A usual story of a passionate photographer would start like this: “When I was small, my grandfather would give me his cherished Nikon, and with glowing eyes I took the first clumsy steps…” It was nothing like this. It is true that somewhere between first and third grade I got a fixed-focus giveaway 35mm camera that came with a free 12-exposure 100 ISO film. And I took pictures. And I liked it. Later, during high school times, the freeby was replaced by a consumer grade auto-focus zoom compact camera that trodded along on school trips and to my exchange term in New Zealand in 2002. I still liked taking pictures, but nothing more.
Then, in 2003, I got my first SLR. At a time when digital SLR were still out of range (inferior to film cameras and hugely expensive) I opted for an entry-level Canon 500N that was on sale. As a matter of fact the brand choice was at random, it could have also happened to be a Nikon, Olympus or Pentax at the time. Slowly, when using this camera the Canon did something to me. Holding a proper SLR gives you a different feel of taking pictures, it renders the whole act more serious. My photography was still point-and-shoot, though. I took the camera on bigger trips and after discovering the limits of a 28-80 lens I also bought a 90-300mm tele lens before going on Safari in Namibia a few years later. Then again, some time passed, during which I might have started thinking of buying a digital SLR, but never acted.
Stop airshow photography or go digital.
The decisive moment was in spring 2006, when I visited Berlin’s aerospace exhibition ILA – did I mention I’m a little aviation enthusiast? I tried to capture the airshow on celluloid, going through six rolls of film – which seemed massive at the time (216 frames!). What I realized was that six rolls of film are not sufficient for that purpose. Since buying and developing even more film was no option for cost reasons, I faced a simple choice: Stop airshow photography or go digital. Months later, in early 2007, I had my very own Canon EOS 400D in my hands.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the turning point in my photography career. I suddenly switched from fully automatic to aperture control, and started taking a lot of pictures. I took the camera to the famous Axalp airshow in Switzerland, to student trips, to skiing trips, to holidays, to parks, to night excursions, to whatever. I was never ashamed of shooting limitless amounts of pictures on a day. Through that I got practice. And through meticulous post-editing in Photoshop and the deletion of bad shots I improved step by step without even noticing. At that point, photography became a serious hobby.
It takes evenings and weekends to run the RAW files through Lightroom, sort them once, twice, three times…
And while I became better at it I felt the geeky need to continuously improve my equipment. I bought proper lenses and shot even more pictures. Later I switched to a full-frame Canon EOS 6D (for the full story on my equipment read here). Today, I return from a two-week backpacking trip with more than 3,500 frames. It takes evenings and weekends to run the RAW files through Lightroom, sort them once, twice, three times, derive picture sets for Facebook, the website and a printed photo book. The process of reducing the 3,500 pictures to a modest set of 200-300 dominates my spare time for a month or two. And while I appreciate the effort involved, I love doing it. People frequently ask me if I wanted to start making money through my photography. I hesitate so far, since the end to make money limits the creative scope – for now it’s just a hobby.