Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Journey in Photography

The other day, for the first time in a year or so, I went outside with the sole purpose of taking photos with my Nikon.

To give a little bit of context, I have always enjoyed photography and taking pictures, even if it was just flash-driven, blown-out photos of my friends at summer camp.  As long as I can remember I've always had some sort of camera--either disposable, a cheap plastic film camera, a decent digital point-and-shoot, or at one point a digital camcorder that also took pictures.  I knew nothing of aperture or exposure or anything that actually goes into photography, I just liked the process of composing shots and doing some half-baked editing in Picasa later.

After college, whenever Rob and I would find ourselves in the Walmart Electronics Section, I'd gaze wistfully at the DSLRs and promise Rob (and myself) that I'd get one of those one day.  On my birthday in 2009, I opened a package from Rob that contained a brand-new Nikon D60.  I think my first words were something like, "you can't afford this!" but I was still pretty damn excited to finally have a real camera.

At first, I'll admit, it was frustrating.  I was only used to cameras that did everything for me, and this one basically left everything up to me.  Which might be why my first few photos had bad color, poor lighting, and were generally unfocused.  What I loved about it, though, was that unlike most other new ventures in my life, I felt none of the frustration of not being perfect at it from the get-go.  I felt no pressure, just a strong desire to learn and to grow with it. I posted some of the pictures on Facebook and got some positive and negative feedback, which I came to really appreciate.

Here's one of the first ones, unedited:

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Not great or even good, but I love it anyway because the subject matter is so damn cute.

Over the next year, I took billions of pictures of basically nothing.  I have whole albums on my hard drive devoted to 50 different angles of Rob's hands, and that's not an exaggeration.  I had so much fun playing, experimenting, finding what worked best.

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This photo was one of the first that got me really excited about photography.  It's not amazing, but I love the color and the composition.

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Eventually I bought a few lenses, specifically a 70-300mm zoom lens and a 35mm f/1.8 prime lens.  This opened up a whole new world in photography to me (and honestly if I had the money now I'd buy some pretty badass lenses to open it up even more).

In 2010 I was asked by a good friend of mine to shoot her wedding.  I figured that I enjoyed photography so much on my own, what could be better than eventually making money off of it?  I agreed to do her wedding, but refused to accept payment in case I totally botched the whole thing.  I photographed from around 10am to maybe around 6pm, and ended up with some really great photos.  At the end of it, after being on my feet literally all day, I felt exhausted, shaky, and hungry (I couldn't eat any of the food provided at the wedding because of the whole celiac thing).  After I edited the images I was pretty damn proud of myself, but not extremely eager to repeat the exhausting experience.

A month or so later I was asked by another friend to photograph her wedding to her long-time girlfriend.  It was a beautiful wedding and the photos came out very well, but I left with the same feelings--exhaustion and relief that it was done.  I was also sad that I had been unable to enjoy the wedding in and of itself because of the all-encompassing nature of wedding photography.

The presence of my camera soon became more or less expected at family events.  I didn't mind this so much, since I can understand how people would want halfway-decent photos of family members taken with a halfway-decent camera, but it got kind of frustrating to be expected to photograph everything.  Also, on top of my demanding day job, I was expected to have them edited (or not always totally edited) and 6 copies of the CDs made for everyone in the family within a few weeks of the event.  A few times I intentionally didn't bring it, or brought a point and shoot, because the photographing was keeping me from actually enjoying what was going on around me.

Over the next year, I was asked to do a few family sessions and a couple of more weddings.  All of these caused me to feel intense anxiety, which is what I attributed my reluctance toward the whole thing to.  Slowly, though, I began to realize that I just didn't enjoy photographing on a semi-professional level.  I had completely stopped going outside and taking photos of nothing because my camera had become an object of stress and frustration.  Simply put, it wasn't fun anymore. Something that had just been for me now had become just one more thing to stress about.

After my last wedding in 2011 (and most likely ever) I set about changing this.  In Arizona I became the girl I was in 2009, taking my camera anywhere and everywhere, switching between modes, playing with shutter speed and aperture and just having fun.  I took 400 pictures of the Grand Canyon and a few in Sedona before my camera died, which kicked off a 4-month photographic dry spell (minus the iPhone, if that counts). I finally got her back just before we left Maine and I feel like we're finally getting to know each other again.  I'm ready to get back the excitement that I had when I first opened the box almost 3 years ago.  This half an hour or so outside, just me and my camera, was a good start and I hope to share the photos with you soon. In the meantime, here's a preview with one of my favorites:

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I want to say at this point that if you are any of the people I photographed "professionally" (and I use that term loosely) I hope you don't take offense to this post.  I really thought I would enjoy photography in this capacity which is why I agreed to take the photos.  I really enjoyed working with each and every one of you and I felt so honored to be a part of your special day/family session.  This was just a chronicle of my journey in photography, and I thank you for being a part of it.

5 comments:

  1. I think I told you before, but once I started going to school for photography I started to HATE it for a while. The fun was completely sucked out of it. Now I like it again, but I LOVE being able to step away once in a while. Sometimes I deliberately only bring my point-and-shoot to things because I don't want to be suckered into photographing an event and end up missing the whole thing.

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  2. Members of my family have stopped bringing their own camera to family events because they know that I will be there with my "fancy camera" taking photos. It DOES take a lot of the fun out of it....

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  3. I've been through exactly the same thing - I've done some really good wedding photography for friends, but it just meant I didn't get to relax and enjoy the day and I was constantly anxious about letting my friends down.

    I also feel a bit guilty when friends who quite photography but haven't had as much practise as me say, "I didn't bring my camera because I knew you'd have yours." It's not a one person deal; we can ALL take pictures and we'll ALL get some good, unique ones.

    On the other hand, these days I have to remind myself to actually take photos at events which I might want to remember. I'm so in the habit of taking pretty pictures, I forget to take memento shots, too.

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  4. My husband recently got me my first "fancy" camera and I'm sort of at the beginning stage of being excited but frustrated with all the functions. I get comfortable with a setting then I don't take pics for a while and I have to learn everything all over again. I don't think I'd like the pressure of doing a wedding since I was pretty dissatisfied with my own wedding pictures. Wouldn't want that kind of responsibility.

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