How I Learned Photography

I began with a Kodak Brownie camera when I was 13 years old.  My mom bought the camera for me and also purchased a subscription to Modern Photography magazine.  Three years later when I moved to Montana I joined the photography club in high school. I learned how to roll bulk black and white 35 mm film then.  I wasn’t long until I was  developing negatives, making contact prints, and learning how to make large prints in the high school darkroom. I began to read more about photography.  I picked up library books, read articles in magazines, and began subscribing to photography magazines. During the time I was reading about photography I was also continuing to practice it when I had a camera and the time.

In 1986 I worked in Yellowstone National Park and bought my first 35mm camera outfit. It was a Pentax ME Super, a 50mm lens, a 70-210mm zoom, and an aluminum tripod. I hitchhiked many times that summer in the park with my camera and a cardboard sign that read “Park Employee.” I have many Kodacolor slides from that summer in Yellowstone. I returned to work another summer in 1987 and made many more slides. In 1988 I worked on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, bringing my camera gear. While at the Grand Canyon I sat in on many lectures given by professionals from Kodak at outdoor locations. I also hiked and rode the tour buses as much as I could on my days off of work. I was almost given a ticket by a National Park Ranger for being outside during a fierce storm trying to photograph the lightning. I didn’t get any photos of the lightning, as I did not have the knowledge or the correct equipment.

There were times from 1990 until around 2002 when I did not have a camera, which did not temper or slow my interest and passion in photography.  In 2002 I bought a used 35mm camera from a pawn shop in Spokane and continued my photography.  I have also met and spoke with several photographers over the years I lived in Spokane and Montana.  I learn more by reading and doing, along with some coaching from others who have the knowledge and experience I may not have yet.

Fast forward to 2011 which is when I bought my first DSLR camera with a kit lens. I continue to read as much as I can on photography. I subscribe to four photography magazines (Outdoor Photographer, Shutterbug, Popular Photography, and Rangefinder), read online articles, check out books at the local library, and from time to time buying a book on photography. My skills as a photographer are improving every time I use my camera, as I am looking for new subjects, unique compositions, and much more. In the last year I have bought a professional lens and used it for several events, photographing a model, photographing wildlife and landscapes. My most recent addition to my photography gear has been a muslin background and portable support system, which I have yet to use.
Call to Action: I have many suggestions for photographers of all ages and skill levels. Read and understand your camera manual. That is very important. You have spent the money on the camera you now own. Do your best to know how to use it from that manual. Then for more advanced knowledge read much more, all you can on photography; lenses, cameras, lighting, composition, and photo editing software. Talk with other photographers of all experience levels and ask them many questions. Most photographers enjoy sharing their passion and what they have learned about photography. Practice, practice, and practice even more. Every time you can, you should have your camera with you and shoot anything and everything. You will have some images that did not turn out as well as you had hoped. That is okay, as I have had photographs that did not turn out perfect, great, or to my liking. What did I do? When it was possible, I took the photo again. Now and then I will put the image I am not sure about aside on my computer and work with it later (several times) in the photography software I own. I make adjustments to the RAW file. I try to keep all of those files and then only convert to JPEG when I am well satisfied with how the image looks. (Editing photography will be another blog entry that I will try to not make too complicated or too long.) When in doubt, seek help from other photographers you may know or follow. We may not have all of the answers, though we will do our best to help you and in turn we learn more about photography.

I hope this entry has helped you and rekindled your passion and interest in photography. If you found this blog entry helpful or provoking questions, ideas, comments, or thoughts; please contact and follow me.


About Douglas Wilks Photography

I am an advanced photographer who lives in western Montana. I create a variety of strong images using a DSLR, computer, and digital software. I am available for hire for full time, part time, or projects. Most of my images are of landscapes, still life, and events. I am always looking to improve my skills, network of friends and professionals, and portfolio. I look forward to creating new friends, contacts, and others who are interested in photography.
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