In my last blog, I wrote about how changes were happening. The idea behind this was to really change the focus of what I write about. Before the change I was writing about life in general and some of my experiences. This covered life, death, concerts, sporting events, music, etc. You can read some of these past blog posts still in this site. But now, I want to write about a passion that I have had for a very long time. I also want to talk about what I have done with this passion, how it has impacted me throughout my life, how it got started, how it has grown with me, and how I would like to see it evolve. Now that I’m done with my college education, kids are living out on their own, and I have my day job that gives me some freedom to travel to do my photography I figure it’s time for me to…well…I don’t want to say reinvent myself, but really, it’s more about the opportunity to expand what I’ve done ever since I was about 10 years old into who knows what. Whether it’s just an outlet of creativity, an outlet to make money, or to do this as a hobby, or my legacy to my kids…it doesn’t really matter.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not feeling the need to clarify, justify, or explain, but as I said, a change is happening and I wanted to share the why. It’s really going to be about my opportunity to do something with this blog, my website and with my hobby of photography, to talk about what I’ve been doing, how I’ve been doing it, and where did it come from? When I heard Simon Sinek in his TED talk years ago “It Starts with Why” this concept of “People don’t ‘buy’ what you do, they ‘buy’ why you do it” resonated with me in so many ways. It helped me define why I do my day job. As I made the jump to a larger camera, take some classes, go out and take photos, again his TED talk came back into my mind and again resonated with why I spend the time, money, and effort to go take photos. I want to share my view (be it landscape photography) of the world today from my eyes. So today, I’m writing about how I started in photography and some of the early cameras I grew up learning how to use. I will touch on the why in this blog, but will go more into it the why in the next blog. I hope you enjoy learning a little about me.
So who can I blame for this? I laugh when I think about this, because of what I have spent on camera equipment and services throughout my life and so I jokingly say I gotta blame somebody for all of this. I certainly was not born with a love of cameras and photography, but I did see this love of cameras and photography through my Dad and his photos. So I’ll blame my Dad (ha ha). Don’t get me wrong, my Dad was a great Dad, but as I say I can blame him for teaching me about cameras and photography, which evolved into my passion…so I will instead thank him for giving me that love of cameras and photography. Dad passed away a couple of years ago and there isn’t a day or time that I don’t think about our conversations, our jokes, and how he taught me about cars and cameras. I inherited his camera, all of his slides, and his memories of photography.
I remember Dad would have his camera with him whenever we went somewhere. He had it when I was very young, he had it when we moved to Florida, and back to Colorado. Thus when I was 10, as I would watch him bring out his camera and take photos. At one point, I wanted to understand more about the process and how it worked, so I started to ask questions. At this time, he would pull out his 35 mm film camera to take pictures, he decided that my education would start right there and then. Dad loved to take photos of us, the mountains, and his cars. He did love his car photos, but when he took his landscape photos is when he started to teach me how to use the camera and to take landscape photos. Back then Dad only used 35 mm slide film. This meant instead of getting a photograph that you can hang on a wall after it is developed, he got this small box of slides that we had to run through our projector on a screen or wall. Why did he like slides? Well, back then the ISO was down in the 60 range, which created amazingly clear and sharp photos…almost as sharp as today’s digital cameras.
As he answered my questions, I could see he was formulating a plan of education for me. Now my goal was to get a camera just like his, a 35 mm SLR camera and I wanted to shoot on color slides. Remember I was 10 years old. But Dad wanted me to learn how to take simple black and white photos first. Again, I wanted to jump way ahead, so being that stubborn 10 year old boy, I asked…or maybe demanded to take color photos. But Dad was adamant, he said, “If you can learn how to use a camera to take photos, then you are going to start with taking black and white photos.” His view point was black and white was harder, which meant color was going to be easy. I did not understand this reasoning, but as I did some reading on it, I started to see that black and white are still “colors”, just two colors and that’s it. They really can create timeless photos that can bring out the details and the emotions of the subject. Black and white offers us the ability to use light, shadows, and use contrast to create photos that brings out the details of people, the landscape, and yes my Dad’s cars. While shooting in Black and White does have its limitations, you really have to have a clear understanding on how bright or how dark, the shadows, no shadows, the sun, the light flashes, or no flash all work together to create the image you envision in your mind. He really wanted me to learn how to use black and white photos to my advantage to create “works of art.” So I started off with a small camera, a Kodak Brownie, just like the one above. I actually did have fun taking photos with that little Brownie. Believe it or not, I still have it and guess what, if I can find film for it, I bet it still works, that was a fun little camera.
