I bought my first camera in 1975. It was an SLR, Pentax K2 camera with a 50 mm and wide-angle lens. It cost me a whole month’s salary back then. But a lifelong passion for photography began at that point. I did not know much about the technical elements of photography or the principles of composition. It just felt so right to have a camera in my hand. I learned to load the slide film canisters into the body and to advance it to make sure it ready to capture what ever I felt like shooting.
Back then, it was a casual hobby to be engaged whenever I had free time but was not playing football, baseball, hockey, and countless other sports. But photography was always present in the back of my mind like a latent seed waiting to germinate.
Whenever I did engage in photography the time seemed to melt away. I was one with the camera. I did not matter what I shot or where I was. The hours would just float by. In truth I cannot even remember what I liked to shoot back then. When I did complete a roll of Kodak 100 ASA slide film and sent it away for processing, I could hardly wait the 10 days before receiving them back.
They always came back in a tidy plastic box just big enough to hold 36 slides. After going to the store to pick them up, I fumbled to open the results of my shoot. I held each slide up in the air to see the image as soon as I left the store. I remember looking at one, then another and another until I could not hold all the images in my hands. Of course, some you liked, and some were OK and still others were under or over exposed.
I stumbled forward through the years just pecking and pawing with my camera to have fun, to document family events, to go out on a shoot somewhere to enjoy nature and capture anything that caught my eye. I did not know anything about the principles of composition. I was tied to slide film. I had no desire to work in a dark room to develop my images. Kodak 100 or 400 where the choices back then either colour or black and white. I always chose colour. I was attracted to bright colors and vivid scenes.
When I married in 1980, my wife and I merged our photographic gear and I went over to Canon. I gave my Pentax equipment to an old friend which he has to this day. Again, life was very busy and photography was important but was just latent force waiting for the chance to sprout. But it would have to wait a while yet.
With the beginning of our management consulting business in 1983, my life got even more busy. The transition of working for someone to working for yourself is a huge change. It takes much more energy and is extremely stressful. It leaves little time for anything but work and family. As a result, my Canon equipment was used for family occasions and little else.
But there was still the thrill of finishing a roll of slide film, putting it in the projector to relive the excitement of family birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases and so on.
But in 1988 Canon went to autofocus cameras. They basically said, “sorry your old equipment is not compatible with our new direction, so you have to reinvest and basically start over with new gear”. Well, that ended my time with Canon. I sold my gear and began a lifelong love of Nikon cameras and lenses.
I cannot even remember what gear I purchased. But I was blown away by backward compatibility of Nikon cameras. You can still use lenses made in the 1950s with current digital gear. That is amazing, and a strong indication of the quality of their products and dedication to their customers. I was and still am a lifelong Nikonian.
The latency of the photographic seed germinated explosively in the winter of 2000. It was a winter day, cold and sunny. I was walking by myself on a trail near where I lived when I felt the sensation of being watched. I turned slowly and my life has never been the same since. Watching me near by shrub not 50 feet away was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen. It was huge and had the largest yellow eyes I had ever seen, and it watched me intently. And I watched even more closely. Slowly it alighted and flew a close 360 degrees around me seemingly to make sure it captured every dimension of my being. But more than that it captured my heart. For some deep-down reason, I had to know more - to find this mystery bird again. Even my uninformed self knew it was an Owl. A big beautiful grey bird that flew with endless grace, slowly and majestically
It was a Great Grey Owl that migrates south in the Winter occasionally. I was hooked. Some thing clicked; the photographic seed bust into life. I have spent thousands of dollars and hours trying to capture images of the Great Grey Owl, the ”Ghost of the Forest”.
My journey as a dedicated Photographer began in that cold afternoon on a snowy day. Of course, the next big revolution in photography began shortly after my journey as a photographer started as well. That evolution was the dawn of the digital age of photography. I started with a 6-megapixel Nikon D100, followed closely by a 10 MP D200 and a 12 MP D300. But everything changed once I purchased a 600mm Nikon F4 lens with a 1.75 teleconverter and the Nikon D800. That combination of 36mp camera and a 600 mm lens (1000mm with a 1.75 teleconverter or the equivalent of 10 power binocular) gave me access to the raptor community. Despite, its considerable weight and size, I used that lens with a variety of cameras over the next 10 years to capture raptors of all kinds; owls, hawks, eagles, falcons. I discovered my love and fascination with these magnificent birds. But it was still owls that kindled that special feeling that endures to this day.
The photographic digital revolution is the latest in a string of changes from black and white to colour to auto focusing to digital. My Journey as a photographer took an incredible leap forward in complexity and effectiveness. Understanding the nuances of camera operation was a difficult transition but nothing compared to the complexity of processing photographs in Photoshop or similar programs. In addition, the new techniques keep changing and improving the photographic landscape. Some of the techniques include:
- Raw processing;
- High speed photography;
- Tilt shift photography;
- High dynamic range (HDR);
- Motion blur photography;
- Panoramic photography;
- Focus shift photography; and
- Interval timer shooting photography.
In any case, the new photographic technologies provided a huge ability to do many new and exciting ranges of photographic outputs, whether it be digital or print. For example, I used to be happy making an 8.5 by 11 print. Now, I routinely print images 6-8 feet wide. It seems the sky is the limit
But how do you address all the complexity surrounding digital photography in order to make wise decision to advance your photographic interests as a career, passion, or hobby>?
Here are the factors I use on ongoing basis to:
- What type of photography do you want to try? Landscape, sport, nature, birds ?
- What make and type of cameras, lenses, tripods and other peripheral equipment do you require?
- Should you good to mirrorless or standard digital cameras?
- Should you invest as a beginner, intermediate or advanced photographer?
- Should you get new or pre-used equipment and at what price?
- What post processing software do you want use? Photo Elements or professional Photoshop?
- Are you interested in doing videography with your camera?
- What type of printer should you purchase? Do you need one?
- What level of training support do you require? Coaching by a friend or more structured training?
While the above factors require careful consideration, the best means to advance your photographic pastime is work with a few other more advanced photographers. They like nothing better than to compare and contrast cameras, lenses, tripods, processing software, printers, places to shoot etc. In this manner, you can quickly absorb all the complexities of modern day photography.
But more importantly you will learn how to use photography as a medium for your own creative expression. Ultimately, you will grow beyond providing a “Documentary Account” of your images to a “Fine Art Approach”. You will learn to use photography to express an idea, an emotion, a message. It is a wonderful journey that will last your whole life where time just melts away from the sheer joy of being on a shoot.
This is my journey as a photographer. It is a creative and passionate outlet for me. I invite you to join me.
You can see my work at Fine Art America