Along the Away

a traveler's tales

I’m interrupting the New Zealand travel post transmission (because let’s face it, that was so three months ago and I guess it’ll take me as long to catch up as it takes me to get through culling my photos) to share about a great camera class I went to this morning in Hyde Park (Sydney).

Just before I went to New Zealand I splurged a little more than intended on a new camera for myself. What started as a bold $500 budget to buy myself a high quality digital compact camera, became a research-heavy, peer-encouraged investment in the Sony Alpha 6000, a compact system aka mirrorless camera. It’s a hybrid type, with the convenience of a smaller size and intuitive viewfinder as per digital compacts and manual functions and lenses as per an SLR. I spent about AU$1000 on the camera, plus a couple of hundred more on a bargain for a fixed 50mm f1.8 lens. It doubled my budget, but I was happy based on the weeks of research and opinion-gathering I did. I love to travel and taking photos while away is a big part of that, it just felt like the right time for me to invest in a camera that I can continue to make lens investments into.

My camera arrived the week before my holiday. Yikes. So I read the instruction manual back-to-front, purchased a month’s subscription to Gary Fong’s Sony A6000 video tutorials and experimented with the various settings in my free time.

My trip photos were the result of a mix of auto setting, program setting and experimental forays into manual setting with lots of dial twiddling which resulted in 20 versions of each photo intended ‘to look at and compare later’ (which became mass deletion efforts). I was really happy with my purchase but I knew that to make it worth the investment I had to spend some decent energy learning how to use it properly.

After some Googling, I found Andy Piggott’s photography class website and signed up with my housemate to do his three hour beginner class in Hyde Park. It was such an informative class and really worth doing. Obviously there is a lot to learn, but I definitely walked away with a better understanding of what the core components of manual photography are and how to start considering light, movement and framing using aperture, shutter speed and lens choice.

For example, with the twiddle of a button I saw how manipulating the exposure affects the image:

Hyde Park Water Fountain

Hyde Park Water Fountain

Hyde Park Water Fountain

Included in the course fee was a coffee stop at the Hyde Park Barracks Cafe; we had lattes and delicious chocolate brownies while Andy covered a lot of theoretical components.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

We were there for about 45 minutes which was a nice way to break up the time and be able to sit and learn without all the distractions in the park.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

After our break we went back to the fountain to experiment with Shutter Speed. What a nifty thing that is; the projectile vomiting turtle in the fountain went from spewing frothy light beams…

Andy Piggott Photography Class

…to water droplets just by changing my shutter speed.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

We stopped in the shade to look at samples of the niftier things you can do with shutter speeds.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

Next up was looking at depth of field which is manipulated through the aperture. Here my fence is in focus and the background is blurry:

Andy Piggott Photography Class

Then the I brought the background into focus. Simple basic lessons I know, but important foundations.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

Once the class wrapped up I decided to make the most of the glorious Sydney day and walk back to the north shore over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was so happy to have my camera ansd whipped it out to take advantage. After all I learnt I was excited to put it into practice…. and took the photo on Program mode. Hahaha! But that’s OK because now I know when Program mode is suitable and when it’s not.

Sydney Harbour Blue

I absolutely recommend doing Andy’s class if you have a camera that you’re not sure what to do with. The class was fun and I learnt heaps. Andy also gave us a laminated cheat sheet and emailed us class notes and lots of links.

Hopefully you will see an improvement in the photos on this site in the near future ;-)


PS. My housemate and I couldn’t wait to try out the shutter speed light effects that Andy told us about. It works! Though I my poor spatial awareness rears its head – that’s supposed to say ‘Donna’ if you can’t tell.

Donna Light Trick

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Sydney based, coastal dwelling. When I'm not at work I'm somewhere outdoors, or in the yoga studio, or at my local cafe, or pottering at home.

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