Life With A Nikon D7000 (Or, How I am No Longer Driving My Wife Crazy!)

•June 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It wasn’t that long ago when my wife considered hitting my head with a mallet any time I opened my mouth.  It seemed  only one thing would ever come out… something like,  “I want an official Nikon Model D7000 Digital SLR Camera with Full HD Video, with two card slots in the side and this screen on the back which tells time!”  My poor wife, the one who pays the bills around here, could only groan when confronted with my obsession.  I couldn’t blame her.  It was ungodly expensive, and just an awful lot to expect on our tight budget.

One morning, after we had finished opening presents (not really) my wife asked me, “Well Babe, did you get everything you wanted?”  

“Almost”, I said. 

“Ah, almost. Well there’s always next year.”

“Yep” I replied with a sigh.  The next thing I knew she was pointing to some boxes hiding behind the desk across the room, and she had a loving smile upon her face and a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

“Hey… What’s that over there?  Why don’t you go check it out?” 

I went to the desk and carefully lifted up three boxes.  Tearing through the wrapping paper on the smallest box, I immediately saw the ‘Nikon’ logo and knew my dream had finally come true!  (Not really — it didn’t happen like this at all… but it makes good drama ) In only a few moments, I stood before my wife holding a Nikon D7000 with an 18-200mm VRII Nikkor Zoom Lens… and a Tamrac Camera bag to boot… just awesome! 

My wife was happy for me, but I could tell she was worried I’d take a photo of some big bruiser on the street somewhere who would then punch my eye out.

———–

Honestly… it was very difficult to come up with the cash for my Nikon D7000… and my wife is the Champ of Champs for putting up with me through it all.  I love the camera… I just love it.  I’m getting much better with it and I enjoy shooting with it in full manual whenever I go on a photographic mission.  How does this post relate to Niagara Falls?  Well… only weakly I admit… but we have a trip to Niagara planned this September, and if you would have asked me a year ago if I thought I’d have my Nikon in time for my next Niagara trip, I would’ve said, “Only in my dreams.” 

I have many material possessions in life… I have a shop full of quality tools and nice machines… I have a metal lathe, a milling machine, a table saw, all sorts of woodworking equipment and many other items just too numerous to mention.  My wife is the best.  If it was not for her, I would have none of those things.  It is always tough, but somehow she makes sure I eventually get what I want in life… she’s awesome… the best wife ever.  She calls me ‘Babe’ and she really loves me… and at those times when life kicks me into the dirt, she is always there to help me get on my feet again.  She’s better than any camera or anything else I could want.  As material possessions go however, my Nikon D7000 beats everything else I own in life… hands down.  I finally own one… after years of wanting a Nikon Digital SLR.  I still can hardly believe it!

There in the blackness lay my Nikon D7000, my rubber-gripped, weather-sealed beauty.  The best gift to myself I’d ever received, or would ever receive.  Gradually I drifted off to sleep, capturing images of ducks on the wing and getting off spectacular hip shots. (With Apologies to Jean Shepherd.)

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Learning Photography is Challenging but Very Satisfying!

•May 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve had my Nikon D7000 for close to two months now, and I am no longer fumbling with it as I was when I first got it.  Main progress so far has been as follows:  I can easily put the camera into manual mode and get pleasing, properly exposed photos using adjustments to aperture & shutter speed at a given ISO setting.  It’s kind of neat to see my meter in my viewfinder, sometimes a little over or sometimes a little under exposure, and have my fingers know how to correct for it without taking the camera away from my face to see what I’m doing.   It’s nice because I’ve read and heard that many photographers — at least beginners — are very reluctant to use their camera in manual mode because it seems to be more difficult… so I’m happy about that!

