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Thread: Help me spend $500

  1. #1
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    Help me spend $500

    So I allocated myself $500 to spend on my photo addiction for my birthday coming up, but I can't decide where to best put that. I'd like it to be something that's going to give me additional utility as opposed to just something nice-to-have because I'm likely not going to spend any more for the next six months on photo stuff.

    What I like to do: primarily macro and street photography (people, cityscapes - B&W, HDR). I'd like to try my hand at landscape photography, but frankly the landscape around San Diego isn't all that interesting to me (there's only so many photos of the beach I can take, and I like mountains...).

    Some options that I think might be useful:
    1. Lenses: I'm actually a bit lensed-out right now, but I'm always open to trading in some lesser-used lenses for something more useful.
    - I have: Pana 20/1.7, 14-140, 14-45; C-mount 12.5mm bargain bin lenses, and a 25/1.9 Raptar; FD/FL mount 28/2.8, 50/1.4, 55/1.2, 90/2.5 macro, 135/2.5 (I could easily trade in the FD 28/2.8 and the 135/2.5 to help finance something more than $500)
    - I could (maybe) use: something in the 40 FL (CV Nokton 40/1.4; Pen F 40/1.4, FD 35/2.0 etc.), perhaps a T/S lens (FD 35/2.8); I have C-mount, M-mount, and FD-mount adapters.

    2. Accessories: I think I'm doing OK here as well, but I could see getting a few things.
    - I have: Vivitar 285 flash, flash bracket, remote flash triggers, cheap macro focusing rail, various DIY macro flash tools (strobist stuff), couple of gear bags, Sony video tripod, Vanguard 300 ballhead
    - I could (maybe) use: a better tripod (looking at Vanguard Alta Pro 264AT and Giottos MT-9360) to make use of that ballhead, and to allow me some better macro possibilities; I may want an IR filter, but I'm playing around with some DIY IR right now to see if it's something that interests me at all.

    3. Software: Another area where I think I'm doing OK, but I don't know what I don't know. I haven't actually spent a lot of time in PP since I like composing the shot as I take it. Mostly I've done minor PP here and there, although I've spent some time on focus stacking and HDR processing.
    - I have: Photoshop CS4, Lightroom 4 (beta), SILKYPIX, GIMP2, RAW Therapee, Combine ZP for macro focus stacking
    - I could (maybe) use: some plug-ins for PS to give me some pre-set filter options; perhaps Photomatix for the HDR work I want to do

    4. Other: While I read a lot about photo techniques, and go out in the field to try different things, I know I could always use some additional training classes. That's something I could share with my wife since she also has a budding interest in photography.

    So looking at all this (I know, it's a LOT to digest), what would you suggest that would add something to my photo repertoire that I don't currently have and/or haven't considered? Thank you for your suggestions in advance!!!

    -Dragos

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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Dragos, Keep that cash towards the last one.

    Get in touch with Guy/Jack.

    http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14022

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    Senior Member ggibson's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Indeed--you've got the gear--put the $500 towards a photo-excursion!

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    Senior Member f6cvalkyrie's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Vivek View Post
    Dragos, Keep that cash towards the last one.

    Get in touch with Guy/Jack.

    http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14022
    +1 for a photoworkshop
    i wished that Guy and Jack would do something in Europe, it's so far to Southern California from here, and I'm afraight I might not want to come back after the workshop

    And, when do we drink a glass to your health, cq at your expense ?

    c u
    Rafael
    E-M1/GH2/G1 Full Spectrum & lots of lenses
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/f6cvalk...th/9226689839/

  5. #5
    drxcm
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Nice(r) computer display?
    Plugins - take a look at Viveza 2, its awesome, as is most of the Nik stuff.
    Lens - save up a bit more for he 7-14?

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    Senior Member simonclivehughes's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Spend the $500 on your wife... never a wasted investment.

    Cheers,

  7. #7
    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Quote Originally Posted by f6cvalkyrie View Post
    +1 for a photoworkshop
    i wished that Guy and Jack would do something in Europe, it's so far to Southern California from here, and I'm afraight I might not want to come back after the workshop

    And, when do we drink a glass to your health, cq at your expense ?

    c u
    Rafael
    We do have 1 slot left in the Salton Sea workshop and your a 3 hour drive away.

    Seriously though and I do mean this even without the advertising in it. You want to learn than workshops are fabulous for it but you want to go to one that actually teaches you something , how to shoot , how to handle files , how to process and all that goes into that including composition , developing a eye and the stuff that really counts. We do that and we have folks that are on there 5th workshop because they grow in photography like this and obviously have fun and get to meet like people with the same interest.

    At some point in time be it ours or someone else's you owe it to yourself to take workshops, classes and actually learn how to develop a eye. It takes years to get to the high levels but you can get there with instruction and working at it.

