My Journey with Photography

Over the past year, my interest in photography has returned to what it was in my late teens and early twenties. It hasn’t quite surpassed that yet since I don’t have the available free time to run around taking shots and I don’t have a digital SLR yet. But I thought that relaying what place photography has had over my life may be of interest.

My father was an aspiring amateur photographer when we were kids. He took great shots of us and our cross-country adventures and they have become great souvenirs. He even tried entering a few photography contests. As kids we spent quite a few evenings in the darkroom in the basement that he had constructed. He showed us the basic process of creating a b&w print including some dodging and burning. Behind the camera he taught us some of the basic techniques of composition.

Then during high school, I began to start taking shots on my own. My father let me borrow his Nikor F1 and I went around the city taking black and white photos. Our school opened up a darkroom and I spent hours at a time in there playing with the equipment in an attempt to produce the perfect shot. Although I had the patience, I still went through reams of photosensitive paper and in the end only produced a handful of decent prints. But it was as much the adventure of creating the best shot.

In 1987, I became old enough to get a job. I saw my friends going off to work after school, so I thought I would try it out. I checked the job board at school and there was one that caught my eye. A job at LaSalle Photo Service. The company was founded by a Japanese immigrant and a good percentage of the employees were Japanese or other Asian nationalities. I called up, told them my name, and they said they were interested. But of course when I showed up, they were a bit surprised. Here’s this redheaded kid with a Japanese last name. But they hired me regardless. My job was spent up in the accounting office entering addresses into a database. It was quite boring and I fell asleep often after a day of school and running.

Over the summer my work with the database was completed, so they sent me down to the front store. It was a huge improvement. Basically my job involved receiving the processed prints from the back, then filing them in the bins inside the store. But there were a couple other things that made the job very interesting. In the back room, we kept special bins for repeat clients who gave us a good amount of business. They were all professionals and took superb photos. So during down times, we would check out their shots. The other perk was just to be around some many people knowledgable about photography. I learned so much about film processing along with some about different cameras. I returned to the store a year or two later to work another summer and expanded my knowledge even more.

But after that second stint, I embarked on my most prolific period of picture taking during my life so far. I left to study abroad in Europe. I was armed with the Nikor F1 with a Tamron zoom (28-100) lens. I bought a 100 foot long roll of Ektachrome 60 and rolled about 35 of my own rolls of slide film to take with. I also brought along about twenty rolls of print film. Well I took all of those along with twenty more before leaving nine months later. That averages about ten shots a day. And it was definitely worth it as evidenced by all of the shots I now have as souvenirs.

After I got back (and banged up my father’s camera pretty bad), my father got me a Canon Rebel for my birthday. But I relented on taking pictures after the time abroad. Lack of time, lack of money, and lack of interesting things to take picture of. So I primarily only took shots while on vacation after that.

My Stock

In 1994 while I was in grad school, I took on a job at Helix the campus photo store. It was a small branch store of a photo mecca in Chicago. Though this was in a different capacity than at Lasalle photo. I was actually hired to sell cameras along with helping with other photo related needs. Although the boss thought I had sold cameras before, it turned out to be on the job training. I spent much of my time picking the brain of the only real photographer behind the counter. Plus we had the cameras to play with and learn about through playing with them in the store. We were by no means experts, but for the college kid customers who knew little about cameras, we were able to guide them to what would best serve them. But there was something else about that job. I ended up spending a fair amount of my paycheck on photo equipment. I bought a nice zoom lens, a photo bag, and all these filter that I never knew what purpose they served until recently.

After another stint in Europe where I took no where near as many photos as the first time, I joined the work world. I was working downtown and decided to get a point-and-shoot that I could carry around to take pictures of construction sights. It was an Olympus Stylus and it served it’s purpose for the construction shots, but looking back at all the shots of the city, I find them to be of poor quality. But my digression did not stop there. I was interested in getting into digital photography in order to share shots over the internet. So I received a Sony Mavica as a gift. It was a neat little concept, but in retrospect, the shots were again of poor quality. The resolution was 0.75 megapixels with very grainy shots. All of my shots taken on site during the construction of the Soldier Field project were taken with that. And I took about two dozen shots a day for the five months that I was out there.

Then we had a child and moved to Montreal. In order send quality pictures of our kid back to those at home, we got a better quality point-and-shoot digital camera. A Canon S400 4.0 megapixel camera. It took great shots once I set it to it’s highest settings. Originally I set the quality lower in order to save memory, but it retrospect that was a big mistake. And in the spring of 2006 I joined Flickr and discovered this amazing online photo community. A place to finally share old and recent photo that I have taken. It has rekindled my interest in photography immensely. I actually go out at lunch on little photo shoots. I now look at the world searching for interesting photo opportunities. When I’m about with others, I’m always lagging behind or having them wait while I squeeze off a shot or two. It’s become a mild obsession when I have the camera with me, which is now almost always.

Earlier this year we bought a Sony DSC-55 because I lost the Canon. I’m fairly certain that it fell out of my winter jacket while I was getting into or out of our car. But the Sony has been an improvement. It has great manual settings and allows me some of the flexibility of a digital SLR.

But I’ve caught the bug again. I’m very interested in getting strongly back into photography. I very much enjoy the creative aspect of it and the interaction that Flickr provides is quite a difference from the days of print film. Part of the reason I lost interest with photography was because it was so introverted. It’s not like you are going to carry a photo album around with you or stick it the face of everyone who comes over to visit. Flickr allows others who are interested in the craft to share what they have and see what others are doing. There’s much more instant gratification to it.

I’m still quite eager to get a digital SLR someday, but it doesn’t look like it will happen soon. Luckily the Sony will keep me reasonably satiated for a while.

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~ by Frank on September 26, 2007.

3 Responses to “My Journey with Photography”

  1. Very interesting history. You have a great eye, and I wish I could develop mine further. My Sony is disappointing me (or I didn’t take proper care of it) and I would love to get an SLR too. But I should take a class or something first.

  2. Very interesting. I can relate very well, as I was really into photography too when I was younger (particularly in my early-mid twenties and again in my mid thirties), but for a while there the interest just petered out. But lately I’ve felt a resurgence of interest.

    BTW, the Nikon D40 is an excellent DSLR, and they’re astoundingly inexpensive. Particularly if you buy it in the US, where you can get it with a short zoom for about $750 US. That’s about twenty bucks Canadian, isn’t it? 😉

  3. Thanks, tornwordo. I find it’s quite an interesting hobby. Especially when you can share it with others.

    blork: I think the tranformation to digital has gotten many people to come back since it’s easier to edit and is cheaper to process. I’ll likely stay with Canon since I have at least one functioning lens (the telephoto) and would feel guilty making it obsolete.

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