SEA OTTERS AND SUCH
AKA PRACTICE AND DISCOVERY
I don’t think there is a bad place to have your camera. I sell pictures but I don’t think every picture I take has to be for sale. In fact, some of the pictures on my wall will never be sold. I take pictures of surfers and motorcycles that I put on slide shows, wall paper for electronic devices, and to frame and put in my office. They serve as inspiration and motivation.
Recently I have been focusing on bringing back photos from my Saturday morning paddle in the Monterey Bay. I have a Nikon AW100 submersible camera I bought for a Hawaii vacation and I bring out my old Nikon D200. The AW100 is specifically designed to go swimming. It has a mode for underwater pictures and is waterproof to about 100 feet. Of special interest to me is the video function of the camera. I don’t do video currently and using this camera I get to practice without worrying about studio lights and all the equipment. Since I have no plans to become a videographer I get to play with this small point and shoot camera. Sometimes it helps me remember why I started taking photos in the first place. It’s fun. I also mount it on the faring of my motorcycle and occasionally relive moments speeding along twisty mountain roads.
The D200 has a very inexpensive Quantaray 70-300mm lens attached to it. The lens isn’t on anyone’s list to use for high quality photos. It is, in fact, the very definition of a consumer lens. It was cheap, it’s light because the casing is plastic (if I dropped it I’m sure it would break) and the optics are so-so. Together the outfit is worth about $200 on Craigslist so if it joins Davey Jones Locker because I flipped the boat or dropped it when I was trying to put it back in the dry bag on the deck I wouldn’t cry too much and since it’s old outdated equipment I wouldn’t feel any pressure to replace it. But it gives me a chance to practice my craft and capture some nice images for my wall of the sea animals I get to visit on Saturday morning. Recently I’ve been pointing the lens toward the otters in the kelp. I consider everything I do with this rig practice and when I think I am able to capture photos I think are worthy of someone else’s wall or public relations piece I’ll take the chance and bring out the new, expensive, I-hope-I-don’t-loose-this-camera-and-lens equipment.
With the D200 rig I get to struggle with making sure I look for the direction of the light right, figure out how to paddle, keep an eye on the ocean conditions and incoming swells, choose the correct aperture and depth of field, and hold the thing steady enough to allow the auto focus to work correctly and not jump around between the kelp and the otter I am intending to capture. If it sounds like a lot of work you’ve correctly interpreted my words. Did I mention that if I see a pod of dolphins have to guess where they’re going to be in 5 minutes because I can’t keep up (I’m too slow), I have to take the camera out of the dry bag, and set up to focus on where they will surface next? Maybe this sounds like too much trouble.
Boy is it fun when I get home and see a couple of frames that actually worked out! Here are a couple of examples from a recent Saturday. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. The point of all this is that if you like to take pictures, either for personal use of for profit, you need to continue to refine your craft. Putting yourself in an unfamiliar place with all the challenges it will present is a good way to expand your skill set.