No other device has had a larger impact on my photography than my old friend, the Pentax K10D. My K10D was my first DSLR after going through three different film SLRs in four years. I the past five years I have shot over 20,000 pictures with it, including sports, landscapes, candids, portraits, and studio still life work. It's combination of rugged charm and instant review ability have allowed me to expand my photographic talents without worrying about the weather or the price of film development.
When I first started taking photos I really wasn't that great...
But now, due to the discovery of such a great photographic tool, I've gotten must better.
Its been quite a journey over the last 3 years but I'm certainly alone in this discovery. But before I tell you more about the discovery, I would like to tell you of my own person journey with my first DSLR - the venerable Pentax K-x.
1. Early Days
When I first got my K-x I was like an excited kid, running around taking photos of everything I could. I started out with the mode dial stuck on the green "Auto Pict" mode. Looking back I did take the odd good shot here and there. The camera did a pretty good job and with the large number of shots taken some just had to turn out good. However, as so many have found, the photos were just not as consistent as my old Point and Shoot camera!
2. Experimentation with the camera
So I thought the problem must with the "Auto" mode - right? I must have the wrong settings I thought. I started uses the scene modes but had mixed results with those. Then I started trying Av and Tv modes. I ended up with a lot of blurry shots but at least I felt I had more control over the camera.
One of the main reasons I got my first DSLR (Pentax *ist DS) was cave photography. While I've seen many admirable cave photos they were all carefully set up and posed. Beautiful as they were they lacked something - a captured moment. It's not like cavers didn't capture moments in caves it's just that they did it with point and shoot cameras and on-board flash. I wanted to do better than that.
At first I thought that high ISO will do the trick but it was no where near high enough to freeze a moment with available light. So I started experimenting with flashes and optical triggers. It was a step in the right direction but a cumbersome one. Caves feed on light and bounce very little of it so flashes had to be in visual range of each other. Another trouble was that whenever someone took a snap with their compact camera it would trigger the flashes.
Around that time (6 years ago) first cheap radio triggers were emerging on eBay so I decided to try them out. One thing they lacked was range and reliability but that was fixable with antenna mod - a piece of wire that was soldered to transmitter circuit board.
|Three flashes, three receivers (one glued to the flash in the middle) and trigger with white wire antenna (click image to enlarge)|
To write about the piece of equipment that has made the biggest impact on my photography I have to choose my 50mm lens. I found it in a second hand camera shop and paid the princely sum of £15 for it. It's a Pentax-A 1.7 50mm lens. At the time I knew not the potential of having a 50mm lens as I'd just started photography after a 5 year hiatus post university. I'd had no confidence in my own abilities and so had been modelling or teaching art, generally drifting around and not concentrating on my own artistic endeavours. I purchased my Pentax K-r in January 2011 whilst managing a small camera shop in the Cotswolds and a few months later started taking photos of friends and models. After a difficult break up and losing my job I took the risk of becoming a freelance photographer and retoucher. All my equipment is scavenged, secondhand or gifted as it's not always a profitable path to take but I have perfect faith and conviction in the joy photography brings me.
I currently use a white K-r and it has become my trademark. Along with my 50mm which only leaves my camera when I'm doing beauty shoots in studio (for that I use a second hand 30-85mm at 85mm which I got in a charity shop for £10). The 50mm is a pancake style lens and doesn't take up much space in my camera bag.
"You can take it if you want, I don't even use it anymore," was what my friend said one day when I spied his old Pentax DSLR collecting dust in his house. I had seen other people throughout my life use Pentax, but it was only then that I truly began my personal love affair with this venerable brand.
Over the course of the year, with the inheritance of my friend's old Pentax, I began to take pictures voraciously. Amazingly, to this day, I still don't possess a camera body of my own purchase, but my passion for photography grew and I started buying necessary peripherals to supplement the hand-me-down Pentax. In time, I bought an arsenal of memory cards, straps, eneloops, and other camera-related gadgets and gizmos, but I was still indecisive about which camera system to ultimately go with.
I live and work overseas in Shanghai, and only get to return home once a year during my annual leave. It wasn't until many months later while visiting my parents back in Toronto that I would cross paths with another Pentax again. I didn't know it at the time, but fate would have my infatuation with Pentax come full circle at my parent's home and turn it into a committed choice.
One of the most important changes in my journey into photography was due to one single lens. A lens that forever changed how I took photos from that point on but also launched me head first into an exploration of photography and learning its fundamentals. That lens is the Pentax FA 50mm 1.4. A type of lens that has been commonly equipped as standard on many film cameras and one that is still recommend by many as a must have.
|The Pentax FA 50mm 1.4 has been around for a while and is still a very good buy in terms of performance and capabilities. There are only a few negatives to the lens such as CA when wide open, but it performs well in many situations.|
"For me the noise of time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches - and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinetmaking and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing, (...)" - Barthes, R. Camera Lucida, 15
I made a list prioritizing the top five things that have had the greatest positive impact on my photography. They are:
- Buying a good DSLR
- Learning what an f/stop is
- Making my tripod an indispensable bodily prosthetic
- Aperture 3 for post processing
And, at the top of the list ahead of all other positive impacts...
Now, I know many of you may be shaking your heads saying wait, this is askew of the competition's question. But I would argue that time is the instrument of photography in that it is the foundation of meaning; the photograph is born of a simple slice of time, after which the image is narrated by the viewer, time and time again. Besides, I wanted the challenge of blogging about something beyond the ever changing technologies of the trade. I wanted to challenge myself to really think about the fundamental essence of positive impact upon the art of photography.
|A Slice of Time|
|technology, longevity, narrative|
|Portrait of Billy the Kid taken somewhere between 1879 - 1880 sold for 2.3 million dollars November 2012 Tintypes were an early form of photography that used metal plates. They are reverse images, and the Billy the Kid tintype led to the mistaken belief that the Kid was a lefty. The myth inspired the 1958 movie The Left Handed Gun, starring Paul Newman as Billy.|