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My name is Alfredo, I'm 26 years old and I live in Mexico City. I'm an Industrial Engineer and I have been taking photography seriously as my hobby since 2006.
I believe that the best place to learn photography is out there shooting the streets, landscapes, sports, portraits, etc. Manuals and tips are really useful, but I must say that 80% of what I know was learnt out there taking pictures. The rest (20%) was learnt reading magazines, watching videos about photography, reading the manuals, and reading books about photography. Theory is important but practice is vital.
Without any practice it will be hard for the photographer to understand speed, aperture, focus, exposure, white balance, bokeh, rule of thirds, ISO, DoF, HDR, etc..... Photography is a trial and error hobby in which imagination is needed, and in which your hands must get dirty to understand all the concepts.
Since 2006, I took photography as an important part of my life. A hobby in which I could freeze the time and forget about a bad day or a complicated situation. Everything started with a point-and-shoot Fuji E510 that my dad bought me. This camera gave me a lot of opportunities to learn because it had creative modes (M, A, S, etc). Not a common feature for P&S cameras at those days. I was surprised with the results that I could obtain with such a small and cheap camera like this one. My dad and my brother were photography hobbyists too and they started explaining me the basic concepts of photography until I arrived to a point in which this was not enough for me. I started making research on the internet looking for information about photography, I opened a Flickr account, and I spent literally hundreds of hours shooting pictures and acquiring inspiration from other photographers as me on the internet.
Photography was starting to take an important place in my life, it was a stress-relief activity that I was passionate about.
At some point, that Fuji camera stopped being enough to satisfy my photography needs and desires. At 2007, SLR cameras were extremely pricey here in Mexico and I started looking for alternatives to buy a good/advanced P&S camera. I bought a Panasonic LX1, which shared a lot of components with the Leica D LUX 2. This camera had much more functionality and was more difficult to use than the Fuji. The results (shots) obtained from this camera were greater too. I started using RAW format and this camera gave me the opportunity to take some of the pictures that I love the best in my collection nowadays. It made me understand why SLR cameras are much better than P&S. Noise was sometimes unacceptable at low light situations which was my major concern after using this camera for more than a year. This camera made my learning curve increase significantly. Since this camera, I have tried to learn as much as I can of all photography types: landscapes, sports, animals, portraits, street, architecture, nature, etc. The panasonic lx1 is the camera I take with me nowadays when I don't want to carry my heavy SLR.
Year 2008 arrived and digital cameras were starting to get better and better prices. I finally acquired a Canon 450D/XSi with the 18-55mm kit lens. This camera took my photography to the next level. If I were asked to divide my photography in periods, I would say before and after the SLR. I spent 3 years with this camera and a sort of lenses (70-300 f3.5-5.6 from Sigma, a 50mm f1.8 from Canon, and a 17-50 f2.8 from Sigma). These versatility in focal lengths gave me the opportunity to try everything. I started being more demanding photographer in terms of quality of my pictures and most important, in terms of the story I'm telling with them.
In the digital darkroom, I have learnt a lot too. I can use Photoshop at a basic level and Adobe Lightroom at an advanced level. Lightroom lets me do 80% of the retouch that I normally need in my pictures. I always work in improving my pictures organization too and I have two backups of them.
I know that it is really expensive to change camera brands due to the incompatibility of the lenses but it was love at the first sight when Nikon released the D7000 which is my current camera. I sold my canon XSi and lenses, and I think this was a good decision. This new Nikon was an incredible piece of technology. I have been using it with the 18-105mm, the 35mm, the 50mm, and I'm impressed with the quality and features. I love the focusing system which is far better than the one in my previous camera.
After this camera I entered to the full frame world with my new Nikon D600. This has been by far the best camera I have ever used coupled with the 50mm f1.8G and the 24-105 f4 lenses. Low light possibilities are amazing and I am getting really strong carrying this heavy body. This camera has incredible features such as the WiFi module, which is an excellent tool for those difficult creative shots
Up to this day, I have taken around 40,000 pictures. Of these pictures I think I have achieved 300 that are worthy and 20 that are really good.