    We are still planning on Europe.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

  8. #8
    Contributing Editor ustein's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Keep the money and spend the money when you think you really need it.
    Uwe Steinmueller
    -------------------

    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
    http://www.outbackphoto.com

  9. #9
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    First off, if you live in San Diego you are less than 5 hrs from the south-eastern Sierras. It doesn't get any better than that. If you want to try landscape then get your tail up there some weekend. Many trailheads up at 10,000ft near Lone Pine, CA - though everything is snow until the summer. But jeez, I'm in fricking Baltimore - I'd kill to be as close as you are to the Sierras. Get up there for a weekend and shoot! You really don't need any more lenses to try your hand at Landscape.

    1. For cityscapes, B&W, and landscape a UWA seems in order. Save that $500, clear a few of your less used lenses and wait for the Olympus 9-18 to be released. I think for your shooting you might enjoy a UWA. (Obviously the Panasonic 7-14 is available now but double your budget and the 4/3 9-18 + adapter is another option).

    2. I'm not sure I'd go overboard on a tripod for such a small camera. Maybe new legs if you don't like your video legs, but that's like $100 at the most unless you want to go for something exotic.

    3. You seem fully loaded on software.

    4. Spending money with your wife is always a good thing.

    Good luck!

  10. #10
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Thank you all for the feedback! I appreciate all of it!

    One of the reasons I joined this forum is because I saw all the workshops offered, so those have always been in the back of my mind something I wanted to do eventually once I a) learned the fundamentals of composition and photography and b) I could afford them. I'm working on both of those =). I still feel like for the most part I'm taking snapshots and not composing photographs, so that's something I want to learn before I invest in a workshop. In the mean time, I'm taking to heart the comment about traveling to the Sierras, which are really not that far away. It's sad that something so obvious has eluded me for the past 10 years since I've been living in San Diego. I was also planning on taking some road trips around Southern California chasing ghost towns - I think that would make for some interesting photos, and it won't be all that expensive if I just keep them to day trips.

    The extra monitor (I'm actually happy with my 23" Apple), the Nik/Viveza software, and the 7-14 UWA lens are all excellent suggestions. The 7-14 in particular is on my list of eventual purchases. I actually think I'll end up with a number of Pana/Leica lenses as they keep pumping them out, and selling off all but the special non-Pana lenses.

    So for now I'll take your advice and focus on taking practical classes. I wish the class I'd signed up for last month hadn't been canceled, but there are other classes I can take through the San Diego Photo Meet-up group. I'll sell off some of the gear I don't use much to make a bit of extra cash, and I'll focus on getting the most out of the gear I have now.

    Thanks again!
    -Dragos
    Last edited by photoSmart42; 6th February 2010 at 08:47.

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    Senior Member kdphotography's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    1. Photography excursion
    or
    2. $500, thin out the equipment or save just a bit more for ---> IR conversion 2d camera body like Jack's GF1

  12. #12
    Member kwalsh's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Quote Originally Posted by photoSmart42 View Post
    I still feel like for the most part I'm taking snapshots and not composing photographs, so that's something I want to learn before I invest in a workshop.
    If you don't have it already, get "The Photographer's Eye" by Freeman:

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0240809343/

    I can't recommend that highly enough if you are finding you are weak on composition. That book can occupy you for a long time while also getting you an improvement quickly. If you don't want to wait for it come from Amazon I do almost always see it in stock at Borders as well as Barnes and Noble.

    Oh, and if the mountains are snowed in remember you are also in reach of Death Valley, which is a landscape mecca like no other...

    Ken

  13. #13
    DougDolde
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    I gotta say its rather amusing that someone would ask how to spend $500. Kinda like "Mommy how should I spend my allowance".

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    Re: Help me spend $500

    You have way more equipment than you need. My advice:

    - Sell a lot of it.

    - Keep a body and two or three favorite lenses: wide, normal, portrait tele. Keep a flash and lighting accessories, a tripod. Keep Photoshop CS4 and get Lightroom.

    - Use whatever money (your $500 plus whatever comes back from selling all the excess) to finance a trip which includes a photography workshop.

    - Make photographs.

    ..."Equipment often gets in the way of Photography." ...

  15. #15
    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
    You have way more equipment than you need. My advice:

    - Sell a lot of it.

    - Keep a body and two or three favorite lenses: wide, normal, portrait tele. Keep a flash and lighting accessories, a tripod. Keep Photoshop CS4 and get Lightroom.

    - Use whatever money (your $500 plus whatever comes back from selling all the excess) to finance a trip which includes a photography workshop.

    - Make photographs.

    ..."Equipment often gets in the way of Photography." ...
    Thanks Godfrey, even though this advice really hurts - because it is so true... The last few months I have actually spent much more time searching for lenses than taking pictures, and I spent a fortune in the process only to realize that many people who post here (including yourself) take pictures with 'inferior' (= affordable) lenses that I can only dream of. It's so much easier spending money for lenses than learning all that there is to learn. Of course, the tricky part for the relative newbies like myself is also to find out which are the 3 lenses I should limit myself to... In any case, I will try luring somebody else into this trap and start selling off a good part of my eclectic collection shortly Thanks for kicking my behind.

