My First Lens

It only took a few short months after purchasing my first camera for me to desire a lens with more ‘oomph’.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to take pictures of exactly but I knew it would involve nature. Macro? Telephoto? These were questions that I kept asking myself over and over again. In fact I worked myself up into such a rabid frenzy that I began to obsess about it.

I did some rather lengthy research to decide what I might want, and what I wanted wasnt exactly cheap. I wanted one of Canons L series lenses. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take macro shots of flowers and insects, or nature shots of animals and wildlife. So I decided on Canon’s 70-200mm f/4L (Non IS). It gave me enough versatility to decide what I like and at a reasonable cost to do it ($800 CAN).

To say that I was happy with my lens would be an understatement. I was like a teenager walking around with a perma-boner, except I didn’t try hiding my lens under my belt. I could go on and make some good jokes right about now regarding the similarities between the two but I will spare you the visual….just know that I could lol.

I basically spent the next few months with my 70-200mm f4 permanently attached to my camera.  The first things I took photos of were flowers, plants, and bugs. I was too excited to travel far so I stuck to local parks, fields, and trails. I loved the colours and detail the lens gave me, not to mention the bokeh it created at f/4. Keep in mind this was my first few months taking photos, so they weren’t all that great.
One of the first flowers I shot with the 70-200mm (Dahlia)

Very small fungi shot at a local forest park

After a while I started to improve on my images. I began to apply some simple composition principles and my photographs began to show improvement. However I still credit the lens for allowing me the flexibility to accomplish these images. I love this lens to the point where I will only let this go to upgrade to the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS.

Red clover, shot in the evening

Cow parsnip shot from below on a crisp autumn day

This photo has some distracting elements in the bottom right section, but still has an interesting radiating pattern with vibrant colours.

The featured image in this post is of a common red squirrel I had taken during the fall of 2010. I still feel lucky to have captured such a nice shot. The fresh douglas fir cone adds so much action to the photo. I have come to call this little guy “Fred the Red”.

Late in the fall of 2010 I had an unfortunate incident where the lens was on my tripod and tipped over. I thought I caught it in time as it had barely hit the ground. Turns out I was wrong and I have had issues with the close in focusing. In the last month or so I noticed I havent been getting ‘tack sharp’ images. I am afraid I am going to have to part with my baby for a short period of time as I send it in to be fixed. Good thing I have recently purchased Canon’s 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens to keep me busy 🙂

Needless to say I’m still sporting my lens boner. Good times…..good times indeed.

I have one subscriber. Myself. I get mail sent to myself whenever I post a new story. Is that #Winning ? You can be a winner too, just park your creeper van out front of my blog and jot down my comings and goings. Happy stalking.

Photographing Pets – Willing, Interesting, and Uncooperative Subjects

Those that have owned pets their entire lives understand the joy and happiness they bring to everyday life. Who wouldn’t want a picture of their favourite pet? They are like children, except you don’t have to listen to their crappy music…or lend them your car…or threaten their touchy boyfriend with physical violence. No, you get all the good stuff and none of the overly bad. Through all the ups and downs they are right there, purring, clawing, chewing, shedding and crapping everywhere. I wouldn’t give any of my pets away, now one of my kids….I’m open for discussion. Kidding kids. Well only if your reading this.
Bentley, our bengal, as a kitten

So when pet lovers wade into the waters of photography, it’s no big leap to think of their ‘special’ pet as an excellent subject of their new obsession. It doesn’t matter if your pet is “Cujo”, complete with rabies, and has mauled several neighbourhood children…it still appears to be photographic gold. The challenge is to capture the character and personality of your special pet. Something that shouldn’t be that difficult right?

Still eating slurpees Photobucket

Well, I have learned that our pets are never really that interested in doing what you want to do. Most of us know that by now. Instead you have to either be patient, lucky, or both. Those really really good shots don’t come easy to the new photographer. Employing the ‘spray and pray’ method may increase your chances but still doesn’t guarantee anything. The pictures posted here have been taken over the course of a year and are the result of hundreds if not thousands of pictures of my furry family members. Even then the ‘oh my god that’s the best pet photo ever!’ shot has evaded me. What I have managed to capture is just the basic, ‘this is my pet’, type of photo’s. A few shades better than grandma with her coke-bottle glasses and Polaroid camera.

