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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Love Photography; Love Life

The choice to become a photographer was a long and circuitous route for me. Most people imagine the life of a photographer to be "sandy beaches, hot women, and a glamorous lifestyle of fun in the sun snapping pictures and being catered to by the rich and famous, because of our talents". Well...maybe about 1% of all photographers have the luck to become that famous. For the rest of us, like me, photography is a long slog through the muck to earn a living.

Why do we do it if it's so hard to make a living? The main answer is that we "love what we do". If the love wasn't there, it wouldn't be worth the effort. My route took me through various jobs to figure out what it was that I loved about photography. I went through music school, real estate, various office jobs, building management, and finally serving behind the retail counter at London Drugs selling cameras. But what it all boiled down to was that I was happiest behind the viewfinder of a camera. If I can make my living out of being behind the viewfinder, that would make me the happiest guy in the world.

I haven't been to school for photography. In fact, most of what I've learned about photography came from hard work and experience shooting thousands of frames. In fact, digital was what made it possible for me to learn. If I had to learn on film cameras (such as were available back in the 80s), I would have thrown up my hands in defeat along with an "emptied" pocketbook." Nowadays it takes me maybe two or three frames to get the look that I'm looking for in an image. But that's because I've taken the time to shoot and learn what works for me and what doesn't. It was easier than spending money for a correspondence course or taking a 4 year degree program at Emily Carr. I know my f/stops and my shutter speeds and correlations between each. I worked with composition. You can read all the textbooks in the world, but the main aspect of the photography and learning about it is to go out and do it. That's what makes digital so great in my opinion. You have the capacity to learn, to experiment; to find out what works for you.

Would I go back to film? Sure. Now that I have a handle on what I'm doing and know how to get a proper exposure in-camera. But then again, with film, I'd probably end up sending it to a pro-lab for output and maybe with consultation, I'll get it looking the way I wanted it output as if I had used a darkroom for it. I've considered getting a film SLR however that is pretty low on my list of priorities right now.

I'm staying away from weddings, despite the fact that they are the prime money-makers in this business. I prefer portraiture, wildlife, landscapes and aviation as my primary genres in photography. Though they don't make as much money, those genres are what fulfills my spirit and makes me happy to be breathing. There's nothing like getting up at 5:00 in the morning, and trudging out to a vantage point to catch the morning sunrise and the dew on the grass billowing up in the heat of the first rays of the sun catching the moisture and evaporating it. That's what makes you realize what it is that you're living for.

I'm not a gearhead, though my "photography bible" is my Nikon lens catalog. I prefer to get out there and shoot. That's what is pleasurable about "holding a camera" is the ability to focus on what it is that is visible TTL (through the lens). It doesn't matter what lens I'm holding, whether it be my 50 f/1.8, 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 or my pro-glass 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. It's what I see through my lens that is on my mind the most.

I could sit here and wax eloquent about photography, but the main point that I want to bring across is that photography is something I love. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be doing it. It's capturing that moment that only comes once in a lifetime and getting the shot right the first time. It's having a labor of love that gives pleasure to viewers for many years to come. Two of my favorite photographers, Ansell Adams and the late, great Galen Rowell did exactly that. I may have quite a ways to go before I can actually compete with the likes of them, but I can certainly say that it will certainly be a fun task for the rest of my life to try to match them.

If you're a photographer, like me, love what you do. Put your heart and soul into it. Wake up every day with a renewed sense of wonder about the world around you. Open your eyes to each and every day with a charge to record life around you. Make every day a great one, because it all ends too quickly. We have been given a talent of which the results of our labors can pass through the ages.

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