Over the last few months, I’ve been dealing with a burnout issue.
I know I know…I’ve been at this for like eight months and I’m already dead? Must be a sign. At first, I thought it was. In fact, I’m still dealing with the burnout and I’m honestly not sure where the it came from. I suspect it was because I flew too close to the sun, wherein I did all the things to put my toe in the water of photography and then never actually jumped. I brought my camera everywhere (because that’s what was recommended), I’ve read so, SO many pdf’s and ebooks on photography (because that’s what was recommended), I got business cards, sold and bought gear…all of these things I’ve done in order to get into the frame, pun intended, of mind I thought was needed to be a “photographer”. Too late I discovered the books of Dave duChemin and especially his blog, where he ends every video with “Gear is good, vision is better.”
I focused on getting gear (I’m a techie at heart), and forgot about my vision! What the f**k do I want to take pictures of?! People? Cities? Landscapes? Macro? Family? And that’s when it landed: I don’t have a vision. I (maybe?) have skills, but I don’t have the view. And leave it to me to land on a hobby and possible career where the one thing you need is your vision, on every level of that hobby, and I don’t establish it from the outset. I practiced know about photography, and didn’t practice photography.
So now what?
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure. I’ve set a nasty habit of actually viewing others photos with derision of all things. Probably because of the burnout related frustrations, and so I get frustrated with others works (though no fault of their own). I’m in a dangerous place. I run the risk of establishing a negative connotation with photography in general, which will lead to an inevitable demise of my hobby. I think also this is the hardest place to start from. It’s like I got sacked at the ten yard line and lost nine yards. I’m in a bad spot, but not impossible to recover from. So why am I writing this all down?
Two reasons, really. First off is so that I can see my development (or lack thereof) in the future. I want to be able to be grateful in the future for having the ability to overcome, and if I run into circumstances that cause this again…I know what to do. Second, should someone happen upon this blog, and they are dealing with burnout or low motivation, they can see what I did to overcome it.
First, I’m going to find my vision. Right now, it’s the details of a thing. It’s a building, sure….but what is it? A person(s) is easy, capturing character is hard. I want to capture the essence of a thing. I want to open up a view and go: but look at it like this! I also want to practice. The other day I simply got my camera out and played with the settings, and before long I was practicing again. It was natural to me, and I realized that I was demotivated because I hadn’t taken photos in some time.
Second, I’m going to start working on a project. You can’t have a hobby without something to work towards. Not doing anything but stumbling upon your hobby once and a while doesn’t actually help you to further that hobby. It’s like peeing. You just kinda do it without thinking about it. That’s not a hobby. I was reading things about photography and buying photography related items, but I wasn’t actually shooting.
Finally, I’m going to start regularly updating this blog with my progress, my observations, and purchases. I think I’ll set a goal of posting twice a month at first. If I feel the need to post more, I will. Minimum of two sounds about perfect at the moment.
Let’s see how it all works out. I hate failing.
I’ve often read that the 50mm lens is one of the best standard prime lenses that you can get. At first (and I’m still very new at this), I thought that this was odd. After all, most of my subjects were either very close (I love macro shots) or very far away (because I love landscape photos). What use could a 50mm prime lens be to me? Well I can now say that after extensive use while on my trip to Rome…it’s more than essential. It’s now the lens I wish I had started with all along.
Because I can shoot everything. Really.
First off, I’m using the Sony a6500. Which means that it’s an APC-S sensor. A little smaller than a full frame camera sensor, so that makes my 50mm shoot in 75mm format (1.5x the focal length). While obviously this is no zoom lens, 75mm is actually TOO close for inside shots in most cases but I compensated as necessary by moving or lowering my camera…or doing acrobatics of some sort to get the shot I needed. No pain no gain right? Either way, despite it’s “just-a-hair-too-close” nature, the 50mm has an aperture of 1.8. For me, given my lens purchases so far…this was huge. It made everything possible to shoot, it made the images sharp…it changed everything.
