A Photographer Learns
I was on the edge of a cliff nearly at the end of New Jersey. To my right was the New York City skyline of 1981 when the Empire State Building dominated the center and the Twin Towers still stood. To my left was the majestic span of the George Washington Bridge. That’s what I’d come for. I was there to take a long exposure image of the bridge at dusk.
I had been more than a casual lover of photography for a few years. A pretty slightly used Nikon FM that I bought had deepened my love. I had her loaded with Fuji Chrome 100 ISO film. I had her set on the tripod for awhile, but now dusk was nearing. I attached the release cord, closed my aperture to F22, and framed my shot. I had calculated the exposure using a method I no longer remember. What I do remember was how sure of myself I was.
I had walked about 6 miles from my town of Ridgefield NJ to be on that cliff to take that long exposure of the GW at dusk. I stood on that cliff for more than an hour waiting for the light to be right. And all the while I felt this sense of calm joy.
When you’re 17 you start asking yourself, “What am I going to do with my life?” That’s the question I’d been asking myself. The answer was about to find me.
With the light right, I rechecked my composition and settings and released the shutter. The shutter was open only a few seconds when a service truck began driving across the bridge. As I watched its flashing lights I knew how those lights would appear in my image. At F22, those flashing lights would create stars evenly spaced across the bridge. I knew how the camera would see the light. That is the moment that I knew that I was a photographer. In that moment I decided that I was going to be not just a photographer, but a photographer in New York City.
It is now 37 years later and I am a photographer in New York City. I have a penthouse photography studio in midtown with 5 levels of rooftops that gives me all of Manhattan as a background. I’ve made it to the place I dreamed all those years ago, but this is not the end of the journey. I need to keep moving forward or it will all end. The technology is improving at faster and faster rates. I have to keep up. And I need to dream of where I want to go.
Which is why I’ve decided to go back to the start.
In this blog I”m going to write out everything I’ve learned. I hope to find patterns. I hope to remember some things I’ve learned and since forgotten. I’m looking for answers to questions I can’t even articulate. I hope to find my vision for my future by recalling my journey to the present.
If you are a photographer, either at the beginning or further along, come along with me. I believe there are life lessons in knowing what a photographer learns.