Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My lifelong photography journey

I received my first camera for Christmas when I was in the fourth grade. It was a 620 size Sawyer Nomad. I bought a 35mm Kodak Pony when I was in high school.

When I got to college I became more interested in photography. I was able to buy a 35mm Petri SLR and soon graduated to a Nikkormat. It was there that I set up a darkroom and became proficient with the mechanics of photography. I got very familiar with f-stops, shutter speeds, and film speeds. I bought more cameras and lenses and learned how they worked.

When I left college in 1971, I got a job at a camera store and was soon the store manager. I was able to go to trade shows and keep up on all the latest equipment and materials.

When I was 25 years old I opened a custom photo lab catering to professional photographers. I considered myself an expert on the technical issues surrounding photography. My pictures however, though technically good, were never what I hoped for in terms of artistic merit.

It was not until 1991 on a trip to Italy that I had a breakthrough of sorts. My wife and I spent a lot of time in museums and galleries and I began to see myself as an artist with a camera. I was using a Pentax 645 at the time. The pictures that I brought back from Italy were the best photographs I had ever made. I still have large photos of Italy in my house taken over twenty years ago.

It is significant to note that from the time that I started becoming serious about photography until I began making really good photographs was about 25 years. In the first half of the 1990’s, I produced some of my favorite photographs.

I sold the photo lab in 1996 and began perusing other interest. I would take pictures with my 35mm Canon and drop them off at a one-hour photo lab. When I picked them up, as often as not, I would thumb through them and toss them in a drawer or the trash can. I had forgotten that the reason I opened the photo lab back in1973 was the deplorable state of the photofinishing industry at the time, and nothing had really changed. I became so discouraged that I quit taking pictures all together.

In about 1998 I bought a Nikon slide scanner and an Epson printer and began scanning some old slides and negatives and making inkjet prints. They were wonderful and I realized that I still loved photography, but I had to have complete control of the process from the time I clicked the shutter until the prints were made if I was going to get acceptable results.

In 2001 I bought my first digital camera, an Olympus E-20. The camera was marvelous. I immediately put all my 35mm gear on eBay and haven’t shot a roll of film since.

Since then I have upgraded my digital cameras a couple of times and am now using a Pentax K20D.

In 2008 I decided to get back into photography as a full-time profession. Once again I am making photographs that I am proud of because I can control the whole process. With modern cameras, computers, and printers, this is something that I can do for many years in the future and leave a legacy of great photographs.