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30 Years of Photography.
My Pictures over Time.
30 Years of Photography
My 30 Years in Photography
By Steve Robson
As Sept. 2011 starts up, I have hit a milestone of sorts. 30 years ago this month, I started out on this road of photography. It has taken me places that I would have otherwise not seen or attended. The camera has been my window of the world documenting my little view of seeing the places I have gone to. Though out this time, I have used many different camera types to record the many different places I liked to visit and learned a lot about the how various models are suitable in different conditions. Pentax has been a strong part of my life in this regard.
One of the original things that I liked about picture taking seriously was the see the negatives I took developed turn into a print in the dark room in one of my first classes in second year college. The funny thing is I missed the first class that year. This was the time I got my hands on the Pentax K1000. This simple camera would lay the foundation for all future images and the way I think them though. All the collage cameras used the pancake 40mm f2.8 lens. That was the only time I ever used this lens but I liked it a lot. I had the use of the 50mm macro, the 100mm macro, and 135mm lenses. After only 2 months of the second year of college, I quit the program I was in but the interest in photography stuck. A few months after leaving school, I bought my own K1000. Within 2 years, I started down the road many others take, buying various lens and experimenting with different subject matter. From these early beginnings I started the fountain that would last long term.
From early on, the one power that I saw was ability of the camera to record history. This was from another important part of my photography learning curve. That meant reading books about the history of photography and the people that created it. Looking at images from all time frames created a base of what I was looking for in my work. This was more important in many ways then any name branding on a camera. It also gave me some type of goal to aim for. For others reading this, you can do the same thing. You will get a far better idea of what early pioneers of this craft had to go through to create their images. With all the new digital cameras now on hand, even the most basic models have greater power then the earliest camera designs that started this off would even have dreamed of.
Whether it is film based or digital, the same basic processes are at work. I think that other then details, the same basics of picture taking have not changed over the course of time. You still are dealing with a shutter of some type whether it is a leaf or focal plane type. An aperture is still used control the amount of light on to whatever type medium that collects the light to create the image. Relative ISO sensitivity will determine the overall look of any image created. With improvements with whatever imaging systems that are created are going to give a look and feel of what the creator has as a picture. The ability of ever lower light picture taking will give a way to more representative of how we see things today, tomorrows people looking at your past will have to determine how we lived by today.
I felt lucky to have had the time I was given to get out and record things I have seen. Some images record events I feel would be important to future generations while others are far more personal in nature. I feel it is important to create your own personal style by learning from other people, both friends to old historic photographers. Then develop your way of solving problems and looking at scenes. Over time, themes and interests will come forward and grow. Many of your early works will come up in more refined images years down the road. Do not let others try to change your methods of working unless they give good pointers that can improve your base skills.
A news paper photographer friend of mine helped me out a lot in my early years. He showed me details on getting better print quality and gave me samples various printing papers to try. I was even published a few times. This gave me a good sense what the newspaper industry was about. It is not all about glamorous shotting conditions. It is just a day to day job involving many skill sets to meet the needs of the publishers and their customers’
needs. There are times when it involves simple produce shots for local fliers to a picture for a small ad that is passed by most people. I found out that in some ways being a professional photographer is not the glam game many would like it to be made out to be. Being an unpaid amateur in some ways gives you freedom explore some of the idea's that would never come up in a paying job field.
As with most people involved in this hobby one ends up spending a lot of money on various types of camera equipment. Some items will see long time service while others will see limited use. The dawn of digital era has made my film cameras into secondary back-ups. With various new methods that the digital era has introduced, pictures can now be taken in lighting that would have been unheard in the film era. The most important part of the camera that can be added however is heart and soul of the person that is taking the picture. Without this, there would be no direction or meaning to any of the images being taken. With the flood of new innovations always coming out, the key to successful has boiled down people to the make good use of the tools in hand. If these tools are not used to help out in a useful manner there benefit is really questionable.
The most important part of picture taking has been showing the changes that the world has undergone. It is amazing how the same place can be totally altered over time. We take for granted that things will remain stable and consist but everything does change, sometimes in small details while others are big and dramatic. By recording these changes, hopefully future generations will not only see the past and what it looked like but to see that this is ongoing and is still happening in their time frame as well. Whether they record it them self or look at images taken by others, the world is an ongoing in changing what is placed and what is needed at the time. Photographers that take pictures showing these changes whether they are paided pro's or just humble amateurs in the end are on the same path. By doing work that confronts these changes will show just how much we as people are changing the environment we live in. With the massive amounts of picture taking in the digital age, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to get a message out to the public at large. The internet has allowed the uploading of imaging to various photo and blogging sites but with a wide range of people looking into wide range of different subject matter, it become a very divided, fragmented world to look at.
