This is how I began the process of becoming (at least in my own mind) a photographer…
A few years ago, I dropped my son off at the University of Vermont as a newly minted freshman. There is no question that I was a touch worried about him at the time. He grew up in a town with a total population less than the undergraduate enrollment at UVM. In essence, he was moving from a graduating class of about 200 to a school where he might have that many students in a single lecture hall. The culture shock that young people often go through in situations like this is well known, particularly for someone in his situation, who was not active in school organizations, and who was more interested in on-screen games than on-field games. I was glad that he was at least within a driving distance of about three hours.
You can imagine my surprise when he called during that first week of school to tell me he’d joined the UVM Crew Team; a far cry from exercising his fingers on a Playstation game controller!
I still don’t quite understand how he came to be a part of that organization, but it was by far the smartest thing he could have ever done. It gave immediate structure to his day working with others towards a common goal, and immediate access to a group of people that have at least some things in common.
Being a club sport at UVM, it also held him responsible for some sort of community work and fundraising activity.
I had never in my wildest imagination thought that he would compete as a college athlete at any level, so there was no way I was going to miss a second of this. And so a couple of weeks later, armed with my “point and shoot” digital camera, I drove to see his first race in New Hampshire.
Of course the camera failed that day. The LCD screen just went blank. I was still able to snap some pictures, but I had no idea what might be in them, although I think I might have found one or two that actually were presentable.
So I needed a new camera, and I had no idea of what I should buy. Should I simply grab another cheap little digital snapshot machine, or should I spend a few more dollars to purchase something that was a bit more flexible.
In the end I decided to spend those few extra dollars, thinking that I’d be much more inclined to take better care of a piece of equipment that hurt my wallet a little bit.
It was the best purchase I can recall ever making…I have yet to miss any of his races, and it’s led me to learn how to use a camera in a wide variety of conditions, both in terms of weather and lighting. It’s led me to appreciate how different views and angles work in photography, and how important it is to be prepared. (The race might take twenty minutes, but a spectator only has seconds to record a good image.) It also led me to appreciate how much I thoroughly enjoy candid portraiture.
I began printing the best shots I’d taken, and sending them to my son. As my confidence grew, and my technique developed, I began sending them to him on disc, because there were just too many to print.
Eventually I began posting them on a website for the whole team to view, and I hope you’ll enjoy viewing them as well.
The picture posted here is from my first season of photographing the team. I hadn’t planned on travelling to Philadelphia to see this race. After all, a five hour drive each way, with a night spent in between, to see thirty seconds of a ten minute race just didn’t make sense to me. Then I read about the Dad Vail Regatta, which happens to be the largest collegiate regatta in the nation. I just couldn’t miss the chance to see me son compete against some of the most well known schools in the country, so I hopped in the truck at 4:00 a.m. without telling anyone I was going. I took this shot of my son and some of his teammates just before they turned to see me standing there with a camera stuck to my face.
I got huge smiles that day!
Since that first “day at the races” I’ve taken to carrying a camera with me almost everywhere I go. You never know just what you’ll see, or what opportunity might arise to try something new. As time goes on, I intend to explain just how my own version of photography works, not just in technical terms, but in why I wound up with the images that I’ll present.
I hope you’ll enjoy seeing them, and hearing how they came into being!