Finding My Way

Pats hage

It was never an obvious choice that I would become a professional photographer – despite finding the love of photography early in my life. I never had that eye-opening experience that many photographers talk or write empathically about, who grew up in the old analogue film-based realm. When they recall the first time they saw a picture emerge in the darkroom they speak about it as a revelation – and knew from then on there would be nothing but photography. The fact is I never thought much about the work I had to do in the darkroom, I deemed it tedious and boring. So that wasn’t it. In addition I had set a different course for myself when I began studies at university level.

So how come I became a photographer, after all? Was it purely coincidental; random events that set the course for me – or would it eventually have happened any way some time? Did the fact that my grandfather was a portrait/studio photographer have any influence – despite the fact that I never saw him at work as a photographer? Was it friends that indirectly persuaded me to sway from my set course? Or was it after all my own mind and soul that led me to choose the path of photography, albeit a little late. Would my love for photography have emerged no matter what? And would it have directed me towards a professional career at some point even if I started out heading in a different direction?

How do we become what we are? Is it random? Is it fate? Or is it predestined in some way or form?

My first cameras from the simple Agfa Iso Rapid to Canon F-1.

My first cameras from the simple Agfa Iso Rapid to Canon F-1.

I began photographing very early in my life. My first camera I shared with my sister. It was not love by first sight. I think I took less than a couple of frames with the camera which I don’t recall what was, besides a simple plastic camera shooting 120 film. As far as I remember I already lost interest after the first roll of black and white film, and then let my sister take over. My first camera I owned myself was a Christmas present from my before mentioned grandfather. It was an Agfa Iso Rapid, the back then German giant’s equivalent of the Kodak Instamatic easy film system. I was 10 at the time, and the simple camera didn’t do much to push me in the direction of discovering the beautiful world of photography. It wasn’t the camera’s fault, though, I used it in holidays and such – and was happy with the result.

The first step into discovering the magic came with a friend of mine. It was some years later and both of us shared a love for nature. We ventured out early and late, and in our teens we were already pretty savvy outdoor enthusiasts, by now for instance backpacking in the high mountains during wintertime. It was probably only natural that one of us would make the connection between nature and photography. It was my friend. He was a paper boy and for the money he made he bought an inexpensive SLR produced in former East-Germany. Strangely enough I still remember the brand to this day; a Praktica Super TL. Still with my Agfa Iso Rapid and he with his Praktica, we started venture out into nature with the pursuit of immortalizing its splendour.

Soon after, my grandfather once again came to my help pushing my photography into the next level. He gave me a used rangefinder camera for 35 mm film. It was an Arette IA – and now I felt like a real photographer. But of course my rangefinder camera couldn’t compete with my friend’s SLR. When it came time for my confirmation (despite the fact that most Norwegian don’t take their Christian faith very seriously, most kids do their confirmation; I believe because of the presents involved). I was very clear that I desired a SLR camera. And not just any brand, but the 1000 Mamiya DTL. It had a double exposure metering system; you could choose between average metering and spot metering. That’s was grand! I did get it – and suddenly I was not behind my friend any more when it came to gear. I was 15 then and equipment matters at that age. The Mamiya was an awesome camera, but compared to today’s electronic cameras heavy as a brick – it was nothing clear of a mechanical monster. But for the time it was a dream come true. It used what we called automatic lenses; it automatically closed down the aperture when the shutter was triggered. Which meant that we could look through the viewfinder at full opening and not only try to make out a dark image on the viewing screen. That was technical wizardry. Of course today all SLR lenses are automatic in this sense – but nobody even knows. Automatic film winding? Forget about it. Auto focus? Are you joking? Or even exposure meeting at open aperture? No way. This would all be imaginary science fiction – unthinkable.

My first picture capture with Agfa CT18 - in 1973.

My first picture capture with Agfa CT18 – in 1973.

While my friend early on began exploring black and white in the darkroom I quickly discovered the grandness of slide films (which of course also has to be seen in light of what I just wrote about darkroom work). My preferred film in the beginning was Agfa CT18. The digit 18 referred to the speed of the film, which of cause was stated by the German norm DIN – Deutsche Industrie Norm. 18 DIN was the equivalent of 50 ISO or ASA as it was called back then, so I got used to low light sensitivity. Imagine how delighted I am today when I with my digital camera I can use 400 ISO as a standard. The Agfa CT18 was inexpensive, well, relatively at least, and included developing in the price. It was only years later when I started shooting with another friend of mine I found out how bad it was. He used Ektachrome which had more muted and real colours as well as much less grain. I swopped, of course. The Ektachrome later became Kodachrome, before at the end of the film era I got to use Fujichrome. I loved its muted colours.

My first sheet of slide films.

My first sheet of slide films.

It was yet another friend that got me interested in the finer creative details of photography. He recruited me to start subscribing to the Norwegian photo magazine Fotografi. I was for a long time undecided about it, because the subscription was quiet expensive for me at that time (I was still not in high school). But when I received the first issue I suddenly discovered a whole new world of possibilities and imagery. It was really from then on my love for photography caught on.

Eventually I started delivering papers as well, and my first wages I saved to be able to buy a Soligor 300 mm. Remember back then it was all nature for me, and I needed a long lens to be able to photograph birds. Of course today I have gone in the other direction; it’s all wide angles for me, but then of course I am not so much a wildlife or nature photographer any more. But that Soligor was another dream come true. Today it would probably not been regarded as anything but junk, but I was in cloud nine nevertheless.

