Saturday, December 1, 2012

What is Photography Anyhow?

Sometimes when I awaken and am laying there wishing I could just go back to sleep and can't because of thoughts that come swirling through my mind. 
Well this morning one of such thoughts was about a friend I met back years ago when he enrolled in a photography class I was teaching. His name was Bill West, he was taking my class because he had this camera  that had been a repayment from someone who owed him some money.  He told me that since he had this camera he thought he ought to learn how to use it.
Bill was just an ordinary person, a truck driver who drove locally with long hauls but no overnight travel.  He became very interested in learning how to use his newly acquired camera.  He was just an ordinary person, wouldn't stand out in a crowd, nor give any indication he was an extraordinary person.  He picked my mind every time we were together and once went with me on a trip to a large camera swap meet.  One of the questions he asked on the way there was " If you were just starting out, what camera and equipment would you buy and why?"  He was sharp enough to realize his "payment camera" was only a snapshooter, being so automatic in it's controls.
I guess I wasn't surprised when he found the dream Nikon outfit I had described and traded for it there, especially when he asked for my evaluation of each of these cameras he considered at that meet.  As you are aware of, some people purchase something for a hobby and never use it(as in exercise equipment).  I didn't know Bill that well at that time, but he picked up on all the functions and techniques of his camera equipment quickly.  Of course at that time I was thinking what a wonderful instructor Bill had.  About this time he and many in his classmates(another interesting stories and experiences) started going to weekend photography workshops sponsored through the Kentucky Park system.  They would have speakers on nature photography and a photo contest during this workshop.
To my amazement and pride Bill West, right out of the starting gate started winning and placing in these contests.  Not only that, he joined a photography club in Cincinnati as did all of my class members and if you could place higher than Bill with the entry for a judging/critiquing at each meeting, you knew you had a slide to be proud of.  He became that good!  He got his wife involved in photography by taking my class and through his coaching, she became very good also.  He told me their marriage was so much fun with them going on photo trips and in doing something together.
I was curious as to why Bill became such a very good, creative and talented photographer, so one day I asked him, "Why?"  He told me," Photography taught me to see!"   He said when he would be driving his truck, he would look at things but never saw them, but after taking pictures he saw things and how beautiful they were.  He said he had seen this single tree in a field he had driven past a hundred times before, but when he started taking pictures, he saw that single tree silhouetted against a sunset and that it was just breath taking.  He said after taking that photography class, he could see and quit just living day to day and became so aware of all the beauty around him!
Hearing that from a big old burly truck driver made me also realize why I loved photography so.  He indicated that I had inspired him, but little did he know how much he inspired me with his thirst for knowledge and what people can achieve when they put their heart and soul into something they love.
Not long after I moved here to Limestone Lake from Cincinnati, we lost Bill but he lives on in my heart and to all who knew him.

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