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  1. #1
    Moderator Didache's Avatar
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    A Little Rant # 3

    Hi all .. the third in a series of rants and rhetoric! It's been a little while since #2, but please bear in mind that I do this in order to raise issues, not start arguments - and my tongue is at least partly in my cheek! :aureola:

    This one was prompted by someone I know who has quite a high end DSLR. He was looking at one of my pictures and commented on my differential focussing. He asked how I did it and I started to talk about an open aperture leading to a small depth of field, etc. It suddenly occurred to me that he really didn't have a clue what I was talking about. His high end camera was always set on the little green icon and, as a result, he had no idea how to use apertures, shutter speeds, ISOs, etc for creative effect. Nor did he have even much of a notion of the principles of composition. In short, he had a great camera, but knew next to nothing about the principles and science of photography.

    Now, please understand that I am not knocking him (he is a friend) and I am certainly not trying to be elitist, but it made me MIGHTILY glad that I learned photography when cameras were manual with fixed focal length lenses. Why? Because it forces you to actually LEARN your art.

    I appreciate that we cannot turn the clock back, and I appreciate also that quality pictures are now within the grasp of most people - in that sense, modern camera technology is a great thing. Almost everyone, these days, can buy a camera which will produce good results and that is an immense leap forward from the day when only the enthusiasts had SLRs and everyone else had an instamatic!

    However, everything has its price and the price, to me, is a generation of people who can take half decent pictures without actually understanding photography. The problem comes when they feel the need to be creative - and they find they don't have the tools or the skills to pull it off. What is worse, sometimes they don't even WANT to develop those skills, because it is easier to just leave it on the green icon. Even worse to me (and I see it in these forums often enough) are those who think they can cut it in the pro arena - even though it is obvious (to me anyway) that they are severely limited in basic photographic skills. :mad2:

    I know this will never happen, but wouldn't it be a good idea (I think so anyway) if you weren't allowed to buy an automatic high-tech camera UNTIL you have used a manual camera with a fixed focal length lens for 3 months?

    Who knows? They might even learn about photography

    Cheers
    Mike
    Mike Dales ARPS
    My website: www.mikedalesphotography.co.uk

  2. #2
    GB1
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Amen - Let's pass a law!

    Seriously, I agree -- seems there are just more and more folks who don't know what an aperture or shutter speed is, much less a hyper-focal distance or something more advanced like that, using high-end cameras.

    Reminds me of when I took a Philosophy of Art class in college. One of the subjects it discussed was whether photography was art. One argument against was that someone could just mistakenly take a great photo w/o any knowledge, but they couldn't paint a masterpiece or draw an accurate figure without skill. The thing is, can you do it consistently.

    I think most beginner photo classes used to make the students use Pentax K-1000 cameras, a pure manual camera with only a crude meter.

    Another interesting sub-topic is how this relates to writing. When PCs got cheap and word processors became popular, they expected a flood of new writers, meaning everyone was going to be a writer. I don't know if that came about or not. There has probably been an increase in the number of submissions for book publishing, I would think (I've heard it's definitely not easy to get a book published).

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  3. #3
    Ghost
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    When you don't know (try to remember when you didn't if possible) marketing and the other things you DO know (or think you know) lead you to believe that it's the camera, not the photographer. So it's easy to see how one can quickly conclude that a nicer camera makes better photos and assume that is all that matters. Same thing goes for all hobbies and sports.

  4. #4
    WARNING Takes Random Pictures MonkeyWrench's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    One of the very reasons, I have not been active lately on the forum is that I am doing what you said. Learning about photography. It’s a summer class so its 16 weeks crammed into 8. That said it’s amazing what I didn't know and continue to learn. This is a BW class using all manual settings. You develop the film and make your own prints. This class is absolutely awesome. I was just a little awed when my first print came alive in the developer mix.

    I had hoped to blog my experience but there is hardly time to get my class work done. I went from P&S to SLR because I could no longer get the results I wanted. My first SLR was film and I struggled learning the manual settings until I abandoned them all together. When I went digital things got better, but things really started coming together when I joined this forum. Which got me even further INTERESTED to the point I wanted to invest the time and money to learn more. Until I made the turn I was the very person you were describing.

    Don't give up on your friend or others like him/me. We sometimes see the light. I do agree however with the type of P&S you can buy today you are just wasting your money on a SLR film or digital if your not going to take the time to learn how to use it beyond the auto settings.

