Sometime in the late 1990s when I was a busy travel writer, I published a book called “Travels with my Camera”. It wasn’t a masterpiece and as is the way of publishing, the times and methods change, and the book is no longer in print. During all of my travelling I found that my SLR 35mm camera was just too cumbersome to carry all day plus the fact that I had been mugged a couple of times so I tended to use a smaller bridge camera.
A couple of months or so back and semi-retired, I decided to treat myself to one of the latest digital single lens reflex camera having sold my two much revered bridge style cameras to help fund the purchase. That was what I told my long suffering wife anyway, more to the point once I got my hands on my DSLR I knew that I would never use the my old ones.
I suppose I spent a month holding, fondling and falling in love with my new acquisition. Buying a couple of very expensive lenses and taking lots of photos but always using it on fully automatic. The results were brilliant, if I say so myself. I then went off on an assignment to Snowdonia taking the DSLR on a trial run and I’m totally infatuated.
I first got into photography in the 1960s when I had a dark room and developed my own results. I had a sailing colleague who owned a chemist/camera shop that also dealt with second-hand cameras. I changed cameras with his help, moving up from a simple Ilford Sportsman 35mm through many different makes and formats via a Rolleicord, a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex and even a Hasselblad 500C. Most of them would be worth a small fortune today.
In those days you will have gathered I had become quite a camera buff and knew of such things as depth of field, focal lengths and f stops. I’m not sure if it is laziness, old age or just that I had become so used to using point and shoot cameras that such things have become a foreign language to me.
Amazon sent me an email offering a special deal on a Masterclass for the DSLR camera and I resisted the temptation, but not quite long enough to delete the email into spam and I took up the offer of a full day Masterclass. I’m such an easy target for anything that takes my interest. I have no idea how Amazon knew that I could be in the market for such an offer, but it is slightly frightening, could my purchase of an SD card reader have put my name on a target list?
Come the day, cometh the man as they say, and today I found myself in the village of Madingly, just outside Cambridge attending the promised Masterclass. There were about a dozen very mixed bunch of students of various ages and sizes. One young lady had flown in that morning from Dublin just to take part and was flying home the same evening. Probably the only thing that we had in common apart from a keenness to learn was the fact that each was clasping a digital single lens reflex camera.
James (that’s a nice name and a good start), our tutor had been a professional photographer for many years with an impressive portfolio and a CV that included working with the famous Peruvian photographer Mario Testino OBE who is now a firm favourite of our Royal Family as well as Vogue and Vanity Fair. Needless to say, that was this wimp intimidated before we started.
Repeat after me; I must never switch my camera on to automatic, ever again! I now know all there is to know about Depth of Field, Focal Length, f Stops, Shutter Speeds and how to and when to use them. Seriously, a really good Masterclass that we spent both in the classroom and outside, putting our newfound knowledge into practice. I learned everything that I went for and a lot more.
I won’t promise never to switch my camera on to fully auto but I will use the other priorities whenever I can improve my photos. I have promised my wife that three lenses are sufficient for my needs (at the moment) but I haven’t told her that when I got home from school I went online to Adobe and ordered a computer programme called Photoshop Lightroom because well . . . . . . . . I needed it.