Living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, daughter and dog all of whom are often featured prominently in his photographs) Brad takes photos for both enjoyment and in several volunteer capacities on the side. In his real life he is a information management professional, currently working as a web information architect and aspiring to build a well-rounded career touching on multiple fields of writing, design, and information technology.
It has not been a straight line path.
For starters, my earliest memory of photography was standing in the empty lot of our old house, me about eight years old and the camera my mom’s old-even-at-the-time 110 model, the thin kind with the odd telephone receiver-shaped cartridge of film. I pointed into the field across the way, snapped a couple of grainy and shaky shots of the road far in the distance, and an expensive habit was born.
I don’t remember exactly when I received that first camera of my own, though I think it may have been a birthday present from my parents at some early point. As I recall it was a ‘stylish’ point-and-shoot 35mm pocket-sized model with only two features: you could use a little button to swap between 200 ISO and 400 ISO depending on the type of film you bought, and you could add a softened border around the fringe of the picture using the built-in, semi-frosted lens cover. Unfortunately, it also had a sticky shutter button (an un-feature) that forced me to comprehend film speed for the first time. This was because using 100 or 200 ISO film resulted in crappy, blurry pictures from the residual movement while pressing the shutter — while those with 400 ISO film were a little more crisp, if still not worth the paper they were printed on.
Sometime between that first camera and my eventual graduation to a more featured camera there was the incident with the disposable camera. I don’t think photo labs are (or ever were) supposed to let you have the bodies back when you developed a disposable camera, but somehow I acquired one. And my evil plan was this: I was going to disassemble and re-engineer the thing to take long exposure shots. I know — it sounds unlikely, but really, the components were all there: a mechanism to hold and wind the film, a light-less, black box, and a shutter controlled by a single exposed spring and other miscellaneous parts. I hacked something functional together and went into the backyard eager to take photos of the stars. Dreams of grandeur and visions of photographic genius in my head, I took that single roll to Black’s to be developed. Looking back, they must have been something of photo enthusiasts themselves, because they very patiently let me explain what I’d done and even developed the roll (all completely black/blank, in case you’re wondering) for free. That camera went in a box somewhere and was never seen again.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I did eventually graduate to a more full-featured point-and-shoot. If I looked through my albums I could easily pick out where this acquisition (a Christmas present, again from the parents, if I recall) occurred. This is because the most notable (and apparently annoying) feature of the camera was that it had an IR remote control. So, not only are there a lot of bad shots of my family and friends in stunned, candid poses, but I tend to appear in my own photography for a while. Usually, I’m holding a little black control in my hand (if you look close) and usually the composition all but sucks. But things really went on hold for a while at this point. I tried a few more disposable cameras, usually to get the novelty features for vacations: underwater pictures, panoramas, APS high definition. But for seven or eight years it was slow and steady with the point-and-shoot, occasionally coveting a fancier SLR or APS, but always back to the rusty, trusty student-value model.
Inevitably, things changed: for one there was Vancouver. This was my own little digital revolution. The second day at my new job, fresh off of three months of post-graduation unemployment, my boss drops a beautiful box on my desk, sealed, with a brand-new, top-of-the-line (at the time) Canon S200 and says something like: “You’re technical right? Learn how to use this so you can be the photographer at events. Take it home for the weekend and figure it out.” Who needs good pay or dental benefits when you’ve got perks like that? Weekend turned quickly into weekends, and I began to make a point of wandering Vancouver and it’s streets, making trips to Stanley Park, or sometimes taking my lunch breaks on walking tours of Granville Island with the sole purpose of snapping pictures and working to enhance my ability to take shots for when that real duty called for some publishable work-related images. I studied that camera and I learned it’s every feature for eighteen whole months — before I finally figured I should get my own. This, of course, began the progression of ever-better digital point-and-shoots that would lead to my slow and gradual education on the nuances of light and color, composition and careful experimentation with tolerable imaging. This is where the katamari picked up a cow.
In late 2002, I stopped at the mall on my way home from work one day and bought my very first digital camera. There it was. A sparkling new Canon PowerShot A40, a whopping two (read it, 2) mega-pixel camera, that was dearly adequate at the time. (Remember, in those days it was speculation and front page news on Slashdot when some company claimed to have built a consumer-ready 12 mega-pixel camera. Today, you wouldn’t settle for much less than that in a high-quality digi-cam. But back then, way back, four years ago, that was science fiction.) Toy that it was — and cheap as I was on buying memory — there are a lot of mediocre images left over from that short time. I say short, because some of you will recall that one particular night, about three months later my world changed. The personal implications and fallout from that day are numerous and not to be discussed in detail here, but one simple result is that I now have bad memories of St. Patrick’s Day. Why? Because that was the day this camera disappeared from my life after our apartment was robbed. Dev — a — sta — tion. Pow! Bam! Splat! Move on. In that short span of three months, I managed to click the shutter on that baby well over three-thousand times. In three months I dragged that camera on train ride through the mountains, over to Europe and around the Netherlands for 10 days, and explore the complexities of living in Burnaby, BC plant life and all. But it was gone.
And then, for over a month, I was camera-less. Humbled. And I didn’t take a single picture. Nada. It sucked. And I was a grouch. Days passed. Life went on. Decisions were made. Yes, if you want to pick a day that everything changed have a look at March 17, 2003.
Mysteriously, things were mended. Suddenly (with a little support from my at-the-time fiancee), a jaunt back to (tax-free) Alberta for Easter made me the proud owner of a brand-spanking-new Canon PowerShot A70 — and once again I was wandering the mean streets of Vancouver, this time with a vengeance. Actually, with the slight upgrade things got a little crazy. The A40 was a mere toy compared to this beast (or at least that was my evaluation at the time). Canon had spent the year between models refining the fine art of consumer-grade digital cameras from simple point and shoot gadgets to slick and moderately-refined emulators of professional equipment. The differences were subtle, but for a geek-like-me who read and memorized every page of the damn manual, the improvements were magical. Suddenly, I had better control over exposure. There was a simulated aperture, a wider range of ISO, a macro length measured in inches rather than feet, and all blessed with a faster processor and a multi-point focusing system. Not only could I… but I had to learn. It soared. And about then I became the guy with the camera who took half-decent pictures. You know him. He’s been in your face. He’s got a bad image of you in his gallery, somewhere.
Fast forward two years. Click through weddings, walks, trips, tours, experiments, exposures, annoyances and affirmations. We said goodbye to Vancouver. We spent some time traveling. We put a down-payment on a house. Life went on, camera in tow. My photographic world was seen in a completely adequate three-point-two megapixels, and things were good. There is photographic evidence indexed with freakish depth in Google.
But where to from here? Some of you may not recall the exact course of actions that stepped me over the hump of budgetary hurdles into the world of Digital Single Lens Reflex photography. It all started with a lunchtime conversation and co-worker unwittingly recruiting me into some oblong volunteering. Yes, friends, volunteering pays off. Karma plus five. Enter a fortunate mix of the a volunteer job, an eager but somewhat inexperienced staff, a lazy IT contractor, and future-project-manager, Brad. Long-story-short: in cleaning up a mess left by a (fulfilled but) poorly written contract, I “volunteered” to re-build the volunteer database for a major sporting event coming to the city and was (to my (really) surprise) compensated for my time and effort. Thus, payola to Starkware, and a subsequent corporate investment of some media equipment (ie. a Canon Digital Rebel XT, DSLR Camera) for the business — and the A70 (now with over twelve thousand clicks and in ill health from over-use) was replaced. She was tired, and it was time for the next step: serious stuff.
To be continued…