Cameras and photography and stuff

A while back, I chatted to a friend about photography, who told me I had an eye for taking photos with a lot of feeling. Because it was MSN and we haven’t hung out in awhile, I wasn’t sure whether to read him as being heartfelt or just polite. But his words made me feel really good.

When I was younger, I asked my dad for a fancy camera. In return, he told me a skilled cameraperson could take good photos even with a crappy camera. I forget when that was. Let’s guess at least 12 years, since I’ve not been in school for at least that long.

It could have been nothing more than Asian dad-speak for, “No, I’m not buying you any more toys,” but it made logical sense. Every time I felt hampered by equipment or budget, I fell back on this thinking. Eventually, my desire for a fancy camera was replaced by a desire to take good pictures. I wish for a nice camera now, but with restraint. I want to be satisfied with my picture-taking on an average camera first before I will daydream about owning a fancy one.

How cheesy, right? I kind of like this romantic Cinderella-esque ideal of being somewhat poor but decent.

A couple years after uni, my dad gave me his old digital camera. It was a Minolta of some kind, but I forget which. By 2004, it was already a couple years old. Silver, squarish body, shaped like a DSLR, but wasn’t. By no means an amazing camera, but still quite nice. Definitely fancier, to my impressionable mind, than the compact cameras I was familiar with. I still had no idea what I was doing. This was during the era where I’d bring home pictures similar to the one on the left. To which Dad would exclaim, “What the hell is this?” because there were no subjects, nothing for the eye to be drawn to.

My proudest moment with the Minolta was the picture on the right – a very lucky one-shot out a bus window as I rode past The Quadrant on the way home from work. It’s not great, but I felt it was miles better than anything I’d taken before. It gave me confidence to reach for better pictures. I still don’t know why I liked that picture. I guess it was the way the creepy trees reached over a cold corporate building. The composition is crap, though.

Oh hey, hooray for emo self shots of the mid-2000′s – this is the Minolta! :)

I like taking photos that capture a feeling. I think that’s what I was clumsily trying to get at with those subject-less, direction-less shots. It’s like when you’re sitting in a waiting room, a train or a bus, surrounded by white noise and a million things to look at, but nothing you really care to see – or maybe one small thing that takes you away from having too many things to see. Pictures of nothing sometimes feel special to me because I regularly space out and look at nothing.

The first camera I bought myself was a Pentax Optio S5z. I was in love with it and grew to love it more as time went on. The colours were so vibrant, it would snap a shot so quickly, the super macro was super, and it had a slight fish-eye effect that forums and review sites looked down on, but I think it gave the pictures a bit of charm. Above is an extreme closeup of my pink clamshell mobile phone and its pet cladophora algae ball, taken with the S5z.

And here is me with my Pentax. I’m really glad now I was a narcissistic self-shot whore back in those days, because I have many fond memories of a stunning camera to look back upon. One of my friends got the next model up from this, but I much preferred mine. It was slightly heavier and bulkier, but the speed and interface of the S5z better suited my “just fucking take a picture” attitude. It was reliable, I guess, and easy to get a feel for.

My first mobile phone with camera was the Samsung E530 PINK CLAMSHELL <3 <3 <3 I was stoked at having a camera that fit in my pocket. When I figured out how to get pictures from that camera onto the internet, I felt like a god. Looking back, I think I took for granted how charmingly lomo the pictures were. I feel a bit silly now, forking out for a Diana when a mobile phone achieved the same effect.

Yeah, I did buy a Diana – how hipsterish. Well, I got some nice pictures out of it. Above are two from the medium format film roll. I got the 35mm backing too, but had no luck with those shots. Sold camera to colleague after only 2 uses.

I was impressed by the iPhone 3G camera and the multitude of apps that could help it along. Instagram and Hipstamatic were rad, still new by the time I moved onto a WinMo7. Whose camera was pretty good too. I liked it because the photos were huge.

The phone I have now, Samsung Nexus S, saves smaller pictures. Still good, possibly a little better now with the Ice Cream Sandwich OS, or maybe I’m just more used to its quirks. The digital compact camera I use now is a Nikon Coolpix of some kind, which I struggle with. It takes good pictures, but I don’t feel I’m using it right. Maybe I’m just not over the death of my Pentax.

I feel pretentious writing this post, as it makes me sound like a serious photographer, when in reality, I’ve not given a shit about this for years. But it’s been on my mind lately. I want to take this hobby a bit more seriously – or at least, see what I can learn from a whizzbang camera with detachable lenses and stuff. Still with dad’s cameraperson advice in mind, of course.

Eventually. This seems like an expensive hobby and I’m not cashed up. If you’ve got a DSLR, ping me your make/model, what you like about it, what you dislike about it, what sort of photos you take and what made you decide to get it instead of all the other similar looking cameras out there.

None of the pictures in this post have been Photoshopped, by the way, except to resize and arrange – save for the ones processed by mobile phone apps. Now that I think about it, this kinda makes all the cameras seem nice and a bit fancy – which I guess is relative anyway.