I didn't understand the fascination with photography.
When I and that dashing foreigner, whom I some years down the line convinced to marry me and keep buying me things to keep me happy, met, he was a photographer of sorts. He had a fancy SLR camera and he could spend an entire day with that thing glued to his face. It was a traditional film camera too, so he would plan and plan, and wait and wait for the perfect shot of the Colosseum when all I really wanted to do was to find a nice little gelateria or a pizzeria and really, really urgently use their bathroom facilities.
The Colosseum doesn't have a toilet. Which I think is very odd. But I think it is because their plumbing must be subpar. Or they don't have any plumbing. Could be either.
Every time we move, we transport with us thousands and thousands of photographs taken by my Viking. Most of them are of landscapes and architecture, some of them are of animals and people, and some of them are of me. And although, the Hubby is pretty excellent at this snapping photos business (just lookie here), none of the ones of me are any good. I either look angry, demonic, threatening, or really, really surprised, which comes out of an attempt to not come across as demonic.
I am the epitome of something that can only be referred to as crazy eyes meet caffeine stained teeth and much too much gum, and nothing else.
This picture is NOT by the hubby, but illustrates my point nicely. We will, however, forever be in the dark about how much 1800 tequila brings out this specific pallor in me.
When this supreme unphotogenicality (I am making it a word now.) is the hand one has been dealt in life (I'm not saying I'm an ugly, just photograph like one. And don't you dare tell me different.), what else can a person do but pick up the camera herself, and start snapping?
Which is exactly what I did, when I finally saw the light (or one more surprised with gums expression from myself). In last April. While we were in Zambia. Because I didn't know all of you back then, and thus didn't have much to do. Apart from people-watching in the hotel bar, and being afraid of that one waitress I crossed and who then started aiming her spit in my lattes. Or so I thought at least.
I picked up Hubby's, by that time a digital SLR, Canon 450D, and started getting blurred, wrong-thing-in-focus, horribly lit, confusing shots of Lusaka, Zambia. And corn. There were plenty of out-of-focus shots of corn.
Slowly, I started getting some of the basics right. Mostly by yelling at the hubby every time one of my 'good' shots turned out to be not so good at all, once I uploaded it on the computer, and he would then patiently tell me what button I was supposed to have pushed on instead of the one I had chanced at.
I refused to read the manual.
I looked at plenty of excellent photos from Erin, Kristine, Kristina, and Spud admiring their photo as well as their editing skills, and from julochka who is more resistant to the modern photography tools, and wants to do as little as possible to her photos after that shutter closes. (Please, please let me know if I forgot anyone else [Thanks Eidothia!], and I'm not sure how much editing the Ks actually do...)
Then I decided that better equipment was needed (This is my pitfall. I admit it. I'm gadget happy, and frequently buy instant gratification. What else is new?), and the Hubby had also subtly hinted at possibly wanting his camera back. Or maybe there was talk of the Hubby, the real photographer of the pair, wanting a new camera, so that I could keep the 450D? It's very likely, but could hardly be what actually took place.
So I got me a DSLR Canon 5D Mark II, and some fancy lenses: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L USM, Canon Macro EF 100mm f/2.8 USM, Canon EF ultra wide-angle 14mm f/2.8 L II USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, and a tripod to boot.
The Hubs got Big Berta, the mother of all lenses. And that eased his pain.
Still, I had no idea what I needed all of the equipment for. I had bought a professional camera because I could, not because I knew what I was going to use it for. I was still shooting with the Program settings most of the time, so that the camera would set everything and I would only occasionally override it by changing the white balance or the exposure. Sometimes I would shoot fast moving objects with the Shutter Priority setting so that they wouldn't come off so blurred, and sometimes I would shoot something with the setting on Aperture Priority to achieve a good blurred foreground and background, to get a nice depth of field, a nice bokeh.
But mostly, I would just point and shoot. And let the camera do most of the photographing.
Until yesterday night, that is.
Around the same time that I received the final bits and pieces to my new interest, a Field Guide to my new camera appeared on my nightstand. There were some more muffled whispers during the twilight hours on how it would perhaps be a good idea to read the manual to my camera, do some leafing through the Field Guide, to go out and snap some photos, to try out the different settings, or at least find out what the abbreviations by all of the different buttons on my camera meant. There were some hints at how it would be awesome to try out setting X or Y or QWK, and I started to see where the train was headed.
So I signed up for an intermediate photography class at the best institution in Johannesburg that Google could find for me - the National College of Photography.
And last night I had my first class.
From now on, there is only one setting I'm allowed to use: the Full Manual. There will be no more of "letting the camera take your picture for you." There will be shutter speeds matched to the aperture matched to the ISO speed according to the light meter reading, white balance settings, RAW format conversion, panning, filters, focal length, zoom, and only manual focus.
And other things that are complete and utter hebrew to me.
My first homework consists of taking light meter readings and a very complicated exercise in low light photography.
Still, I get a huge kick out of it every time the teacher tells us to depress the button instead of pressing it.
And that makes all the difference.