Back in the day and I’ll be honest, this was early to mid ’70s, but back in the day, you would drop off your undeveloped film to a place that would take this film, develop the film, and when you stopped by to get it a couple of days later, you would have your package of photos or slides. While Dad would take his film to camera shops that would take care with developing each roll of film, he suggested I take mine to the local Fotomat. Why? Because wanted me to pay for the roll of film and the developing of the film but keep my costs low. I didn’t figure out for a long time that he taught me economics at an early age. Anyway, the Fotomats booths that were around the area I lived in were small little places that promised one day service to develop film. Special orders or special film could take a couple of days, but all of this was way before internet, way before cell phones, way before FedEx, UPS and everything else. You drop your film off, a couple of days later, you’d come by, pay two maybe three bucks to get it developed and you’d have this packet of photos. I remember the first time I did this, I took some photos of the house, took photos of my sister, of my family, tried to take photos of the cats, but if anybody has cats, you know, they don’t like sitting still, and then had my mom drive me down to the local Fotomat to get my film developed. It was exciting to the results of my “creative” work. But either way, I really had fun taking photos and seeing the outcome of my work. I really enjoyed that camera.
A few years later, I decided that it was time to move up to the next camera. Kodak came out with the Instamatic 104 camera. It used a cartridge that held the film inside. No longer did you have to feed the film to the winder and then rewind the film when you had shot all of your photos. It was a way for people to load a camera simply, and when you were done, you opened up the back, didn’t have to worry about exposing the film. You pull your cartridge out, you just dropped it off at the photo place and they would develop it just like the regular film rolls. This opened up photography to even more people. The idea caught on, as the process to take and develop photos became simpler more people would try this new Kodak small and inexpensive little camera. If I remember my first instamatic cost about $24 (remember this was about 1974). I started to use this camera, but found myself migrating back to the Brownie, because it was more tactile or hands on, i.e. the feeding of the film, taking the photo, and rewinding the film. But the big reason why I went this way, the instamatic offered me the opportunity to go into the color.
My parents, one Christmas, got me a Polaroid One Step. This allow you to take a photo and the “photo” would come out on the front of the camera and a couple of minutes later would develop into an image of what you photographed. You could not do any post editing, enlarging, or really anything except enjoy the photos. Now its 2021 and I still have some of those Polaroids that I took back then and believe it or not, they stand the test of time if you leave them in dark cool places. It’s also kind of interesting that Polaroid’s coming out again with those quick develop cameras. Of course, I guess that’s something to say about the generation that’s out that wants everything now. Well, as I grew up, I could always tell Dad could see me eyeing his 35 mm film camera, and finally, when I was 15, he took care of that…another step in my photography evolution.
My Dad got me my first 35mm film camera when I was 15, it was the Pentax K1000. I was going through film rolls weekly. I was taking pictures of anything that interested me. I could change the shutter speed, the aperture and the ISO to be more creative in my photography efforts. But along with landscape and family photos, I experimented with taking photos of my corvette model car that I had built. I put it in a location next to the house to make it look like a real Corvette. These photos turned out pretty good. However, with all of the excitement and euphoric feelings about what I was learning and creating, it all came crashing down about seven months later. I took photos of my family and proceeded to leave my camera on the roof rack of the old Country Squire Station Wagon. My mother drove to the local grocery store with the camera on top, understand I did not realize until later that I had left the camera on top of the car. When I went to grab the camera to take the film out and head to that local Fotomat, I is when it hit me…I lost my most favorite camera, the one that Dad bought for me…ugh. I lost 24 photos of my grandparents, my mom, sister, and I. It was devastating as I will never get those photos back. It is what it is, you learn from those mistakes. So I saved my money and bought another K 1000 and I continued on my path of learning photography…but I can guarantee that I know where my camera is every minute of the day!!
I started to read books, I even took a film developing course when I was in high school to learn how to develop film. Now, I knew that my mom and dad were not going to let me have a bathroom or a separate room to turn into a photo lab, but I did get to have access to the lab in the high school. I, however, did not use the lab a whole lot, because it still kind of confusing to me. I was not taught the finer details of film developing, which looking back would have helped in my actual use of the camera and photographic work. So I wanted to learn more, but unfortunately, I was a standard typical American high school student, which means my car was more important and so was my girlfriend.
As a side note to all of this, because I like to keep things that mean something to me, you could say I’m a horder…but the reality of this is unless the camera was physically broken, I kept them. So, like I said, I still have the Brownie and I still have the Instamatic…and if I’m not mistaken, I think I still have my mom’s pocket Instamatic. The One Step did not survive, it broke one day when I dropped it off the hood of my car onto concrete. Polaroid’s are not that durable. I still have that second K1000 and I still have the last Pentax ME Super that I had. It doesn’t quite work too well these days, but I did get a manual on how to repair it. Maybe someday I’ll do that. In the late ’90s, technology brought about the digital age, whether it was a small point and shoot camera or a DSLR digital, single lens reflex equivalent to a 35 millimeter single lens reflex camera. Photography was forever going to change.
When this digital age started, I stayed with Pentax, why? I knew the bells and whistles, the dials and the knobs, I knew how to put the film in, of course in digital, I knew how to put the memory card in, I knew how to make the aperture work, the shutter speed, the ISO, and I knew how to take photos, but I still wanted to learn more. I still never took a formal class, just kept reading books. Still no internet, so I wasn’t able to look stuff up or watch videos…but I did at least read about them.
