In 2004 or so, I started point-and-shooting with a Canon Rebel in fully automatic mode. By 2005, I'd taken up rock climbing, and hauled that camera up and down climbs all over the Western United States. A divorce and a new life later, I found myself bound for Nepal on a climbing expedition, and my Blackberry phone camera wasn't going to cut it. I picked up a Canon Powershot D10 and brought home 500+ images from that trip convinced that Nepal could make anyone a photographer.
After my Nepal trip I continued shooting my climbing adventures with that little point and shoot, and then my photography trickled off. My focus and effort turned more toward the climbing itself and for a time, my objectives got bigger. And then, fatigue, injury and the reality of a day job sunk in, and my picture taking slowed to a trickle.
During the summer of 2011, I'd saved up to buy myself a new digital camera: this time, a micro 4/3 Panasonic Lumix GH2 after shooting one for work and falling for it.
When my sister told us she was pregnant late in 2012, the camera bug bit in earnest... me still baffled by how to get more "keepers" than "rejects" out of my GH2. Shooting enough frames, I started to get lucky once in awhile.
I'd always wanted to experiment with macro photography, and my friend told me about the Holga lens adapters for micro 4/3 cameras, and their accompanying macro accessories. I placed my order: $60 for a plastic Holga lens and adapters -- and I figured, why not throw in a Holga body, at another $20 or so? I chose the Holga 120n (for no particular reason -- I didn't know what the difference between medium format and 35mm film was at the time) and started playing with the kit when it arrived.
I shot six or so "test rolls" of a mix of TMAX and Fuji 400H in my Holga and mailed them off for processing. It sounds overly dramatic to say, but what I got back quite literally changed my life.
Two frames of my sister and her little boy came out, against all odds. I was shooting the Holga in natural light (no flash), inside a hospital room with the lights off, with 400 speed film. Most of the roll was totally underexposed, but those two frames stopped me in my tracks, and they're still among my favorite photos I've taken.
Bitten firmly by the medium format bug, I started looking for an old TLR to do more medium format shooting with. Surfing eBay I fell in love at first sight with a Yashica Mat EM. I was abundantly lucky on the purchase: the camera is in excellent condition, and even has a "working" (for its era) light meter.
My first few rolls from that camera were nothing special (with a few exceptions that I love for sentimental reasons), but I loved the camera itself: it felt as if my hands just knew what to do with it, even though I'd never even handled a TLR before, and didn't know what one was a few months prior. But with the expense of medium format film and processing, I decided I needed to actually learn something about photography, and that 35mm would be a more economical way to learn. I started shooting with Ryan's step-dad's Mamiya Sekor TL1000 until I wore out its shutter assembly, then switched to a Canon AE-1 I picked up at Camera Techs in Ballard. Over the holidays I found out that my grandfather had shot with an AE-1 Program that my uncle still had (along with a beautiful set of lenses), and my uncle loaned me the kit. Now I'm primarily shooting my digital with an FD adapter using my grandpa's lenses, and the Canon AE-1s and I absolutely love them.
Now I'm a student at Photo Center Northwest, studying Black & White film photography, and I'm completely hooked. I love the experience of shooting film: the scarcity and expense of film forces me to slow down and compose my shots, practicing the art of waiting (but not waiting too long). I like the simplicity of the cameras: light meter, aperture, shutter speed, compose and fire. I enjoy the incredulous looks and questions I get from people and conversations I have with them when I'm out in the world with my old cameras. Yes, they still make film.
And now, I've found a whole new appreciation for shooting digital: I shoot mostly with old, manual lenses (or my Holga lens), primarily fully manual. I learned enough about photography basics from my initial film class to apply those learnings to digital so the shooting is more fun now. And, I'm learning digital workflows that result in images that I actually really like. I still shoot digital to make it look like film most of the time, and I especially like shooting digital in low light and inside, so that I can practice my exposure choices without the expense and wait of film processing.
Right now I'm working on personal projects and trying to build my confidence to actually take the photos I think about taking, instead of letting my shyness stop me. I'm looking forward to another class at PCNW later this year.