Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pheelings on Photography

So my readers probably all know by now that I enjoy writing.  Some of you also know that I can go on and on in my posts, too.  Fewer of you know that I also enjoy taking pictures -- mostly because I post so few of them here on my blog.

I have spent the past ten years or so, taking a lot of pictures.  When the kids came, C upgraded my 35mm Pentax camera to a digital HP camera and I began documenting pretty much every day of their lives.  I missed so much of their lives already that I didn't want to forget a single day that I got to spend with them.  Well, I don't take pictures every day anymore (but still most of them) because the kids are older and less cooperative and they don't really change in appearance as much at this point from one day to the next.

Over the years, I've been blessed to go from that first HP to a Nikon Coolpix to a Nikon D90 DSLR with three lenses and a great tripod (add a couple video cameras in the mix).  When people see my camera as almost a permanent fixture around my neck, I tell them that C doesn't get me jewelry like some husbands get their wives, he gets me camera equipment.  It really suits me better anyway -- I like the usefulness of it and I'm not allergic to it like I am most jewelry.

In all this time, photographing our kids and wildlife and landscapes as opportunities arise, then adding in church and sporting events just for something else to do in my slow-paced, un-busy life (ha), I have been satisfied being a picture-taker.  I snap pictures and photo journal, if you will, the goings on of life.

Over the years, I distanced myself from the word photographer.   The word terrifies me.

My sister, is a talented and professional photographer and graphic designer.  I admire her for these aspects of her life.  But I am a writer.  I never wanted to tread on her abilities with my picture-taking.  I may beat her in number (of photos), but I never felt the passion for photography that she possesses.  She has "the eye" for it and the knack for learning what to do with the camera when its in her hand.

Never mind the fact that Jessica is also an incredible writer.  She has a way with words and storytelling and a natural humor that entertains most people -- especially me.  I never felt offended when she began writing more and sharing it publicly, and I really don't believe she'd be that bothered if I began doing actual photography.  After all, neither of us own the rights to either one of these arts.

So my fears about toe-stepping are really more of an excuse.  The truth is, learning about photography and how to use all the buttons on my cameras is time-consuming and challenging for me in ways that I don't know that I have in me.

However, last year, a friend of mine at church asked if I could do her daughter's senior pictures.  I refused to charge her and did them only as a favor (she ended up mailing me a gift card after the fact anyway).  I kept expressing to them how I was not a professional photographer and didn't want to set their expectations so high.

A funny thing happened though.  Not only did they love the results, but then when they went to get prints, they had to call me so I could give my permission to allow them to print the pictures.  My friend said, "See?  I told you you're good enough to be professional."

Still, it felt weird and uncomfortable to consider that maybe I have some photo-taking skills -- or dare I say, some photography skills.

I started asking Jessica more questions about how to make certain photo opportunities work better.  Then I started researching online and I was able to figure out how to capture some amazing moments in Z's football season this year.  It was all very exciting.

Well, then last year's senior photo family referred me to a friend of theirs who is graduating this year.  I was still reluctant to give a rate or set up any kind of expectation for the results, but I took the job (the graduate's mother insisted on paying me, so it's my first official commission, I guess).

That's what I've been busy with this past week.  We broke the senior portrait session into two so that we could use different sites/backdrops and make the most of evening light.

Let me introduce you to SO.  He's 18 and graduating this year.  He is amazing.

Through the course of the two sessions, he opened up and really shared a lot about his life with me -- which I think (and hope) influenced the photography.  He's boyish, energetic and very active and yet, he is also a soulful, mature, dedicated man of God.  He feels called to ministry and wants to dedicate his life to being a mentor for other young men and to serve the Lord and others.  He's had a tough past and wasn't always on the best path (I can relate), but has been redeemed and doesn't want to waste another minute going the wrong direction.

He is an extremely passionate and talented musician who enjoys long-boarding and sports.  I desperately wanted to incorporate his story into his senior portraits.  I think that's where the writer in me meets the photographer trying to grow in me.

I love this guy.

Working with SO over the course of the week has really inspired in me something that I'd never felt before.  It's the feeling of wanting to be a photographer and thinking that maybe there's a possibility that I could do it.

Before I continue, here is a very small percentage of my favorite SO shots from this week...

The thing that still terrifies me is that -- I keep thinking -- maybe SO is just an awesome human being.  Maybe the pictures I took this week work well because A) he's naturally gorgeous and B) he had tremendous patience and openness for trying new things to help me learn this craft.

I know that not everyone is as comfortable with me or my camera as SO came to be.  I know that not everyone has his artistic eye (he really contributed a lot of great ideas for posing and positioning that I would have never thought to do).  I know not everyone is going to get me the way SO gets me (photographically speaking).

So am I pleased with these photographs (and many of the others) because of him or because I am actually allowing myself to take on the role of photographer?  Maybe it's both.

Whatever it was, this week has suddenly given me a new passion and drive for learning how to better use my camera and to seek out more photography opportunities when they come up instead of shying away from them.  I feel creative and inspired.  This week has taught me that even the most mundane locations can yield some amazing picture opportunities.  This week has also helped me find my comfort zone within the field of photography.

So call it photo journaling or storytelling through photos or as C calls it: biographical photography, but this is where I am feeling most inspired.  Not all opportunities that come up will lend themselves to my style, but if I'm pursuing anything in the world of photography, I will be pursuing this most.

Anyway, I hope SO knows how much it meant to me for him to give me this look into his life and to try to capture some of it with my lens.  He has a friend for life in me.  He gives me hope for our own sons to be able to grow into men like he is.

Thank you again, SO.   You inspire me.

(All photos posted here with SO's permission.)


  1. Great pictures and yes we knew you were a picture girl before you were the writer! Consider yourself a creative ...the more you practice it the better and easier it will do have a gift!

  2. I enjoyed your story. (and SO's story) I am blessed to have 3 very talented daughters.