I’m not a professional writer nor am I a professional photographer so let’s just get that out of the way. What I am is an ordinary person, learning as much as I can while circling the sun before my eternal dirt nap….hopefully long into the future. I have decided to document my journey of self discovery in order to hold myself accountable. I’d love for you to come along.
I first picked up a camera when I was about 10 years old. I have no idea what kind of camera it was, just that it was a late 1970’s version of a point and shoot with a cube flash on top that had to be changed after four uses. Since it was a film camera and we didn’t have a lot of money my mom only let me take the last few shots on a roll before having them developed. I remember taking pictures of our life size nativity scene at Christmas and creating dioramas out of my brother’s toys to photograph. Needless to say none of these were overly impressive.
In my early teens I became fascinated with my uncle’s camera. He took several photography classes and had a big camera with interchangeable lenses and I thought that was so cool! Since we didn’t have money for lessons and my previous tries at photography were mediocre at best I decided this wasn’t my path. Over the years I would pick up a cheap camera and document things but it wasn’t until my first iPhone that I started thinking about photography again.
I still felt I was a horrid photographer with no eye when I went to work at a local news magazine. I saw all of these people that I would describe as “creatives” snapping away with their phones and I started to notice things. I found that it took them longer to compose a shot. They made sure they were at a good angle and that the light hit in a certain way. They might get on the ground or stand in a chair to get the shot. I realized that when I took pictures I just opened my camera and shot straight on with no regard to composition, light or perspective. I started to think that maybe I could get better with a little practice so I went out and bought a Canon SX50. It was still a point and shoot but the photos looked good and I was learning to put more thought into what I was doing. I took this camera with me to Alaska and ended up getting some pretty good shots but I always had this nagging feeling that I wanted to learn to shoot in manual mode with a DSLR. Then, about two years ago, my wife decided that she wanted to go to Antarctica. This was the opportunity I was looking for to buy that fancy camera and improve my skills. I set a goal that by the time we left for the trip I would know how to shoot in manual.
I scanned Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace and found someone selling their Canon 80D with lenses, batteries, and a flash for $900. I jumped on that and started watching Youtube videos to figure out what the hell I was doing. I joined Udemy and The Great Courses and watched everything on photography I could. I also bought a few more lenses and other equipment that I probably didn’t need but hey, it’s a new hobby so why not go whole hog! I took my camera everywhere I went. I didn’t always get it out of the case because it’s quite intimidating to start shooting pictures of strangers but I had it if the opportunity arose. I shot a lot of photos in my backyard, literally. Everything from birds, to cats to snails and slugs. I tried shooting at night, in thunderstorms, in spring and fall and winter and I finally got comfortable with my camera. It felt good to hold it in my hands. I knew where all the buttons were and how to change my ISO, shutter speed and aperture. I figured out what aperture priority was and how to use it as well as long shutter speeds and macro lenses.
Now, am I a seasoned professional? No, but I was able to document our trip to South America, Antarctica and Easter Island in a way that I am proud of. This was also the first goal (unrelated to sports) that I set and accomplished and even after almost three years, I still enjoy this photography thing. I’ve taken classes on editing in Lightroom and Photoshop and I want to do more with video and video editing. There’s also a part of me that wants to start photographing those weird things we call “humans”. Not senior pictures or family portraits but the human condition all around us. The good, the bad and the ugly. I want to tell stories with my photographs and tell them well.
So this is the journey I’m on now and I hope it lasts a long time. Join me?