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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Photography: What I Do For Fun

When I bought by DSLR in New York City in Spring of 2005, I took it to the still freezing temperatures of Niagara Falls in Buffalo, New York to give it "baptism of fire" in snow. Photo by my wife, Denden.
I got into photography when I was still very young. I can't remember now my exact age and when but the memory of the first time I ever held a camera is still quite vivid in my mind. During my uncle's birthday celebration many years ago, he handed me his Kodak Instamatic camera and asked me to take a picture of him and his friends while holding a bottle each of San Miguel Beer. The sound of the plastic shutter clicking, the flash cube firing, and the sound of the sprocket as I advanced the film to the next frame; all of those amazed me. I took a couple more shots because some of them thought they blinked in the first shot. I was even more amazed after seeing the prints and thought they all looked handsome in the picture. Most of my relatives thought the same and since then I have always been asked to take pictures during family events. In all that time, I've never held an expensive camera but I knew then that I'd be happier to take pictures rather than have mine taken by others. To be honest, I never liked most of my pictures when I was younger and none of them made me felt I was handsome in some way. My first acquaintance with an SLR camera was in high school. I had a friend who has a Canon (can't remember what model) and it looked very professional to me especially when I looked through the lens via the viewfinder. It was incredible to see things get in and out of focus as I turned the lens' focusing ring. I never had the chance to see the pictures he took but his camera reminded me of reporters I saw in movies. I said to myself, "If I am to call myself a photographer, this is the kind of camera I should have."

My main camera at the moment. Canon EOS 20D shown here fitted with a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens. Photo by Patrick Hocchuan.
So, for my birthday, I asked my parents to buy me my own camera as a present. I said I want one with the interchangeable lenses. My parents are very accommodating and I knew in their heart that they would love to give me one, but like I said in "My Peter Pan Syndrome", we were not rich and an SLR is just one of those expensive, unaffordable toys I was asking for. But they did have me a camera. It was Ricoh 35 EFL. It was not what I expected. The whole thing was made of plastic (but it's alright), it had built-in flash, manual focus lens (since the viewfinder is not thru-the-lens, you can't see whether your subject is in focus or not so it required some skills in judging distance accurately) aperture control, a light meter - and it uses 35mm film. Great! That's professional enough for me. All those manual controls helped me a lot. For instance, I first learned of the concept of aperture / shutter speed combination from reading books during my weekly visit to National or Goodwill Bookstore back then. I would always go to photography books section and read whatever book was not wrapped in plastic. Although I learned, it was all theoretical and did not understood very much what it really was. With my all manual camera, I got to understand what the books were trying to tell.

They say that beautiful women are the reason why so many young men are drawn to photography. Photo by Patrick Hocchuan.
At one time, I thought that the beautiful girls are the reasons why I really got hooked up into photography. I remember a classmate / friend of mine in 4th year high school telling me that she wanted some nice pictures of her and her friend from another section so she asked if I could go with them one time and take their pictures. She said, they'd pay for the film and will take care of developing/printing. Of course I said yes. It was about living a dream and she and her friend were both absolutely gorgeous. The photos turned out really nice and we were all very happy about it. That was my very first photo shoot assignment, ever. Not long after that, my friend's friend and I dated and fell in love. She was my first kiss, first embrace and first love. So other than nice pictures, I would say that photography did brought me much, much more. In college, I chose to study architecture (which will be the topic of my next post). A very expensive 5-years course. Due to financial constraints, again, I had to put my photography experiments on hold. Back then, I did not see photography as a serious professional career as architecture is so giving it up in favour of the other was not that difficult. I have no regrets with the choice I made because nowadays, I have the luxury of doing both. But if I have to make the same choice today, I'm sure that it's going to be a very tough one to make. I love both architecture and photography so I hope I do not ever have to make that choice again.

I shoot any subject that I find interesting. Photo by Patrick Hocchuan.
Since graduation from college, my passion in photography slowly crept back in and has purchased several cameras out of my own income. The first camera I bought for myself was a Minolta Dynax 500si, an SLR - the camera I've always wanted. Afterwards, I also bought a Pentax Espio compact camera for convenience. My first venture into digital photography came with a purchase of a Minolta Dimage digital compact. Not a very durable one and it broke down after I dropped it from a height of only 12". I replaced it with a Canon Powershot S30. I absolutely love that camera and in fact, after 4 years, I still use it. But I have outgrown its features. Not very long ago, I found myself in a position where I can now afford to buy a DSLR so I bought a Canon EOS 20D along with 3 Canon EF lenses and a few other accessories that could fit in the gadget bag. And lately, I bought a SonyEricsson K800i Cyber-shot cameraphone. Not a full-blooded camera, but it has the heritage of a camera manufacturer (I have come to recognize Sony as one) so I now have a camera in my pocket virtually anytime, anywhere. Advances in technology has made me even more hooked up in photography and I am now addicted with both photography and sharing my photos in a photo sharing website called flickr.
A street kid happy to see his photo instantly. Baywalk, Manila, Philippines. Photo by Andrew Villasis.
Will I ever someday lose interest in photography? A former schoolmate told me once thru Yahoo! Groups FEU High School Batch 1984-1985 that the reason I love to take pictures is that I appreciate the world God created around me. In many ways, she’s right and for that reason, I don’t think this addiction will stop.
Will I buy another camera in the near future? My Canon EOS 20D's shutter has a life expectancy of about 100,000 shots. With the way I'm shooting, that would last for about 30 to 37 years. Unless new technology renders this camera obsolete before then or the next generation of cameras proves to be very compelling, I intend to wear down my EOS 20D very well and use up all 100,000 shots.


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