The how I started blog

Published by Rob on

So, now we’ve met, it’s time to take a little look back at how I started with this ridiculous hobby that eats money, time, energy and patience. Unless of course this is the first post you’ve read, in which case, welcome! Maybe you want to take a look at The intro blog while you’re here.

Where it all began

Weirdly, I can’t really remember what first triggered my interest in photography. I’ve never been even remotely ‘artsy’, but I have always been interested in all sorts of technology, so it was probably just a natural extension of that. Either way when I was 14 I got a chance to do 2 weeks work experience at The Perfect Portrait Co. in nearby Weymouth. They were a small shop that specialised in Portraits and Weddings (among other things) and in my two weeks there I found out I quite liked photography. It appealed to the techy nerd in me – I got to play with cameras, flashes, computers and large format printers – whilst also making me realise that maybe I did have a more creative side.

I also almost blinded a small child with a flashgun, but we won’t go into that.

My first camera

The first proper camera I had was a Canon T70 that my Uncle (who’s a cracking nature photographer in his spare time) gave to me when I was about 15. It was a great little film (yes, film, remember that?) SLR that had auto wind and auto advance, a great TTL (through the lens) metering system that managed to keep up with my amateur-ish point and shooting (nothing changes…) and a nice, robust feeling body. I even got a couple of decent lenses with it, all packed neatly in a nice flight case.

Canon T70
The Canon T70, my first camera. Photo: ‘Astrocog’/Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA

The first day I got it I excitedly loaded it with film, grabbed my boots and headed into the woods near where I lived. I was shooting everything I could see that was half interesting. A tractor in a field. The sunlight glinting off some ivy on a tree. Some wheat blowing in the wind. I got home having fired off the entire roll of film in a mere 2 hours. Well, that’s what I thought anyway. Turns out I hadn’t loaded the film correctly and the roll hadn’t been taken up. Not a single shot I took had been captured. And therein lied my first photography lesson. Make sure you load the damn film (or nowadays, make sure you have a card in the camera!).

My first photos

No matter, the next day I went out again (it was school holidays and I had no job, don’t judge me) and recaptured all the shots I thought I had taken the first day. I came home, unloaded the film and popped it in the little plastic canister, you know the ones, the little cylindrical canisters that everyone had lying around their house in the 90s. That weekend we popped into town, dropped of the film at the developers and waited. Thinking back, it’s a really weird concept to have wait to see what your photos came out like. I couldn’t imagine doing that professionally, that would be terrifying. Anyway, a week later, I got my shots back and…I was pleasantly surprised. I actually had some reasonable shots. A couple are even still up in our house now. Here’s one of my favourites.

One of my first ever shots with an SLR. Some wheat blowing in the wind. Canon T70.

If I’m being completely honest, if that first batch of photos hadn’t come out as well as they did, I’m not sure if I would have carried on or not. It’s heartbreaking when a photo doesn’t come out as you wanted, especially back when I was using film in the early days and it could be a whole roll of film that was a dud. At least now you can check, recompose and go again. It’s almost like we’ve got it too easy.

The digital switch

A couple years later I was doing Photography as part of my A-Levels and I really wanted to switch to a digital SLR. Not only was using film starting to annoy me, but I mentioned in my previous post that I am a bit of a tech nerd as well, and the camera I was using was from 1984, 6 years before I was even born. I couldn’t be doing with that. So it was time to upgrade. Now you’d think considering that I was using a Canon, and my uncle (who I could always rely on for camera hand me downs) is a Canon DSLR user that I would’ve picked Canon straight away, but no, I went for a Nikon D40. I wish I could remember why. The only reason I can think is that it was probably the best value starter kit I could find. It came with the body, an 18-55mm lens and a 55-200mm lens and boasted a 6.1 megapixel sensor. Beast.

Nikon D40
The Nikon D40, my first DSLR. Photo: ‘Phiarc’/Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA

This combo kept me going for quite a few years, helping me become a bit more experimental with less fear of wasting tonnes of film and helping me to develop my own style. It even saw me through the first major test of my photographic life…

My first wedding

Well, not my wedding, someone else’s that I was asked to photograph. I was still in sixth form and a friend of a friend’s wedding photographer backed out a few weeks before the big day. As any of you who have got married will likely attest to, photographers get booked up very early, especially the good ones. But I was a student with no experience, so it was no problem for me! I learnt a hell of a lot in that day. I made a whole load of mistakes, don’t get me wrong, there’s only so far that a few weeks of googling ‘how to do wedding photography’ can take you, but on balance it was a useful, if slightly terrifying, experience. Here’s one of my favourites from that day.

A shot from my first wedding, with Mark and Lydia. Nikon D40, Nikon 18-55mm Lens @ 42mm f8. 1/250s ISO 200

One of the key things I learnt that day was that weddings, and almost all photography that involves people, has one key element that you need to concentrate on.

People.

Seems obvious right, but I always seem to see photographers going to extraordinary lengths to get a fantastically arty photo of the brides shoes. Huh? I don’t get it. I genuinely can’t imagine the happy couple looking back in 30 or 40 years time with their kids, and maybe even grandkids, and going “Ahh, remember that darling, those were some really pretty shoes”. But maybe I just don’t get a woman’s love for shoes…

Well, that’s about it for this post. My formative photographic years summed up in just over a thousand words. Plenty more followed this, including a few more weddings, breaking in to the world of Sports photography and even getting my first front page photo in the local paper, but we can save all that for another time.

So, if you do photography (or even if you don’t) why not share your first memory or experience in the comments section. You never know, I might find someone else who didn’t know how to load film correctly.

Categories: Photography

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