April photographer of the month:
My first connection with photography was not with a camera
but a homemade darkroom. It came about when a high school
classmate and I put chemicals into some found trays and then put them into an empty television cabinet in his basement. Thus, we began making primitive photo prints, and I was hooked for life.
I bought my first real 35mm camera from an Army PX in Vietnam; it was a Minolta 101. Film was expensive; so, I learned to make every shot count through good composition and exposure settings. The darkroom became my best friend as I would spend many hours in it experimenting with chemical baths, temperatures, toners and exposures under the enlarger. I later began using a color head on my enlarger and moved into the more expensive arena of color photography. Making my own photos was a magical experience that prepared me for the next big step….I went digital in 1990 and exchanged all of my darkroom equipment for a beautiful handmade walnut table at an art show.
Soon, I was asked to use and teach a company in Cleveland about its new color printer; I was able to create a large grouping of my work which was showcased at the Akron Art Museum in 1994. During the opening evening a gentleman asked me how I made the photo he was viewing. I told him that I created all of it on a computer. He turned to me and said “No you didn’t!,” to which I replied, “Do you want to argue, or do you want to learn something new, and by the way, you are an engineer, aren’t you?” He stepped back amazed and said, “How did you know that?” I told him that I taught gifted children and knew how they thought about new situations. We became fast friends as I showed him around my gallery show the rest of the evening.
My next camera system was a Nikon with several lenses which unfortunately were stolen from my home and sold out of the thief's car--as a former student who knew the thief later told me.
Continuing my interest in photography, I set up a large darkroom in the Jr. High building where I taught Earth Science, and many students got the darkroom bug working with photos in trays. One of my 8th grade students won the Kodak Medallion of Excellence for her photo submission, and another student had a one-man photo exhibit at Kent State as he received his degree the same day.
I have received awards for my photography, but my passion is to teach others to use their cameras and make artistic images from their photos. I first started using Photoshop when it was in version 1.5; it has changed beyond belief since I first used it. I told my students to never again believe anything they see in a photo….because there are guys like me who can make it totally different from its inception.
My photography is not limited to any particular subject or style. I teach classes to people who started out just taking photos but now are creating amazing works of art. I use Photoshop, Lightroom and a huge number of plugins and other digital programs to create and teach.
I now use a number of lenses and camera bodies made by Olympus, who are not going out of business, by the way. Due to the engineering genius of their engineers, I do not use a tripod anymore except for astrophotography. I like the freedom it gives me to track birds in flight or photograph busy events-- never missing a shot due to having to change the tripod’s position.
Many great photographers have taught me how to make images that matter. Ansel Adams, W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, Dorothea Lange, Robert Frank, and all of my contacts who now share their photos with me are my influences. More are added daily.
My NE Ohio Digital Photography Meetup Club, Kent, now has 2,675 members, and I try to have monthly Zoom presentations until we can meet again at my studio in downtown Kent. Educating photographers is my way of keeping the creative fire lit in my brain. So much to do, so little time!