The best thing so far

At first, I was going to write that the best thing to happen to me since I began to take a more serious interest in photography was a recent encounter with a stranger who mistook me for a photographer.

But really, after thinking about it, I realized that the best thing to happen to me since I began to take a more serious interest in photography was a recent encounter with a stranger who wanted to talk with me about photography!

I had gone to a local reservoir on a recent cold, raw, damp and gloomy, gray Sunday late afternoon. Not the greatest day to go out shooting, nothing seemed especially picture-worthy about the weather, but I needed to take some landscapes for my photo class the next day, and the weather all week had been worse–rain, sleet, snow, cold, windy, heavily overcast. I had to get in some shooting before the class, even if conditions for great–or even good–photos weren’t promising.

Druid Hill Reservoir, Baltimore

Druid Hill Reservoir, Baltimore

I ended up with lots of photos, taken from different locations and focused on different areas, but nothing I was excited about. Gray sky, gray water, bare brown trees in the distance, brown grass, some geese, also in the distance. But the photos would have to do unless a photogenic landscape suddenly materialized between then and the next morning’s class. At least I had something to work on in class, even if it wasn’t an especially good something.

On nice, sunny Sunday afternoons, a steady stream of walkers, joggers, and cyclists would be on the trail around the reservoir. Today, the only people I saw on the trail during the time I spent shooting there were two women walkers, followed after a large gap by a lone man walking. But off the trail, near where I’d parked my car, a small group of men had been steering a large, remote controlled truck on a grassy hill when I arrived. As I walked to my car, I saw they’d all gone except one man who seemed to be waiting for me. And he wanted to talk to me about my camera and photography.

None of my family or friends are particularly interested in photography, and when I babble on about the good, the bad, and the ugly of my photography obsession, they may listen politely–for a while. But the conversations are one-sided, with me doing all the talking, and, ahem, I’m beginning to suspect that I’m boring them a bit terribly.

The stranger said, “I noticed you taking photographs.” He wanted to talk about cameras and how to start taking photos with the expensive DSLR–his first camera–he’d bought over a year before, but had never used, even once, because it was so baffling and intimidating.

He thought the DVDs that came with the camera would have helpful videos to help him get started, but “all they had were words about parts of the camera.” Yeah, user manuals tend not to be real helpful to a complete beginner, I know.

I told him I was just learning to take photos myself and wasn’t far advanced. But I told him about instructional YouTube videos, and photography websites with how-to videos. I told him about the local camera club and photography meetups and how to find one. We talked about non-credit courses at one of the area community colleges. And I suggested that he  borrow some photography books from the library. Not only instructional books, but books of photographs so he could see what was possible.

I encouraged him to get his camera out, put the batteries and memory card in, set the camera on “auto” and start shooting until he learned more, because shooting on auto had to be better than letting his expensive camera sit unused. Or better, experiment taking photos with the different shooting modes and camera settings to see what he’d get. What did he have to lose? One of the nice things about digital cameras is that when you’ve taken bad photos you can just delete, delete, delete.

I talked about what I’ve learned so far, how challenging I found photography, and how much I loved taking photos.

We talked for quite a while despite the unpleasant weather, and I enjoyed every minute talking to someone who wanted to talk with me about photography. An unexpected, rare, and delightful experience.

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