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I retired but my camera didn’t

I woke up at 4 A.M. with thoughts about my camera. As I thought about it, I realized that my camera is my connection, that thread that weaves in and out of my life. Recently, I was teaching a photography class. I said that the camera is just a tool, but is it? As I lie under these nice warm blankets, I started to think about all the different connections it has made in my life. Yes, the camera is a tool, but it is so much more. It’s the tool that guides me in my creative life. All of us have a special tool or skill that is a big part of our lives.

We are all creative people. Each of us possesses a tool or a skill that connects us. It is the artist’s paintbrush, the sculptor’s wheel, the musician’s instrument, or the songwriter’s pencil that makes the connection to others. Sometimes the tool of the creative person is what they make within themselves that skilled mechanic, the code that a programmer writes, or that teacher’s simple words that give a student that moment of understanding. All of us have a very special tool that connects us to others and guides us in life.

Today, I like to share a few of the connections my camera made.

First and most importantly, it is my connection to you. Because of my camera, I get to share with you my photo treks, give you ideas and help with your photography, and hopefully encourage you to persevere in every creative project you are involved in.

In my last article, I shared how it connected Jim and me, giving us a lifelong friendship by simply sharing a photograph. Recently, my teaching about using the camera, opened possibilities for my students inspiring them to do more with their cameras. It added new friends to my life and fueled my inspiration to do more for you.

Photographer, David DuChemin phrases it as “For the love of the photograph.” It is more than my love of the camera. It is that passion, that connection, that makes my life what it is and directs me where I’m going. As I look back on my life’s journey, I think about my first moments in that darkroom in East High School.

It’s simple to see that connection now but in my early days, it just seemed to find its way into my life. I was twelve at the time. It was shop class and I chose to do a photography project. I was making my first print in a makeshift darkroom (a hallway closet with towels stuffed around the door to keep light out.) Gently, I rocked the developer tray back and forth the developer chemicals washed over the photo paper. As I watched under the faint glow of the red safety light, it happened! The latent image started to appear slowly at first and then it popped onto the paper. I was hooked from that moment on. The magic lives even now.

I do miss the darkroom today with our digital world. But the love of my camera is still there. The magic is still just as bright as it was many years ago. There is that something special that happens. It is magic to me. I can make a small box capture a beautiful scene to share anywhere with anyone. It’s Just Magic. My love of the camera seems to be deep inside me. I sometimes put down my camera but somehow it returns to me at that moment I need it.

Years back I wound up selling cars. I did it well, but the manipulative crap involved made me look to find a way to escape the drama. It was the beginning of the digital camera age, and I bought my first digital camera. I hiked out into the woods, the parks, anywhere I could escape and my love of my camera and nature found me. At first, it was an escape to be free of people and drama, but it changed.

My photography at the time was not particularly good, but it still connected me with others. I improved, joined Cornell’s camera club, and got better. My passion became alive again and during my first show with the club I sold my first photograph (it is the feature photo of this article.) Change is inevitable, my job changed (left selling cars), I moved and then illness struck.

I was involuntarily on the sideline. Between two different surgeries, I was unable to hike or enjoy being out in nature. I spent the day recovering sitting in a chair. My camera was silent but my love of photography was not. Overall, in those two years, I changed. I studied my photography, I looked at what I was. During this, I learned more about how I could make better photography and I grew. Eventually, this led to a great desire to help others make better photographs.

Somewhere along the way, my camera connected me to become the organizer of a meetup group: the CNY Photographers. CNY Photographers is dedicated to teaching and helping all photographers at any ability level. It became a great social gathering, a place to give back to you.

Once again, my camera connected allowing me to teach photography for the Encore program. This program is designed to teach creative seniors different creative programs. These included not only photography, but other skills, like painting, or creative writing. Teaching this program was extremely rewarding. It was shortly after this I left my nine to five.

I retired and started traveling with my camera. This past fall I started to write about my treks. This past summer as I traveled back home, my camera connected me again but this time it was renewing an old friendship.

An old friend shared my photography with a mutual friend. When he heard I was traveling back into the area we connected. My camera found us sitting on his porch looking out over the hillside to the lake sipping a fine bourbon. We had a wonderful afternoon reminiscing about those great times together some twenty years ago.

I will soon be hitching up my rig and heading out on another trek with my camera. Thank goodness, it’s a bit more than just a tool.

P.S. Want more like this? I send these articles out to friends, photographers, and art lovers who want to improve their skills, and explore their creativity or simply enjoy my thoughts and stories and I would love to include you.

Tell me where to send it and I’ll send you a copy of Seven Moments an eBook, as well as articles, sneak peeks of my new work, and very occasional info about resources to help you with this creative craft we love.

2 thoughts on “I retired but my camera didn’t

  1. Norman – so beautifully written. Yes – photography allows us to capture a moment, an emotion , a memory. It allows us to share those captured images, it gives us a venue to look back on and remember and reminisce. Thank you for sharing your images, your enthusiasm, your stories and your skills and spreading the connection that the camera can create!!!!

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