By now it should be clear that I was heading towards a professional career as a photographer. But no, it didn’t even strike my mind. Instead I fancied an academic vocation. As the nature lover I was it was given that I went for natural science studies with biology for my master’s degree. The change, though, came during the master study. The before mentioned friend, who made me change to Ektachrome, and I were together doing research on the bear population in Western Norway. What seemed like a blow back then, turned out to be our lucky strike. One year we didn’t get founding for the research. We got so mad, both of us quit. We could have pulled it through, I am sure, but in a later perspective, it would have taken us years and years of work to compile enough material for a thesis. My friend moved to Denmark and became a renowned studio photographer there! While I, well, I was slowly starting to see a different course for myself as well.

The dusty old aluminium factory that become one of my first published stories.

The dusty old aluminium factory that become one of my first published stories.

Let me add that in the mean time other incidents had happened. Between high school and university I spend the whole summer working in an aluminium factory. I made a hell of a lot money – but of course the work itself was not exactly a dream. But I brought my camera into the dusty and polluted factory halls, and when I was done working there, I got a big story about the factory published in one a weekend addition to one of the major Norwegian newspaper. During my time at the university I worked as a photographer for a student paper and got other stories published in major papers as well. One, for instance, was about whale hunting. As a major in biology I was chosen to be an inspector onboard one of the whale hunting vessels during the early summer season, and it lead to several published stories.

Whale hunting in the Barents Sea.

Whale hunting in the Barents Sea.

Anyway, by the time me and my friend’s bear study crumbled other students friends of mine, studying media, had noticed my stories in the various magazines and papers. Some of them starting playing with the idea of establishing a news agency and asked me if I wanted to join. Eventually I did. In the end the agency went down without ever flying, I believe because we were young and naïve, and didn’t have enough contacts in the media world. But it set me going in the direction of journalism – more specifically photojournalism.

Would I have ended up here anyway? I don’t know. It’s still interesting to think what would have happened if things had happened in a different way. Again, would I have discovered photography at all if it hadn’t been for my friends? Or a professional vocation as a photojournalist?

Let me end here. And let me end with an apologue for my indulgence into myself. I guess it was a way for me to celebrate my 250th post with this blog. Thank you for your patience I might add.

I would love to hear how you got interested in photography. Do you think it was coincidental or would you have started photographing anyway at some point (well, who doesn’t photograph these days)?

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About Otto von Münchow

Photographer based in Norway
This entry was posted in Personal Work, Photography, Photojournalism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

123 Responses to Finding My Way

  1. Well done on your 250th post! 🙂 This is a very nice read and quite the adventure, actually. I only shoot pictures amateurely. REALLY amateurely – ha! It all started when my kids were little, as happens with most of us photo-happy snappers. But I have been despairing the lack of good equipment every single day since I started. I envy your knowledge (and equipment, obviously). I need to take a course. Oh, and get a DECENT camera. Meanwhile, I live vicariously through the art of others, yourself included!

    • I would say don’t get too caught up in equipment. Work with whatever camera you have. Today most cameras are able to do a pretty good job. Of course there will always be limitations, and I certainly understand the desire for better equipment. As far as I can see on your blog you are doing a pretty good job with you camera. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. YellowCable says:

    First, congratulations on your 250th post! Since I started to follow, the materials and ideas behind them are top notches.

    I can recall my first camera when I was young, very very young was a plastic kind then and did not shoot much. The films were expensive and not even cost and time to develop. It was simply a toy that took a part to see what inside. Ever since, the camera and me were not a good friend or a thing/activity I want to be near by at all until the digital age recently. It was an accident later to see pictures one friend and was impressed by the quality of the pictures produced and without any cost, time to develop as film. I wanted to be able to do the same. The interested in photography was seeded from there and with the internet that allows me to sees even more fantastic materials and science around cameras and lenses (I like to understand how things work). Physic behind cameras and lenses are amazing and it lets me understand the trade off (not thing is perfect) when taking pictures or selecting gears. Simply having fun 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your career developments and childhood story. Love it.

    • I think your first experience with a camera unfortunately isn’t unique.Quite a few have lost interesting due to cheap plastic cameras of the time. At least today most cameras are able to do a proper job. The digital development certainly has changed the whole realm of photography. I am glad you found joy in photographing again. Thanks for the nice words.

  3. Great read! I used to have an Agfa Rapid when I was a kid and I still have the Canon AE1

    • You are really the first person I know that had a Agfa Rapid as well. Unfortunately I don’t have my Canon AE-1 any more (but I still keep a AT-1). It was really a nice camera.

  4. Mary says:

    That’s a great story. I am not a professional photographer, but definitely a hobbyist with a love for it. If I printed and sold some note cards while we are at art shows, I would be thrilled. I think the ease with which we can photograph now makes it so much more appealing for more and more people.

