Ten Years, Ten Photos – 2007

I always liked making photos, but it was the combination of instant feedback from digital cameras and being able to develop images on the computer what really got me into photography. My first digital compact camera had a 2.1 megapixel sensor with abysmal image quality, an insanely slow startup time and auto focus, and four AA batteries lasted for about 100 photos. Early in 2007 I borrowed a DSLR, and that was the point when I was infected in earnest by the photography bug.

To “celebrate” this anniversary (that I almost missed!) I’m posting a series of blog posts, one for each year, and with each blog post, I’m including one “key photo” that best describes my draw to photography, maybe documents my progress, shows my photographic vision, and explains me as a photographer.

I consider making photos not necessarily a means of expression, but simply a need, a desire. I see beauty in the world, and try to hold on to it through my photos. And when I make photos, I forget that I’m cold, hungry, hot, thirsty, tired – each exposure is a brief escape, a micro-meditation that lasts for mere seconds, on a moment in time and a glimpse at a world that still fills me with awe. That may sound poetic, but there’s no poetry in it for me. It’s just what I do, and this is why I do it. If the resulting images please anyone else but me it’s a plus, but I think I speak for all photographers and artists when I say that’s not the reason why we’re doing it.

Now the one thing that originally drew me towards photography was actually it’s documentary nature – I wanted to make photos of nature and landscapes, during my walks and hikes in the alps in Germany, Austria and Italy, and of other places that I visited. The earliest photos in my digital archive are scans from a trip to Tunisia in 1998, where I made photos of a cemetery, an old fortress, sunlight breaking through clouds, a mosque with beautiful minarets, that sort of thing.

But the hikes in the mountains were really what I wanted to capture and preserve in images. And I soon found that it’s often bad weather that brings the most interesting light and photo opportunities:

Light and shadow playing on the pastures of Hochalm, seen from the Beutelkopf trail, near Heutal/Unken, Salzburger Land, Austria. October 2007.
Light and shadow playing on the pastures of Hochalm, seen from the Beutelkopf trail, near Heutal/Unken, Salzburger Land, Austria. October 2007.

This was the beginning of a long, long journey, and needless to say, I still don’t have the feeling that I’ve arrived – and I hope I never will, because I think it’s all just stages, and that we will never stop exploring.

Photo Geek Talk (the tech bits)

After having to return the borrowed DSLR (a Nikon D70), my first own DSLR was a Nikon D70s, with the 18-55mm kit lens (I bought it used to save money – experience taught me that somehow, we pick up hobbies and often abandon them later, and the older we get, the more expensive these hobbies become;-). I was already used to the D70, it was very affordable used, and that’s how I ended up being a Nikon user. Pure chance. Had I borrowed a Canon DSLR, I’d be a Canon user now, and just as happy.

The camera was in “Auto” mode for about one hour before I became fed up with the built-in flash popping up in backlight situations, and I switched to “Program automatic”. Clueless about the exposure triangle, I dabbled in this “P” mode for a couple of days, until I learned (by seeing and doing) that one of the key elements that “designs” images was depth of field.

This mysterious depth of field was controlled by the aperture of course, and so I found that using “Aperture priority” mode and letting the camera do the math for the exposure time was just right for me because I didn’t have a clue about “stops” and all that back then. Auto-ISO was still pretty much a crutch with limited control so I didn’t use it (and higher ISO was really bad with regards to noise) – but to this day, my cameras are in “A” mode most of the time.

What else? I soon swapped the 18-55mm kit lens for an 18-200mm “superzoom” with image stabilization, and that was my setup for a while. I added a fast prime (foolishly, a 50mm, which acts more like a portrait tele on a crop sensor), then a wide angle zoom, all within a year or so.

After a couple of months of using JPEG and just not understanding what raw data was good for, I just gave it a try on a hike, and began to see its potential, back then with a program called “Rawshooter” than Adobe eventually bought in an acqui-hire and integrated into Lightroom – that’s how I’m a Lightroom user for ten years now, as well.

Last not least, after trying I was quickly sold on back-button auto focus, and to this day I can’t understand how anyone can have AE lock, AF operation and shutter actuation on a single button on the camera, and without going crazy. Back button AF is so much easier! ;-)

And that was the first of ten years. If you’re curious to look back and explore my photographic past :-) a little bit, I do have an archive of images from 2007 available in blog posts.

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8 Responses

  1. I like what you say about ‘arriving’. There’s no such thing — it’s an endless journey of learning and discovering and growing. I’ve been practicing photography for about forty years now, and still feel like a kid with a new toy. Fine post.

  2. I agree. I always like to say that you can learn 90% of all there is to know about photography in a couple years, and you will spend the rest of your life figuring out the other 10%. The journey continues. Onward.

  3. We are somewhat on a similar track Alex (time wise). Ten years for me shooting at MTRP (shortly after starting my journey in earnest). Learning by doing…trial and error, reading, following forums etc.

    Love the above piece.Just beautiful

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