INTRODUCTION -- Welcome to the first installment of The Bistro's "In The Spotlight" series, featuring in-depth personal interviews with our members and photographic highlights of their work.
Our first interview is with OHCorgis (Birgit), who is semi-retired, living in rural Ohio. and only became seriously interested in photography less than three years ago. Her story, along with her excellent photos, should inspire any of our members who have just recently been bitten by the "photography bug."
Birgit will, of course, appreciate any of your comments, critiques or suggestions, and will be most happy to entertain any questions you might have. So let the interview begin --
1) When did you first get interested in photography? Are you mostly self-taught, or do you have any prior formal training in photography or art?
I did very little film photography if you compare what we do now. Photos were family snapshots and my children complained that we took more pics of the dogs than them, but often we *let* the kids in the pictures with the dogs too. My first digital camera was a Sony 3mp. I used it mainly to take dog event pics for the websites I developed for some dog clubs.
Then one day, as I was sitting at my kitchen table, a hummingbird came to the window feeder, the camera was on the table and I was hooked!
When I decided to upgrade, I went to the local Campus Camera Store. I went to buy a Canon and walked out with the Nikon 8800. Little did I know I had another P/S camera that would not take movement and would decide to go to "sleep" at the most inopportune time. I never really learned how to use that camera; if I wanted to shoot moving dogs I needed a DSLR.
I bought my first DSLR (Nikon D70) early summer of 2005 and took a two day class from Ian Adams. I learned quickly that I was totally clueless about the workings of DSLR. I met Bob online and he sent me articles about shutter/aperture priorities so I could get out of the "auto" mode. It took me a good year of taking awful shots to get some understanding of what is happening when I press the shutter release. As with my website development, I could say that I fly by the seat of my pants, learning as I go. When you are an old coot like me, the learning takes longer. Hard to believe I have taken so many photos in less than three years!
2) What personal mentors (if any), reference books, websites, or other resources have you found most helpful in developing your photographic skills?
Bob has been a wonderful mentor, always ready to answer my many questions. I printed out his information that he sent to me. I also joined the Cuyahoga Valley Photographic Society when my interests turned to nature photography. One of my favorite photo websites/boards is www.nikoncafe.com. Very knowledgeable, kind people. Many photographer's pics are so beautiful they are truly inspiring. I have just a couple of books that I've poured over. One is a technical SLR book, 35mm Photography (Hedgecoe) the others (Scott Kelby) assume you know how to use your camera. I had another that I cannot find, I think I loaned it to my daughter. There is vast information on DSLR photography online where I do quite a bit of researching, printing out or keeping info in my Photography folder. Since I started my photography hobby so late in life, I find it helps to copy interesting discussions to my HD.
3) An intentionally open-ended question here, but what do you most love to photograph? What kinds of scenes or situations inspire you to pull your camera out of the bag and start taking pictures? Give us a couple of examples and describe the evolution of the photo.
I am always happy to shoot pics of show dogs (or any dogs) because I am good at it and people are always so thrilled to get a nice picture they can use for advertising, or their websites.
Time was that I was happy to get a great show pose on one of my dogs with a 35mm camera. With digital, everything is fun to shoot. If it does not turn out, just delete it! Wonderful. I am a bit more particular now. How many flowers do I want to keep? So it has to be a special shot, with nice lighting. A 9 pt buck relaxing in a grassy area made me turn the car around in heavy traffic to get off some shots. Unfortunately, all I had in the car was my D70 with a brand new 70-300mm VR. It was dusk, the pictures came out noisy and I had to work a lot in Photoshop to get them even good enough at 72ppi online. My lens needed a lot more light.
I love to shoot at the CVNP Beaver Marsh on the Towpath Trail. I am trying to get better at shooting dragonflies. Will be interesting with my new D300 and 300mm f/4.
I've taken many many small bird shots in my yard. Now I want to get out in the field to give it a try. Someplace where I can park my car to use as a blind and patiently wait for the right moment. A field with butterflies flitting about is a thrill when you get a good shot. My recent shots of the GB Heron made me very happy as in my area they can be quite shy when you point big black things at them.
I do some landscape shots, but not often. I also enjoy some macro photography. Some of my best shots have been taken using a 200mm f/4 macro. This is a very nice lens.
I grow plants in my garden to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
I used a 60mm f2.8 macro for these shots in my yard:
4) Before you got seriously interested in photography, as a web designer you were already very familiar with Photoshop. How much, proportionally, do you now rely on Photoshop and post-processing to “finish off” your photos for presentation as opposed to getting it right straight out of the camera?
I am so happy when all I have to do is crop a little. That is happening more often. With Photoshop CS3, you now have the option to sharpen just a part of your picture, say an eye. I love Photoshop. I really need it for graphics for my websites as I do not have Illustrator or InDesign. When a picture is taken in the right light, exposure, speed, the need for photoshop is less. But that is not always the case. Sometimes you have to take pictures mid day in bright sunlight, causing blown out whites, deep shadows and bright sun. Photoshop can fix these. To me, it does not matter how the picture is processed to look good. I have Photoshop and I will use it if necessary. I am not so great a photographer that I can take perfect pictures that don't need any post processing all the time. But if conditions are right, other than cropping, a little sharpening if necessary, is all that is needed.
I took this picture in 2006 using a D200/70-200mmVR. The main thing I had to do was get rid of all the distracting white blobs in the background, crop and just brighten a little. I was still very much in a learning stage (still am), but I like this photo.
