Getting Started

As with anything, getting started in photography begins with a conscious decision to embark on what could become a life-changing endeavour. While growing up, I was exposed to more than just the photography seen in the local newspapers, the various magazines around the house, or the snaps taken by neighbours. My father and his brothers were long-time photography enthusiasts and I was able to glimpse back to far away places years before my birth.

My first camera was a Christmas gift from my parents; a Kodak 110mm Instamatic. The local drug store would gladly develop what usually turned out to be a less than inspiring set of photos. A couple of years later, I received a Ricoh XR7 35mm SLR. What a step up.

It was with the XR7 that I learned the holy trilogy of photography; the association between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Of course, in those days, ISO was determined by the film you loaded into the camera, with little you could do about it until the end of the roll. You had a lot more options when it came to the aperture and the shutter.

I took the Ricoh with me every time I went anywhere important. I shot 26 rolls of film during a trip to the United Kingdom and France. Though I produced a lot of not bad images, I was still learning the art of photography. Considering the expense of developing film, there was little incentive to experiment beyond getting a properly composed, in-focus image which was correctly exposed. It’s probably why I favour photographs today which have had very little post processing and manipulation done to them.

As much as I loved the Ricoh, it wasn’t a practical camera for rugged use. During my time in the Army, I carried a compact 35mm camera which fit into the top pocket of my combat uniform. With a fixed lens and point-and-shoot simplicity, it worked for what I needed it to do, but there was no altering what it would produce.

With the advent of digital cameras, the art form became instantly available to a much wider population. The early cost of the cameras still put them out of reach of a lot of people, but there was no putting the genie back into the bottle. I borrowed an early Canon Rebel from a friend for a weekend in 2001. The photo quality was pretty good and the controls mimicked those of a 35mm camera, but it was the ability to adjust the ISO on the fly which was the biggest difference.

Depending on the light conditions and availability, you were able to open or close the aperture and/or quicken or slow the shutter. Now you could increase or decrease the ISO setting. Of course, at the time the digital ISO technology was new and too much ISO, usually above 1600, and the grain of the photo became pronounced. But still, it gave the photographer another option to get the shot.

Between my first exposure (pardon the pun) to digital cameras and buying my own, I continued to use my Ricoh XR7. A trip to England in late 2001 highlighted the need to move to digital. My cousin gave me a tour of our ancestral city of Carlisle one day. I discovered, after continually shooting the various homes and locales of previous generations, that I had not loaded a roll of film into the camera. We had to duplicate the tour the next day. It would still be a couple of years before I replaced the film camera.

My first digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 2200. I still have it. It wasn’t long, though, that the down side of digital became apparent. What to do with all the images. It is something which I still struggle with today.

I next purchased a Fuji FinePix S series. I can’t remember what model it was, but it had 12x optical zoom, which was a large advancement over the Nikon Coolpix. I have since given it away to my sister, who still uses it.

To replace the Fuji, my wife bought me a Nikon D5000. My first digital SLR came with the 18-55mm and 55-200mm zoom lenses. After much use, I wasn’t happy with the photo quality and a few other things with the camera. When I could, I traded in the D5000 at Henry’s Camera and upgraded to the newly released D5200, which was receiving a lot of good reviews. It was a good move.

I next traded in the 55-200mm kit lens for a Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6. It gave me that extra reach and I think provides much better optical results than the previous zoom.

As business grew and the events multiplied, I was presented with the challenge of the lens change. Shooting basketball, for example, I was faced with the need for shooting both ends of the court while being restricted, for the most part, to one of the baselines. The purchase of a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D helped greatly with the often low light situations of the indoor sporting arena. But, switching between a zoom and the prime lens was a time-consuming pain.

It was time for a second body. It didn’t make sense to change horses mid-stream and purchase a full frame “pro” style camera. The current lenses could have been accommodated with a full frame body, but the sensor would have been under utilized. More on that in another post. It also didn’t make any sense to switch brands. That would have required a total re-population, at much cost, of my lens selection.

My wife again came to the rescue and bought me the Nikon D5500. Again with many good reviews, the D5500 has proven to me to be very versatile with advanced photo quality. For basketball I would have the 50mm prime on one body and the 70-300mm on the other, usually the D5500 because it better handles the higher ISO settings.

For football, I use a 17-55mm f2.8 on the D5200 and a Nikon 200-400mm, on loan from my friend John Skinner. If you check out John’s Flickr stream you’ll see me shooting the Road and Track Performance Car of the Year at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The same combination of 17-55mm and 200-400mm also played a large role in shooting the Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix, International Champions Cup soccer action at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbour, the NCAA’s Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit, and during wildlife excursions.

I now write for and provide imagery to Square Media Group as well as accepting freelance photographic assignments. In addition, I have contributed to media organizations, sporting groups, and individuals across North America including the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Chatham-Kent Sports Network, League 1 Ontario, as well as numerous colleges and universities in Canada and the United States.

This entry was posted in News.

One Comment

  1. John Skinner 18 April 2017 at 15:40 #

    I wanted to be the first to enter on your blog Ian for a few reasons..

    Our tales from the past are not unfamiliar with each other is their starting roots. And as in your situation, despite years of photographing weddings and Southwestern Ontario / Lower Michigan sporting events, to steal a line from American Graffiti movie ‘my ID (photos/negatives) were all lost in a flood’. So starting over with digital and digital storage is where I’m at. I do take issue with your take on post work.

    Being the manager of a large commercial lab for over 3 years, I can tell you that there was plenty of ‘post work’ done on those 110 images, and any others that come through our doors. Without color correction and exposure comp.. You wouldn’t have had what we delivered to you! So think of your RAW file as that negative, and all the small tweaks needed to bring out the best of highlights and shadows.. It’s food for thought.

    Congrats on bring up a new venue to show your work moving forward. I look forward to reading and enjoying all of the images you produce. – Cheers Mate

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