  5. Rajiv says:

    Well done! Congrats! For me, I see myself drifting more and more towards photography …

  6. A great piece, Otto, It is a good thing that you and phtotography found one another.

  7. Millie Ho says:

    Great post, Otto. The aluminum factory image is striking! I think our passions form as a result of innate talent and a certain (occasionally friend-propelled) zig-zagging path into the unknown. My interest in photography came out of necessity—taking reference photos for illustration and painting during school, and later, for work—but I still take photos when I’m outside for a stroll, visiting strange new places, or sitting in a cafe and noticing the peculiar syringe sticker someone stuck on the underside of the table. Like your photojournalism, documentation is one of the key drivers of my interest in photography.

  8. Great to learn about your back round in photography, Otto. I think photography chose you, and that’s a good thing for the state of photography. I take photos as a natural extension of seeing as a visual artist, though I only play at it, so it is simply a no worry delight.

    • You might be right, that photography chose me. At least today it’s hard to see how it could not be. I did like to draw and paint when I was kid, but not anywhere close to your level. I guess that’s why I am a photographer and you more a painter/drawer.

  9. leecleland says:

    I am fascinated by the person behind the craft/art, whatever it might be. Thank you for this small look at yourself. To see the images is only half the story, the other half is why that person takes the image which is more about their life and history. Serendipity or are our lives pre-ordained? That’s deep, Otto. It will keep me awake at nights, just as did – do I ‘photograph to travel or travel to photograph’ 🙂

    • I am glad I am able to give you some food for thoughts. I agree with you an artist and his or her work can been separately. At least not when the expression comes from the heart.

  10. lauramacky says:

    Congrats on your 250th post! II had recently purchased a D3000 but really didn’t use it much. Long story short, I had (and have) a few physical issues which required me change my main hobby which was being a pianist and an exercise enthusiast to photography. Once I started getting better from the knee surgery, I decided I should pick up the camera and try a bit more seriously to learn about it and grow so that I could express my emotions somehow. So here I am a little over 1-1/2 years later after the surgery and about 1 year after seriously taking pictures! I LOVE IT! I am facing another surgery a month from now and I’ll be gone for awhile. But I know I have photography waiting in the wings! I haven’t been so happy in years. Thanks for asking! (My writing is terrible, hence my reason for choosing photography, lol.)

    • lauramacky says:

      Oops…my apologies for an error….I purchased a D3000 about 4 years ago but didn’t use it much. I now have a D7100. 🙂

      • Must have been devastating not to be able to pursue your main interests back then. But I am glad that you found a new love in photography. I wish you all the best with the next surgery – and look forward seeing more of your photography afterwards. No worries about the D3000/D7100. Thanks for the input, Laura.

  11. I love this personal, biographical account of finding passion. Thank you for sharing it! I have no doubt that whatever your course, you would have found a way to celebrate the dignity and diversity of human life. I’m thankful that photography became your tool!

    • I am quite thankful that photography became my tool since I enjoy it so much. But you may probably be right that I would probably have found a way to explore human life in some way or form no matter what. Thanks for the feedback, Colleen.

  12. Otto, it was a pleasure to read about your self-directed yet whimsical artistic journey. Charting a life is usually a series of steppingstones that guide us into territory expected and unexpected. Sometimes we can pinpoint that tipping point that pushes us this way or that. Other times we serendipitously make our way. I suspect that your grandfather’s subtle yet persistent guidance was an influence. Still, you had to find the muse that led you on the photographic path. Truly, enjoyed your story.

  13. Zephyr says:

    Congrats on your milestone, Otto! It was fascinating to read about your journey in your chosen field. Here’s to wishing many more milestones!

  14. An absolute joy to read your past struggles and achievements with the lens. It all worked out! 🙂

  15. Angeline M says:

    Congratulations on your 250th post, each and every one has been a delight. First off, on this post, I love the photo in the aluminum factory, that is an amazing photo to me with color and light. And you present a wonderful thought about how we become what we are….hmmm….something to ponder. My starting out with my camera was, I think, coincidental; I started WordPress to write, and started just looking at people’s blogs with beautiful photographs. I commented on someone doing a 365 project that I wished I could do that too, and his response of “why not?” stopped me in my tracks. Why not, indeed! I’m not so sure I would have taken up a camera without his challenge.

    • Then I would say congratulations on taking up the challenge. Doing a 365 project is a great way to find your own way of photographing. I have done it myself – many years ago. Thanks for the lovely comment, Angeline.

  16. Chillbrook says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your journey into photography Otto. I think we all set off in life with various ideas about how it will be but life invariably gets in the way. We have a lucky break (or not) and our whole direction changes. I took up photography in my teens with a Zenit SLR I was given for my birthday. I enjoyed it enormously but took up other hobbies (girls for one) that took me away from photography. When I was living in Japan in my twenties I decided I really wanted a really good SLR but at that time couldn’t afford the camera I had my eye on and then again life intervened and photography was put on the shelf. Two years ago, when I was diagnosed, I finally had the opportunity to buy that super SLR which by this time of course had the digital prefix. I started taking pictures, started a blog and the last two years have been a revelation. I really wish I’d bought that camera in Japan now all those years ago (I could have managed it at a push) and who knows how different my life might have been. I’m just very grateful to have found photography now and to have the opportunity to indulge what has very quickly become a passion.
    Thank you for sharing your story Otto.

    • Life has a way of intervening, doesn’t it. It surely isn’t a straight and narrow path to whatever the goal is – if there is a goal at all. It will always be impossible to say what would have happened if one had done differently in the past. One can only enjoy whatever is now. Your photography surely shines of the love you put into it. Thanks for sharing your experience, Adrian.

