When the Photo Bug Bites

I remember the first time I saw a moment that I knew I had to photograph. I wonder if other photographers are the same.

I was in Maine, spending a weekend with a friend at his lake side cabin. I woke up on a cool late autumn morning and the whole lake was covered in rising mist. The water was much warmer than the cool dry air and up came the moisture.

My only camera was a 3 megapixel ‘Kodak Easy Share’ I had gotten for Christmas a few years before. This was turn of the century, inexpensive, pocket camera technology at its most average. It was a fine snapshot camera, and I was glad to have received it as a gift, but I never expected that misty lake would impact my life to such a degree.

After that trip, I did a bit of research and bought myself a little Canon point and shoot camera. It was 8 mega pixels and had a bit of zoom ability built-in. I fully expected to love that camera and never need to upgrade again. In the end though, I found it very frustrating.

I didn’t know the massive amount of information I didn’t know at that point and was very disappointed. I never took any pictures with that camera that I really liked. The zoom and the image quality were fine, in good lighting, but the lack of image stabilization was a real issue; I didn’t even know it existed as a technology at that time. I found the controls, and the general slowness of the camera, just as painful as the Kodak I had been using. I carried it around with me, but I never really enjoyed it. My interest waned.

Then, Christmas Eve came along. One of the pastors of my church had bought a Nikon D80 but couldn’t use it during the service since he need to be up front. He said I could use it if I wanted to. I was on sound and projection duty up in the balcony so I was in a pretty good spot to take some pictures of the service and the traditional candle lighting.

I’d never even seen an SLR camera up close so he gave me a few pointers and showed me how to zoom, the focus points, etc., and then went to start the service.

I put my eye to the eye piece, zoomed in a bit and pressed the shutter button. Much to my surprise, the camera actually fired when I told it to, not a few seconds later, and the image that popped up on the back of the camera was exactly what I was expecting.

It was immediately clear to me that my foray into point and shoot cameras was over and that a DSLR would need to be purchased. Finally, I found a camera that got out of my way and let me capture the images I could see in my mind, instead of the blurry, delayed mess from my point and shoots.

And so began what is now 12 years and counting of shooting Nikon. First, the D40. Then the D300. What a beast! I loved that thing! I sold it though and replaced it with a D7000, in preparation for lending it to my dad for a trip to Alaska. Sending him on a once in a lifetime trip with a camera lacking any auto-modes didn’t seem wise. I lent the D40 to a friend and it was unfortunately stolen, but I kept the D7000 for several years. I never bonded with it like I had my D40 and D300, and finally, due in no small part to the persistence of my wife, pulled the trigger on the D500.

What a delight that machine is. I am happy to invest the time in configuring the camera, and learning how to quickly reconfigure it as my subjects change, but once I’ve set it up to suit the situation I just want it to get out of the way. The D500 does that for me, without the full weight and expense of full frame bodies and lenses.

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