How I stumbled into photography
I've tried many hobbies, some I still do from time to time and others I've failed miserably at and given up. I'm a big Hip Hop fan and always loved Turntablism, or scratch Djing, so I had a go at that, much to my neighbous' dismay. I was okay but so far behind friends at the time that it was embarrassing to show my efforts. To aid my attempts I started learning guitar so I could understand the fundamentals of music, this didn't go well either, although I can play a few chords and strum a bit (it worked for the Sex Pistols!) and I still love plinking around with my old acoustic.
Somewhere in between Djing and guitar I took up electronic music production. I was okay at this but again fell short of the mark and eventually I blew my equipment up and couldn't afford more. I've tried many other things, most more short-lived than my efforts above (I kept up music production for a few years and still like to sequence samples here and there).
I decided to try something else about two or three years ago, so I downloaded a trial copy of Adobe Illustrator. To my surprise I was quite good at illustrations and I designed a few tattoos and cartoons. This was very enjoyable and something I intend to do again, but unfortunately I lost all of my designs when my old laptop decided to give up the ghost. Through this I started to play with basic animations and videos. I found this really enjoyable and spent many an hour practicing different techniques, but eventually grew tired of its time-consuming nature. I figured I'd have a lot more fun, and hopefully produce something worth watching, if I took up stop-motion animation with clay (I also started making jewelry with clay) and a camera... Enter photography :)
I've always been a bit gung-ho with cash so rather than buying a standard compact I meandered into Currys (something I later regretted owing to their poor customer service) and bought a Sony a35 for £450 (a problem with pricing meant it was cheaper than normal, and I've always been a bit of a Sony fan boy).
As per usual with DSLRs nowadays, it came with a 18-55mm standard zoom lens, a manual, neck strap and a very poor class 4 SD card that the resident Currys 'camera expert' recommended. As I left the shop my heart sank, I'd clearly wasted my money... Or had I?
The stop-motion animation started, but not before I strayed into a burnt out nursery opposite my house. Although I hadn't yet sparked my photography addiction I'd spent a lot of time looking at photos of derelict buildings. I'd seen some pictures of Chernobyl which both haunted and delighted me, so when I saw the chance to stray into a derelict building with a camera, I took it.
I'll always remember it. Here's the building. I'd passed it everyday on the way home from work and always wondered what it was like in there. The day after I bought my a35 was my birthday and I had the day off work, my partner at the time was out and I was all on my lonesome. So with camera in hand and butterflies in my belly I strolled through the open door in broad day light. The building was in a terrible condition and ifI'm honest it was quite scary to be in there on my own; it was dark and damp and the first thing I saw was a box of dirty toys and teddies. Being an avid horror movie fan this scared me, surely I would be stabbed to death by an oriental girl with long black hair and a white dress...
So I didn't get very far into the building before a loud noise scared me off. Also, with no knowledge of how to take a photograph properly, most of the shots I took were blurred owing to my a35's desire for a long shutter speed (bloomin' Auto mode!!!). Excited, I ran back to my house to look at the photos. I put them on to my mobile phone to process them, which seems ludicrous now but I had this cheesy app (a bit like instagram) so I messed about with them and then uploaded them to flickr.
I was determined to go back and take better shots so used the rest of my day off to read up on how to take pictures. I haven't stopped since. Things quickly started to click and within a few days Manual mode didn't seem that complicated at all. The premise of controlling the amount of light that hits the sensor made perfect sense, as did the effects of shutter speed and aperture. Finally I'd found my niche.
Part two coming up...