  5. #5
    Film Forum Moderator Xia_Ke's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    I'm trying to learn Mike

    Just picked up a Nikkormat EL with a 50mm f/2. Also will be starting a class soon to learn film processing and basic print making. Lately I find that the more I learn, the more I want to learn. I'm just glad I found this place as it has proved to be an invaluable learning tool
    Aaron Lehoux * flickr
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  6. #6
    project forum co-moderator Frog's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    I'm just an amateur hobbyist and sometimes I'm overwhelmed, especially with technical talk but I litterally spend hours every day seeing what others are doing and learning how they did it. I just looked up hyper-focal distance which I pretty much knew what it meant but I do need to learn how to achieve it when I want.
    Sometimes I wish the dslr cameras didn't have so many settings. I'd seriously consider one that was totally manual with a good sensor. Well, I'd probably need auto-focus too at the age of my eyes.
    Keep Shooting!

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  7. #7
    has-been... another view's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Quote Originally Posted by Trevor Ash
    When you don't know (try to remember when you didn't if possible) marketing and the other things you DO know (or think you know) lead you to believe that it's the camera, not the photographer. So it's easy to see how one can quickly conclude that a nicer camera makes better photos and assume that is all that matters. Same thing goes for all hobbies and sports.
    Yep - just talking to my new neighbor the other night about this same thing, and the subject was cooking. There is a point that you may need to upgrade the equipment to solve a specific problem, but you'll figure out when that happens. Because I have a DSLR (and an old one at that), I've had friends and co-workers ask me to come and shoot a portrait or a kid's soccer game since my camera is so much better than theirs. Doesn't work that way...

    Some people will always have top of the line stuff, and I think for a lot of them the equipment itself is the enjoyment - again, not only in photography.

  8. #8
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Your friend only hurts himself in the long run. It reminds me of someone who lives their whole life and never learns to read. When he jumps in the pond with the big fish he won't be able to keep up.
    I agree that when you start out, if you want to do it right, you should start out with a manual camera. I am just glad the with technology the way it is that the basic camera set up is still the same. I am sure a camera that can be hand held in almost any lighting situation is just over the horizon.
    There are already a bunch of youngsters out there that have no clue. I am glad I found this forum. It has about the most well rounded group of photographers in the world. You can ask almost any question and have an answer in seconds.
    I am like Barney Fife, I have a gun but Andy makes me keep the bullet in my pocket..

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  9. #9
    Moderator Didache's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Thanks guys for the responses so far - I thought it would strike a nerve. I'm thinking that maybe it ties in with the whole attitude to life these days which is to make things as easy and as instant as possible: why bother to learn something when the technology can do it all for you?

    The problem is that it can't! To use an analogy, I could go out tomorrow and buy exactly the same golf clubs as Tiger Woods uses. But it certainly wouldn't mean I could hit a ball like he can. He has coaching, talent, ambition and, not least, tens of thousands of hours on the practice range hitting ball after ball after ball. Why should photography (or any other skill) be different?

    You can have the greatest camera in the world, but you are always going to be limited unless you learn the basics and then practice. I am really glad to hear Xia_Ke and MonkeyWrench are doing exactly that.

    Nor is it a process that ever ends - I still consider it a week wasted where I don't learn something new, and I hope it always remains that way.

    (For the record, my friend's camera is a Nikon D80).

    Mike
    Mike Dales ARPS
    My website: www.mikedalesphotography.co.uk

  10. #10
    Panarus biarmicus Moderator (Sports) SmartWombat's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Quote Originally Posted by GB1
    I think most beginner photo classes used to make the students use Pentax K-1000 cameras, a pure manual camera with only a crude meter.
    Yes, that's what we had on my course, also had to use the studio 6x4 view camera.
    We did all our own B&W D&P in the department darkroom.
    I tried the Pentax, even though it had a TTL meter I decided it wasn't much better than my Zenith with selenium cell match needle meter.

    Eventually I ended up doing the coursework with a pocket Halina.
    Focus by guesswork, between the lens shutter, no meter, with a short, fixed focus lens, I learned about composition as well as exposure.
    PAul

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  11. #11
    Just Lurking
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Mike,

    Your friend sounds exactly like my sister-in-law and her husband. They spent a week in Hawaii and never once took their XTi off the green square - even when they couldn't get the shot they wanted because the camera wouldn't let them (night luau shot that prohibited flash photography).

    I'm not sure I lay the blame at their feet though. I asked them why they bought this camera and their response was partly that it was like mine (I shoot with the XT) and partly because the salesman at the store said it was what they needed. They never asked, but I would have recommended a different camera for them and the salesman should have done so as well.

    I think the photographic community also shares some of blame. It seems weird that in many forums people obsess about the image quality, color rendition, megapixels, or lines of resolution of different cameras and lenses without considering the value of the shot they're taking. I've seen some incredible shots taken with pretty mediocre cameras.

