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brown paper packages: {photography with lei} what's in my bag?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

{photography with lei} what's in my bag?

So here's the infamous "what's in my bag" post... except I'm also going to chronicle for you where I started and where I am now.  Because too often Mom decides she "wants to do photography" and goes out and buys a top of the line camera that she can't for the life of her utilize to its full capacity.  For what it's worth, I think it's important to start small and build slowly.  So I am going to admit to having some really piddly equipment in the beginning.

My first digital camera was a Sony Cybershot with a whopping 3.3 megapixels.  It was just a point and shoot, nothing fancy, just fancier than anything I'd had before.  Except perhaps the Minolta I checked out and used in high school for a 6 week study in dance photography. (Yes, that was very, very cool}  Sony makes some good cameras, in fact I keep a new and improved Sony Cybershot in my purse for random stuff my kids do at school.

Of course as time went on and I realized what a hindrance it was to any chance of a photography career, I took the next step and bought an entry level DSLR.  A Nikon D50 (at the time).  Why Nikon?  I get asked that all the time.  Because my husband said Consumer Reports recommended Nikon over Canon.  Ha!  It's true.  I took his word for it.  But I am a completely satisfied Nikon user.  I tried a Canon once and found it to be much simpler to operate than my Nikon... but I don't necessarily think that's an advantage Canon has over Nikon.  In fact, I think you can fine tune a lot of things using a Nikon than you can a Canon, simply because it's more complex.  And I really like that.

Anyway, once I realized the fun looking lens that came with the camera was a piece of CRAP.  Yes.  I invested in a 50mm 1.8 (otherwise referred to as the "nifty fifty") and a Tamron (knock off brand) 17-50mm 2.8.  These are both excellent lenses.  Can't go wrong with either and they are definitely the first lenses you should buy.  I used them both at every single session I shot for the first 1 1/2 years.

My D50 kept me happy for a couple years.  I was in a perpetual state of learning so I was glad not to have "too much camera" to figure out.  But I moved up to the D80 and acquired another lens, the 85mm 1.8.  Sigh.  I cannot say enough good things about this lens.  It was worth the wait!  Sure I have to put a little distance between myself and my subject to use it, but dang it produces some very nice, crisp pictures.  And the bokeh (remember that word?) is delicious.  Now the 85mm was a full frame lens.  And I was still shooting on a crop frame sensor.  So it was time to upgrade again.

I waited about a year to do so and took the leap.  Enter my D700 (her name is Brigitta).  Brigitta is top notch.  My favorite trick is her high ISO capabilities, but there is so much more to her.  I can crank that baby up to 6400 at a darkened home birth late at night and make it look like it's 3pm outside.  LOVE!  And the images aren't overly grainy or soft.  I think this feature puts the D700 in a much higher class than it actually is.  And honestly, I don't foresee upgrading any time soon.

Last week I added to my collection 3 new lenses, to replace my old crop lenses.  Unless you use a full frame lens on a full frame sensor, you aren't utilizing the full frame capabilities of your camera, essentially producing smaller image sizes than what you are capable of getting.  So after a lot of patience and saving I am the proud new owner of this bad boy:
This thing demands respect.  And requires strong biceps, which I have!  Hahaha.  This lens happens to be a go-to for many wedding photographers, which I am not.  Because it allows you to "Stay out of the way" and get those great up close shots.  But I think it also makes a great portrait lens (debatable to some).  I also got a 24-70mm 2.8 (to replace the old Tamron 17-50mm 2.8) to use as just a good basic portrait and birth photography lens.  As well as a 50mm 1.4, which is one stop higher than my previous "nifty fifty".  Increases the bokeh.  Perfect for head shots.  

What's even better than the new glass (I feel like Fancy Nancy here; glass is fancy for lens), is the new camera bag I got to put it all in!  I previously used a very practical Lowepro backpack.  But I'm a big girl now (lol) so I decide that as long as I was selling my arm and leg, why not a foot too?  Tee he he.  Here's the beauty that now holds all my precious cargo:

It's made by Kelly Moore, and it's the Juju design in muted teal.  Purty, huh?  I really love the orchid lining. This bag is pretty big.  And heavy with everything inside.  But so sturdy and so well constructed.  And it doesn't scream "camera bag hiding very expensive equipment!" My speed flash fits in there (SB-800 for those interested in knowing), my camera body, and all my lenses.  This is the ONLY bag I have found that fits everything I need in it.   There's so many little pockets for extra batteries and filters and memory cards.  I keep some business cards in there, and miniature accordion albums to give to people passing by during my sessions.

{this is what an mini accordion album looks like - it's wallet-sized)

I love it!

So that's my genealogy of photography equipment, if you will.  I hope I've established, however, that you don't have to have all the latest gadgets to be a good photographer.  Yes my images automatically improved each time I upgraded.  As it should be.  If I wasn't ready for the new equipment, that would not have been the case.  Learn what you have inside and out.   You may come to a point where it just makes sense to invest more, but my advice?   Start small.

Thanks for having me Kierste!!!  Things have been pretty quiet the last couple months... remember you are welcome to email me with personal questions!  I'd also love any ideas you might have/want for future posts.  And because no post is compete without a photo, here's a couple of my favorites from a family session last weekend:

{Pssst, what do you think of my new watermark?}

To see more, visit my BLOG or FACEBOOK PAGE!  Have a great day everyone!


Blogger Carol said...

So jealous! I am only starting out with my DSLR and a few lenses. I am trying to learn all I can but it's frustrating when my pics aren't what I hoped they'd be. Did you take any photography classes or are you just self-taught?

February 22, 2012 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Lei said...

Carol - I took the course in high school that I spoke about, and then later read books, had some mentoring, attended a workshop, and figured a few things out the hard way.


February 23, 2012 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger The Bishop Family said...

Thank you for all the tips. I was wondering if you have ever tried the 28-75? I want a lense that can be my all around everyday lense,hardly ever take off, and would use it for mostly my kids/ family and nature.I have read the reviews that the 17-50, and 28-75 are pretty much the same just the 17-50 is wider? Thanks for any thoughts?

March 2, 2012 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger The Duckworth Family said...

Man, I haven't had time to check back on all your posts Lei, but I always them! This was was great for me. We are going to Hawaii in June and I am finally ready to invest in a new lens. I'm still shooting with my D40 and all I use is the kit lens and then I have Nikor 55-200mm f3.5 I've been wanting either the 35mm or 50mm 1.8. Most of my shooting is of my kids, any thoughts? Also with this trip I'm wanting to invest in a new bag as well. I'm finally ready to splurge a little and was thinking about the Jo totes. Not of course to carry all around Hawaii...but it was just an excuse to finally get it! I still need so much direction, but little by little I'm trying to step things up a bit. One thing I struggle with my D40 is when I finally get a really great shot and can't blow it up as big as I would like. I had one family love their picture and wanted a 20x30...The D40 just can't do that. It was so dissapointing. Some day...some day!

March 17, 2012 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger Jillene said...

So you said you started out with an entry level DSLR. What is a good one that is out now that Nikon makes? I don't know enough about cameras yet to know which ones would be considered entry level quite yet. Thanks for all your tips and suggestions!!

April 9, 2012 at 8:29 PM  

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