The list of what I have to learn however is far longer than the list of what I have.  Although I am growing more comfortable with using the camera in manual mode, I’m clueless about so many other aspects.  For instance,  I’ve read that when the subject is moving quickly, the camera ought to be in Shutter Priority Mode, so the user can control the shutter speed to capture action while the camera takes care of the aperture automatically.  Fine.  But when I do, I get that ‘Brain Freeze’ when I need to be shooting and thinking quickly.  My mind stops and thinks, “OK, shutter speed… what shall I dial in for that?”  Meanwhile, shots are being missed by the score.  Same for Aperture Priority.  This is what makes me such a green recruit in the world of photography…. I have no grasp of what to do in situations which are moving quickly.  While seasoned photographers are clicking away, I’m staring at the buttons on my camera like a deer caught in the headlamps of a car.  If the event is important (say, a FIRST Robotics Competition) I throw the camera into fully automatic mode and click away… and look to all the world like a Pro, but I know I’m not.

I know that only practice and time will make the brain freeze go away.  The list of what I have to learn is so long, but I know the best approach is to have reasonable expectations of myself and what can be done in a given time frame.  In the very short run, I plan to tackle an item or two at a time because I think I will retain more that way.  In the very long run, I hope to look back on it all and say, “When I first got my camera I had no clue about how to begin… but now it’s no longer mystical… it’s simply a tool I’ve learned how to use to get what I want for my photos.”  

I purchased my camera because I need nice photos for my Places At Niagara project… that’s why I have it.  The Icing On the Cake is that I can learn how to use it for photography in general when I am not at Niagara Falls.  Of all the things I can do in this world, photography is really cool for me…. that’s what I think.  After all these years, I finally own a Nikon camera and can scarcely believe it.   When I hold it in my hands, I cannot believe the potential for what I can do… once I learn how!  Everything I want to do that’s beautiful in the world of megapixels is contained in that camera I now own.  Despite the inevitable frustrations which come with learning something new, I am truly loving it…  every step of the way!

As an update about my Niagara Falls project, my Free Trial period has expired on my website over at Squarespace.  I’ve paid my money and now I am officially committed to building a new and better Places At Niagara!  You can see what I’ve done so far (nothing to brag about, only one incomplete page as I write this) over at www.placesatniagara.squarespace.com    Like my photography, my list of what needs to be done is far longer than my list of what I have done so far… but in time it will be a jewel on the internet… I promise!

Learning Photography… A Bit At A Time

•April 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

My life is busy, especially during the work-week… but at this very early stage with my camera, I try to handle it a little every day, and that strategy seems to be paying off.  In an earlier post I mentioned that I was ‘All Thumbs’ with the camera… but that is starting to change.  My thumbs now know where to go, and so do my fingers.  Underexposed and need more ISO?  Just hold the ISO Button with my left thumb and rotate the Main Command Wheel with my right thumb.  Need faster shutter?  Rotate the Main Command Wheel with my right thumb.  Aperture?  Front index finger immediately finds the Sub Command Wheel, all without removing the camera from my eye.  It’s got to be a First Step to getting better at this!  It’s amazing how it brings back the old days of my Pentax film cameras… only I think there were a row of LED’s in the viewfinder… all red ones maybe, followed by a green one which signified proper exposure.  I remember learning how to control exposure, shutter speed and depth-of-field on those cameras, and amazingly I feel age 23 again instead of age 50… and what could be nicer than that?  Photography was my hobby when I walked into a pet shop down the plaza from the camera shop and met Jen… the girl who is now my wife.  It’s awesome.  Gone are the yellow boxes of Kodachrome Film but here now SD Cards and photo editing software.  Having a camera and once again learning photography is wonderful on so many different levels.  I’m glad for it all.  I’m thankful I met my wife so many years ago and I’m humbled that she still loves me just as much as I love her.  I’m glad I have a camera again… overjoyed.  I feel so young again in so many different ways!

I Just Re-Read ‘Why Photography’, and….