  17. Helen C says:

    Good morning, Otto. I am always looking forward to reading your post. Is it possible that you are a journalist (master-of-life?) who knows how to use his equipment/tool (camera) extremely well? I’ve sensed a strong genuine love for people (human?) from reading your post. My guess is that that love was there before you fell in love with photographing, and maybe that was what led you to become a great photographer.
    My husband is a photographer. For many years, he tried to make me interest in photographing and failed. 😉 I was busy writing and I am one of those people that would put 100% effort into whatever they are doing. Now that I have published a novel, and know more about writing, and retired from my computer related work, my life goal seem changed. I am interested in helping people to record a moment of their life to pass on to their future generations. With that goal, I became very interested in learning photographing and video recording. To my surprise, I love it.
    Thanks for all wonderful posts.

    • So many different ways lead to photography. And it’s not always possible to say what lead one in that direction. It seems like you have found you way to photography quite differently than I. But however we got where we got, it’s a wonderful expressive tool, isn’t it! Thanks for the wonderful comment, Helen.

  18. Love your story. That’s great that you have your first photograph with your Agfa and slides.
    I remember, like you how my story began but I’ve yet write it. This is an inspiration.

  19. PC PHOTO says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey to photojournalism. Your photos of your cameras and first slides along with talking about being in the darkroom brought a rush of smiles and happy memories of my journey of photography throughout my life. I started with a Kodak Instamatic, first 35mm was a Konica, while in photography school I got my first Nikon….. worked in photojournalism, portraits, weddings just to be able to use my cameras. Now as I am retired I have returned to my first love, nature and still using Nikon’s while learning the ways in the digital world.

    • Nothing like the first love… Seems like you acquired quite a broad experience through your journey of photography. It’s fun to remember the beginning of that journey, isn’t it. Thanks for commenting.

  20. rangewriter says:

    First, congratulations on 250! Second, what a wonderful post. I really enjoy the life story behind the people I “meet” online. Well, anyone’s personal story is usually interesting. I think perhaps your grandfather deserves a bit of credit for his nudges. Thank heavens for confirmations, eh?

    When I was a kid, my mom fancied herself a photographer. She had a Leica and an old movie camera and she was forever fiddling with the light meter and moving us around here and there and then the light would change and she’d have to start all over. I’m sure you can relate. Most of her results were pretty bad. And I absolutely hated seeing images of myself, so I further frustrated her efforts by always dodging behind a horse or around a building just as she was pressing the shutter. There are lots of old family shots of just my legs.

    But years later, mom was preparing for a photo-horse safari in Kenya. She splurged and bought a Canon AE1. She brought it with her on a visit and I picked it up and began fiddling. I took a picture of a squirrel with her zoom lens and I was hooked. (Her images improved dramatically, btw).
    She presented me with a matching AE1 for Christmas that year.

    But a few years later, I married a really fine photographer and videographer. I felt like a kid with crayons in the shadow of Michelangelo. My camera went to the back of the closet. Once we parted company, I cautiously drug that old camera back out and started trying to figure it out. And since I retired, I bought a DSLR and now I’m really hooked.

    • Don’t all kids have that experience of being photographed by parents; taking an eternity and results not being very exciting… Years later we will still enjoy those capture moments in a different way. I wonder how many Canon AE-1’s that got photographers started. I am glad you found your way back to photography. Thanks for sharing your experience, Linda.

      • rangewriter says:

        I’ve noticed that today’s tykes are completely unfazed by the camera. They are so used to being photographed and in very spontaneous ways, that they seem to lack the vanity of my generation. Hence the proliferation of tonsil mug shots.

  21. restlessjo says:

    I suspect you could have been successful in many fields, Otto 🙂 The great thing is your obvious enjoyment of the medium now, and your willingness to share.

  22. Lisa Gordon says:

    Congratulations on your 250th post, Otto.
    I am truly glad you are here.
    When I got my first job, everyone else was saving for a car. Me? I was saving for a “real” SLR.
    I still have that camera.

  23. 1cruzdelsur says:

    Congratulations on your 250 post, it is always exciting to enter your blog, you can appreciate the professionalism and warmth of the stories and writing. Art can breathe on your blog. Two months ago not shot with my camera, as I am a little sick, I’m using my photo file and hope soon to start walking the streets again in search of portraits or landscapes, and so back …
    a hug.
    Carlos

  24. Alli Farkas says:

    I still have the Mamiya/Sekor that my parents bought for me in 1968 before I went to Spain to research and document folk art. Mine was a 500 TL though. It was the most versatile camera I had ever seen and I used it till it should have been totally worn out, but it kept on working and if I still wanted to use it today I could. But now I’m hooked on my Nikon D7000. 🙂

  25. Dina says:

    Gratulerer med nummer 250, Otto. Dette var stor lesehygge, inspirerende og oppløftende. Du er en mann med ange talenter! Ha en god søndag.

  26. Thank you for sharing your journey! It’s interesting to read how you got to where you are today. For myself, I decided to be an artist when I was 12 and never altered that self-description even when I’ve other jobs (including a rubber factory that looked too much like your aluminum factory). My photos have been published, but I don’t consider myself a photographer because I think I’m too casual about it. Sometimes I get lucky is all, and I have an artist’s eye for things, but I think if I took it more seriously then the fun would go away for me. I enjoy reading/seeing what you post though. Keep at it!

