I did something a little ridiculous today. A little irresponsible, a little stupid. But still, more than a little exciting for me.
Some of you may know that I've been into photography for a few years now. I went from a film SLR to a digital point-n-shoot (Canon G3), a Lomo, a smaller point-n-shoot, and eventually up to my Canon Digital SLR (350D, Rebel XT) with a few different lenses.
I had a lot of fun shooting and getting pleasing images (pleasing to me, anyways). But I hit a roadblock, for some reason. Maybe it was moving up to Seattle or getting Zippy or something. I was staying inside more - a bigger problem in itself - and wasn't really producing images that I found to be appealing at all. And when I did manage to take a photo where, for instance, the composition was excellent, I'd be bummed out when, on loading to the bigger screen of the computer, I'd see how blurry it actually was. That happened a lot. So, after awhile, I just didn't grab for my camera anymore.
I've been feeling the excitement again, though. This is always spurred on by something outside of myself. In this case it was watching (on someone's blog) a tutorial of sorts, a walkthrough of Adobe's Lightroom 2 software and some of the advantages of shooting in RAW vs. JPEG.
I'll spare you the geeky details, but things just started to fall into place for me. And I started really looking at photos of other people, identifying what I liked and digging to see what tools were used to create the images. My camera's not amazing, but it's totally more than enough for me. My small lens collection is really quite adequate. I really don't have the kind of expendable dough to go buying "good glass" right now, anyways. That would be silly.
Lightroom 2 was first on my list. I had heard about it, but really didn't understand what it was used for until I actually saw the interface and watched someone use it (that's how I learn best). It would certainly beat the pants off iPhoto for post-processing. Hands down. But it was around $300. So I added that to my mental wishlist and tried to put it out of my mind.
Around the same time, I started to think about external flashes. I didn't know much about external flashes, but I did know that the internal flash on my camera sucked bigtime and was impractical for almost every situation I find myself shooting in. I remembered seeing the Canon Speedlite 430EX mentioned occasionally on Flickr or what have you, and I went and looked at what it might cost. I did a quick look-up on B&H Photo, and they listed it as discontinued. Another search found the Canon Speedlite 430EX II available at a different vendor, at just shy of $300. Again, put it out of my mind.
But then I came across the photos of a fellow Boston Terrier owner (we're in the same Meetup.com group and got our dogs from the same breeder), and I saw the kinds of images I wanted to get of my dog, but just couldn't. Why couldn't I?
Let me add a little side-note about this right here, because I don't want you to get the wrong idea. It is not my intention to acquire a bunch of higher-than-basic consumer-level photo equipment and then spend all my time shooting my dog. That sounds pretty silly. While yes, I will certainly get much enjoyment and practice out of taking photos of him, my main interest is in portraiture. It's my favorite personal style of photography. I love taking portraits of people, animals. But those willing to casually model for me are difficult to find, so I use what's around. Namely, my boyfriend, and my dog. And the dog is easier to cajole.
Back to the fellow BT owner. For one, it looked like she was shooting with an external flash. Also, her photos had coloring that just "popped". And when I noticed a light vignetting around some of her photos, I had a sneaking suspicion - a hunch, really - that she might be using Lightroom. Lastly, the focus and composition of the photos struck me as being from a 50mm lens, a 50mm 1.8, to be specific. Again, a hunch. So I emailed her, complimented her on her photos, and humbly asked about her equipment.
She was using a camera that was a different brand, but comparable to my own. She was, indeed, using the 50mm 1.8 lens. And she was using an external flash comparable to the 430EX II. And she was using Lightroom for post-processing. Ta-da! Adding fuel to the fire, my pretties!
Now my desire for these pricey pieces of equipment was almost overwhelming. But I'm unemployed. But I have a rather large tax refund coming to me. But I'm UNEMPLOYED! But, really, the refund is quite a large sum of money! BUT I'M UNEMPLOYED!! Srsly!!
But then Erik said I should. So I went ahead and did it. I found both items for a really low price, and went for it. I very rarely splurge so irresponsibly like this. I tend to be a saver over a spender. But this unemployment has seriously got me down. It's a really tough job market out there, and if these two purchases will get me outside and excited about something immediately, well, I'll chalk it up as a mental health expense. And besides, it's really a ridiculously-large tax refund. Thanks, first-time home buyer's tax credit!