Into a new life with photography!


Mu-43 Regular
Dec 16, 2013
Helsinki, Finland
Hi all!

This post might be a little long, so I will state here that I do have a few miscellaneous question that you can find at the bottom of the post. So if don't have the time to read it all but still feel like helping out you can scroll down there! Also, I would really appriciate feedback on the few photos on this post. If you want to give feedback on my other selected photos from the last 1,5 years (25 pics on the flickr account, added today in no particular order or labeling), feel free to do so and post here :)

Also, if you have similar experiences from recent years or from a more distant past, please share with us! It's always nice to hear how others have found themselves in photography.

The point of this post is for me to come forward with my experiences as a budding photography enthousiast (1,5 years in the making). You know, the stuff I have learned, the stuff I haven't and most of all, how this hobby has really touched me and changed the way I look at the world. Most of all this post is for my self-reflection. To start out here is a portrait photo that I took last summer.

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To tell you the truth I hadn't thought about colours or images for the majority of my youth (I'm not 24). I have red–green color blindness, I don't know how much but I found out when I was in my teens. If someone doesn't know, that sort of color blindness means usually that some colors (red, green and brown for me) might get mixed up when it's dark or they are mixed in a sea of semi-similar colors. That might have something to do with my prejudice agains colors, but I'm no therapist. 3 years ago I was on tour with a lovely lady (I'm a dancer/dance teacher) who was an art student and she would always notice all the beautiful lights and colors all around us. At first I was like "ok, good for you". Then it struck me: the world is filled with beautiful lights, colours, settings and most of all, people. I realized that I don't really have any photos of anything, nor does anyone else. All the photos of past events are on "someone's" wall on facebook and are due to disappear any month for whatever reason. Not to mention the quality of the photos if you copy/paste them from the web browser. I had some money at my disposal and took a chance. I bought an Olympus E-PL3 and started going at it! I had no mentionable experience with cameras, I just took some time and looked up the differences and ultimately landed on the E-PL3. It was awesome! I liked the camera and started practicing with all the settings. I looked up instructions on youtube to guide me around PASM etc and after a short while I succeeded in taking photos without the auto mode! I chose m43 because I knew I wouldn't use the camera that much if it wasn't a mirrorless and there seemed to be plenty of lens choises in the m43 department. I don't mean to start a discussion about the formats, those were just the view of a persons starting out! :)

After a short while I started understanding the effect aperture plays in the mechanism and decided that I need more (or actually less) of it! I searched for awhile and stumbled upon Olympus 45mm/1.8. Man I loved that baby! Still, do! There's no way my hobby would have continued the way it did without this lens. It was cheap enough that I could make myself pay for it and man, is it gorgeous! I started taking better and better photos (both artistically and technically) and loved taking them more and more every step of the way. As I said, one of the reasons for this hobby was that I wanted good photos, good memories, that I could go back to after the years. Then one of my friends got married and had a baby and I took my camera to both the bachelor party and the party for the newborn (don't know the english name but the party with just the guys). I captured so many great moments and feelings! And the fact that my friends loved my work made them even more precious. I got a few group photos that were both gorgeus and unique and I was amazed at myself. At that moment I realized what a gem of a hobby I had found. I haven't posted any too personal photos on the flickr account but here is one of the photos from that time that made me realize how great it is to be able to have fast shutter speeds! It's not the best photo (I don't want to invade the privacy of our bachelor party) but it gives an idea of what I mean.

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At first I just practiced and took photos of our friends, their cats/dogs and miscellaneous objects. I didn't even use Lightroom, just JPEGS. I had seen the RAW thing as something a little scary, until I realized that I had to learn it to make my stuff really shine! At that moment I just went for it and I really haven't looked back since. Even a slight post-process in LR can mean the world if done right. Of course, sometimes I took it too far but still, it was a shole new world of possibilities! Then my (now ex-) girlfriend asked if I could take some promotion photos for their dance shows. I was a little stressed as that was my first try with actually shooting with models. Well of course I said yes (they were a beautiful duo ;) ) and even though I look at the pictures now and see how much I could've done better and how, I'm still proud that I took them with just 6 months of practice behind me. Here are two from that photoshoot, the second is an actual promo, the first is an artistic portrait.

