Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Photography for the New Year


I have enjoyed photography for quite a few years now, ever since I picked up a Canon EOS Rebel film camera nearly a decade ago. Back then, I preferred shooting in black and white (since when you used film you had to make that decision in advance!).

In recent years, I have switched to digital and have become a bit more serious with my photography. I trace that to about a year and a half ago when I started uploading photos to Flickr. Before that, far too many of my pictures would live on just on some laptop hard drive, with the occasional shot printed for posterity or framing.

Of course, anytime I get “serious” about something, my wife will tell you it means I start spending money. And this has been no different. While I do believe that you can take good pictures with just about any camera if you are talented enough, the right equipment does make a difference for amateurs. Better gear often helps forgive mistakes (though sometimes it can also induce them).

Heading in to 2009, I hope to step up my photography even more. The quality of my photographs has been improving over the past couple of years, as I learn better how to get proper exposures and gain a better sense of pleasing composition.

A lot of it has to do with just trying different things. I used to take “safe” photographs when I shot film. Now I often take hundreds of digital exposures in a very short period of time, allowing me to try different angles, settings, and more. I don’t set up and wait for the perfect shot — I’m not nearly that good or arrogant — but instead hope to stumble across a pretty good shot every now and then.

The photo accompanying this post is one of those odd things I try from time to time. I was taking family pictures on New Year’s Eve and looked up at the ceiling in the foyer of our home. I have been playing with light a bit of late, and I thought it might be interesting to get a variety of exposures of the chandelier hanging above me to see what it might look like as a final product.  So, I laid down on the floor and shot straight up.

It turns out that with the right camera settings, it ends up looking a bit like a snowflake — a perfect idea for the season.

It was one of the last shots I took before I got a new camera — sort of a Christmas present to myself. I picked up a Nikon D700. I have been interested in moving to a full frame camera (I have been shooting with a crop sensor on my Canon 30D for the past several years). I find that, except for my kids’ sporting events, I rarely shoot with anything longer than a 70mm lens (about 105mm film/full frame equivalent). So the full frame should provide me some advantages.

Of course, since I have been a Canon guy, many will wonder why I decided to try Nikon. After all, it means my old glass won’t work with the new system. And good lenses are expensive.

Well, I’m no dummy. I did consider that. But I have stayed with Canon over the years mainly because it is where I started, and I always gave in to “lens lock.” But I have heard so many good things from my Nikon friends that I checked them out pretty closely in recent months. I became convinced that the UI on the Nikon cameras was better.

Even with that feeling, I was still tempted to stick with Canon. After all, the new Canon 5D Mark II just came out and it has some killer specs. Sure, there are some gripes about some early technical flaws, but nothing that doesn’t sound like it can’t be fixed in a future firmware update. In fact, if the new Canon 5D had been an easy get when it was first released, I probably would have picked one up, almost on impulse. But the delay in availability gave me more time to think.

And I pulled the Nikon trigger. Because I got the camera only two days before my heart surgery, I haven’t had a lot of time to play with it yet. But so far I am suitably impressed. Only time will tell if this was a smart decision, of course.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep both bodies. I’ll use the Canon 30D for sports and other long lens applications. And the Nikon will serve the rest of my needs. Eventually, I may decide to go back to a single system. Or perhaps I’ll keep my investment in both platforms — lenses last a really long time after all — to keep my future body options open.

In any case, it should be an interesting journey. 

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