In high school, I took a Film Arts course because I was interested in videos and film. I was already taking Visual Arts and wasn’t really good at drawing or painting so I thought I might do better with film. It was quite a popular thing to do at the time because you spent a large part of the course outside of school running around town with these very large VHS camcorders making a movie.
The teacher was very serious about the subject and on the first day he showed us a David Lean film and explained how we needed to pay attention because it would be on the final exam. What an introduction. A lot of people took the course as an easy way to get out of school and I think this was his way of getting his students to understand that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
The first few weeks were spent explaining the fundamentals of photography which I knew nothing about. My dad had an interest in it when we were kids and I know he has a huge stack of kodachrome slides to prove it. The more time I spent learning about photography, the less I was interested in making movies. Ironically, I spent most of the time editing our movie than I did behind the lens… and actually, I don’t think I filmed any of it. So at least I can’t take any of the blame for that… it was a disaster.
That summer I picked up a camera at a garage sale for $50. It was a Canon TX and fully manual. There was no better way to learn. And just like my music, I am self-taught. I bought a bunch of photography books and read them cover to cover, spent a fortune on film and learned from my mistakes.
The following year I became the yearbook photographer and took pictures of everything. Our first assignment with the new teacher was to bring in a favorite photo and she would review each one with the class. My favorite photo at the time was an overexposed, out of focus close up of the family dog that my brother had taken with a 110 camera. I thought it was the most hilarious picture I had ever seen. Needless to say it was a huge hit with the class but not exactly what the teacher had expected. So much for first impressions…
Getting a fantastic reference from my yearbook teacher, I got a job at the local one hour photo lab. Taking a picture was one thing but learning about film development and colour correction was a whole other ballgame…
That winter I was picked to be the Santa Claus photographer in our mall. It was crazy at times but it really taught me a lot about the patience involved with portrait photography and getting that perfect moment.
In my OAC Art class, we were given the option to do photography as our medium and I had a blast. My theme for the class was ‘Motion and Movement’ and I had a lot of fun with those long night time exposures. It was in this class that we went on a trip to an art gallery in Buffalo. On the way back we made a quick stop at Niagara Falls and while I was walking around, I overheard a police officer taking to someone about a daredevil who went over the falls!
My picture was his kayak coming out from the Horseshoe Falls. This was the only shot I managed to get before it was lost under the rapids of the Niagara river.
Click here to read the story about the kayaker Jessie W. Sharp.
From there I did a co-op with Master’s Studio. My first professional experience and it was exciting. Studio portraits, weddings, commercial brochures, soccer teams, schools. There wasn’t much we didn’t do and because I had a bit of experience with film editing and videos, he introduced a new service just after I was hired offering wedding videos. It was a lot of work and about a week of editing the footage in Super VHS! (Wow… such high quality) At one point I would work at the studio during the day and part time in the one hour lab at night. Everything was about photography.
I moved to Toronto in 1990 looking for fame and fortune and ended up in a dead end job that couldn’t be more further away from photography or anything else I wanted to do. By 1997, I was long overdue for a change… and change it did.
Wanting to get back into photography, I applied to work for a professional photo lab. I still remember my first day when I walked into the lab and instantly recognized that film chemical smell from my days in the one hour photo lab. I was so happy to be around photography again. It was here that I met my future wife who is a professional commercial photographer for a very large media company in Toronto. I was only at the photo lab for two years before the company went into receivership. The advancing speed of digital and the technology required to keep up proved to be too much and I was very lucky to have a friend offer me a contract office job and I left photography and the emerging digital technology behind.
My newest interest was database programming and that led me through Bell Canada, CIBC and Hewlett Packard. HP had a monthly newsletter with various contests including a company wide photo contest. So I went home that night and dug up some photos that I’d taken a few years back that I really liked and submitted one of a lighthouse and I won first prize!
I enjoy photography because I love how it blends artistic creativity with the technical aspects of taking a picture. Larger aperture, faster shutter speed, lower ISO. It’s all about balance.