•April 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I just re-read my little segment called ‘Why Photography’ and something bothered me about it.  It definitely seemed I gave a ‘slight’ to anyone who doesn’t own Nikon stuff.  It sounded that way, but was not meant that way.  I was excited because I set my sights on a Nikon and was able to get one (finally)…  but in truth, I would have run through traffic for any digital SLR… any model of those wonderful things that would have allowed me to walk through the woods and record the little things I see.  When I was trying to save my pennies, I checked out used cameras and was dismayed to discover how I could not even afford someone’s hand-me-down…  I feel so lucky the way things eventually turned out… Lucky… not smug.  I know people who are only happy when they have the latest and the greatest things, the moment they hit the market… but that’s not me.  I hope my D7000 rewards me for years into the future, long after it is not the flashiest thing on the market.  I’m likely never to see that kind of money again, and I hope it is never to be fated as my wonderful Pentax equipment was so many years ago.   

It is amazing how I still think of my Pentax stuff… I had two Pentax Super Program Bodies and several lenses… some I used all the time, some I almost never used… but they were all mine, which I paid for after saving my earnings from my minimum-wage job.  They were beautiful and I still remember they day I brought the first one home from the camera store…  and how happy I was that I finally had an SLR!  

Walking the Dog… and the Nikon D7000

•April 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Just came in with my family… we all walked our dog Molly down our little country road.  Knowing that I have much to learn from my D7000, I took it along with me, with the promise that I would use only the fully manual mode.  My goal was not to end up with spectacular photos… just photos which reproduced the look of the growing twilight around us (thus indicating proper exposure.) 

Well, to put it mildly, I’m still all thumbs with the camera… I have to think about everything I do, and I have to stop what I’m doing to watch where I place my fingers when working the buttons and the command dials.  Awkward and slow are two words to describe me.  I can tell it comes with practice… lots of practice!  While walking behind my wife, daughters and dog, I found that I could not seem to get the right combination of ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture to reach exposure needed for the camera… so for the sake of having a some photos of Molly, I put the camera on Auto and snapped away.  On the return trip however, I returned to manual mode and kept at it… eventually I was successful, but I really have to hand it to those working pros who know their cameras like the backs of their hands!  I cannot wait until I get to that point. 

I’m wondering what the best approach to photography is… and I’m thinking that it must be a good plan to use the camera on automatic mode when, as a true neophyte like myself, you really need to get the shots…. but then make sure you take regular time later on to explore how the camera works.  Nearly everything I need to do for my Places At Niagara Website can be done with the camera on Automatic, for example… yet in the morning when I take my Niagara Walks by myself, I imagine finding a spider in a web that I want to photograph… and it’s then I’ll want to make sure the background behind the strands of web are blurred… so I will experiment with aperture until I get it just right.  Eventually I will get a more intuitive feel for the camera… just need lots of practice I guess… and faith that I will eventually get the hang of it.

Why Photography?

•April 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Let’s forget the previously written account of the theft of all my Pentax equipment decades ago… done and over with.  In the years that followed the break-in, I never bothered to get back into photography… just too busy with life in general, and too bitter about losing something I loved.  My only other use of a camera was with my wife’s Kodak Advantix…. and my wife used to get so mad at me because I’d often throw a surprise photo in of her…  a shot straight up her nostrils, of her upside-down, etc., all snapped without her knowledge and only to be discovered when she got her film back from the 1-hour processing lab at the drug store.  I thought it was fun to clown around with a camera at her expense. 

Eventually though, I rediscovered that if I arranged the subject I was shooting so that some elements occupied the lower right portion of the frame while some elements occupied the upper left portion of the frame, that I would end up with a far more interesting photo.  I knew this from my Pentax Past… it was none other than ‘The Rule of Thirds’.  When I noticed that I could come up with nice photos even with a tiny digital point and shoot, my camera clowning came to an end.  From that point on I cared about the photos I snapped… and thought once again about getting an SLR camera like I had in the old days.

That seed germinated and grew over time into a Mighty Obsession.  In the old days I had two Pentax Super Program camera bodies, each with a lens I rarely took off, a camera bag full of lenses I rarely put on, a nice flash unit and a great tripod with a Macro Focusing Rail.  There was nothing at all wrong with owning Pentax, but I’d always dreamed of owning a Nikon.  I had heard multiple accounts from people in-the-know that Nikon’s were the best, and from their stratospheric price tags, I never doubted it was true.  Fast-Forwarding to the present, I’m a Big Kid now, a man about to turn 50 years old, and with some diligence, I knew that I could (and should) afford a Nikon.

