Paweł Jurgielewicz Photo
SigmaLenses

Growing up as a photographer

There is always something magical and mysterious in every picture. The power of capturing the moment from our very perspective makes us almighty no matter whether our pictures suck or stand out from the crowd. Though, different people may (and will) judge your work completely differently according to their taste and what they like. Even you can be your own judge if you look at your photos taken in the past. I bet that you will be embarrassed looking at the most of them however it might be a good sign. You are better now, you made progress. You are growing up as a photographer.

The childhood

When you get your first camera nothing other than its battery life matters. Shutter release button brings so much fun and all other dials could never exist. At least I believe it should be the way of things when you try to capture your first subjects. Finding subjects is the core of the fun. It can be your fingertip, bag of rusty nails or your always cat loving aunty.  

Green-eyed cat
Cats – emperors of the Internet in terms of pictures

Talking about myself, I spent a lot of time at this stage (up until 2017). Mostly I just wanted to have something in my record to refresh my memories in the future. There was not much artistry (if any) in those pictures and that is OK.  

Curiosity

Then never ending queue of questions comes.

  • What if I change shooting mode to semi-auto?
  • How to prevent flash from popping up?
  • I do not want focus on that tree, is it possible to change it?
  • What am I doing wrong if my images are blurry? Is it my fault or camera’s?
  • On the Internet they say that I need Sony A9 to shoot decent photos, how much money can I get for my kidney?

It is an open catalog of questions, you can think of yours. Children not only ask questions, they try to solve them right away with all its consequences. Experimentation is great because you are paving your own way. It is satisfying when you find solution that works for you and you will know how to behave in similar situation in the future. However, our personal teachers are also important. They give us directions, show different point of view and can be our friends too.

Growing up

I have been experimenting with photography for quite some time. I have been watching a lot of tutorials that I wanted to inspire me somehow, reading photographic gear comparisons and deciding to choose the right one for me. Nevertheless, I was missing something. Closed in my imagined world of photography induced by my experimentation skills it was difficult to open for other imagined worlds without actually interacting with them.

I am regular reader of the polish website Optyczne.pl that specializes in dealing with photographic gear comparisons, announcing novelties and telling about worthwhile contests. Moreover they also organize events that are meant to bring photographers and exhibitors connected with photography world together. I decided to go there. There was nothing to lose, I could only win.

Optyczne.pl conference: gear, people and their stories

When I was signing up for the event the greatest attraction for me was the possibility to try out different kinds of gear without paying anything. Normally when you borrow something you need to pay depending on how long you take it and its market price. I had mainly Sigma Art 50 mm lens and something long range for lunar eclipse 27th July on my mind.

My greatest surprise when I got there was that all participants are entirely normal people, eager to talk and help about anything. I had been expecting them to be all full-time pros but many of them were actually very kind and friendly amateurs or semi-pros. This observation applied to exhibitors also who were trying to assist in everything, giving discounts on their products and giving little suggestions about oncoming photo novelties.

In this way I quickly paired my camera body with 50 mm Sigma lens, got interesting catalogs that I could read before falling asleep and made a few friends.

During all the stay it was boiling hot with extremely high humidity. On the one side the only right choice was to stay in air conditioned conference room but on the other very high accumulation of water in the air was resulting in the beautiful fog during sunrises and sunsets.

Fire sunset
Amazing dreamy sunset in Janów Podlaski. It was during our first evening there. I and many other people agreed that it was the most amazing one from all of the 3 evenings. Lesson to learn – do not postpone your shoot because you never know if you are missing something.

Sigma Art 50 mm

The reason why I wanted to test 50 mm Sigma lens was that I am not very happy about results of my Canon 50 mm especially when it comes to autofocus accuracy. I had spent some time before the event to figure out what is wrong with the Canon lens and I concluded that it is unable to lock on the right distance. Moreover there is no simple rule to correct that, so I wanted to check totally different lens how it would behave.

Very nice occasion to test this lens was the workshop with the model. This particular workshop enjoyed interest of many people. Although we were split into groups it seemed there was not much space for everyone who wanted to take their own pictures. It was also very demanding for the model because she did not know exactly how to behave in such a situation.

Thankfully my main goal this time was to check whether this lens satisfies me. The model was just a nice addition 😉 . Coming back to the lens – I think this will be my go to if I decide to upgrade. 

