Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying a New Camera

Do you bring your camera everywhere?

Even if don’t count yourself amongst the pros,  you do bring a powerful tool with you most places if you carry a smartphone. This is actually a great way to start getting the hang of composition and timing as a novice. But to take serious photos, you’ll need to develop an understanding of the sometimes daunting specs such as ISO and f-numbers.

Once you gain at least a peripheral understanding of what these descriptors mean, you’re better equipped to manage the array of choices as your venture to buy a new toy.

Let’s dive into details.

1. How much are you willing to spend?

This should be the first question you answer before you make a responsible decision about your camera.  Are you an amateur photographer? Do you just want to snap pictures of friends when you’re hanging out? Then there are great cameras under $300; in fact consider learning how to use your phone as camera if you’re not ready to invest in a new professional camera.

brendan filice photography iphone

 

The best cameras, DSLRs (digital single lens reflex), will set you back a few thousand dollars, but are a smart investment if you’re planning to get into photography professionally.

2. Do you need all these megapixels?

A megapixel is composed of the millions of tiny squares of colors (pixels) that line your image, horizontally and vertically (think of square footage), that compute to give you the square pixelage of the picture. Up to a certain point, megapixels do matter. But only to a certain extent. The highest megapixels only matter if you plan to blow up your photo to huge proportions and need to maintain the quality of the original shot.

 3. What are you willing to carry with you?

Some high-end cameras are bulky and require complicated set-up; such as tripods. However, this gear often gets you images with great quality. The camera really has to fit your style and your lifestyle. If you aren’t going to be proud showing off that camera every time you pull it out of the bag, then chances are you won’t use it as often as you’d like.

4. Do you hate asking, “Can I charge this here?”

Most cameras have rechargeable batteries and you’ll want to know how often you’ll have to glue yourself to an outlet.

5. Which features are essential?

brendan filice settings photo camera

Cameras nowadays have tons of figures; some have dozens of specific details that will alter the outcome of your shot. Image stabilization, fast focus, easy manual override and even wifi and printer connectivity are just several options. If you’re trying to shoot action photos, you’ll need features for fast focus and stabilization. Are you freelancing and need to print often? Consider portable wifi and printer models.

These are just a snapshot of the questions to ask yourself when buying a new camera. Make the right investment for your lifestyle! Check out my Twitter @brendan_filice for the latest.

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Easy Riding

Just a typical lazy afternoon in California; skating with some friends. More to come. Follow on Twitter for the latest!

 

Even if you’re not a skater, you can appreciate the skills from some of the best skaters. It’s an impressive sport. Check out some awesome skateboarding legacies:

Jay Adams

Gonz

Tony Hawk

P-Rod

Eric Koston

The Defining Images of Photojournalism

Photography defines how we remember critical historical events. Whether its the tragedy of war or famous portraits of leaders, photography has become the ultimate form of news since its creation in the mid-19th century.

However, photography is changing. We now are filming ourselves nonstop, with Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, and other apps that keep us vigilantly connected to friends and family.

New York Times columnist James Estrin speaks to social media’s affect on photography. There are two notable changes. One, it is creating a vast new audience that can appreciate photography (consider Instagram). Two, it is changing what we share; the majority of pictures circulated is about ourselves, our friends, and families (consider selfies).

Teju Cole’s “On Photography” column in the NY Times has addressed the influence of photojournalism throughout history. Images that may seem simple now; for example, the dancing legs of three African boys gracing the sand as the ocean splashes their feet, inspired artistic masters to go out and capture the “eternity through the moment.”

Without photographers to help us define our world, where would be? How would we understand our vast history — in moments dark and bright?

“Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality…One can’t possess reality, one can possess images — one can’t possess the present but one can possess the past.”

– Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977)

Let’s take a moment to look back at some of the most influential photographers and their iconic images.

Roger Fenton

Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855)

Fenton was one earliest to capture the war’s effects on film to be brought to the public. He traveled from Britain in 1853 to the document the war on Crimean peninsula, where England, France, and Turkey were embattled in a territorial fight against Russia. This photo is famously free from any dead or wounded bodies. This avoided offending Victorian sensibilities, but the natural landscape littered with cannonballs evokes the wasted tragedy of the war.

