My photography journey

I remember having a camera in hand since I was pretty young, elementary school age if my memory of our pets is accurate….since they were my primary subject. I didn’t carry a camera with me everywhere I went though. There are times now, which I wish I had. But, even back then, film processing was an expense my family couldn’t really afford, at least when it came to a kid taking photos of the dog and cat.

My passion for photography never died. It took a few extended vacations, but always came back. In high school and early college, I used a point and shoot film camera. Often it was my mom’s Olympus. I cannot remember the model, but that little camera was great. I know it survived at least once being dropped in a lake by my brother on a fishing trip.

When I was attending Clark College in Vancouver, WA, I ended up meeting the woman who is now my wife. We met in March 1991 and became friends which quickly bloomed into more. On September 23rd, 1991, I decided to give myself an early birthday present, and asked Deborah to marry me. Obviously she said yes and we were married on March 28th, 1992. Now to backup just a little. Around Christmas time, she and my mom decided to buy me a “real” camera, which I had been dreaming about for a while. They decided to buy me a Pentax K-1000 fully manual camera, often described as a “student’s camera.” Unfortunately for my mom, Deborah let the surprise of the gift slip a little early. (She did give me permission to include that piece of the story).

The fall after we married, we started attending WSU in Pullman, WA. I originally wanted to go for an environmental studies degree, but was told by my advisor that the courses I took at Clark didn’t meet the minimum requirements and it would take me 3.5 to 4 years to earn the degree. I really didn’t want to have to “redo” my first two years, so I started looking for other options. After a lot of talking with my advisor, I decided on a path towards a Liberal Arts degree. My main focus, pun not necessarily intended, was photography. I would also take a fair amount of other art classes, sociology, psychology and environmental courses. My photography instructor was excellent, although I’m not sure I was the best student. I did volunteer as a darkroom attendant so I could have access to the darkroom whenever I wanted. The excitement and joy of watching an image start to “rise out” of a white sheet of photo paper as it sat in the developer bath, was awesome! All my work while at WSU was black and white and tended to be landscape images. I also took a book binding course, and made a couple of books of my images.

After we left WSU, I tried a couple times to make some money with my photography. I took a roll of film for a car dealership in The Dalles, OR and made a whopping $50. The dealer was owned by a friend of my father-in-law, and I have no idea if he even used the photos.

Deborah and I moved around a little after college, including going back so she could earn a Master’s degree. In May 1999 we ended up in the Olympia, WA area, Tumwater specifically. Both Deborah and I got jobs with the State and life started to settle down. I purchased my first digital camera shortly after and have been on the hunt for the best camera for the buck to fit my needs since then.

Eventually I ended up purchasing a Nikon D50 digital camera. In a way, it was the digital equivalent to my old Pentax K1000. I could change the lenses, shoot in a fully automatic mode, or go as manual as I wanted. I loved that camera. I had a work event coming up that I wanted to document with images, so I got my camera out to make sure it was charged and ready to go. Unfortunately, the mirror would lock up and the camera wasn’t working. I contacted Nikon to check what it would cost to send it in for repair. Luckily, the repair wasn’t all that expensive, around $250. I think I spent close to $1000 for the camera when I purchased it. But, there was no way to get it fixed prior to my work trip. So, I sent it off and then went out and bought a Nikon D60 to replace it. The D60 was an upgrade in some ways, but a downgrade in others. It was also a great camera, but I started to realize I really wanted something else. I sold the D50 to one of my wife’s co-workers after I got it back from Nikon. I continued to use the D60 for a couple of years, and then prior to an anniversary trip in 2011 to Joseph, OR, I decided to buy a small point and shoot to compliment the much bigger D60. The little point and shoot was a Fuji I picked up at Costco. It worked nicely, and helped me create some nice images on the trip. What was really nice was how small it was. I found myself grabbing it instead of the big camera when we would go out exploring. Unfortunately, the little Fuji started to have issues before the trip was over. The display screen on the back had lines going through it after less than two weeks of use. So, when we got back home, it was returned to Costco. But, it became a great lesson in what I was looking for in a camera. I wanted the functionality (auto shooting, manual settings, and interchangeable lenses) that I had with my big Nikon, but I also wanted the much more compact size and weight of a point and shoot.

My next venture with this new knowledge was to pick up the, new at the time, Nikon J1. The Nikon 1 series was their first move into the mirrorless camera market. I really liked the Nikon, it was small, I could change the lenses, was light weight, and easy to use. Unfortunately, the one thing it lacked was auto bracketing. I had started venturing into doing HDR photography with the Nikon D60 which, by the way, also did not have auto bracketing. I discovered that there were other options out there that did offer this feature making my journey down the path of HDR easier. So, I returned the Nikon and started my search.

I finally settled on the Olympus PEN Lite / E-PL3. This little camera is also a mirrorless unit and has a lot of the same functionality of the Nikon 1 series. But, it has a couple of added features that took it to the top of my list. It had auto bracketing, YES! It is small and light weight and has a rear screen that tilts so you can either hold it below eye level with the screen rotated up, or above your head with the screen rotated down. It takes excellent photos with its 12.1 megapixel image sensor, and can record full 1080 video with sound. I don’t take much video, but I did purchase an external microphone to use with it when I record Deborah singing at church. I’ve also picked up a very inexpensive lens adapter off e-Bay ($25 or so) that allows me to use my old Pentax K-1000 lenses on the Olympus. Manual focus and exposure of course, but so very cool.

After I was sure I was happy with the Olympus, I sold the Nikon D60. I think the only camera out there that might make me happier would be one of the new digital Leica’s. But, they are expensive! There is a photographer in Tokyo who runs a blog titled Shoot Tokyo. His camera brand of choice is Leica. He shoots both film and digital.

So, that is my camera and photography history up to this point in 2014.

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