Learning the art of photography is a humbling experience at the best of times, but when you combine a few months of inactivity with a new piece of kit it really hits home just how much time and practice is required to even maintain some level of competence - not that I was particularly competent to start with.
For the last few months I've had little choice but to sideline my photographic exploits whilst Real Life (tm) has taken a front seat. I also find that while I'm not shooting I'm less inclined to visit the AP forums and it quickly becomes a downward spiral of neglect. Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, I also ordered my SB-700 Speedlight, which arrived several weeks ago and was used somewhat arbitrarily in an exercise whose point was little more than to confirm that it actually fired.
This weekend we headed up the coast for a few days to attend my sister-in-law's wedding and on the way out the door grabbed my camera and shiny new flash. At this point I hadn't done more than flick through the SB-700 manual to check that it did in fact contain an English chapter. I was somewhat hesitant to start shooting over the weekend but managed to fire off a few shots at the beach and around the rental house the day before the wedding. For the ceremony the camera was locked in the boot of my car, but I brought it out at the reception, full of hope that my SB-700 would produce stunning after-dark / indoor results.
I must say that I am bitterly disappointed with my efforts, both with and without the flash. One particular shot - a candid of the groom-to-be standing ankle-deep in water, underneath an umbrella in driving rain on the beach, no doubt organising some last-minute detail of the wedding on his mobile phone, whilst his soon-to-be bride swam with her bridesmaids - had me confident that I'd captured a poignant moment. One destined to become a favourite of the newly-wed couple, perhaps hung above the fireplace or a favourite wall of the study, and the envy of the official wedding photographers. Alas, try as I may, I can't coax more than a passable mobile-phone-quality snapshot out of my efforts, regardless of cropping or processing, and it'd be lucky to make my Facebook page... and that was the best of them. Not a single keeper amongst them.
Sadly, my flash-assisted efforts are embarrassingly woeful. I'd like to make it very clear that I am in no way placing any blame with the equipment what-so-ever; that falls squarely on my shoulders. I've read enough about flash lighting to know that it's a learned art, and not something I can hope to simply throw $$$ at. My failing is not a lack of willingness to put the time and effort into it, but rather a lack of time to be able to do so - at this juncture anyway.
My point is, I have taken some decent photos in the past - some of which I'm very proud of - but I was totally unprepared for my dismal failure rate of the weekend. SB-700 aside, I would attribute it in part at least to a complete lack of practice in the last few months.
Anyone else feel that their skills seemingly take a dive when they're out of practice? Or is it like riding a bike for you?
It's all a bit of a worry since our 1st born is due in about 6 weeks (hence the SB-700 purchase) and I was hoping to be somewhat competent enough to take a few photos worth looking at...