During the christmas of 2008 I got a very special present from my parents, a present that would take over my life ever since. As I unwrap the gift wraps it unveil two shining gold looking boxes, one was marked with D80 on its side and the other box was marked with the number 18 to 135. I suddenly realized what was in the package when I saw the little Nikon badge on the edge of the box. I was shocked and a little bit confused.
I questioned my parents why out of nowhere get me this expensive....camera? My dad reply was that a newer model just came out and this whole set was almost 60% off! (ha ha ha), but he told me that I will find the answer once I start using it properly. For the first year I barely did anything with the camera, it was heavy and bulky that I rather take my little point and shoot instead of the DLSR. Besides been heavy, all the photos I took with the camera was either too dark or too bright. I just can't seem to take nice picture with this camera. I keep changing the settings on the camera but nothing really works. After a period of time I got really frustrated and almost put the camera away.
Photography was never my interest in the past and I have never cared for what camera we had at home. It wasn't till I discovered a site called Flickr that introduced me to a personal side project called Project365. In this blog post I am going to review my first legit camera the Nikon D80 along with my venture in the art of photography.
Nikon first introduced the D80 was in the summer of 2006, and it took the market by storm. The Nikon D80 was the camera that bridge between Nikon's consumer and prosumer lineup. When it released back in 2006 it was top of the line in term of ISO performance and image quality at that price range. The camera feature a 10.2 Megapixel CCD sensor and ISO range from 100 to 1600. It can shot up to 3 frames per second in JPEG mode, and also have the shutter speed 1/30s to 1/4000s. The camera was lightweight consider many other DSLR at the time. The camera came with a kit zoom lens at 18-135mm at f/ 3.5 to 5.6. The lens was good enough for any beginner photographers.
During the first few months when I had the camera I was embarrassed every time I took this out to shoot. I was afraid people would come up and ask me questions about the camera and I would no idea on how to answer them. 2008 was just the tipping point before these big DSLR became a huge fad, that out of nowhere everyone wants to own one of these camera. Mainly companies like Nikon and Canon start to introduce lower tier DSLR's at a very aggressive pricing.
I have shot with my dad's old SLR when I was little, but it was a big surprise to me that image quality on these DSLR have not yet surpass the quality of film. The CCD sensor that was in the D80 was not a full frame sensor like the D700, that it was a crop sensor and its only half size of full 35mm sensor.
The design of the camera still resemble Nikon's old film days with the famous little red mark that was from Giorgetto Giugiaro with his design of the Nikon F4. The D80 dose have a top screen to shows all the camera settings for easy access, unlike some of the lower tier model which only have a command dial. Since the D80 is a crop sensor camera Nikon makes special lenses marked as DX lenses. I recommend don't bother with the DX lenses and just save up for FX (full frame) lenses, they produce a sharper image and have great performance at low light. Plus when you are ready to upgrade to a full frame camera you don't have to spend extra for the lenses.
Over the years this camera has been through hell with me. From chasing storms to enduring crazy temperature during the summer, but it never skipped a beat and always ready for action. I've literally take the camera everywhere I go just so I don't miss a moment. Most of the time I will in Manual mode cause I like to have full control of the settings, but when things gets a bit hectic I will switch to the aperture priority mode. I got a battery grip mainly for portrait photography, but also it add weight to the camera so it help with camera shake. I mostly shot in RAW just so I can post process afterwards. The softwares I mainly use are Photoshop and Apple's Aperture.
I joined flickr back in 2006 mainly for storing photos from my family vacations. Flickr at the time was just started getting big in the photography community, it was a site that all the photographers would upload their images to share but mostly to get feedback from the community. I didn't get to truly use the site till the fall of 2009 and it was then I really got into photography. By looking at all the awe inspiring photos really made me want to pursuit a hobby in photography. I joined the Nikon D80 group on Flickr and was just shocked at the photos people were taking with this camera; it was utterly astounding.
I don't know what came over me but all I know is I want to take photos that can compete with others in the group. The very next day I went to my local book store and bought a bunch photography books and started cramming. In a week time I finally got to familiar with the settings on my camera, and for the first time I took a picture with the right exposure in manual setting. As I started to comment on other people photos they started to comment back on my photos and slowly I started making friends on the site.
At first, I didn't upload everyday since I barely go out and shoot, but all of my contacts was basically uploading a new picture every single day. What got me confused is that they all name their photos with a number.. some where in the 100s, some where in the 200s, and some where in the two digits. I eventually found out what the numbers were and joined the group titled "Project365".