Bentley scouting from his eagle nest Bentley scoping out the place Benley, now comfortable and a bit older, keeps watch over his territoryPhotobucket

Our furry family has grown over the last few years. At first it was just leo, our orange tabby, named after the lion because of his huge mane. Then we added a pair of bengals, Bentley and Lexus, named after expensive cars due to the price we paid for the special breed. Then finally, in the past few weeks, we have added a rottweiler puppy we call Thor. It’s a full house. Full of paws, claws, hair, meows, growls, and endless photographic opportunities. They are always there, mostly willing, usually interesting, and exclusively uncooperative. I have a thousand blurry and out of focus shots for every shot posted here.

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be to capture a decent image of a cat or dog. ‘How hard could it be’ I thought. Come to think of it, having a pet is one of the best ways to learn the harsh realities of photography. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Nothing easy is worth doing. I am still seeking that ‘wow’ photograph. Probably always will be. Just like every other genre and style of photography. Always be learning and pushing your personal boundaries.

Thor Bentley Thor on the move

“Spray and Pray”

When I first heard the expression “Spray and Pray” I immediately understood. That is EXACTLY what I was doing when taking photo’s.  A coworker of mine, who is an actual photographer, used the term to describe the process I was using to capture images. It made sense. I basically shot a thousand pictures and prayed one would turn out half decent. If I actually expected to get paid for taking photo’s, or had I went to some post secondary school for photography, I might have been insulted or ashamed.

I was, however, in fact quite happy to be snapping thousands of pictures and looking for that one needle in a haystack. It was like christmas. Except in this case I kept getting those gifts from grandma, you know the second-hand sweaters that other people throw away instead of  the flashy new gizmos. In other words I spent more time deleting crappy photos than sharpening the keepers. Still I was happy to be out there taking pictures. I took this picture of a bee and a wildflower in the fall of 2010…this was one of the better shots out of about fifty various angles and depths. Spray – Check!, Pray – Check!

The Spray &Pray (S&P) method would have cost a small fortune had I been using film. But in today’s world of mega-memory and digital cameras it is really a smart way to go. You never know what will work and what will fail miserably until you get home and upload the images. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Its one thing to do it when your taking pictures of sports or some racing event….but I do it with motionless flowers. It’s really quite a spectacle.

I do have to give some of the credit of my gradual improvement to the S&P method. It has allowed me to learn more about what my aperture, shutter speed, and ISO do and how they relate to each other. As much as I have read about the facts concerning those things, nothing really beats field experience. I also credit Pete my ‘inside source’ as well as a dozen online photography sites that have helped me improve slightly. On a scale of 1 to 10; 1 being a duck wildly pecking on the shutter release and 10 being the lovechild of Ansel Adams and Diane Arbus … I am sitting at a 3. In essence a slightly improved duck that has tired of wildly pecking at the shutter release and now only randomly strikes into the darkness. Occasionally finding a glimmer of life.

I often think of how I must look to my photographer friend. He went to school for a few years and has been honing his craft for a number of years. Meanwhile, like a child,  without knowledge and direction I am stumbling my way through this new land. In constant awe of shiny things and easily distracted by kittens. I have enjoyed my toddler years, learning through my mistakes, and fumbling onto the rare success.

So now, in my second year of learning, I still S&P to a certain extent. A habit I doubt I will ever fully break. Although now I do it with more of a purpose, more of an understanding of basic photographic techniques, and even with a bit of an idea of what I want. I take less pictures and those that I do take seem to be of a higher quality from those of last year. Gentle improvement. That’s all I ever asked for.

Troy Alan White

 

I have one subscriber. Myself. I get mail sent to myself whenever I post a new story. Is that #Winning ? You can be a winner too, just park your creeper van out front of my blog and jot down my comings and goings. Happy stalking.

My First Camera

I was a child when I had my first exposure to a camera. A mystery camera with imaginary film, I remember spinning dials and snapping the shutter release button as fast as my little fingers could go. Eventually the grownups would tire of me and take the big boy toy away. If you knew me you would take it away too….I had a tendency to either eat things or break things. The camera could have suffered either fate.

