As I reflect back upon my years in photography, I feel that my personal evolution as a photographer has largely been shaped by what was going on in my life at the time. As time has passed I find myself frequently not recognizing my older works or questioning why I made the creative decisions that I did at the time. I guess that is natural and a good thing. People change over time. I imagine that I’ll be refining my personal vision as a photographer for the rest of my life, or at least I hope.
This timeline is how I view my evolution as a photographer:
2000-2002: Everything is new. No idea what I am doing. Print film (color & B/W), point & shoot camera, dad’s Nikon SLR. I purchase my first camera, an Olympus digital camera. Test and experiment on trips (Olympic National Park, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Midwest) and outings to the local gardens. Read my first Galen Rowell book.
2002-2005: Purchase my first rolls of 35mm slide film because Galen Rowell shot with Fuji Velvia. Mind blown. Moved to San Francisco for graduate school. Shoot 35mm slide film and digital on poor grad student budget. Shoot nothing but sunrises and sunsets because all the photo instruction books say you should. Mostly California photography; limited budget for travel aside from first visit to Grand Canyon & Sedona during winter break since it was cheap. Spent a lot of time on the forums at photo.net.
2005-2008: Move back to Southern California and end up doing a variety of freelance work for several years. Purchase Canon DSLR and try to process photos in a realistic but bland manner because “Photoshopping” outdoor photography was taboo back then. Discover stock photography. Editor tells me I need to shoot more people pictures. Developed an interest in the street photography style of Sam Abell, William Albert Allard and David Alan Harvey. Travel all over California exploring my home state with a camera. Spend the next several years obsessively shooting every and anything I saw. Though passionate about photography, in hindsight I consider this period to be my low point as an artist but most prolific since my focus was primarily on selling photos. This was a learning experience figuring out what I’m most passionate about. Went through a lot of turmoil in my personal life during this period so working non-stop on photography was my way to escape.
2008-2013: Got a real job. I can actually afford to travel by this point so I branched out a bit. Purchase my first full-frame DSLR; the Canon 5D Mark II. This was a revolutionary camera for its time so I dabbled in some video as well. I started shooting less stock photography due to burn-out and started discovering my own personal vision by spending a significant amount of time at the Huntington Gardens. The Huntington was one of the gardens where I got my start in photography so things started coming full circle for me here.
2013-2016: Moved back to the Bay Area. Got married. Travel outside of North America for the first time. Rediscovered the passion and shot photography non-stop for three years until my son is born. Purchase my first professional-grade tripod; an Induro carbor-fiber tripod. I had been using backpacking tripods and cheap Manfrotto’s up until this point to save money. Start refining my personal vision.
2016-Present: Shoot less sunsets due to time constraints. Realized that sunrises and sunsets are not necessarily any better for outdoor photography than overcast or daytime. Photography is what you make of it. Transition out of stock photography. Rebuild my website. Start taking more creative liberties with post-processing. The only rules in photography are self-imposed.
I don’t know where the next 18 years of life and photography will take me but I’m game. I have photographer friends throwing in the towel due to various reasons but I don’t see that happening for me provided good health. I’ve always had a need to create whether it was music when I was kid or photography as an adult. That is just who I am.