Getting back into photography after a break now that spring is in the air.
With the warmer weather hopefully photographers are feeling more incline to bring their cameras out of storage and think about getting back into photography after a break.
For many it’s been quite a few months since they have seen their cameras let alone used them. It may even seem like you have forgotten how to use your camera and find it hard to get inspiration to go out photographing again. Don’t despair, this is a common phenomena after any break from photography.
In this article I hope to provide you with a few tips on how to get back up to speed and get back to enjoying the great outdoors and your photography.
There are a few things you should do before you head out the door on a new adventure so you don’t come home cursing your equipment.
Assemble your camera maintenance kit which should include the following:
- Some sort of bag to keep everything in and away from dust and moisture. Don’t just let your maintenance kit roll around in your camera bag, put it in a packaged container. There are some great pouches available from camera bag suppliers but a common pencil case does the job just as well and is cheap.
- Buy the largest blower bulb you can find. I don’t recommend using “canned air” as it leaves residue if used incorrectly, a hand blower bulb is more than sufficient for most cleaning jobs.
- Buy a shaving brush or a paint brush and use it only on your camera gear. This can be used to brush away any dust or debris from the exterior of the equipment. The soft bristles won’t cause any damage if used carefully.
- Buy a piece of chamois about 10 inch square. The chamois is a great piece of kit for wiping the exterior of your equipment. If in the field and you get your gear wet, DO NOT WIPE your gear, use a padding motion to soak up the moisture.
- A lens cleaning pen. These are great for removing any dust or fingerprints from the glass surfaces of lenses or the LCD. They come with a fine haired lens brush on one end and a lens cleaning tip on the other end. You have to be careful when using off the shelf lens cleaning fluid because some will strip the multi-coating off of some filters, such as the Hoya brand. Always read the instructions and don’t rely on what the salesperson tells you.
Once you have your maintenance kit assembled, the first thing you will want to do is get all your gear out of the camera bag or cupboard and lay it all out on a table.
- Remove all the batteries from your camera, flash and any thing else that uses batteries. If they are rechargeable batteries the first thing you want to do is recharge them, if your charger has a “conditioning” feature I would suggest that you use this feature after a long period of storage. If the batteries are non rechargeable, replace them with fresh batteries.
- Remove any filters from the lenses and put them to one side.
- Remove any memory cards and put them to one side.
- Take each piece of equipment, one at a time and carefully examine it; you are looking for mould, rust, heavy contamination of any kind. After you examine the item, ensure you have any caps in place; start by brushing the exterior with the shavers brush or paintbrush to remove any loose debris, then using the blower blow any remaining dust from the equipment. Then take your clean chamois, and lightly moisten it with water only, wring it so you are left with just a barely damp cloth, gently wipe the exterior of the equipment.
- Once you have cleaned the exterior of your equipment it is time to give the inside a bit of a clean. Under no circumstances should you put anything inside the camera body unless you know what you are doing! Take your camera body and remove the lens mount cap, turn your camera so the the lens mount is pointing downwards, carefully using your blower brush, blow the inside of the camera being extremely careful not to touch any parts, like the mirror or sensor and replace the body cap. After blowing the inside, if your camera has a sensor cleaning feature, making sure the body is level and the lens mounting is pointing at right angle to the ground, activate this feature.
- Now do the same for each piece of equipment in turn, when blowing air into the mounting side of any lens ensure you have the mount pointing towards the ground.
- Using the LensPen, using the soft brush on the pen lightly brush any debris from the lens, it always helps if you then give the surface a quick blow using the blower bulb. Then using the cleaning tip, lightly remove any fingerprints or smudges by starting in the centre and working out towards the edge in a circular motion. Use light pressure only!
- Use the same lens cleaning technique to clean any filters. If you are still storing your filters in the plastic case they came in, I would suggest you don’t as they can ruin the filter over time. I would suggest you invest in some stack caps and use these to store your circular filters. ( I will be writing about my recommendations for filters in a future post).
- Once you have completed your cleaning, put your memory cards back into your camera and review what files are on the card, if need be download them onto your computer before continuing. When you are satisfied that you have downloaded all your images from your memory cards, place the cards back into your camera and format the card using the format card feature in your camera. Never format your memory cards using your computer as there is a high chance you will corrupt the card and get errors in your camera.
- So now there is one last thing you need to do to get your camera ready before heading out into the field. Take your camera and go through each of the menus and double check the camera is setup the way you want. Place a lens on the camera body and take a few test shots to ensure all the features are working properly.
- Of course if you find any problems with your equipment, such as mould, scratches or a dirty sensor don’t try and clean it yourself unless you know what you are doing, take it to an authorised repairer and have them clean it or fix any problems.
Now What? Finding inspiration.
It’s been awhile since you have been out with your camera and perhaps you have forgotten how to make images or perhaps you just can’t find that enthusiasm anymore. My first suggestion would be get off the computer, stop watching the television, grab your camera gear and go for a walk to your local park or a drive around the local area. You don’t need to go far, you just need to get out and see the natural world again. Stop and make a few images of things you find, get use to using your camera again.
If this idea doesn’t work and you find yourself still struggling, then perhaps you need to look at booking an outing with some other photographers in your area. The outings needn’t be expensive or in far flung places, maybe you just need to get out and spend time with fellow photographers to find your groove again. James Doyle Photography schedules regular fieldtrips to locations around south east Queensland and northern NSW and are relatively cheap and have the benefit of small groups and a professional photographer to assist you. These sort of outings are great to mingle with fellow photographers and discover locations you may never have known about. I’m sure you will soon be getting your inspiration back and be itching to get out again at every opportunity.
Now is a great time to get back into your photography before the harsh summer heat and light returns.
If you do find you need some help getting back into your photography, why not check out what I offer and consider booking an activity in the near future. James Doyle photography conducts, fieldtrips, workshops, private tuition and a mentoring program just to name a few. You might find that you have a great half or full day adventure with fellow nature photographers, learn a few new skills and come home inspired with your own images.
Happy photographing and I hope to see you in the field.