Moments come and go. But some moments hold more weight than others, shaping important parts of who we are. For me, taking pictures is a practice that allows me to better observe myself, others, and the world around me. Recently, I sat down to think about the moments that lead me to photography and how I became obsessed with chasing the light.
Every serious habit has a beginning, and for photographers that is usually an inexpensive camera. This is often the choice for those who want to shoot photos beyond a smart phone’s capability, but still aren’t ready, or can’t afford to invest in more expensive equipment. For me, it was a point and shoot Nikon Coolpix P510.
I really loved my Nikon P510. It wasn’t a “real” camera, but it was a great way to get more serious about photography. I took this camera with me everywhere, including trips across the country and on several visits to Japan. The camera had decent macro and zoom capabilities, and boasted several presets that allowed me to shoot in various color profiles, including a high contrast monochrome setting which produced phenomenal, moody photos.
But I learned very little about the fundamentals every serious photographer should learn, like using manual settings, shooting RAW files, and mastering the exposure triangle. I didn’t have a tripod, flash, or any other fancy equipment photographers enjoy. All I had was my camera, a small bag, and extra batteries, and for my level, that was all I really needed.
Today, I would encourage a beginner to start with an inexpensive camera with interchangeable lenses and to focus on many of the basics I missed out on, but if I’m being perfectly honest, my experience with my Nikon P510 had its advantages. While I wasn’t focused on the technical aspects of photography, I immersed myself in the parts of the art that were accessible. I focused on capturing strong compositions that evoked emotion and told a story.
When I look back on some photos I captured with that camera, I’m still amazed at the quality it produced. I remember thinking that Nikon must have made some mistake and used a higher quality lens than intended. Some images that stand out in my mind were of a monk bowing on the streets of Kyoto, a photo of a young woman used for an anti-human trafficking…