    • That is quite amazing that already at the age of 12 you knew you would be an artist. At that age I was clueless about life and what to do about it. And yes, it is important to keep that feeling of fun when we create, isn’t it. Thanks for sharing your experience, Linda.

  27. My Heartsong says:

    Interesting story and series of events. I took a photo of the Maid of the MIst at Niagara Falls with my Mom’s Brownie camera when I was a kid and was so disappointed at the little speck in the developed photo but remember it vividly.I was influenced by friends, always wanting but not being able to afford a SLR, although I did buy a Ricoh which i still have. It gave the choice of being automatic or having some limited manual options but got me thinking about depth of field and creating an image that I wanted..I used to paint and studied design and transfered those skills to photography which slowly took over. In more recent years a boyfriend bought me a cheap DSLR that kept breaking but it introduced me to digital and eventually I bought my Rebel XS which was on sale and I am still using and yes, got the long lens because I like birding.I am hooked

  28. Otto, the wonderful thing about sharing your beginnings as a photographer is that you have encouraged us all to look at our own beginnings. Wanting to capture and share private moments was and is my impetus. A delightful post!

  29. I have taken photos over many years but really only got concentrated on photography when I got a digital camera as suddenly photography came within my income range. I remember holidaying in the UK in 1994, my first return since I travelled to Australia for a holiday in 1972 (and stayed!), and driving people nutso with the photos I took on a really good camera I bought in a pawn shop at an affordable price. I really started taking photos when I lived in Woodenbong, in northern New South Wales, high up on the caldera of an ancient volcano. The scenery was wonderful. Then I really got into photography when we lived on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, close to the Pacific Ocean. And finally here in North Cyprus I have realised that my photography is always of scenery, plants, flowers and rocks, historic sites and so on. I bought a Lumix compact camera just before leaving Australia, recommended by a camera shop, and it has been brilliant to use as I have some mobility and vision challenges. Thank you for sharing your development as a professional photographer And I have really appreciated all the expertise you’ve shared in previous posts Oh, and can I interest you in holding a course in North Cyprus – lovely, old towns and cities, beautiful scenery, ancient history the wild Karpaz peninsula, friendly people????? Just joking but if you did, I’d be able to take part given I’m resident here, ha-ha!!!!

    • The digital evolution has really opened up the eyes for so many to the beauty of photography, hasn’t it. Fun to read about how you found your way. Lumix does produce some awesome, small cameras – I enjoy the one I have myself (my second by the way). Yes, maybe I should consider teaching a workshop in North Cyprus. Sounds like a great place to do so, Thanks for sharing your story, Mo.

  30. Patrizia M. says:

    Congratulazioni per il tuo Post n. 250 ma soprattutto grazie per aver raccontato come si è sviluppato il tuo amore per la fotografia. L’ho letto con grande interesse e mi è piaciuto tantissimo.
    Ho iniziato molto presto anche io, con una macchina simile alla tua Agfa Iso Rapid che purtroppo non ho più, perché essendo dei miei genitori non me l’hanno mai voluta dare e alla fine mia nipote
    poco tempo fa l’ha ridotta a pezzi (grrrrr)…. Poi per parecchi anni non mi sono più interessata di foto, ma all’improvviso l’attrazione è tornata, mi sono presa una macchina senza troppe pretese e ho iniziato nuovamente a scattare, fino ad arrivare a circa 4 anni fa quando mi sono comperata la Nikon D300S. Di foto ne ho scattate tantissime, ormai ho perso il conto di quante ne ho e penso che sicuramente ne scatterò tante altre. La mia è una grande passione, non sono certo un fotografo professionista, ma per me è già sufficiente così, anche se so che ho tantissimo da imparare ancora e magari poco alla volta ci riuscirò.
    Un caro saluto, Patrizia

    • Grazie, Patrizia, per aver condiviso la tua storia su come si è venuto a essere appassionato di fotografia. Perché, come si scrive, tutto si riduce alla passione – se siete professionisti o no. Tenere il passo con il grande lavoro!

  31. Lynda says:

    Really interesting to read how you ended up where you are today. I’m always fascinated to learn how people end up with jobs they love. Congrats on your 250th post!

  32. Sudarshan Mondal says:

    It is very fascinating blog post, you described your course of photographic journey. I have started with digital and have no sense how film camera and photo development processed really are… but after reading your blog I can understand the passion behind all of this. Congratulations on your 250th blog post… all the best sir 🙂

    • I have always enjoyed film – even if I was not very attracted to the darkroom. But I think the passion is the same whether we talk about analogue or digital photography. Thanks for the nice words, Sudarshan.

  33. Marie says:

    Wonderful post. Some people are lucky and inherit a creative gene. Your grandfather must have passed it on to you. Your photographs are wonderful. My dad took a lot of family photos/slides. When I was young he used to develop his B&W film and prints. I remember negatives hanging up to dry. I have the Graflex press camera he purchased in the early 1950s, but regrettably I have never learned to use it. I started out with a Kodak Instamatic and used it for a long time, being a poor student. But the minute I could afford an SLR, I bought one. Now I use a Canon 7D DSLR. If only I could figure out how to use all the buttons. 🙂

    • Wow, so fun to actually have an old Graflex camera. That is a classic camera. Despite being more difficult to use today than more modern digital cameras, technologically it was that complicated. Today’s camera sure have a lot of features and buttons and options, that weren’t possible back then. Thanks for sharing your past, Marie.

