I don't really know what to call this date. Its not a beginning....I've been a photographer before. Its not an end....that happened sometime in the Spring of 2011. Its more like a homecoming I suppose. You see, back in late 2004, I discovered that I had a certain affinity for photography. I didn't say that I was good. Actually, I was pretty bad when I started. I just enjoyed playing with a camera, and enjoyed it on a level that was beyond what I was taking pictures of. I became very involved with the process of photography, and wanted to learn all that I could about it. In short order, I started to learn the basics about composition, lighting, and how to achieve a photograph that went beyond just a snapshot.
With this new found knowledge, I started to really dive into photography and could just not get enough of it. In early 2005, I got my first "real" camera...a Sony DSC F-828 which was marketed as a "prosumer" camera. What that meant was it was somewhere between a point and shoot and a DSLR. It was all I needed to start to fully realize what was possible with photography. I continued to learn, and progress with my images. Before long I had a basic website built to showcase my photography so that others could see and enjoy. Granted, this website was through AOL's Hometown which was far from professional when it came to web building....but I made it work for me....and for others. It wasn't long before I started to sell some images here and there from this website. All of a sudden things started to get real for me when it came to photography. This could actually turn into something grand.
In 2009, AOL closed the doors on the AOL Hometown application and I was forced to make a change. I went with a full on website at this point and 446Photography.com was created. This multi-page website grew over the years and showcased not only nearly 1000 of my images at one point, it was also the home to several monthly features where I would teach the craft of photography, highlight not only my own work, but the work of other photographers. I also kept a running journal of all of the waterfalls that I had visited and photographed. I was one busy dude!
Between running a website, concentrating on trying to sell images...did I mention I also had prints in an art gallery in Stokes county that I would help staff occasionally? I was teaching, conducting interviews, working a full time career.....oh, and I was still taking pictures at a rate of 15-30 new images a month. I tried to make time for my family through all of this, but they ended up falling through the cracks on more than one occasion. That being said, I have to be the luckiest man on earth because my wife, Toni not only stood by my side through all of this, she encouraged me to continue and get better at my craft. She is a special kind of woman, that is for sure, and she made a great "Photo Wench" providing some very beneficial assistance in all of my photographic ventures, especially in my portraiture.
Even though I kept one eye in the viewfinder of my camera, my other eye could still see that I was hurting Toni and that Four Forty-Six Photography was taking its tole on the both of us. After a series of equipment mishaps where I destroyed a camera body, a lens, and damaged a second lens in the course of a year I decided that it was best if I just hung up the trekking hat and bid a somber goodbye to my photography.
By August, 2011, I had sold all of my equipment and decided to take up cycling. Something that you have to know about me is that I don't do anything half way. To make a long story short, in less than three years of cycling, I progressed to the point where I rode 11 full century rides...that is 100 miles or more. One of those rides was 212.21 miles from Greensboro, NC, to Wilmington, NC in one day. I climbed mountains, rode along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and found myself doing more riding of the bike than spending time with my wife. This just wasn't going to work, and I couldn't back down from what I was doing without feeling like I was quitting. So the next best thing was to actually do just that and quit all together. I hung up my helmet in the early days of November and decided, with the help and encouragement of Toni to get back into photography.
I was going to do it differently this time though. I was going to do it for me, and for me alone. I wasn't going to be concerned with making sales. If it happened, that would be great, if not, oh well. I would still share my work in some fashion. I knew that I would do things on Facebook at least. I have always felt that art should be shared with others. One thing that would remain the same from the last time was the equipment that I used. Remember, I had sold every bit of it and had nothing left with the exception of my aged Sony F-828 camera from 2005! I was used to pro level stuff, and would accept nothing less than that for my venture back into photography.
When I started to make noise about getting back into the art of landscape photography, the out pour of jubilation could not be mistaken. Whether it was online, on the telephone, or in person....people were genuinely happy to have me back behind the camera. This, along with her own enjoyment of my photography prompted my Mother to help me purchase what I considered the bare minimum that I would need to pick up where I left off with my photography. Without her help, I would still be shooting with my smartphone and my retired Sony camera.
November 19th was the day that the UPS man cussed me out. He had four boxes to deliver, one of which was about 60LBS in weight!!! I'm sure he got over it though. When I got some time to go through the boxes I started to open them and get things checked in. Nothing like checking 35 items against an invoice when all you want to do is go out and see if you can actually still remember how to to use a camera....it had been nearly three years since I had held a DSLR camera! I also had an inquisitive 9 year old wanting see what I was doing, and asking questions at every step...one of which was, "what are you going to do with those boxes?" I still managed to get everything unpacked and put together after about 3 hours...yeah, it was like Christmas for sure!
