In 1985 Santa Claus put a Canon AE-1 camera under my Christmas tree. It was my first 35mm camera. I had no idea what had landed in my lap or how it would change my life. I loaded it with 400-speed film and began clicking. At the time I lived in Washington State, on the Olympic Peninsula, right on the shores of the Hood Canal. Beautiful nature surrounded me: thick lush forests, majestic mountain peaks, sunsets reflecting on the canal, salmon rushing up streams, and wild ducks in my front yard.
I had to learn to use my new toy. I read every word in the booklet that came with my camera. I checked out books from the library. I learned about aperture, lighting, focal lengths, film speed, depth of field and different lens sizes. I bought additional lenses and continued clicking like crazy. Because I had to wait for the pictures to be developed, I would often forget what settings gave me such fabulous or disappointing results. I started writing down my settings: the exposure number, the F-stop, and the focal length. This helped the learning curve. I’d take my rolls of film to the local film shop and pick them up a couple of days later, only to find I had 24 or 36 prints of the same duck swimming away from me. I saved every print, and I have photo albums lining the shelves in my garage from this period of my picture-taking. I saw nature through new eyes in Washington, through the “eye” of my camera lens. It opened up another world of colors and angles and shadows and life.
While in Washington, I started a vegetable garden. I tried macro photography without a macro lens, taking pictures of beans or tomatoes or zucchini growing a quarter-inch a day.
I continued taking family photos, but I had this new interest in nature: my vegetable garden, trees, sun coming through leaves, wild animals, flowers. Flowers!!!!! Color was everywhere.
When I returned to my hometown of San Diego, camera around my neck, I saw everything anew. I spent lovely hours at the beach waiting for that perfect time when sun dips below the Pacific Ocean and the sky bursts with vivid colors of red, magenta or cotton candy-pink. I got a macro lens and discovered the thrill of capturing a bee on a flower petal or a spider in a web. I took my telescopic lens and positioned myself behind a tree, waiting for the perfect shot of a bird.
Stacks and stacks of albums of flowers and sunsets line the shelves of my house.
I can walk along a seedy sidewalk and see someone “down on their luck” or trash blowing in the wind, and I will not photograph it. Others do. They can capture the painful; tell a story of lost hope or humanity hurting. Instead, I see a crack in the sidewalk, and the little weed or flower growing out of it: a burst of life. This is where I will kneel, take a close-up picture and capture the beauty of that little weed.
I purposely want to capture the beauty in life. This is the second reason I click.
Louis Armstrong was right; it “is” a wonderful world. (Click to hear)