It’s been three years since I wanted a digital SLR for myself, and it’s been two years since I made up my mind that it must be a Nikon.  (I know that Canon’s are reputed to be at the same level as Nikon, and I’m sure it’s true… but it’s been in my mind to own a Nikon for more than 30 years now… so as a gift to myself, Canon’s were not even an option… Canon Lovers, please forgive me.)    During those two years I’ve wanted a Nikon, I’ve literally obsessed over owning one, to the point where I could lull myself off to sleep at night, thinking of my Nikon D90, the model for which I yearned.  Yes… that’s bad.  That’s truly an obsession.  At night there were times I’d even dream of it… and in a frustrating way, it was never what I hoped it would be in my dreams.  I had a recurring nightmare that whenever I tried to fire off a burst of photos, the entire camera would go ‘Clunk-Clunk-Clunk’, like something inside was loose and about to break, or the lense was so cheaply made it would not even attach to the camera.  I’m no expert on dreams, but my guess would be that the frustration I experienced with my Nikon in my dreams was the metaphor for the frustration I felt in just trying to own one… every time I got some pennies scraped together, life would intervene and we’d have to put the money on something else.  At age 50, you start to realize that you only have so many ‘Somedays’ left in your life, so if you have plans for something to do, you’d better get busy.  That was the point I came to when I finally said, ‘Aw Screw it… I’m just going to go buy the damn thing.’ 

Sometimes things just drop into your lap!

I called up my investment company with the idea of withdrawing some funds from my 401K fund, and found out to my great surprise that my company had been contributing profit-sharing checks to my account for more than twenty years… and it was available for withdrawal, without having to take an interest penalty…  I was in shock to discover that my three-year long obsession had been completely unnecessary… I’d had the money the entire time!  In less than a week, I found myself at a camera store, buying a brand-new Nikon D7000 with a Nikkor 18-200mm zoom lens.  Just awesome!  I’d not felt that level of happiness over a material thing since getting my Pilot’s License at age 17, after I goofed on my checkride and thought I’d surely failed.  The camera is magnificent and it doesn’t ‘Clunk’ like it always did in my frustration dreams.  Finally owning a Nikon Digital SLR at age 50 is like having Avril Lavigne as your mistress, except that your wife has full knowledge and approval!  It’s amazing.  Three weeks ago I was still wondering where my Nikon would come from… now I am a D7000 owner, with so much to learn… what a great feeling!

Nikons, Photos, Giant Waterfalls and other Things

•April 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Taxes are done, as of today!  Filing electronically, we will hit the ‘Send’ button and then be squared up with our government for another year.  More importantly, I’ll be free to do many things which are long overdue… like clear off my desk for one thing!  For another thing, begin work on my SquareSpace site which will eventually become the new Places At Niagara dot Com.  I can’t wait!  If I am successful, it will be a very beautiful site with hundreds of photos about Niagara Falls and the Greater Niagara Region of Ontario Canada and New York, USA.  It will also have a category entitled, ‘Other Photography’, as well as an internal blog through which I can talk about various things, and even accept comments from like-minded individuals who have something on their minds.  Much of that blog will pertain to Niagara Falls of course, but part of it (at least to start) will be about learning the art of photography… and these words I am typing now will actually comprise its beginning.  When my SquareSpace Site is ready, I am going to paste these entries into my ‘Learning Photography Blog’.  It’s only appropriate that I do, since I am learning now… even before I begin work on my new Niagara Site.  Don’t look for a lot of photos to be uploaded to this WordPress site now… all such work needs to be put into SquareSpace..  I’m only writing now to record the process which takes me from Absolute Beginner in photography, through the Novice stage and ultimately to the point where I’m like an Old Pro with my camera.  I’m hoping others more knowledgeable will want to share what they know, and others less knowledgeable might find something helpful in their own learning process.