I didn’t copy much my mom did, but one thing she did do that fascinated me was her photography. She was a very accomplished photographer, having taught herself how to use a Nikon manually long before there were such things as digital photography. She knew about f-stops and apertures, and all the things photographers know about and I wanted to know them too. I will preface this by saying that I still don’t use those things, because my digital camera has pretty much made them obsolete. I still wish I knew though. I read all the instructions in the book that came with the camera, and it covered those things, but applying them to the actual camera is not intuitive.
Mom took great pictures, with one exception. She always sucked at photographing people, because she always made them put on makeup and pose, with big fake smiles on everybody’s faces. That is a recipe for human photography suckitude. I always vowed that when I took pictures of my own, they would be spontaneous and unposed. I kept that promise, which is why my pictures of people are so much better than hers are. She does the most amazing nature photography, however. She has an instinctive feel for lighting, color, and positioning items in the photo so that they lead the eye in and around in a way that is somehow meant to be.
I started on my first camera when I was somewhere under twelve. A magazine I subscribed to had instructions on making a pinhole camera, which I carefully followed. It was nearly finished when Christmas came, but someone had taken pity on me, watching all my hard work, and had bought me a real camera of my own. Good old Santa! It was a Kodak Instamatic -I bet some of you remember those. I took many many pictures with that camera. They were none of them great, because I understood nothing about composition, but some of them still remain in some stained old picture albums I have.
I bought myself a Polaroid some years later, and of course had big fun with that because of the instant gratification. I kept that for years and took pictures of my friends doing crazy things, a good few of which I still have. I didn’t get my first good camera until I finished residency. And it was actually a gift. I was about to buy one myself, but Christmas came, and good old Santa came in the form of an attorney I was dating at the time. He got me a Canon digital and I was thrilled to death. I immediately began to take better pictures. They were better because I could take hundreds of them and immediately look at the results. They were better because I could delete the not good ones. I had two small dogs at the time and took hundreds of photos of them doing various doggie things. The one thing I learned about photography from people who are good at it is CLOSER. The picture will always be better the closer you get to your subject. This is almost universally true. If you fill the screen with your subject, or even a part of it the picture will always be better than if it appears far away and is filled with other distracting objects which have nothing to do with the picture. Or ugly things like socks on the rug behind your subject. I had that camera about ten years and I loved it dearly. Then one Christmas, we bought Mom a new camera, her first digital. After doing all the research on it, I decided I wanted one for Christmas too. It was a Nikon and it came with interchangeable lenses, which was my next goal.
That camera has been with me ever since. I take pictures of everything. I have gotten some very lucky shots, some of which I am enclosing in this blog piece. I love to photograph my daughter, with her grandparents, with her father, alone – all candid shots. I hardly ever ask her to pose and when I do, I am usually aiming for something silly, because I will get it. I love to photograph nature, especially animals and plants. I enjoy water too. I really enjoy being an amateur photographer, and it gives me something to do with myself when we travel. The other important thing about having a camera is that you can control which pictures you appear in. As I have gotten older I have realized that age has not been kind to me, at least I think not, and I have put on a good bit of weight which I desperately want to get off. I do not want pictures of me with it on me. So I am on the business end of the camera, wielding it at everything else. I very much enjoy posting photos on facebook, too; I enjoy sharing with friends and family. I love the camera I have, and the next thing I want is a macro lens, since I love taking closeup pictures. Maybe Santa will bless me this year too!
If you would like to see some more of my photos, please check out my photo site at http://carahoffman.wix.com/cara-hoffman-photography