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GUTTER AT DUSK ~ OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA

31 December 2010 
 
Gutter at Dusk. Oceanside, California. 2007 © Michael Spotts:.                                          ID#FF07-0512-01
  
12 May 2007 ~ One of my few film shots taken while walking home from work.

Camera: Pentax P3
Lens: 50mm f/2.0
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Titus 3:3-8.

SARA BY THE SEA SHORE ~ LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA

30 December 2010 
 
Sara by the Sea Shore. La Jolla, California. 2006 © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                        ID#FF06-0521-01
 
21 May 2006 ~ My friend Sara paid me a surprise visit while she was in town from Wisconsin. We took a stroll down to the beach.

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: Canon EFs 24-70mm 2.8
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HOMIES DOWNTOWN ~ OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA

29 December 2010 
 
Homies Downtown. Oceanside, California. 2008 © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                     ID#FF08-0624-01
 
24 June 2008 ~ I was out with a friend teaching him basic skills for street photography. One of the first rules is, "Connect if you can." So I approached this large group of people and told them I was teaching my friend, and that they looked like great subjects. Then I showed them some prints I keep in my camera bag for that purpose. While they looked through the photos and loosened up, we shot away and became friends too. Most people drop their guard to help someone if they can.

Granted, lots of people associate street photography with voyeurism or almost spy work. I don't think it has to be that way. Hip shots can be incredible but more often the expressions I get out of interacting are more rewarding. You see less of the cold stranger and more of the warm citizen and fellow.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: Canon EFs 28mm 1.8
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Titus 3:3-8.

HUDSON RIVER FROM ABOVE ~ NEW YORK

28 December 2010 
 
Hudson River from above. New York. 2006 © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                            ID#FF06-0213-01
 
  13 February 2006 ~ This was my first view of New York and I'll never forget it.

Camera: Canon 20D
Lens: Canon EFs 17-85mm@ f/5.6
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PROUD CATCH ~ OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA

27 December 2010 
 
Proud Catch. Oceanside, California. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.                                              ID#FF08-0624-01
   
24 June 2008 ~ I find most strangers pardon the intrusion of my camera so long as they have something to boast of.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: Canon 28mm f/1.8
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Titus 3:3-8.

VAUDEVILLE FRIENDS

26 December 2010 
 
Vaudeville Friends. Appleton, Wisconsin. 2007. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                    ID#FF07-0629-01
  
29 June 2007 ~ This was a test-shot for an image she and I were taking to commemorate my last week in Wisconsin, before moving home to California. Yeah, I cut my head off, but the photo is fun to look at.

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L
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Titus 3:3-8.

BEACH HOUSE ~ CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA

23 December 2010 
 
Beach House. Carlsbad, California. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.                                       ID#FF08-0113-01
  
13 January 2008 ~ I like to take walks down the coast on Sunday mornings.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 50mm f/1.4
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Titus 3:3-8.

BENEATH THE MANSION ~ WISCONSIN

23 December 2010 
 
Beneath the Mansion. Wisconsin. 2007. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                                  ID#FF07-0421-01
 
1 April 2007 ~ What we witnessed is hard to account of.

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: EF 50mm f/1.4
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Titus 3:3-8.

LILY AT BALBOA PARK ~ CALIFORNIA

22 December 2010 
 
Lily at Balboa Park. San Diego, California. 2009. © Michael Spotts:.                                            ID#FF09-0620-01
 
20 June 2009 ~ From the mirror pond at Balboa Park.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 85mm f/1.8 @ F/2.5
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JAKE ~ LA JOLLA COVE, CALIFORNIA

21 December 2010 
 
Jake. La Jolla Cove, California. 2006. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                                          ID#FF06-0618-01
 
18 June 2006 ~ Sifting sand. Man, this is a sweet combination of camera and lens.

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: EF 50mm f/1.4 @ F/2
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Titus 3:3-8.

HARBOR ~ CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA

20 December 2010 
 
Harbor. Catalina Island, California. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.                                                              ID#FF08-0224-02
 
24 February 2008 ~ I was out for a wedding and a look around.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 28mm f/1.8
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THE ARTIST IN 1864

19 December 2010 
 
The Artist in 1864. Wisconsin. 2007. © Michael Spotts:.                                               ID#FF07-0127-01
 
27 January 2007 ~ I time traveled to the Civil War.

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8
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Titus 3:3-8.

