This post is the first part of our DSLR Photography 101 series. Also check out Part 2 – F What? Understanding F Stops and Part 3 – Be Aware of the Whole Picture: Composition.
There are certain basics to photography. It is not the camera, it is the photographer.
You don’t need a $2,000+ Canon digital single lens reflex(DSLR) camera to take good pictures.
DSLR Photography 101 – Part 1 – It’s Not the Camera, It’s You.
One of the favourite photos I ever took for work was with a cheap $150 Kodak point and shoot digital camera my company provided its reporters in 2002. It was a 2 megapixel model with a built in flash and you had +/- 3 exposure compensation (where you force the camera to take brighter or darker photos).
The photo itself was shot during a funeral for a local priest in Timmins, Ontario. But really, he was more than that. Fr. Les Costello was a Stanley Cup champion with the Toronto Maple Leafs before giving up his career for the priesthood.
But he eventually turned his love of hockey and helping people into the Flying Fathers, a group of priests who traveled the world raising money for charity for many decades.
No building in the city could accommodate the expected number of mourners for the funeral except for the McIntyre Arena, the local arena which was modeled as a small scale version of Maple Leaf Gardens.
Sadly, I don’t even have a copy of the photo anymore, though I remember exactly how it was taken, the fact that it wasn’t cropped (tech speak for modified or having sections removed) and it was printed across the entire front page. This was a rarity as typically the left-hand column of the front page was reserved for teaser boxes for other stories inside the newspaper.
The story of the photo goes like this. Being familiar with the arena from photographing dozens of hockey games inside, I knew the best spot in the whole arena for a panoramic, all-encompassing photo which showed the crowd, estimated at 2,000+, about a dozen priests on a stage and Costello’s coffin.
Of course, my spot was barricaded off and locked. Being an intrepid reporter and knowing what I wanted, I jumped over the locked gate and set up in the arena’s balcony.
It was an interesting setup. I had no tripod and not enough light to get the shot I wanted. The photos were blurry because my hands were moving.
The flash was making the photos darker because it was trying to lighten the entire arena. I knew it had to turn the flash off and use the natural, available light the arena was giving me.
So I started playing with the camera, adjusting settings as I went along. I maxed out the exposure compensation and started resting the camera on the safety rails of the balcony for stability. My angle was still off but I was working on it. At that time, we still often used film so I had a lid from a film canister in my work bag. With the extra half-inch of lift under the lens, I had my shot. All it took was one shot and I knew it. As soon as I looked in the back of the camera and saw my image, I knew it was the front page. Nothing else captured the entire funeral like that photo.
They say, a picture tells a thousand words. Well, it’s taken me 553 to describe the process of taking one of my all-time favourites.
Stay tuned as my next photography post will center around DSLR basics including F-stops, shutter speeds, depth of field and possibly taking good photos for marketing, though this may be in part 3.