5) Do you shoot RAW or JPEG, or both? What post-processing software do you use, and describe your normal workflow.
Lately I have been shooting a lot of RAW. Depends on what I am shooting. If I think I may be printing, or doing a shoot for customers, I shoot RAW. If I am shooting an event with lots of shots, most of which are snapshots, JPEG is good enough, particularly if the pictures are going on the web. Since I run a Mac, my pictures are downloaded into iPhoto first. There I can look at the pictures to see what I want to process or trash. I can either edit the pictures in iPhoto or send them to Photoshop or Bridge. I looked into Lightroom and Aperture and decided against spending the money and time to learn these applications.
As for workflow, if I was smart I would have an action in Photoshop that would do the work with one click, but I don't have the volume in pictures that I can't look at each individually. With Photoshop Camera RAW a lot of work can be done right in the RAW panel before opening in Photoshop. You can use this panel for RAW or JPEG images. Simple workflow would cover exposure levels, white balance if needed. I always take a look at curves; contrast; crop and sharpen if needed. I think beginners tend to over sharpen somewhat. Better to have no sharpening than over sharpen. I also work with layers quite a bit.
6) Do you usually use predetermined camera settings that you have already set beforehand for focus and metering modes, ISO, and other custom settings, or do you change these settings flexibly, on the fly, to suit the circumstances?
With the D300, you can make a bunch of presets. I started to do this and ran out of time. I am not doing studio shots, so lighting changes, and my subjects most often do not stay still. Big problems can come up at photo shoots when the lighting is different from one spot to another, people are in a hurry, and the silly photographer forgets to change the exposure setting to suit the lighting. Then she has to count on Photoshop to fix the mess. I think hopefully I am getting better at remembering to adjust settings before ruining the shots.
7) You own three camera bodies, a D70, a D200 and a D300, as well as an impressive assortment of lenses. What would you characterize as your favorite, most versatile “walkaround” camera and lens combination? And what is your absolute favorite lens?
The D70 is my lightest camera and with a 70-300mm VR, it makes for a fairly light combination for walk around. And I understand that the D80 is even lighter. I have to confess that I got a little Nikon 5000 P/S to keep in the car just in case. For snapshots, it is quite okay. Oddly enough, the 18-200 is one of my least used lenses!! After all the trouble I went through to get it. But I still do find some uses for it, particularly at dog shows and events. Right now, my favorite lens is my 300mm f/4. I have not been using it all that long, but I am so far very pleased with the results I get, with or without the 1.4x teleconverter. Coming in second ties the 70-200mm VR f/28 and the 200mm f/4 macro. I also find the 50mm f/1.8 to be useful for taking small dog portraits.
8) I have to ask this question because so many of our Bistro patrons are justifiably concerned about getting ripped off when they order cameras, lenses and accessories online. Where do you typically buy your equipment?
I started out buying at a camera shop that "everyone" goes to. But I found they were not selling me the right equipment, probably because I am such a novice. I have never been disappointed with B&H. But if you buy online, you have to know what you want. So I would advise going to a local camera shop and get your hands on the camera/or try the lens. Then you can order online. I have also had good luck with Ritz Camera online (and off), Cord Camera online and I have bought from Adorama, but only if I am desperate. BTW, if you are a member of NAPP, you get free shipping from B&H. For other accessories such as tripods and ball heads, I buy from Really Right Stuff. The owner is very nice to talk with on the phone. I made the mistake of buying the wrong tripod to begin with. It is a very heavy Manfrotto and the ball head is meant for a P/S camera. That was thanks to the camera store. Be advised to research what you should have before buying. And that is why you are here, right?
9) Finally, please share your summary thoughts on your philosophy of photography with us, as well as any tips, tricks, or advice you might have for fellow Bistro members along with your most recent favorite photo.
First of all, I am not a seasoned or knowledgeable photographer. My technical knowledge is still at the novice stage. I would characterize myself as a pretty good amateur. I think what makes a good photographer is the same as what makes a good artist. You should develop a good eye, if you have not been born with it. So what have I learned? Cloudy days are our friend, but avoid gray skies. Shoot very early in the morning, or at dusk. UhOh! Blinkies! Stop shooting and adjust your exposure or you will get blown out whites (areas in the photo that have no pixels). Flowers are best shot wet and just after opening. So no dew? then bring your spray bottle. Easy bird shots? Set up a feeder outside a *clean* window. You can even duct tape some branches to the feeder stand. Sit indoors and shoot away. Just my personal preference, unless you are purposely shooting a portrait, nature shots should have some of the natural surroundings along with your subject. A bird in a tree in bloom. Wow, so pretty, rather than just a close up of another bird. Although I have seen some bird portraits online that just blow me away. As for printing, what you see online, is not necessarily a picture that will print well. Those jpegs that look so neat on the web may not print well. If you like a shot on Flickr, enlarge it. In order to print, the picture should look just as crisp as it does in the small size.
Thank you Bob for the honor of choosing me to be the first to be Spotlighted. I do hope that I can inspire those who are newer to DSLR than I.
Thank you, Birgit, for consenting to be my first interviewee, and being so patient with me as we worked out how best to present these interviews. The time and effort you devoted to sharing an up close and personal glimpse of your life and your photography is much appreciated.
Originally posted at 10:03PM, 28 April 2008 PDT
SoCalBob edited this topic 62 months ago.