Something happened that I spent a good bit of my life thinking wouldn’t. I turned 42 years old. Yeah, that is an odd number but it is the first birthday I remember my dad having and so it has stuck with me.
So what does turning 42 have to do with photography? It has a lot actually but to understand my point we have to start at the beginning. I got my very first camera when I was 8 years old. It was a Canon point and shoot that my parents bought me. I had been asking for one because I wanted to be a “Photographer”. Why did an 8 year old boy want to be a photographer? Well, that’s easy. It was because Peter Parker (pssst… that’s Spiderman) was a photographer. There’s nothing more to that original desire. I took the camera, started snapping photo after photo, and I continued that for years.
Flash forward to 1993. In 1993 I received my pilot’s license and found both airplanes and aerial views breathtaking. I wanted to record everything I saw so I got my hands on my very first SLR (note there was no D in front of that). I set it to automatic and start taking tons of photos. I always had trouble getting the images to look right though and that was annoying. That is when I decided to take a college class in photography. It was a 101 class that covered the basics of exposure and how to process images in a Black and White Darkroom. I understood the darkroom really well but never put enough effort into understanding exposure. Why? Because I thought I had a super smart camera that would do all of that for me. There I stayed… for a very long time.
Fade to 1999. I had just gotten married and my wife and I were living in Greensboro, North Carolina while she attended graduate school. I started getting that photography bug again and dug out my old camera. It was busted and I could not afford a new one. I did locate an awesome camera store and drooled over the Canon A2e at the time.
2001 was a good year. I had been promoted at work and we had moved back to my home town in Tennessee. I finally had the money to get a decent camera. I wanted to buy a Canon A2e but when I went to the store and picked up a Nikon F100 I was was in love. I bought the Nikon F100 and a kit lens. It was a great camera. The images it produced were great when the meter caught the scene correctly. Why couldn’t I produce consistently good images? It was a simple answer but one I didn’t recognize until I purchased a book “John Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide”. There is an updated version of this book now with digital in mind. Within the first chapter I finally understood exposure. It had never been explained to me in such a simple matter and from that point on I shot everything in Manual mode. My photographs were consistent and I could finally start paying attention to what was really important. Composition!
From 2002 until 2005 I managed to get some high quality lenses. During this time I frequented the Great Smoky Mountains National Park because I loved landscape and nature photography. Nature and landscape photography were and still are my photographic passion.
In 2005 my wife and I moved to South Florida. Gone were my mountains and rushing streams. I was honestly bummed out. My creativity took a solid hit and I put my camera down and chose to complain about not having what we had lost. One day my wife told me to get off the couch and find something to photograph. I did just that and haven’t looked back. When my son came along in 2008 I even started portrait photography which is pretty darn cool and I had flashy new digital gear.
Now 2015… My passion is still there and added to that passion is teaching. Passing on what I have learned is a wonderful thing and I get to do that through leading workshops, the blog, e-books, and through the South Florida National Parks Camera Club (SFNPCC).
Yes, it happened. I turned 42. For 34 of those years I took pictures but it has only in the last 14 years that with study, dedication, persistence, and practice, have I become a photographer.
What does turning 42 mean to a photographer?