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Update:  And Sony is at it again!

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Enjoying the Moment

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page

– St. Augustine

Travel photography is something that I love and loathe! Its a fine balance between enjoying the moment and capturing it.

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Capturing the Moment

Although you need to know your fstops, ISOs, dof geekery to make good images – enjoying the moment is the ultimate recipe for great images. As an amateur photographer I don’t travel to acquire good photographs, the images that I get are by-products of my travel. Now that might seem obvious but when I got into photography my travels were incomplete without photographs that moved me (i.e. atleast a couple of 3 star images – with a rating of 1 (ok) to 5 (excellent), in Lightroom). No matter how many images that I made and how many places that I visited, my 3 star images were just a handful!(4 & 5 are rarities).

On one fateful trip, I ended up without my digital SLR! My friends were stupefied by the disappointment they saw on my face…” just for forgetting your camera?” was the thought that was running through their mind, which ofcourse they never shared! Life had to go on and so I trodded on behind the group. After a couple of minutes I totally got over the disappointment (well not really..but I just felt better) and having fun with friends and taking in the sights and scenes of the place. We stopped here and there to take the proverbial tourist shot with a point & shoot (pplease!) and totally had fun. I was actually feeling guilty that I wasn’t missing my camera as much as I should have! weird.. (now that tells something about me doesn’t it?..). Going through the images in my library, I actually liked several of the shots that I had taken with the point and shoot (give it 2.5 stars or close to 3). Mulling over, I realized that I actually felt good about a higher percentage of the shots from the point and shoot than from the images that I got from my SLR from other trips.

Enjoying the moment

The only reason that I could come up with was that on the trip without my SLR I had spent less time seeing from behind the camera (yeah..point & shoot) and was actually taking in the “atmosphere” around me and letting the environment wash over me. Boiling it down, “it seems that one actually needs to have a sense of taste and appreciation for the locale, before you can get good travel photographs” – geez! what a discovery! Now I no longer hunt for the best place to setup my tripod, look for the light..and all that mumbo jumbo – I just go and hang around the place for atleast and hour or so (if you’re traveling with company you need to convince them to hang around as well ;-)) and finally make my images when I think I’m ready to move on. Enjoying the moment (and or place) is actually more important than capturing it! (well, its not if you’re on the job) As an amateur (travel) photographer you can afford to lose the moment from your camera but identify & enjoy it with your eyes and it definitely will make you a better photographer. Now if that seems really counter intuitive, it is – unless you try it! Not everybody is a Cartier Bresson, you need to enjoy and lose enough “decisive moments” to actually capture one later.Let me know if you had a similar epiphany.

PS: Sorry if point & shoot photographers felt bad, actually that was then – now I completely get it, the camera doesn’t make good pictures, photographers do!

Budget lenses for every photography enthusiast

I bought my first SLR not long ago and have been developing a strong taste for photography. So its time i decided to look beyond the standard kit lens that i carry (the worthy 18-55 IS).

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First things first, lens purchases would be more productive if you decide on the style of photography that suits you the best and go on the look out for suitable lenses. ” I am a photography enthusiast & an amateur..what’s with the style?! ” is a question that would come to your mind. It did come to me, so here’s what i did – quickly go through your photo collection and assort you photographs into categories such as landscape, portrait, action and any other variations thereof. You’ll find a pattern and that’s how you figure out your style. I noticed that i took more pictures of people (portraits!) than any other category. If you use special software like Lightroom or aperture then you could also sort photos by the focal length at which they’re shot, which help you identify your sweet spot of focal length. Ofcourse this also depends on the lenses that you already have, you still can make out if your shoot at the tele or wide angle of your particular lens (in this case a zoom).

Now in case you’re not at the point where you wish to define your style but are just looking for general purpose carry arounds for every time and occasion, then the following should be helpful. But remember that these selection are based on the price to worth ratio only and does not take into consideration the comfort factor!

Fast 50:

The 50 mm fast primes are must haves for any photo enthusiast. Atleast if you don’t know why people crave for faster lenses, then this lens could give a first taste to that addiction. Its suited for portraits – which comes out with a fabulous bokeh. It’s also one of the cheapest fast lenses that money can buy (i picked up my canon 50mm 1.8 for about 90 euros!). All in all the 50mm lens can give you something that makes you pick up you camera, get out there and just shoot. If you look around the “internets” there are several people who echo the same opinion.

Decent 18-50:

If you bought your digital SLR along with a kit lens, then you most probably have an 18-50, unless you’ve customized your purchase. What this lens offers in terms of comfort is just amazing. It allows you to go wide for all practical requirements and still offers a standard telephoto capability. This lens is fast being displaced by the more capable zooms that are coming out now like the 18-200 or the Tamron’s 18-250! with incredible value for money. However that said the extended zoom also means bigger size and therefore lesser carry on comfort. For people who can afford a little more the 18-70 is also a good buy, although with a considerable price tag. I would recommend trying to get your hands on a fast 18-50 like the one from Tamron (17/50) which is 2.8 all through the focal length.

Trusted 55-200:

If you don’t fancy shooting at higher end telephoto range (read 300 & above) then the 55- 200 which come pretty cheap with sufficient quality for the price are worth a look. For occasional telephoto shooting ability this is absolutely the way to go. In fact if you need to get your hands dirty with telephoto shooting without burning a hole in your wallet, then don’t think twice about the 55-200 range. And ofcourse there are several choices starting from really cheap ones to better image stabilized lenses.

Cheap Telephotos:

Ok, telephotos – cheap! not a common combination. Reasons, well if you’re shooting at such high focal lengths then camera shake is a big problem. Unless you plan to lug around that tripod/monopod with you, the pictures may turn out be blurry. Secondly, the distortion factors that come into play at such long ranges require special wizardry on the part of lens makers to compensate. However if you don’t require a very high end shooting capability or a very high quality in your pictures then there are some lenses that might match your need. The two that i’m pretty sure of are the Tamron & sigma 70-300s. Both are cheap and capable lenses that provide decent price to quality ratio. Yet another way to get your hands on cheap telephotos is to look for used older telephotos lenses like the canon 90-300 or 100-300. These were pretty good lenses in their heydays but now have been overtaken by much more capable ultrazooms and telephotos.

I must warn that it is very easy to get carried away in your enthusiasm towards photography to spend more than you can afford on photography gear! trust me I’ve been there 😉 The best idea would be hold back and mull over your purchase decision for atleast a week and use this time for research on the internet. Look up lens reviews and opinions from people who have already bought the stuff. Also if you are looking forward to upgrading to a better body or rather full frame body, then you’re lens purchases should be careful as several of the cheaper lenses are designed for the cropped sensor.Besides for the times when you need to try something new with your photography, my suggestion would be looking for cheaper purchases that would have a profound impact on your stle of shooting. Play with stuff like light reflectors, lens filters etc. to quench your transient cravings and save money to get that really awesome lens! Remember lenses are forever, well almost! 🙂