Few would now be found to deny the claims of photography to rank among the fine arts when skillfully used and properly controlled, and the contention that it was only convenient for use in the reproduction of already existing pictures, in scientific and historic records, reproductive printing and kindred subjects, would only find favor with a small minority. The photograph of today is something more than a mechanical reproduction. The individuality of the photographer is being expressed in his work almost as much as in that of the painter, and while critics are discussing if there be art in photography, photographers are settling the question for themselves.
A Lecture on the Application of Artisitic Composition in Photography. The Photographic Times, Vol 37, p361 (1905)
Nikon D810 + AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 82mm, f/6.3, 1/160, ISO 100. Photo RGH
I have previously written about how I'm not much of an artist. My writing is more technical and "scholarly" than entertaining. I have taught myself a few songs on the guitar, but would never be confused with an actual guitar player. And when it comes to my photography, I am a technician (unlike Kari who is much more intuitive behind a camera). I hesitate to call myself a photographer, and I certainly do not consider myself an artist. I'm just a guy with a camera.
Photography, just as in any other art medium, is about the way someone sees and presents his subject. A Photographer is a composition artist. Without good composition, it doesn't matter the subject or how well it's exposed. The "art" in photography lies in how the photographer manipulates light, composition, and emotion. It's this last aspect where I struggle. I have an idea of what I want to photograph and what I want to exclude, and I have a pretty good idea how to bring out the highlights that I want, but trying to get my photos to tell a story or project a feeling is tough. I find it hard to define what is "great" about a photo that someone else took, so I find it doubly difficult to create that feeling in my own.
When Kari and I first picked up our "grown-up" camera, we had no idea how to manipulate its various functions. We basically left it in "Auto" mode and used it like a point-and-shoot. Quell horreur! As a result, most of our pics from that time period are pretty much crap. Still, we managed to put together a few frames that have stood the test of time. We gradually started taking more control of the camera functions, to the point where we both now shoot in full manual mode (except for some very specific circumstances where we let the camera control one or two aspects). While that control has helped to improve our photography, our ability to frame and compose an image has had at least as much influence on the increasing quality of our photos. I have seen a clear improvement in the photos I have taken over the past year, and Kari feels the same way about her own photography. There is no substitute for getting out and taking pictures, and while having a great camera helps, we have noticed that even our cell phone pics are much better as well. It really isn't about the camera equipment that we use, but the vision of the person shooting.
Since leaving New Zealand, our lives have become exponentially more complicated. As a result, our ability to get out and shoot has been limited. Still, we have managed to put together a small number of photos that stand out above the others.
Nikon D750 + AF-S 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR @ f/3, 1/250, ISO 400. Photo: RGH
Nikon D750 + AF-S 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR @ f/14, 1/160, ISO 100. Photo: RGH
Adding to our ever-growing collection of lenses, we recently picked up a used Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR Micro lens. Kari does a lot of macro work, and getting her a dedicated lens was one of my goals. Incidentally, it’s a really good portrait lens. The biggest issue I have been having is that I have to get right up into people’s grills with this one. It’s a proximity I’m not super comfortable with ... and I’m sure it’s not so comfortable for those of whom I am taking pictures. We have spent quite a bit of time with some good friends lately, and Nate has been a really good sport about letting me shove my camera in his face.
Nikon D750 + AF-S 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR @ f/3, 1/200, ISO 100. Photo: RGH
Nikon D810 + AF-S 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR @ f/3.5, 1/2000, ISO 64. Photo: KAH
Kari and I have reached a point where we are both often carrying a camera. That’s a set-up that doesn’t work out so well when we only have one camera to share, so our plan was to buy a second camera body before moving back to New Zealand. Back in November, the camera I had been thinking about purchasing went on sale at a ridiculously low price and I couldn’t pass it up. I made my first ever Black Friday purchase and we are now the proud parents of a Nikon D750. We bundled it with a Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens. Now, Kari uses the D810 and I use the D750. We have 4 lenses to choose from, and once we pick up a 300mm prime lens, we’ll be done with new equipment for a while.
I chose the D750 over another D810 or the just-introduced D850 for a couple of reasons. Certainly price was a factor ... the D750, even without the deep discount, retails for $1000 less than the D810, and $1500 less than the D850. But to be honest, I would have picked the D750 even if the prices had been the same. As I’ve started doing more street photography, I thought the articulating rear display would be helpful. I also shoot a lot of Little H’s sports and the D750 seemed to be a better set-up for this. Finally, the D750's reported outstanding low light performance has certainly proven to be true. It was just a bonus that it was also a slightly smaller and lighter camera than either of the other two, and when I am carrying it hand-held for a long period of time, it's noticeably more comfortable than the D810.
