December 8, 2014

Late Bloomer - Discovering and nourishing my passion in mid life

It was the first photo contest I had ever entered. Well, it wasn't really a contest per se. It was a "photo assignment" from National Geographic's Your Shot community website.

I knew a particular picture I had taken was special. I conducted a web search looking for a contest I could enter it in.

Browsing the site, I felt very intimidated. The members of the community weren’t merely good; they were amazing. Their talent leapt off the screen and made me feel inadequate.

But, I knew my photograph was a good fit for the assignment. It was titled, “Love Snap” and the editors’ instructions read, in part:

“We live in a Hallmark world, surrounded by images of the surface. TV, fashion, lifestyle, Internet images—messages zipping past our eyes, stopping only when we sleep. Those are not the images that make great photographs. A great photograph is timeless, purposeful, balanced, energized.

We challenge you to go beyond the saccharine-sweet clich├ęs and show us the intimate and personal aspects of your ideas on love… find a level of seeing and feeling that result in an image that will carry all of us to a deeper level.”

I felt I had what they were looking for. So I put my insecurities aside and submitted my photograph. When it was one of a handful selected from the nearly 13,500 entered, it ignited a passion in me.

The photo was not technically strong; it was taken in haste with my iPhone. What it did was capture a moment – my daughter and father together days before he died. It was full of raw emotion and memorialized their special bond.

That is why it was selected. The assignment editors said my entry was a, “visual record that emphasizes relationship and moment—the essentials of great photography.”

I was incredibly honored. Inspired. A seed was planted, and it has grown with incredible voracity.

I have always enjoyed taking photographs. And for years people have told me I have an eye for it. But I never had more than a casual interest before my selection by those National Geographic editors.

My husband has long been enthusiastic about photography. Through the years he has accumulated a collection of professional grade cameras and lenses, and the knowledge to use them well. I became determined to do the same and hone my skills.

I’ve been taking an online course presented by a renowned, long-time National Geographic photographer. I have seized every opportunity to take pictures, experimenting with the camera’s settings, different subjects and varying conditions.

I began shooting in RAW format and learned how to use professional photo editing software. It has taken my pictures to a whole new level, and I love it.

I continue to participate in the Your Shot photo assignments, each challenging me to capture images in specific ways, of specific subjects, at specific times. And had a second photograph selected by a National Geographic editor.

I have even begun to think like a photographer. Recently, when my husband suggested a family outing to a local farmer’s market, my first thought was, “Oooh! I could get some really cool shots there!”

No, I am not letting a camera get in my way of living life. But I am taking the opportunity to capture the moments. I have invested in new equipment and continue to work to learn more about the craft.

"You have found your gift," people tell me when I share my work. Friends have asked me to photograph their children, even offering to pay me to do so. My husband has suggested I look into selling some of my images.

I feel I have finally figured out what I want to do with my life. So it took me 46 years. Better late than never, right?

I'm working on plans to launch a photography business in 2015. Look for more news on that development to come!

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