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My Photography

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by biomed, Mar 15, 2014.

  1. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    Mike
    I posted this a couple of weeks ago on another forum and thought I would post it here too. This was a result of being asked why I photograph the things I do. The answer turned to be a short history of my photographic journey. I would like to invite everyone to post their stories about photography.

    I tend not to read long dissertations on the philosophy of photography or the importance of developing a photographic style. I like to think I enjoy photographing anything with few exceptions. I grew up liking anything mechanical and had aspirations to be a garbage man because I thought garbage trucks were very cool. I was enthralled with airplanes, trains and cars. Not too different than many other young boys.

    My first photographs were taken with a Kodak 127 Brownie of some sort or another. I was fascinated with some Asian styled concrete lanterns in our local park. They were standing in a pool filled with water lilies and surrounded with large ferns. I think I shot at least two rolls of film from different angles. I don’t really recall any specific shots. When the film was developed at the local drug store I couldn’t wait to see the glossy deckle edge black and white masterpieces. I was proud of the photographs. The concrete structures looked like they were emerging through the canopy of a tropical rain forest. I was king of the hill…until my mother asked to see the photographs. I was admonished for wasting film. There were no people to be seen anywhere. Film should not be wasted on photographs without people in them!

    I was allowed to draw all I wanted to. I was pretty accomplished with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper. It may run in the family – my late sister was very artistic. Other than art in public schools I never pursued it. I do recall that all of my notebooks were liberally decorated with sketches and doodles. I did keep up with photography in an undercover manner. I bought my own film and paid for processing with money saved up from birthdays and Christmas. It was supposed to go into my “college fund”. The volume of my work was small. Close to nonexistent. I experimented with filters using various colors of cellophane. I even took some “telephoto” images with my father’s 7x50 binoculars. This went on for years using a variety of cameras. Usually variations of Kodak Brownies. When I enlisted in the Air Force I purchased my first “real camera”, a Yashica fixed lens rangefinder. I eventually bought my first SLR, a Minolta SRT-101. Beside the 50mm lens that came with the camera I purchased two Vivitar T4 lenses, 28mm and 200mm. I also started developing my film and making prints.

    Eventually I migrated to medium format. First a Kowa Six then a Mamiya RB67. I also begin to dabble in large format with a 4x5 camera. I begin work at a small studio doing portraits, publicity photos, photography for private investigators and weddings. After a while I was getting burned out with studio work and sold the RB67 to the studio. After a brief stint with a Spotmatic II, I started buying Nikon gear. I also sold my 4x5 camera and enlarger. I had settled back into the 35mm world. The Nikon cameras and lenses serve me well for over 20 years. I still use them occasionally.
    The journey to digital began with a Minolta DiMage 7. It was a good camera with an insatiable appetite for batteries. I purchased my Canon 10D three years later. After a bit I had the inclination to shoot film again. This time with the excellent Cosina made Voigtländer RF cameras. In six more years I had Panasonic GF1. I was hooked on the u4/3 system. I bought the Panasonic GH3 a few years later and thought this is the last camera I will ever need. Eventually it was time to sell my unused Canon gear. To get an idea what it was worth I boxed it all up and headed to a local camera store. I was thinking I would be lucky to get five or six hundred dollars. I was pleasantly surprised to be offered enough to order a Panasonic GX7 and still have over one hundred dollars in my pocket. That is how I arrived at my present location of my photographic journey. And just where am I now?

    In my mind I am back to where I began the odyssey. All of the cameras I have used have not changed what I see. The cameras I now use are very comfortable and have a natural feel to them. My photographic skills have improved over the years due to the sheer number of photographs taken and a more developed sense of seeing. The subjects of my photographs are not far removed from the things I photographed as a youngster. I am still attracted to the isolated abstract elements in my subjects. I feel a deep satisfaction when I can capture the play of light on reflective surfaces. I do photograph people and have dabbled in street photography – not “the stiff in the center of the frame, Ok Jim and Sally trade places and let me take one more” photographs. Sorry mom it just doesn’t work for me.