CLOUDS OVER NEW MEXICO

18 December 2010 
 
Clouds Over New Mexico. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                                                  ID#FF08-0123-01
 
23 January 2008 ~ Always pick a window seat.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 17-40mm f/4 L
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Christmas Eve at OURC



All Images © Michael Spotts:.
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ERIN LOOKS OUT ~ WISCONSIN

17 December 2010 
 
Erin Looks Out. Wisconsin. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.                                          ID#FF08-0727-01
 
27 July 2008 ~ Two friends and I spent a long day at Old World Wisconsin, and something like ten hours in the car.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 28mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8
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HALF DOME FROM YOSEMITE FALLS

16 December 2010 
 
Half Dome from Yosemite Falls. California. 2010. © Michael Spotts:.                                                 ID#FF10-0724-01
 
24 July 2010 ~ Two days later I crested Half Dome by moonlight. See the color version here.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 17-40mm f/4 L
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HALF DOME FROM YOSEMITE FALLS ~ COLOR

16 December 2010 
 
Half Dome from Yosemite Falls. California. 2010. © Michael Spotts:.                                                 ID#FF10-0724-02
 
24 July 2010 ~ Two days later I crested Half Dome by moonlight. See the monochrome version here.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 17-40mm f/4 L
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SANTA CATALINA ISLAND FROM AIR ~ CALIFORNIA

15 December 2010 
 
Santa Catalina Island from the air. California. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                            ID#FF08-0123-01

23 January 2008 ~ I lived on this island for a summer when I was eighteen.

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 17-40mm f/4 L
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SELF PORTRAIT ~ MANITOWAC, WISCONSIN

14 December 2010 
 
Self Portrait. Manitowac, Wisconsin. 2007. © Michael Spotts:.                           ID#FF07-0509-02
 
9 May 2007 ~ I came to walk the shore of Lake Michigan with a friend. She had no jacket and, the weather falling ill, I exchanged my coat for a few thin blankets rummaged from her Jeep. We tramped along blanched dunes, our faces cleansed with spray from an approaching storm, and crept over bosky hills opposite the beach as pioneers of these billowy breakers of Marram and Sand Cherry.

As Abraham first gazed on Canaan's verdant bounds, so I view the landscapes of the world each with patriarchal wonder. On coming to a place of natural splendor, I am compelled to remove my shoes and exchange Eastern greetings with the local soil, for I am Guest of all ancient grottoes, monuments, valleys and seas. See that hut, that pilgrim pavilion of dust? I sojourn in yon' momentary tent of flesh, passing quietly to survey these, my promised lands of immortal trust. Self, I say, in light of Christ's covenant, there is neither stone nor stalk upon the globe which does not cast shadows of thy future inheritance. So I go lightly and with love, for all the earth is mine by divine endowment.

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L
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LAKE MICHIGAN FROM MANITOWAC, WISCONSIN

13 December 2010 
 
Lake Michigan from Manitowac, Wisconsin. 2007. © Michael Spotts:.             ID#FF07-0509-01

9 May 2007 ~ Before ending a tumultuous year in Wisconsin and returning to California, I took a bittersweet walk with an old friend at one of my favorite haunts in Manitowac.

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L
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MATTHEW & SHERRENE ~ SAN DIEGO

12 December 2010
 






















27 November 2010 ~ The botanical gardens in Balboa Park seem rarely to be open, but for us that day they were. Happy engagement to this lovely couple. And thanks to the good folks at Chick-Fil-A, for giving us a free meal and donning the cowstume!

Camera: Canon 40D
Lenses: EF 28mm f/1.8, EF 85 f/1.8, EF 17-40 f/4 L
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KLEINS & PUPS ~ REDWING, MINNESOTA

11 December 2010

Kleins & Pups. Redwing, Minnesota. 2007. © Michael Spotts:.                       ID#FF07-0527-01

19 May 2007 ~ It was all a bit more natural, then.

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: EF 50mm 1.4
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WOMAN ON SHORE ~ CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA

10 December 2010

Woman on shore. Catalina Island, California. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.             ID#FF08-0224-01

24 February 2008 ~ On the eastern shore of the island of Santa Catalina, off the coast of Los Angeles, California, are multitudes of rocks in lieu of sand.


Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: EF 28mm 1.8
ISO 200 ~ f/7.1 ~ 1/1000
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DOUBLE RAINBOW ~ SAN ONOFRE, CALIFORNIA

9 December 2010

Double Rainbow. San Onofre, California. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                     ID#FF2008-0125

25 January 2008 ~ I had just returned from a whirlwind week in Ireland, and found my State all dressed up in a bow. This shot was composited from five overlapping files, without the use of a tripod, on the shoulder of the I-5 freeway.


Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: 17-40mm f/4 L
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SCRIPPS INSTITUTE PIER - LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA

8 December 2010

Scripps Institute Pier. 2009. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                   ID#FF09-1209-01

9 December 2007 ~ I like to take the bus an hour south to La Jolla, walk the beaches that wash beneath the cliffs of Torrey Pines, and spend afternoons in the aquarium at Scripps Institute.


Camera: Pentax P3 c. 1980
Lens: 50mm 2.0
Film: Some expired HP junk.
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NEW MEXICO, ABOVE

7 December 2010 
 

New Mexico, Above. 2008. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                                                          ID#FF2008-0124
24 January 2008 ~Taken through the horrendously opaque window of an airliner, in transit from Ireland to California.


Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: 17-40mm f/4 L @ F/9
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WOMAN AT SUNSET ~ LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA

6 December 2010

Woman at Sunset. La Jolla, California 2009. © Michael Spotts:.                                                                                                                                          ID#FF09-1209-02

9 December 2007 ~ I saw this young woman in La Jolla. Negative film has impressive range.

Camera: Pentax P3 c. 1980
Lens: 50mm 2.0
Film: Some expired HP junk.
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What to buy first: Guide for $eriou$ amatuers.

2010 - Oceanside, CA

NOTE: The links pictured here may not remain active, nor are they necessarily the best prices available. They are for educational reference only. Search around and compare. Make sure any used camera comes with a battery and charger. As well, these are strictly my OPINIONS. Yours may vary.



So you're pretty serious about photos, you think. Maybe even considering an offer to second shoot a wedding to get some experience. But you only have a compact camera and a couple cool shots of friends on your FaceBook. Oh, and a couple hundred clams to shell out on some gear. Where should you begin?


As a professional, I have done a first-rate job of wasting money when I first started out. I bought what I saw others using, and they might have done the same. I had no real idea why I should have certain contraptions, but had them I did, in abundance and often to little effect. Diffusers that came from Gary Fong's enviable fridge; over-priced plastic brushes to clean dust from the lens; enormous camera bags to hold my growing ego until I had more than two lenses. So, I'd like to help you avoid that route.


I want you to know in the first place, purchase what you feel comfortable with. For many people, photography is a very rewarding hobby. For some it even becomes a legitimate career or means of side income. If you start with very cheap equipment, you may become discouraged by the results. For instance, Rebel series cameras have excellent image quality but lack of a thumb wheel on the back can make them difficult to control and adjust in fast-paced environments (as most paid shoots are). That thumb wheel lets you immediately adjust your shutter speed, rather than holding down one button while turning another wheel. Besides, xxD cameras are mostly metal, like Robo-Cop, and clearly that worked out for him. However, buying something more expensive and then finding out you are not so interested as you thought can be very disheartening, too!


WHERE TO BUY: I recommend first-time buyers to purchase used equipment from a reputable seller. To me, there are four: BHphotovideo, KEH, Adorama, and someone you know well enough. Each of these will let you return the camera within 14 days if something doesn't seem right. Craigslist may also be an option in your area. Check an option if you live near larger cities. Be smart about it. This may save you $50-150 on each item, but may seem like more work and stress. I've done it, but only as a seller. It turned out well.


IS IT RELIABLE? Personally, I can attest that buying used camera gear has worked out well for me. Most cameras can shoot nearly 100,000 images before showing signs of detrimental wear. Few photographers hit that point; they sell to upgrade, or because they lost interest.


