Photography

Popcorn point : a view from the in-laws cabin, 24 stitched images

Photography has been a hobby of mine for quite a while. My first camera was a cheap McDonald’s special that shot 8mm film. It didn’t take long for that thing to break. But it achieved a few memorable pictures. The best was taken while I was on my Survival Instructors Course in 1996. The SARTECHs on base decided to do a rescue demonstration for us, it was great watching the Labrador Helicopter thump around our camp site.

SARTECHs demonstrate an open water rescue, 8mm scan

I replaced that camera with another cheapy. It was a Kodak flip open, which wasn’t great, but at least it shot on 35mm film and had a flash. I used that camera for several years but never really produced anything noteworthy with it.

It was my older brother who really started my love of photography. He bought a Canon Rebel X, which was a fairly high end SLR for the time. The ability to control the shutter speed and aperture was a great new tool. We spent a ton of time fooling around with long exposures and double exposures. The zoom lens made all the difference and the world of photography suddenly became fun and addicting.

It may have been his camera, but I think I put more rolls of film through it than he did. Film and developing is not cheap when your still in high school, and my brother had graduated and was working by this time. So buying more film than him’s quite an achievement. On vacation I managed to get a decent shot of a seagull. The picture is nothing spectacular as the scan shows, but back then, I was pretty proud of how well it turned out.

When my brother shipper off to college, my photography took a nose dive for a couple years. I didn’t have the money buy my own film body, and all I had was my cheapy Kodak. There is really no point in using a camera like that after you have tasted the sweetness of true light control. But new life would be breathed into this hobby.

My Fiances dad used to be an amature photographer and had quite a collection of older film bodies. Somehow we got to talking about photography and I suddenly realized that I had something in common with him. Most of his equipment was packed away or collecting dust, so we dug through the boxes and pulled out an array of Pentax gear.

My father in law lent me some of his old film bodies and lenses including a Pentax K1000. This camera became the foundation of my shooting. I went through many rolls of film in that body. Photography had been reborn. I had a great source of many different lenses which allowed me to really appreciate macro and high zoom. But film developing can get expensive fast.

I was finding myself limited by the costs involved. I was trying to save up for school, so having an expensive hobby like this was really draining the little extra money I had at the time. Black and white was the cheaper way to go, and luckily for me, my father in law also had a darkroom in the basement.I have several large prints hanging on the walls, but never converted the negatives to digital, so you could say those are part of my private collection. Black and white offers a great tonal range, and playing in the dark room can be a ton of fun. But its very time consuming and digital cameras were just starting to become affordable.

Personal Favorite : King Air 350 engine shot with my brand new K100

This hobby really exploded when I bought my first DSLR, the Pentax K100. Its K-mount lens system made it back compatible with all the lenses I already had. And the instant gratification of seeing your work on the screen made digital so much more enjoyable. With no real developing costs attached and I was hooked.

It didn’t take very long for me to start racking up the shutter release count. I was starting to develop a skill and I was enjoying it.Soon, people start to notice that I had developed a good eye. Many liked what I was doing and started asking for copies of pictures for one reason or another.

My first big sale came from my employer at the time. They wanted several large images to hang in the foyer of the new lounge area. When I say large I mean 4 feet by 8 feet. I had never printed anything that big before and had no idea if my images would even look nice at that size. I did some image manipulation and test printed a tiny cropped section on an 8 by 10 to see what the resolution would look like if I blew it up that much. It still looked good, and considering that the closest viewing distance would be about 4 feet, it didn’t matter how grainy it looked.

I ended up printing 15 separate images on this amazing new metallic paper that really made them pop. They looked great and I made enough money to buy a new camera and then some. From that point on I considered myself to be a semi professional photographer. I was charging money for my work, but only did this on the side.

My first real challenge would come when a relative asked me to shoot their wedding. I had taken some shots at other weddings, but never as the primary. I was looking for new ways to improve my skills so I accepted the challenge. Wedding photography can be a great experience. You have two very happy people who want you to take pictures of them, and usually give you creative freedom to do whatever you want. Knock on wood, but I have never had a negative experience with any wedding couple.

The most daunting wedding shoot I have ever done was for another photographer. Talk about having to live up to expectations. He had way more experience than I, so I didn’t want to disappoint them. Lucky for me, the bride was very photogenic and a pleasure to shoot. So by the end of the event they were very pleased with my work.

My current setup is a Pentax K10 with the battery grip and an 50mm lens. I still use the K100 as a backup and I now have three film bodies for shooting B&W. I also have a selection of zooms from 18-55, 28-80, 55-200, 70-350 and a static mirror 500mm. The mirror lens makes nice circle highlights, but it amplifies vibration, so I need to be shooting on a tripod or faster than  1/1000 to eliminate any blur.