Photography 101

Photography 101

Photography has always been a part of my life, as it was introduced to me as a child through my father’s avid amateur interest. As a child, he made himself a simple box camera and later bought an Argus 35mm camera, with a 50 mm lense. He took photos of everything, but mostly of his family. We patiently posed for him so he could get the picture just right. I can’t tell you how many times my eyes cried looking into the sun and smiling for Dad. When I got older, I received my first camera, a Kodak Brownie, for my tenth birthday. Under my father’s guidance, he taught me the fundamentals of photography and the importance of observation. He had his own darkroom in a utility room just off our kitchen. Because he shot mostly black and white Tri-X, he could take a roll during the day and develop the negative strip in the evening. He’d usually have a dry negative strip or two ready to be printed. I watched him every time he went to his dark room. I’d stand very still on a stool next to him watching the whole process. I loved the red light! I had a hard time understanding the magic of the photo that amazingly appeared on a white piece of paper. He printed photo after photo. I was in charge passing him the correct piece of trimmed paper for each photo from the black envelope. Afterwards, I placed the wet photos on the clean chrome sheet face down and squeeging the water out. The metal sheet was hooked into a photo drier until they were fully ‘cooked!’ The best part was getting to see the finished product. We looked at them first and then proudly showed them to the rest of the family. This was a weekly ritual for years.

I never had my own 35mm for many more years, but I had the use of Dad’s old Argus and used it throughout high school and college. I was an art student and photography was a way to capture a single moment without having to spend hours in the same place. Gathering reference work was my primary reason to use the camera. I did manage to squeeze in a regular photography class in college. That enabled me to fully realize the mechanics of photography and how it works. I was off taking photos of things I never had thought about before; I was creating stories with the photos. I did discover that some photos were good by themselves, but not make a very good painting. Conversely, some photos that were mundane would make very good paintings. At this point, I was taking photos for two reasons.

After graduating from Central Missouri State University, I accepted a teaching position in Cole Camp, Missouri R#1 Unified School as their art teacher grades K-12. When the superintendent found out that I had photography and yearbook training, he asked me to be the sponsor. It was an extra $200.00 a year, bringing my salary to $5,200!! That was a real OJT experience for me. I had a small three-room apartment above a business in ‘downtown’ Cole Camp. There was a small storage room between my bedroom and the hallway where the bathroom was. It was there I set up my darkroom. Dad had long since given up his darkroom, so I asked to use his old stuff. The enlarger was an old Argus camera mounted on an aluminum vertical slide with a light housing. The black composition photo pans were chipped and old, but usable. Even the photo drier was still working. Dad told me to buy the film in bulk and roll my own film to save money. That worked great, but many times I never knew how many shots I had on a roll!! I shot the school yearbook photos during the day, and developed the film as soon as I got home. Depending on how many photos I had to develop and the yearbook deadlines, I printed photos into the night. One particular night, I had a very big deadline to meet, and printed photographs until 4:00 am. I was beat, but you can do a lot more when you’re 21!! I laid down to take a small rest before having to get ready for school. Bad idea! Around 9:00 am, the school secretary called to find out why I wasn’t in the classroom!! That brought me immediately wide-awake!! From then on, I set my alarm before taking a rest after a long night of printing!! The yearbook was a real success. I was even asked by the yearbook company to be a guest speaker at a statewide yearbook conference at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri on yearbook layout. Not bad for a small town art teacher with a closet for a dark room!! I changed schools after that year, and moved to Kansas City. I took an art teacher position with the Turner Unified Schools in Kansas City, Kansas. I also accepted the yearbook position. This time I didn’t have to take all the photos. The yearbook company was pretty cut and dried with very little creativity. During this time, I got married to a wonderful man who appreciated my artistic talents. I left public school teaching after that year.

I went on to advertising cold turkey, and found a job with a Kansas City advertising agency. I learned everything ‘on the job!’ It was a good first learning situation, but I didn’t stay there long. I had received enough experience to get a real advertising job with the Menorah Medical Center. Since the Medical Center was a teaching hospital, the art department was vital to their organization. We handled many types of promotional pieces from the ground up. They even had their own printing department. On staff was their medical photographer who took me under his wing. I learned so much from being in his studio and listening to what he had to say. I enjoyed my time with the medical center, but I was expecting our first child and left the department. The years afterwards were occupied as being a mother of a son and daughter, and homemaker. I continued with my watercolor profession, but left photography. I had no camera or the money to buy a 35mm.

Then one sunny Christmas Day, Santa gave me my very own 35mm camera. It was a Pentax with a 50mm lens. The only feature on the camera that wasn’t manual was the built in light meter!! Santa even remembered to get her a telephoto lense and bag! After that, the photography interest came flooding back. I was deep into national juried watercolor shows and each show needed a slide of the paintings for entry. I remembered all that I had learned. I have taken my own show slides with great success from that time. Nevertheless, photography was used only for resource material. One weekend after taking a series of rolls for a new watercolor series, by accident some of the photographs stood on their own. After seeing these new photos, I returned to look at photography two ways once again. It was not until we started traveling to Africa, did I really have something unique to photograph. The people and animals are breathtaking. Every time we go to that wonderful land, I find new situations and stories. We will continue to return to Africa and her experiences.

At the present time, I use a Canon EOS Mark III D, and Canon EOS 5D bodies, with Canon EF 100-400mm 1:4.5-5.6 L IS, Cannon 70-200mm, EF 1:2.8 L IS, Canon 24-105 mm, 1:4 L IS, Canon EF 15-35mm 1:2.8 L lenses. I use a Gitzo G1566 monopod for my African travels because of weight. Above all, I always have my invention, Lense On!, with me!

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