Ryan’s Field Notes #22 – Why Photography?

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Why photography? What is it about this medium that called me? I don’t have a clue.

I remember as a young child looking through some of the outdoor magazines my dad and grandpa got in the mail. I think the magazine Alaska was my favorite as a child.

The images of places I had never been captivated me. Even when I saw images of places or things I knew, the way the photographers had captured them pulled me in.

One time I recall my dad thinking it would be fun to trick some friends, he pulled out a copy of one of the Alaska magazines we had with an image of a couple of bears fighting. Laying it on the ground outside he layered a couple of tree branches around the edges of the magazine to cover the type and to hide the edges. Then taking his old 35mm film camera (this was waaay back in the film days), he took a picture of the picture.

After the rest of the roll was taken (probably a month or so later) he had it developed. That picture came back fantastic, it looked like he had been peeking through the trees watching the scene unfold. I knew it was fake but that day made me dream of taking images like that for real.

It was fun as he would show friends the picture and say look at the picture I took, their reactions were great. He would of course always tell them the true story. My imagination though had been sparked. Could I learn this craft?

I of course remember my first camera, and cringe at the memories of my first pictures. I knew I wasn’t getting into National Geographic anytime soon (or anywhere else).

What was different about photography for me as a young man though was even though I was terrible at it, It didn’t deter me from continuing to pursue it. It seemed like most things I tackled in life if I couldn’t get good at it fairly quickly I would loose interest. Photography wasn’t like that for me. If anything it made me push harder. I would make mistakes, I would get frustrated. Not understand what went wrong, I would study to figure it out.

Slowly my images got a little better, but I would compare them to what I saw in some magazine or hanging on somebodies wall and knew I had to keep improving.

I was learning in the film days and the process was slow. In this day and age people starting into the craft have an advantage.

Instant feedback in this digital age is game changing for the learning process.

Many times I would get a roll of film back from the lab a week later and then have to try and remember exactly what I did in order to get the image to look like it did (note taking wasn’t my strong suite).

Occasionally getting a good image would spur me on, over time the number of keepers in a shoot got better and better. It was exciting.

One of the fun things about the art was the ability with the same piece of equipment to create a boring but factual documentation of something that existed or to create something exciting and artistic though it may not even actually exist in the present state to most peoples eye.

What an amazing medium. I captured portraits, wildlife, events, landscapes, details….everything could be something beautiful and fun to capture as an image.

I can look at images I took 20 years ago and the memories come rushing back, my own little time machine; or I can create pieces of art that capture ones imagination and take them on a journey they have never been on. The power of a photograph is impressive.

Even though I have been on this photographic journey for over 30 years and taking photographs professionally for 20+ of those (most of that was only part time) I find that I never cease to learn. The depths of the craft is amazing. It is one craft that can never be truly perfected; meaning that one has learned all there is to it and has no more to learn.

These days I try to use my craft to help companies and individuals tell their story. I love to use the tools of the trade to create a connection with the viewer and those whose story we tell. Along with that I try to tell my story, what I see and feel. I am still drawn to the beauty of nature. When I can I still try to capture the awesomeness around me. That is part of what keeps me in beautiful Western Colorado.

It is more than just documenting a moment in time, it is capturing the very essence of that moment. Preserving it, connecting to it.

The feelings, the mood…can that be captured; yes it can. I love putting my experience to work to find those details and pull them out into an image.

Is it easy, no. Do I sometimes fail, yes. Do I quite trying because of it, NO!

The process though sometimes frustrating continues to pull me along as it did those many years ago when my imagination was captured with a hope and a dream.

I was asked one time why I continue to create, after a little reflection I had to answer with “for the same reason I breathe, to live”.

Thanks for hanging out with me again today. I do appreciate it.
I have a few projects in the works that hopefully I will be able to start sharing with you in the next few weeks.

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