If one is lucky, they can get some form of fame but this is not really the reasoning I started this picture taking hobby. I have had my eye set on recording the world that I live in today for future generations to look at. I think this is a worthy quest. After looking at old photos from both family and documentary sources, I saw that someone in the past felt they recorded something important to them. I felt responsibile to create a record of our times. We live and breathe it every day and if we do not record, no one down the either care or have the ability to see what we live in now.
It was interesting to have lived in the time that digital imaging developed into a new standard of photography. I can only imagine that the people felt the same way in the past when changes took place in how imaging processes changed back then. It will remain that way as long some form of photography is around in some form. I learned the basics in film photography about exposure and print quality and although the new medium of digital needed new learning, some of the basics from the past are still there. The basics of image making do remain the same.
There are many ways to learn photography. Ansel Adams used his training in piano and music help relate how to learn the basics of photography. Imagine the camera as the piano. The keys represent the various parts of the camera. The sheet music is like the negative. The various notes when played represent the tonal range of the print. I have used drawing and woodworking as a model to relating to creating a picture. The tools like pencils, saws, sandpaper and other materials are like the parts of the camera. They help shape the material into whatever form you can see. The material like wood is like the film or CCD sensor. It is the medium that shapes whatever form you can you can create on it. This is why I think that photography is just as much art as any other medium. By transposing the two mediums you can relate how one can help the other out. That said, not all drawings are not considered art nor are all pictures that are being taking are art. What deep meanings one can get from a picture will depend on many factors. Everyone can draw out something different from one presented image based on their personal experiences. There is not just one answer to an image. In many ways, taking picture is like asking a question in which there could be no proper answer. The meaning of the picture will change over time as the values the people that look at it have different points of view.
While I have spent all this time at the medium, I always get slightly different experience from it. Over time many views have changed. In the beginning I thought that one had to have at least 35mm SLR to get all the control needed to quality picture. Then after a while I started to try smaller compact 35mm cameras with some good results. The smaller camera designs allowed me to get pictures when the bulkier was not suitable to carry around. Developing my own film was a big plus from day one. It allowed me to get the print quality I saw in the scene when I pushed the button. I could fix small mistakes that took place in either the developing or in camera exposures. When I converted to using mini labs for the pictures I took, I lost the control and feeling of getting the print quality wanted to really get. At times the print was bang on to what I was looking for. I found that the early years where the best in terms of massive amounts of learning about the basics creating a picture. It was very mechanical in nature. Since then, learning the smaller details that make up a more emotional side have come along.
The introduction of digital camera was like learning photography again in some ways. The computer was acting a lot like an electronic dark room. I could do a lot of things I had not done since my dark room days. Pictures now could be posted on web sites in a very short amount of time. The level of editing allowed me to get the look of picture I wanted was in some ways better than in the darkroom. It was safer as well. The lack of toxic chemicals was most welcome. There were new controls to learn on the cameras but they all served the same basic function, to control the look of the image created in the camera. The almost unlimited amount of number of pictures meant the almost lack of thinking needed to create a good shot. While film is also gone now, it is a good to use a film based camera to get you to think and shot". With the limited number of frames, you really must think about the subject matter you are interested in to get the best results. This then can be transferred back to the digital camera to try to shot less and focus on quality, not quantity. Although digital images now a very common, it is important in my view to study the history of the camera to see just how lucky we are to have what now can be done. It is important to see what just has been done. One will be surprised at what the early pioneers did in terms of image creation.
While many people take just family pictures, I looked at taking pictures of just ordinary scenes in light that made them special. There are pictures of places that over the course of time have changed. This was done not for myself but for future generations to see the places in our time frame. These moments only happen once so it is important make the best of these conditions. I feel it is important to document your world from your point of view just not for yourself but for others as well. This world is the only home we have and it is important help show how important it is keep it recorded as we see it now. I am hoping to see the world and its changes as time goes on for some time to come. Photography has helped make me more aware of the world around me and to feel the need to record its details changes for some time. Photography has become part of my being. It changes the way you see the world.