Up Close and Personal: 35mm

When I first started doing photography, I had this idea that all cameras pretty much did the same thing—captured what you saw. What I have learned over time is that there are so many factors involved in capturing what is before you. 

2017. The Year of the Upgrade. 

I took a plunge and a financial risk when I ditched my baby Rebel SL1 (my first DSLR) and bought by very first Canon 5D MkII, a full-frame sensor camera. At the time, I will not lie, I barely knew what those words meant "full frame sensor." Did I know what a sensor was? Nope. But there I go, dropping more than a month's rent on this bundle of gears and plastic. I read somewhere or heard somewhere that you are supposed to buy equipment to "grow into" and that is exactly what I did. 

Lighting and Faces and Alleys, Oh My!

Shortly after I bought this camera body (just the body, y'all), I thought to myself, I should ask around and see what kind of "glass" I should buy first. I had been watching a lot of YouTube so I could use the lingo and sound cool... or at least somewhat experienced. I reached out to my friend Lauren of Penjari Photography, someone I have admired for AGES and asked what she used. She said a 5DMKII and a 35mm/f1.4. So, I copied her. I went online the very next day and looked up 35mm/1.4 Canon and read almost the whole dang internet on this lens. There is an old one and a new one and apparently the new one is cheaper feeling and the old one holds up better, yada yada. So I bought the "old" one. 

Side note: I was "leading" a Media Team to South Africa in a few months, so I better learn how to use all this stuff, right? Yes. 

35mm and 5DMKII in hand, I start shooting, not having ever shot on Manual, needless to say, I took some pretty ROUGH photos those first few weeks. Lots of overexposed pics, and completely black photos, etc. But I finally figured out how to set my settings so I thought I'd take a few friends out for a spin. The first time I took my camera out, I was AMAZED at how heavy this thing was. It was like carrying a tiny purse with a boulder in it. Not a good look. But i've adjusted over time. It's become more comfortable. I'm still on the hunt for one of those cute little hipster bags that somehow carry all your gear but don't look like you are a techie nerd. Any suggestions, DM me.

South Africa

Guys, I cannot even express how nervous I was. I was the LEAD of this team and I JUST learned how to use my camera in manual. I'm sure you can feel my pain. Inferiority complex times a million eating away at me bit by bit. As we steadily approached our date of departure, my head began to swim with the schedule and the details and the fear and all the terrible things that happen to creatives when they have to do type A stuff... like plan trips. 

After the 15 hour flight, 2 hour mini-flight from Joburg to Port Elizabeth, we picked up vans and drove into Jeffrey's Bay, where our partner Victory4All is located. My heart started to settle. A home away from home. My family away from family. My people. 

The Kiddos

The moment I saw their beautiful smiling faces, I knew that capturing those moments would be the most rewarding experience I've ever had. "Take me the photo" they yelled eagerly. Each time the shutter snapped, they climbed all over me to see their photo. Eyes lit up, arm in arm, crawling all over each other, hands raised throwing what I hope were peace signs and HUGE grins ear to ear. This is what it is all about. Those moments. 

Back in the US

I made a vow to myself. This year will be about connecting with people. Getting to know the quirks of humanity and delving into that. Delving into my quirks as a photographer. And Lord knows I have them. A friend of mine came up to me at an event I volunteered for and asked... "So you're a photographer?" I looked down at my hand, grasping this hunk of plastic and glass and said... "kind of." She proceeded to tell me about an idea of a portrait series for an offline dating society that she would LOVE for me to work with. With my vow lurking gently behind my eyes dancing around my head, I eagerly thought to myself "What better way to learn about people and the REALITY of them than to photograph single folks looking for love?" So I did. And then things just started happening. 

I started posting on Instagram. Honestly, I felt weird mixing "work" with my fun stuff and I still haven't resolved that. Maybe I'll get my own handle for my photography work one day. Who knows? 


Amanda Gann