How I Got Started in Photography

Stopped to photograph a river on our way back from our honeymoon. Photo by my new bride.

I have spent most of my life living in the country so I guess it is only fitting that I love nature & wildlife photography.

The Early Years

At around the age of 14, I got to use my dad’s “real” camera for the first time. It was a Pentax SLR and he taught me about the different film speeds, aperture, and shutter speed.

Up till that point, I had only been allowed to use mom’s “point and shoot” 110 Instamatic (takes you to Wikipedia). I would spend hours running around the yard snapping photos of anything that would stay still long enough for me to trip the shutter… and most critters just refuse to stand still when a rambunctious boy runs up to it with a camera in his hand.

After using dad’s camera it was a done deal, I was completely hooked on photography.

During my senior year in high school, I was able to take a black & white photography class. Once again spending time behind dad’s Pentax camera. Even today, I will have to admit that being able to put a blank piece of paper into some chemicals and see your image emerge is an amazing feeling. I wouldn’t give up the abilities of my digital processing, but I would love to do the ‘old school’ film developing again.

Off To College

In college, I got my own Pentax SLR and started off on my photography adventure. That camera served me well for over a decade. When digital came out I jumped on the first one and bought the Sony Digital Mavica (takes you to Wikipedia). It saved the image files onto a 3.5″ floppy drive. To be honest, the quality sucked since the largest you could print was 640px wide. However, it did play a pivotal role in my learning. For the first time, I was able to see the outcome of my shoot without having to pay to have the film developed. I was able to try out new ideas, and if they didn’t turn out then the only thing I lost was my time. I did however still primarily shoot with my trusty Pentax film camera.

Over time I upgraded the old Sony Mavica to several other “point and shoot” digital camera’s but they still couldn’t compare to my Pentax. It seems each and every one had its flaws when it came to what I love to shoot and I kept going back to my old trusty Pentax.

Then around 2007 or 2008, my photography world changed. I dropped bank on a shiny new Nikon D80 DSLR with several lenses to go with it. Finally, I had a digital camera that could do everything my old Pentax could do. I was able to get the stunning vista’s (which most of the previous point and shoot cameras could do) and more importantly… the close up macro shots. I was in digital heaven. It wasn’t long after that my trusty old Pentax was retired.

Around 2009 or 2010 I learned a very valuable & expensive lesson. My Nikon D80 doesn’t do well with ANY kind of water. It had gotten just a little wet (not submerged) while out on an outing and promptly went to crap. I finished that trip using my video camera since it would also snap stills. When I got home I choked down the cost of a new Nikon D90 and in short order, I was off and running again.

Time To Go Pro

At around 2008 or 2009 is also when I started to sell my images professionally. My first image to sell was from an amazing “bucket list” trip that fulfilled a childhood dream. I posted a few of the images from that trip in one of the online forums I belonged to. Two people from different sides of the country requested I make prints and sell them the photos for their wall. Those two sales are what started my journey into professional photography.

Another couple of proud moments in my photography career were when my Purple Spotted Pit Viper image was chosen for a reptile calendar, and one of my Honeybee images had been published in Countryside magazine.

I spent a couple of years photographing people to supplement my nature & wildlife photography, and even though I was making decent money with my people photography it was becoming painfully apparent that it really wasn’t what I was meant to do. People photography was more like work, whereas my wildlife & nature photography was fun and enjoyable. I made the decision to shut down the people photography side of the business and just stick with what I loved. Funny thing is… while shooting portraits of animals you still have to deal with bad hair days. Thankfully, this guy didn’t complain too much.

Now I reserve my people photography for family & friends and concentrate solely on capturing nature’s beauty.

At the time of this writing, I am still using the Nikon D90. However, I do want to upgrade once again to something that is more weather resistant (I don’t dare get my Nikon D90 wet). The main question I have to answer is… do I want to upgrade to another Nikon DSLR (like the Nikon D500), switch over to Canon (since I LOVE the abilities of their MPE-65 lens), or take another leap of faith and just go to a mirrorless system so my camera setup will be lighter on my hikes?

I guess only time will tell on which direction I choose.

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