My very first digital camera was a Pentax K10, a ten megapixel camera. It was a big deal back then, the camera cost me close to 500 bucks back then. But ten megapixels, wow, that was huge, pictures came out clear and sharp, and colorful. However, we had to accept these photos “as is” jpeg files. I didn’t have editing software back then, which means I didn’t have the ability to put it into Lightroom or Photoshop and create some amazing image! I took my photos and accepted what I got out of it and enjoy these photos. What I liked, is that I could take hundreds of photos and only keep what I wanted to get printed. Very different. My photo count jumped up back then. I kept that camera for a few years until 2006 when I upgraded to the Pentax K20d, a 14 megapixel camera. I actually used that until about 2015, or 2016…somewhere around there, and I upgraded to a full frame Pentax K-1 Mark II.
Again, why did I go with a full frame Pentax? I know the brand Pentax, I know the bells and whistles, and the knobs and buttons. This gave me the opportunity to expand my photography horizons because of the K-1 Mark II being a full frame camera, which means I could explore the creation of photos up to sizes of 24 by 36, or 40 by 24, or 40 by 30. I could create large photos, panoramic photos, and start to expand my photo creativity. I wanted to create big photos…something I’ve always wanted to do. Now I can, my camera is up to the task…but was I? Of course, being somebody who wants to continue to grow and learn, guess what? There’s always better cameras out there, just depends if I want to spend the money on them right now. I’ve continued to learn throughout the years, but in 2019 I actually took a digital photography class at a college I work at. This was one of those “ah ha” moments…that I should have done this years earlier!!
Ok, I admitted it that I wish I would’ve taken a photography class a long time ago, but with everything, everything happens for a reason, so there was a reason I took that class then, it expanded my photography skills tremendously. The professor, Matt Lit is amazing, he was helpful, very engaging, and he helped me to grasp the concepts of not just digital photography, but photography as a whole. I learned a lot. Since then, I’ve signed up for some internet photography courses, some Photoshop and Lightroom editing courses, which not only have helped grow my photography abilities, but also have helped me with my editing abilities in these software packages.
So throughout the years, I stayed with the same brand, Pentax. Some people will tell you that Nikon is the best, or Canon’s the best, or now that Sony has come out with a mirrorless camera they are the best. Ether way I am still sticking with the Pentax brand, because it’s really turned out to be a great landscape camera, But also I figured out years, if not decades ago, that I love to shoot landscape photography…and this is a great camera to use. People have asked me to do senior pictures or portraits, which I’ve gracefully turned down to chance to do any of that type of photography work…I just can’t do people, I don’t know, I don’t find the thrill of it. I find my excitement comes from photographing landscape sunsets, sunrises, moons, mountains, beaches, the plains, and even sometimes cityscapes….so these are what I really love, that’s where I find my passion.
Who knows where I’ll go next, I do enjoy photographing cars, why? Well, as I said earlier, “As a high school student, my car was my life at that time period along with my girlfriend.” So I had this little soft spot for cars, get a nice car, great paint job, chrome, yeah, let’s make it look good. But there’s also real estate photography if I wanted to do that, or there’s wedding photography…but again, I don’t know. I like what I do for a day job. My photography, is something I love to do, but it’s also something that I love to do as a hobby and a passion. If I can make some money to buy some new camera equipment, great.
But in the end, whether it is a creative outlet, another revenue stream, or just a hobby, I was able to compare my love of photography to a student who I was talking to the other day, as they were struggling to figure out the degree they wanted, you have to determine if a hobby turns into a lifestyle or does it turn into a career. For some people, a hobby can turn into a career…or it just stays a hobby. A former student of mine that I know, has a day job, started to grow his photography business, but he has done some amazing work with his photography to the point of where I would almost bet he’s very close to quitting his day job and doing this full time. Not weddings, not portraits, not senior pictures, but landscape photography, promote his podcast, maybe start teaching a class in photography, and of course selling his work. I think he’s about ready to do it and I applaud him for that, I think that’s great. If you get a chance, go check out Matt Payne Photography.
As for me, I don’t know, if at the end of time or at the end of my days, the only people that appreciate my photography is my family, then if anything, I have left them a piece of me just like my dad, when he passed away. I took all of his slides and I had them transferred digitally. I have over 2000 slides that I’ve reviewed and cataloged, and each one is beautiful. I’ve put some of those on my Instagram page and I guarantee, you cannot tell the difference between the photos that was taken back in 1963 or sometime in the ’60s and ’70s, to photos that have been taken today. He left these for my sister and I and I do love looking back at the memories these photos give me.
My dad did his photography without any education, he did it by reading books and experimenting…so you could say like father, like son. Dad passed down a passion of his, to me, he passed down how to learn, and he passed down his love for photography to me. The highlight of my short photography career is that my Dad wanted one of my photos to mount on his wall. He picked one out, I had it made and gave it to him on his second to last birthday. I could see in his eyes that he loved it…and I have never felt so overwhelmed with emotion to see my Dad stare at the artwork and tell anybody who asked that “His son took this.” I love you Dad. If you get a chance, check out my photos, look at my website, look at Instagram, and look at my photos. If you have any questions, please ask, I’m happy to answer your questions, I’ll be happy to tell you where some of these photos are taken and of course I am happy to sell you a photo or two. Thank you for reading. Go outside and see what beautiful sites there are out there even in the winter time.