For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent my days with a camera running in the back of my mind.
Here is my photography journey…
In my younger years, with two young boys racing around my feet, I owned a 35 mm film camera – a Minolta X-700.
With that camera I captured my sons as they played little league sports, participated in scouting, and acted in school plays. I still have it, but its last serious use took place almost 30 years ago.
Gradually, it spent more and more time in the closet. For a long period it simply sat in storage. Sound familiar?
I’ve heard similar stories from many photographers who chose a career other than capturing moments in time.
It’s 2004. The years have flown by. My boys have grown and gone. I’ve gone through a divorce.
I’ve dipped a toe into the digital world and have been using a 3 MP Nikon E3100 to take a few pictures now and then. The quality was really bad and it didn’t get much use.
Looking for a distraction, I purchased a Fuji Finepix S7000 that summer. It had a 6.3 MP sensor. Although the image quality had improved quite a bit for small prints, it just didn’t really give me the creative control I craved and remembered from my old Minolta with various lenses.
The big “C”
Also in 2004, I discovered I had Melanoma.
Cancer…the normal bout of fear and life questions came with it and once I had completed treatments, I began entering endurance events such as 100-mile bike rides via Team-N-Training and raising funds to cure cancer.
In 2011, that activity led me to sign up for an Ironman Triathlon.
As I began training, I determined that a reward for successfully completing the training would be the purchase of a true DSLR with interchangeable lenses and full manual control so I could scratch the creative itch I’d had for years.
The camera I purchased – after exhaustive research, according to my wife who suggested I should NEVER take her to Fry’s, Best Buy or the camera shop ever again – was the Nikon D5100. I took it with me to Arizona, where I completed my Ironman as planned. For a truly accurate experience of that day check out this video.
Up until 2011, I took around 300-500 images a year, primarily on trips.
With the D5100, I took more pictures in one week than I had in the previous 11 months. One image (below) resonated strongly with my friends when I posted it on social media.
That response encouraged me to continue to create.
A transformational perspective
In 2015 I felt frustrated with my photography. Although I was creating nice images and had experienced some success with moving it from a hobby to a business, I felt uncertain as to where I was headed.
It was like being set free from a cage.
As an artist I could adhere to the standard rules of photography or completely ignore them. No longer bound, I began to see things differently and without the definition, as simply a photographer I could take off on a new trajectory that included new styles, new forms of business such as workshops and classes.
Today I’m energized by the new photographers and artists I’ve met as a result of holding classes and workshops.
It’s so rewarding to see a new photographer’s excitement as they finally understand how to control the tool on top of their tripod and are suddenly free to create. When an experienced photographer discovers that one little tip that changes their post-processing in a way that inches them ever closer to their ideal image, I feel even closer to my own goals.
I continue my own education knowing that this media is on a constant path of change. I use Nikon D850’s today, resisting the push by the markets to move to mirrorless but it’s an inevitable switch that will occur someday…unless, as an artist, I decide not to.
I appreciate that you’ve read this snippet of my life as a photographer. Like all of us, I have innumerable stories of the images I just missed or plainly screwed up.
In the interest of brevity (okay, semi-brevity…is that an actual phrase?), though, I’ll conclude with a mantra that generally gets my creative motor running. I received it from Ben Benvie, a photographer who I still believe is among the absolute best wedding photographers on the planet.
“Get high, get low, get near, get far”.
May your batteries never die, and your memory cards never get full……
— David Downs