A steep learning curve and a big change

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19 June 2016

Yesterday morning I slept in and didn’t go to parkrun. Commando rang me at about ten o’clock to say he was going straight into town because he felt like some retail therapy.
“I’ll walk over to meet you if you like,” I suggested, thinking there might be a coffee in it for me.
As it happened there was no coffee involved whatsoever. When I rang him to say I was walking through the parks Commando said he was in Ed’s Diner on the top floor of WestQuay having a milkshake.
“They are amazing,” he said, “like heaven in a glass. If you hurry I’ll get you one.”

Obviously I hurried, thinking about what sort of milkshake I’d have when I got there. Predictably, I’d decided on chocolate but, when I sat at the bar next to him, Commando said I should try the peanut butter one he was drinking. It was so good I ordered one for myself. Right now I’m trying not to think of all the calories but he was right about the heaven in a glass! Mmmmm.

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It wasn’t until we got home that I discovered a milkshake wasn’t the only thing Commando had bought me. While we were in the diner we’d mostly been talking about his first Parkrun PB for over a year. He was over the moon to have shaved seventeen seconds off his previous best and got the 5k down to 21.24. He’ll be sub 20 soon if he’s not careful. Anyhow, back to my surprise gift. Commando has only gone and bought me a fancy pants, bells and whistles camera, a Nikon D3300.

If I’m honest, I’m a little scared of it. Until now all my photos hare been taken with the iPhone. Basically I just point and click, with a few little things like HDR for some shots and a tap on the screen to focus on an object, it’s easy peasy, photography for dummies. The Nikon has about a billion different settings and I have no idea what most of them do. It is quite possible I’m now going to be found out as a complete fraud who can’t take a decent picture to save her life. In fact I may have to take some kind of photography classes just to work it out.

Sadly there was no chance to take any proper photos yesterday due to the charging of batteries and an abortive attempt to install the software on my Mac. After about two hours of it doing nothing but looking as if it was, I Googled installation issues. Apparently Nikon haven’t upgraded to the ‘new’ version of the Mac operating system El Capitan (it’s only been out for about a year) so I couldn’t download the software. Luckily I could just plug the camera in and download photos using the built in Mac software though so all was not lost. I took a picture of Commando to test it out. Then I spent a lot of time Googling to find out what all the buttons on the camera did.

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Today I thought I might go out into the garden and try some flower photos but Commando had other ideas. He suggested we go out for a drive instead. We ended up at the car park at the end of the promenade at Weston Shore. Oh good, I thought, the shore is a subject I know well and I’ll be able to compare how the camera performs against my iPhone photos. Commando had other ideas though.
“Let’s go for a walk in West Wood,” he said, leading me across the road to the entrance.
“I always get lost in West Wood,” I said.
“So do I, even though I used to bring my old BSA Bantam down here when I was a lad,” he said.
This had all the makings of a disaster as far as I could see but at least I wouldn’t be lost on my own and I had a fully charged phone with Google Maps.

At first I struggled to get the camera working properly and the first photo of bluebell see pods was actually taken by a slightly frustrated Commando. Once he pointed out I needed to change the blasted thing to autofocus though, I was soon snapping away. It felt a bit odd to be looking through a viewfinder rather than at the phone screen and I missed being able to zoom in on the finished picture with a swipe of my fingers. In fact I kept trying as a kind of reflex action.

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My first decent shot was of a blackberry flower using the macro setting. It looked OK as far as I could tell but I was missing my phone terribly and felt sure I’d have had dozens of great pictures at this point if I’d been using it. Of course I kept this to myself, seeing as Commando had spent so much money on me.

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Predictably, we were soon lost on the maze of trails that all looked the same. Then, just after we’d crossed a little stream, we smelt the unmistakable aroma of decomposition.
“There’s a body around here somewhere,” I said, looking about nervously.
“Definitely decomp. Hopefully it’s not human,” Commando said, “although you could probably take some great crime scene photos if it was.”
It’s possible we watch too many CSI and NCIS shows, not to mention Bones.
Whatever or whoever had died was hidden in the undergrowth somewhere so, swatting away flies, we carried on. A few minutes later we met some women coming the other way.
“Maybe we should have warned them,” I said.
“If it does turn out to be a human body they’ll think we’re mirderers and we dumped it there,” Commando said.

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The fungus covered fallen tree we came upon just after this was a real test for the camera. Truthfully I wasn’t at all happy with the shot I took when I spotted it but the first close up was ok. Then I tried a shot looking down the trunk. The result wasn’t what I was aiming for at all. Much to Commando’s disgust, I got the iPhone out and took a comparison shot that was much more the kind of thing I’d intended. Owners of fancy pants cameras will be shaking their heads about now I suspect. Never fear, I’ve read a little more since then and now know how to press buttons to change the area of focus. I still think tapping the screen is easier though.

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Eventually, more by luck than judgement, we found our way out of the woods. We emerged on Abbey Hill near the stream that flows across the shore. This is one of my favourite spots and exactly what I’d been thinking of when we set out. There were children playing on the shore and a couple of dog walkers. This seemed like a good test for the camera. Initial disappointment turned to surprise when I looked at the shot on the Mac later. Never before have I taken a photo that shows the spires of Fawley so clearly.

