I took a photography class as a freshman in high school and flunked it. How do you flunk an art class??? Well, I procrastinated my assignments, for one thing. It didn't help that I had my camera stolen from my locker in the art building and therefore couldn't complete my assignments very effectively. I learned a hard lesson about sharing a locker with a friend who apparently had a drug problem, and who needed money to feed it. So ended my love for photography...for a while.
When I was a junior in high school, my girlfriend at the time was on the school newspaper staff. She was sent to a tennis match between our school and a nearby rival to report on it. I was asked if I could take a few photos. So I borrowed a school camera and went with my girl and shot the photos... and was invited to be on the yearbook staff as a photographer. I was named as the boys' sports editor for the yearbook staff during my senior year. I guess they liked my work.
In 1984 my uncle Gordon Carpenter died, and I was given his old Nikon camera as a sort of inheritance... maybe because no one else needed or wanted it. It was an old Nikkorex F, from the 1950's, exactly as pictured below.
It was a fully manual camera, without a trace of electronics in it. No light meter... nothing. You had to use a handheld light meter to get exposure calculations, or you just guessed. I didn't yet know how to do any of that. Well, it was a start... I had a camera. With this old Nikkorex, I began to get really interested in the art of photography. But I was a full-time college student with a job and a baby at home, and photographic opportunities were scarce.
In early 1986, after graduating from Arizona State University with my Bachelor's Degree, I moved to the San Diego area for my first post-college career position. I couldn't ask for a more picturesque location to begin a photography hobby. There was never a lack of beautiful or interesting subjects. The city, the surrounding mountains and forests, the coast... it was photography heaven.
Photography plagues people the same way that other hobbies do... you can never have enough equipment. There's always that one more item that will make my equipment list complete... yeah, right. I soon found that I needed to find small ways to earn a little money on the side to feed the monster... so I could by extra equipment. I remember offering to photograph the graduation of a small, private Christian high school. There were probably 30 kids in the graduating class. I sold a few pictures to the parents. And I made just enough money to buy that old, used 28mm Nikkor wide angle lens that I was drooling over at a local store. I found that getting that one extra lens opened the floodgates to more and more equipment... and the monster grew and needed to be fed.
By now I had upgraded my camera to a Nikon FE. Old and obsolete at the time, but it was state of the art for me! It had a built-in light meter! And automatic exposure! My excitement was out of control!
In the summer of 1986 a work friend was getting married. She knew I was interested in photography, and she offered to pay for the film costs if I would take some pictures of her wedding. She already had a professional photographer lined up, so she was in no danger! I even did a "bridal" session ahead of the wedding for her, and this is one of the images:
She and others were pretty impressed by the photos, amateur though they were, and that fed my excitement for more... Oh, no. Not just more photography opportunities... I also meant... yep, you guessed it. More equipment!
As I learned more about equipment, I became interested in 'medium format', which in layman's terms means a big camera that shoots big images. At a local camera shop, I found a Pentax 6x7, and just had to have it. Here is a photo of the Pentax 6x7 with a telephoto lens, sitting next to a Nikon 35mm like the one I had at the time... that Pentax was a beast. But it created some amazing images, a few of which are in this portfolio.
People where I worked (a very large corporation) learned about my photography, and I was asked to do more weddings. I was new at it, and they knew it, but I apparently was good enough at it that they trusted me. And I didn't let them down. I didn't like to think of myself as second-rate and cheap. Rather, I was... modestly talented and surprisingly affordable.
In the summer of 1987, I received a call from the wife of a United States Congressman, who had heard about me, and asked me to photograph their daughter's wedding and reception. The wedding was in Los Angeles, so I drove up there for the day. The reception was back in Carlsbad, CA, in San Diego County. Despite some technical problems with my camera, I did OK.
I felt I had arrived. I now had some truly professional equipment. People wanted to pay me to photograph them. And my passion for photography blossomed. I would take little photo trips as often as family and career demands would allow.
My interest in equipment expanded further... (translation: I couldn't resist buying more 'stuff'!) I saw an old Burke and James 4x5 field camera, and had to try my hand at 'large format'.
The actual size of the film for this camera is 4" x 5". I had the cloth over my head while I focused... all of that. It was great fun to learn, and this old camera was capable of some truly great images.
In late 1987, I relocated back to Arizona to take another job. The San Diego opportunity was looking bleak because of economic circumstances. And since Arizona was home to me, I felt safer being there.
I continued to find photography work on the side of my regular job. It was all I wanted to do as a hobby. OK, well, that and golf.
Unfortunately that new job of mine was dissolved along with about 600 others, as my employer closed an entire facility. I was out of work. The only real interest shown to me for another career opportunity in the same field was in the Dallas, Texas area. I couldn't move because we had just purchased our first house and were stuck for a while. Good jobs with my particular skill set were hard to find. So, what did I do?
I opened up my photography business. I got some family help, and I went to work as a full-time professional photographer. I had a dedicated studio. It couldn't get any better. Here are some photos of some of the other equipment I owned and used:
|Toyo/Omega View 45D and 45E 4x5" Cameras|
|Bronica SQ-A 6x6cm Medium Format System|
|Nikon F3 Pro with MD4 Motor Drive|
|Speedotron Studio Lighting System|
There was other equipment, and plenty of it. But these were the fun items.
I had some notable commercial clients, such as AT&T, Motorola, Taco Bell, America West Airlines, Rockford Fosgate, and a few others. I have also had the privilege of photographing several well-known celebrities in TV and sports, as well as other politicians.
Here are examples of advertising mailers I used. You can click on them to see larger images:
I was a pretty good photographer, but unfortunately, I was a lousy businessman at the time. I made a series of poor business decisions that sent me in a direction that was not consistent with my better talents, and I lost interest in being a full-time photographer. I closed the doors to my studio after almost four years, and got a 'real' job. I continued to do photography for various clients, but only on the side of my other employment.
One thing I found is that doing photography for a living killed a lot of the joy I felt when I did it for a hobby. I'm glad to have that 'hobby' passion back. It's a lot easier to enjoy when you're not under the pressure to make a living at it.
I hope you enjoy this blog / portfolio. There are plenty of better photographers out there, but it's fun when we all share our perspective of the world.