I use a Canon EOS 30D. And I LOVE it. I bought it about 3 and half years ago after 6 months of agonising. And saving all my pennies, naturally. I had outgrown my point-and-shoot and really wanted more creative freedom. The kind that you get from a dSLR in manual mode.
It all started one summer when, bitten by the photography bug, I spent time in bookshops, reading everything I could about photography and buying photography magazines. I have always enjoyed learning and being a mathematician I was very comfortable figuring about the technical side of the camera I wanted. To some extent, it's a numbers thing. And it took time, but I felt it was worth it to acquire a new skill and to improve my photos.
When term started again at the end of the summer, I joined the Photography Society. It worked out at about £2 a week and although they didn't teach much about the technical side, they were heavy into composition and the artistic approach. Which worked for me as I felt that was much harder to learn from a book.
Each week, we were given a theme and asked to submit a photo for discussion if we wanted. And then we would sit in the dark with the photos projected huge on the wall and one of the art fellows at the university who specialised in photography would discuss them with us.
The first week, we had to submit three photos we'd taken that we liked. There were loads as at photography club in the first week, you could go for free to see if you wanted to stay. We only discussed a few pictures and all three of mine were passed over. One was dismissed as boring - one of my favourite pictures that I'd taken at that point. The guy didn't pull his punches.
The next week, there were considerably fewer people. Maybe lots were put off by the criticism. I was nervous but when you're in the dark looking at and criticising pictures, no one can see you blushing. No one can tell you're embarassed. No one can tell that you actually really love that picture and it makes you fell small to have someone tell a whole room full of people that it's no good. So I submitted more pictures anyway.
The theme was Portraits (Indoors). I borrowed a friend's dSLR to give it a whirl and straight away, I knew the quality of the pictures was incomparable. I loved how the camera felt in my hands and I loved the way my pictures were so much lighter. I worked in aperture priority mode and I submitted this picture to the Photography Society.
And this time, the Fellow loved it. He said it raised all kinds of questions about who these people were, where they were, and why the girl in the middle was wearing blue tights. He also said it wasn't focussed properly but when you're experimenting with someone else's camera and you've got three friends lying upside down with their feet in the air so you can take a portrait for your photography class, you don't question things like this in as much detail as you should. As a beginner, I was so proud of this picture. As I've become more experienced I now know there's lots wrong with it. I should have manually focussed on the shoes nearest I think rather than a random spot in the middle. I could have framed and composed the shot a little better to include all the shadows and it would be nice with slightly more exposure to really make the legs stand out against the wall behind. But I don't care. I still love it. I keep it as my desktop background to remind me to keep practising.
I handed back the dSLR (reluctantly) to the friend, determined to buy one of my own. And in the mean time, I kept going to photography club. And fewer and fewer people would submit photos so I always got expert feedback on my photos for £2 a go. Bargain! I learned a lot. I learned not to be offended by being told a picture is boring. The Fellow was speaking as a photographer and I don't need all my pictures to be technically good if they mean something to me. I learned to submit bad photos that I wanted to get good advice on how to improve, to have the confidence to say I know there's a lot wrong technically with this picture but I like the concept so how can I improve it?
Meanwhile, I read a lot of reviews and went for the Canon EOS 30D because, as dSLRs cost a bomb, I wanted one I wouldn't grow out of. The 30D isn't an entry level model and nor is it one of the high end ones. It's sits comfortably in the middle and I love it's size and weight: it's heavy and it's quite large and I can really wrap my hands around it. I didn't get that feeling from the smaller ones. Actually there have been many new incarnations of this camera since I bought it but I'm still growing with it and learning more about it. Plus the fact that the new model 40D had just been released meant that the 30D dropped in value and I was able to afford it.
But mainly, I kept on practising. And, like anything in life, if you practise a lot, you might improve a bit.
P.S. I hope you all enjoyed snapping a day in pictures. Because being a naturally curious girl (read: nosey, interferring busybody) I love seeing everyone's insights into their day. I find it fascinating to imagine so may completely different days and lives happening simultaneously all the time, most of which I'm completely unaware of. The thought that struck was the fact that even though I posted eleven photos from my day, it doesn't necessarily convey the bigger picture, just the odd details.
P.P.S. I've never really written about photography before. It just hasn't occurred to me. Are folks interested in reading the odd post on this topic? My favourite lens, a bit of technical stuff and my favourite ways to take pictures are all things I'd all like to share.