    Stefan

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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Quote Originally Posted by apicius9 View Post
    Thanks Godfrey, even though this advice really hurts - because it is so true... The last few months I have actually spent much more time searching for lenses than taking pictures, and I spent a fortune in the process only to realize that many people who post here (including yourself) take pictures with 'inferior' (= affordable) lenses that I can only dream of. ...
    I wouldn't call my total lens kit small, or inexpensive. The number of lenses (11) is largish because of the number of different bodies I use and the different kinds of work I do, but essentially I tend to use two or three lenses for any one of the bodies most of the time.

    For the G1, what gets used most at the present time are the

    Lumix G 20/1.7 ($400)
    Konica Hexanon AR 40/1.8 ($60)
    Olympus Pen F G.Zuiko 70/2 ($400)

    These three lenses alone do enough that I use other options relatively infrequently. They're not cheap, but they're also not what I'd call overly expensive. Affordable is a good word ... ;-)

    ... It's so much easier spending money for lenses than learning all that there is to learn. Of course, the tricky part for the relative newbies like myself is also to find out which are the 3 lenses I should limit myself to...
    Learning ... not only what's good but what works for you ... always takes some time and effort. And money. As I said: a wide, a normal, a portrait tele. Can't really go wrong with that.

    In many cases, I recommend students to buy one high-quality prime lens and work with that alone for a few months at least. A constraint like this often enhances creativity.

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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Well, a quick update. Just signed myself and my wife up for a comprehensive workshop that will not only go over DSLR camera and photography fundamentals, but will also cover composition with practical, field experience. I'm really excited about it, and can't wait until it starts in a few weeks! I also purchased the Freeman book, and so far I love it. I really like how he goes over the 'science' of vision and how the eye naturally follow certain paths to absorb a scene.

    I'm also working on selling off some of the gear I don't use that much. I decided to stick with my panhead tripod for so I'll be selling the ballhead I bought in anticipation of buying another tripod. I'll also sell my FD 135/2.5, but for the moment I'll keep my cheap FD 28/2.8 since I'm using it as a test lens for my DIY IR setup. I'm happy with the rest of my gear - cheap, but does the job.

    Thank you all again for your suggestions!!
    -Dragos

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    Re: Help me spend $500

    There is something to be said for the adage "one body, one lens, one year" to really train your photographic eye. The point being to not get bogged down too much with all the technical crap of which lens to switch to etc etc. Keeping the technical end simple lets you just focus on the image. Put a nice 35 or 50 equivalent on and leave it on for a month or two and see what happens. Then spend another month with another lens, etc. You will soon figure out which ones fit your "eye" and work from there.
    michael

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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    I gotta say its rather amusing that someone would ask how to spend $500. Kinda like "Mommy how should I spend my allowance".
    I would disagree with that.

    I have no reason to doubt the intent and the sincerity of the poster.

    Good luck to you, Dragos!

  20. #20
    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Dragos, that sounds great and inspiring, I hope you will have fun. I'll check again what his available here locally in workshops/courses and may do something similar.

    Godfrey, I didn't want to insult your lenses by calling them inferior, sorry, bad choice of word I was just thinking about the great pics from you I had seen taken with the relatively inexpensive Konica lens while most lenses I bought in the past year cost m more than that. I just realized that owning 20+ lenses doesn't help my photography one bit if I don't learn how to use them, and that I have not spent my time wisely in the last year. Over in another forum we always say that the professional has everthing he needs, the amateur has everything. I seem to have followed that trend here and just realized I need to shift my focus to get better, that's all.

    Stefan

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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Quote Originally Posted by apicius9 View Post
    Dragos, that sounds great and inspiring, I hope you will have fun. I'll check again what his available here locally in workshops/courses and may do something similar.

    Godfrey, I didn't want to insult your lenses by calling them inferior, sorry, bad choice of word I was just thinking about the great pics from you I had seen taken with the relatively inexpensive Konica lens while most lenses I bought in the past year cost m more than that. I just realized that owning 20+ lenses doesn't help my photography one bit if I don't learn how to use them, and that I have not spent my time wisely in the last year. Over in another forum we always say that the professional has everthing he needs, the amateur has everything. I seem to have followed that trend here and just realized I need to shift my focus to get better, that's all.

    Stefan
    Thank you for the compliment!
    Don't worry, I didn't take offense. And I don't think the lenses did either. ;-)

    Sounds like you're on the way to a different mindset now ... always great to do a refresh and think about things from a different angle. Enjoy the workshop!

  22. #22
    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Help me spend $500

    Hi Dragos, thanks for bringing that up at exactly this time - I just signed up for a 1-day Lightroom workshop next week and a photography course (5 sessions) starting mid-March. And they are on campus in walking distance from my office, I wouldn't even have looked if you hadn't brought up that topic.

    Stefan

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