    I too am trying to improve my photography which is why I switched from lurking here to participating. I didn't upgrade my camera, I'm trying to upgrade my skill (however frustrating that may be )

    PC

  12. #12
    Senior Member mn shutterbug's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    This reminds me of when I was in Alaska several years ago. I was at Brooks Falls at Katmai National Park, photographing brown bears catching salmon at the river and at the top of the falls. The weather was sunny and when the sun hit the water, it was extremely bright. Of course, the viewing platform was quite a distance from the bears so you couldn't help but get a good deal of the water in the photo. Of course, the water was part of the picture. I metered on the water and came up with 1/2000 of a sec. at my desired aperture. I then metered on the foliage and found a difference of 2 to 3 stops, so I compensated accordingly. I asked this guy from New York, who was a cabin mate of mine, how he was shooting the bears. He said he shoots all his pictures on automatic. This guy had 2 Canon cameras around his neck and they each had a long lens on them, along with other photo gear. He looked the part of a professional. I can guarantee you, his photos didn't appear professionally taken. Another cabin mate of mine was from St. Louis. Him and I were going to exchange our favorite photo with each other, after we got them processed. I sent him 2 of mine, but never heard from him again. I have a funny feeling that his brown bears were black bears on his photos. I do remember questioning a couple other photographers and they all said, shoot on automatic. What a shame. Some of these people have spent thousands of dollars on photo equipment and then another couple thousand to get to this awesome place, only to obtain lousy photos because they didn't take the time to learn a little about photography and their equipment. I had maybe a total of $1000 invested in my equipment and was very pleased with the results.

    I just talked to another acquaintance a couple nights ago. She started taking pictures several years ago and actually had one chosen for a weather calendar. She switched to digital about a year ago by buying a Canon XT. She emailed me a couple photos of a bird she shot with her new Canon 300mm lens. They weren't bad, but they were far from sharp. But then, she did shoot handheld at 1/60 second. I asked her if she ever used the histogram. She had never heard of it. She asked me how to spell it so she could check if her camera had such a thing. In the meantime, I did a bit of research and found out that her camera does have that feature. This is just another example of a person not really even reading the user manual.

    There is another forum I check out once in awhile. The photographer with some fo the sharpest and most eye pleasing photos is from a person using an advanced P & S Olympus with a 1.7 conversion lens. He has also sold more of his photos off this site than any other member.

    Yes, it's more the person behind the camera than the camera itself. Don't get me wrong. I do believe, in the right hands, the better equipment, the better results in many cases, but not all.
    Mike
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  13. #13
    Not-so-recent Nikon Convert livin4lax09's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    this is the effect of a market where DSLRs and digital cameras are getting much less expensive. Many more people can afford that 30d, and while they may not know how to use it, all the ads and marketing have led them to believe that if they get it, their pictures will automatically improve. Just take nikon's foolish little "picture-town" ad campaign for example. Most of the people they gave cameras too probably didnt know a whole lot about cameras/composition or anything, and nikon could have you fooled at least part of the time with the images on the site (probably picked one out of 1000 to put up). Some of the images were probably luck. As my engineering prof said, "even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while." But what this showed the consumers is if they buy this camera, since they are just like those other people, their images will automatically improve. Granted it's very intelligent marketing, but false marketing at that. your image quality will improve from a p&s to a DSLR, but thats about it. Until you get to know the basics of photography you won't really go many places. you'll continue to be that blind squirrel, sometimes starving to death and sometimes getting food.

    And yes, a lot of people simply are measurebators. They care more about the size of their lens than what they can do with it. I'll admit, I fall into this category some of the time, but I think about 90% of the people out there do as well.

    But like MANY things, the camera vs. the photographer is not a black and white issue. Yes, it is the wizard and not the wand some of the times, but some of the times the camera does make a difference. But 99% of the time that a camera makes a difference is with someone who actually knows what they are doing. For example, when I started sports photography I had a 300d (digital rebel). Within a year, i grew out of it and purchased a 1d. It was killing me how the camera held me back. But in the beginning, when I didn't know anything about sports photography, a 1d probably wouldn't have made my images any better. There's a reason why they are called "entry level DSLRs"

    in the end, it just sucks to see people with really crappy photos have all the nice gear while those who really create art can't afford the equipment that has the potential to improve their photos.

    and though many people may think of me as one of those kids who relies on the expensive automatic equipment, I was using my mom's MF Pentax camera at about 12 years old to take pictures of my bunnies. Sure, she said "spin the knobs until that little needle is in the middle of the frame" but still...

