wallachville

wallachville

My wife and I kind of met around photography. I'll post my own bio first and let her add hers later.

My father was a commercial photographer but unfortunately died when I was a child. My mom wasn't a professional, but loved to take snapshots. I took one of these compact cameras on a 7th grade trip to Washington DC where I must have taken 10 rolls! When I returned, I gave them to my mom to develop. She left them in her bag at the office overnight and when she returned the bag was gone! We ended up going back to DC as a family to make up for some of the loss.

In high school, I got an SLR (Nikon FE-2) and used it to do work for the school newspaper, and in college took a lot of photos in Russia, where I was studying for a semester abroad. After returning, it was one of the few things of significant value I had and my mounting post-college bills needed some quick fixes.

Throughout my 20's - through various jobs and a master’s degree at UVA - I simply forgot about photography. Then when I started to see some stuff on the early web in maybe 95 or 96, I started to catch the bug again. Instead of going whole hog and buying a big SLR (with a matching big price), I decided to get a Yashica compact 35mm which was raved about by an expert online for having a great lens (consequently I eventually gifted it to my mom and she used it for many great shots up until just this year, when it finally gave out).

Fast forward a few years. I was intrigued about the new digital cameras, but hadn’t really read a whole lot about them, other than the high-end SLR’s that pros were using which had disk drives built in. I hadn’t really considered owning one myself but then a friend of mine, whom I did some favor for, but I can’t even remember what, gave me a Sony DSC-S30. It was an amazingly generous gift which I tried to refuse, but eventually accepted and this first digital camera is what really took me back to photography – this time digital – in a big way.

The Sony was a very easy and enjoyable camera to use. The flip-out LCD made it so you could take shots surreptitiously or put the camera above your head to get shots over a crowd – something very useful for shorter people :). It was a great first digital camera, but also one with limitations, including the lack of much of any manual control, and a 1-megapixel sensor that was barely acceptable for 4x6 prints.

So I sold the Sony on eBay and bought an Olympus C-3000Z. This definitely helped me to relearn some of the photographic theory I had known when I was much younger, but it just wasn’t the fun camera that the Sony had been. The Smartmedia cards it used were sometimes unreliable and the AA batteries weren’t as convenient as lithium ions. I still hadn’t learned enough about image processing to use the camera to its full potential, and so many of my images actually seemed less impressive than those I took with the Sony.

The Olympus went to a friend who was just getting into digital photography at the time, and I bought a Canon G2. I had done lots of research this time and wanted something with the greatest creative control, but also a twistable LCD, although this wasn’t quite as flexible as Sony’s. The RAW image format interested me as well. I really liked the idea of having a digital negative that I could go back to and change settings without having to compromise the image quality. I continued to learn with this camera, and used it for a good year and a half (about as long as my other two combined), before I finally gave it up.

I actually met my wife around the time that I had gotten my G2. When I met her, she had been into photography for some years, taking classes, getting some private tutoring, and going way further with it than me. But she had been all film. Still, I started learning a lot more about photography in general just from being around her, and she certainly knew a lot more about post-processing via Photoshop than I did!

The G2 was great, but it was hardly compact, especially with the external flash and extension tube I had for it. I reasoned that I needed a camera built with compactness in mind from the outset, and for which I wouldn’t buy any external accessories to bulk things up, and thus decrease my motivation to take it with me on the spur of the moment.

My G2 went to another friend and I picked up the very new, at the time Canon S50. It had everything the G2 had, minus the twisting LCD, all in a much smaller package. It also had more megapixels, and probably some other additional features I can’t think of at the moment. But my main concern was having something that I could take with me anywhere without any fuss. Half of photography is just about having a camera with you when the opportunity to take something arrives!

