by Kevin Batangan
“You could improve this picture by getting closer before you press the shutter button.”, my chess teacher told me after looking at a stack of pictures I took at a chess tournament. I remember when I first decided to take up photography. It was when I had the good feeling of improving upon something to make something very valuable and memorable for the person that I am photographing.
Hopefully in this brief autobiography I will tell you about my photographic career and give you some tips no matter what level of photography you are at. Throughout my life I have been around some interesting people. My photography teacher is no exception. Richard Shorman has been my mentor in chess, photography and life since 1998. Then he became my photography teacher after being a chess student of his for 4 years. I got my first SLR camera as a college graduation gift from my mom. My mom supported me in all my hobbies so she decided a Minolta STsi SLR camera would be a good upgrade to my disposable Kodak and Fuji cameras that I bought on a regular basis. It came with a 28-75mm lens that was good enough to get started on my photography journey. Shorman taught me everything about photography that I needed to know to get out there and start taking pictures of my students and friends. At that time I was the coach of the Milpitas High swimming and diving team and that motivated me to learn. Every Monday in Hayward, California I would meet with a chess group that Shorman would show up to on a regular basis. We met at 11 at night in Lyons restaurant across from Chabot Community College. The restaurant was open 24 hours and sometimes my lesson would start at 12:30 and go until 1:30 or 2 in the morning. Lyons became the place where I would take unofficial classes from Mr. Shorman and learn to become a professional photographer.
After about 6 months of lessons I started to get my work published in the local newspaper. The Milpitas Post put out 3 papers and one of their publications The Fremont Bulletin published my pictures from a chess tournament in Fremont. The pictures were of 5 and 6 year old kids playing. I started to submit more of my photos that were from local events that I thought could be published. The Post paid me about $30-35 for every assignment I covered. If they published more than 1 photo they would give me a small bonus for every extra photo. It wasn’t enough to make a living so I continued my other part time jobs as a chess teacher and a swim coach.
Many of my favorite pictures are from the car shows that I have been to. My photography of models and cars started at a car show called AutoFest in San Jose. Some of the first models I photographed were Christine Mendoza, Cherie Roberts and Hannah. I was lucky to have had photography lessons before showing up to this event because by then I already had a good idea of how to compose a picture, how to use flash even when outdoors, how to use reflectors and how to use wireless flash units.
Another type of photography I enjoy is sports photography, especially if I know the person playing. Below is an example of one of my favorite pictures.
Springboard diver Tricia Woo broke a ten year old highschool diving record in the 2005 season. (I held the diving record since 1995. Ten years later I had an honor being the coach of the person to break it. I am very proud of her.)
Camera: Nikon D70
Lens: Nikor 18-70mm
This picture has multiple purposes. It was taken for a local newspaper for their Spring Sports Preview section, for her to examine and critique her diving form and for my portfolio. Taking pictures like this was the main purpose of my interest in learning photography, to take pictures of the athletes on our team. I have taken many swimming and diving pictures and the one pictured above has become one that has been at the top of “Interestingness” on flickr.com.
Every time I look at one of my pictures that I have taken, I always look at a way that I can make it better next time. It is very rare that a picture comes out perfectly. If I think I have something good I will touch it up in Photoshop. Otherwise I generally try not to take the picture unless I see it as close to perfect as possible in the viewfinder.
I have a couple of checklists that I think will be helpful for all levels of photographers:
My checklist before I leave the house:
oTake a picture just outside my house as I leave. This will make sure I have the camera, lens, battery (charged) and memory card (with enough space for the assignment). “How can you take a picture if you don’t have your camera with you?”, Mr. Shorman used to always tell me. Not having a memory card is just as good as not having your camera with you. Same goes with the battery.
oIf I have a big photoshoot the checklist can become very extensive because I have many different gadgets, tripods, extension chords, flashes, holders for the flashes, batteries and reflectors. I suggest you make your own.
My checklist when I arrive at the site:
oDo I have the correct quality settings? (I use RAW format or the highest quality settings for JPG)
oDo I have the correct white balance setting?
My checklist while I’m taking a picture in my mind usually goes something like the following:
oWhat is my main subject?
oWhat is it about the subject that I want to photograph?
oIs it in focus?
oHow can I fill the frame with the subject?
oHow can I simplify the subject by getting rid of anything I don’t want in the picture?
oShould I use flash? (Sometimes flash is not allowed in churches, plays or sporting events.)
oIs my shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera shake?
oIs the aperture setting what I want?
oIs manual mode the preferred mode I want to shoot in for this event? (Manual mode is usually what I prefer.)
oIs there any other angle I could capture this event that would be different than the average picture?
oIs there any other part of the event that I can photograph that will help capture the story of the event.
Cameras I currently use:
iPod Touch 4th generation
Canon SD 630 digital elph
Lenses I currently use:
Nikorr 80-200mm 2.8 D
Nikorr 105mm fixed 2.8
Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Tamron 28-85mm 2.8
Software programs I currently use:
Photoshop PSE 9 on my home computer
Photoshop CS3 on my work’s computer
I hope that this short autobiography has helped you learn something from my experience. Maybe someday I will run into you and have the opportunity to help you out in photography like Mr. Shorman helped me. I do feel like I have a lot to give back to the photography community. Maybe I can help you see the joy of photography and how to improve on the pictures that you take.
My favorite photographers and inspirations are Walter Illoos Jr. from Sports Illustrated, most of the Maxim and FHM photographers, Tony Avelar and Jeff Firestone.
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- Kevin Batangan
- May 2005
- San Jose, USA
- I am:
- Male and Taken