  34. morganp63 says:

    Congratulations on your wonderful and very interesting 250th post and Thank You! Pat

  35. My father took pictures of the family on vacation and then my brother became seriously interested in it often using his baby sister as a model (he eventually went into video). Wanting to be like the two I looked up to I started with a Polaroid camera and worked my way on up.

  36. Ruth says:

    Love the family tree of cameras in your life and the stories to accompany the photos. Congrats on your 250th post. Nice.

  37. Candace says:

    You’ve had some interesting experiences, wow. And some so perfect for leading into photojournalism. I actually started “serious” photography when I was about 35 after my parents gave me a Nikon FG for Christmas. I then began taking classes and combined with other college courses I had taken (but never graduated college), I decided to get a BA in Art with a photography emphasis. This was during film days, darkroom, etc. Now I shoot digital, of course, but now everyone else is a photographer, too, and even smartphones yield decent results sometimes. I’ve never really been able to break into photography as a career, probably because photographing people doesn’t really interest me much. Good thing I have another job. I must say sometimes it’s discouraging to work on post-processing for hours and someone else has an app on their iPhone that produces much the same result in 2 seconds.

    • I know this discouraging feeling you talk about. But instead of getting frustrated I have tried to incorporate the new ways of post-processing into my workflow and by doing so being able to save a lot of time. This time I can instead devote to the few special photos that I can work for hours on in Photoshop and get results that isn’t possible with those apps. Thanks for sharing your experience, Candace.

  38. seabluelee says:

    Very interesting reading, Otto. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your photographic history. I bought my first camera at the age of 11, but it was a cheap plastic thing that barely lasted through the first roll of film. I still have those pictures. There have been a number of cameras since, and some long gaps when I temporarily lost interest. But for much of my adult life I’ve enjoyed documenting bits of my life and things around me that I found interesting or beautiful. I’ve never had any ambition or desire to make photography a profession, though. It’s just something, like reading, that I do for my own pleasure.

    • I think your way is a healthy attitude towards photography. We should all photograph for our own pleasure – whether we are professionals or not. Although I know for the former it can sometimes be harder – which is why many choose not to become professionals. Thanks for sharing your experience, León.

  39. Congrats on your 250th post, Otto! It will, I think, be one of my faves. I love a good human interest story! I have always loved photography from the standpoint of a viewer. I love to view photographic work. I’m drawn to it. I never thought about taking photographs myself until I married a guy. A guy whose parents had a photographic studio in California. A guy who was a photographer himself (thought not as a career). I decided I didn’t want to be the person waiting around for the photographer to capture his shot. 😀 I might as well capture my own. I write. I love story. I discovered that photography is a form of storytelling… at least for me. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

    • Photography is – or can – indeed be a way of storytelling. And there is no reason to wait for others to tell the story, is there?! And what better way to be drawn to photography than from loving to view it. Thanks for sharing your experience, Elen.

  40. soonie2 says:

    So fun and interesting to learn of your journey! Congrats on post #250!!

  41. Thank you for liking “America’s Ancient Past: Part 1.” I enjoyed reading your story about the twists and turns in life that led you to become a photographer. I think I became interested in photography because of my mother. She took a home correspondence course in photography while she was raising me and my two brothers. She used a film camera, which I later used when I took one beginning photography class in college in the days just before digital cameras became widely available. I did not take very many pictures after that, and I did not really become interested in photography again until I studied graphic design (including Photoshop classes) and started blogging on WordPress. Inspired by the talented photographers I have encountered on WordPress, I have tried to take a few photos again, but I am not happy with the camera I currently have. I am thinking about getting another better one at some point.

    Thanks for the great post! 🙂

    • The whole world of blogs is indeed a great inspiration, not only for photography. So interesting that your own introduction to photography came through a photography course taken by your mother. Thanks for telling your story, Arlene.

  42. LensScaper says:

    I had a Box Brownie as a small boy, then a Halina point-and-shoot as a young teenager. That little camer went skiing in the Alps and to the top of the Matterhorn when I was 19. My camera recorded my adventures. My father was a botanist and as a teenager I watched him out with his camera (a Miranda early SLR). I got my first SLR for my 21st Birthday – an Asahi Pentax S1a. By then I was learning how to develop and print – a skill I learned at University. To be honest I can’t really remember exactly what got me started with B&W home processing. Partly I think it was to save money, and partly due to friends who did the same. Aged 22 I spent five weeks in the Himalayas with Eric Shipton and took 25 rolls of Kodachrome. The experience changed an interest into a passion. I won a competition organized by Fujifilm, and earned the occasional small fee for images that got published in a variety of magazines. Each little success pushed me forwards and when I finally started work as a doctor and we bought our first house, I joined a Camera Club and found myself surrounded by like-minded people who shared my passion, shared their skills, and helped me grow as a photographer. And I’ve never looked back.

    • I can image how spending five weeks in the Himalayas would turn on the passion for photography. I have been there a couple of times myself – and it’s a great place to photograph, isn’t it. Thanks for sharing your development from your first Box Brownie, Andy.

