For me, it was a rocky start to photography. As I mentioned on my About page, I dropped out of Photography class in High School. I was failing the class. My focus was still unclear during those rebellious years.
College and beyond
In college, everything changed when I roomed with two Photography majors. In one of the places I lived we converted a bathroom into a makeshift darkroom. I spent a lot of time in that room, unrolling spools of film in semi-darkness and immersing prints in sharp-scented fixatives.
I also served as a part-time muse since the college required Photography program students to take one roll of pictures a day. The infrared picture of me below, dressed as a lion, was taken by my roommate Jill.
During one winter break, we left our rented house to spend time with our families. I arrived back at the house days ahead of everyone else. A catastrophe greeted me. Unbeknownst to me, my out-of-state roommates neglected to pay the electric bill—they assumed our rent included electricity. The electric company turned off our power when no one was in town, and the house was ice cold. The pipes had broken in the ceiling, releasing a steady stream of dripping water. My first thought was, “Her photos!” I scrambled to salvage my roomie’s pictures from her drenched room. String zigzagged from wall to wall and I hung up the saturated prints.
In contrast to that chaos, I organized slides taken while working outdoors after graduating from college. Each category has a paper tab and I used bright colored pencil markings for subcategories, including where they were taken. Most survived seasons of living in a tent, but mold blossomed on several in the unpredictable High Desert weather. If only my current pictures were so well organized!
A nature photography class
Years later, I took a class from a professional wildlife photographer. He was a wonderful photographer, but I cringed when he spoke of what he did to capture the “perfect” image. With my training as a wildlife biologist, I had a hard time believing it was okay to set up scaffolding right next to an owl nest full of fledglings. I vowed not to go that route.
During one class, we climbed over large boulders piled along a Puget Sound beach. Somehow, my camera, with its 400mm lens attached, tumbled out of my backpack. NO! I set aside money every month for a year to buy that Olympus OM-1 camera. I saved for another year to buy the lens. Though neither one broke in the fall, it damaged the connection between them. From then on, I squeezed them tightly together every time I took a picture.
Finding the right tools
As time passed, I used the damaged camera less and less. I bought a couple pocket-sized Canon PowerShot Digital Elphs and now use a Panasonic Lumix and a Pixel phone. Sometimes I attach them to my spotting scope.
Maybe the broken connection between my giant lens and camera happened for a reason. There is creative freedom associated with having a grab-and-go camera small enough to fit into a pocket. We can take pictures anywhere at anytime.
My rocky start in photography took many unexpected turns, but now my photos are often artistic, reflecting more of who I really am.
There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.Ernst Haas