In my teen years I may have gotten into a few things I shouldn’t have, needless to say my memory is fuzzy as to when I got my hands on my first camera.  I do remember taking some pictures and developing the rare roll of film and being lucky if I got any pictures back that turned out. I even have this faint memory of having a bulky 1 megapixel digital camera…but its a very faint memory and could just as easily be an acid flashback. My memory improves around 1996 when I recall using disposable cameras to take pictures of lightning strike trees and abandoned campfires. I had no desire to take pictures at that time. I aimed the cardboard box with film in it, pressed the button, and moved on to the next task.


I spent many years travelling around Canada. I saw some amazing landscapes, met interesting people, and had some wonderful experiences. These things were worth remembering. Which brings me to my first camera. A Canon SD300 digital elph. I call it my first camera because I took my first photograph with it. I loved that camera. It  travelled across Canada with me. Ontario on three occasions, Quebec twice, Manitoba, and all across British Columbia. That camera has seen and done things I can’t even mention in public.

One of my favourite memories of my camera was a little project I named “WarGames”.  A still motion mini video. I took over 400 single photos of plastic green army men and created a battle scene in a desktop sandpit. I edited in some sound effects, metallica’s ‘One’ and some monty python dialogue in the background to create a 1 minute 30 second movie. Just to see if I could do it. It was hilarious….it would still be with us if the hosting website hadn’t gone under. I may have to re-make it because it truly was ‘epic’.

Even though I am not a professional photographer, don’t claim to be nor hope to become one, I am quite fond of my things. In fact some may say, my wife in particular, that I can a bit of an asshole about that. Whats mine is mine and whats yours is yours. I did, after all, spend the majority of my youth destroying things. I never was a big fan of letting other people use certain things of mine. My camera was one of those things. Yes it had a dented lens, a cracked body, and damaged LCD, but it was mine.

Which brings us to the Halloween party a few short years ago. Just a few friends. Maybe I should say guests because I only considered one of them to be a friend. So here we are with a house full of Halloween decorations, tables full of food, and a handful of magic mushrooms. Yes those ones. We had a great time.  We ate, drank, and laughed our asses off. The whole time I was snapping pictures, serving my guests, and refusing to let anyone touch my camera. Apparently I had good reason to be such an asshole about people touching my things. It seems one of our guests, who arrived with an ex-neighbor, decided to take my camera. The broken camera with a dead battery. Six people in the house and my beloved camera gets stolen. It’s a pity I can’t share with you images of my wife and I rocking out Spock and Lieutenant Uhuru costumes.

It’s never fun to realize that you have ended a relationship with someone or something before you are ready. This was one of those times, and in fact one of the few times I have ever felt this way about an object. I am still bitter about that incident. But I’m a big boy now and as such can afford big boy toys. The loss of my camera left me without, and allowed me to justify getting my first DSLR. A Canon D500.  For the record, I won’t be throwing Halloween parties anytime soon.

Troy Alan White.

My First Photograph

Since 1996, when I was first hired as a forest firefighter, I have been carrying around a camera taking snapshots. At first it was with disposable camera’s and eventually with small digital cameras. I never really took ‘photographs’. I did manage to take thousands of pictures of burned trees. All of which looked a lot like the last one. I was, after all, not being paid to express my creativity through photography.

One christmas, around 2005, my mother bought me a Canon SD300 digital elph and I began taking more and more pictures of a variety of things. Experimenting with all the little buttons and functions was a feeble attempt at taking photographs to say the least. “Spray and Pray” was my preferred method of attack. It wasnt until 2007, while in Quebec fighting forest fires, that I actually captured a photograph. Nothing spectacular, nothing overly impressive, but a photograph just the same. I remember stumbling upon this patch of strange-looking flowers. I saw no others remotely like it anywhere else in the area, and have never seen any like it since. A small patch of vibrant life in an otherwise monotonous swampland. These flowers were thick, waxy, and alien-like. I got down on my knees and with my camera in ‘macro’ mode I snapped this picture.

flower

When I first uploaded that picture I was amazed. The image actually spoke to me….albeit muffled and somewhat incoherent. It was this moment I realized I could capture images that could tell a story, speak about beauty, or impart some feeling to a viewer.

Any real photographer could pick this photo apart. The original picture has sections overblown, distracting blades of grass in front of the flower, and other ‘issues’. But to me, looking back at that image, it still looks amazing. Now its just amazing for a different reason. It was my first photograph and the spark that smouldered and eventually turned into my photographic fire.

Troy Alan White