Well, what’s the deal with this site? To answer that, I guess I’ll have to back up a bit and provide a little background information about me. Simply put, I love photography. I took pictures with any camera I could get my hands on until I finally got a Pentax K1000 when I was 12 and I used it as much as a kid could afford to feed it, which wasn’t very much. I was able to shoot black and white and develop my pictures in a photography class in high school, but results were pretty dismal and my goal was just to have something appear on the negatives when I developed them. I wasn’t about to win any awards with my pictures, on the occasion they actually came out, but I loved the process, and was still in love with photography.
I was fortunate enough to live in Colorado and wanted to capture some the breathtaking views I saw while out backpacking, so believing it was the quality of the gear I used I bought a Canon A2 and all of the goodies I “needed” and would lug it all into the backcountry and ruin rolls upon rolls of Velvia through it. I did get to the point where I could get a few decent images here and there because let’s face it, even a broken clock is right twice a day, but although often frustrated, I still loves photography.
I moved to Portland, and although it’s a very scenic area in its own right, I turned from photographing mountain vistas to my new everyday environment, the streets of Portland. I would spend hours wandering the streets, snapping away at anything or anyone that looked interesting and lurking in the vast photography section at Powell’s Books for inspiration. It was during this time I started moving from shooting inanimate scenes to photographing people. It started with the all of the interesting people I’d meet in streets, some more friendly than others, and with my beautify girlfriend, now wife.
Not being happy with having to wait for the weather to be right for the image I was wanting to create, I naturally turned to artificial lighting, skipping right past the speedlights and right into the big guns, studio strobes. I got a used Ultra Zap 600 and perhaps the first strobe Paul C. Buff ever made which looks like a Folgers’s can. I had always enjoyed taking pictures but now I was full on obsessed with it.
The next big thing for me was the jump from film to digital. I displaced the venerable Canon A2 workhorse for the Canon 20D and boy was I excited. I could now shoot to my heart’s content without the cost penalty associated with film, and the learning curve was really working in my favor. I would snap away, like any newly film-freed shutterbug, and anything and everything.
Even though I now had the advantage instant feedback and the ability of shooting more than ever, I still wasn’t, in hind site, a student of light. What I mean by that is that I seeing my pictures by not looking at my pictures for what they were trying to teach me. Just like when I was a kid, I was just happy to get something that came out reasonably well from time to time. I would just mess around with all of the elements until I’d start to get an acceptable image out the other end.
Recently I’ve come to realize, mostly in part to things I’ve learned from competitive shooting, that in large part, I’ve been focusing in the wrong places. The cameras, lights, modifiers, etc, don’t really matter all that much and is simply a means to an end, in this case a good photograph. And by good photograph I mean the image I had in my mind’s eye is what I wound up with, not an accidental acceptable image. That it seems is the difference. I found that I was spending more time on the gear than the technique, what it took to get the image I was after, who cares what it took to capture it?
With simplification in mind, I set the ships on fire and sold off all of my DSLR equipment and bought a Fujifilm X-E1 mirrorless rangefinder (and upgraded shortly thereafter to a Fujifilm X-E2). On the strobe front, I replaced my big guns with for speedlights and some cheap stands and an umbrella. I’ve found that now I’m learning to ignore the technology and look at the viewfinder.
This transition has really reinvigorated my desire to learn about photography and lighting, not just spray and pray. I want to have an image in my mind, the position everything to accomplish that before the first shutter release press. So that’s the goal, start from square one, forget everything I thought I knew about photography with the emphasis on the light, available or manufactured, and to see where it goes.
So to the point, this site is here to document my journey to understand lighting, take better photos, and share what I’ve learned along the way. You really don’t know something until you have taught it to someone else, so by helping others I’m becoming a better student of light. So have a poke around and perhaps you’ll learn something that I’ve discovered along the way.
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