The beginning

My photography journey was long, but not serious until 2 years ago. I decided to invest in two genres, one of which is Landscape. I have always loved taking pictures, right from the film days, even though I had never owned a camera until 2007.

The first camera that I bought with my own money was a Sony Alpha 100 APS-C with the 18–70 mm f/3.5–f/5.6 kit lens. I didn’t have a clue about ISO, Aperture or Shutter speed and used Auto 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 failed miserably due to my inability to translate my vision to reality. I did add two more lenses to my collection before giving up on that camera (and photography) for a while.

Then my desire for photography was rekindled in 2012 for a reason I can’t remember, and so I decided to dump 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 some idea about ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed, but was not bold enough to experiment with them.

While overall picture quality had improved (cameras made better judgement), they still failed to deliver my vision most of the time. At a friend’s wedding, I came in contact with a part-time, professional wedding photographer and learned about the Rule of Thirds. I also learned that a prime lens captures better images.

Hence, I bought a EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens the next day, and after using it a few times, I found the fixed focal length very restricting (at that time) and stopped using it. However, I had decided to take photography seriously and shoot more, despite the average image quality while shooting in JPG.

I bought an online photography course from Shaw Academy which gave me enough understanding of photography in general and the confidence to flirt with manual. By this time, I was able to produce decent pictures (if not excellent) in JPG. I found RAW to be cumbersome and additional work.

I had never used a software for post processing due to my lack of understanding of the usefulness of it. 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 use my camera better.

Sometime 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 processing and shooting RAW.

I also learned that I should ensure not overexposing bright parts of my images so that I have something to work with during post processing. I started playing with Darktable on Ubuntu (I am a full time Linux user, and so 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 (to an extent, they still are).

Then, wanting to expand my knowledge, I bought two books; Understanding Composition Field Guide: How to See and Photograph Images with Impact and Understanding Exposure, both authored by Bryan Peterson. These books pushed my confidence and gave a different perspective on photography. I decided to focus on the skills and shoot only with my mobile for a while.

I understood compositions even though I was applying them subconsciously. I understood how to balance light to an extent, basics of post processing and most importantly, I started shooting RAW. However, I was also impatient most of the time and jumped to shooting images without thinking 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 the new place, you can actually 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 introduced me to a world of filters and long exposures. Filter and long exposures provides 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 (a different one from the above), I produced that one shot I am still proud of.

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

Eventually, I started understanding photography and frequently started producing images that are pleasing. I overcame my obsession producing images with end-to-end sharpness or HDR-like effects, but instead, I worked out each one on its own merit.

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

After 12 years into 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, depending on my need. I can set both systems with similar shortcuts and custom controls, making my switch easy. I would probably stick to the X-T3 for travel and street while using the GFX-50S for portraits and landscapes.

Right now, my goal is to produce 8 compelling images before the end of this 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 improve. I know there are many professionals, but the experience of someone who is not an expert offers a different perspective and encouragement to the likeminded.

See you in the next blog.