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I started going to the nature a bit more that I normally do. In the autumn I said one morning that "the weather is so good, I'll just go for a quick walk with my camera, won't be long so I don't even need me cellphone!" In the end, I was gone for over two hours. I ended up walking up and down the tramlines (carefully, of course, and without causing danger to anyone) and at one point I found myself crawling on the sidewalk next to a crowded bus stop looking for a better angle. That was no the only time I lost myself in photography, I had really fallen with love. As I said, I'm a dancer (I also study musicology) so I have to be artistic for a living (well, sorta). So it just feels so good to just let myself go and be artistic in a way that doesn't involve the same kind of monetary motivations or stress of achievement. Here is a photo from my second walk last autumn.

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After using the Oly 45mm for a year I started yearning for a wider-angle lens. After a huge amount of background work I ended up buying the Panasonic 20mm/1.7 II lens. It all started out good; the lens was sharp and yielded good photos, but in the end I always got the feeling that the subjects of my photos disappeared into the scenery. Now I understand that thre were two reasons for that: 1) I didn't get close enough or otherwise didn't know how to work with that focal length and 2) I wasn't looking for a focal lenght that wide after all. I tried a friend's full-frame 50mm lens at it immediately felt like home. I decided to change lenses! I'm going to change the P20 to the new Olympus 25mm/1.8 lens this Sunday and I'm really looking forward to it! It wasn't that the P20 wouldn't have been a great lens, it was just not the thing I was looking for and I don't have the money to own something that expensive that I don't tend to use. I did get a few good shots with it, here's my favorite that is not too personal or otherwise unsettling.

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This January-February I attended a photography course at the local Adult Educational Institute. I jumped directly to the advanced course titled "Artistic Photography" as I knew that I handled the basics pretty well. It was the right decicion and I can really vouch for that kind of courses for every beginning photographer! It is so good for your own growth to talk about photos and photography with other beginners and teachers. I got some amazing views from the course and more ideas to use in photography. The one thing I'm really bad at is flash photography. I recently bought an Sunpak 433D manual flash that I've been trying out. It has been great and I love the results when I succeed in bouncing the flash perfectly but it's still a long way for me. I know a manual flash might be hard for a beginner but I want to "master" the manual first before going to the ttl's or whatevery they are called. Here is one at least decent flash photo from 4 months ago. I took it at our friends' moving-in party so it wasn't set up or prepped in any other way than by putting the flash with a radio trigger in the corner beforehand.

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At this moment I'm really looking forward to photography becoming an even bigger part in my life. It has given me so much already; I can see the colors, the lights, the shadows and the moments of everyday life in a completely different way than ever before. I see stories all around me; I see a persons hopes and dreams when angling for an empty shoe, I see the full beauty of a womans body in the detail of her neck, I see the sadness in a hand looking for another. One thing that I have really noticed is that I like to capture the essence something that is not present in the actual pictures. I'm still practicing this style but I just love even playing with the idea.

I'm really satisfied with my gear (after I get the O25) but I'm thinking about upgrading for the E-P5 body for the 2x2 dials, better sensor etc. After that, I would only need a wide-angle lens (maybe the O17, haven't really thought about it) and a TTL flash and that would be it for my needs. I try to be reasonable with the gear and only get what I can use or need. I'm happy that there are cameras such as the E-PL3 as they are within everyone's reach and they work really great even for demanding work so they are not toys. Without a camera like that on the market I might not have gotten into this, and that would have been a shame.

To end my story, here is a very recent portrait I took of a burlesque dancer. I tried some PP and I think it worked alright.

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As I said in the beginning I do have some questions, so here goes:
- Do you know of some really good guides on flash use? I'm looking for videos mostly (preferably youtube).
- Any suggestions for a photo trip? I live in Finland and I'm looking for places in Europe that are safe, cheap and have great photography possibilities! Nature, people, street, buildings etc.
- Any suggestions on my equiptment?

As every self-respecting photographer needs to take a few pics of an animal, here's one ;)

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Please feel free to comment on my photos (preferably here, as the album in flickr is not searchable anyways and I use it just to store the images)! I know my technique is lacking and I'm still developing my artistic vision but I would really appriciate any and all feedback. :)

Best regards
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