Mathew Brady

Confederate Dead Gathered for Burial at Antietam (1862)

 

Matthew Brady and team didn’t actually have quite the technical ability to photograph the the civil war battles in action, but his haunting visions of the aftermath of major battles like Antietam and Gettysburg perhaps forever defined the public’s relationship with warfare; and journalism.

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky

Mohammed Alim Khan (1880-1944)

Prokudin-Gorsky’s talent as a chemist helped him pioneer some of earliest color photographs of the diverse culture and history of the Russian empire.

Jacob Riis

Bayard St. Tenement, NYC, 1889

Jacob Riis was a Danish-American social reformer who believed that goodhearted citizens would help the poor when they saw for themselves “how the other half” lived. His work was turned into a groundbreaking book in the muckraking movement.

Dorothea Lange

Florence Owens Thompson (1936)

In one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century, Dorotea Lange captured the muted fear of a migrant mother during the Great Depression in the American West.

Robert Frank

The Americans (1958-1960)

As a Swiss Jew venturing across the US at the height of the Cold War, Frank captured a subtle honesty in his portrayal of the American people ;  black and white, poor, middle, and upper class , in the  cities and countryside. The Americans is arguably the best visual critique of modern society from an outsider’s perspective produced in the twentieth century.

Nick Ut

Napalm Girl (1972)

Nick Ut captured what would become a Pulitzer Prize winning photo for the Associated Press. It showcases the utter terror of war, as children run from a Napalm bombing during the Vietnam War, ripping their clothes of from the extreme heat. If we consider the earlier photos listed here, it’s evident that we still live with a culture of violence; and we rely on these photographs to come to a better understanding of these moments.

Find more from Brendan Filice on Medium and Twitter.

The World’s Most Picturesque Mountains

Sunrise_on_Mount_Shasta
Mount Shasta, CA: Sunrise

 

What places are you dying to see in your life? What are the destinations you think would inspire you beyond belief?

I’ve compiled a list of fifteen amazing mountains that not only are a favorite for photographers around the world, but have been sacred relics for people for thousands of years.

What do you think are the world’s most amazing mountains?

 

Brendan’s list:

 

Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Elbrus, Russia
Tabletop Mountain, South Africa
Mount Shasta, California
Sugarloaf Mountain, Brazil
Mount Ararat, Turkey/Armenia
Matterhorn, Switzerland/Italy
Nevado Sajama, Bolivia
Galdhopiggen, Norway
Ama Dablan, Nepal
Mt. Kailiash, Tibet/China
Mount of the Holy Cross, Colorado
Harney Peak, South Dakota
Kirkjufell, Iceland
Patagonia Fitz Roy, Chile/Argentina

A Beginner’s Guide to Nature Photography

Finding your inner photographer is exciting. However, many beginners find themselves overwhelmed with the culture and community that defines photography, especially nature photography.

Finding your inner photographer is exciting. However, many beginners find themselves overwhelmed with the culture and community that defines photography, especially nature photography.

So what are some things you ought to know once you decide you want to pursue photography as a serious hobby?

  • Megapixels: Starting with a camera between 6 and 8 megapixels is ideal for beginners. It’s easy to be tricked into thinking that more megapixels contributes to higher quality photos, but as long as it’s a high quality camera it is actually more efficient to stay within this range.
  • Digital SLR vs Point and Shoot?: A digital SLR camera is a heftier option that offers more advanced settings and albeit higher quality photos. This isn’t usually the best camera to start with as a complete beginner because it’s a pretty serious investment and requires a bit of an education to start using. However, exposure to using a basic point-and-shoot digital camera is good preparation for an eventual upgrade to a digital SLR.
  • Camera settings: On your digital camera, play around with the different settings. On most devices, you’ll find macro, landscape, and portrait. Macro is great for getting up, close, and personal with subjects such as flowers and small animals. Landscape settings are capable of capturing a wide image with a faraway subject.

Get to know yourself and your subject.

  • Do you want to photograph flowers and foliage close up with detail? Are you trying to capture animals in their natural habitat? Are you fascinated with massive landscape images of storms, sunsets, mountain ranges? All of these situations require you to use your camera in a different way.

Two components to consider:

Light

  • Learn how to read the light. Shooting directly into the sun (meaning your subject is “backlit)” is generally misguided. You don’t want distracting shadows, extreme contrast, or light in the animal’s eyes.