  14. #14
    DEviaNT Photographer DEvianT's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    As an amusing addition to this topic I was on top of the cathedral in Florence when a flash and brash guy with a 1DsMK2 and a 70-200mm L IS lens asked me how to take a picture of his girlfriend and get the background out of focus... It was almost enough to bring tears to my eyes. What a waste. I offered to swap him my Old OM1 and chuck in a 50mm f/1.8 for free...

    I've interviewed a few well regarded professional photographers over the last few years and have out of personal interest asked each of them how they feel about this very topic. In fact i've yet to meet one who actually gives two hoots about the equipment they use other than for very practical reasons or historical ones.

    One of this years Deutsche Borse nominees couldn't even remember what camera he used for his series of prints and believe me they are some of the finest I have ever seen anywhere ever.

    A sucessful and well regarded photo-journalist (Johnathan Taylor) uses old Nikon FM3 film bodies because they are small and tough. His results are exceptional. A world renowned portrait photographer and personal favourite of mine (Hellen Van Meene) said the only camera that mattered was a plastic pink one her mother bought her as it started her interest in photography.

    I agree with the whole premise of the post so far. Focus on the creative process not the tools for the job.
    DEviaNT Photographer

    'Tough' meant it was an uncompromising image, something that came from your gut, out of instinct, raw, of the moment, something that couldn’t be described in any other way. So it was tough. Tough to like, tough to see, tough to make, tough to understand. The tougher they were the more beautiful they became.
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  15. #15
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    It's funny I have a DSLR with a lot of bells and whistles but I still shoot with it much like I did with my Yashica. All in manual. I play with the white balance some but that's about it. AF only because I can't see as well as I use to. Cameras are like cars. If you learn to drive a stick you can drive them all.
    I am like Barney Fife, I have a gun but Andy makes me keep the bullet in my pocket..

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  16. #16
    Analog Photographer, Digital World Axle's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    I never took formal classes in photography. I learned it all on my own reading and studying what I could on this site (I joined a couple months after getting my first SLR camera back in 2004, a Minolta SRT-102) and for the first several months I used nothing but fixed focus lens (50mm f/1.7 and a 200mm f/3.5). First four rolls, I got one good photo out of each roll.

    So I agree with you, however, with the massive influx of digital cameras, why not let someone use their fancy dSLR but have them slap on a 50mm lens and run the thing fully manual (it'll save money on film development).

    I guess it's all about the person. There are those who buy dSLRs because they like high tech things and *think* it'll let them take better photos, and then there are those who buy it because they really want to learn.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member mn shutterbug's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg McCary
    Cameras are like cars. If you learn to drive a stick you can drive them all.
    Yes, but you can get rusty. Many years ago I was really into 35mm and traveled hither and thither for good photo ops. Then my carrer changed, my income dropped dramatically and I quite travelling. I then lost interest. I just started to think a little more seriously about it a few months ago and find that it's real easy to forget about things that used to be an automatic response. Now I have to purposefully stop and think a bit more before I take a picture, and with the current cameras it's so easy to just point and shoot. But it's starting to come back, thanks to this forum.
    Mike
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    Canon 30D X 2, Canon 100-400L, Thrift Fifty, Canon 18-55 IS 3rd generation lens plus 430 EX II flash and Better Beamer. :thumbsup:

  18. #18
    Senior Member swmdrayfan's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Great thread, Mike. You're making me think again . Although I'm getting a little better, I still need to learn a lot. For instance, recently I've started going manual instead of AP or SP on my D70. I sometimes go back to the other two, but learning to master manual settings is more important the further along I get. I am also contemplating going back to square one and taking a class.
    John

  19. #19
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    I think that like anything, if your really care about something, you are more likely to try
    to achieve better results. When I first bought my Rebel 2000 35 mm camera, I wanted to take family pictures and some of my son in sports. When the photos of the sports didnt come out the way I wanted, I read my manuel front to back and asked a few friends some questions. I was shooting in the green box. As I learned and I started to get better, I wanted to learn more. Then I bought a digital rebel 300D, but I never shot in full auto again. I also did not shoot film again for a long time. Now after a few years of lurking, and some posting on this forum, I shoot M almost all the time. Now I read this and other forums all the time and sometimes post. I am even enrolled in an online photo class,(it is all that I have time for.) I am nowhere as good as I would like to be, but I am better than I
    used to be. ( p.s. I am even shooting film again.)

  20. #20
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    I do find that after a while I find that certain f/stops work well for most things that I shoot and I tend to stick with them. And I then work the shutter speed around what f/stop I want.
    I guess my brain is aperature priority.LOL
    I am like Barney Fife, I have a gun but Andy makes me keep the bullet in my pocket..

