I love the power I have with a single click of a button. With the button depressed halfway, I hear the mechanical whir of the lens focus motor. I line up the shot, the composition is good, and I make my decision to complete the press. In a fraction of a second, I hear the sound of the camera’s mirror flip up to allow the light access to the millions of sensors beneath it. The shutter rolls past with a swift, smooth motion and the bits of data travel along the electrical pathways, shifting electrons in such a way that the image in front of me is now captured to memory.

While I was growing up, at the young age of three, I appeared in a photograph that my grandfather had taken. I’ve been in many since, but in this particular photograph, I was standing in front of a large sign with the words: “Welcome to Texas”; I held a camera loaded with film. My grandfather was my greatest inspiration since I spent a great deal of my childhood traveling with him and my grandmother with the ability to take photographs, and as a result, I learned early on how photography could be used to capture the world and save those precious memories. I wonder now if I could find those first photographs I had captured so long ago. They were only snapshots, but treasured ones.

I remember the days that I would go with my grandfather to our local Meijer store to pick up the film that had been turned in for development a day or two before. It was such an exciting feeling, because for the first time, every time, I got to see my photos and find out how many turned out. Some photos would be washed out, over, or under exposed. I still enjoy film to this day, however it is continually getting more difficult to get film developed.

The first instant camera I remember was the good old Polaroid. You could expose a photo on film and it would spit out a semi-processed photo immediately. You would simply wait a couple of minutes for the photo to finish self-development. No longer did we have to wait to see our photos! When digital cameras first appeared, they made photography easier, yet film remained king for at least a decade. For awhile, the Polaroids were the easiest and the greatest, unless you wanted the full quality that standard film had to offer. Computer software took awhile to catch up. Digital photos were commonly lower quality then was acceptable and it was a trade-off between quality and speed. The increasing use of email and instant messaging helped push digital even farther.

When I purchased my first digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, a Nikon D3200 with an 18-55mm zoom lens, I started to see the world. It opened my mind, and I started to see what I hadn’t previously. I started focusing on the composition of my photos and proper placement of the horizon lines. I learned the general guides of photography, such as the “rule of thirds”, the “golden rule”, and knowing when it’s okay to break those rules. I started taking photos from odd angles and experimenting with light as well as the absence of light. For the first time I had the ability to bring fast motion to a halt with a 4000th of a second shutter speed. It was beautiful. I could now take a clear sharp photo of a hummingbird in flight. I learned all the settings of my camera, and the fundamentals such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed. I got a feel for how much light a scene needed relative to my camera. I prefer to use as much natural light as I can get before resorting to the onboard flash. I generally use reflectors, and a remote flash, or perhaps I’ll bounce the light off of a ceiling. Anything that helps the light become softer and more diffused. I have since moved up to better equipment and digital photography has taught me more than I could have imagined.

My daughter and her siblings tend to see the lens of my Nikon more than they see my face. I take all the photos I can, but I also try to remember to take the time to experience myself in the moment. Trust me, it’s easy to spend the entire length of an event, snapping photos and then realize that you don’t even feel as if you were there. You feel like you didn’t participate in the event, because you didn’t. I want to be a part of my daughter’s life as well as capture as much as possible. I look back on photographs of myself when I was younger and I am astonished by how much information I can recall by viewing them. Smells, the feel of a room, and all of the experiences you’ve had in a prior home. I want to encourage her to take photographs so that she can understand their importance in life.

Sometimes I go out and take hundreds of photos in a single session. While I am out I will usually try to plan most of my photos in advance if I can. I take many variables into consideration before I snap the picture including lighting, composition, angles, and camera settings. I will take many photos of the same item because I know some will not turn out. I capture the world around me, trying to find any obscure fascinating detail I can about my subjects. I fill up my camera’s memory and I get it home. Post production of my photos is one of my favorite steps of photography, because I get to develop my photos myself. The camera isn’t perfect, and neither am I. I have to make many good decisions when I capture, so I’ll have less work in post-editing. Those minor tweaks can sometimes have a vast impact on the overall quality and feel of a photo and provides an opportunity for me to be more creative.

With photography there is no limit to the mass quantity of new gadgets available to me. As an avid technology junkie, I use it to the fullest extent possible. There are so many items and ideas that can improve my photography skills, and I feel comfortable knowing that they’ll only help me accomplish more over time. Moreover knowing how to work with minimal equipment is also a great skill to hone. My interest in photography has also given me quite an advantage over others that sell products on the internet. It has also helped me understand how best to take product photographs so they look more professional, such as you’d find in a catalog or a magazine. Photography has indeed improved my life in many ways, from the way I think, to the small details of the world that I had previously missed. I see so much more beauty in the world then I previously have. Whether it’s the amazing colors in the setting sky, or a crumbling city building in an otherwise overlooked place, photography helps me to connect with my past and preserve memories and places without words or interpretation.