Only look back to see how far you have come.

 –Winnie the Pooh

I’ve been looking forward and backward for a while now, in particular, relating to my photography journey. There’s value in looking both ways. I thought I’d share some of my story as a way of tracking ways that we grow into a passion. It’s been a long time since I bought my first “real” camera – about 25 years ago. It was a Minolta 35mm film camera, and I had two lenses ranging from 24 – 210mm. Before then I had a small point-and-shoot camera and took lots of pictures. After recently spending days scanning old photos that go back about 30 years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my photography path. Truth be told, I was not very good in my early days (terrible, actually), and I had a hefty number of pictures in these scans where I clearly “got lucky.” I’ve been thinking about this for a while – long before this recent scanning project. How did I go from “lucky” to where I am now, which so often is simply “blessed? What started the ball rolling? And, how did I get to do what I do when it was nowhere ever remotely close to my radar? That’s where looking back helps to fill in the blanks.

Barns in the rural landscape – An early favorite subject. It was a start. This scanned film image is from the early 90’s.

My love of barns and the rural landscape continues. This digital image made decades later with more intention than the earlier one. (2019)

PART OF THE BACKSTORY

There’s always a form of explanation and experience that helps build a path forward. In all of it, if we take the time to consider, we can see the contributors and turning points that help make it so. Here’s a shortened version of mine. I grew up in a small town on Long Island. My father grew up on a farm on the North Fork of the island. My mother grew up in Richmond Hill, a neighborhood in Queens. They met out on the island where my grandparents had a bungalow that faced my father’s family farm. My maternal grandmother was the camera bug. (I now have her old cameras.)I remember her always taking pictures, posing me and my three sisters on the front steps in our dresses whenever we came to visit.

We grew up being told to “go outside and find something to do.” So, that’s what we did. I was blessed with parents who loved to travel and camp and explore. By the time I graduated high school we had visited every state on the East Coast (and Tennessee) more than once. I always remember noticing beauty in nature and the way light would hit areas, and I loved being outside. These travels and experiences are tucked in the memory bank that often steers what I see and what I am drawn to.

At some point, probably after high school, I got a point-and-shoot camera and took pictures of friends, family and some nature. I seemed to have been a bit better at people than nature (more later). As we know, the point & shoot is programmed to do its job and allowed for little more control than what I put in the box and when I pushed the button. I got that first “real” camera in between two diagnoses of breast cancer in my mid-thirties. And, much to my chagrin, I used it very much like the point-and-shoot for a number of years (you know, “Program” mode (P)). If you ask me what took me so long to get that camera, I could tell you that I couldn’t afford it, but hindsight tells me that I told myself I wasn’t worth it. Not true. In Program mode I would often get lucky. So, why did I bother getting the camera I’d always wanted so I could control what the images looked like if I was going to be stuck in “P?” Truth be told, the camera was intimidating, and Program felt like a safe bet, even if it meant that I was using it like a “passenger” instead of a driver. I could come up with all kinds of excuses. So, what changed?

What could go wrong with roses? A lot if you’re handholding, don’t know what aperture to choose, where to focus and don’t have a circular polarizer. (1995)

Hey, the lighthouse is in the frame and not centered. But that horizon … does it need to be level? (1995)

Thankfully, sometimes a pansy and camera will allow for a little bit of lucky , and even a few stacked macro filters will help. (1995)

THE POPPY FIELD EPIPHANY

There are times when life takes turns that end up giving you more than you expect. My great shift (call it the epiphany) came in the middle of a wildflower poppy field compliments of the NC Department of Transportation Wildflower Program. I was very aggravated with myself for a number of reasons (not relevant here). I pulled over to the side of the road, grabbed my camera, lens and set of macro filters (+1, +2 and +4) and stomped into the flower field. I was not a happy camper. As I sat down and disappeared in the blooms, I remembered thinking that I would spend about 15-20 minutes in the field. What I saw and how I felt improved with each addition of the macro filters. I felt good. I felt happy. And, I noticed that my breathing had slowed, my shoulders had dropped, and all of the “crap” I had dragged into the field as I stomped had disappeared. I confirmed one thing – I not only wanted but needed a macro lens. I discovered something else far more meaningful – Photography was way more than a hobby for me. It had evolved into a healing passion. I still had worlds of things to learn, but I had another new path, a different direction and purpose. It was more personal and intentional. Photography became the path that continues to feed my soul.

The infamous “epiphany” poppy and wildflower field. (1997)

One of those poppies – not perfect, but sure made me feel good. (1997)

Apparently, I had a wabi sabi mindset early on. (1997)

NEXT PHASE – LEARNING TO DRIVE

I relate learning photography on some levels to learning how to drive a car. All cars have the same basic features, but they’re in different places and require you to know how to use them to become a “good” driver. There came a point in time, several years into the “real camera” experie