It's obnoxious really.
It's flat-out freaking annoying, to be honest.
It's so painful, yet rewarding that the polarity of it could be comparable to someone with multiple-personality disorder letting both personalities decide which side gets to eat its favorite flavor of ice cream.
Epic brain freeze.
The past few weeks, this latest one in particular, have been all about pros and cons, compromises, screwing up, rewards, frustrations, exploring, and taking chances. I'm going to try and make this post as coherent as possible. Or maybe I shouldn't, so that maybe the wackiness going on in my head is better understood. Damn it. See what I've been living with? I have to recall everything that I planned to put into this post, because it’s about two months late thanks to my crazy schedule for the month of June. Bear with me.
I'll start with a recent gear acquisition - the Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM. I picked this lens up about a month ago because I wanted to expand my arsenal of primes. It's cheap, has a well regarded Auto Focus, and compliments my Sigma 35mm very well. My big reason for the purchase was to grab an 85mm lens that had a faster AF than the notoriously slow, and uber expensive Canon 85mm f/1.2. The other option was the Sigma 85mm f/1.4. I've heard that lens is the perfect compromise in AF speed and price between the two Canons, and it's also incredibly sharp wide open. The downside? It hails from the days of Sigma pre-Global Vision, thus it's a crap shoot for quality. Rumor on the street is that Sigma is going to announce an 85mm Art in Q4 of this year, so I was hesitant to play the guessing game at the time. So far, with Sigma’s new program, the Global Vision line of lenses have been absolutely excellent, so I think it’s worth the wait. In the meantime, I wanted to try the Canon 85mm f/1.8 and see if I liked the focal length.
It’s been really nice so far. Wicked fast AF that rivals my 70-200 f/2.8 IS II, which I consider the gold standard for autofocus accuracy and speed. It’s also super lightweight, and pretty sharp at f/2. My Sigma 35mm Art is stupid sharp at f/1.4 and I was very disappointed at the Canon 85’s sharpness wide open at f/1.8. Now, it’s sharp enough for most of my work, but I pixel peep, Yes I’m one of those, and damn it, my primes better be sharp wide open. I honestly thought I had a bad copy until I did a studio session where I stopped down to f/4 and at points f/11 and it was screaming sharp. I also really appreciate that f/1.4 on my Sigma 35 Art, and find myself wanting it on my 85 f/1.8 as well because the extra ⅔ stop in shutter speed really does help with longer focal lengths AKA I’ve been spoiled by IS and my hands shake. A lot.
I’ve shot a bunch of gigs now with the Canon 85mm and honestly, my favorite thing about this lens is just how light it is. If I need some reach and don’t want to carry my 70-200 all day, the 85 is a wonderful alternative. I’ll probably swap the Canon 85mm once Sigma says something about their new 85 Art and it’s been out for a month or two. If it does actually get announced.
I recently wrote a post about how shooting with prime lenses has affected my photography for the better. I still believe it a few months later, and I’m really appreciating their benefits over zoom lenses. I’m thinking more when I shoot. Or really, before I shoot. I’ve been taking fewer photos as a whole since moving to primes, yet the number of quality, take home shots is just the same. This is a huge testament to how much I’m improving as a photographer because I’m thinking of the focal lengths and how they look, the distortion created, the depth of field and bokeh rendered, and most importantly my composition.
I recently did a headshot series for a local theater group (That shoot will have its own post once I’m allowed to publish the photos in a few weeks), and I had to get my own headshot done as well. I grabbed a Georgia Tech Mechanical Engineering student and gave him a quick rundown of how to use my camera, what to look for, and how to take the picture. Each time I checked the viewfinder, I made a critique and we tried again. After about 10 pictures, the guy looked at me and said, “How the hell do you think of all this and get the photo right in just like, two tries and under just as many minutes?” It was an interesting statement, and one that made me feel really good about where I currently stand as a photographer, and a student of my craft.
And there-in lies the rub - I’m actually getting good at this stuff. What’s more, I’m really enjoying it. Even in stressful paid gigs where I’m sweating bullets and rushing a bit to get the required shots inside stupid time frames, I’m smiling and enjoying myself. On the other hand, I’m having serious motivation issues at my day job. I love designing and developing medical devices, I really do, but I’m catching myself on ESPN.com and photography pages a little too often for my personal liking. When I’m not doing that, I’m getting lost in thought over my current career choice and situation.
Granted, there are other factors that are influencing my productive state at work, but I’ve noticed that the desire to just take pictures is certainly becoming a significant part of that equation. For years I’ve had friends and even family tell me to just become a full-time photographer. My cookie cutter answer has always included some combination of these responses:
I don’t have a big enough client base to have consistent work
I don’t charge enough to make a living off the clients I do have
I have no idea how to make my business bigger
I don’t think I’m consistently good enough to be considered a professional
I don’t want photography to lose it’s magic if it becomes my full-time job
I think that last one is the most controversial point. The others I can certainly figure out and eventually make happen. Knowing whether or not I’ll love photography the same in 10 years after doing it professionally year round? No one can quantify or predict that. I really appreciate the fact that I love what I do, and that I can take joy in doing things so that they don’t feel like work. Photography has always captured a certain magic for me, or really, it’s allowed me to make my own. I love the process of taking a photo and then seeing someone’s reaction to my images. It’s really, truly rewarding. But that conversation is continually going back and forth in my head and it’s really detracting from my duties as a photographer and an engineer! Consistent paycheck vs commission work. Sit in an air conditioned office all day vs have zero idea where I’m going to be in the next hour. Build long term relationships with my coworkers (even the obnoxious ones) vs meeting all kinds of people every single day. The list could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and *THWACK!* Stop it! I rambled there a bit. Sorry about that! Anyways, now you have an idea of what’s been going through my head.
I’ve really been enjoying the impromptu shoots that have been thrust upon me recently. There have been a number a headshot sessions, product photos, and just utter shenanigans honestly. I even did some video work to help a friend make a slate, or audition tape, for a big-time musical. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so many photo sessions in a month and not only enjoyed them, but rocked the images as well. Sadly, I’ve forgotten most of those shoots already to recall the funny, quirky moments that always seem to follow me on assignments. Alas, I shall finally stop droning on and show off some of my handiwork these past few weeks.