The S50 served me very well for quite a while and I’m only now (over two years after I got it) about to sell it – see below. It really did a lot to motivate me to take it out more. However, shortly after I bought it, my wife was finally convinced to go digital. She chose the Fuji S2, which took all her Nikon lenses and was recommended by her various teachers/mentors for its extended dynamic range and professional features and quality – at least as a compromise before the really high-end pro DSLR’s. I got to play with her S2 a bit and noticed how instantaneous it was in taking photos. My S50 seemed really sluggish in comparison, so my own desire for a DSLR, which was the only type of camera at the time to offer such instant shooting, increased. For my birthday the following year, right before we headed to North Carolina for a vacation that included a 4-day digital commercial photography class, she got me a Nikon D70.

With the D70 I was able to share (and sometimes fight over ;-) her Nikon lenses. I continued to shoot almost exclusively in RAW, just as I did on the S50 and the G2. But I also continued to learn more about post-processing in Photoshop. I also learned from the commercial photography course, and from my wife, who took almost nothing in RAW, that RAW was not always the best option. In fact it ended up being a huge use of time, but something one could avoid in a lot of situations if you knew what you were doing. Of course this is true for studio work where you can set things up and make sure the lighting is exact before you do any real shooting, but most of what I take is outdoors, or indoors at events, where you don’t have the luxury of doing much set up. That being said, I recognize that I could do more and avoid having to use RAW, but I’m also lazy and would rather just start snapping and worry about spending time later at the computer. I think it’s just a personal taste thing. Some people swear by using RAW almost 100% of the time, and don’t mind the extra time needed to process. Others think it’s a crutch, except under very special circumstances. In any case, the D70 really helped me get back to focusing on what I enjoyed most, which was just capturing what I thought was the best image with the best framing at the right moment. It’s instant image capture without any discernable lag, and the ability to use large zooms to get the closeness or the distance that looked best, let me concentrate on getting the images I wanted and worry about the color balance and even to some extent the exposure when I got back to the computer.

Just last week, for my birthday, my wife got me a new camera, one to replace the S50, which I still have and use from time to time. I find it convenient to have a big DSLR with access to great lenses when I don’t mind carrying it around, but also to have a compact camera when it’s not convenient to lug a DSLR around – and with an 11-month old who is herself getting heavier every day, the DSLR is definitely becoming more of a burden when going out with the family. I was still taking my S50 on occasion, but it’s slowness compared to my D70 is just painful sometimes! Last year, my father-in-law bought a relatively inexpensive Casio Exelim for himself and I was amazed and both the smallness of the camera but more importantly how fast it was! I hadn’t been keeping up with the progress of compact digitals, and so since then have been considering an eventual replacement for my S50. My wife surprised me and helped me avoid a lot of research by doing this herself and I now have a new Canon S80. It is very fast, and even higher resolution than my D70 (albeit on a smaller CCD). The one thing that it doesn’t have is RAW. Initially this was disheartening, but I’ve convinced myself it may be a blessing in diguise. I’ve had the luxury of RAW for almost 5 years now, and still have it with my D70. I’ve let it lull me into mainly concentrating on capturing the image I wanted rather than getting all the technical i’s dotted and t’s crossed before shooting. At this point, I think it probably behooves me to remove the net, so to speak and be a bit more thoughtful and deliberate about what I’m shooting. I’ve gotten a portable white card I can fit in my pocket, since I think white balance is probably the most important thing for me that RAW helps with. The S80 also has a live histogram, so one doesn’t even have to wait now until after taking the shot, but can estimate whether the exposure will be good before even taking a shot! I’m still waiting on a memory card and screen protector before taking anything with the S80, but hopefully I’ll have some galleries up soon.

Ok, aside from my history of cameras, as far as actual photography experience, I’ve shot a few weddings with my wife, mainly using her film cameras, but also one with my D70. I’ve also helped her with some shoots for her business, which she established this year, which is about portrait photography of children, families, and pregnancy shots. You can see her work both here (under Photos by Jessica) and at her business web site (http://www.portraitplaytime.com). My shots are under Photos by Levi.