After a few years of cultivating the habit of taking photos, I began to spend more time watching tutorials, browsing photographer’s websites and generally soaking in as much inspiration and as many tips as possible. It’s surprising how many people out there are fascinated by photography once you start the conversation. At one point a friend invited me to the end of year showcase for a local photography club. Each photographer presented a 2-3 minute slideshow of their photos. Some of the collections were incredible, shot in and around the lower mainland, and were so inspirational. After attending the showcase I had an overwhelming urge to join a club like that, or at least be around other people who also wanted to spend their spare time with a camera. I looked up a couple of local photography clubs and while they all said “beginners welcome”, it seemed the focus (pun discovered on proof reading and made me giggle!) was really on gear, and a LOT of gear. That can be a little intimidating to someone who only has a point and shoot camera, or an Iphone, an Olloclip and a gorilla pod. There were local classes, lectures and tutorials available, but they all required a much more substantial camera than I had. I ended up taking a few online courses that were specifically related to composition and light. I figured that was a good place to start, since if a photo has pleasing lines and composition, I feel the eye is a bit more forgiving of other technical shortcomings. The courses were important as they gave me a bit of confidence, and I gave myself permission to just take photos and not worry about all the rest of the stuff I don’t know yet. Now I know there are bite sized bits of accessible learning available when it becomes relevant to me, I don’t need to figure it all out at once. That keeps the fun in the game!
Through all this, I had an Instagram account that I posted to occasionally, but without much intention. At the same time, a good friend of mine, Chris, was getting really into IG and was embracing all the social aspects of IG as well as the photography. He has since become something of an IG star, if you want to see IG done right, check out his gallery! He encouraged me to join him for an Instameet where a group of people, some friends, some strangers, all gathered at a location, in this case New Westminster Quay, to socialize and take photos. People had everything from cell phones, to polaroids, to high end gear. And the best part, we all got to see other people’s perspectives of the same experience when the photos were posted to #newwestwalk.
One of the other fun happenings that came from that first Instameet was the introduction to #thenewwestproject, a hashtag formed by the visionaries at the Sixth Street Pop Up and Gallery. They encouraged people to post their photos of New Westminster to the hashtag, then they selected 30 or so of them for the opening show in their new little Pop Up gallery. Two of my photos were chosen for the show, and I was so excited! It was such a great community project, and it was fun to share the experience with some of the other Instagrammers I had met at the Instameet!
For a while I was content with posting photos to Instagram, although it was pointed out to me that my lack of a “theme” is a limitation on IG. I take pictures of things that move me or I find interesting, and that can really be anything, from nature to “stuff” to whatever the heck the photo above is! Maybe over time I will find a niche, but that hasn’t happened yet. There is still too much to learn about, well, everything. The second limitation I noticed with IG is that while there is lots of encouragement and validation, there is very little real feedback. It doesn’t matter whether you post a spectacular landscape, or a picture of your breakfast, you get the same “heart” emoticons and accolades. The the virtual love is certainly nice encouragement, and great to receive, and I’m also looking for actual tips, suggestions, pointers for how to improve as a photographer.
In the search for practical feedback I opened a Flickr account and a Fotoblur account, but never really bonded with either site. Finally, through my cousin’s good advice, I joined the photo-sharing site Viewbug. I still use IG as I do like the social aspect, but mostly I post photos to Viewbug these days. On VB I’m not limited to a square crop, and I get genuine feedback on my photos. Even the “award” system narrows the feedback down to categories like composition, creativity, etc. making it focused and constructive. I can also sort my gallery from newest to oldest post, or by most popular, which I really like. There is a particular “type” of photo that has risen to be the most popular in my gallery, mostly close-ups of birds and animals. Sunsets also do well, but landscapes tend to languish at the bottom of the proverbial heap. There are daily competitions and challenges, so I often enter photos in those, and gather even more feedback.
I suppose here is where I should confess that I bought another camera, still not one of the “big guns”, but one that suits what I am doing and gives me more options to try out. I bought a Nikon P900. It has a built in 83x optical zoom, which is so much fun to play with! It has dozens of preset scene modes, but also has a pretty good range of manual settings, that I’m beginning to get the hang of. Right now it is the perfect camera for me, though I’m sure the day will come when I feel it’s limitations and finally invest in something more substantial. That day has not yet arrived, my camera and I are still on the honeymoon!
With that, I will leave you with one of my favourite shots so far from the Nikon P900!