Then and Now: A story of my photography hobby

I always joked that I got into photography because of a girl, after all, all the best stories always start with an inspirational girl that drives the boy to be the best he can be for her. But alas, I can’t really tell what got me into photography in the first place.

All I know is that my dad was into photography when he was younger, and he has since then given me his SLR, the Canon AE-1 along with lenses, even before I thought of playing around in photography.

Then it was 2010, in the middle of my first year of medical school studies, I wanted yet another hobby on top of my PC gaming, action figure collecting, and guitar collecting, and that was photography.

Me and Nikki
A few months after owning the Nikon D5000, I had the mandotory “take a photo with your camera in a mirror” shot

Again, I can’t tell what really drove me to buy my first DSLR, the Nikon D5000, but I did anyways, and I got gnarled into the world of photography because I get to see the world in the way no other people usually do. It can be poetic; it can show the beauty of the world, hiding away the dread; or it can show what the world really is and raise attention.

It took to me just like when I first started playing the guitar; I learned all the basics, learned different techniques, made some of my own, read more advanced techniques, and all in all, just being vigilant and shooting as much as I can to hone my skills.

After learning as much as I can with my Nikon D5000 and its kit lens, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, it was time to add to my growing repertoire, and that is simply adding a flash or a speedlight as most would say.

Now you might say, wait, isn’t there a pop up flash? While you are right that there is in fact a pop up flash in the Nikon D5000, and any other camera for that matter, but I needed to control my lighting more and that was what a speedlight will help me do. My first hot shoe flash was the Yong Nuo YN465, and not long after, I added a Yong Nuo RF602 flash trigger, so I can trigger the flash off shoe and do a lot of moody lighting effects in my shots. Of course, I can’t afford my own Nikon speedlights since I was just a student back then and I didn’t want to bother my parents each time I want something, thus I settled with the Yong Nuo products. They were great enough for practicing indeed.

Having learned enough of lighting control and such, I knew it was time to get a new flash. I have always loved the bokeh effect of photos so I knew I wanted a prime lens as my first lens upgrade. I was juggling with the thought of getting a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 or a Sigma 30mm f/1.4; I knew early on of the so called “Trinity” of lenses which is usually a wide angle f/2.8 lens, a standard f/2.8 lens, and a telephoto f/2.8 lens. A common example for Nikkor lenses are the 14-24mm f/2.8, a 24-70mm, f/2.8, and the 70-200mm f/2.8 – as you can see, these 3 lenses cover a wide range of focal points, perfect for nearly every situation… thus, the Holy Trinity or the Hebrew Trinity of lenses. Unfortunately, the prices of these lenses are way of my reach even if I’m already a physician (I mean, as a general physician; who know, hopefully, once I am a specialized physician, I afford these… but as you can see later in this post, I am more than satisfied with Sigma lenses anyways), thus I then decided to go for the Sigma prime lens as I know I can complete my own version of the Holy Trinity by having a Sigma prime lens, a Sigma standard zoom lens, and Sigma telephoto lens. But once again, being a student back then, I can’t easily just buy lenses when I want them, and so,I placed it in the back burner and waited til I was finally a licensed physician so I can start earning.

Kupo!
First shot with Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM; my cat then, Kupo! Sadly she passed away a few years ago.

I loved and I still love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens as it was my primary lens from my purchase in 2011. I still use the kitlens every now and then, but of course, a prime lens and that from Sigma, will have better quality and the bokeh effect I always love is obviously easier to achieve with a f/1.4 lens vs a f/3.5-5.6 lens. I learned so much techniques and I found the genre I love the most, that is street photography for the most part. I love portraiture and off shoe flash photography, but something about street photography that I love the most, and having a fast prime lens like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM helps me take quick, sharp images of people in the street, and if I have their permission, I can make moody bokeh photos. I still love this lens and still is my go-to-lens for most of my shooting up to this day. Of course, with the D5000, you can only do so much with this lens, and it started to back focus a lot. But I have since fixed the back focusing problem by, well, upgrading my DSLR, which we will talk about more later.

Fast forward to late 2017, I have gotten other strange photography gear, mostly bags, filters, tripods, etc, but nothing major like a new flash or lens and such. Having saved some cash in the bank since I started working after getting my license after all the struggles we all went thru in medical school, I then took a chance and started to look for one of the Sigma lenses I have always dreamt of since I was still starting out and was still a mere medical student, and that is the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, and lo and behold, I found that lens, and without second thought, I bought it, and was extremely happy with how sharp it is; even on my D5000, there was no front or back focusing issues, and being a f/2.8 lens, the bokeh is beautiful and a fast telephoto. Apart from being my dream lens, this is also gonna be very helpful for me when I go to Formula 1 races and take better shots of cars, cos as you can see below, I had to use my kit lens when I went to Singapore for the Formula 1 race earlier in the year, and wasn’t all too happy with the results. Can’t wait to try this in Japan later this year.

