Growing Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

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SAMSUNG CSC 

When I first started getting serious about photography, I shot everything. It was all new and there was just so many new concepts I wanted to try out. Shortly after, I had a very expensive DSLR sitting in a closet collecting dust. The camera was originally bought because I was trying to build my first blog (an Apple-related blog if you’re curious) and I convinced myself that if it was to be successful it would need original photos. Never mind I didn’t really know anything about photography beyond making sure it wasn’t blurry. My original failure in the world of photography didn’t come from lack of interest of passion or even time – I never respected the fact that simply trying a technique isn’t the same as learning a technique. 
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Shortly after my first blog fizzled out I found myself writing for another tech blog – The Noisecast. I ended up there with a fib, I said I had a camera and took great pictures. See where I’m going with this? Unlike the first time I tried to learn photography, this time I focused on a couple of key styles of photography. These became the building blocks for truly picking up the camera for the first time. I was covering live events and press conferences; it’s fast shooting in variable conditions. It’s a lot harder than you convince yourself it to be but it is a true trial by fire. I became competent shooting events for journalistic purposes but I couldn’t practice event photography without events to shoot – and so I learned about Street Photography. 

  
Learning a very specific style of photography pushed my creative limits. It forced me to relearn everything I had already become comfortable with. I had to go through the ups and downs of starting fresh. Mistakes were made, shortcuts taken; in the end I saw it through and became better at the craft. Learning about new compositional techniques, learning how to capture the emotion of a scene or the energy of a place. 
Commuters//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I’m not going to say I’ve mastered any of this – fooling ourselves into mastery of this craft leads to stagnation and conforming. I’m however ready for my next challenge. I want to be better at what I do so I decided that I’ll be taking on not just film photography but learning to shoot medium format 120 film. It’s going to be an on-going challenge in conjunction to my daily digital photography. I’m looking forward to this next step and I encourage you dear reader to step outside of your comfort zone. Portrait photographers go out and shoot some landscapes; nature photographers head into the city where the wild things are. You get the idea.

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Everyone is making great cameras… What now?

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The Whole Family is here


At this very moment if you walked into the nearest camera specialty store and walked around the latest gear for you to try, chances are you couldn’t walk a few feet without running into a really good camera. Whether it’s a Samsung NX3000, Olympus’s E-PL7, Canon’s T3i, or various other interchangeable lens camera systems, chances are that you’ll be able to produce quality images at a relatively inexpensive price-points.

So where does this leave us? Well, the old arguments about which camera system makes the best photographs are now by and large just a matter of personal preference and/or justification of spending lots, and lots, and lots of money in the gear you’ve chosen to buy into. Make no mistake, photography remains an expensive profession and even more expensive hobby once you get to a certain point but when you’re starting out there’s almost no wrong choice.

Getting started – Why there’s nothing wrong with the “kit lens”

You’ve done your homework and now you’re ready to make a big purchase – your first interchangeable lens camera. Whether you go DSLR (I’ll be explaining in another post why you shouldn’t) or one of the mirror-less cameras, if you base your purchasing decision solely on the opinions of Internet forums and your “almost pro” friends you’ll often hear that you shouldn’t buy the camera bundled with a cheap lens. They’ll often point you to a camera body and make a suggestion as to which “prime” lens to buy, but the truth is that even the kit lenses that many manufacturers have greatly improved the quality of their kit offerings.

Carnival in Brooklyn

and Q Standard Zoom 02 Lens (kit lens for Q system cameras)

Make no mistake, a prime lens will give you better image quality than you’re typical kit lens, but if you’re just getting started the average kit lens on the market will be able to handle most situations. The kit will provide you with the flexibility of a zoom and the added benefit of knowing that you didn’t spend the additional money on a “good lens” in the event you have second thoughts.

Breaking the bank: buying the best body or splurging on a lens

Online debates often revolve around the latest and greatest camera bodies manufacturers can offer. Whether it’s the flagship Canon 5D Mark II, Samsung NX30, or Olympus OM-D E-M1, a flagship camera is almost certain to cost you a pretty penny. Often times a flagship camera body is usually sold as a body-only meaning you’ll be dropping even more coin on  picking up a necessary lens. It’s a costly endeavor for sure but does it have to be? Not really. 

Circle of Fire

If you’re gonna splurge; I definitely recommend you do so on a great lens.

Unless you’re a high-level enthusiasts or working professional, chances are that you will not be using all the features of a flagship camera. If you’re just getting started in the world of photography, consider picking up an entry-to-mid-level camera body and use the balance of your flagship budget on picking up an additional lens or two. If you choose to go this route you can easily pick up a great, fast prime lens that will serve you for a variety of uses. Best of all, learning to shoot with a prime lens will help you make the most out of an included kit lens or other zoom lens should you choose to pick one up at a later time. So before you’re swayed by all the bells and whistles of a flagship camera, find capable middle of the road camera body and consider getting the best lens your budget affords. 

Finding your a camera that fits your style

  
Now that the secret is out and there’s no such thing as a bad camera these days, where does that leave you? Well if this generation of gear is indicative of what the future of photography may bring, then we’re all in for a great time. For seasoned pros or experienced hobbyists, great cameras will make it easier for them to create the images that they see in their mind’s eye. They’ll be able to capture the decisive moment with even more accuracy, capture landscapes with an even higher level of sharpness and clarity. For those who have recently caught the bug or may be just starting out, the improved processes in camera manufacturing and wide availability means that it’s even easier to get started. Though the learning curve may still be there, there’s never been a better time to find a camera that offers plenty of control to the photographer while still being technologically advanced enough to guide them as needed. 