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  21. #21
    Moderator Didache's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg McCary
    I guess my brain is aperature priority.LOL
    Oh me too!! It's the best way to control creativity in most cases.

    Actually I have an event this coming Saturday which illustrates all this. Being as I live in London, I will be there on Saturday to photograph the prologue time trial of the Tour de France. The barriers will be packed with people all firing away like machine gunners on everything from cheap P & Ss to expensive DSLRs. And you can bet that a LOT of those people are going to be very disappointed with the results - simply because photographing something like that takes some thought.

    The riders will be going at something like 30mph so there is a need to freeze them while, at the same time, keeping the crowds in the background a little out of focus. So: high shutter speed (1/500 or so) and openish aperture will be the order of the day. I will experiment with fill flash too if I can get a suitable place to shoot from.

    Here's the really good thing. My camera (K10D) allows you to set BOTH f-stop and shutter speed, and it automatically selects the appropriate ISO. I will try that too.

    Cheers
    Mike
    Mike Dales ARPS
    My website: www.mikedalesphotography.co.uk

  22. #22
    DEviaNT Photographer DEvianT's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    I was teaching a new photographer recently who really did want to escape the point and shoot mentality and take creative control. I made his switch his camera to manual and use the built in spot meter to find mid-tones and judge exposure.

    He said he hated me for the first couple of weeks for the headaches it gave him and the shots he screwed up. He added that two months later he was really glad I'd made him start like this as he now understood what he was doing and though he had a lot to learn he felt that when he went wrong he knew why.

    So yeah I tend to agree starting on manual and slowing down will help people develop. Conversely I do think the instant feedback from a digital camera is a great learning aid and can help people progress in leaps and bounds. So it should be embraced (with caution!)
    DEviaNT Photographer

    'Tough' meant it was an uncompromising image, something that came from your gut, out of instinct, raw, of the moment, something that couldn’t be described in any other way. So it was tough. Tough to like, tough to see, tough to make, tough to understand. The tougher they were the more beautiful they became.
    .
    ~ Joel Meyerowitz

  23. #23
    They call me P-Wac JETA's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    I am an hobbiest at best with some really nice equipment that is a lot better then the person behind it. This I'm aware of and is why I'm always trying to suck up everything and learn. I am proud of myself and the past two years at the advances I've taken, but I know my knowledge is the bottom of the barrell. So I trudge along & keep on sucking in all my widdle brain will take in.

    This will probably never be a career for me and my life is too busy at the moment to take a class. So for now I learn from you, from practicing, my manual, my Hedgecore book and that's it.

    For the life of me I can't imagine having my camera and shooting auto.

    Another thing that has cracked me up is a few times I've got attitude about my gear. I don't have an attitude about it and can't figure out why it's anyone else's biz.

    Also I remember with my 300D JS and a few of the boys over at the sports forum were amazing with me. They'd give me something new to learn b4 each game and within a few games I was shooting manual. It's kinda embarrassing to admit now, but I will forever be grateful for those lessons and the ones I will get in the future.

    This forum is amazing and the overall attitude and kindess of the members is what's kept me hangin' around. Thank you EVERYONE! Especially JS and OT. I adore those two nutters.
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  24. #24
    They call me P-Wac JETA's Avatar
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    Quote Originally Posted by Didache

    Nor is it a process that ever ends - I still consider it a week wasted where I don't learn something new, and I hope it always remains that way.



    Mike
    Beautifully put Mike!
    It's not blurry. It's bokeh.

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  25. #25
    DEviaNT Photographer DEvianT's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
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    Re: A Little Rant # 3

    So I trudge along & keep on sucking in all my widdle brain will take in.
    You just put me in mind of one of the pro photographers who tutored me for many years. He said the fact I was questioning my ability and always feeling I wasn't quite there was what would make me good in the end. It sounds like that's where you are coming from. Always aiming a little bit higher and learning all the time.

    His exact words where "it's always the ones who are never satisfied with their work always feel they should have or could have done better, who become something special..." He then laughed and said "get used to that feeling of almost but not quite being there". He advised looking back at old photos from a couple of years back to re-affirm in your head that you are improving, it's just rising standards make you feel stuck in one place. That works for me.

    Anyway my impression of you from what you say in your post is you'll suprise yourself how far you'll get in the end.
    DEviaNT Photographer

    'Tough' meant it was an uncompromising image, something that came from your gut, out of instinct, raw, of the moment, something that couldn’t be described in any other way. So it was tough. Tough to like, tough to see, tough to make, tough to understand. The tougher they were the more beautiful they became.
    .
    ~ Joel Meyerowitz

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