The experience of a lifetime.
I remember my first DSLR, it was a Nikon D7000 that I got because I had a pact with my mother that if I scored 80% or more in my class XII finals, she would buy me a good camera (little did she know what it was going to cost her later on).
Yes, I was absolutely crazy about cameras specially a DSLR. I had never till then seen a DSLR from very close, it had always been like… “There is a person… probably from the papers who has a DSLR there, near the stage, I wonder if that is a Nikon D90 or a Canon… Oh God he just went backstage…better luck next time, toodles”.
The first time:
When I first held my first DSLR camera I knew very little about it. That little knowledge came from over a year of YouTube videos and a crap load of blogs that I had read before finally deciding that it was this camera that I wanted to buy.
From where I was looking, my camera looked like a fortress. I know it sounds kind of funny but that is the first word that came to my mind. For me it looked like this digital fortress (no it has no relation to Dan Brown’s book) which is capable of so much and I knew so little about it.
I shuffled through the manual a few times, looking at the camera every now and then trying to figure out exactly what I was reading about. There was probably no single moment in that entire period when I was not amazed. At first, the camera looked absolutely drenched in buttons. I was totally baffled. Later I discovered that the camera had additional functions that could be executed by using the buttons in various permutations and combinations. I was like….“this is more than my entire year’s syllabus…how am I supposed to remember all of that, employ it and then make great shots?”
Then came the changes:
But things got easier from there. The camera stayed the same; the buttons did the same tasks; what changed was my attitude towards this whole new learning curve. This single change in my attitude changed so much for me and my photography.
I realized that this should not look like a Herculean task to me. I like taking pictures and I love cameras. I wanted a camera all my life where I could tell it what to do and not the other way round. If there are more functions that the camera can perform that is in fact good news, since once I learn how to master them, I will be able to photograph almost anything.
I began spending time learning about my first DSLR, my new camera everyday after college. Gradually, I started learning. I started putting my new found knowledge into practice and very soon I had a few good shots. Nearly all my friends then had my photographs (shots) of them as their display pictures on Facebook. I was the ‘official photographer’ of the group. It felt great. However that feeling did not last very long.
Street Photography beckoned me then:
Of all the forms of photography, what I was really drawn into was Street Photography. Nothing was staged, nothing was ‘fake’ or otherwise tampered with. It was life personified. The challenge was that you had to have the guts to photograph unknown people, mostly trying to be invisible. You cannot control your subjects, your light your environment, NOTHING, but you have to come up with good photographs at the end of the day.
James Nachtwey, the great American Photojournalist was a source of great inspiration for me. The images that I saw online of various other Street Photographers were simply amazing. They were up close, absolutely uninhibited and exquisite. It seemed as if the photographer was a ghost and no one even saw him there. Those pictures could say so much in a single frame. I wondered when I would be even 5% as good as them.
During my initial days, I used to look at many a photographer’s portfolio all the time but after a while, I stopped. What had happened was that these images were somehow filtering through into my pictures. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what exactly but the essence was very similar to those images that I used to look up to all the time.
It goes without saying that my pictures were not even 1% of those incredible photographs. Plus the atmosphere and environment were totally different but even then something inside me didn’t feel right. I had subconsciously started to ‘copy’ my hero’s work. From then on, I rarely looked at someone else’s portfolio. I would rather have absolutely rotten ‘Adi’ (the name that I sign my photographs with) images than be a good copy of someone else’s work, however great. I wanted to find my own style and I did not want anyone else to have an influence on it. Still I believe this should be the case for everyone. Even if you do it in a different way than I did.
Be a bad original than a good copy of someone. Work hard on YOUR own style, and then who knows maybe someday somebody would be trying to emulate you. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back that day!