The beginning

My journey with photography has been long, but I only started treating it seriously 2 years ago. I decided to invest in two genres: landscapes and portraits. From the beginning, I have always loved taking pictures (even from the film days), though I never owned a camera until 2007.

The first camera that I purchased for myself was the Sony Alpha 100 APS-C with a 18–70 mm f/3.5–f/5.6 kit lens. Starting off, I had no clue about ISO, Aperture or Shutter speed and used Automatic mode extensively. Needless to say, I was left mostly displeased with the outcome. I expected the camera to do a very good job of capturing HDR-like images, but was disappointed to find that my vision was rarely translated into reality. I added two more lenses to my collection before eventually giving up on the camera (and photography) for some time.

Later, my desire for photography was rekindled in 2012. I dumped my antique (probably still good enough for my use, but hey, I like new gadgets) and bought the Canon EOS 6D Mark I with a EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. At this time, I had done some research and had a vague idea about ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed settings; however, I was not bold enough to experiment with them.

While the overall quality of my pictures had improved (technological advancement in cameras), it was still difficult for me to deliver the pictures I had envisioned. At a friend’s wedding, I came in contact with a professional wedding photographer and learned about the Rule of Thirds. I also learned that a prime lens captures better images.

As a result of the conversation I had with this photographer, I bought a EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens the very next day. After using this lens a few times, I found the fixed focal length very restricting and stopped using it. Regardless, I had decided to take photography seriously and shoot more pictures despite the average image quality while shooting in JPG.

I continued to progress – I bought an online photography course from Shaw Academy which gave me an overview of photography and the confidence to flirt with manual settings on my camera. I was now able to produce decent pictures (if not excellent) in JPG; however, I found RAW to be cumbersome with too much additional work.

I had never used software for post processing due, in part, to my ignorance, and my lack of understanding towards the usefulness of post-image processing. Also, I had bought into “real photographers take pictures that are pleasing and straight out of camera.” Eventually, I went full manual, understanding f-stops, exposure, shutter speed and other useful terminologies and skills to better use my camera.

In 2016, I start using YouTube as a medium of learning. It was around this time that I came across another photographer, more advanced in photography, and learned the importance of post-image processing and shooting RAW.

I also learned that I should not overexpose bright parts of my images, simplifying the process of post processing. I started by experimenting with Darktable on Ubuntu (I am a full time Linux user, meaning Adobe and other products are off-limits) and developed some ideas around tweaking images. At this time, my post processing was usually over the top – mostly high in contrast and saturation – and to some extent, it still is.

I wanted to expand my knowledge, so I bought two books: Understanding Composition Field Guide: How to See and Photograph Images with Impact and Understanding Exposure, both authored by Bryan Peterson. Reading these books boosted my confidence and gave a different perspective about photography. At this point, I decided to focus on certain skills and shoot only with my mobile for a while.

I understood compositions even though I was applying them subconsciously – how to balance light (to some extent), basics of post processing, and most importantly, I started shooting RAW. However, I was also very impatient and jumped to shooting images without thinking things through. I found that one of the best ways to overcome this issue was to visit the same location multiple times and focus on something specific each time. Once you get bored with a new place, you can start taking some really good shots.

This is one such “boring” place that I visited repeatedly for almost 2 years before I captured this one.

My quest to produce beautiful landscapes/cityscapes with less post processing brought me to a world of filters and long exposures. Filters and long exposures provide many possibilities for someone like me who likes to do less post processing. After acquiring some filters, experimenting with them, applying knowledge I had learned in the previous year, and visiting the same location many times, I produced that one shot which makes me proud.

I captured this after visiting this place repeatedly for 12 months and taking over 100 shots.

Eventually, I began truly understanding photography and was able to frequently produce images that were pleasing. I overcame my obsession of producing images with end-to-end sharpness or HDR-like effects, but instead, I worked out each one to its own merit.

This is the same dock, captured at night. Different timing and location produces different outcome.

After investing 12 years to photography, I have finally settled on equipment due to my understanding of photography and the need to build familiarity with the tools at hand. Currently, I own a Fujifilm GFX-50S with a Fujinon GF63mmF2.8 R WR lens, Funinon GF45mm f2.8 WR lens. I also have a Fujifilm X-T3 with Fujinon XF23mmF2 R WR, Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR, Fujinon XF50mmF2 R WR and Fujinon XF50-140mm F2.8 LM OIS WR.

Having both cameras on the Fuji system makes it easy to switch between the two, depending on my need. I can set both systems with similar shortcuts and custom controls, making the transition simple. I usually bring the X-T3 for travel and street while using the GFX-50S for portraits and landscapes.

My current goal is to produce 8 compelling images before the end of summer to raise my nature/landscape/cityscape portfolio of images to 10 excellent images. I will keep posting my experiences in this blog, along with other topics, as I continue to improve. I know there are many professionals, but the experience of an individual who is not an expert (formally trained) offers a different perspective and encouragement to the likeminded.

See you in the next blog.