The Photographer’s Friend

This post describes my background in photography and how I arrived at where I am today, the friend in question is a dog called Jack and more about him shortly.

My wife and I had always taken photographs of our children when they were young using the then typical Kodak cameras of the day but in the late 1970s I became interested in more serious photography and bought myself a “proper” camera. Of course these were the days of wet film and although I lusted after having my own darkroom both economically and in terms of available space with 4 children, this was never going to happen though I did get to develop transparency film (slides) at home which was less demanding on kit and resources.

Come the mid 1980s and I was going through a divorce and in the face of financial obligations and basic survival, photography went out the window, it was a hobby I had neither the time nor the money to pursue. This remained the case until 2000 when I had the opportunity to live and work in the USA plus it was a time when digital photography was first becoming feasible for consumers. Really to keep in touch with family and friends back home and let them share visually in my “adventure”, I bought a Fuji digital camera which because my priority was attaching pictures to emails and with hindsight a decision I much regret, I shot everything at 640 x 480 pixels !

I was based in the Mid West, about 90 miles West of Chicago and it was whilst on a trip to New York where my brother Michael lived and eventually died that I came to realise the limitations of my little Fuji camera (it ate batteries), and the “photo bug” had started to bite again. Having come back home for the Christmas break I decided to buy a DSLR of which there was a choice of just two, a Canon or a Nikon, I decided to go with the Canon simply because I preferred the feel of it – really scientific ! It was of course a major decision in the sense that with interchangeable lens cameras, once you start adding other lenses, you have bought into a system and switching to another manufacturer becomes both difficult and expensive.

Odd Experiences

Looking back on those early days, I was woefully ignorant about digital photography and needed to learn new things and shed old attitudes. I especially remember that having come from a wet film background where the maximum number of shots on a roll of film was 36, the idea that you could keep on shooting until you ran out of memory cards took some time to sink in. Additionally I had no idea what RAW files were plus I was yet to grasp the big thing about interchangeable lens cameras in the digital age, the bodies come and go, it is the lenses where your real investment lies.

But my big break in photography only really happened when I moved down to Somerset in 2004 and as part of looking after my Parents took on taking their dog Jack for his twice a day walks. Obviously I knew Jack prior to moving down and had taken him for walks when visiting but this was a totally new relationship and new rules had to be negotiated.

My Father couldn't walk him properly any more, he would put him in the car, drive down to the local marina and let him off the lead, it wasn't enough, Jack was a big dog and needed more exercise which he got right up to the time when age took its toll of him too. Dogs “see” with their noses so Jack would enjoy his walks best by being allowed to sniff everything but this meant that it all took time and it was twice a day ! So I started taking a camera with me and Jack and I came to an arrangement, I would wait for him whilst he sniffed everything and in return, he would wait for me whilst I took photographs.

A Turning Point

The reality was that I was photographing the same things time and time again because we were walking the same route morning and evening but whilst I wasn't producing stellar pictures, unbeknown to me I was making progress because two things were happening: I was getting used to always carrying a camera and secondly because I was always taking pictures, I was getting my eye in so that eventually and inevitably, if you practice anything often enough, I started taking better pictures.

Although he is long gone now, my memories of Jack as this photographer's friend will stay with me always, it was during those walks and those days with him that my photography started to take shape, if I can take decent pictures today, I owe it all to Jack ! Below a few pictures of him as both a young and an old dog, he had a few issues but we became firm friends and after his passing I missed him terribly, he left a big void for both me and my parents.

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