Picking up the camera

Back in November some friends and I visited the famous Pompidou centre, the building with its colourful guts on the outside, to see the David Hockney exhibition. This man is incredible, he has produced artwork for decades and continues to keep up with new technologies and find different ways to work. I urge you to have a look at some of his work on his website or find an exhibition near you.

One section of the exhibition which really interested me was his photography and how he used his photos to inspire his bigger works of art. He did numerous photo collages where he took multiple film photos of minute sections of a scene and put them all together, creating a trippy capturing of what he saw, every detail in focus in its own dedicated 4x6 photo print. I thought this was remarkable and while I have no aspirations to take on David Hockney in the realm of art, it compelled me to start taking photographs and capturing the details of my life, which at the moment is quite frankly beautiful.

David Hockney: Pearblossom Highway, April 1986
David Hockney: Pearblossom Highway, April 1986
The Scrabble Game - 1983
The Scrabble Game - 1983

In a moment of doubt and intrigue, knowing nothing of merit about cameras or film photography, I called my dad and asked him how best to go about getting a camera, what to look for etc. I had already procrastinated from my uni work enough watching youtube tutorials on the subject. My dad told me not to do anything and to wait for him to visit in November when he’d bring me my Grandma’s old Minolta 7000i he’d had lying around.

The first few photos I took were fairly useless, mostly underexposed at a time when I had little to no idea about exposure, aperture and shutter speed or the array of settings that could be tweaked on this camera. With more practice, of course, came slightly better results. With a bit of reading of my camera’s manual and some more research, even better.

Early success: a portrait of Zoe 21/12/17
Early success: a portrait of Zoe 21/12/17

For those who know as much as I did, exposure is how much light reaches the camera’s film when you take a photograph. An overexposed photo results from the film getting too much light, the image will appear bright. An underexposed photo is a consequence of not enough light reaching the film and will turn out too dark. So how do you achieve the optimum?

Le Penseur at the Rodin Museum
Le Penseur at the Rodin Museum

Exposure can be controlled by the aperture and the shutter speed of the camera. Aperture is an opening inside the camera whose diameter can be controlled to let in more or less light.
The shutter speed is how long the camera’s shutter is open for, hence a slower shutter speed is a longer interval in which more light reaches the film. A different aperture will give you a different depth of field due to the changes in the focal length while the shutter speed can affect the sharpness of a photo. A slower shutter speed will make moving objects appear more blurred than a faster shutter speed.

Plenty of light: Emily, Katrina and Georgina in Breckenridge
Plenty of light: Emily, Katrina and Georgina in Breckenridge

With that in mind, I got the camera out at any opportunity, irritating my family over Christmas and new year in Colorado and then my friends back in Paris, shoving the camera in front of their faces as frequently as possible. The best seemed to come when I was outside with plenty of light and once I started to harness the aperture priority setting they got even better!

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