Quite often people ask me how I came to take up photography as a hobby. Actually, "photography and me" had a bit of a troubled start. It actually took until the "digital age" before we really became decent-to-good friends.
As an inspiration to potential fellow photographers, as well as parents and champions of future photographers, I thought it might be interesting to share the experiences i've hand in finding my way (back) to photography.
The years of delusion
During my early teens, I started taking photos with a "hand-me-down" Agfa Isopan camera. I vividly remember seeing photos in magazines, as well as the photos of some of my family members, and thinking ... I want to make such photos as well.
Next to that, I also had an early interest in the technology of photography. I guess I was born with an engineering interest, so camera systems with interchangeable lenses and filters have always had a natural attraction to me. Of course, in my early teens I did not have the financial resources to purchase an SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) camera and lenses.
I also distinctly remember how it was to take photos with the Agfa Isopan camera, then take the rolls of exposed film to the local photoshop to have them developed. With ample anticipation I would then pick up the developed photos a few days later. More often than not, this anticipation was converted into utter disappointment and delusion. Photos were not sharp. The lighting was off. No concept of composition to speak off. Et cetera. Was it my lack of skills? Well you have to start somewhere. Was it the fault of the ageing (hand-me-down) camera? Might have been.
At the same time, purchasing film, and having them developed, resulted in a big dent in my pocket money, adding more pain to the delusion when being confronted with the results. Regretfully, there was no champion in my environment to stimulate, or even lead, me the way in developing my skills as an early teen. As a result, I simply stopped taking photos.
In my late teens, I had more pocket money. As a good kid, I was delivering newspapers to earn some extra money. In these years, I tried Super 8 filming. My father and brother were both into Super 8 filming. In my case, it soon led to another delusion. Both in terms of the consumption of (editing) time and financial resources.
My past frustrations with photography also didn't "allow" me yet to try photography again. As said, a troubled start.
First positive experiences
As a young adult, while having a regular salary, I did get myself a compact camera. In using this camera, I even managed to make the occasional decent shot. It certainly allowed me to gradually improve my feeling towards good compositions.
Nevertheless, the frustration from the past did prevent me from moving up. Both in terms of actively engaging in discussions about photos, as well as improving on my equipment.
Due to a migration to Australia in 1996, I did get a videocamera to keep my family back home up-to-date about my adventures in this "far away" country. Using the videocamera allowed me to improve my feeling about compositions, and possibly even improve some skills in this regard.
Later, after returning to the Netherlands, I moved up to a digital videocamera.
The switch to photography
Around 2002, four developments joined forces that lead the way to photography.
Firstly, I was increasingly getting "fed-up" with editing videos. Rather than spending hours editing video locked up in a room inside, I preferred being out there taking new footage. At the start, the editing was done using two video recorders. Later, the onset of the digital age allowed me to use a computer. This brought some improvement, but as the capacity of computers around the turn of the century was still limited, the whole process was still time consuming, while the software and computer used also had a (crashing) mind of their own.
Secondly, as a result of using a videocameraI I got more actively and deeply interested in the photographic challenge of capturing four dimensions (3d + time) in a two dimensional plane. In a way, on could argue that a videocamera is a "brute force" tool when compared to a photo camera. A videocamera allows us to capture scenes/situations over time. When using a photo camera, you really have to think about how to capture the dynamics of the subject you are photographing in a static image. More challenging I would say.
Thirdly, due to my rationality-driven work in research and consultancy, my inner soul started to cry out for a more feeling-oriented activity. When taking photos, I initially operate quite intuitively, using my feelings. I will then, of course, rationally look at ways to optimise the composition, the exposure, etc. But it starts with a feeling.
Fourthly, given my profession in the field of IT, the onset of the digital photography had a natural attraction to me. It also, enabled a re-entry into photography in a (cost) controlled way. No more wasting of money on films ... digital photography brought the promise of direct feedback.
Early 2002 I therefore purchased a Canon PowerShot A40. While taking photos, I was able to experiment with compositions and exposure, while (slightly) improving my skills.
Getting serious about photography
In the summer of 2002, I was lucky enough to "have" to pay a working visit to Uganda. My partner, who had witnessed both my rekindled interest in photography, as well as emerging ability to take decent photos, had a Minolta SLR with a set of interchangeable lenses.
She advised me to take them with me on the working visit to Uganda. During this visit, we of course also visited some of the nature reserves. This resulted in quite a few decent photos. This experience lead me to taking photography serious again, while getting rid of some old "traumas".
Possibly due to my Calvinistic Dutch heritage, I decided to expand slowly in terms of equipment. I first wanted to make sure if I would really like photography and stick to it, before investing heavily into equipment. Therefore, I continued using the Canon PowerShot A40 to improve my skills and experience, while using the Minolta from my partner for situations requiring better equipment.
Deepening the experience
By 2004, DSLRs had become affordable. This is when I switched to a 300D with some basic lenses. Soon after that I made the pivotal decision to attend a workshop by Geurt Besselink on nature and landscape photography. This workshop got me "hooked", while it (and follow up workshops and photo expeditions) allowed be to hone my skills.
Step by step (Dutch Calvinism ..) I migrated from the Canon 300D via a 20D and 30D to a 5D and a 5D II full-frame camera with assorted (white) lenses. During several photo expeditions, I was able to also further develop my skills while gaining insights, and inspiration, from Geurt Besselink and Peter Cox.
Losing focus in losing weight
Early 2012, I did find myself taking less and less photos. This was partially due to a busy work agenda. I had just moved to Luxembourg to take up a challenging new job. At the same time I was also getting "fed-up" with the need to have to luge my heavy camera bag around. I needed to "loose weight".
As a consequence, from 2012 to 2014, I only took sporadic photos with my iPhone. Next to that, I thought it would be a good idea to try taking videos again. So, in a "spontaneous" moment, I sold my Canon equipment and swapped to a Sony NEX VG30 video camera, and a NEX 5 photo camera. These were much, much, lighter than my Canon equipment.
However, this excursion into videography, once again, proved to be a bad move. Editing videos would still consume too much time. Time that I would rather spent in the field taking photos, or on my bike staying fit.
After observing myself getting "stuck" with video editing, I decided to switch back to photography again. And yes. In the process losing quite a bit of weight in the financial sense as well, while "sponsoring" Sony (maybe they should sponsor me now for a change ;-) ).
Back to photography
Knowing I love taking photos, in late 2014, I finally decided to go "get back" into photography. Based on my experiences with the NEX based photo camera, and its low weight, I decided to switch to a, Sony based, mirrorless (full-frame) system. The big advantage of a mirrorless system is of course the reduced weight of the equipment.
On a separate page, I discuss my current suite of equipment. In line with Chase Jarvis' statement "The Best Camera Is The One That's With You", I do consider my iPhone to be a just as valuable for my photography hobby as my Sony equipment.
Keeping competition out of it
I have a competitive nature. When cycling, I like to be up front. With photography, I like to be able to work from my feeling. Not rationality driven. Not competition driven. The latter is also the reason why I tend not to participate in photo competitions. I do not want to find myself in the field thinking if the photo I am about to take would be a potential winner in some competition. That thought would distract me from what I'm actually out there for ... taking photos that feel well.
Next to being inspired by photos in magazines on travel, nature and photographs, I also find inspiration in the work by other photographers. In the past, I have already been inspired by Geurt Besselink and Peter Cox on landscape photography, while Chase Jarvis inspired me in seeing that the best camera is simply the one you have with you.