The things I usually photograph are natural landscapes and wildlife, but I try not to let that define me. I take advantage of opportunities to photograph other subjects when they come up. For example I don’t bill myself as a “people” photographer (I usually choose to stay away from wedding work) but at the same time I do occasionally photograph people.
But even some of my photography buddies (who I often shoot with) get surprised at times. Recently I had been at an evening business meeting and came home via the Melbourne CBD. I wanted to have another go at photographing a particular bridge at night with minimal pedestrian traffic. I had been there a few weeks prior and found some flaws in the photos I brought back: I wanted to try some other lenses and techniques (which worked, by the way). While I was there one of my friends commented online: “A bridge? But it doesn’t have feathers!”
Every time I photograph I learn something new. Sometimes only tiny things, but sometimes fairly fundamental. Different subjects require slightly different techniques, and while there’s usually a lot of overlap, shooting new subjects will give you chances to expand your overall skill set.
In January I had an opportunity to shoot tennis at the Kooyong Classic tournament. Apart from bringing back new images, during the shoot I reconfigured my EOS 7D Mk.II to have different AF points when the camera’s in vertical or horizontal orientation. I had found this very annoying in the past with the 5D Mk.III (which I was also using that day) because that camera also uses different AF selection modes for each orientation (so if you select a different mode and then change orientation you need to remember to make the same change again). The 7D Mk.II and 1D X cameras let you do it that way, or to only change current and registered AF points.
Having been frustrated by the old behaviour on the 7D (Mk.I) and 5D Mk.III cameras, I had been ignoring the capability. But shooting from the sidelines at the tennis I realised how useful the new functionality is with a fast-moving subject like that, switching back and forth between orientations. Since then several times I’ve been glad my 7D now remembers different points. I do wish the 5D Mk.III could get that in a firmware update (the 1D X didn’t originally have it) but I guess that’s unlikely at this point.
Then yesterday I was out photographing the Luminosity Melbourne event, a glow-in-the-dark yoga fundraiser for Endometriosis Australia. I was chatting to another photography friend on the phone and they seemed very surprised. Wildlife, landscapes, even bridges they could understand, but this seemed a bit beyond “normal” for me.
But for me it was something quite different from my normal subjects, and technically challenging. The subjects weren’t going to stay put and pose for me: I needed to capture as many interesting images as I could on the fly. The room lighting was very low, but with luminescent props around the place and lots of flourescent clothing and paint, the contrast range was massive!
I was shooting with both the 5D Mk.III and the 7D Mk.II, and on reviewing the photos today I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many of the best images ended up coming from the 7D Mk.II. The 5D is much better at low-light situations, but the 7D isn’t hopeless either!
During the evening, I used two f/4 zooms (16-35mm and 24-70mm), along with a 24mm/1.4, an 85mm/1.8, and a 15mm fisheye. For much of the time I actually found the most convenient combination was to have the 24mm lens on the 7D (for an effective 38mm) and the 85mm on the 5D. I was of course always using manual exposure.
Practice, practice, practice!
Not only should you take every advantage to get out and use your camera (it really does reinforce skills and techniques, even if it ends up being as simple as making sure the batteries are charged!) but don’t be afraid to branch out and try different subjects.
If you always photograph wildlife with a telephoto lens fairly wide-open (referring to the aperture) then when you do something different like shoot a landscape with a small aperture you’ll soon realise how much dust is on your camera’s sensor. Sometimes people need to see the problem to realise that that they should have cleaned the sensor long before!