My passion for photography has been with me since I was a little boy, even before I could picture it as a career. At first, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, then a cop, then a fireman. Like any other young man in my family, I wanted to be in the military, like my Dad and his Dad and his Dad, and I honestly don't know how many more Dads before them. But the day the recruiter called my house and I told him I was born blind in one eye, all I heard was a click and a dial tone on the other end of the line. I was confronted with the realization that my dreams and aspirations didn’t equal reality, and I needed a paradigm shift. You might argue that what I couldn’t see kept me from a lot of things in life, but then I would argue that it also made me appreciate what I could see.
God's beauty is all around us and in us, and I've made it my life's work to try and capture His handiwork, in creation and in people. I've loved every minute of it.
One hard fact about my line of work is that it's constantly evolving and changing. I learned right from the start that being a photographer is a high-wire balancing act, where you strive to be timeless and true to yourself while also keeping up with the cutting edge. You had to adapt or die.
That's why 20 years ago I bought my first digital camera and told myself I was going to learn this new technology. Most of the old-school photographers hated it, and I'll admit it left a lot to be desired back then. It was clunky and pixelated, the color was horrible, and it just didn't have that connection that you had with the film. There were no chemicals, no dark rooms, and no more magic as you anticipated the moment your idea and all your hard work came to fruition, literally appearing from NOTHING right before your eyes on the photographic paper. Many of you even today have no idea what I'm talking about, but even the smell of that chemical is nostalgic to me. The moment that first happened for me, when my first image appeared, I was hooked. I felt I had created something that was truly a piece of me.
That nostalgia made it hard to move to digital, but I kept plugging away and honing the craft, and after a few years many of the old-school guys were gone. The world had trudged on, many were left behind, and digital photography ran it all. Today we can't even imagine a world without a camera in our pocket, on our phones.
A few years ago I had a creative vision, an idea to capture my favorite tree in Summer and in Winter, at the apex of its most vivid and fresh moment to the dead of winter in perfect hibernation, where it was a fight just to survive the bitter cold.
It took me a year of planning, days and days of checking in with the scene. The timing alone was a labor of love, planning to capture the perfect storm at sunset, capturing all of that at the most vivid, colorful moment possible with leaves so green you could almost smell the freshness. Then I had to wait for that ice-cold winter day with no wind, whereas in South Dakota if you live around here, you know how hard that is. I needed a foggy overnight where the dew point would leave the snow frosted on the branches. I needed a deep blue sky where that snow would contrast heavily, a truly rare day indeed.
It took skill and talent and patience and so many other pieces to bring the puzzle together, but in the end, it was exactly what I envisioned and so much more. In some way it described me, I saw myself in this perfect dichotomy, and this piece of art became a piece of me.
Now here I am today, learning AI, and I created this image which is much the same, IN 5 MINUTES.
I described the same vision, using words, and AI took that vision and made something appear, where before there was nothing. I felt that same magical feeling, only repackaged in a new way.
How fast our world is changing!
I’m not sure I’m ready, but I imagine I will either adapt or die.