Stories of Change

Photography: A Life Changer

In 2005, the year I turned 62, I found out three new things about myself. I discovered that I loved photography, I could learn to use a digital camera, and people liked my work.

The year began with burnout from some intense community involvement. I decided it was time to do something that fed my soul. I just wanted to “get better” at using a medium I was starting to explore.

Photography to the rescue

It was the coming of the digital age in photography that made my new photography life possible. My father was a serious amateur photographer, and I had taken family and travel photos with point-and-shoot cameras. Then when my “techie” husband got an early digital camera, I enjoyed seeing photos on the back screen as soon as they were taken.

Finally, I learned that you didn’t have to have the photo just as it came back from the developer, as you did with drug store film prints. My husband was able to improve a candid wedding photo of our daughter by changing some pixels on our home computer. Wow, I thought, you have power over your photography. I wanted to learn more. With some trepidation, I purchased a new digital camera and joined my local camera club.

Learning: the journey 

At the beginning, I didn’t know an f-stop from an ISO and stayed in auto mode. Then I wrote number reminders on my hand so I could get the effect I wanted. Eventually I came to see that using the camera isn’t rocket science. The basic ideas are not that complicated–it’s all about managing the light–and the most important piece of equipment one has is the human eye.

After starting my photographic journey, I took a workshop on close-up wildflower photography, as I have been interested in wildflowers since I was a child growing up in rural Indiana. I had to borrow a macro lens and then face the challenge of opening the camera to put it on. But the first time I was down on the ground looking through that lens, viewing a California poppy bud fresh with dew, I can only say that I fell in love. (Detail at right). The background was soft, so all I noticed was the bud. And filling the screen were the bright orange color, the clear drops, the curved shape, and the interesting lines. You can only see such gorgeous detail when you get close. While I now do various kinds of nature photography, including landscapes and wildlife, I still love the intimate relationship of shooting with a close-up lens.

Opening up the world

Since those early years, I have had a photography life that I could not have imagined. I was co-president of the Palo Alto Camera Club. My passion has taken me around the world, and I have given public presentations on photography and on my travels (including upcoming ones at Senior Planet @Avenidas in Palo Alto). My framed images have hung in many local venues and have appeared in local galleries. Organizations working to preserve the environment use my photos to promote their causes. Almost two years ago, I joined a cooperative art gallery in my hometown and display and sell my work there.

Over the years, I have liked the way being a photographer makes me notice the beauty around me. I am drawn to nature photography because being in nature was part of my growing up and then my adulthood. Sometimes, when I am walking along a path taking photos, I think about what a wonderful hobby I have. Photography helps me to slow down and look, really see, the many compositions in front of me. I feel the sun, notice the clouds, smell the air, look for patterns and critters, and take it all in.

Most of all, I like to know that while I am old in years and don’t have the energy I used to, I still have something useful to do. It is satisfying to know that I can learn new techniques with my camera and with ever-changing software. In addition, through Senior Planet, I can share my enthusiasm and experiences with others for whom the technology of modern photography is a challenge. Having been helped by so many people on my journey, I want to pay my experience forward. And who knows? Maybe someone else will gain a photography life!

Judy Kramer is a Senior Planet member and professional photographer.  Check out her work here.

Photo: Tidytip Ladybug by Judy Kramer.