“Ambition drives you on, ability certainly helps, but the fickle finger of fate and luck are great things.” – Fergus Henderson
A few months ago, after judging numerous photographs, in a variety of categories for an upcoming art show, I was once again asked how I got started in photography. I seem to get that question a lot. My story began in high school when fate nudged me for the first time. An older cousin, who was interested in photography, opened his camera bag and brought out his Nikon FE2. He let me hold it. I twisted the aperture ring and felt the clicks. I turned the shutter dial and wondered at the numbers. Then I looked into the viewfinder and my cousin showed me how to focus the lens. I was smitten.
Over the course of working a few jobs I purchased a camera of my own. My first was the all manual Pentax K1000 with a couple of cheap after market lenses.
In a short time I moved up to the Minolta X-700 with some sharp Minolta lenses. Then fate struck again. I decided to take an entire day and shoot photographs in rural areas close to home. I had 2 cameras at this time. One for black and white film and one for color slide film. I had about 10 rolls of black and white film. I had one 36-exposure roll of color film in the other camera. That was it.
My goal was to shoot “artsy” black and white photos. I worked hard at that. All day long! Every once in awhile, I’d bring out the color-film-camera and would “snap” a shot. At the end of the day I still had about 10 frames left in the color film camera. I’d shot about eight rolls of black and white film.
I immediately got to work processing the black and white rolls and began making prints in my own dark room. I sort of forgot about the color film, but eventually finished shooting it and sent the film in to be processed and mounted on slide frames. I got the film back about a month later.
Another nudge of fate occurred about a month after that. I was looking through a photo magazine called Popular Photography, when I came across a monthly photo contest called “Your Best Shot.” I also came across a regional magazine that also advertised a photography contest. I decided to enter these contests. I chose 2 photos I had taken with the color-film-camera and sent one picture into each contest. Then I forgot all about it.
Two months later I got a phone call from Popular Photography, asking me details about my photograph, and informing me that I’d won 1st Place in their “Your Best Shot” contest. I’d won a cash prize of $300 and my photograph would be published.
Two weeks later I got a phone call from the regional magazine informing me that I had won best of show with my photograph of an old building with storm clouds above it. The prize was a three-night stay in an exclusive bed and breakfast in Sun Valley Idaho with about $500 worth of dining certificates to various restaurants. When I received my prize the included letter informed me that the regional magazine was shutting down so my photograph would not be published. However, I sent the same photo to the Outdoor & Travel Photographer magazine and it was published there.
I was amazed! That 1 roll of color film had earned me about $1,500 in prizes, and I got my photographs published too. After that, I got “serious” about photography, went through several cameras and lenses and learned more than I ever imagined, and had lots of fun along the way.
Here I am decades later. Now I shoot with Nikon DSLRs and a slew of Nikkor lenses. I also use and love the Fujifilm XPro-1 and X100s cameras with a variety of lenses. The thrill of selling and publishing my photographs is still there. I love adventure, travel, outdoors, family, friends and strangers, especially when I have a camera in my hands. I’ve grown; I’ve learned; and my photography has changed my perspective and my life. Fate nudged me along the path of photography several times. I’m grateful that it did.