    Mike
     
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  2. Dewi

    Dewi Mu-43 Regular

    138
    Jan 11, 2014
    Lancashire, England
    Dewi
    For me it started when I was a lad of about 10, my Mum let me use her Brownie to take some photos of a nice wee harbour we visited on a holiday to Cornwall - it would be 1959 or 60. I went on to use it more often on that holiday, taking photos around the farm we stayed at, and of the wonderful Cornish coastline. Like Biomed, when the prints came back Mum commented on the lack of people shots, but she never tired of showing relatives and friends my photos of the places we'd been. For myself I was hooked. We didn't have much money back then but Dad picked up a fold out Agfa camera for me that was given him by a well heeled old lady he did a few jobs for on her car (he was ex REME) after he mentioned to her that I was "photo mad". That was the first of many cameras down the years so I'll not bore everyone with the list.

    On the walk to and from school every day I had to pass a camera shop, and I used to stop and stare with my nose pressed up against the window every day at the offerings on display. There was something about the way the light reflected in the lenses that appealed to a young lad. When I went up to secondary school, we had a physics teacher who was a photography nut. A few years previously he'd started an after school photography club and always tried to enrol new members from the new intake every year. He didn't get too many takers as it wasn't seen as "cool" to join after-school clubs back then so for a while I resisted the urge to join, silly but I was just a young lad and knew no better.

    When we got on to the subject of "Light" in physics I paid a lot more interest to it than I did to other subjects like heat and sound etc and he picked up on it. Eventually during a lesson about lens dioptres he asked if I'd ever used a camera. That was it, we talked for a while after the lesson and I ended up leaving with a promise to go along to the Photo club's next after school session. Which I did and loved it. He taught me lot, I remember the first time I saw an image appear on the paper in the darkroom and being absolutely fascinated by it. I also remember he had a deal going on with a local camera shop where they let us have their out of date film for next to nothing. He was a great guy and became one of my favourite teachers, strict disciplinarian though - you wouldn't mess with him.

    I left school and did a 5 year electrical engineering apprenticeship which I hated with a passion. I only took it up on the insistance of my Dad who wanted me to "get a trade". I still took photos, mostly motorsport, something that was and still is close to my heart, but by now I had graduated to rangefinder cameras. Apprenticeship over, I ran like hell away from it and ended up workng for British Telecom, still not what I really wanted but at least I was out and about in my little van and not stuck in the same place looking at the same faces every day.

    Fast forward to my early 40s and I was still happiliy snapping away and enjoying it so went and did my City & Guilds certificates in Photography - passed all 5 modules with distinctions which spurred me on to do more and I ended up teaching night school photography at the local tech college. I gradually started taking portraits, at first as favours for people - usually of their kids then for a little cash and eventually got asked to do a few weddings. With a few of those under my belt and having been on a few good courses about the business and practical sides of it I'd built a nice portfoilio. At this point Telecom were looking to shed staff so I volunteered for redunndancy but was turned down. Went for it again 12 months later and got it. I was 43 years old.

    I set up the business & the wedding work which paid most of the bills came in steadily but it was quite seasonal so I went for a few commercial commissions and got them. Once the foot was in the door, more followed. The cameras were expanded to include medium format - Mamiya 645s and Canon SLR T90 with a couple of spare bodies. I set up a darkrrom here at the house and did most of my own processing and printing but it was very time consuming, so as I got busier I had to farm it all out ot labs. I started submitting my motorsport shots to a few magazines, it took a while but eventualy a few got published and on the back of that I applied for press passes to events and started getting them regularly. Even if I never sold any shots from a particular race meet I got in for free and and was able to wonder around where I liked - it added a whole new dimension to my motorsport photography. I went over to Le Mans for the 24 hour race 9 years on the trot

    After a number of years I stopped taking on wedding commissions due to a few health problems but carried on with the other stuff, I went digital and started to travel more and taking lots of photos as i did. I did get one or two published but it's a hard business to get into, I still have a few long forgotten shots lodged with photo libraries somewhere I think, they've never been used though. I carried on with the commercial and motorsport photos and supplimented my income by restoring, repairing and making guitars - another passion of mine - but retired gradually over a period of a further few years. Eventually giving up the photo business completely after a major heart attack a couple of years ago. I still do a few guitar jobs for old customers, mostly unpaid & still take as many photos as possible, mostly on my travels now and still love doing it as much as I ever did, and probably always will 'til I curl my toes up.
     
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  3. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    Mike
    Thanks, Dewi. You have certainly embraced your passions! Your motorsport photography is top notch.

    Cheers,
    Mike
     
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