I’m a voracious student. I don’t want knowledge unless it is useful. I must be learning to do something at all times. I think my husband wondered if I had some neurotic dysfunction as he watched me over our first few years dive into many new learning adventures. I’ve tried all sorts of things, quilting, crochet, needlepoint, knitting, paper crafting, cooking, gardening, sewing, interior design, dog training, parenting, teaching fitness, writing, bicycling, rollerblading, spanish and yoga….and there’s more.
When I decided I was dissatisfied with the photos of my children I realized I ought to learn more about photography. I can almost remember the good photo I was looking at when I understood how bad my own photos were. That was the drive. I wanted endless photos of my children with excellent quality. I had no idea the door in myself I was opening would be such a fun, expensive, rewarding journey.
Back when Kevin was a baby, fifteen years ago, I took this decision to learn to do this new thing, and I first went to the library. I brought home a heavy stack of photography books. And I read them all before I made a decision to approach Craig. I am sure when he saw those books he began to sweat. He has seen that first step many times before.
It was the time of year when a bonus is paid out, and it just happens to coincide with y birthday, so I presented my request. “I’d like to get a SLR camera where I can change lenses so I can learn to make better pictures. (by reading I learned I didn’t just take pictures, I could make pictures and I wanted to do this so badly.) He was a hard sell on this one. “You don’t know anything about using equipment like that.” … “I know, I will learn.” “It would be an expensive mistake if you don’t like it.” … “I will like it.”… time went by… reluctantly he gave me the head nod, and I think ten minutes later I was at the camera store.
Everything was film back then, which made learning so extremely expensive and slow. I brought home my new Nikon N60 SLR with two zoom lenses, a pile of film, and a pile of books only four days before taking a trip to Florida by myself with three little boys to stay with Craig’s parents. I did nothing that week in Florida but practice with my new camera. I would read at night after they went to bed, and then practice during the day, get film developed at the drug store, and review my results. I began to understand how to use light to improve my photos. Photography is so interesting to me because it uses the scientific part of my brain to maneuver the complicated setting of the camera requiring both planning and impulse decision, and it also uses the artistic part of me that can see a capture that others might miss. It uses a lot of my mind at once and that makes sparks fly. And that makes me happy.
I can remember that feeling of intense, satisfying learning because it altered the course of my life. I had been bit by the “shutter bug” and I now had the disease, which I couldn’t possibly be cured from, because once bit, that’s the end of life before the camera.
Once Craig began to have beautiful photos of his boys, well, he rather liked what I was doing. And my learning passion was something I could do to enhance time with my children. As my learning developed and I would get stuck on a problem, I would take some classes. I enjoyed it so much I thought about making it into a job and I worked for a while photographing children and families, I even did a couple weddings. I realized quickly when it becomes work for a picky client who can’t communicate expectations, the fun drains out quickly and it’s a pain in the neck, and for me not worth the time away from my family. I decided to keep it my hobby.
As the years rolled on I upgraded my equipment slowly birthday, by anniversary, by Christmas. And then I switched to a digital body. And I added more lenses. And I began to see that my gift for expressing my artistic eye through my lens was exactly that, a gift. I enjoy giving that perfect photo to someone. It’s such a personal gift that only I could give. A memory to keep of a greatly loved moment is Priceless.
Fifteen years later, my camera is always within arms reach and I consider it my good and faithful friend. The learning never ends, and I’ve picked and chosen my ways of using photography to express myself best. I don’t feel compelled to pursue some of the techniques I have tried. I know what I like and I’m quite comfortable in my abilities with my camera. That’s a good place to be. When I think of a photo I want in my mind, I know how to make it. That’s fun. When I see a photo I like, I know how to recreate it. That’s cool.
Recently, I’m learning to do something new, and I am having significant learner’s déjà vu because only when I was learning photography was I as passionate as I am now about learning to take care of and ride a horse. The technical learning is just as complicated as using a camera, and the personal flair of either getting it or not with the horse is something that can’t be taught and I feel I have it, in the same way I feel I have an eye for a photo op. Maybe I’ve been bit by “the horse fly”. Whatever happened to me, another door has been opened, it led to the barn, and the journey began and I don’t see myself finding the way back.
Craig was equally hesitant about the financial jump into this new adventure, which I don’t blame him, but we both know this thing about me. He has seen me learn many things and he recognizes this passion. It’s both what makes him crazy about me and sigh heavily, look up to the heavens and ask “why me?”. So as soon as he gave the head nod, I was looking for my own horse and he he started looking around like “what just happened here?” One week later Gwinny arrived for a test run at the stables.
When he saw me for the first time with Gwinny, he saw “it”. And the horse books strewn all over the house, the boxes from Dover Saddlery at the front door, the kiss good-bye as I head for the barn while he takes his Sunday afternoon nap, they are all signs that I am more than hooked. The big deal maker is how happy I am when I return home from the barn. Everybody knows, “when mama is happy everyone is happy.” Being at the stables, learning about horses, learning to ride, all of it makes me happy. Having her as a new friend: extremely happy.
And slowly I’m going to lure Craig to the barn so we can both spend time with Gwinny. She has none of the freaky horse behaviors that would deter him. She’s sweet, gentle and submissive. I imagine us taking her out on halter and lead line, hand walking her through the turkey creek woods, talking and catching up on our week. I can see him hanging over the rail while I brush her to a shine. I think he’ll even enjoy giving her the carrot at some point. Maybe some day he will find himself at the barn without thinking, “but the dust on my car…” We’ll see, I’ll draw him to the barn as slowly and patiently as he has been with all of my learning adventures. Somehow we’ll find a good middle and have another long laugh because I dragged him once again into something that turned out to be good for everyone.