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Then and Now

Published January 25th, 2012

September 2010 was the time I got my hands on my first DSLR. As a total beginner, I didn't want to spend too much money and I wasn't even sure where to start.

Of course I had used cameras before and I purchased a bridge camera which I used in auto mode all the time because I didn't understand the other command dial controls. That camera 'fujifilm s6500' ended up going for a swim when I took it to Ireland and lent it to my cousin 'Aiden' to take shots of me fishing, Ironically his young lad of about 10 years old was jumping around playing a bit close to the waters edge and ended up falling in, my cousin; without thinking reached in after him, camera strap still wrapped around his wrist and pulled him out and at the same time letting the camera drop into the water.

We done the usual and left it to dry for weeks. It never turned on again. Aiden gave me the money I'd paid for the camera so I decided to see if I could get a better one online. The prices seemed a bit steep for someone with no real knowledge of photography so I looked around for something used.

I came accross a Nikon D3000 for a reasonable price and because it looked a bit similar to the fujifilm in terms of the command dial and shape I decided to go ahead and buy it. The camera arrived in it's bare state, no box or manual, just a battery and the charger.

I began straight away to use it in auto mode and was pleased with the picture quality, however I wanted to know more about the Camera. I decided to download the manual from the Nikon website and began to try and understand it.

So around October time I had a better understanding of the command dial and began experimenting taking shots in Aperture Priority. I loved it!!! I had a better understanding of DOF, aperture, ISO and white balance and I soon began trying the modes out again and again, trying each time to improve my knowledge.

Youtube is a great source for information so I researched my particular camera and how to use it to gain a broader understanding of composing shots and framing to shooting what I wanted in the way I wanted.

I began to see instant changes in the way I was approaching Photography and a few months later I was seeing the results I wanted. I had mastered my D3000, I knew each buttons functions and when to use them, I discovered exposure compensation and flash use, learned about light and experimented with fast and slow shutter speeds.

By March of 2011 I felt comfortable talking about what I had learned with other photographers I had met, I learned from those people too and continued to want to improve my photography. I have been told on so many occassions that I have a great 'photographic eye', this boosted my confidence so much that I wanted to show the world what I could do.

I created a Flickr account and used it as a dumping ground pretty much at first, it took a while for me to just upload my best shots. I began to join groups and posted my best pictures in them, I instantly recieved a lot of positve responses and the feedback was a great confidence booster.

At this point I was interested in adding new kit to my camera, so a new lens was bought within budget (a Tamron 70-300mm) and I began experimenting more with moving images and wildlife, in particular, birds in flight. Again the feedback was amazing.

A year later and I upgraded my Flickr account to a pro one, I entered a lot of competitions, submitted countless images to various websites and tried harder to get the perfect picture. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to shoot some captive wild cats including Cheetahs and Tigers with Digital Photographer magazine and as a result one of my shots was selected by National Geographic for their stock photography website.

I have won about 5 competitions, (nothing major) but the excitement of winning even a camera bag was enough to give me even more love for photography and I am addicted.

I have recently upgraded my camera and now own a Nikon D90 which I love. I still have my D3000 and I continue to use my Tamron lens. The only other lens I have is my latest purchase of a 50mm 1.8D prime lens. I am still experimenting with it at the moment. When budget allows I will invest in some more prime lenses and definitley some speedlights.

I always raise the bar now, I challenge myself to take shots I have imagined in my head. I look at everything differently, in fact, I look at everything. I am always thinking photography, I write notes I use my iPhone to record notes too and I even keep a diary of settings used previously for other shots. When I read about competitions now, I take my time, let some ideas trickle into my brain and when I have a picture composed in my head I try and achieve that in my viewfinder when I am out with my camera.

I have noticed I spend a lot more time studying subjects, leaving it and coming back to it. Other times I see potential opportunities and realise it could take hours to get the shot I'm after. I have the patience for photography and I feel an affinity with nature (I've always loved the outdoors) I love animals and to be able to go and shoot them in their natural environment from a creative perspective is a huge honour. Even if I never won anything for my work I am proud of my achievements so far.

I will continue to learn, to be inspired and be creative in my approach to photography. The passion is burning inside me, it's something I need to do. It is now my life and a part of my family. I am Proud.

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