Upgrades

Speaking about upgrades. Currently nobody knows in which way to go. Kind of… Some people I met declare to stay with classic DSLRs but there is a strong lobby of joining in so-called mirrorless revolution (some people were declaring also that you should alter your entire system every 4-5 years so that to modify the way of making photos – but this is extreme, for me). There were also presentations sponsored by Fuji, Olympus and Sony – current main mirrorless camera manufacturers. They aimed to convince even more photographers to switch to their products. Moreover it is currently known that Nikon will proudly present their very first mirrorless camera during Photokina. Even more interestingly, between the words of Canon’s official I read that they will show their brand new product in that segment also.

Here the main problem occurs. With totally new bodies they will invent new mounts of lenses. Both Canon and Nikon have broad range of currently available lenses for their DSLRs. If they will not do something about backward compatibility their DSLRs and lenses will rapidly loose their value. 

So that is the question from the very abstract point of view. Is it better to sell now all the DSLR gear or not to panic and wait for the new technology? The brain says sell, the heart stay…

Counting the stars (and planets)

As soon as the workshop with the model finished I gave back Sigma lens and wanted something for the lunar eclipse night. I was not the only one that wanted to catch the bloody moon and it was clearly visible. A lot of telephoto lenses were already out but I managed to get Canon 200-400 mm f/4.0 L EF IS USM lens. This lens weighs 3.6 kg alone, so the tripod was a must which I borrowed from the other exhibitor.

Only after borrowing this setup I did realize how much it was worth. This lens costs about 12500 $ and I had to pay nothing to borrow it 😀 . No wonder my setup attracted so much attention from the other participants.

Although the weather did not allow us to see the beginning phase of the lunar eclipse we could see the main phase of it. In the meantime we were also able to see Venus, Mars and Saturn through the telescope.

Lunar eclipse
Lunar eclipse with Canon 200-400 mm f/4.0 L EF IS USM lens. Interestingly this lens has a built in 1.4x teleconverter. I paired it with my Canon 7D Mark II camera which has 1.6x crop sensor. Putting it all together at the long end of the lens (400mm) it was behaving like 1.4 * 1.6 * 400mm = 896mm lens

Against the odds and water condensation, I am pretty happy about the results I got. The atmosphere between photographers waiting for the moon to finally show up was also amazing. I must say however that this lens is not for me: too big, too heavy, way too expensive. Nevertheless, I think it was a great experience.

I returned my bazooka as soon as possible the following day so that not to attract more attention 😛 .

Small things

I had heard a lot of good opinions about Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8 L Macro IS USM lens so I decided to give it a try. As macro photography is by now not in my area of interest I picked some random subjects. Those pictures are amazingly sharp and maintain great resolution in the plane of focus. However on macro distances the depth of field becomes extremely shallow and one might think of using tripod (despite having complex image stabilization mechanism inside of the lens).

Some time took me also choosing the picture for the final contest that was organized for the participants. I picked the one with the model. I post processed it a bit on my laptop but then I decided to check it also on professional fully calibrated EIZO monitor. Yes, they were also provided by exhibitors.

To be honest, I know nothing about color science but when I sat down in front of this LCD it was a totally different world and I know it was better than anything else I was working with. When I was polishing the picture behind me gathered a group of people looking at what I was doing. They asked me to show the full picture and they were very impressed by it. Sadly though, this photo got no position in the final 10 best pictures and I can only guess the cause.

There was also service of printing some photos so I made a use of that. My advice is to print your work if you can. In these times when you shoot and forget materializing your work is something priceless.

Prints
High quality ink prints

Summary

When I was signing up for this event I did not have a lot of expectations. I just wanted to be in a nice place that would inspire me to take some decent pictures with a gear I am considering to buy or I can not afford. Actually I got much more. The people I met and I was talking to open my mind, showed me different perspectives of (older than me) people caring about their hobby/passion/work.  How not to become crazy when dealing with brides, sisters-in-law that are going to start their dancing blogs and where to look for inspiration. Many thanks for sharing your experience with a young colleague!

Finally, I was very happy to get there. Really, I was the only one that got there using public means of transport across the country from Kraków to Janów Podlaski. Achievement acquired 😉

Janów Podlaski castle during night
See you next time!

Paweł Jurgielewicz
Paweł Jurgielewicz
Photographer and Master of Science 😛