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Lessons learned from a lifelong passion for photography.

We all start somewhere, circa 1970

David Hayden Photography

A long time ago during a childhood far, far away!

It’s been a moment and memories, like old film, fade. The details get fuzzy, different things come into focus. But this is how I remember it.

When I was 13 +/- my brother gave me my first camera. It was a Lordox range finder camera, all manual not many bells and whistles, just a few manual adjustments aperture, speed, and focus. It did have a 10 second timer. For focus, the lens had a scale on the focus ring stamped with 3 feet, 5 feet and so on. Focus was done by using a tape measure and setting the focus ring and crossing fingers.

“The demonstration that got me started.

While I was a little familiar with cameras at the time, I knew nothing about them. My mother, aunts and uncles had various forms of Kodak Brownie Box cameras. Point and shoots of the day. This was something entirely different. The Lordox had aperture settings, focus settings, and shutter speed settings. In fact, writing this article today inspired me to go to Ebay and buy this similar camera to add to my collection.

The magic happened when my brother, Cork, opened up the Lordox and attached a piece of ground glass where the film would go and set the shutter on bulb mode so it would stay open.

Basically this little 35mm was turned into a mini view camera. He showed me how focusing changed the displayed image, and how aperture affected the depth of focus. Something like this but on a much smaller scale.

The impetus of addiction

Man, that was all she wrote. From that point on I was fascinated with photography. At the time it seemed unfortunate that I didn’t have any money for film let alone developing and making prints. It turned out, however, to be a blessing.

My brother kept his piece of ground glass but I was not to be deterred. I got some scotch magic tape carefully placed it on the back where the ground glass had been and found I could form an image on the frosty tape. For a couple of months, I just ran around creating impermanent images on scotch tape. I learned a lot by imagining what I wanted to see and then changing the aperture, amount of light and so on.

I could even see how to calibrate the focus ring by comparing the setting to the apparent focus on the scotch tape. If I had a chemistry set, I would have traded it in for more scotch tape.

Everything changed when I got film.

In my mind I was prepared for anything. I could see how to form images that pleased me and that I knew would become famous pieces of artwork, winning awards at school contests. So, now having a paper route, I took some of my first earnings and bought film.

On the advice of my brother, I bought slide transparency film. The thinking was that

a) I only had to pay for development,

b) I could see my images without the inversion of colors displayed on negatives, and

c) with a cheap slide viewer, I could view and share my images with others.

Lesson Number Two: Putting Theory into Practice

Viewing images on scotch tape does not take into account the importance of exposure. The notion that film speed (ASA/ISO) , aperture, and shutter speed might affect how my perfect image was recorded had not yet been real. I understood the concept a little, but certainly had not tried to put it into practice.

Armed with the exposure guide included with the film I set out to take my first picture. This not my first but from the first 3 rolls of film.

Clearly, I had not learned enough about focus, how to hold the camera still, or how to blend shutter speed with aperture to get a sharp image. In my defense, when I looked at the little slide without a viewer, I didn’t realize how soft the image was.

This is the only other “useable” image out of 24 from that early roll of film.

I doubt you are interested in all the things that happened in the fifty plus years since I took my first pictures. However, I now find myself in the wonderful position of being able to actually “do” photography.

I shoot for myself, I shoot for large organizations, agencies, small companies, families, and even a Hollywood actor I met recently. I would have never imagined my little passion would expose me to so many opportunities, places, and people.

Lesson Number Three: The joy of sharing.

One of the things I really enjoy about my journey is that it gives me the opportunity to share with others what I have learned by brute force. Until recently I never took a course in photography, I never had a mentor, I barely even looked at photography books to see what others were doing.

It’s probably just as well that I developed my skills in the privacy of my own mind. Had I been continually comparing my photographs with those of others, I surely would have become discouraged. It wasn’t until the last decade or so that I realized the point of studying other photographers is to find inspiration and learn.

One of the things I like to do now is to tutor aspiring photographers. There is a desire in all of us to improve, to go beyond what we have done heretofore and reach a new level. If I have learned anything from training /assisting others it is that I always seem to learn more in the process.

Today, I am taking on two new students. The question is, who will learn more? Them or me?

May the images in your mind become your inspired creations!

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