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A second, experimental, shot using the camera’s HDR mode was less successful. Even after a great deal of tweaking the colours were too bright and garish and not what I’d hoped at all. Oh well, I shan’t be using that again in a hurry I guess.

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For once Commando wasn’t impatient with my constant stops to take pictures and he waited while I captured a macro shot of a teasel. He even held the stem steady when my first attempt failed due to a gust of wind. Slowly, we inched our way back to the promenade, stopping every few steps for more pictures.

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A sailing race was going on out on the water and Commando suggested I try the camera’s sport mode. This was the thing he was most interested in because he thought it might help me take better pictures of him running. In sport mode the camera takes a continuous stream of pictures at a fast shutter speed as long as you hold the button down (camera buffs stop laughing at my pathetic explaination please). This felt a little disconcerting at first but the sharp results of the moving boats and wheeling gulls told me I’d be using it a lot so better get used to it.

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By the time we reached the dead tree by the bench I always sit on I was almost wishing we had to walk all the way home not just a few yards back to the car. With a last few shots of the tree, the path and a windsurfer near the car park, I reluctantly put the lens cap back on.

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As it happened, my first foray into the world of fancy pants photography wasn’t quite over. On the way home Commando stopped near the old Itchen Ferry Village houses and I took a couple of pictures across the river through the window of the car. Despite the leaden skies and my inexperience, I was pretty pleased with the results.

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Further on Commando pulled into Sea Road so I could have a go at a few wildflower macros on Peartree Green. These were not quite as successful as I’d hoped. The first few, a toadflax flower, a bee on a blackberry flower, some oxeye daisies and a mallow weren’t great. I missed the tap to focus on where you want you get with the iPhone and longed to get it out of my bag.

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A dog rose, a seedhead and some more blackberries came out well though so, with a little practice, I may yet get the hang of it.

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With a final shot across the green my first attempt at proper photography was over. I’m not sure I’ll be retiring the iPhone quite yet but I can see there may be some advantages to having a real camera, at least, once I know what I’m doing there might be.

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Published by

Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

18 thoughts on “A steep learning curve and a big change”

    1. Thank you. I don’t think I’d have made the change from choice baca use I was happy with the phone camera but I’m working hard to get the hang of it.

  1. You don’t say if you have a zoom lens but if you do I think you’ll love that and a macro lens more than any other part of it.
    None of us was born with a camera in our hands and we’ve all taken some terrible photos, but learning really is part of the fun and the best way to learn is just to go out and do it. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Also, there are many, many how to videos on you tube for just about any kind of camera.
    The only words of advice I have are: don’t drop it. I just ruined the best camera I’ve ever had by doing that.

    1. Oh no! I will try my best not to drop it because it cost the earth and Commando would go mad. I do have a strap that goes round my neck so I will make sure I use it. The standard lens has a zoom and the camera has a macro mode which I’m getting to grips with. There is also a seperate long zoom lens but, so far, I haven’t used that. Right now I’m taking one small step at a time, trying to get used to it. One of the main reasons Commando bought it is for our trip to Iceland in December. We hope to see the northern lights and the iPhone would not have captured them at all as its not good at night. Hopefully this camera will if we’re lucky enough to see them.

        1. We have never been so far north before but I’ve always wanted to see the northern lights. Fingers crossed Mother Nature obliges,

    1. I’m way ahead of you on the Googling. I spent ages reading everything I could, although a lot went over my head. I’m still taking photos though.

  2. Lovely photos as ever and can’t wait to see ones from Iceland. The internet can be overwhelming, but the iphone is very handy for a pocket and just being around. Different types for different times perhaps…aren’t we lucky?!

  3. Had to smile when you started talking about the sport mode on the camera. Ah, now we know why Commando bought it for you. He wants you to catch him breaking that 20 minute mark on the Park Run!

    Stick with the camera. I’m sure your photos will be even better once you get the hang of it.

    I have a Canon, not a Nikon, but I use autofocus ALL the time, and this is how I make my camera focus on exactly the spot I want.
    1. Look through the viewfinder and make sure that spot is directly within the focusing area of the camera.
    2. Press the shutter button half way down (without actually taking a photo!). This locks the focus into the camera’s temporary memory, where it stays as long as you keep the button halfway down.
    3. Now, still pressing the button, and without moving nearer or further away, you have all the time in the world to frame the shot exactly how you want it.
    4. When you’re happy, push the button completely down and – snap – photo taken.
    (Sorry if this advice is useless on a Nikon, or if you already know all this!)

  4. What a wonderful present as was the spa day too.
    Lots of wonderful shots of flowers and the shore, bet you’ll soon get the hang of it and you’ll be dazzling us with more fab shots of sunny Southampton before long!
    Lisa x

    1. The spa day was great, my skin felt like silk afterwards. I’m slowly getting used to the camera and it’s proving great for running shots.

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