Slow Growth Photography

A recent request from my daughter's high school regarding her upcoming graduation ceremony had me combing through files filled with old photographs. I had several of those "mom moments," wishing to re-enter my now rosy past. After all, she will always my baby. At the same time, I was forced to revisit some really bad photographs. Why in the world did I save all of these? 

There is something to be said for viewing the overall grand design of one's life. For once I stopped wincing at the true awfulness of many of the images, what I saw instead was growth...It was slow, but it was there.

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Skipping past my first camera whose only pixel size was 640x480, my second camera I won in an online photo contest. I was thrilled to get it and equally as thrilled to get rid of it. You see, at that point I longed for manual settings. I was not satisfied any more with spot meter and center focus. It was a happy day indeed when I could choose an aperture or shutter speed on my own.

I would use that third camera for a long time, until it was entirely outmoded by longer zooms and lenses. I resisted the DSLR crazy that was sweeping the masses and purchased my fourth camera - another compact camera that I hated from day one. I resisted that too. It took me months to admit I hated it. Reviewers said it was bad. Buyers said it was bad. In the end, I had to admit there were just too many issues to overcome.

"Buy a DSLR," my husband said.

"Buy a DSLR," my brother said.

Finally, under outside pressure, I had no choice. Growth demanded it. Either I plunged in or I stayed exactly where I was. I have never been happier. 

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However, I was 12 years getting to this point. For twelve years, I toted along my compact cameras. I guess I was stubborn. Yet...there is something to be said for them. What I learned using those cameras is priceless. I learned that no matter what camera I had, it was possible to take great photographs.

I say this all the time and yet people don't believe me. Great photographs come from great photographers, not great equipment. A DSLR, a $2,000 lens, and a $500 tripod did not make that photograph - you did. I know this because I  have lived it. Time and time again, somebody wanted to know what lens I used.

Uhm, the only one I have.

If you'd have asked me what millimeter it was, I would have looked at you funny. I didn't know what a millimeter was. What I did know was composition. I understood lighting. I knew how to take the camera I was using at that moment in my life and get the photo I wanted from it.

Remember that photo contest? Well, I won it using a $100 camera and a magnifying glass. To date, it is my proudest moment. My next win came without using a camera at all. Instead, I used a common photo scanner, leftover pasta, and an old picture frame. 

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Creativity comes from the mind of the photographer. If you see a shot you have to have, then go for it. Don't limit yourself, thinking, "But I only have a..." Honestly, who cares? Are you going to try for the shot or not? I am most uncomfortable taking people pictures, yet I don't let that stop me from trying. I also don't let the camera stop me from looking.

I love photography. I love photographs. I spend hours of my life looking at where you've been and what you've done. I can't recall ever thinking about the make and model of your camera when doing this. Instead, I fall right back to those same basics that taught me what I know now - composition, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, ISO, depth of field.

For in the end, all cameras work on the same principles. Don't let what someone else is doing intimidate you. Instead, enjoy it. Pat them on the back. Say, "I loved it!" and then go create your own. No one picks up a camera and is instantly brilliant at it. I wasn't. I'm still not. Nevertheless, I intend to enjoy the journey. 

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Just like all those years watching my daughter grow up, seeing how she's grown and changed, my photography's the same way. I can look back at those bad images and see where I'm at today and marvel because who knows where I'm going next!