Israel and How I Became a Photographer

Well, I don’t have any great photos from the last few weeks so here’s a post that looks back at the beginning of my photography career. After graduating high school in 2006 I spent nine months in Israel on a program called Workshop. It was organized by Habonim Dror, the progressive Zionist youth movement I belonged to. A few months before the trip I got my first DSLR, an Olympus E-500. I did not have a strong interest in photography prior to my time abroad and probably would not have taken it up had it not been for Workshop. I had not looked at these photos in some time so I pulled out my old CDs (cuz that’s how I rolled back in the day), made myself some tea (cuz that’s how I roll now), and took a trip into nostalgia.

It was interesting to see how far my photography has changed in five years. Man, my old photos sucked.  Some of you reading this may disagree, and you are entitled to your wrong opinions, but most of my old photos were mediocre at best. Although it is rewarding to look back at your mistakes and see that you have improved. That being said I found 25 gems I liked enough to post. You can find them further below. Most were re-cropped and toned.

A problem I had was that my standard zoom lens broke a few weeks in country and I had to ship it back to the US for repair. I did not see that lens again for six months and got stuck with a telephoto lens for much of the year. This may have limited my development since that lens covered the focal lengths I use most often today. In fact many of my favorite shots were taken in my last two months in Israel after I got the lens back.

Here are a few points to new photographers to avoid some of the same mistakes I did:

1.Learn how to use the settings and controls on your camera.

I spent most of my year in Israel shooting with the automatic settings on my camera and it was only near the end that I bothered to read the manual. The auto settings are nice, but they can’t read your mind and adjust to the way you want to capture a photo. The camera can get confused by different light sources and under or over-expose a shot. Sometimes the camera will try to expose by lowering the shutter speed, creating blurry images.  Also, shooting in auto mode is no different from taking photos with a small point-and-shoot camera. Having a big camera does not make your photos better, it’s the photographer that counts and the advantage of having a DSLR is that it can let you have more creative control over your photos.

2.Save your original files.

That is, the photos strait from the camera. When you upload your photos you will want to do all sorts of fun things with them; mess with the colors, make them black and white, etc. While this is all well and good you need to remember to not save over the original photo. If you make a mistake or want to re-tone the image you will be stuck with an adjusted copy that does not retain some of the original information. I have photos that I realize now have too much contrast or saturation but my ability to fix them is limited.

Saving photos was a bit difficult for me at the time, as my laptop only had 50 GB of memory and I did not have an external hard drive. I had a small number of CDs to burn and therefore needed to narrow down what could be saved. Few of those were the original files since I preferred to keep the images I changed in Picasa. Today this is much less of a problem now that computers have greater storage and external memory is more affordable.

3. Do not use in-camera filters.

                 *Although this photo is cool.

Along with saving your original files, it would be best to avoid any artistic filters inside the camera. My Olympus let me shoot black and white photos in different colored filters, like blue, sepia and green. A lot of low-end cameras now even have selective coloring filters. These filters can be fun but they lead to two problems. First, if you take a black and white photo, you are stuck with a black and white photo. This in itself is not too bad; people shoot black and white film all the time. But they don’t have a choice while with digital, you do. After looking through your photos a few hours later you may realize that they would have looked better in color.

This leads to my second point: that you can do these things on a computer. In fact, the in-camera software usually isn’t very good so it is better to tone your photos on editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. If those programs are too expensive for you, Google offers a free program called Picasa that you can download.

Wow, that was a pretty long post. My longest yet, I believe. Now let’s look at some photos:

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