Warning: Newbie giving advices, so not all info might be right. Do correct me if I’m wrong.

It was 2 years of training with my semi-pro digital camera before I decided to make the transition to using a DSLR. The transition was because I found that there were still a lot of limitations on a digital camera and on the contrary of my experience in a digital camera, I haven’t had much practice on a DSLR before I got mine.

I remember when Esme first arrived. I spent a few hours reading through the manual, understanding only parts of it before I started my hands-on on it. And a lot of things really seemed new to me. It really takes a while to get used to it.

I gotten Esme late November 2009 mainly because I was planning to bring her to Taiwan with me during my trip. I remember experimenting with Esme a few days before the trip, among which I went to Putrajaya to take some night shots [Which mostly turn out horrible]. Some of the photos are shown below:

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Horrible!!! [Quite underexposed]

One thing which I really couldn’t get used to then was using the viewfinder instead of the liveview. [FYI: viewfinder is where you look through with your eye to see what you are taking photo of, and liveview is what you find on most digital camera LCD screen where the image you want to take photo of is shown on the screen]. This caused quite a problem because I totally lost my ‘balance’ as in I couldn’t make my photos look balanced. It’s either leaning towards one side or the other.

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The photo looked tilted here.

And that caused a lot of cropping to get the images balanced. Even now, I still do a lot of cropping especially when things like that happen.

After that I became a bit conscious about the lens smudges and dust off the lens every now and then. especially how much a single lens cost so I went to read up on how to take care of lens and gotten myself a UV filter to put on every time I’m near water or near the beach. I’ve even gotten myself a lenspen to ‘clean’ the lens when it’s necessary

Then a few days before I got to Taiwan, I gotten a circular polarizing lens (CPL) filter which helps in making the skies bluish especially when it looks boring. It also helps in reducing reflections which really came in handy especially when I was taking photos in the aquarium and by the seaside. The only problem with the filter was that it’s full potential can only be unleashed when the sun is at a proper direction. It also did help a bit while I was taking photo out of moving vehicles as it reduces the reflections from the glasses. I guess I might be using it as a tone down filter also if I’d want to make river flows seemed smooth especially on sunny days since CPL filters darkens the exposure by one or two stops. Some better photos from Taiwan [even better might not be too good]

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The following photos were taken with CPL filter on. Notice the lack of reflections from the glass

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In the end, I did get quite a number of nice photos from Taiwan but my framing and composition was horrible at that moment. Not to mention that there’s still a number of things I still couldn’t understand. So after the trip, I started reading a number of books on composition and tips and tricks on taking photography. I would really recommend Petersen’s Photographic Digital Photo Guide which can be found in bookstores in Malaysia. There are currently 5 volumes of this magazine out and the guide really helps a lot in teaching you framing, composition, exposure, taking shots of nature, lenses etc etc. Do grab a copy if you find one at a bookstore near you. There’s also another 1-volume magazine which teaches on basic photography techniques and some post processing techniques called Ultimate Guide to Digital Photography, 3rd edition.

Source: Petersen’s Photographic Digital Photo Guide

Source

I was very much engrossed in reading up on photography for the next 2 months and while reading about that, I learned about the nifty fifty lens [50mm prime lens f/1.8] which was one of the cheaper lens which give good bokeh [Bokeh means how some lens can throw certain areas out of focus depending on where you are focusing at]. I’ve read about how potential this particular lens was and decided to give it a try. Bought it, and played around with it and learnt a lot of things after playing with it. Its so hard to get the focus right especially at f/1.8. Another thing which I failed to realize was how narrow 50mm was. Being a prime lens, you cannot change the zoom in it and so you’d have to adjust yourself and your subjects just to get a shot right [which frankly is what photographers should do]. And you’d have to stand very very far away if you want to take group photos. Very far away especially when the group was big. I found out about this while using it to take photos of the big large group during the CNY dinner. Failed photo below

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I was standing quite far away when I took this photo and all I can see is still half of the people present. [Note to self: Don’t use 50mm prime lens to take group photos]

But the good thing about the 50mm prime is that with the proper settings you can get something like this:

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Notice the bokeh

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The following shows just how powerful the depth of field of a 50mm prime lens can be at f/1.8

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Focus on foreground…

and then

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Focus on midground [the pillows] throw both the foreground and the background out of focus.

and finally

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Focus on background [the plastic bags] throwing both the bottle and the pillows out of focus.

And with that, the possibilities are almost limitless. Imagine what a f/1.4 or an f/1.2 can do.

But it’s often very hard to get the focus right without proper practice. I’ve gotten spoilt photos because the focus was off. Imagine a photo with the eyes in focus but the nose out of focus.

Till now I’m still practicing with the 50mm prime lens.

After I gotten the lens, I decided to take back revenge on my failed first shoot at Putrajaya at night and gotten myself a tripod and this time with the proper knowledge, went for a Round 2 photo shoot session at night. Guess who won?

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Sorry for the watermark but I really want to use it for some other purposes.

After that I noticed that at night it was hard to take photos of people at night so I invested in a hot shoe flash.

And I managed to overcome the darkness and played around with bounce flash [which is basically bouncing the flash off the walls to make more natural light and not use the flash directly on the subject] and filled flash [by which you flash in broad daylight to reduce the shadow effect produced by the unique features on the human face or by other things]. Also learnt to make a better bounce card as shown here.

I’ve learnt all this to prepare for the CSSUPM Annual Dinner by which I was one of the photographers. You can refer to this link to see the photos.

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One of the nicer photos.

Even so, most of the photos are a bit overexposed since I was using Auto flash with the flash aimed at the ceiling, so it almost every-time gave out a full powered flash which overexposed the subjects. Will use manual controls to control the bounce flash power after this.

Also Joachim, a junior of mine who has more experience in the photography field also taught me about color balance, about how to maintain the proper color of what you saw. Very often we have seen photos taken under orange-ish light which cast a strong orange-ish color on the skin and this can be properly corrected by presetting color balance before taking the photo or do it during post processing. This became very useful and reading about this eventually lead me to learn about another feature in photography which is using spot metering. I really want to try some spot metering portraits soon especially shots that darken most of the face but keeps parts of it visible.

And finally I went for my virgin fireworks shoot with Esme by which a mistake on my part cost us better fireworks photos. But I will redeem myself in the next fireworks event I’m going to go to.

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One of the nicer fireworks photo.

Thus is my journey so far with Esme, and I’ll be doing some more photo shoots with her to get more used to it.

Sometimes I get the feeling that, photography is not only a hobby, but a passion. 🙂

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