Do you remember the very first photo you ever took that wasn’t just a quick snapshot? Maybe it was the first time you took the time to compose the shot because you wanted it to look just right. Perhaps it was the first shot that you concentrated on how the lighting was affecting the subject.
I remember my first photo. I have spoken about it to people over the years, but I can’t remember the last time I saw it until recently. I was searching through some boxes of family photos to hang on the wall when I came across a print of my very first photo. I was shocked it was still around.
I took the photo with an old film camera of my Dad’s. It was a Mamiya/Sekor 1000DTL, a camera popular in 1970 according to KenRockwell.com. It looked like this, with the dust and everything:
I recall the weight of the camera as I held it and I remember the sound it made whenever you advanced film. It was my Dad’s camera and I remember being a bit nervous using it, especially that first time.
I was rather precariously stretched over running water at the time. I was about 12 years old or so and I’d gone up to a special place on the North Santiam up by Detroit, Oregon. I was basically performing a back extension with my stomach on a rock and I’d lodged my feet into a rocky groove on the shore. My torso was hanging inches above the running water and I was holding the camera up to my eye, trying to compose the shot to make it look as good as I could imaging. I checked the lighting by placing my finger over the shutter release and looking through the viewfinder at the light meter. I waited for my movement to be slow enough to take a sharp picture.
I triggered the shutter release and the viewfinder went black for a moment. I can’t actually recall taking a second shot. I was just a bit fatigued holding myself over the water and worrying about how I was going to get out of the position without getting the camera wet.
Looking at it now, it’s really nothing much, but at the time is was monumental. Who would have thought that I’d be a professional photographer way back then. …maybe my Dad, but who knows.
The subject of my image was a small mushroom growing out of a stick lodged in the running water. It’s life was hanging as precariously as I was when I captured the image. The stick had a bit of moss growing off the top somehow and out of that tangle grew the small mushroom, my main subject. Below the surface of the running water, leaves had caught the stick and were threatening to pull it completely in the water, submerging everything it held and sending it downstream, but I froze that moment in time with the snap of the shutter.
When I showed my wife the photo I’d found, she commented that it was a well-composed shot. The lighting is good too and while the focus isn’t perfect, I’s say I couldn’t have done better at the time. A tripod would have helped, or perhaps a longer lens, but none of that occurred to me at the time. I just wanted to capture a shot I could be proud of.
I think I can be proud of this shot. I will always remember it as my very first.