" My journey from amatuer to enthusiast "

How my love affair with photography began

When it comes to cameras, I get irrationally excited. Ever since my mom and dad put a little blue plastic 35mm camera in my pudgy 5-year-old hands and said, “Go nuts,” I’ve been obsessed with cameras and photography.

I really have to thank them for encouraging my passions. I suppose it was easier given my passions were theirs too. Writing is my mother’s passion (find her blog here), while photography is my father’s.

Each of my parents encouraged me in different ways.

As a child, I had numerous cameras, but as my passion for the art grew, my parents didn’t just handout better cameras. Instead, my Dad put my passion to the test. From his closet, he pulled out his old 35mm Pentax SLR.

The camera had a 50mm f/2.0 lens and unlike any of the digital point-n-shoots I’d had up to this point, it wasn’t automatic. No instant gratification to be had from this camera. It was also the first camera that forced me to learn how to set an exposure.

Needless to say, I fell in love faster than you could shake a Polaroid. There was something special about the shallow depth of field and fine grain that you only get from film.

These six shots are some of the first film photographs I ever took, and yes, that little boy on the left was me.

Within a few minutes of picking up the camera, I’d figured out the basics. I had to read the light meter, choose the aperture I wanted and it would set the shutter speed for me. Unfortunately, with only 24 frames in each roll, I had to make them count. In those days you could just go out and buy another roll of film at the grocery store, but as an 11-year-old, that took money I didn’t have.

The beginnings of an education

From my mother, I received piles of books on photography. I would beg her to take me to the library so I could check out the next photography book in the series and to my glee she always did. She always encourged us kids to learn as much as we could about anything we were interested in.

I scoured those books from cover-to-cover gleaning every tip, trick and technique I could. I always wanted my next roll of film to come out better than the last. Those books taught me the principals of photography, but I’ll admit I never really stopped learning.

In high school, I read photography sites religiously. I was always looking for new techniques and guides to advance my skills. I wanted to try new things. I learned to develop film and read the light in the room without the aid of a meter. After all, none of my film cameras had one.

That was truly the beginning of my love affair with photography. It wasn’t getting the camera that did it for me, it was learning how to use it. No matter what I had in my hands, if it had a shutter, I would make it work.

Off to college

I began my formal photography education in college. In 2012 I enrolled in Winona State University’s Mass Communications photojournalism program. There, I was given access to the photo studio and darkroom. I eventually found a job as a photo worker teaching underclassmen advanced darkroom techniques. Moreover, I had free reign to explore the limits of photography.

I shot most of my film photography using this 1940s Argus C3 range finder.

Photography as a profession

After graduating from Winona State, I went to work as a reporter for the Coulee News and Courier-Life, two weekly newspapers in the Coulee Region of Western Wisconsin. I covered local news, wrote features and put my photojournalism education to good use.

During my two and a half years with the papers, I helped to publish nearly 120 issues each packed with my photographs.

As you can see, photography is part of who I am. I am certainly not the best photographer out there. There are many better, but it is something I enjoy, so I think I’ll keep taking pictures if only to post them here.

Check back next week to learn all about the cameras, accessories and software we use.

Further reading

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  • How did you discover photography?
  • What was your first camera?
  • Did you ever shoot film?
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11 Comments

  • thecedarjournal

    My first camera was a homemade pinhole camera I made after reading National Geographic Explorer for kids. Then I had a 110 film camera and couple of 35mm cameras. I shot film until it was sold as much and the digital age arrived. I processed film in a darkroom, cool to see the images first appear as you saw them through the viewfinder on paper in the chemical solution. I have enjoyed a healthy passion for photography for many years. I think this is always a good area to write and share tips as people are always looking to improve their skills and learn from others. BTW- my hat is off to your mother who helped inspire you to explore.

    February 22, 2018 - 12:50 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      110 film is for pocket cameras right? I have never used it. I have only ever used 35mm and 120, but you can still get 110 film too. I agree there is really something magical about dropping your first print into the developer and watching the image appear. It was my favorite part of working in the darkroom. It was just infectious watching student after student smile in disbelief as there photos come alive.

      On another topic, my mother was the one who introduced me to canoeing. She actually has her own blog where she posts her nature photography and short stories. You can find it at [email protected] if your interested.

      February 22, 2018 - 5:10 pm Reply
      • thecedarjournal

        I would love to visit her site! Thanks for the link.

        February 22, 2018 - 11:50 pm Reply
  • HikingWoman

    Great post!! I just went through all of my dad’s old pics from the 70s. My brother converted all the slides to DVDs. Some of his pics are just awful and some are masterpieces. There were no chances. You had to really know the camera and lighting. The composition was usually pretty good though. One day in the camera shop I saw some old film cameras and I was tempted.

    February 22, 2018 - 8:45 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Finding old slides is always a lot of fun. Shooting with old camera equipment takes a lot of patience and practice, but it’s really rewarding if you can develop the photos yourself. Do you remember what camera your dad shot with?

      March 2, 2018 - 11:38 am Reply
      • HikingWoman

        I only know it was a Nikon. At least that is what is in my memory. But that is all I remember. I’m old so it is a long ways back to remember. 🙂

        March 5, 2018 - 10:13 am Reply
        • tobiasmann

          You’re too active to be old. I’d say you’re well traveled and experienced.

          March 5, 2018 - 10:32 am Reply
          • HikingWoman

            Haha thank you. I’ll use that instead.

            March 5, 2018 - 10:50 am
  • VanMarmot

    I lost my dad to cancer when I was 11 I floundered for a couple of years until a close family friend – who was a geologist and an avid hiker/backpacker/photographer – stepped up to take me on some of his outdoor adventures. He also explained the rudiments of photography to me. His generosity in these areas turned my life around. Thus began an enduring passion for the outdoors, photography, and (later) a career in science (but not as a geologist – I could never drink enough beer to qualify!). My first camera was a simple Kodak (35mm film), replaced at my high school graduation with a Minolta SRT-101. I used Minolta 101s and 35 mm slide film (and only slide film) until 2008, when I finally made the painful decision to go digital. Actually I had little choice as analog cameras and slide film were on their way to being collector’s items. While there are a lot of positives about digital photography, I miss my Kodachrome days.

    February 22, 2018 - 9:43 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      It sounds like that person was the person you needed in your time of need. It also sounds like the experience was better than many have with their own parents. Having grown up bouncing back and forth between film and digital I can’t say I prefer one over the other. That said, my only experience with slide film was picking through my dad’s photos of Vietnam. I always shot with TriMax.

      February 22, 2018 - 5:19 pm Reply
  • penncosect24

    I began using a camera for the first time when I was doing a study on native plants. I chronicled their growth cycles through a single season, photographing their changes week-to-week. I knew little of what I was doing camera-wise — and still don’t — but the camera served as a means to inform. Later, many years later, my son gave me a blog as a Christmas present, and well…I had to take photographs to support the text. I now use a Sony DSC-HX80. It’s a point-and-shoot with enhanced abilities. It helps me tell the story I see happening around me!

    February 22, 2018 - 8:37 pm Reply

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