Saturday, October 1, 2016

Spinning My Photographic Wheels

My aspirations toward being a good--or even adequate--wildlife photographer have been dragged down a peg or two over the past year.  For one thing, I made the mistake of joining a Facebook page called "Oregon Wildlife Photographers," where people with tons more time, talent and expensive equipment than I will ever have, post beautiful, crisp, in-focus shots--unlike my somewhat fuzzy, heavily cropped and sometimes photo-shopped endeavors.  Since I became a member of that page, I have only been able to somewhat sheepishly post two barely adequate pictures.  I've been too utterly intimidated to share more than that.

Which led me to believe that perhaps my problem is with my equipment.  With my 70-300mm telephoto zoom, I still have to get pretty darned close to my subject to get an image that will crop into something resembling a decent capture.  I literally have to be standing under a tree in which a hawk or owl is perched, or in the middle of a flock of geese or cranes if I want anything breathtaking.  And I've found that those opportunities do not present themselves often enough to suit me. 

So about a year ago, I started kicking around the idea of getting a heftier telephoto. There are some Far Eastern manufacturers who now put out powerful lenses that I can afford.  I set my cap on a 350-600mm zoom put out by an outfit called Tamron.  Because the really good lenses can run into five figures, and I DO NOT have that kind of money to invest into what amounts to an enjoyable hobby.  As it is, the Tamron lens I want runs around $1k. 

But first, I realized, I had to upgrade my camera body.  My old Nikon D40 was pretty much a dinosaur when it came to DSLR's.  It has no digital view screen, a very limited range of settings compared to newer models, and it doesn't even take video (which I couldn't care less about, really.)  It wouldn't do to get a really beefy lens that my old faithful camera wouldn't be able to handle.  So the first order of business had to be a new camera body.  Mission accomplished:  a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a Nikon D7200 kitted out with two (cheap) lenses, a case, an SD card, an extra battery and an array of other little stuff, at Costco for $1400.  Nowhere near the top of the line, but certainly near the top of my budget, and perfectly adequate for the type of photography I do.  
Here's one of the first pictures I took--out my back door--when I got the camera home, charged up and assembled:

So I get this great new camera...and find I'm completely befuddled by all the shit that it can do.  The pictures I manage to get are not even as good as what I could do with my old camera.  Out of focus, over- or under-exposed, problems with the aperture and ISO settings.  I was not prepared to shell out $1400 and not be impressed and amazed.  In fact, I almost yearn for the good old days of film and real SLR's. had to wait weeks to see the results of one's efforts in the field.  But I feel like I had a lot more control over how a picture appeared, and options were limited enough that I could absorb and utilize them all.  My D40 had dozens of features I never used.  This new camera has hundreds.  And while I'm sure they're all wonderful and useful and should enhance my photographic experience, I feel like they just...get in the way.

The gigantic lens has been put on the back burner for a time...because I have to learn how to drive this confounded new camera before I can have a prayer of making productive use of a lens with which I am also totally unfamiliar.   To that end, I'm going to be combing the internet looking for a good online digital photography course.  Should keep me off the streets for awhile.     


  1. Do you have a tripod? They're kind of a pain to haul around but they can help. If you do ignore this message.

    1. I have one but I don't drag it around for exactly the reason you mention. They are a pain in the ass to drag around. Plus, when you're trekking through the woods and spot something to photograph it usually doesn't wait for you to fumble around setting up a tripod.

  2. For what it's worth, I like the pic you posted. And I'd bet there are some very good digital photography classes online.