Diehards

Friday, 4 January 2013

Play Time

The boyfriend destined to become my ex-husband thirty three years later bought me my first SLR camera for Christmas 1979. It was a cheap, store brand but perfect for someone who'd never even touched such a thing before, and I loved it. I replaced it with a Pentax a few years later because the mirror kept jamming, and I never looked back. I still have that Pentax, though it hasn't been used for some years, film is so expensive.

I went through a series of digital point and shoots until my son bought me my beloved Olympus EPL-2 for my fiftieth birthday a couple of years ago. Because he couldn't afford a lens as well he bought a converter so I could use my old Pentax lenses.

Super toy.
This combination has worked pretty well for me, but because of the way SLR lenses deliver light I struggle in less than brilliant lighting conditions. And these days I'm often to be found in low lit rooms. Not a problem when I'm shooting food as I can use a tripod, but when my subject is thrashing his guitar in a crowded pub it becomes one.

I'm not a wealthy woman, what I earn in three months tutoring at the university has to last me the rest of the year (though I'm exploring other ways to earn at the moment), so buying myself anything at all feels like a huge extravagance. And it feels hideously selfish. If I run out of money before I can earn any more, Dave will have to feed me. I already live here rent free. So I don't buy clothes, or shoes, or make-up unless I absolutely have to, or they're very cheap. I considered replacing my five year old, almost daily worn boots this sale period, but decided they'll be fine for another year. I do buy books, though I've just managed to break my Kindle so that temptation has been removed, and food, and cigarettes, and the odd bottle of wine or drink down the pub, but all these things can be, and are, shared with Dave. They all contribute to our shared life, and chosen lifestyle, so I can, to myself at least, justify them. Not so easy when it comes to a new lens.

And believe me I have tried! For the last several months all sorts of dubious reasoning has been filling my head. The best I've managed is that Moffat Music Live uses my shots to promote its doings, as Dave's on the board he gets some benefit from my hobby, and a new lens will mean better photographs for their posters. But it's pretty feeble. Not quite as feeble as me though, because I fell for it.

However, it did take a while, and I wandered between yes I'll definitely get one, and no no, don't be stupid you don't need one, for weeks. And once I'd decided to allow myself to look it took even longer for me to decide on which sort. For ages I got hung up on sharpness, one of the things that really irritates me about my photos is that shot through a dirty window look. They too often tend to fuzziness, but I'd have to have been Hitler to have been able to convince myself to spend everything I have on a super-duper prime lens. So I read a lot of reviews and articles, thoroughly considered the type of photography (and environmental conditions) I indulge in, and veered between a wide 12mm and a 50mm, both fast.

Then I woke up yesterday morning and thought: 'Eryl, you're such a plank!' So I ordered a second hand, 12–50mm, 3.5–6.3 zoom. And no sooner had I done so when an email led me to an article by a professional photographer about why, and how, kit lenses are much better than their image leads us to believe. He showed lots of examples of splendid photos taken with his kit lens, and linked to a blog post by a fashion photographer in a similar vein. I'm not a professional, and never will be, so don't need high end equipment. I just need something to play with. Something to explore with.

An email arrived this afternoon to say my order's shipped. I'm so excited I can barely sit still. I can't justify spending nearly ten percent of my entire year's earnings on what is, ostensibly, a toy. But I've been looking at the world through a lens since 1979, it's one of the things that makes me, and I love it.

Squeak!

Sometimes you just have to admit to, and feed your passions.

14 comments:

Kim Ayres said...

We'll need to get together soon, Eryl. We can talk cameras and lenses, and techniques for low-light photography :)

I would also like your input for some ideas I have for the direction I'm planning on taking my photography this year :)

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ah, film. Do you remember when you only had 32 shots and had to make every one count? Now you just shoot dozens of shots of the same subject and one of them is bound to be a masterpiece. In high school I was developing my own black & white shots but now I rarely carry a camera anymore. I just use my iPhone and call it a day. The results aren't as good but you can't beat it for convenience.

