10-year Retrospective…Where Passion Was Reborn

Ten years ago…to the minute, to the day…my passion and obsession with photography was reborn. With this shot.

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“Grinnell Point” on Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park

The Early Years

My journey into photography reads like a tome you’ve heard before…received first camera (which I still have) from my grandparents has a young teenager which set off years of shutterbug activity that nearly broke my family with film and processing expenses until I was legal working age at which time I made myself broke with film and processing expenses.

With this camera, I photographed the world around me…fresh snow on the Central Illinois plains, my dog Beau, sunsets over corn fields, fallen trees, raindrops on the clothes line, dew drops on roses. These were a few of my favorite things to shoot. (see what I did there?)

This led to photographing the rotunda of Illinois State Capitol building (which is remarkable, by the way), the setting sun rays on the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, my first portrait session with high school girlfriend from another town (hi Susan!) atop a park hillside, earning ribbons in local photography competitions, and so on. All natural light; no supplemental/studio light. Didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had a knack for seeing and composing the shot. Occasionally, I lucked into a proper exposure, though I couldn’t tell you how or why the image was properly exposed.

Still the Early Years

I put the camera down for a couple years upon entering college as an accounting major. Feel free to laugh. Me. Accounting. Yeah, that didn’t last long. One year and three weeks to be exact. Intermediate Accounting took me out of the accounting world and into the business management degree. Subtle shift which enveloped more of a conceptual knowledge base and involved people. Still, the one and only official photography schooling I had included an elective photography class in college which produced more of the same kind of images, except they were shot on black-and-white film. That was the only change. No increase in skill or image artistic quality.

So I put the camera away, completed my BBA degree, and moved to Nashville to work in the music industry with that camera packed somewhere in a box that I moved from apartment to apartment to condo to house to apartment then unpacked for our honeymoon in Maine, which netted a whopping five mostly-usable images because I didn’t know photography. I owned a camera, but I wasn’t a photographer (I also own a guitar, but I’m also not a guitarist). I knew how to load the film, compose the subject, press the  button, and manually wind the film. That was it.

So I put the camera back in a box for several more years.

The Road Trip

Twenty years after receiving this camera as a gift, Meghann and I began planning a road trip through Montana, my second time there, her first.

Remembering the lack of images from our honeymoon, there was no way this camera and my lackluster technical skills were making the trip together. It was time to dedicate some time and energy to learning the basics so we could collect our Montana memories in rectangles. I bought a semi-pro camera and applied cursory attention to what the dials and buttons did, became frustrated, and put the stupid thing on fully automatic and headed to the airport.

Revisiting my early shutterbug days, I shot pretty much everything in sight…a plane on the tarmac, an old schoolhouse, docile horses, rural gravel roads, “entering grizzly country” signs, just stuff. All to confirm that “point, focus, press button” worked. We reached St. Mary, Montana on the eastern entrance of Glacier National Park in early evening after a full day of travel then found ourselves at the lodge restaurant for dinner and huckleberry pie (pie!) before crashing into bed for the following day’s exploration of God’s back yard.

The Awakening

Something happened during that sleep. Perhaps it was the crisp Big Sky air in June. Perhaps it was Glacier National park itself. Perhaps it was the profound feeling of being small amidst the magnificent mountain grandness. Perhaps it was the huckleberries. The following morning, I set out to move beyond taking pictures and making pictures. I wanted blue skies in our Big Sky personal postcards, and I was determined to make those happen.

After breakfast, including huckleberry scones (blissfully underbaked), we trekked into the park and found ourselves at Many Glacier Lodge resting on the banks of Swiftcurrent Lake, and there she was…Grinnell Point.

Her reflected presense stopped me in my camera-hanging-around-my-neck-like-a-nerdy-tourist tracks.

This time, instead of swiftly raising the camera to my face and clicking mindlessly before continuing along the shore, I stopped. Mental recollections of iconic Ansel Adams photographs bounced around my head, and I breathed it all in. I studied the scene (which is awe-inspiring…go, if you’ve not been there). This is the moment. Compose, reject. Recompose, nah that’s not it. Look again. Stoop low and look from a different perspective (thank you, Mr. Keating). Yes! There it is…before my eyes in the viewfinder. Click.

Chills.

Got it. And, man, did I get it. I got a shot of adrenaline. I got the thrill of making a picture instead of merely taking one. LCD screen gave me a high-five that I got it.

Lots more to learn still, but this time it clicked. And this set into motion the past decade of my life, fueled by this soul-chilling passion of photography through which I’ve seen the world with new eyes, passionate purpose, and improved technical skill, and I’ve met hundreds of amazing people. That’s the real magic.

And it all started with Grinnell Point. And huckleberries.

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P.S. To read how, and why, I moved from photographing places to people…read this and this.

P.S.S. Purchase a signed, limited-edition print of Grinnell Point, click here. Cheers!

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