I’ve been fascinated by photography ever since I saw a neighbour’s Polaroid camera in the early 1980s. I’m not sure I understood what I was seeing then, but the idea that you could get a picture immediately stuck with me. Growing up, we had a family camera, but it was rarely used due to the cost of film, processing and the little cube flash blocks it used.

In 1988 or 1989 I asked for a camera for my birthday or for Christmas, what I received was a Hanimex LF 110, a slim black rectangle with a red shutter button and built in flash, that took 110-cartridge film. I remember using it on a school trip to an exhibition about the channel tunnel, I used the flash for almost every photo, and because all the exhibits were behind glass the photos are were washed out with bright glare. I’m not sure what happened to the camera or the photos I took. The camera is long since thrown away, but the photos probably live on in a box somewhere.

Years later, I got another film camera – I can’t remember if I bought it myself or if it was a gift – it was a Kodak camera using the APS film format. I do still have the camera somewhere, I remember moving it out of the way when looking for something else. As I write this, on the shelf above my computer is a APS film cartridge, so the camera can’t be far away. I can’t say I took loads of photos with the this camera, the film was pricy and my local camera shop couldn’t process APS film in-house. I definitely took this camera to Cornwall in 1999 for the Solar Eclipse, I also used it to document some projects at university.

Boscastle Harbour – August 1999

What I really wanted was a camera what could give me immediate results. A family friend had an early digital camera; some very low resolution Fuji camera that took SmartMedia wafers, this was my first experience of digital photography, I had a colour inkjet printer, so I printed several of the friend’s photos for her.

Just after Christmas 2003 I bought a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P32 digital camera. Despite being a basic point and shoot with only 16M of storage, I loved that camera. I used it right though until April 2005, taking ~800 photos with it, many of which I still have.

Lock steps on the regents canal DSC-P32

By April 2005 I’d saved enough to upgrade to a camera with some focus control and optical zoom, I bought a FUJIFILM FinePix S3500. The Sony was sold to a friend. I also started an account on a proto-social-media photo-hosting site called Flickr. I spent rather a lot of time on there in the various groups over the next few years.

The FixePix was a great camera, it was the first I owned that’d some real optical zoom, I could magnify far away things without them turning into a bunch of coloured lego blocks. With this camera I rediscovered my interest in astronomy, I could photograph the moon, but also I could magnify small things, macro photography of insects soon became a passion. I took nearly 2500 photos using the FinePix, and definitely improved as a photographer.

A dragonfly photographed with the FinePix

Around June 2006 I started planning my next upgrade, I wanted more manual control and the ability to switch lenses, I started looking at DSLRs. In those days, blogs were a good source of information and Pixeldiva had started writing about and taking photos with a Nikon D50. I bought a D50. I took over a thousand photos with it in the first two months of owning it. I eventually rolled over the shutter counter, by my estimation I took well over 12,000 photos with this camera.

An insect drinking nectar from a flower. Nikon D50

By 2014 the D50 was showing its age, the battery was not holding a charge and the camera firmware limited the capacity of the SD cards it could use to 2Gb. I upgraded again to a Nikon D7000. I was also using a series of mobile phone cameras as a pocketable convenience over the bulk of the very nice otherwise DSLR. The D7000 is now only just over 7000 on the shutter counter in 9 years, some indication of how much more photography I now do on my phone.

The problem with taking many photos is what to do with them. Prints are expensive. Not all photos are worth printing anyway. I also keep most photos I take, unless they are really terrible – they are an aid memoir. Between various computers and operating systems I’ve used many different programs to manage my photos, unfortunately not all preserved original files and some that I really liked (Aperture on Mac) were discontinued and don’t even run on recent OS releases.

I stopped using Flickr for much around the time they were bought out by Yahoo. Flickr never really made it easy to upload photos from a phone, while google made it very easy to upload to their photo hosting direct from the phone. I kept a pro account on Flickr because I had a lot of photos there and didn’t want to be hit with the new limits they had for basic accounts, I also had a lot of links posted in places to specific photos and albums hosted on Flickr.

I’ve recently started using Flickr again, I’ve spent some time this Christmas break sorting out my photo archives, the digital ones anyway – I still need to track down some prints and negatives – and getting them put on Flickr for safe(-er) keeping. I realise it’s not a true, immutable backup, but it’s good to know I do have copies safe. I could also upload to google photos, and I may yet do that, it’s not like google doesn’t already know everyone about me anyway – I just don’t know if I’m totally comfortable with willingly giving them another umpteen gigabytes of personal data to mine.

Onwards to more photography.

A bird dive-bombing me as I photograph it. Nikon D7000.