I consider myself new to photography. I got my first camera at 12 years old and have had an on/off relationship ever since. I tend to do things full on for a while, then take a break. Then full on again. Then either back off for a bit or drop it and move on to something else entirely. With photography, it’s been on/off forever but I’ve always managed to get revitalised and excited from time to time. I’m now 59. Photography for me has definitely been a journey. I can see the milestones I’ve passed and how they have pointed to new directions that I never knew existed. I can summarise them as follows:
THE EARLY YEARS
1. Acquire a camera
I got a simple point and shoot Agfa Iso Rapid for my 12th birthday. There were few controls, and I managed to get a picture out of it. I loved pressing the shutter release and the sound of the shutter. I would take thousands of pictures without a film in the camera and probably got more fun out of that than I did when I had a film in; no pressure you see, and no cost.
2. Learn how to use it
In the days before the internet and Google (hard to believe there was such a time), I went to the library. There were lots of books on how a camera works and the technical aspects of photography. I spent many a happy hour learning the craft. I’ve always loved gadgets and learning how they work. A camera is an amazing gadget because it’s more than just an object, it has so many dimensions when you consider the infinite ways it can be used.
3. Learn what made a good photograph
I poured over hundreds of books and magazines with photographic images. What stood out, what didn’t, what inspired and why. I knew what I liked, but not necessarily why.
4. Take pictures
I took as many as my budget would allow. I just couldn’t often afford the film and processing. But when I did, it was so exciting waiting for the postman to deliver the prints and see the results.
THE MIDDLE YEARS
More of the same
I bought my first ‘real’ camera, a Rollei SL35 M, with a £70 tax rebate when I was 19. It had a nifty 50 and I eventually added to that a 135 mm telephoto lens. I felt I had something special in my hands. It was an exciting time. It didn’t record actuations, but it must have run into the millions at least. 99% of those were without a film to record the picture I’d taken. The sound of the shutter and mirror clacking was something VERY special and I couldn’t get enough. It was one of those things you took to bed on a night and placed it carefully on the bedside table so you could open an eye and see it, and was the first thing you saw when you woke in the morning. I still couldn’t afford to use much film, but when I did, the postman was my best friend.
I suppose the biggest disappointment was that by taking so few actual photographs that I could print and see, it stunted my learning. Trial and error was a slow and costly experience. So my learning was limited. My photography was restricted to recording events, and developing the art form was a marginal exercise. Half a dozen rolls of film a year were probably the maximum. Instead of an adventure, photography was a process of record. What a shame.
THE DIGITAL ERA
I bought my first digital camera, a Fujifilm Finepix 2800 Zoom in 2004. It cost about £400 with bag, memory card etc. and had a 2 MP sensor. What a camera that was. Even today, I can see the good quality of the images it produced. Suddenly I could take millions of pictures with no cost attached. I ostracised my family by always having a camera in their faces, but I had great fun and produced some lasting memories. It may have been an irritation for them, but they appreciated the results.
The problem was that I no longer had to think about what I was doing. If I got it wrong, I just took another photo, then another, then another etc. I could take a hundred to get one good one. It made me lazy. I still enjoyed it though and I could fit lots of photos on my single 256 MB xd card.
The sad thing was, I rarely printed them off. It seemed more versatile and accessible to view them on the PC. I suppose they were more memories than stunning images and I rarely produced a photo that I felt was worthy of hanging on the wall.
I upgraded my camera several times, but always with a point and shoot. It was always on full auto because it was convenient. Photographing was a marginally fun experience, it was more a means of recording events. The Holy Grail of cameras for me was the smallest pocketable form, with good image quality and the most features.
I’ve always researched before purchasing. In this process I bought a Ricoh Caplio R7 compact that produced some good quality images. I suddenly switched on to the fact that there was more to life than features and that image quality mattered. I was really impressed by the quality of the image it could produce and started to experiment with what the camera was capable of. Until it was stolen. I researched again and bought a Panasonic Lumix LX3. Again I was very impressed by image quality and that it had a degree of manual control, although not particularly user friendly in that respect. I started to read up again on how to take a good photograph. I’d forgotten what I had learnt 40 years earlier and had to learn all over again but it was beginning to get exciting again.
I realised that the camera had limitations, but for me it was the bees knees. Anything other than a point and shoot, albeit a nice one, were beyond my financial reach and so I contented myself with what I had and enjoyed using it. Until it got dropped and broke. I really wanted to replace it with a DSLR, or something that had easy access manual control. But the best I could afford was a Canon G12. It was the next best thing and I was so impressed by the quality of the images I thought I was at the pinnacle of my photographic experience. I had great fun working out how to use the controls but the deepest I got was playing with PASM. The only bug bear with that particular camera was shutter lag. I have dogs and kids and all I ever got when they were moving was tails or backs of heads. It wasn’t fast enough. I still loved it though.
My dad died and I got some inheritance money. I know my dad would have wanted me to do something worthwhile with it rather than fritter it away. So my wife encouraged me to buy a decent camera. And so the DSLR era was born. And this is where it got really interesting and really exciting.
To be continued.
You can see some of my photos on my website. But wear sun glasses because they are dazzling mhbphoto.uk