  43. HansHB says:

    Spennende lesning! Ser utviklinga gjennom bildene av de ulike kameraene!
    Startet selv med et Agfa Clack kamera i 1960 og fortsatte videre med Kodak – Voigtländer Vitoret DR – Pentax ME Super og så ble det Nikon hele veien videre til det jeg har nå, D4…

  44. Viola says:

    Congrats to the big 250, there is absolutely no need to apologize for anything 🙂 I always enjoy to learn a little bit more about the person who is writing a blog and this is a great read and a very interesting story, Otto! I smiled a bit when I read that you are a fellow scientist, I went for Chemistry though and this all the way to the Ph.D. I discovered photography much, much later and basically the other way round. I had that one special moment on a little boat rocking back and forth on the Atlantic ocean near while a few Humpback whales were playing/feeding nearby. That’s when I decided that I want to get a DSLR and be able to capture moments like this. Shortly after that I went through an another depressive episode so it took three more years until I really picked up photography. This was mainly because I had so much positive energy after my recovery, that I started to write a blog in early 2011 to play around with different ideas and ways to express what I wanted to share with whoever was interested to know. Then one thing led to another, I finally used my DSLR more often and for different things than just travels and flowers, took part in blog projects which helped to shoot more conceptual rather than just out of the moment and also began to use photography to illustrate my thoughts. After a couple of months and basically initiated by what I saw all the apps and filter can do with smartphone pictures, I decided that I want to try and shoot film as well, to slow down a bit and also because I just like the aesthetic of the analogue world, especially if it comes in medium format. As a chemist who hasn’t seen the lab for a couple of years now, I’m also curious to develop film myself and maybe one day I will find the time to do that. So, it’s a bit like a journey with an unknown destination, a bit like a long-term experiment and a lot of fun.

    • My first year at university I actually studied chemistry as well… And I think it’s only natural that a chemist would become interested in the old analogue world of photography. Thanks for sharing your own history, Viola, it’s a very interesting read.

  45. Great post, interesting story. I like how you chronicled all of your camera’s. I was never as serious as you in my younger years. Had a couple film camera’s and took what I think were above average child and travel photo’s. Never learned dark room. Was too busy raising kids. About 7 years ago my husband bought me a DSLR, a kit model a Nikon 40D since I was frustrated taking photo’s of my dogs with too slow a camera. I started photographing my 5 Golden retrievers in action at 3 fps and was in heaven. Then my kids told me I needed to kind some new subjects since i had so many of just my dogs. So I started photographing my horses and friends animals and livestock and ranches. I got pretty good and a friend of mine encouraged me to turn my horse and ranch photo’s into fine art to sell. I entered as a vendor at the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding sale. My husband built me a fine art booth out of old barn wood which I decorated with old leather couches and rustic western furniture. My equine and ranch photography fit in perfect. A VERY western/country crowed loved my work and I did pretty good in sales. I entered in art shows and started winning ribbons…..I’m still going at it. My blog is a fun place to show all my crazy dog photo’s.

  46. Photography– lucky for myself and others born into this technology– was at least a way not only to capture something from our life histories, but those magical or even insignificant moments that seem wondrous to ourselves. Nice post.

  47. Congrats Otto on your milestone. What an inspiring story of your life in photography and it’s really great that you ended up in a job that you loved doing. I am not a pro in photography, My love in photography comes after my love in nature. I think they’re a package.
    Have a nice day,
    Loty

  48. robert87004 says:

    The paths we follow to get where we are, always interesting. A good story told well, Otto.

    For me, I was working for a major retailer and they needed me to step in and run a camera department as the former manager had gone suddenly. I knew nothing about photography but knew how to run a retail department so felt I had to buy some sort of 35mm camera and learn about the products I was responsible for.

    Minolta SRT101 was my first camera as we had a great price on it at the time, Canon and Nikon were too expensive just to learn. Then a Minolta X-370 came my way, which I used until the 90’s. My next camera was digital. 🙂

    • The SRT 101 is one of the classics from that era. The way you got into photography just shows how many different paths leads to this visual expression. Thanks for sharing your experience, Robert.

  49. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and no I don’t think it’s at all self indulgent – it was an interesting path you took and you told the story well…and humbly. I still have the little box Brownie that my parents handed on to me many years ago – I’m sure it would still work too! I’ve taken many family and travel photos since the 70’s and quite a few from the international projects I visited. Sometimes I’m nostalgic for the days of printed photos because at least you knew what you had and cataloguing and reviewing them was a simpler task. The sheer volume of digital photos means I don’t often look at them.

    • You are pointing to a significant difference between analogue and digital photography. But not only is the cataloguing different and more extensive today, but also the whole process of shooting more images changes the expression of photography. Thanks for for the feedback.

