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New (rented) toy…

June 30, 2010

So where have I been? (Do I sound like a broken record yet? I feel like I open every post with that these days)

Well. Turns out – deciding to quit your job and move to Paris is, shockingly enough, not as easy as saying “I’m quitting my job and moving to Paris.” Turns out, it requires all kinds of pesky things, like visas, and cooking school applications, oh and by the way $15,000 in tuition not to mention living expenses and who cares if you live in the most expensive city ever invented and make peanuts as a researcher we want your SOUL. Among other things. So I’ve been busy.

But I haven’t forgotten you, my dear readers, I have actually been working hard to make your experience (that is, your experience reading my blog) more enjoyable! I got a new toy, for the past week or so at least…

See my new toy?!

It’s a Nikon D3000 Digital SLR camera with a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S lens.

(Did I sound like I knew what I was talking about just then? Cuz I don’t. At the moment, that’s just a string of letters and numbers I copied from my receipt. But one day, my friends, I will understand what I just said to you.)

Now. Let me tell you how I went about renting a camera, because that’s the first question I get from peeps when I tell them about this fun weekend project.

First, I googled “rent a DSLR.” That led me to this website: Then I Yelped them to see what people had to say (and to make sure I wasn’t sending my credit card information into the black hole of some hacker/scam artist’s pocket). The reviews were stellar, and the whole thing looked pretty legitimate, so I decided to go for it.

Results? BorrowLenses is a pretty good service, because they offer a TON of professional-grade cameras for a fraction of the cost, and they mail it right to your door with return postage already paid. My rental was, proportionally, fairly expensive (I paid $150 for one full week, for the body, the lens, insurance for both, and shipping both directions for a camera that retails for around $600 and a lens that retails for around $450), so I would recommend using BorrowLenses for the following situations:

1. If you are shooting a momentous occasion, such as a major sporting tournament, a wedding, etc., for which you could really use a multi-thousands-dollar camera but only have $300 to spend.

2. If you are considering purchasing a less expensive (or if you’re a rich person, a more expensive) but pricey DSLR but have never really played around with the features of one before, and would like to know what the benefits are on actual picture-taking in your own home.

Possibly 3. If you’re going on vacation and want a stellar camera for a short period of time but don’t want to invest in it long term.

So, that’s the setup. I got the 50mm lens because I read that it was the best for macro shots, and I got the Nikon because frankly I’ve never spent much time in the company of Nikons, and I wanted to see what it was like. You know. I’m experimenting. Because I’m young. And curious. About photography.  (And yes, crazy Texans, 26 years old is still YOUNG, thank you).

Moving along – the pictures! I did many things for this Nikon.

First I baked it cookies.

It liked the cookies.

Then I made it some muffins.

It liked the muffins a LOT.

It wanted more muffins, but I told it to go on a diet.

Then I gave it to Tortellini for a while.

She enjoyed her close-ups. But not the beep the camera makes when it focuses. That kinda ticked her off.

Then I took it to the farmer’s market and tried to convince it to love the color red.

It remains slightly unconvinced of the virtue of red.

And then I wrapped it up and sent it back to its home!

Just kidding. Well, not exactly.  I did wrap it up and send it home. But I also took about 2,000 pictures (possibly many more – I haven’t actually counted them) that I won’t post here because that’s ridiculous and insane. I will show you a few of my better shots (these included) here, so you can see/comment about how much my technique still sucks.

I learned a bit this weekend, about the different ways to take shots, the importance of focus (ha, that sounds very Zen), and ways to improve on my pictures even without upgrading to the next level. I also learned that this old dog (while still young) is not very good at learning new tricks, so I think I’ll be sticking with Canon when I do jump to the DSLR of my dreams.

One thing I found ridiculous on the Nikon was that on most settings you cannot turn off the flash. What?! Seriously!? What if I’m shooting in the Louvre or some other fancypants place where they shoot you on sight (site? what’s the correct term there?) for daring to expose priceless artifacts to direct flashbulbage!? Nikon does not care. Not one bit. The only thing you can do is try to up the aperture enough not to need it (weird, and I still couldn’t figure it out), or physically hold the flash down while shooting. Gimme a break.

The red thing also bothered me a lot – I don’t have the pictures ready yet, but I made a re-do of my Bastille Day cupcakes from last year (though with horizontal stripes instead of vertical ones) and the red was completely blown out in almost all the shots. It seems from my googling that this is a common occurrence among Nikon users, so I don’t know what’s up with that, but it’s kinda lame.

Finally, I also learned recently the importance of editing photos after-the-fact. I was under the impression that most people are just naturally great photographers, and their pictures come out perfectly balanced, with excellent composition and color. WRONG. Almost everybody uses an editing software, to correct for things like wonky color (as you’ll see if you compare my cookies shot in this post to the cookies in my Picasa album), sharpness, even cropping images to make them look more straight, zoomed-in, etc.

I use Picasa for my photo editing at the moment, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I will have to break down and buy Photoshop one of these days. But that, and the DSLR, are neither here nor there, because I just had to pay $550 for new brake pads and rotors so I can drive my beast of a truck (only by DC standards) back to Texas without locking up the brakes or rear-ending a minivan full of small children and stuffed animals. So, back to the poorhouse, Cupcake, and keep dreaming. Of Canons. Not Nikons. Because we don’t like them as much. Sigh. Anybody got a rich uncle they’d like to give me? No? Oh. OK. Back to work, then…

Note: Almost all the pictures are in better focus on the Picasa album. I don’t know why this is, or why WordPress is making my pictures fuzzy. I’ll have to investigate. That is all.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2010 10:01 am

    I’m super jealous…I would LOVE to move to Paris, but don’t have the guts you have. Good luck!

    • Cupcake permalink
      June 30, 2010 10:06 am

      Hey thanks! I just saw your blog – you have a killer writing style. Adding you to my roll now…

  2. June 30, 2010 10:46 am

    Moving to Paris!? I missed that one…I’m super excited for you and want to know details when you can.

    I love the photos, and will comment on the Picasa site. I’m especially fond of shooting in food markets myself…lots of color and interesting subjects. Looking forward to chatting again soon.


  3. Laura permalink
    June 30, 2010 10:26 pm

    Canons all the way!!!!!!!! Extra bonus: Canons are compatible with more third-party [read: less expensive] lenses than Nikons, since Nikons use the auto-focus-motor lenses.

    Once you figure out what model of camera you want, set up a Deal Alert on…it will email you when deals are posted that match your search terms. Then sit back and wait for a good deal on your DSLR to come along…or wait until Black Friday (that’s when I got mine).

    PS pretty pictures!

    • Cupcake permalink
      July 1, 2010 6:57 am

      Thanks, Laura!!! Good recommendation – I’ll definitely follow up!

  4. July 1, 2010 11:33 am

    I know absolutely nothing about photography – it’s always seemed like a foreign language to me – so I’m totally impressed that you are jumping in and learning how to do it all. And I’m no expert, but your pics look really cool to me. Here’s hoping that you win the lotto so you can afford your own DSLR or whatever it’s called someday. 🙂

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