How did I get here?

July 05, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

I can't play the piano; my piano teacher suggested to my parents that I try something else.  I don't sing.  All of my family can sing, but not me.  My oldest sister sings in a professional a cappella choir.  If one note is higher or lower than another, it sometimes eludes me.  My drawings are just stick figures.  How can my family be so artistic, but I'm not?

Later on in life, I found that I did have a talent, I just hadn't found my medium.

In 2009, my wife and I moved from a point and shoot camera to our first DSLR.  Oh, how the world opened up!  "Honey, this camera can take those pictures where the subject is in focus and the background is blurry!"  "Look at how much detail these pictures have."  I took pictures in the car the whole way home from the camera shop.  Of course I was in auto mode; this thing had buttons and dials everywhere! I only knew what two or three of them meant.

But I am a techno geek and have made my living working with Windows servers both from hardware and software perspectives.  Also, I am an audiophile and home theater aficionado.  My inner voice called out to me "...must understand every button, every switch and setting...".

So the journey began...

I poured through websites, web videos, filled my Kindle with photography books, joined Flickr and most importantly, I practiced every day.  At first I would easily take 100-200 pictures a night just testing out different settings, lighting or ideas.  I often deleted all of them.  When I had a solid base understanding, I joined the Photographic Society of Northwest Arkansas and started to mingle with other photographers.

My camera settings were now becoming second thought to me, but often I was still unhappy with the pictures I took.  Technically, they were exactly what I had intended, but they were lacking something.  I was frustrated; my wife took pictures on auto or prebuilt scene modes that were often more interesting than mine.  "Are my studies for naught?", I thought.

I was 'that' family member or friend with the really good camera thinking I was a photographer.  Fortunately, I found the turning point and became a photographer, not 'that' guy who takes pictures. 

What is a photograph if it doesn't tell a story?  This is what my inner artist had been missing; it slowly awoke from its long slumber.  The camera was no longer the important key, the scene... the story is the crucial piece.  I studied composition and how the eye travels through a photo.  I watched people, not the back of my camera.  Flickr provided endless hours of amazing work to pour through.  All photographs were education to me.  My eyeballs dried out from not blinking as I stared at each picture for understanding.  If it was a great photo, what made it great?  If the photo was blah, what was lacking?  I would not move on until I understood why I didn't like it and what could be done differently to make it a photograph not a picture.

My love of people and animals is an asset that I never understood.  I know when to press the shutter to get that certain smile or look in the eye.  I know when the animal is revealing that certain act or characteristic that make it unique.  The emotion is the subject and that is what I want to capture.  My images are memories; my photos must capture the feelings of that moment.

It is the viewer's oohs, aahs, smiles and tears that define my success.

Gone is the cameraman and here is the photographer.



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