I am not a professional photographer. I just like images of frozen spontaneity.
The environment in which I usually shoot in is in a restaurant with several hungry people waiting impatiently while the food gets cold. It is stressful with uncertain but always bad lighting conditions; rather similar to front-line war photojournalism, especially when the service staff walk in and out casting shadows and the guests start shouting for you to hurry the fuck up so they can eat.
I don’t do studio photography for reasons I’ve explained in my first paragraph.
I am not really brand-conscious, instead, like all geeks, I study the technical specifications closely and balance them against my requirements before I make a purchase. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t succumb to impulse, whimsical buys. My practice is to save up to buy what I think is reasonable balance of the trinity of price, quality (heavier emphasis on quality) and requirements or do without. But for better or worse, here’s a list of what I own:
Nikon D300. At that time, I did a comparison between the Nikon and Canon DSLRs. At that time, Canon has the fastest Auto Focus which is great for action shots. However, as I tend to shoot in very poor light, the main reason I chose Nikon was because I preferred their algorithm for handling noise; it preserves as much luminance detail as possible by using mostly chroma noise reduction which results in very usable pictures at high ISOs. Nikon tends to “smear” the noise to give a “creamy”, more film-like texture. I bought the D300 a week after it was announced mainly because I prefer a tough weather-sealed body. And because I thought the D3 was too big and expensive (please see my first paragraph).
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 SP XR. The Tamron was the first lens I bought and it remains till today my favorite walkabout lens. For its price, the performance and quality, in terms of sharpness and weight, is exceptional. Some of my favorite pictures are taken with this lens. The build quality feels cheap because of the plastics but it has accompanied me on harsh assignments and survived.
AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8D. I have a strong interest in Macro photography as applied to food. The main reason for choosing the 60mm was because it has the shortest minimum focusing distance while maintaining a 1:1 reproduction ratio (surprisingly, the 105mm does not do 1:1 at it’s minimum focus distance). This is because I am foodie first and foremost, so climbing up and down from my chair is just too much effort. From a purist point of view, if your lens can’t do a 1:1 or better ratio (e.g. 2:1), you’re doing close-up photography, not macro photography. However, I rarely use this lens because the effort involved is too much effort involved. I try though, I try.
One can get too familiar with vegetables you know
Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 D and G. My favorite lens to use in restaurants because of its sharpness and low-light capabilities. This is the one lens that I recommend to people but, to my dismay, they inevitably settle for the f/1.8 version because of the significant price difference; they tend to regret it because there is a significant difference in quality too. I started with the f/1.4D and migrated to the f/1.4G despite its perceived poorer build quality because of its superior optics. The original naysayers of the G are now agreeing with me on the optics. Reading specifications is an important thing.
Diana+ lens. Whimsical buy. Plastic as opposed to glass, these are fun to use for outdoor photography as it’s a little too dim for indoor use. Bought the Nikon mount for US$12, the lens were about US$40, so not much to lose.
Jet-lagged photography – I actually dropped the camera while taking this shot; saved by the strap though. Whew…
Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight. I needed a flash for an assignment which I cannot talk about and was recommended this. Initially I wanted a cheap SB-600 as it met my minimum requirements but I realized that I might as well go high-end to see what all the fuss is about. This is a kick-ass flash with a usable range of about 40 feet. I tend to use it as a wireless slave with my dinky built-in flash as a commander. However, I rarely use flash because a) I use my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 and b) use of flash in an intimate restaurant setting is considered highly intrusive and very rude. So unless it’s a special occasion, the SB-900 stays at home.
Lightpanels Micro. Another whimsical buy mainly because I wanted to see if it was less intrusive to use a lightpanel than a flash. It is less intrusive but because I use a f/1.4, I rarely need it. Alas. Power-wise, it’s weak; the light falls off dramatically after 2 feet, so it’s good for macro shots.
This is what I mean about noise handling by Nikon – I love the creamy texture
Processing. I have rudimentary training in Adobe Photoshop but I don’t use it because it’s a resource hog and very expensive. I started out processing my photos using Google’s Picasa which I love using. It’s so fast that people have remarked that 2 hours after the dinner, the photos are uploaded onto the Internet. Unfortunately, at that time Picasa couldn’t process RAW images, so I had to switch to an alternative software that is easy to use and won’t break the bank.
I love using Adobe Lightroom 2.0. It’s relatively cheap (sub-S$200) and has Picasa-like ease-of-use. Not as fast but the features are adequate enough and definitely not a resource hog like its bigger sister, Photoshop.
I don’t really do a lot of processing or corrections; the most intense process is converting RAW to JPEG for uploading to the Internet. I tend to tweak lighting contrast and even though I shoot using a neutral color setting, more often than not, I further reduce the color saturation my photos. I just like it that way.
This was shot through a glass window