The
First shot with Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM; my beautiful mother!

Before 2017 ended, I was able to purchase another Sigma lens, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens, and now I feel that I have completed MY VERSION of the Holy Trinity of Lenses:

  1. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM
  2. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
  3. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM
Doc Lee
First shot with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM. Pictured is my best friend and co physician, Lee!

Of course, with the prime lens and the standard zoom lens having crossing over focal points, it doesn’t cover the same range as the Nikkor trinity, but this will do for now, while I wait or look for a good Sigma wide lens that is at least f/2.8 (for now, I just see a f/3.5 that I might get if I have no other choice… or a fisheye…  I’m not sure.).

Holy Trinity of Sigma Lenses!
My version of the Holy Trinity/Hebrew Trinity of Lenses

Also before the end of 2017, I was able to snag a couple of Nikon SB-600 flashes (SB-910 is STILL a bit to pricey for my tastes); I got a couple for simply I can trigger them off shoe and make awesome flash photography shots.

It is nice to know that I actually have a 3rd SB-600, but it was severely misfiring, that I had to return it and haven’t felt like getting another Nikon flash for the time being.

Umbra
Playing with one Nikon SB-600
Get Flashed!
Playing with three SB-600! I returned one of them due to misfiring issues.

Then inevitably, once again, before 2017 ended, I finally decided to upgrade to the Nikon D7200; one might say, “why not D7500?”, for one, I wanted the battery grip (that I got second hand for a steal!!) and thus far, heard nothing about any battery grip in the D7500, and apart from the better sensor and 4K video from the D7500, the D7200 isn’t all that different so to speak (well, maybe the D7500 also has better ISO, I haven’t really cared, because the price was too steep for me at this point), thus I stuck with the decision of buying the D7200. Plus with the introduction of the D7500, brand new D7200’s price dropped a bit.

Sadly, the D7200 just arrived in January of this year since the shop I ordered from had to restock and had to deal with a lot of other prior orders since it was Christmas season; don’t worry, they warned all of us that our orders may take a lot more time than usual days, but I was okay with it.

Thus my brand new primary gear is complete…

Major Upgrade
Updated Primary Gear! I only included 1 of my 2 SB-600s in the shot as to not overwhelm the shot. This was taken with my original gear: Nikon D5000, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, and Yong Nuo YN 465 flash with Yong Nuo YN 602 flash trigger. Quite fitting for my original gear to photograph my new gear!
01-11-2018 Me and My D7200-1
Of course, we need a new mandotary shot with a camera, but this time, my mother took the shot with my Nikon D5000; again, quite fitting that my old gear is taking photos of me and my new gear

The next gears I plan to get is a brand new tripod as my primary tripod after 7 years of service as finally bit the dust; I also plan to get a brand new bag, the Think Tank Signature 13, as it looks more of a regular bag than a camera bag, thus feeling more of security when walking about new cities with the camera tucked away inside until ready to photograph; I also am on the cusp of getting either a full sized monopod (then again I can always get those Benro tripods than also double as a monopod) or a gorilla pod that I can also tuck in my bag so if I want to make low angle or just place it on a table or hang it by a tree for long exposure shots of the scenery without having to put so much attention to myself; and lastly, a dry cabinet to keep my gear in great condition.

It goes without saying that my resurgence with my love for photography started with getting my telephoto lens, but another great point in my life in 2017 that made fall in love with photography again is when I helped my sis go to Hong Kong and I met my good friend and she toured me around one night and she was quite the model for me and took one of my all time favorite shots since I started this hobby.

When You Shine Brighter
My good friend, Amanda; this photo is one of my all time favorites that I have ever taken! And this made me fall in love with photography again

And of course, you gotta remember where we started, and that must be, subliminally, my dad’s SLR…

Where it all began…

Thus, my love and history of photography in less than 2200 words. I will not show all my shots here, just a select few. For the rest of my shots, you can just go to my Flickr photostream HERE.

And before I end it out, I will answer the possible questions: “Why 30mm? Why not 50mm? “, “Why 17-50mm? Why not 24-70mm?”, and “Why 50-150mm? Why not 70-200?”, well remember, I started out with D5000 and upgraded to a D7200, both are DX bodies and have a crop factor of 1.5x, thus a 30mm with a crop factor equals to 45mm, close enough to a 50mm; a 17-50mm with a crop factor equals to a 25.5-75mm, close to a 24-70mm; and finally, a 50-150mm with a crop factor equals to a 75-225mm, almost a 70-200mm, with a slight overshoot at the farthest focal point. I don’t ever intend on going FX or full frame, but when I do, I’m sure I can complete yet another Trinity by then.

With that! PEACE!!

-o-

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