If you believe the online forums you can only shoot action or sport with a Canon EOS 1d X or a Nikon 4D with very expensive f2.8 lenses. At the very least you should be using a Nikon 500d or Canon EOS 7d Mkii because it is impossible to use anything else. I have to say this is like most things written by the denizens of photography forums complete and utter rubbish.
I started photographing rodeo with a Canon EOS 300d and an EF 75-300mm f3.5-5.6 IS lens. Hardly state of the art sports equipment back in 2005. The buffer for RAW was 6 frames and it did a massive 3fps and there was no continuous auto focus when shooting RAW – you could only get that in the sports picture mode which then limited you to shooting jpg.
The next big jump up was the Canon EOS 5d. Again no sports shooting, terrible buffer, slow frame rate and apparently the AF couldn’t cope with anything but a slow walking bride on a bright day.
Today we have the advent of mirrorless cameras. The cognoscenti say that only a DSLR with an optical viewfinder can capture action, mirrorless cameras cannot and will not do it. Well as I said at the beginning there is a lot of rubbish spouted on photography forums. I follow Nike’s advice – “Just Do It!”
On 22 August 2015 the Canon EOS 5d turned ten years old – my own 5d turned 10 last week. Now they reckon dog years are seven for every human year. In terms of digital photography I reckon ten years equates to over a hundred human years as technology has advanced so fast. Despite that the original 5d, or if you want to really annoy the anally retentive Canon fan bois over on the DPReview forums the 5d Classic, is still more than a capable camera, in fact I would go onto say that if you don’t shoot video and don’t print any larger than A3+ you don’t need anything else. If all you do is post shots on Flickr and Facebook then I would say you’re over gunned and look for a Canon EOS 300d! Why was it so special – well it was the first “affordable” dSLR with a 35mm sized sensor. That meant a lot back in 2005 because a lot photo enthusiasts and pros had cut their teeth shooting 35mm film and had got used to a certain look with particular focal lengths. The advent of the cropped sized sensor (APS-C for Canon and DX for Nikon) meant that we couldn’t just look at a scene and say that calls for a 85mm lens, or a 24mm lens. No we had all these funny focal lengths and the other annoying thing was the camera and lens manufacturers didn’t populate their lens line ups with high quality cropped factor lenses – a fact that is still true today. So when the 5d was announced I thought at last I can get my favourite focal lengths back. I literally ran to my then favourite retailer PRA and placed my order. Since then my 5d has been in constant use, there are some 14,000 images in my Lightroom catalogue taken with that camera and it hasn’t missed a beat. It still gets used on a regular basis because those 12.8 Mp render an image beautifully. Many of the cameras detractors said that it had an atrocious auto focus system but I never had any problems with mine.
A lot of people complain that Canon sensors are crippled when it comes to dynamic range, again it has never been something that has caused me any problems.
Long exposures such as the shot above and below didn’t cause any problems, just a little judicious use of noise reduction software in post.
As I said earlier I’m still happily using the camera after ten years and in that time quite a few other cameras have come and gone. I think the EOS5d deserves the appellation Classic because it helped a lot of photographers recover their preferred means of working with focal lengths, it quickly became a mainstay of a lot of working photographers, and it established the idea of the prosumer full frame sensor in camera market. Will it last another ten years? I don’t think so as a working camera. The problem is that the spares are no longer manufactured to keep the camera going. I’ll still continue to use mine until it fails but not as a mission critical camera.
As always clicking on an image will take you through to my online gallery.
We all love a bargain and what better bargain is there when it is absolutely free? There’s no doubt about it – photography can be an incredibly expensive pastime. The cost of a pro body, the so-called holy trinity of 2.8 zooms, and some fast primes could pay for you to do a degree or buy a good car. The real kicker is that as soon as the latest models come out your kit is “made” redundant and stops taking good photos so you have to do it all over again. Insane isn’t it? Well I have the answer for you and it won’t cost a single penny. Actually I have to confess that I didn’t devise this myself, a clever Hungarian bloke by the name of André Friedman is responsible for it and it goes like this:
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
Mrs Friedman’s little boy changed his name to Robert Capa because he felt having an American sounding name would earn him more money (it did), he went on to found the famous photo agency Magnum (so named after the size of champagne bottle he was fond of buying), one of the most famous and highly regarded conflict photographers in the world, and one that is arguably the most controversial as many believe that his most famous works are fakes. Chris Boot in his excellent book “Magnum Stories” (and I would recommend any serious photographer to at least read this book or better still buy it) wrote:
“Capa’s photography is all about being there, close. His art lay in risking where to be and when, in how he built and conducted the relationships that enabled him to be there, and in how he shaped and presented the narrative of events he witnessed.”
Boot, Chris; Magnum Stories p.66. Phaidon, New York 2004.
So does it mean that we all have to pack our bags and head for the nearest God forsaken war zone just to get some decent photos? Have no fear gentle reader we at Paul Amyes Photography (PAP) know that pain hurts and death can be fatal and so prefer to find our photographic subjects in safer environments. So what was Capa on about? Well firstly you should be in close proximity to your subject so that it fills the frame. There are times when the subject (i.e. wildlife or sports) may dictate that you use a long lens, but the principle still holds true position yourself so you can fill the frame. Generally the most drama can be had by using wide angled lenses and filling the frame. It gives impact and intimacy. While speaking of intimacy get to know your subject really well and look to capture a side of it that isn’t so well-known. It may be necessary to find people who can help you gain access to a subject and that these relationships may need to be cultivated over a period of time so you can build trust. For quite a while I followed the rodeo circuit around in Western Australia. I just didn’t want the standard pictures of the participants in the ring, I wanted to get behind the chutes to where the contestants got ready. I wanted to experience and so record the emotions that they felt – the tension, the elation, the sense of relief, and the disappointment. It took a lot of emails, phone calls, and offers of photos for publicity to get there, but it was so worth it. Some photographers choose to live like their subjects in order to get that closeness. Magnum photographer Antoine d’Agata is one such photographer. He photographs people on the margins of society such as sex workers and drug addicts and he participates fully in their world.
“It’s not how a photographer looks at the world that is important. It’s their intimate relationship with it. ”
His work is confronting to say the least and his approach may and subject matter may not be to everyone’s taste but the images are arresting and powerful.
So improving your photography considerably won’t require you to spend a penny on equipment, but it will cost you in terms of time, commitment, and perhaps a bit of courage.
As a middle-aged bloke taking pictures of kids in public is fraught with difficulties, but in situations such as this you just have to summon up the courage and ask the parent.
This young cowboy is nervously waiting behind the chutes for his turn in the bull riding competition. Forming relationships with the organisers of the rodeos was the only way I was going to get access to these moments.