When people ask me where and when photography started for me, the answer has pretty much been in the early 2000’s I started to hike and spend a lot more time outdoors and it progressed from there. My interest in photography grew with the connection and desire to produce meaningful and higher quality work with the places I visited. A similar story told by many of us. At the very start was a 1.3-megapixel Kodak easyshare digital camera. I was out there clicking around with unbound enthusiasm for an output of a 1 mp grainy image. Funny thinking about now it as these days it’s too easy to get caught up debating how much “better” the latest 30 mp camera is over the prior 26 mp model.
When I really think about it my interest in photography truly came much earlier, it just took decades to take hold. Rewinding to before digital cameras were mainstream even at ultra-low crappy resolutions, the seeds were being planted yet I didn’t really connect the dots until years later. Looking back there were many events and indicators well before the first purchase of a DSLR that my chances of taking up photography were more likely than not.
Below illustrates what a difference 15 years, improved skills, and the different camera can make. Both taken very close to the same spot on the Oregon Coast. The first image can’t get any larger since that is the output file from the 1.3 mp camera!
As a kid, I remember in the mid to late 80’s that mom bought a Minolta Maxxum SLR. I believe it was the 7000 which was the first SLR with integrated auto-focus. Yet as a kid it might as well have been the cockpit of an airplane with how many buttons it had. I stayed away from it out of fear of pressing a button that might waste a photo on the roll, or worse eject the roll altogether. My mom took this camera everywhere and many photos from my childhood came from it. At a time when the average person did not tote around an SLR, my mom did and knew how to use it.
During this same time period, I was in elementary school. My last part of the 5th grade school year focused on learning a state and writing a comprehensive report about it. When I say write, I mean write. In cursive. No typing. Do kids even learn cursive today? Not that I have seen. I chose Arizona, a place I had never been yet looked amazing to me. While I have thrown away almost every school project from my youth, this one I kept for a few reasons. Looking at it now, it makes sense. Almost all the images I chose to for this report are landscape photos, one even from David Muench. I was starting to show my interest in the outdoors.
The actual cover of my Arizona report from elementary school.
Back to my mom. Besides taking photos she also had an interest in photography books. Some of them of nature and landscapes. There was a book from Steve Terrill, “Oregon – Images of the Landscape”, that Steve had signed for her. This and other coffee table photo books lived in my house while growing up. I remember going through them thinking they were neat but not saying anything like I want to do that when I am older. Steve Terrill very recently passed away and while I never met him personally, I have this signed book that my mom bought from him almost 30 years ago. She gave me the book in late December 2020 when I had not gone through it for close to 2 decades at that point. I was going through it being inspired again only to hear of his passing days later. Thanks to my mom for having books like this around and to Steve for the beautiful inspiring work you leave behind.
The actual signed book that my mom passed on to me.
Moving up to Junior High School I started to think photography might be fun as an elective. I signed up and took one semester where I had my one and only experience developing in a darkroom. As I type this, I can still smell the chemicals and see the red light on the wall. To anyone that has never had the experience of developing a photo in the darkroom, you are missing out. While it’s a rare novelty these days, if the opportunity arises, I suggest giving it a go. It certainly gives a more comprehensive perspective to what the process was before the instant photos of today. Yet even this was not enough to launch me full throttle into photography. Teenage life took over.
In my early 20’s I would carry a film point and shoot around. Normally it would stay in the glove box of my car to have it handy. Somewhat like the camera in our pocket today although not nearly at the ready as our phones are. While it did not get a ton of use this was certainly the beginning of capturing photos for me and just before that Kodak 1.3 mp camera I started this story out with. Would photography have taken a secure hold in my life if digital didn’t come about? I will never know yet I do know all these events where I was exposed to photographs and cameras played a roll. I mean role.
My youngest a few years ago as we spend a day outside hiking and photographing.
While it’s a different world now I have pondered this potential path with my own kids. Their interest in photography coming and going like any normal kid. I think to myself will they someday take a long-term interest in photography, or other art, and look back at the seeds planted around them by my wife and me? Only time will tell.
Location: Portland, OR
Adrian Klein has a passion for the outdoors and landscape photography that is endless. He has traveled the parks, shorelines and wilderness capturing images that represent each area through his own artistic eye from the curbs to the far off trails.