Nikon D750 + AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 8000. Photo: RGH
Nikon D750 + AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO 4000. Photo: RGH
Little H starting playing volleyball in New Zealand and really enjoyed it. On our return to the U.S., we looked for a team for her to join. At first, she wasn’t nearly as happy as she was playing with her friends in New Zealand, but once her team’s skills improved and they started playing well together, she started having a lot more fun. Club volleyball involves quite a bit of travel, and that has fallen primarily to Kari to sort out. I was fortunate to be able to get to one of the away tournaments. I didn’t think much about shooting the games before I got there and found it quite challenging once I started. The game moves quickly, it’s hard to follow the ball through the camera lens, and the lighting inside of high school gymnasia leaves a lot to be desired. I shot over 200 pictures in the course of the day and only had about 7-8 that were even usable. I have since spent quite a bit of time online, reading about how to shoot indoor volleyball, and I was excited to put my new knowledge to the test. Unfortunately, the season is over and I never got that second chance.
Immediately after we returned to the U.S., and before our lives got turned upside-down trying to renovate our house, Kari and I spent a little bit of time photographing in and around Murrells Inlet. Driving home from the hospital in the mornings, the light was always amazing. On my way home, I stopped a couple of times to watch the inlet awaken. Another morning, Kari and I went to one of our local state parks to shoot birds.
Nikon D810 + AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 180mm, f/5.6, 1/8, ISO 64. Photo: RGH
Nikon D750 + AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 300mm, f/6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400. Photo: RGH
Nikon D750 + AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 300mm, f/6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400. Photo: RGH
Nikon D810 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 52mm, f/4.5, 1/250, ISO 64. Photo: KAH
Even Little H has decided to get in on our new hobby.
Nikon D810 + AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 42mm, f/4, 1/30, ISO 1000. Photo: Little H
Nikon D810 + AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 78mm, f/7.1, 1/200, ISO 1000. Photo: Little H
Each year, our hospital Christmas party is held at Brookgreen Gardens, one of our local cultural centers. Initially the private residence and gardens of Collis Potter Huntington and his wife Anna Hyatt Huntington, it is now a sculpture garden and wildlife preserve that covers over 15 sqmi. The area features over 1400 sculptures by Anna Huntington, her sister Harriet Randolph Hyatt Mayor, and other American sculptors. The Nights of a Thousand Candles event is held every December and features more than 5500 hand-lit candles. It is truly a magical place on those nights. Unfortunately for the night of the Christmas party, the weather did not cooperate. Little H dubbed it the Night of 1000 Unlit Candles. It was cold and drizzly, and the candles weren't lit, but it still made for a pretty cool walk.
Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 32mm, f/4, 1/60, ISO 8000. Photo: RGH
Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 24mm, f/4, 1/30, ISO 2800. Photo: RGH
My brother and SIL live on a lake northeast of Toronto. Summer and winter visits are generally pretty low-key, although we do try to get out and enjoy the land and the woods. We make the occasional trek into town for supplies, but mostly we while the days away doing as little as possible. This year we were fortunate to have 10 days off after Christmas to head up for an extended visit. We had the misfortune of going there during a stretch of record low temperatures. As a result, sojourns outside were necessarily brief.
Nikon D750 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 50mm, f/5.6, 1/3, ISO 100. Photo: RGH
Nikon D750 + AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR @ 26mm, f/5.6, 1/200, ISO 100. Photo: RGH
Nikon D750 + AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR @ 29mm, f/4, 1/500, ISO 100. Photo: RGH
With all of the options available to her, Kari seems to have a preference for the 24-120mm f/4G ... it’s her “go-to” lens of late (it’s probably my favorite, too). She spent a few days in Delaware with her friend, Kelley. Then, when my SIL was visiting, they spent a day at Hopsewee Plantation. While these weren’t dedicated photography outings, she has started to make a habit of taking a camera with her, even on short trips.
Nikon D810 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 58mm, f/4, 1/3200, ISO 64. Photo: KAH
Nikon D810 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 120mm, f/4, 1/60, ISO 64. Photo: KAH
Nikon D810 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 31mm, f/14, 1/50, ISO 64. Photo: KAH
Nikon D810 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 120mm, f/13, 1/40, ISO 64. Photo: KAH
Nikon D810 + AF-S 24-120mm f/4G ED VR @ 100mm, f/4.5, 1/40, ISO 64. Photo: KAH
Living in New Zealand, I tried to sling the camera over my shoulder whenever we walked out the door, a habit I have fallen out of since returning to the U.S. I think we sometime see the places we live as being somewhat mundane, boring, and not really worth photographing. In New Zealand, everywhere we went, we took along a sense of wonder and adventure. I think we had that same impression when we first returned to the U.S., but we quickly fell back into familiar patterns. My goal over our few remaining months here is to try to see this place with bright and wondrous eyes.
Sittin' in the mornin' sun.
I'll be sittin' when the evening comes ...