After nearly 15 years of being a photographer — or rather, actively practicing the craft — I had a sudden realization as to what drew me into photography in the first place. It may not be the most common attraction, but I doubt I am alone.
Last week, I was asked the question of what drew me to photography. That is, why did I buy my first camera? I remember this clearly, and it’s something I have written about before, so I’ll keep it brief. As a petrolhead, I frequented a major car forum, and there was a subsection of this website for photography, which I found myself on one day. Within the photography section, there was a thread on macro photography, which fascinated me no end. So, what led me to buy my first camera was primarily to learn how to take macro images as I had seen.
Now, that isn’t the only motivator — I’d loved portraiture for some time, for instance — but there were other genres I was desperate to try. For example, I was captivated by astrophotography as well as any sort of long exposure. But, for the best part of 15 years, I hadn’t drawn any real connections between these genres that tied them together, other than the camera itself, of course. However, when I was asked that question I had been asked many times before, there was a follow-up this time: “Why did they interest you?” My answer to that was vague, as I wasn’t sure, but it had got me thinking. It was innocuous enough a question, and perhaps I looked too deeply into it, but there had to be something that underpinned my interest in the genres I liked.
Then, yesterday, while searching for some recent images, I was reminded of an article I wanted to write (and still will at some point), and for whatever reason, everything fell into place; I knew exactly why those genres attracted me to photography in the first place, why I still enjoy them, and why a recent type of photography I had tried for the first time beguiled me as macro and astrophotography had when I first started.
The article I’m going to write is about how photography with a drone has breathed a new life into photography for me. Working in the industry as deeply as I do, editing articles about it, taking on photoshoots, editing images, reviewing equipment — it’s all too easy to become a little jaded. Everything becomes so familiar that you begin to lack variety in what you do unless you actively try to solve that. I’d wanted a drone for a long time, bought one, and then on a trip, fell in love with it. However, it was looking fondly at some recent pictures that answered that follow-up question I had received: I love to photograph what the eye can’t see.
Drones had always looked like good fun to me, but akin to a toy. That’s not because they don’t have commercial applications, but rather because I didn’t have a commercial application for them in my own work. Nevertheless, I bought one and hoped I hadn’t wasted my money. So as not to overlap too heavily with my article on why you ought to try drone photography, I’ll just summarize that for nearly a year, it felt like wasted money. Then, on a trip, I took it with and shot every day, and I was smitten with it.
I had a close friend with me on every shoot, as we were on holiday, and we were both thoroughly enamored with how great everything looked from the sky — that is, from a perspective we couldn’t replicate. We were seeing the world from an angle we hadn’t and in a way we wouldn’t easily be able to.
One of my all-time favorite macro shots I’ve taken: A bee happened to land next to a spider I was photographing who was utterly, utterly outraged by it.
The original lure for me to try photography for the first time was simply pictures of garden insects in the U.K. The reason this is a bit odd probably needn’t be unpacked, but the U.K isn’t famous for interesting wildlife, but what I loved was seeing the intricacies of these creatures I would walk past without even registering their existence, or worse, swatting away from me in disgust. Their compound eyes, their hairs, their behaviors — there was an entire world too small for me to fully appreciate, and macro photography let (and lets) me do just that.
If you have never tried macro photography, it ought to be on your to-do list. It’s one of the most singular genres photography has to offer — which is a little prohibitive — but many 1:1 100mm macro lenses double up as excellent portrait lenses too.
You can imagine how this theme continues. Since childhood, I have been obsessed with space, though I have never lived anywhere good for stargazing. However, it doesn’t matter how dark the sky is where you are, you can never see what the right camera, lens, and settings can show you, particularly with a star-tracked long exposure. To this day, I love to look at any and all astrophotography images and see what we cannot without assistance. While some of the greatest images of faraway celestial bodies are hard to capture without a lot of equipment, including a telescope, you can capture the stars and even sometimes the Milky Way with just a fast prime lens.
Sadly, I’m neither good enough at astrophotography, well situated for it, or well equipped to shoot anything worthwhile, so I thought I’d share one of our community’s brilliant shots instead.
While what kept me reaching for a camera and logging onto websites to view photography is fairly unusual, I expect many people feel the same. If you do, make me feel less alone by sharing your experience in the comments. However, if there was something else that ignited your passion, tell us what it was and why. Are you still as attracted to it as you were?
Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master’s by Research. In 2015 Robert’s work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities’ photography degree syllabuses.
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