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For the last few days I have been hunting high and low for my Lensbaby and its accessories. In the process of scouring drawers, cupboards and various camera bags (bags are a subject to which I could dedicate an entire blog…) I have uncovered all sorts of odds and ends that I had forgotten about. When you consider that all these “odds and ends” are bits of photographic related equipment, it is nothing short of scandalous that I don’t have them all organised and accessible in one safe location.

I can’t believe I have amassed all this kit – just eight years ago I was happy with my Olympus Trip and rather ungrateful when husband returned from a trip to the States with a Pentax compact digital camera as a present for me. “Didn’t they have the Clinique stuff I wanted? I’ve already got a camera!” was likely my response. However, I think I can now trace back my conversion to the religion of photography to this moment – or to a few weeks later when it dawned on me what a brave new world my first digital camera had opened up. Gone were the days of ending up with 35 awful pictures and 1 good one. The learning curve was still quite steep but so much shorter and cheaper. I don’t know what I would have done either, without Picasa, the free image editing software from Google. My digital image library was building, along with my family – two years on and I had a toddler and a new baby to experiment on (photographically that is!)

Husband then convinced me that I was ready to move onto a camera that allowed me to take more control and we bought the Panasonic Lumix FZ20. It was a great “inbetweeny” camera for me – I wasn’t ready at that time to upgrade to a full SLR, but this looked a bit more serious, had a larger LCD screen and produced really punchy sharp images. The 10X zoom was great, especially combined with the image stabiliser function. I’ve had this camera for 4 or 5 years now and I still use it a few times a week, as I take it on my dog walks and on general outings with the kids. I tend to think of it as expendable but I would be devastated if anything happened to it (well, at least for the few minutes that it would take for me to realise that I would have the perfect excuse to buy a newer model, with face, smile & blink recognition…).

I have to admit that I continued for quite some time to use it on the AUTO setting and didn’t make use of the manual focus option either. Husband kept egging me on to try a different shutter speed or change the depth of field and was rewarded with expletives. Just as you shouldn’t learn to drive with your dad, neither should you allow your spouse to teach you photography! It was only at the end of the first class of an A’Level course that I finally understood f-stops and shutter speeds and was finally able to move the dial off AUTO and on to “A” and “S” (or TV as it would become on my SLRs).

I upgraded to my first SLR – a Canon 350d – partway through the first term of the first year of the A’Level and so began my metamorphosis into photo gadget geek. Every Christmas / birthday / Mother’s Day there was something I was dropping hints about. And really there’s no item that I regret buying or haven’t made good use of. I would be bereft without my external flash gun & plastic diffuser. Although other factors also come into play to make a good portrait, soft bounced light can really make a shot look more professional. No more red eye or unflattering direct light. The first lens I bought was a 60mm prime lens, as I had started to do a lot of close up, abstract stuff, partly for the A’Level, but also to explore my passion for abstracts of flowers and plants. I sometimes wish I’d bought the 100mm lens instead for slightly less accessible subjects when I need to be at a greater distance, but I’ve still made great use of it. These days it is my main portrait lens – head & shoulders close ups or even tighter crops – the quality is fantastic and I can get such a shallow depth of field so that the focus really is on the subject. For more candid shots I’ve got a telephoto lens – 70-300mm f.4.5 – with image stabiliser – and it’s been a real work horse for me, particularly at nurseries when I’ve been able to capture lovely natural shots of children at play. My next big outlay could be for an upgrade to one with a lower f-stop but this will be serious money. The Lensbaby was a birthday present and I used it a lot for my A’Level projects. It’s been neglected of late, hence why it was lost, but I’ve got a hankering to have a play around with it again and get some more creative portraits.

Once I got to the point where I had got a reasonable amount of work on the books I started to panic about something happening to my 350d mid-shoot, so I had created an excuse to go shopping again. At the time, the most affordable upgrade option for me was the 40d, which is now my main work horse. At weddings or particularly fast paced jobs where I don’t have a lot of time to switch lenses, I have both cameras slung around my body, but don’t seem to control them as effortlessly as some photographers do. Also for weddings and large groups I bought my wide angle lens 17-40mm. This is a good quality lens and does the job, but I have yet to fall in love with it like I have done with the telephoto or macro lenses – I find it hard to be creative with it – more practise needed as I’m sure it’s possible to get some really good results with it.

I’ve also amassed lots of other “bits & bobs” – filters, polarisers, tripods, bags (don’t mention bags – I always think I need a new one!) but as this blog is already a novella, I’ll save commenting on those for another day!

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I’d love to hear your comments too!

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