The Story of How I Found Photography to Be My Passion…

Happy 4th of July!


I thought I would post a story I’ve told before about how I came to realize that photography was the subject for me.  Since this is a new blog with new readers… you probably have not heard this story before… and if you’ve heard it before I’m hoping you will enjoy reading it again. 🙂

About two years ago I had started taking classes towards a photography certificate.  I took a class to see if I would like the program, instead of taking the intro class I jumped right in and took a motion class.  Taking photos where the subject is in motion either by stop action or blurred action.  I quickly realized I was in an advanced class in a bit over my head.  I struggled to understand the concepts of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  I was quickly frustrated, but didn’t give up.  The following story gave me the key to my understanding of why this subject was the one for me.  Looking back now that I have gotten my certificate and all that I have learned in the last two years, I credit this class and the drive I gained during this steep learning curve for my increased skill set over the years.

And now, without further ado… the story of how I came to realize photography was the subject for me…

May 30, 2011…

For my class assignment I am to take pictures of things in motion blur, with the caveat that something in the picture also has to be stationary and tack sharp.  Basically, this means using a tripod and having a long shutter speed (1/30th of a second or longer).

I’ve been taking pictures in the aperture mode for so long, that I feel very comfortable there.  For class we are in manual mode, which means you have to change aperture and shutter speed yourself trying to make sure you don’t over- or under-expose the shot.  Also the teacher said we were to set our ISO to 100.  This caused me some problems for several days.  I was so far out of my comfort zone and each day we went out taking pictures I would only get one keeper.  Just one.  I was so frustrated with myself.  I just kept at it though, reading books and practicing until, finally, I starting having aha moments.  I felt like I was leveling up at a faster rate.  Things started to finally make sense.

I still didn’t have enough pictures for my assignment, but I was feeling a bit less stressed about it.  My husband suggested a train as one of my subjects, I loved the idea.  It just so happens that there is a train that goes by often at the beach park we like to go to.  I decided I wanted to go around sunset because I thought the picture would be really cool with the sun setting in the background.  So I spent the early part of the day fiddling around with some other ideas for subjects around the house.

At some point, my husband suggested we just go to the beach and play around with the camera so I could get more practice.  I had the required number of photos for my assignment, but some of them I considered ‘backups’ in case I couldn’t get another keeper.  We fed the meter enough money to stay for almost 3 hours, which incidentally would be before sundown.  We figured if it was a good photo opportunity we’d just feed more coins into the meter later.  Then I found out my husband’s ulterior motive.  Once we got closer to the ocean and could see, hear, and smell it, he says, “Try to be stressed now.” *grin*

He was so right, this is exactly what I needed.  I love the sound of the ocean.  I refrained from getting out my camera right away, and just took in the scene and let the ocean lull me back to sanity.  Eventually we found a bench in a nice location and parked ourselves down.  It was a great ocean view location, while still allowing us to view all the people milling around with their dogs, or playing games.  I could see the train tracks as well.  So I set up my tripod and started trying out different settings on my camera.  The train went by 3 times.  I was getting some interesting shots, but not really the one I wanted.  At my current position I was facing the sun, and the train was going in front of me so that I could see the side of it full on.  The problem I was having was that even though I had set the shutter speed and aperture so that the exposure would work out (with the help of neutral density filters), when the train came it changed the ratio and the ocean was always overexposed…

I realized that what I really wanted was a photo of the train coming towards me and the sun at my back or just behind my shoulder.  So we got up and started walking to a different location.

My gut told me to stay away from the tracks, but my height made it imperative that I get closer to them.  Basically, I’m short and the view I had just wasn’t working unless I got closer to the tracks.  We found a flat area that felt safe and had a great view for either way the train may come.  I set up my tripod and set my camera settings to have the picture at the right exposure.  Then we waited.  and waited.  and waited.  We started to wonder if there were going to be any more trains coming.  It was nearly 6pm, and I was trying to decide if I should wait or just enjoy the day.  We decided to walk along side the tracks.  My husband said he’d listen and watch the people for when the train was coming and I could set up again.  Ok, sure, why not?

Not very much longer, I’d say less than 5 minutes later, we hear the train.  We are facing it.  I start to set up my tripod and my husband says, “NO!  Over there!”  While pointing behind me.  I take it to mean he doesn’t feel safe here, so I turn around and start running…

We get to an area where I can get a little farther from the tracks.  I turn around, pull one leg out of the tripod, see the train is super close, feel the hard metal of the tripod mount hit my front tooth as I try to look through the viewfinder that is currently taller than me.  And take a couple of shots as quick as I can!  Meanwhile the train is blaring its horn and scaring the crap out of me!  My heart is racing but I’m laughing.  We are both laughing!

Then my husband says, “So did you get the shot?”

The sun is so bright, I can hardly see my LED screen.  I can see the train, but I can’t tell if the rest of the scene is tack sharp or not.  I’m going to have to wait until I get home and look at it on the computer.

But at this point, I really don’t care.  That experience was so fun, so exhilarating that I finally feel like photography could really be the thing for me.  The last few days had been so frustrating, so filled with trying to accomplish something that seemed far from my reach.  But right now, I felt alive.

My husband asked if I wanted to wait for the next train.  I said no, I had enough for one day.  I put my camera settings back to my comfort zone and took it off the tripod for some handheld shots.

It was a good day.  We checked on the meter and then walked to get some takeout.  Once home, I set the table and asked for the DVD series we are watching to be queued up.  My husband asked about the train picture.  I told him I wanted to wait.  This is highly unusual for me, in general, I don’t like to wait for things, especially gifts.  I’m the worst when it comes to surprises, I just want to know now.

But this picture, it was different.  The experience was so joyful that I was afraid that if the picture didn’t turn out that I’d be disappointed.  I wanted to savor the moment.  So I didn’t look.  I didn’t even pretend to look.  The memory card stayed in the camera for several episodes of the show we were watching.

So, did I get the shot?


HELL YEAH!  Woohoo!

Not only did I get the shot, but when I went to the lab to print out my pictures for class, I asked the dude to make me a larger print of that shot.

For class, I had to convert all my pictures to black and white, and that is what the larger print is also.  For the blog, I’m going to keep it in color.

I have a this photo (in black and white) framed and on my mantle.  I look at it often and am reminded that whenever I get frustrated if I just keep trying I can accomplish anything I want.

Until next time…

EDIT: My friend, Cia, has requested that I include the black and white version of the train photo, enjoy… 🙂

train, black and white

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