I got my first camera when I was a kid. It may not have actually been mine, I may have appropriated it from my mom, but I felt like it was mine. It was a 110 Vivitar, a rectangular black plastic box with a winder that you pushed towards the center of the camera and a fixed focus lens. It also could mount a flash cube on the top. I took pictures of the things around me: my dog, my sister, the back yard, squirrels. When we went on vacation I took pictures of the things around me: the car, the trailer, my sister, trees, squirrels. I don't have any of those pictures now, but I remember them, and you know what they look like. Square with rounded corners, textured, blurry, faded to auburn and tawny. You know what I mean. The '70's. My parents were indulgent enough to buy me film just often enough to keep me interested. I can still remember that foil wrapper that the film came in and the wonderful chemical smell of a brand new cartridge, followed a few weeks later by an envelope full of prints and a little tiny envelope with the negatives in it.
When I got a bit older my dad would let me use his camera, a Pentax Spotmatic with what I know now is a fantastic 50mm 1.4 lens. I bought some film and took pictures of the things around me; the beach, the cat, my sister's car. I do have some of these photos, and I can't for the life of me understand why I took them. How many photos of the ocean do I really need?
When I graduated from college my parents gave me a wonderful graduation present, a Pentax K1000. I specifically asked for a fully manual camera and that is exactly what that is. I got married shortly thereafter and I took pictures of the things around me. Soon enough there were kids, and I took pictures of them. Those pictures I still have, and of course, I know why I took them, but again, they were just photos of what I pointed the camera at.
This photo, however, represents a change. In late 2005 I was planning a long and arduous trip to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I decided I needed to buy a camera to take up the mountain. I researched and planned and shopped and budgeted (ok, I really didn't budget... thanks VISA!) and ended up buying a brand spanking new Pentax *istDS 6 megapixel digital camera with a kit 18-55mm zoom lens. Whereas before each photo represented a significant investment in time and money to develop and print, digital was effectively free. The day I got the camera, driving home from work, I took this photo. While it is a pretty nice photo, if I do say so myself, what is important is that I also took 12 other photos of the same subject with slightly different composition and framing. In other words, I paid attention. More importantly, when I got home and uploaded them on the computer, I edited. I thought about the photo, the framing, the feeling, and chose the best one to keep. In other words, after thirty five or so years of taking pictures, I actually started to learn about photography.
I am still taking pictures of the ocean, and still learning.