It’s a truly great time for photographers of all stripes; who knows maybe some day soon we’ll no longer be as concerned with what we’re shooting with and what we shoot. 

What Camera Should I Buy? 

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NX3000, NX30, NXmini

Pick a camera that suits your style of shooting.

“What camera do you use?” Or, “which camera should I buy?” Are easily the two most often asked questions from friends and family. It’s a harmless enough question and one that doesn’t have a one-size fits all answer.  Before I answer the second one, I’ll briefly talk about the first.If you’re asking, which camera I am currently using in hopes of snapping a shot like one I may have shared on Instagram or other social media platform; I’m flattered. The truth is that the camera I use is not as important as the amount of time I’ve spent shooting with it. 

At its most basic, photography is all about getting light to hit a sensor to produce an image. Whether that sensor is inside your smartphone or a $50k medium format camera you’re going to get some poor results if you don’t take the time to learn how to use your camera. Learn some basic photography language and how it applies to what you want to shoot. You’ll need to learn the difference between “primes” and “zooms.” How does your aperture setting affect your image; how about shutter speed? Don’t be afraid to RTFM but if you’re lazy like I can be, don’t be afraid to Google it before you start asking questions on your favorite blog or forum. Get the information you needed and then get out there and shoot. 

NX1 Badge

The Samsung NX1 means business

Over the last year I really started getting into HDR photography. I liked the way photographer Trey Ratcliffe approached his landscapes but I personally didn’t think it fit my style of shooting. I took in some of his tutorials on HDR processing and then experimented on my own photos. Some looked like clown vomit (as HDR processing can get ridiculous quickly) but some were good. Some were even great. I learned how to make the most out of bracketed shot functions on my NX300 and refined the process and the bracket depth on every subsequent camera I used after. 

Experimentation wasn’t just limited to HDR photography either. After reading Ibarionex Pererllo’s “The Candid Frame on Street Photography” I took some of the notes he shared on Street Photography and applied them as practical setting changes on my cameras. From “..on Street Photography,” Perello states:

“With a high ISO setting and the lens aperture set to F/5.6, you can expect that you’ll have a fast enough shutter speed to counter camera shake as well as freeze the movement of your subject.”

The Olympus E-PL7 is definitely selfie friendly

If selfies are your thing, don’t shy away from cameras with you in mind.


After reading the book, I immediately made the necessary adjustments to my NX500’s custom setting (along with some personal preferences) and hit the streets ready to try to make some great photographs. 

In case I haven’t beat this into your head enough, don’t spend too much time hand-wringing on camera manufacturers or camera settings with some random people online. That takes away from what will make you a better photographer – that’s the time you’ll spend out in the streets or in your home studio making photographs. 

So which camera should I buy?

I said I would answer this question in the beginning so here’s the answer – go to a camera store, in the NYC-metro area I recommend you check out Adorama, B & H, or Unique Photo, and try out a couple of different models and form factors. Ask yourself what do I plan on shooting with this camera: will I just take a couple of snapshots during my vacation or do you have ambitions to take a photography class? Do I need full manual controls or will the camera sit on its auto function? The first thing you have to remember is that a camera is simply a tool; think of it as the paintbrush to your painting. It’s not the painting, just what you will use to create it. 

So if you’re looking to up your photography game in 2016 or looking into purchasing a camera without a phone or text function, congrats! Dedicate some time into the craft and you’ll find that photography can truly be an eye-opening hobby that you will enjoy for a lifetime. 

Reflections on 2015

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  As 2015 draws to a close I’m sitting in a hospital room reflecting on where this year started and where it has ended. As I sit here I’m reminded of opportunities missed; mostly out of pride and opportunities that I have not put enough time or effort into. This isn’t a post about all the things wrong with the year, in the midst of this storm, I choose instead to be grateful for being able to share this story.This story isn’t about photography per se, photography was a big part of my life in 2015. I don’t think I officially stated that I was doing a 365 project at the start of the year, I definitely approached the year with shooting and sharing every day in mind. This year I’m very grateful to Allison + Partners and Samsung for continuing to believe in me and my photography and for continuing to keep me on as an Imagelogger in 2015; being an Imagelogger is the single event that has pushed me to my creative limits not just as a photographer but as a writer/journalist as well. Becoming a better photographer forced me to become a better storyteller. Understanding how the emotional weight of an image can tell a story has made me rethink the way I tell stories with words – make them more visual. 

  
This past year has also made more keenly aware of the impermanence of life. Where you are today is not necessarily where you’ll be tomorrow; the last four months of the year have shown me that this isn’t an omen but a hopeful promise. I truly pray that no one has to live through a time like that but knowing that it is temporary has kept me and my family pushing forward. Don’t allow the impermanence of your current successes lead you to becoming prideful, boastful, or cocky. Don’t allow the fleeting trials or bad hands color your judgement going forward and keep you from living a joy filled life. There’s beauty to be found all around you; capture it in your memories and learn to look back but not live in them for too long. 

  
I’m not sure what 2016 will have in store for me or any of you. I encourage all of you to learn something new. Get out of your comfort zones, don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re scared of making that next move; it’s probably worth it. I’ve been blessed with a network of support that extends from close friends and family to an extended family that I’ve never met in person. To my colleagues on the verge of launching new endeavors and businesses I wish you much success; may we continue to be collaborators, competitors, but above all, continue to push one another to greatness.