and eventually get some photo editing software. Gotcha.

    Rob, seriously got that whole kit for under $500, it was an amazing deal.

    Watched “Lost in Translation” earlier, love the line, “Every writer goes through a photography phase…like horses.” Let’s hope that’s not the case. ;)

    Really appreciate it!

  • January 19 2011

    I think this is a great idea, Candice. High-quality photos can set you out in front of the pack. Perhaps I should try what you’re doing rather than relying on my soon-to-be-deceased point and shoot. And Cape Spear looks beautiful!

    • January 22 2011

      That’s what I’m hoping! Hey, point-and-shoots are still great, good for bangin’ around at social events and stuff. :)

  • January 19 2011

    Those pictures are amazing. I loved the Cape Spear one.

    • January 22 2011

      Thank you! The waves were unusually huge.

  • January 20 2011

    That’s so exciting! From what I can see with these photos, you seem to have an eye. Like Ayngelina said, take lots of photos and the rest will come!

    • January 22 2011

      Aww, thanks Christy! We’ll see how far I get!

  • February 08 2011

    Great photos! I’m in love with my camera. Don’t get too fussy with the bag – the camera is pretty resilient. I tend to be pretty clumsy. It has been dropped before.I’ve been using a DSLR for the last two years, and before that a film SLR, but that doesn’t make me an expert. Just keep using it and you’ll find a way that works for you.

    My tips?

    – get a UV filter for each lens. The first night of my six month round the world trip, I’d literally just left the airport and got to my hotel, my camera fell off the bed and the UV filter smashed. If I didn’t have the filter that could have been the lens. Also helps to make cleaning a bit easier and keeps dust out of the lens.
    – play with the different modes and find what works for you. When I’m shooting a lot I use P, but there’s also a place for TV and AV, and the other manual modes. I never use the auto modes.
    – Regarding photo editing, I’ve just started shooting in raw and jpg (the camera saves two files) and I’m playing with a trial version of Lightroom which seems great so far. But before spending the money, play with the free stuff like Picasa and Picnik. You can do a lot of editing before spending the dollars. And get a trial version of Lightroom before buying it.

    That’s my two cents… enjoy!

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