Finally saying cheese

When I was 20, shortly after I had switched colleges and landed in St. Cloud, I had a sudden epiphany.

I was going to be a photographer.

I made the announcement to my family while hiking through the Wyoming woods. A birthday gift request, I believe. I wanted a camera. A nice camera – the type of camera with which you could take great pictures.

Canon XTIThe truth is I knew nothing about photography. It seemed like a very cool, college thing to do. It was like a club – a group of artists who didn’t need to know how to draw or paint or sculpt. Just frame. And click.

It wasn’t that easy, though. Cameras are expensive. They’re difficult to learn. At the time, Kerrie had a Nikon SLR, and I could never quite figure it out. The equipment wouldn’t make me better – only practice, and through a mix of laziness and low funds for developing film, the epiphany faded. I preferred to live life through my trusty Canon point and shoot, taking decent but one-dimensional pictures, my photos limited by mechanism but not lacking.

When I finally graduated from St. Cloud State University, my father – no doubt remembering my idea – gave me his camera: a Canon EOS 100 Elan with telephoto lens. I was flattered, and honored. But I never really used it. We upgraded the Canon point and shoot to a digital, and Kerrie continued to be the photographer of the house, using her Nikon until it broke.

Through the past several years, I’ve found myself wowed by great photography. Simple pictures. Life, captured with a little skill, an aperture blur, a feat of great framing. I wanted my ordinary pictures to look better. I wanted great pictures to look amazing. And with digital photography entering the market since my last foray, things look so much easier. Cheaper. Better.

So here I am again.

Except for one thing: this time, I acted. We acted, actually – Kerrie and I purchased an early anniversary present to ourselves: a Canon XTI. To get Kerrie back into the swing of an old hobby. And to introduce me to a new one.

I want to think that this will be easier. My mistakes will be seen immediately, allowing me a chance to adjust on the fly. No more will I need to trust my judgment and hope things turned out. Speed and technology. High quality and high quantity.

But I know better.

A great picture isn’t made by a great camera. It’s created by a great eye. By taking the art of the everyday world and bringing it to the forefront, by discovering beauty and framing simple events.

As I’ve learned and, begrudgingly, accepted, buying a better camera will not make me a better photographer.

But it’s a great start. It’s lit a fire under my ass. And I’ll have a whole lot more room to grow.

Say cheese.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 11th, 2008