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on Jul 6, 2012 in Friday Thoughts

Why I Blog…

It’s been a long week, even with the holiday, full of ups and downs. I was just about to sit down and write a boring post titled, “The Frustrations of a Blogger” about how many, not all look at the photo in the blog and that’s all. They don’t read the post but treat the photo like a book cover and judge its contents accordingly. I put a lot of time into my posts but this week, I was getting beaten up for not helping the right folks at the right moment, for free. Then I read an email like this and all those negatives go away and I know why I blog…..

Subject: Truly Grateful

I’ve nearly written this email 5-6 times and have finally decided to drop you a line, if for no other reason than to give you something other than “What do you think of the new D4?” to read.

About 1.5 years ago I was given a DSLR as a gift. I was super thrilled, but what I couldn’t anticipate was how happy it would make me.

The turning point came when I also received a gift card to Barnes and Noble. At the time I was having some car issues and was interested in trying to do the repairs myself so I was planning on using the gift card to purchase a repair manual for my vehicle. I wandered the aisles in B&N and turned a corner into the photography section. I glanced at a few “how-to” books, but my eyes were fixated on the nature/wildlife photography books. I picked up a couple, my mouth agape at the beauty of the photos, but returned them to the shelf for various reasons. Then I saw your book, “Captured,” peeking out towards the back. I grabbed it, flipped it open, started reading some of the text, turned on my heel, went to the counter, handed the lady my gift card, declined a plastic bag (to quote my father, “That’s OK, I’ll eat it here”), walked to my car, drove home, and spent the next two hours reading and re-reading sections of your book. I was captivated! Over the next several weeks I read your book cover to cover, taking notes along the way.

I hate bullshit and you’re a no bullshit guy. I love swear words and you dropped a few in the book (I’m pretty sure you did… I could be making that up!), which earned you major brownie points with me. But the way you wrote the book clicked with me. I’m a fisheries scientist by training and a nature lover at heart. Your stories and anecdotes of working with biologists rang true with me. One year ago (almost to the day) I was assisting a post-doc as she played surgeon and implanted acoustic transmitters in a popular fish species (walleye) and between surgeries (2-3 mins/surgery) I was grabbing my DSLR and snapping pictures like a madman, dropping it when I had to to get back and transfer the fish to recover chambers. The biologists I worked with were super grateful that I was there to document the study and be available to help, and I was elated to have the experience! I LOVE documenting research projects. It would be lovely if I could make a career out of it, but I digress.

Fast-forward a few months and my life quickly changed. I rolled the dice and decided that I would accept a job as a fisheries biologist and move from where I was living in Ottawa, Ontario to Chicago before completing my Master’s degree. This turned out to be a HUGE transition. My time in Ottawa was the best two years of my life: I made wonderful, life-long friends; was knee deep in some fantastic fishing (I’m a fisherman through and through); and met the woman of my dreams. I left all of that (still have the girlfriend, fortunately, though she’s doing a PhD on Prince Edward Island some 1,600 miles away). Culture shock hit me when I moved to Chicago, despite having lots of family around. Before photography, I used to eat, sleep, and breathe fishing; it was all I could think about and was my only hobby and my only escape. The fishing opportunities are limited in Chicago and those that are a available require specialized techniques that take years to develop.

Photography saved me. That may sound cliche or over the top, but in a sense it’s true. It made the shock of moving from a place I loved to a place I was less than enthused to be in (in this economy, you take what you can get), particularly since I couldn’t get out and fish easily. Though I missed fishing, I turned my attention to photography. I read everything I could get my hands on. I watched tutorials online. Perused various photographers’ portfolios to get ideas for my own images. Signed in to Facebook just to see if you’d posted something on your page and blog. Bought gear, bought software. Took my camera nearly every place I went, including with me to work (documenting research!). Spent and continue to spend more time at work looking at photography websites than I probably should! I still do all of these things (just finished reading your D4 settings and BT Journal iPad blog posts) with gusto.

I see the world differently around me. I look at a lone light fixture hanging off my apartment building and think, “How could I capture an image that would convey what my minds eye sees when I look at that light?” I look at sunrises or sunsets and think “This would be great light to shoot in!” I look at reflections in my parents’ dog’s eye and think of catch lights. I look at buildings and think of textures. I look at a red fire hydrant poking through a snow bank and think of the juxtaposition of an all white scene with a prominent red object intruding. I drive over a rickety bridge and think of wide-angle lenses and vanishing points. I look at a scene and assess what kind of dynamic range is there. I look at a plane and think, “What would Moose do?” 🙂

I have you, your teachings, and your willingness to share your knowledge and images to thank. My new-found love for photography has been a gift and blessing. I am so thankful to have something else to look forward to in life, particularly with my girlfriend living 1,600 miles away, and a creative outlet. It all started with your book!

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. It’s something I’ve wanted to write for a long time. Hopefully someday I can join you on one of your workshops and I can get to shake your hand!