It might have been a long time since I had worked a camera, but I still was very up to date on the current state of photography and I knew what I wanted without much question. My kit was built around a Canon 5D MkIII full framed body which was a logical step up from my former 5D MkII. When I held it, something just felt right about it in my hand. I knew I would remember how to operate it...whether or not I could still capture meaningful images was another thing altogether. My last kit had a total of five lenses in it, but that would have put the price just a little higher than I was willing to spend having to get everything built up from scratch. I decided on my most used lenses from before and settled on a 16-35mm f/2.8L to handle the ultra wide angle shots, a 24-70mm f/2.8L MkII for my workhorse walk around lens, and for telephoto duty, a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS MkII. These were all logical upgrades from what I had been using before, and I made sure that I was well stocked with fast glass this time as I found it a hindrance previously as most of my lenses were of the f/4 variety.
Having a good deal less glass meant that I would need less in the way of a photo rucksack. Having used a Tamrac Expedition 5 to start with years ago, and growing into an Expedition 7x with the 5 lenses, I felt that this kit would fit nicely in the bag that fell in the middle of the two. I selected the Expedition 6x which fits everything quite well, with room to grow one more lens at least. I paired down my filter selection as well from what I was used to carrying. I now carry a total of five 4x6" Singh Ray ND grads, a B+W polarizer, and a B+W variable ND filter (1-8 stops). Based on over six years of being a photographer, I felt that this kit represented a solid foundation with the ability to work most landscape scenes.
With the camera selected, purchased, and put in the bag, I set my sights on my first photo outing to see if I still knew what I was doing. The weather for the next day (my last day off from work) was forecast for bright sun. This is a terrible forecast for landscape photography, so I had to think real hard about my location and time. I settled on Old Salem. I had been here many times before and knew that there were things that I could do with the conditions expected, but I would need to get there early before the sun got too harsh.
November 20, 2013
The nice thing about Old Salem is that it is close. This meant that I wouldn't have to wake up too early to beat sunrise. I thought if I was lucky, I would be able to get some good color in the sky with the few hovering clouds I saw. I was excited and nervous all at the same time. Was I about to fall on my face and realize that I would have to learn photography all over again? Would I not feel as connected to my subjects as I once was? Would I learn that I was no longer a photographer, just a guy carrying around a lot of expensive equipment? Could it be that things had just paused and I would pick up where I left off? Only the first click of the shutter would start to give me answers.
My first thought for a picture turned out to be a bust. There was no color in the sky, and I had a hard time finding a usable composition anyway. I was getting discouraged, and hadn't even pulled the camera out of the bag yet! I didn't give up, and headed to a section of Old Salem where I knew the storefronts were rather picturesque in their historical setting. It was still a long time before the sun would start to cast direct light on this area, but it was light enough for me to get things set up....I had forgotten to load a flashlight in my bag...woops! I built the camera on the tripod and set up the composition through the viewfinder. Something felt familiar about this process. I started to set the aperture and shutter speeds (still working in manual because its all I really know), and then remembered to set the focus point (everything in manual). Was I ready? The exposure was right, the composition was right, all that was left was to release the shutter for the first exposure of my return to photography....
What you see here is that first exposure made that first morning. Because of the lighting involved I chose to go with a black and white image. I have to say, after seeing the resulting image on the camera's LCD I knew that I hadn't forgotten everything. I was rusty....real rusty, but I was still able to create images that conveyed what I saw in front of me. My nervousness subsided, and I started to work the scene a little more as the sun quickly rose to the rear.
As I watched the lighting unfold in front of me, I saw that it was going to hit a maple tree that was at the end of the row of businesses. This would give a magical pop to the scene and one that I thought would tie everything together. I composed for just that shot which would focus on the textures of the buildings, the colors of the bricks and of course the maple in the background. All of this had to be accomplished while eliminating the late model Honda Accord which was parked just to the right of the tree in the foreground, and the Buick that was parked beside the second tree. Notice how I used the first tree to block the view of the car further down....old photography trick that I remembered rather well.
As the sun hit the tree, it did exactly what I was wanting it to do. I cranked off a few frames and captured the moment. After it passed, the light became much too harsh along the street and shadows became my enemy. I made a cursory walk around the area to see if there were any other scenes worth working. I found one by an old church, but the lighting had grown too harsh to make it work as a photograph. I packed things up and headed back home to show Toni what I had captured.
It had been a very good morning. Not because of the images exactly....they were good, but not "significant". They did represent the fact that I still had photography in my blood. I needed some work on the fluid operation of the camera, but that would come quickly enough. The main thing I was worried about was that I might have forgotten how to create an image. That fear was put to rest that morning and I could move on to fine tuning my craft and learning techniques beyond what I had known before.
With Toni by my side, and eventually in the field with me, we will set upon this new adventure together. The goal is simple...make the images that I want to make, for me and for Toni. When one jumps out at either one of us, we will print it out for the house. I will share my work with anyone who wants to see it. If somebody wants to bring my art into their home I will do what I can to make that happen, but that will not be a priority of mine. My family will remain my priority, and photography will be my hobby, not a business.
That being said, welcome to the new 446 Photography!!! I hope you enjoy reading about my photographs, and enjoy seeing the world through my eyes. You can also view my work on Facebook and Instagram.