Before the invention of digital cameras, I followed my parents’ way of capturing photographs: using a film camera. While humanity was still trying to put secure digital (SD) cards in the spotlight, I had several rolls of film with me whenever I was roaming around, be it in the zoo or museum. Then, once I was done photographing (silly) things, I took them to the nearest camera shop for processing, simply because I did not know how to develop film at home. I am kidding, my parents did not want me to get my hands on potentially harmful chemicals, and the house had no room I could convert into a darkroom. So, they gave me no choice but to hand over the films to the professionals.
Looking back at that period of my life, it was a fun adventure, and it definitely will bring back fond memories. My experience in film photography did not last long, though, because I succumbed to the idea that this hobby was not sustainable and purely a waste of precious financial resources. So, I was on hiatus until 2010, when I finally got my hands on a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera. I used my savings to buy myself a Canon EOS 550D and an 18-55mm lens.
More than a decade later, I am no longer a proud owner of a Canon DSLR camera. I have moved on to the Fujifilm ecosystem and now favour mirrorless cameras compact more than DSLRs for various reasons. Anyways, I am not here to talk about how, when, and why I abandoned Canon for Fujifilm. Since returning to the photography game, I have learned more than I asked for and honestly speaking, I want to learn more as I spend more time photographing life’s best moments.
After spending years in the photography arena, I trained my eyes to be on the lookout for anything worth photographing. Currently, I set my sights on every detail that is within my range of experience. I obsess over every aspect of the image because I want the image to tell a story. When I was still holding a film camera, I would just wander mindlessly and take as many photographs as I pleased. Those days are now gone, not because of the widespread adoption of SD cards. Instead, I have learned to focus on quality over quantity of images.
Even though I have touched on observation in the paragraph above, more often than not, there are times when observing alone will not cut it; you have to watch, too. One thing I learned in photography is that there are so many angles from which you can capture the scene. Additionally, you have to watch out for the intensity of the light and experiment with all the vantage points accessible to you.
For the general public, time is used as a unit of measurement to determine how long an ordinary individual takes to move from one point to another. Ordinary citizens of the world see time moving in one direction and thus, make use of it by following its motion. As a photographer, I spend my time in a way that is slight out of the convention. I make the time worthwhile by attempting a conscious effort to absorb everything that my eyes capture and view all that I can at any given moment.
Time is not only travelling in one direction for me. It is not simply about second hand completing one cycle to advance one minute at a time. Time is a location and fact that I empower to fuse into my talent to observe and watch ahead of time. When that embodiment is whole, using the time to my advantage allows me to materialise the image in my head.
I have visited locations where the lightings were so poor, it was not worth taking my camera out of its protective shell. When I had access to lighting equipment for the first time, it did not take long for me to acknowledge that the mastery of integrating art and photography as one stem from the proper understanding and command of not only the subject in the frame but also the light which shines on the subject.
My love for photographing sunsets and sunrises has taught me to acknowledge the light’s characteristics, such as source, direction, and brightness. Previously, the subject of light did not cross my mind, and I took it for granted. However, when you are a photographer, your light is your best friend or your worst enemy. So, understanding it is imperative.
Virtually all the self-help gurus that I have met always encouraged me to continue learning, regardless of the field of expertise. Photography is no exception. Even for seasoned players in the photography industry, online resources like Digital Photography Review (also known as DPReview) are priceless. On this website, photographers get to know the latest of everything in the world of photography, ranging from events to breakthrough optical innovations. You know you are a photographer when learning about the new is just as important as learning about the classics, such as adjusting a camera’s sensitivity to light, arranging the elements of an image and setting the correct aperture.
Another significant aspect of learning is listening to the words of professional photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, Steve McCurry and Gregory Crewdson, who have made big names for themselves in the industry. Following their work inspires me to stretch my imaginations further and challenges me to learn more.
Photographers who are adept at their job must master the art of focusing. That includes knowing the whens, hows and whys. However, focus in relationship to personal focus is something I would like to emphasise here. Focus on the amount of battery remaining in your camera, focus on how you configure your camera for the scene, focus on the main elements in the image, focus on your surroundings. Heck, focus on how you manage your time.
Unquestionably, there is a lot that goes behind a photograph. Outsiders generally believe that photographers have only one job, and that is to take good pictures. However, many people do not realise that how you are going to produce good photos is just as pivotal; the mounting of camera equipment, post-processing the images, and more that always bothers photographers but simultaneously invigorate their drive to become a better photographer.
As a proud owner of a mirrorless camera, I have learned not to take everything for granted, whether born out of nature or our own deliberate making. For example, when I go to the beach, I would just lay my back on the sandy beach and appreciate the sea breeze. Likewise, when someone smiles at me, I return the favour by smiling back. These are just some of the ways of showcasing my newfound gratitude for everything life has to offer. Capturing images opens a new dimension in the way I see–it teaches me to appreciate the small stuff and the vastness of it all.
Final 2¢: Photography is my safe haven.
I love photography because it temporarily stops me from thinking about all the chaos in this world and challenges me to see the best in every object, location, or situation. As a seasoned photographer, it has opened my eyes to the fact that everything exists for a purpose, and it also educated me to observe the world through my eyes, soul, and heart.
I love photography because when I am out photographing wonders of the world, I am channelling my true self. Photography has done more for me than any medication or therapy ever could. When I am in a slow state, the feeling of peacefulness floods my mind, enabling me to appreciate details that would typically be neglected.
I love photography because it represents a never-ending process of finding yourself, celebrating your achievements, and bouncing back from setbacks. For me, photography means believing that dreams can come true if you put in the work and having the vision to make the world a better place, one image at a time.
How about you? What does photography mean to you? How has photography changed your life for the better?