Suddenly, instead of losing hope after the golden hour because I knew the sun was the only way I could shoot, I could easily keep going. It was spectacular! For reference my lenses before the 50mm were:
- Kit lens of f/3.5
- Zoom lens f/3.5
- Macro lens f/2.8
As you can see, I simply didn’t have a way to shoot quickly at a low aperture to get the low light shots I wanted. To compensate for those f-stops I would have to shoot at a longer shutter speed, and that means a tripod..etc. Since this was my first trip abroad as a photographer, I was afraid I didn’t have the experience to compensate for those deficiencies reliably. Enter the 50mm prime. The images below were a result of that lens. You gotta understand, this was a game changer for me because I was no longer trying to find the brighter part of the room in order to get the most light so that I could reduce noise in the image…so on and so forth. I could simply find the angle that I wanted and take the shot. With the 50mm, I adjusted my shutter speed to get as close to 100 ISO as possible without going below that threshold of 1/80 second. Anything below 800 ISO (or so I’ve read) is perfectly fine. So I knew that I could sacrifice a bit on the shutter speed so I wouldn’t get a blurry image.
Voilà! Beauty even in low light!
Needless to say, I love the lens and to top it all off: it was cheap too! I highly recommend it.
One of my biggest issues so far has been composition.
I have read so much material on this subject that my brain hurts, but I can’t seem to nail down what I want to see vs. what I take a picture of. It’s been a frustrating venture so far. Then again, I’m a perfectionist of sorts. Which means my standards are very high, but realistically my skillset right now is quite low. I simply haven’t had the practice that I need in order to compose a shot the way I want. You would think I would remember this aspect, but it’s not that simple. For me (bringing in the new photographer aspect), it’s the pressure of the shot needing to be taken right now combined with the lack of quick recognition that causes that later review to go “Oh.” with a slump of the shoulders.
So what to do then? Just “take shots”?
Actually, yes. As simplistic as it sounds: the more you shoot, the better you’ll feel. Case in point: three months ago I had no idea what to do with aperture. A basic and fundamental part of shooting, and I simply shot wide open at whatever aperture was the lowest. My thinking was such that the more light I let in, the better the shot, right? I came to find out that this is true, but only in the sense that the image won’t be dark. But what is a bright image to a poorly composed shot? The first image below is a shot I took with my first macro lens, 35mm. I had the aperture open at f4.5, letting in the most amount of light but defocusing most of the image as well. Not much of a macro shot, honestly. It shows the detail, and that bug was really tiny. But in the end, the shot was…meh. I wanted the detail, but forgot composition. I needed to compose the shot in such a way that the entire image was in focus. Enter the second image. You might have noticed it’s also the cover image for the site. I like it alot! Shot at the same aperture, but the composition is much better. This shot also took much much longer to shoot. By much longer of course I mean a few seconds, but when you are new like I am, a few seconds can seem like an eternity, but it can also spell the difference between a brown mass and a bright droplet perched on a blade of grass.
Basically: go shoot things. You aren’t here to make money (yet). So 99% of these images won’t be seen by the public eye. So shoot! Take all the pictures, and then get choosey later. But when you shoot, focus on an aspect. For example, this past weekend I shot in f8 and nothing else. It’s not a lofty goal, I grant you, but the intention was to know what f8 could do and not do. I’ve read a few times a photographer state: “F8 and be there.” Meaning set your aperture to f8 and be around for the shot you want. I wanted to see if this was true, and I felt like it was for most of the time. The last image, of my daughter, is an example of that. I like how the back is blurred to where the focus of the image is entirely in her face. It’s a natural pose, she was obviously singing or talking at the time. I took it at the maximum focal length of 210mm for my lens. If I had a criticism, I wish I had put a bit more light into the shot. This was at iso 3200, which I think I’ll have to control next time so I know how dark my image might be if I’m at the preferred iso 100.
Till next time!