Chilliwack Photographer │ Gearhead

I’m a self-proclaimed “gearhead”.  I had no idea when i got into photography that there is an ENDLESS list of exciting things to purchase.  An endless list of expensive exciting things…  And when you first start shooting, you see all this cool stuff and you start buying things without really knowing whether or not it’s a practical purchase for you…  And eventually your business, if you go that route.

I started like most people do, with a basic DSLR (Nikon D3000) and a kit lens (18-55).  The kit lens was great for chasing my kids around outside, but as soon as I started stalking photography forums, and seeing that gorgeous bokeh (the out of focus background that I love), I knew I had to upgrade.  Bokeh is created by a combination of a low aperture, focal length, and the distance between the lens and the subject, and the subject and the background.  If you are standing quite close to your subject, and your subject is quite far away from the background, it’s possible to create bokeh even with a kit lens.  But if you want to stand further away, or create a portrait of a family and you still want bokeh, you’re going to need preferably a lens with a long focal length and a nice low aperture.  But these things cost a fortune!!  So, because I didn’t know if I was going to pursue this yet as a business, I decided to buy the cheapest prime lens I could find, with a lower aperture.  Which was the Nikon 35mm 1.8.

I loved that little lens.  It allowed me to take pictures inside (because of the wide angle), and it helped in low-light situations (because of the low aperture).  Well, then I decided that the bokeh it was giving was again, only if I was really close to my subject.  So i decided to upgrade again!  At this time, Nikon didn’t have a 50mm 1.8 with autofocus (which I needed because I had a low-end camera – thanks Nikon), so I had to splurge and go with the Nikon 50mm 1.4 which was around $450!  It turned out that was a purchase I wouldn’t regret 🙂  I get asked a lot by people who have a dslr with a kit lens what lens they should buy next, and I have no qualms about recommending the “nifty fifty”.  Annnnnd, Nikon now has a 50mm 1.8 available for those of us who have a lower end body, and it’s around $230 or so. More about autofocus and what lens to buy below…

And here’s a shot taken with that lens

They next thing I became intrigued by was macro photography – I couldn’t believe the amount of detail you could capture with a macro lens!  So off to Lens & Shutter I went and bought the Nikon 105mm 2.8 macro. 

Another gorgeous lens, but an impulse buy.  I was shooting mostly newborns at that time, and yes, I could get some wonderful shots of eyelashes and lips and spit bubbles, but it wasn’t essential to have.  I now use it mostly for ring shots at engagement shoots and weddings.  I’d love to start using it as a portrait lens, but have been struggling with focus with it.  I’m really hoping to get that resolved, because with that combination of focal length and aperture, I’m sure I could get some gorgeous portraits out of it!!
One of my fave rings, and one of my fave ring shots 🙂

After my macro phase, I shot with these lenses for quite some time, before I started to really develop a style.  I love classic portraits with gorgeous bokeh, and I felt that the lenses I had were just not doing the job anymore.  I wasn’t making a ton of money, so I needed to buy something on a budget.  Of course, I was now a regular on the previously mentioned forums, and knew exactly what I wanted (hello 70-200 2.8??) but just couldn’t justify spending the kind of money it took to call one of those my own, so I started looking into the 85mm 1.8.

By this time I had upgraded to the D7000 as well, and didn’t have to stick with lenses that have the auto-focus motor in the body. So to make this easier on you, if you own one of the following Nikon DSLRs: D5200, D5100, D5000, D3200, D3100, D3000, D60, D40, or D40x, you will want to look for lenses that have the letters “AF-S” on them. If they don’t, or if they only say “AF”, you will not be able to automatically focus using your shutter button, and will have to turn the lens manually to try and find focus. Which is pretty difficult – I don’t recommend it 🙂
I digress. I didn’t have to purchase an AF-S lens at this point, and came across a used 85mm 1.8. I really, really, like this lens and can only imagine how much I am going to enjoy the 70-200 LOL!!
I shoot with this lens quite a bit; here’s a recent one of an adorable family who have now become wonderful friends!

I’ve also finally figured out what I love to shoot and where I want my business to go in the long term: Weddings. I love weddings so much!! It’s such an amazing, special day and I can’t believe i get to be a part of some of them. I find it’s the most satisfying to me too. I love the documentary style of the getting ready shots and the ceremony & reception, and the wild, creative, romantic, styled shots of the bride & groom and bridal party during formals. I have 16 weddings booked for this year, with my first one being only 2 weeks away!! I can’t believe how blessed I am. I never thought that a mother’s day gift a couple of years ago would turn into this ridiculously, crazy adventure that helps me to earn an income AND have my own hours!! I’m so thankful too for the support of my hubby, family and friends. I know a bunch of you probably get sick of hearing about all of my photography conundrums, but believe me, you’re so appreciated 🙂 Ok, enough of the sentimental interlude, i was going here for a reason. Now that I have this focus on weddings, I have to make sure I have all the gear I need to make each wedding successful, diverse and interesting. And, because my kids got ahold of my 35mm and it went kaput, I no longer had a wide angle, which is not just a nice thing to have, it’s a necessity for weddings. And there was no point re-purchasing this lens because I now also own the D600 which is a full frame camera, and the 35mm 1.8 is designed for a crop sensor… So the search was on! I ended up purchasing the 14-24mm 2.8 which i am ridiculously excited about.

24mm is a great focal length for indoor shooting – getting ready, ceremony etc, and 14mm? You can get some crazy, distorted amazingness with that!! I took a bunch of pics of Parker around the house yesterday while B was in preschool to share how hilarious this lens can be – check out our legs!!!!!

So good times are ahead with this lens, I can feel it 🙂
Oh and we can’t forget the Lensbaby!!
This is a lens that I learned about very early on, and loved right away, but I knew it was a lens that would only get pulled out very occaisonally because of the very specific look it produces. Plus, it’s a manual focus lens, so it’s got a fairly tricky learning curve. Anyways, it got added to my wish list, and gathered dust. buuuuttt, thanks to my amazing hubby and wonderful mother!! I got it for Christmas!! I’m absolutely LOVING it, and can’t wait to get better with it 🙂

ANYYYYYYYWAY. That was a LOT of talking, and probably an overload of information, but the point I want to make is don’t buy gear unless you get to the point in your photography where you feel like you can longer accomplish the vision you have in your head, or you’re starting to notice things in your photography that are just not up to par with how you think they should be. it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting the best gear, and all the latest fun things, and new lenses etc etc, but if you don’t even know what they are going to do differently for you, then there’s no point at all. I’d be more than happy to help if you are having a specific issue, or if you are looking into a new lens. Good luck and happy shooting!!

  • Marilyn

    Hey Jete,
    Are you at all familiar with the canon t1i?
    Would you be willing to give me some pointers some time?ReplyCancel

    • urbanfig

      Hey Marilyn! I’m not familiar with Canon at all, but what kind of pointers are you looking for? Feel free to email or Facebook me!ReplyCancel

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