  50. Gertie says:

    Ja du Otto…skulle inte du ha semester?
    Missförstå mig rätt, men jag trodde faktiskt att du skulle koppla bort bloggandet och bara vara…men, ja, jag förstår:)
    Roligt att läsa din historia, den går in i min egen ibland och ibland så är den väldigt långt ifrån, men en sak har vi gemensamt…eller två:)
    Vi har fotograferat väldigt länge och vi har svabbat i mörkrum…och jag tyckte inte heller att det var min “grej”…jag fick faktiskt lite klaustrofobi trots den häftiga upplevelsen när man såg bilden växa fram…
    Jag gjorde mitt bästa när jag jobbade som bild och fotolärare( för sisådär 100 år sedan), att entusiasmera mina elever och få dem intresserade av mörkrummets “mystik”…men tja, det gick väl sådär:)
    Ja, jag läste med glädje och igenkännande och så alla gamla “godingkameror”…Otto, tack för en stunds nostalgi och tack för att du berättar…
    jag skall också berätta, någon gång när andan faller på, tiden finns och är mogen.
    Ha det nu så gott, koppla av och ta vara på sommaren…den överreklamerade eller den fantastiska?

    • Sommeren er fantastisk. Men det er vel ikke nødvendig å holde seg borte fra alt som er gøy, vel? Jeg har allerede fått med meg noen fjell- og padleturer, og over helgen reiser jeg til Holland og Paris med mine to gutter. Kan ikke garantere at det ikke blir noen blogging… Ta vare på sommeren du og. Jeg regner med at du heller ikke holder deg borte fra fotograferingen?

  51. Congratulations! It is always interesting to hear how a passion developed and see it spring to life as yours has. Well done.

  52. sheketechad says:

    What a great piece for the milestone, Otto. It is always a nice to look at who is behind the lens.

    I think I started because I don’t like to be photographed 🙂 High School Yearbook photographer, then nothing much for the next twenty-five years beyond family photos. In 2004 my late husband got a Nikon D100, the camera I still use today. It was for focusing on beauty in the wild once I moved into the country; now I can’t seem to stop, lol! I’m below amateur; hobbyist maybe? But I love it – it teaches me what is there that I often do not see, and also how to see differently.

    • That is one of the beauties of photography, isn’t it – to make you see what you often don’t see, and see it differently. Whatever you call yourself, keep enjoying your passion.

  53. fotonita says:

    Gratulerer med blogginnlegg nr 250! Ser fram til mange flere innlegg fra deg : )
    Artig å lese din historie, Otto! Fortsatt god sommer!

  54. Dalo 2013 says:

    A great read…that for sharing these thoughts of your experience. It is like walking down that path with you as you recollect your first camera, shot and the feeling as photography enters and becomes such a tremendous part of your life. From your first shot (sunlight through pines), the creativity was present. Wonderful post and congratulations.

  55. Otto – what a lovely post to bring up the 250th one! I agree with Randall’s comment above. It was a beautiful walk down the memory lane with you. The fact that you remember all of it in such detail shows how much photography means to you. It reflects on your write ups – always thought provoking. It was most evident to me with your engaging discourse on what photography really means. I have been away from wordpress since a while. Need to catch up on all that I have missed on In Flow!

  56. joshi daniel says:

    wow! so wonderful to see the first of everything and the journey 🙂

  57. Otto, I thoroughly enjoyed your trip down memory lane. It brought back a lot of my own memories including that Praktica camera. Yes, I had one. Photography was something I fell in love with as a very little girl. It always fascinated me. It was all so mysterious and magical. After my Mother passed in 1992, I became quite close to a family at my church. The father, Wayne Farrar, was a Professional Photographer and he became my mentor. I was 12.
    I always wanted to go to school for photography and I had to fight to do so. Wayne stood beside me the whole way. Other than the Praktica the cameras I remember most would be my Nikormat by Nikon that was the first camera I purchased for myself with the help of my mentor. I used a Mamiya C330 Twin Lens Reflex (2 1/4 square) for many years and a Swiss Arca 4 X 5.
    Eventually my photography led me into television.

    • There are so many different ways that lead to photography. It must have been sad to lose your mother at such an early age, but maybe it then was meant that you would meet with a father who also was a professional photographer. I think the Praktica was a classic – in a special way. Otherwise your other cameras were classic ones as well, particularly the Arca was quite a camera. Thanks for sharing your past memories and experiences, Michelle.

  58. Su Leslie says:

    I love this post; it is so interesting to learn the “back-story” of those bloggers I follow, especially as I really admire your work. My father was an enthusiastic and quite talented amateur photographer who gave up as the family grew and there was no money for his “hobby.” It would never have occurred to him to try and become a professional photographer, although I suspect he would have been terrific as a portrait photographer – he has a wonderful way with people. But he grew up in poverty and clung tightly to the idea of a stable job with a regular income. I’m the eldest child, so there were lots of photos of me as a baby, the fewer and fewer of each of my brothers – which is really sad. I think now he doesn’t take photos at all, but is extremely proud of his grandson (my son) who completed an A Level in Photography last year and scored 95%. For my dad, that was a wonderful moment, and he really enjoys my son’s work.

    For me photography is a journey in learning to see; to slow down and actually look at the world rather than rush from one thing to the next as I have always done.

    • That last thing you say, I think describes photography at its best; it’s really a journey in learning – no matter how experienced we are or become. Besides that I can imagine how proud your father was with the accomplishment of your son (and congratulations to him). It must have been hard for your father to give up photography back in those days. Still those pictures he took over time are gold today, aren’t they? Thanks for sharing your experience, Su.

      • Su Leslie says:

        Hi Otto. Thank you. My dad took a lot of slides, rather than photographic prints, and when my parents divorced, they seemed to be scattered. The photos I do have, I treasure, and maybe one day I will be able to collect all the slides together too. Cheers, Su.

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