Photography Anonymous

12 step Group leader: “Welcome to our weekly  meeting of PA, Photography Anonymous. New members need not admit to an addiction. Would anyone like to start and share how photography has overtaken your life?”

Me: “Hi. I’m Bagman, and I…….am a photography addict. I brought photos to share.”

Group: “Hi Bagman. Welcome.”

That is me, the photo addict. I happen to be blessed (or cursed) with a love of photography. In particular, I LOVE taking nature photos. Scenery, animals, leaves, water, and especially macro photos of flowers and bugs. Something about taking a picture of something at such close proximity is really neat to me…….unless it’s a snake. Cleaning venom off a lens is a little disarming, especially after the paramedics revive you and tell you what an idiot you are.

I also really enjoy looking at nice photos of all styles, but  particularly nature, high speed, and antique photos, which I realize don’t usually go together. I can quickly get depressed, however,  because I like to think of myself as a decent photographer. People tell me my pictures are good, but when I see something outstanding, “I could never do that” or “Boy my stuff stinks” comes into my mind. Self doubt always creeps in when you want someone to like what you do. “Did they really like it or were they saying that because they’re my parents?”  i didn’t know it at the time, but my addiction started when I was a child.

My first camera was a toy from Shaky’s Pizza that took real pictures, or so they they said. I never had any film but it didn’t matter. I don’t know why the pizza place was giving out addictive photo equipment to unsuspecting children back in the 70’s but they did and  I was hooked. Might have been the secret Eastman-Kodak conspiracy to lure young people into the industry, but who knows? The 1970s was a much more liberal time in America. Anyway,  I snapped thousands of pictures of my back yard with no film inside, but I may as well have been on the Amazon or some other National Geographic location since I was there in my mind and I was JUST THAT GOOD.

With time my addiction progressed to Polaroids and the little Kodak Instamatic point and shoot cameras. Remember the 110 film cartridges? How about disposable flash bubs? I had spots before my eyes  for hours after Christmas pictures. It was so sad. Stumbling over my toys; Chewing on the world’s toughest  fruitcake, which was really my little brother’s plastic gun holster. How could I tell? I WAS blinded temporarily, after all. He shouldn’t have left it on the table.  I still don’t like fruitcake,  by the way.

Disc cameras took great pictures and the round disc was so cool! Then the fancier point and shoot 35 mm cameras with the manual filmstrip winder and the back cover that wouldn’t close completely, so you could ruin the whole strip without knowing. Those were great for casual fun photos of people and close up shots of buldings, etc. but distant scenery or landscape with any of those cameras was hard since the lens was fixed. Zoom focus was impossible except for the Holy Grail of the every-man photographers back in the day: the adjustable, interchangeable, telescopic 35 mm camera system. Compared to the works of art these masterpieces created,  the 3 x5 photos I got made the Grand Canyon look like a ditch, even with the extended 4×6 prints. That’s why slides and slide projectors were such a wonderful way to pass the weekend with Grandpa…….the WHOLE WEEKEND.

Those of you who think this trip down memory lane is a sad waste of time won’t appreciate this, but those of you who feel my pain will. ! would spend the extra money to get the duplicate prints, knowing all my friends and family would want a copy of my ‘artwork”. I even paid extra to get them back early from Fotomat (I guess those little booths had a premium on letter space, since PH apparently wasn’t allowed). I would go to pick up my pictures on the due date but of course I was early and  the “fotos will be here in about 30 minutes”. So,  I would wait in the car in the grocery store parking lot (where these booths were generally located, for you younger readers). I might even go in and get a grape Nehi and Moon Pie to finish while waiting, but that’s another post. In those days, there were no cell phones, you ate blackberries, and the only thing to distract me form my incoming photos were the 8 track player in my pickup or a comic book. I was not leaving the  Fotomat till my pictures got there. These were my memories after all! Can I get an AMEN? Any other old school amateurs out there?”

Try as I might, though, I could never get into real 35 mm photography. That was for the professionals. F-stop settings, exposure, shutter speed? It was too much for me. My neighbor’s dad had his own darkroom and tried to teach me, but i just couldn’t learn it. My parents bought a nice 35 mm camera and I took it sometimes to shoot some photos. I was so excited that I was finally going to have some “really professional looking pictures”. What I found was a set of 24 blobs, blurs, or partial images, not the horse jumping the fence or the beautiful sunset I saw while taking the photos. Luckily, since most of my pictures were unidentifiable, they could be returned for no charge and destroyed……like they deserved. I never had to spend any money when i took pictures with a 35 mm camera because nothing I took ever came out, so I eventually stopped trying. I was relegated to the point and shoot camera and that was ‘ok”. However, my ineptitude was the reason digital photography was invented, and while it has saved me a ton of money and time spent on film development, it has only worsened my addiction.

June 1st, 2004 was when I dove headlong into the ugly addictive cycle that afflicts all of us in P.A. That is when I bought my first and favorite digital camera. The Fuji Finepix s-5000!  A professional looking, $400 camera (back then) that can take a 6 megapixel image and that allowed the use of external  macro and telephoto lenses. It doesn’t hold a candle to the cameras available now, but I thought I died and went to Heaven. No longer would I be waiting on pictures to develop. I could now instantly see what I took and approve or discard it. What a timesaver!

(More experienced group members are shaking their head in disbelief) “poor guy”.

Due to my obsession I am really no fun to take on vacation any more. Did I become morose? No. Isolated? Kind of. If my camera is around my neck, I can’t walk more than  a few feet without bending or stooping or squatting or crawling to get the next amazing photo of a Black Eyed Susan,  newt,  leaf, chipmunk, stick, rock, or whatever it may be. Sure,  I take photos of people too, but “Did you see the 37 angles of the waterfall we saw today?”

“Yeah that’s great, but you know, honey, we were there too. Where are the children?’

“Right there, see? Those red and blue specs at the base, next to the rocks”.

My family just started going on and telling me ‘We’ll see you at the top of the mountain” while I explored the intricacies of the plants on the trail along the way. Even that didn’t stop me. I   would take hundreds of pictures each day of  a vacation trip and then spend hours each night downloading and editing them. It’s a problem, I know, but I love it. I need help, but don’t want it. Photography is one of the most enjoyable addictions I have ever had. Help? Why?

I am what is considered a “dadgum digital auto photographer”, DDAP for short, a lowly amateur without a working knowledge of all things related to exposure, shutter speed, and the like. Believe me, I have tried and I’m an educated guy, but I still can’t seem to get it. I have played with the various settings on my digital camera and to this day, I take the best pictures on AUTO. Occasionally I come up with something cool when I adjust a setting, but I know it is more luck than skill for me. I may be a simpleton, but my camera is smarter than me and knows what’s best, so when I let it decide, it usually rewards me. When I don’t, it fights back and spits out some ugly stuff that I take offense to. That, however, is why they invented Photoshop (angels singing), but that meeting is next week so I’ll stop here. Thanks for letting me share.

I hope you enjoy these photos and will visit my other photo pages. more will be coming soon, so come back and check on occasion.

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2 thoughts on “Photography Anonymous

  1. You have a strong eye for composition and emotional impact. So many photographers aim , click and hope for the best, but I can feel the presence of an artistic mind at work in your photography. Nicely done.

    • Kind words. Thanks. Amazing what happens when I look through an eyepiece vs a lcd display, however. My camera broke and with the replacement I am struggling since there is no eyepiece. Saving that money to get a new one!

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