I told myself a picture a day? how hard can that be? plus at the time I've already scouted so many places to take photos from. Well lets just say that the next three years I was living in my own creativity nightmare. My goal was to finish the project exactly a year from the first image I uploaded to Flickr and Facebook. I started on October 25th of 2009 BUT didn't finish the project till January 23rd of 2012.
During the 3 years I have no idea how many times I have thought of just quit since no one seem to care about it anyway. But in the end, I told me myself this is my project and I should be the only one who should care for it. I've made a commitment to finish the project and that theres no way I would back out after coming this far in the journey. The project 365 is a great tool for motivation and goes way beyond just photography. I have learned so much from doing this project, not just about photography but also about work ethnics and the courage to never give up.
“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
From the influence of one of my flickr idol I started adding quotes to my photos, to make photos to a bit more interesting. I started writing quotes in a little black Moleskine notebook and out of nowhere I was hunting quotes like crazy. Everyday after my classes was over I would goto my college's library and just hunt for books to get quotes. Bunch of times I would leave a little slip of paper with the quote of the day at where I was sitting to hope that someone would find it and can be somewhat useful to them. After nearly 3 years I have archive nearly 800 quotes, but only got to use a fraction of them. Most of time when I look for a new picture of the day I would go through the quote book to help get inspiration on a picture I need to take on that day.
I am working on a special section on the site to have all the 365 images displayed, so look out for that in the near future. I've uploaded only part of on flickr and the rest of the project on Facebook.
As of this writing, my flick account has reached over 1 Million views. Mostly thanks to the explore page, I nearly got 50 images reach the Explore pages. Flickr have close to 3 to 4 million photos uploaded daily, and the explore page selects 500 images thats the most interesting to display in its gallery. So if one of your image reach the explore page its like getting a little fame on flick
So far I have about 2.5k followers on Flick, but I barely upload new work now days. Most of my buddies on flickr have long abandon the site, but I still keep in touch with some of them through other social network. All I know is that I ever have to to travel across Europe I got places to stay. I did one Print Exchange during my active time on flickr, it was really cool to get photos and letters from all over the world.
The site recently went through a huge major redesign to compete with other sites like 500px and Instagram. I was totally against the redesign cause they remove the blog part of the site. People use to visit other people page cause it feels like a blog, but now its just stack of images with no means of interaction or telling a story. I still get on from time to time just to see if there are any updates from my old contacts.
Just like any art form photography is not easy and it takes a whole lifetime to master it. The last five years my photography has cause my happiness but also my pain and frustration. Even now I am still a beginner and I got a long journey ahead before I can truly called myself a photographer. For me it isn't about if I got the perfect shot, all the matters to me if I captured the moment or not. These photos was never meant to be my portfolio, but just a memory that I can go back visit in the future. I truly believe the a camera is closest we have to a time machine, it can takes us back all the important moments during our lifetime. Below is the quote from Don Drape (Mad Men) during the famous carousel scene in which he says..
Nostalgia literally means "the pain from an old wound." It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards... it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.
I am a designer by heart, but through photography it has helped me see the world in a whole new perspective. Below are just some of the images I have captured with my D80 over the years. The images are in no specific order and its actually somewhat random. Some of these photos I have never shared before, but most of them are from Project 365. There are so many mistake in some of the photos that I feel like I need to go back just to retake the shot. It’s always fun to see my own past work and just see how far I have come in the learning process.
This little guy is Danbo, he seem be flickr's mascot. Every one of flickr buddies
had one and they all take super creative pictures with it
My Nikon D80 has now long been retired and it just sits in the closet collecting dust. In 2012, I replaced it with the new Nikon D800 that have 36 megapixels full frame sensor. The two zoom lens I got for the D80 are now useless, I only use the 50mm with the D800. The trend for these Big DSLR seem to be slowly dying as we are now moving back to small form factor like the mirror less cameras. I still try to get out and shoot from time to time, but not as much when I was doing the Project365.
Now I am mature with the medium I feel like its time to do some serious work. I felt that all of past photos from last 5 years was just my practice wheel, that its time to let it go and start something new. I still got a lot to learn in the art of photography, but for first time in a long time I feel like I’ve grown as a photographer. I am going to leave you with a quote by the famous photographer Dorothea Lange and it's that quote that I believe truly define the meaning of photography.
"Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still."