I’m guilty.  Of having big ideas, crazy dreams, and lofty goals and intending to do them but then not.  The excuses range from not enough time, more important work to do, etc, etc.  Which was the case for my idea to post more technical photo talk stuff here.  I got overwhelmed with where to begin and starting doubting that I actually had any useful info to share!  But I figure the best way to start is at the beginning and equipment seems like a good beginning so here we go.

“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.” –Karen Lamb

This is where I began:  I took a film photography class in college and started learning about aperture, shutter speed, focus and depth of field, film speed, developing my own black and white film, printing my own pictures, and how to start noticing light, texture, repetition, space, etc. through a viewfinder.  At this point, I was totally confused and frustrated with the aperture numbers and all technical stuff but I loved shooting, spending time in the darkroom and seeing the end result.  That excitement was enough to keep me going and after A LOT of shooting, the technical stuff started making sense.  I cannot imagine learning photography on a digital camera with all those buttons and options and knobs.  Overwhelming!  In my opinion, a basic film camera is the best place to start.  You are forced to focus on the basics and cannot be distracted by the option to shoot on auto or push a button and get a cool effect.

Photography class notes and homework:

The contact sheet from my very first roll of film that I shot, developed and printed myself.  Pretty sure I thought they were amazing.   

My binder full of contact sheets and rolls of film:

Though film is a beautiful thing, I know digital is typically the more practical option now, especially for those of you who just want to take better pictures of your kids or for your own personal use.  Darkroom access is not widely available and after the initial investment of a camera body, lens and computer, there are not many additional costs as there is with film.  So naturally, that is the way I progressed.  The first digital camera I bought was a Nikon D70 with a 18-70mm lens.  SA-WEET!  I thought it was the greatest camera EVER.  This was the camera that I shot my very first wedding on with my friend Molly.  I think we made $75 each!  🙂  After about 2 years I upgraded to the Nikon D200 and the 85mm 1.8 lens and I felt like I had a whole new lease on life.  It was during the life of this camera where I really became serious about being a photographer.  About a year and a half after the D200 purchase, I upgraded to the Nikon D3 and have been shooting that for about 3ish years.  Here is what the inside of my camera bag looks like today:

And here the outside of my bag!  I actually have 2 bags:  A rolling suitcase as well as a shoulder bag.  This is is the rolling suitcase, which I love.  It is a Think Tank Airport Security V 2.0 and it is perfect for traveling or when I want to take pretty much all of my gear.  My only complaint is that I can’t fit my laptop in it but then it probably would be too big for a carry on airplane bag.

And the shoulder bag I have is the Tamrac Pro 12:

I take this to most of my portrait sessions and Ike is always suspicious of what I’ve been up to when I get home, especially when I’ve been photographing a family with a dog:

I’m talking about my equipment because it is a small piece of me and it is necessary to have in order to be a photographer.  However, it’s only a tool and if you don’t know how to use the tool, it won’t work well for you.  So, I want to stress the importance of learning the basics about photography before getting wrapped up in having the best camera.  I am a huge advocate for starting with the most basic equipment and upgrading only after you feel that you are being limited by your gear.

So, what camera would I recommend for a beginner?  I, of course, will always recommend a Nikon because that is what I learned on and what I am most familiar with.  The Canon and Nikon debate is sort of fun to have but really, they both are great products that basically do the same thing so it pretty much comes down to your own preference.  If you like graphs and charts and number things, Flickr has a handy little camera finder resource here. I think getting a basic body with a better lens is a great place to start.  The guys at West Photo in Minneapolis are really great and know waaaay more than I do about all the options out there.

So there you have it, my equipment timeline and a small part of my journey into the photo world.  I certainly would argue that other experiences (non equipment related) were far more important and perhaps I’ll touch on those later on.  Now THAT, is a LONG story.  🙂

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