As well, good lenses are often sold just to upgrade. For instance, the Canon 50mm 1.8 is $100 new. The next-best 50mm lens is $350. After that, the top version is $1400. Start at the bottom, and decide from there what you need! Usually going up the scale is like this, in terms of build and image quality:


Cheapest: C+ to B+
Middle range: B+ to A-
Most expensive: A- to A+


Keep in mind, the C+ lens may have B+ image quality but a cheap-feeling body. As well, less experienced users often find even the worst SLR lenses to be miles better than what they were used to from point-and-shoots. To the initiated, most image quality issues are only visible in very large prints, like 16" x 20" viewed up close. However, another part of cost is how large the aperture opens. A larger aperture allows more light in, so that you can shoot in low-light without flash or at lower ISO settings, meaning less image noise. Larger apertures also create more dramatic focal blur in front of and behind the focus point. That costs money.


What I suggest: Depending on what you can afford, and what deals are available at the time, second shooters should get a DSLR with a two control dials. For Canon uses, this means something in the xxD range, like the 20D, 30D, 40D, etc.


Canon 20D:
The 20D is the least expensive, around $300, though I bought mine new six years ago for $1500! The image quality is very good in decent lighting, but suffers from image noise as all mid-range cameras do at high ISO speeds.


Images I've taken with the 20D:










Canon 30D:
The 30D has identical image quality to the 20D, but has a noticeably larger screen. Screens don't make images better, photographers do. Still, being a year newer, a 30D may have less wear on it.


Canon 40D:
If money were not an issue, the 40D is a gem for what it is. Slightly more mega-pixels (no difference in real life for print size) but a more modern sensor, which equates to better tonal range out of the box. My 40D files require less editing than my 30D or 20D files did. It manages highlights and shadows better, and has live-view, though I do not often use it. Most importantly for me, the 40D includes three customizable settings on the mode-dial, allowing you to jump right into pre-programmed settings with the turn of a wheel. For instance, I have one set to go right into exposure bracketing so the camera snaps off three images, one bright, one middle, and one dark. I blend these in Photoshop to account for really broad tonal ranges that would have been over or under exposed otherwise. Then I rotate the mode dial and go back to normal shooting. Lastly, the 40D has an automatic sensor cleaner that works. I have no problems with dust appearing in photos as I did with the prior two cameras, which can be an annoyance. Be prepared, though -- the 40D can be quite expensive.


Images I've taken with the 40D:












As for lenses, I recommend starting out with these:


Canon EF-s 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II- used $99 -


This lens will do well outside with good light, and fine indoors with bounced flash. It goes from pretty wide to a bit zoomed in. It's not a super-zoom. Long zoom ranges usually indicate poor quality. This lens also has IS (image stablization) which will help prevent blur caused by hands shaking at long shutter speeds. The lens is small enough to take everywhere while you learn.


Canon 50mm 1.8 II - Used $80 to $90 -


The famous "nifty fifty" is fifteen times less expensive than the priciest 50mm Canon makes, but to new users it is a dream come true. If feels a bit chintzy, and the focus ring is a joke, but the image quality is nice. Because the resale value on these used 50's doesn't go down, you can probably resell it in a few years for the same amount you paid. This lens doesn't zoom, and it won't give you any more reach than the 18-55mm, but it has an aperture which opens three times larger at the same focal length. This means that not only can you get very dramatic focal blur, but you can shoot at ISO 100 or 200 (no image noise) when you would have had to use ISO 400 or 800 with the other lens, due to the small amount of light coming through the f/5.6 aperture. If you don't get this now, you'll cheer later.


Besides these, I highly recommend getting a second battery (BP511A) and several 8GB CF cards. As well, dump the original strap for something very secure and comfortable. I use an Op/Tech Pro with attach loops and quick-disconnects, and it makes my job less fatiguing... in fact, a pleasure.


For cleaning your lenses, I swear by a big makeup powder brush from the local drug store, some breath, and a soft shirt. Most pros I meet adopt this system because it works. Gimmicks don't.


I would skip the giant camera bag for now, and get a LowePro lens pouch to put your spare lens in while shooting. That way it's there at your side, ready to go, or can be tossed in a purse or pack without drawing a "hit-me" sign on your back, advertising all your nice gear. It seems thieves like bags of lenses more than lone cameras.


Yes, there are other things I recommend but not yet. These will give you a leg up and help you to know just how interested you are. The lenses will be easy to sell for similar amounts if you upgrade later, and the body would become a backup or nice gift to another student.


Remember, it's not about gear so much as getting out there often, shooting and letting others critique your work. Like music, looking at good photos might help you adsorb their style and technique.


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