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Photography

by Martin Aspeli last modified Jan 01, 2009 06:57 PM

A year and a half on

About a year and a half ago ago, I started taking an interest in photography. This was mostly due to my then girlfriend (now wife), who has always been good at taking pictures. She has a collection of cameras, including a Minolta X-700, a Lomo and a Rollei. About two years ago, we bought her a Canon 400D (Digital Rebel to you Americans), which was the beginning of our Digital SLR period.

A few months later, I was in Korea, and bought a Nikon D40. This was the first time in my life that I actually enjoyed taking pictures. I'd owned various compact point-and-shoot cameras before that, but I never really enjoyed taking them with me. I started taking an interest in photography, and read a few books and online resources, in particular the photo.net guides. I must admit that I was just as enthusiastic about the equipment as I was about the pictures. SLR cameras just feel nice. They're very tactile, and very fun to play with. And for a gadget freak like me, they offer endless possibilities for the acquisition of ever more advanced stuff.

Last year, I was in Korea again. At this point, I'd become a bit frustrated by the Nikon D40. It's a wonderfully light and user-friendly camera, and I liked the Nikon system, but it has only three auto-focus points, sucks above ISO 800 and it can't auto-focus with many older lenses that lack an internal motor. I started looking at the D80, but it felt a lot like it was coming to the end of its life. Rumours about a successor D90 abounded, but no camera materialised. I had also played with Nikon's "prosumer" D300 camera, which was pretty new at that time. I kept telling myself that it was nice, but too expensive. That was, until I met this man. After a lot of bartering, I walked out of his shop near Nam-Dae-Mun market with a shiny new D300, and I sold my D40 to a friend and colleague not long after.

The D300 is far more camera that I deserve. I'm not really all that good at taking pictures. But I love the feel of it. It's weighty. It's got a lot of buttons. You can twiddle the knobs even with gloves on. It's got a big viewfinder and a bright, accurate LCD display. Lifting it to my eye and focusing is a joy. It's a guilty pleasure, so to speak, but I use it quite a lot and so pretend it's justified.

And then there were the lenses...

Digital SLR systems are like a trap. You think you're going to buy a camera, and then you realise that all you really bought was an excuse to buy lenses. Lenses are even more cool than cameras. Pure optics. Bits of glass moving when you twist a wheel. It's so analogue it's beautiful.

I've had a few lenses in my short camera life. I started with a humble 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, which was sold with the D40. Now I (or rather, we) have a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 (wonderful for low-light candid shots); a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 (great for portraits with blurred backgrounds); a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro (for taking pictures of small things, but also great for portraits); a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 (very fun ultra-wide angle lens); a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 (great all-round lens that works well indoors as well as outdoors); and a Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 (unbeatable versatility as a "walk-around" lens). In the past, I've also owned an 18-70 f/3.5-5.6 (swapped it for the Tamron 28-75). Oh, and I got a Nikon Speedlight SB-600 flash for Christmas that I'm still trying to figure out how to use.

In October, the D90 did materialise. My wife (then fiance) was still using Canon, and had a Sigma 10-20mm and a Canon 50mm f/1.8 that she used for everything. I bought her the D90 and she sold the Canon 400D to her father, so that we could have the same system. The Sigma 10-20mm was traded in for the Tokina 12-24mm.

I try to take as many pictures as I can. When I have time to post-process (the other hidden trap of having an SLR and shooting in RAW), I upload the pictures to Flickr. You can view my photostream here

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