November 14, 2019
One of the first things anyone checks when inquiring with a new service provider is the About section. What makes them tick, why do they do this thing, and will they be good for me? I like mine, but it’s short. I want to do a series of story posts that have more of why I do the things that I do.
I’ve always found that stories are the best way to communicate things, so I’m going to share a few. How I got into photography, what influences my photographic style, what I do with all my free time (which doesn’t exist), and how I approach photography as an art. Hopefully, you find these entertaining, or maybe you need a cure for your insomnia. Either way, I hope someone will find this useful!
For my entire life, I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by my incredible family – both immediate and extended. That meant always being around my uncle, who has been a professional wildlife photographer for the last 30+ odd years. He was a portrait and wedding photographer in a previous life, but if you ask him about it, he’ll shudder and then require a large glass filled with whiskey. Now my uncle is a Canon Explorer of Light and I really couldn’t have had a better influence, mentor, PITA, and source of encouragement. I only had a small interest in photography by the time I was 14. It wasn’t until a day on the beach with my uncle that it became a passion.
My dad used to be my uncle’s lighting assistant both for weddings and underwater photography. I’ve never asked, but I’m pretty sure that had some influence on my dad picking up an old Pentax film camera. I don’t remember when, but I know I had picked it up at some point, messed around, and got some encouraging feedback on what I was producing. Eventually, I started asking my Uncle more questions which turned into an invitation to shoot with him.
One summer morning, my Uncle and I hit the road and drove out to Orient Point of Montauk Long Island, New York. After walking along the beach for a few hundred yards, we found an Osprey nest and promptly set up shop. An Osprey is a large fish-hawk; its wingspan is just under 6ft. By setting up shop, I mean I sat in the sand with my Pentax camera and 24-100mm lens while my Uncle proceeded to mount a 500mm lens with one of the first-ever professional digital cameras onto a heavy-duty tripod. For the next few minutes, we’re both snapping shots of this Osprey in the nest; me getting absolute crap and my Uncle getting gold. After a few minutes, my Uncle tells me to hop behind his camera and give it a shot. I get a 30-second walkthrough of the necessary camera buttons and how to properly hold a large lens on a tripod.
So I’m snapping off some frames and feeling pretty good about myself. “Yeah, I got this! It’s not so difficult.” That’s what was running through my head when I felt a series of taps on my right shoulder.
“Mike, there’s one flying by with a fish in its talons! Mike. MIKE!”
Cue the blooper reel of a super inexperienced 14-year-old, wielding a massive wildlife photography set up for the first time, trying to place a bird with a 6ft wingspan that’s about 100 yards away, in the frame of a super narrow field of view. It wasn’t going well.
“Mike, he’s getting away! Mike, he’s getting away!”
My Uncle had just pushed me into the sand. As I looked back, dumbfounded, I saw my Uncle behind the camera, firing off 12 frames per second bursts, tracking this flying Osprey. Once it was out of sight, he looked over at me and said, “Alright, you can try again now.”
Well, I hopped back behind the camera and focused on the original Osprey in the nest. Two minutes later, “Mike, he’s back! Mike, he’s back!”
I’m back in the sand with the sound of 12 frames a second echoing in my ears.
You’ve got to be kidding me…
If you can believe it, this happened a 3rd time. At that point, I said, “Dammit, I’m gonna nail that shot!”
I’ve been hooked on photography ever since.
Since then, I’ve attended several of my Uncle’s photography workshops over the years, and I love telling that story to the other attendees. It gets some good laughs and gets the group to give my Uncle a good ribbing too. More importantly, it fueled the drive that makes me love photography over 15 years later. I’m always trying to create the shot that’s in my head. That process, that challenge, and that adventure are so much fun. It keeps me fulfilled, yet always striving to do something new and different. So long as photography keeps me challenged, off-balance, and cursing until I achieve the final image; I’ll be happy.
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