The Bastards Book of Photography

An open-source guide to working with light by Dan Nguyen

Photography is for Anyone

A reflection on whether it's worth learning photography

  • Exposure value: 0
  • Shutter speed: 1/160
  • F number: 3.2
  • Iso: 800
  • Focal length: 24.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM on Jul 12, 2009 at 07:19 PM

Because I’m not too creative, this introduction borrows from the original Bastards Book, which began with a long, preachy essay, titled ”Programming is for Anyone.”

But it’s silly to be preachy about photography because it’s easy to learn and enjoy at virtually every level. And if it weren’t, I’d be one of the first to quit.

  • Exposure value: -5/3
  • Shutter speed: 1/160
  • F number: 4.5
  • Iso: 400
  • Focal length: 16.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM on Jun 20, 2011 at 07:09 PM

Except for the cheap disposable cameras that you drop off at the drugstore’s 1-Hour counter, I’ve never developed a roll of film or even had to wait more than a second to see a photo. If publishing my photos required more than just clicking and dragging I doubt anyone but me would ever see them.

  • Exposure value: 0
  • Shutter speed: 1/500
  • F number: 5.6
  • Iso: 200
  • Focal length: 29.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM on Sep 30, 2011 at 02:02 PM

So I don’t have a perch to criticize anyone who has joined photography in the Instagram era. If you’re like me, you probably spend as much time picking the best filter as you do taking the picture. But at least it shows that you care about aesthetics, even if subject is leftover waffles.

  • Exposure value: 0
  • Shutter speed: 0.4
  • F number: 5.6
  • Iso: 1600
  • Focal length: 16.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:15 PM

I can’t even claim that I have an artistic desire to take photos. My reasons for going into photography are almost entirely practical. I thought being able to operate a camera might make help me get a job as a foreign or travel correspondent.

  • Exposure value: 0
  • Shutter speed: 1/125
  • F number: 3.2
  • Iso: 500
  • Focal length: 46.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM on Sep 11, 2010 at 03:56 PM

Today, it’s a useful enough hobby that, besides leading to a few paid gigs, at least lets me decorate my own webpages.

Sometimes I think my camera isn’t so much a tool as it is an excuse. An excuse, for example, to skip the subway ride home and take a two-hour walk on the hunch that the sunset will be interesting tonight. Or to trudge out in a deep blizzard at midnight, or just to stop and watch…just about anything.

  • Exposure value: +1/3
  • Shutter speed: 1/100
  • F number: 5.0
  • Iso: 1000
  • Focal length: 24.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM on Dec 26, 2010 at 11:06 PM

When I do get a chance to look through my photos, I’m always less interested in how they look than I am in what was going through my mind – what made me suspect then, that in the minutes, hours, and years after the photo was snapped, that it would capture something or someone that I would still care about?

  • Exposure value:
  • Shutter speed: 1/24
  • F number: 2.4
  • Iso: 80
  • Focal length: 4.3 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Apple iPhone 4S / on Nov 15, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Remembering those stories and having a physical reminder of them has so far been enough profit for me.

Admittedly, that’s a pretty lame justification for a hobby that’s sucked up thousands of dollars and countless hours of my life; most people don’t need contrived excuses to enjoy sunsets or to stand still and notice.

  • Exposure value: -1
  • Shutter speed: 1/160
  • F number: 3.5
  • Iso: 160
  • Focal length: 35.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D / EF35mm f/2 on Sep 27, 2011 at 03:29 PM
  • Exposure value: +2/3
  • Shutter speed: 1/40
  • F number: 10.0
  • Iso: 1000
  • Focal length: 24.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM on Dec 26, 2010 at 11:13 PM
  • Exposure value: -1/3
  • Shutter speed: 1/15
  • F number: 2.8
  • Iso: 2500
  • Focal length: 16.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM on May 2, 2011 at 12:58 AM

So I don’t think I’m qualified to inspire anyone to learn photography. But I am thrilled that there are people out there who, despite taking perfectly nice photos by phone, believe that there’s still a world of photography that more expressive, expansive and beautiful than what they’ve captured so far. And they’re willing to try to explore it.

I don’t have any idea what that will benefit you, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. – Dan

  • Exposure value: 0
  • Shutter speed: 1/125
  • F number: 2.8
  • Iso: 500
  • Focal length: 57.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D / EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM on Sep 11, 2008 at 03:34 PM
  • Exposure value: -1/3
  • Shutter speed: 1/400
  • F number: 4.5
  • Iso: 400
  • Focal length: 19.0 mm
  • Flash used: Off, Did not fire
View on Flickr Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II / EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM on Feb 7, 2012 at 12:11 PM
On the street, in the aftermath of the New York Giants ticker-tape parade.

Comments

comments powered by Disqus