You can rationalize just about anything. It's best to just act and not over-think it. Get the damn lens.

Sharon Longworth said...

I've been trying to work out how some people get hooked on photography, while I don't even own a camera and absolutely hate having one pointed anywhere near me. Something about always wanting the possibility that I can change things (playing with words), but a camera only capturing a static moment. Anyway, I'm clearly over-thinking it all, and all I really wanted to say was that you know, more than anyone, what makes life important - so go with that, and enjoy it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh Eryl - I do recognise myself here. I find it so difficult to justify spending money on myself. Go for it, I say, every time. Happy New Year to you.

india banks said...

Eryl Shields could NEVER be a plank. Especially when deciding to wear 5 year old boots for another year. And writing such thrilling sentences as "The boyfriend destined to become my ex-husband thirty three years later" and "I'd have to have been Hitler." I cannot wait to see photos of your subject thrashing his guitar in a crowded pub. Happy New Year & zooming xx

Pat said...


You've done the right thing - can't neglect a passion.
I-fortunately - get pleasure out of my point and shoot, because another extravagance woud be one too many.



Eryl said...

Kim ~ You want my input? Good god, how thrilling.

Any talk on cameras, lenses and techniques would be most welcome. Let me know when you're free, I'll be marking exam papers for the next couple of weeks, but after that I'm all yours.

UB ~ I remember someone showing me how to squeeze forty shots out of a 35 spool, and how, no matter how hard I tried I'd be lucky to get three or four good ones. I use my iPhone a lot, too, and I've enjoyed playing with all the photo apps like Instagram and Photoshop express. I've seen some utterly splendid iPhone photography, including the odd one from you.

I over-think pretty much everything, my ex was very good at making me look like an idiot so I had to be very sure of everything I said and did. Good training, but it can slow you down.

Sharon ~ for me photography is just another way of telling a story, and I'm working on collages with my photos and odd phrases. I quite like the idea of making photo poems, too. But mostly I find the act of framing with a lens leads to writing.

I, too, hate having a camera pointed at me. It makes me feel naked.

Weaver ~ if I went for it every time I'd have an alarming credit record!

India ~ watch this space!

Pat ~ I was perfectly happy with my point and shoot until Bob gave me this camera. He wonders if he's created a monster.

angryparsnip said...

Today you and Pat have overwhelmed me by your fantastic writing.
The way you both use words, I am in awe.

Your first sentence is exuberant in use of image and no person who wrote that can ever be a plank !

I can not wait to see more photos now with the new lens.


The Square Ones send woofs
cheers, parsnip

Rachel Fox said...

Hope you and the new lens will be very happy together! I don't spend a lot on myself either (for various reasons)... feels good when you do it now and again though.
x

Eryl said...

Parsnip ~ woof to them, too! I will, no doubt, bore you all to death with plenty photos.

Rachel ~ it feels tremendous, and so much better for being rare. There's a lot to be said for having just enough. x

nick said...

Very true, sometimes you just have to feed your passions and bugger the consequences. Too much scrimping and scraping is no good for the soul. I look forward to a feast of photos!

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elizabeth said...

Isn't it so exciting when we are thrilled when we wait for something!
I hope your lens is super wonderful and helps you do even more super pictures.
I have always managed to find money for plants and books somehow ( and cigarettes.....!) when other things have been skimped on.
So I'm really looking forward to seeing your new photos.
I paid 99cents for a new lens for my Hipstamatic ap on my phone.....results vary as you will see!

ox Happy New Year

Eryl said...

Nick ~ I think one of my new year's resolutions will have to be feed passions more, feed stomach less.

Anon ~ thank you for your eccentric input.

Elizabeth ~ it's arrived, and has been a rather fraught learning experience, but I think I've now worked it out. Photos to follow.