03 May 2008 What I Got From the Master Your Equipment Challenge

This challenge wasn’t as intense as the last one, but it was just as valuable. I learned a massive amount about my gear and photography in general and was completely inspired by all the resources available in the photography world. So much amazing equipment, creative techniques, ideas and opportunities! I’ve always enjoyed photography, but this challenge helped me fall in love with the craft.

Here’s what I learned:

On Monday

I downloaded the manual for my camera. I think I left the original in Australia, so thankfully it was readily available in PDF download from the manufacturer’s website. I actually read a little bit more each day of the week as 219 pages is a lot of manual to digest quickly.

What I found most surprising was how little I actually knew about my camera. I thought my knowledge was reasonable – I don’t shoot in Auto all the time anymore, and navigate the menu with a distinct sense of knowing where I’m going. However, I discovered that there were some prominently placed buttons that I knew nothing about. I really got the idea of ‘mastering’ a piece of equipment with this exercise, and I’m inspired to learn more about my camera and see what else I can create with it.

On Tuesday

I researched High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. I’d taken some shots of a statue the previous week at three different shutter speeds with the intention of making an HDR image, but without knowing how it was done beyond taking the shots. Turns out that it’s more complicated than I thought, but boy can you get some great results.

My sole research tool for this exercise was YouTube. A simple search for HDR gave me more video tutorials than I could possibly need. I learned the basic fundamentals and did some experimenting with my statue shots. My wife does all our post-processing, so the next step is to inspire her to learn and master this technique.

On Wednesday

I joined Flickr groups for my camera and lenses. I read through the associated forums and messages and browsed the photos taken with the same equipment. This was indeed eye opening. I discovered many limitations of my equipment which I can now look for in my own results. I also discovered the amazing potential of my modest equipment by the quality of photos produced with my camera and lenses.

On Thursday

I had planned to buy a background for shooting models, but it didn’t happen. My consolation exercise was to audit my list of educational photography RSS feeds in my reader. I culled back and stuck with the ones I feel give me the most value for my time, which ended up being only four: DPS, RonShoots, Strobist and ProPhotoLife.

I wouldn’t be mastering my equipment if I didn’t catch up on my reading of these four awesome resources. I quickly become overwhelmed by the quantity of information, all of which I can use to increase my microstock earnings. This really is an exciting time when all the information you could possibly need to improve your craft is effortlessly acquired, free of charge and available instantly.

On Friday

I looked for a new place to have my camera cleaned. Now that I’m in Argentina my local Nikon Centre in downtown Melbourne isn’t so convenient. I asked a few local friend where they get their cameras cleaned, but most use Canon while my camera is a Nikon. In the end I looked up the official Nikon Centre in Buenos Aires but discovered that it can take a few weeks to get your camera back, and they need original proof of ownership – another thing I left in Australia.

I’m therefore considering cleaning at least the sensor myself, which I’ll continue researching into next week. It was frustrating to not have an outcome for this research, but I consoled myself by reading another few chapters of my camera manual.

The Result

In summary, I feel more like a photographer this week than I did last week. I’m inspired by the opportunities to learn and I feel that, like the Shoot Daily Contribute Nightly Challenge got me in the shooting routine, this challenge has got me in the learning routine.

Next week I’m moving into a new apartment. It has all white walls, floor (tiles) and ceiling, and a large, private roof terrace with lots of sun. It will take some time to get organized and the budget for photography equipment will be sacrificed in honor of all the new “stuff” we will buy. However, once established I’m looking forward to seeing how many more photos I can create in this photographer-friendly environment.

What About You?

Did you play along? What did you learn? Do you have the same blogs in your feed reader or any suggestions for mine? Are you inspired by photography yet??

  • Han Cheng
    Posted at 12:22h, 03 May Reply

    Hi Lee,

    Nice to see you learn new things everyday!

    I see that you are using a Nikon D70S. I am also using the same model with a 18-200mm VR. I been researching on why my pictures are always a bit underexpose though I shoot in aperture priority mode. I always have to adjust the levels in photoshop after downloading from my camera.

    Do you have such issues or any idea?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 18:36h, 04 May Reply

      Hi Han,

      My wife does all our post-processing so I have no idea. I’m sure you’ll get an answer if you ask that question in the Flickr group for the camera and/or lens. Good luck!


  • R. Kneschke
    Posted at 14:47h, 03 May Reply

    Thanks for the post.

    You wrote “My wife does all our post-processing, so the next step is to inspire her to learn and master this technique.”

    My girlfriend would slap me though if I wrote something like that… 🙂

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 18:40h, 04 May Reply

      LOL. Poor you!

      We work and learn as a team and often inspire each other with different ideas and suggestions. The key word is ‘inspire’. I have to “inspire” her so she wants to learn it.


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