Composition

  • What’s the best way to frame your photo? While you shouldn’t restrict your creativity to mathematical regiments, there are basic rules that will keep your composition following basic aesthetic guidelines.
  • Rule of Thirds: Draw 4 sets of lines to equally divided your frame into 9 equally sized rectangles. Where the lines intersect, trying placing your subject at the intersecting points.
  • Attract the eye: If the shot is too “busy,” your viewer will ultimately feel distracted and not enjoy your photograph.

 

I hope this guide gets you started!  Being able to capture the nature world on film (or digital..) is an amazing feeling.

Plus, there’s a big world of photography enthusiasts out there. Plus, now that digital sharing is so popular, like on Flickr, there’s an active community of photographers who are happy to share their skills with amateurs. This article was originally featured on: BrendanTaylorFilice.com

Why Can’t We Just Take a Walk?

Whenever I go anywhere, I see people with their heads down, on their phones.  People are playing Candy Crush, browsing through dating apps, and “Yelping” the best spot for dinner. We’re so addled by our second lives on our iPhone screens. I think most people recognize that it’s a distraction, but because it’s so second-nature, we’ve become complacent.

People nowadays will mock you for being hesitant of technology.  Especially in my millennial demographic, it’s “uncool” to “unplug.”  If you’re sitting with a group of friends at dinner and everyone has their phones out, comparing Instagrams or whatever it is, you feel awkward without a phone.  You awkwardly gaze at everyone, trying to keep up conversation but everyone keeps going back to their phones.  What did people do for fun 15 years ago? We are addicted to technology and this takes us from experiencing our world is scary.

While I worry about the trajectory of social relationships for people in my age group as authentic interaction gets replaced by technology, I try to remind myself that beauty still exists in the world for myself and for whoever dares to embrace it.

My favorite thing to do is to go somewhere – anywhere – without my phone.

This doesn’t sound very revolutionary but for a lot of people this is unthinkable. How will they get to their destination without a map? What about listening to music? What about beating high scores on their game?  What if there’s something they need to photograph and post immediately? Or tweet?

We have to be able to let go of all of these preoccupations.  Why are we controlled by these impulses?  For just a few hours, turn off your phone and go to the library, go to your favorite park, go downtown – and just experience it for what life is.  Observe people as they walk by.  Be conscious of sound – what are people talking about? Do you hear animals? Do you hear machines, too?  There are so many noises that go into our experience that we don’t notice when we have ear buds in.  Breathe deeply – what odors define these places? With every inhale, remind yourself of your purpose.  It’s an awesome way to stay grounded and remind yourself that there’s no need to be on your phone all the time.  Lastly – look around, observe everything in your path.  Let yourself get lost instead of obediently following Google maps.  You can always ask someone for directions (yes, a real person).

My favorite exercise is to jot down what I observe on these strolls.  I always notice that I have more to reflect on when I have a phone-free day compared to days when I’m obsessively on my phone.  What is there to take note of, “Lots of things happened on the Internet today!” compared to “Met gracious strangers, played with two dogs, helped a neighbor with their barbecue.”  Let’s stop caring about the second lives on our screens and remember our real lives in the the very tangible world..start by taking a walk.

An Adventure in Solitude

Brendan Filice Photography 1495

I can’t stop exploring.

I’ve been going out on hikes ever since I can remember.  There’s something awesome about getting out of school, leaving the suburban sprawl, and going on an afternoon stroll.

You push past low-hanging branches, climbing higher and higher (or lower, depending on your destination), you leap from boulder to soft patches of soil, maybe losing your balance and landing clumsily on your hands on the tough surfaces.  If you’re lucky, you pass a meadow blossoming with with fragrant wildflowers. You hear some some hurrying and scurrying in the grasses near you– it’s almost always a mouse or squirrel, but on a special day you catch sight of a coyote or a bear.

My favorite time of day, in the city or outside of it, is the brief hour between sunset and twilight.  This is a photographer’s happy hour. I always keep my Nikon on me to catch the unpredictable moments nature provides.

There is a wonderful solitude to being along in the hectic natural world.  Everything’s whirring about, bees heading to their hives, creeks running endlessly to an unidentifiable source, leaves gently falling.  It can almost feel noisy.  But for a human with a camera, it’s a time to be at peace and remember all the elements that make your life possible.

 

Please read my original post on my main site, BrendanTaylorFilice.com.