I’m a professional nature photographer, and by “professional” I mean that, from time to time, I sell my photographs. I turned “professional” fifteen years ago, when my father bought an image of a rose I took in my back yard. Granted, it took about three or four years before I sold another one, but technically speaking, selling one photograph made me a “professional”, which is what I consider myself today, what appears on my business card, and how I introduce myself at parties because it sounds a hell of a lot cooler than “blogger”. The pay’s the same, but that’s about it.
Now – and I want to make this perfectly clear – being a “professional” nature photographer means I know how to use a camera. It does not mean I know how a camera works. And I raise this point because that will be a major factor in what I’m about to tell you. I’m assuming that other photographers will be reading these posts, so I want to make certain they understand who they’re dealing with here. I never went to film school, never worked in a darkroom, hell – I’ve never even read a camera manual. You know how thick those damn things are?? I wouldn’t know a pentaprism from protoplasm. I hope my doctor does, but I don’t. And I’m not a camera buff. A guy walked into my gallery the other day, looked at some of the decorative antique cameras I have displayed there, and he beamed:
“Hey, guess what? I just inherited my grandfather’s Graflex Crown Graphic 4x5!! And it’s got a Wollensak Optar 135mm 4.7!! Wheeeee!!"
I nodded and stared at him like his face had just started melting. I had no earthly idea what the hell he was talking about. So, I just said what I was thinking, which was:
“I like fudge”.
This happens to me all the time, and it’s one of my major gripes as a photographer. For instance, I’ll be out shooting (no, photographing) Moose, and one of these NASA-moon-landing-engineer-types will look at my gear, look at the Moose, look back at my gear, look at the sky, look back at my gear again, and begin to question the equipment I’m using – Don’t I think I “should have invested in blah-blah-blah, and why was I shooting in such-and-such a mode and did I really believe the shot would turn out with that filter and… Here – take a look at these (pulling out his iPhone and showing me his vacation shots from his cruise to Cabo)!!”
I then proceed to take the Moose photograph, secretly flipping him the bird, knowing full well that what I just shot was plenty good enough, thank you very much.
I tell you this for one big reason: I do what I do because – hold my beer – it’s supposed to be FUN!! And when images turn out the way I’d hoped, it is fun!! I also don’t want anyone out there to give me too much credit, or to think that they can’t be decent photographers simply because they can’t disassemble and then reassemble their cameras. It’s not necessary. You don’t have to be a mechanic to drive a car, do you? You don’t have to be a service technician to use your oven, right? Hell, you don’t even have to be all that smart to be president! (But you should learn how to use Twitter…and Spell Check).
So, do what I did when I was first starting out: Just shoot. Practice. Try everything. Learn by doing. Drop the Doritos. Get off the couch. Go outside. Play with your camera. Have fun with it. It works. It really does.
And that leads me to my first order of business – The Night Sky.
About two years ago, after being very, very afraid to try it, I started shooting the Milky Way. At first it was very intimidating to think about.
“I can’t do this”, I told myself. “Only NASA-moon-landing-engineer-types can do this.”
And then I tried it. And it worked. It really worked! And it was relatively easy! Sure, it was the longest night of my life, and I froze my nipples off, but I came back with a really cool shot, and the second time I went out I came back with this:
I was thrilled and I was hooked. And I didn’t really know what I was doing. Is it technically the best Milky Way shot ever? Nope. Not even close. But I’m happy with it, and the best parts? It turned out to be fun, plus I saved a great deal of time by NOT reading the freakin’ manual!!
Until next time….