While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see. — Dorothea Lange
When I was a child, my grandmother would take thousands of photos. Every birthday, t-ball game, and even the most mundane activities were captured on film. She would spend hours organizing these frames in albums, sliding negatives into plastic sleeves, and coloring the occasional red eye.
When she died, there were probably more than a hundred albums full of stored memories. Many happy memories, sad memories, and some memories marred by hours of forced poses. Yes, I can sympathize with the kid that has just spent an hour standing there waiting when he really wants to play. I also sympathize with the mother or father or grandparent on the other side of the lens, who is just trying to capture a fleeting moment in time. A happy, perfect moment.
Sometime in high school, I acquired a collection of old SLRs that had once belonged to my grandparents. After playing around with the cameras, I loaded a roll of film into the Pentax MX and I started shooting. I think I probably wasted more film than anything, but that experimentation started my photography adventure.
Not long after burning through many rolls of film, I got a digital point and shoot. Seeing the results of my photography was much faster and easier with the digital, that I all but stopped using the MX. In retrospect, I wish I had kept at it and really learned to use the MX to its fullest potential, but at the time it was easier to just keep pointing and shooting.
It wasn’t until my 21st birthday that I would really learn the benefits of an SLR. My father, bought me a Pentax K100d for my birthday and I was back against the learning curve. This time, however, my camera wasn’t fully manual. Not knowing any better, I proceeded to shoot in any of several automatic scene modes. Still just pointing a shooting, but with a better camera.
Getting some instruction
For the first 2 decades of my life I operated every camera I ever touched as a point and shoot. In fact, with the exception of a handful of photos from a trip to Alaska, up to about 2008 I had never taken anything more than a snapshot with any camera. While my family was in Washington, D.C., I came across Washington Photo Safari, a company that offers a number of photo courses around town. They were very affordable, so I booked a beginner course.
I didn’t really know what to expect, but I certainly got my money’s worth. After about 15 minutes, I had my camera out of auto and I had shot a photo that looked like it should be on a post card. The last 3 hours and 45 minutes was just as packed with information and shooting. In the end, I came away with tons of new technical knowledge, at least 20 really great photos, and a list of all the best places to shoot from around the city.
Once I had gotten a little instruction and I had seen the kind of photos I could produce, it didn’t take long to hit gear acquisition phase. Essentially, I regressed and took a lot of crappy snapshots. Instead of pushing myself to do better, but I blamed all the gear I didn’t have.
Yes, the gear I didn’t have was stopping me from putting in the effort to make a decent photo. So, naturally, I bought some gear. I lusted after hot new cameras and lenses. Thankfully, I only bought gear I could actually afford, but I still felt like I was terrible. Truthfully, I was terrible, but I’m improving.
It was about a year ago when I fell in love with photography again. I pulled out the MX and shot a few rolls of film. I sold off some kit, got down to basics, and I started focusing on really using my gear to the fullest extent. I did buy upgraded camera bodies, but I bought older generation models—a K20D and a K-5. I expect that these will last me a while. I’m now really satisfied with my kit. I have some really decent lenses and 2 great bodies that cover almost any kind of shooting I want to do. Best of all, it all fits in one (admittedly large) bag.
I’m not really sure where I’m headed with this. I enjoy shooting photos and I’ve toyed with the idea of pursuing various photography careers, but I’m afraid that will suck the fun out of it. For now I’m sticking with it as a hobby, but I might sell some prints. I just don’t know where to find the time to start with that.
It may sound like I’m making fun, but I would love nothing more than for my photography to hang in every bathroom from here to Canada. Just to fully explain, I genuinely believe in art and I genuinely love photography, but I don’t have any issue with ‘selling out’ in favor of funding my photography or flying adventures. As an example, I’ll point to Thomas Kinkaide’s paintings, he made millions off of mass-producing the things and if some of my photography turned out the same way, I’d be ecstatic.