Pokemon Snap! It was a ‘90s-era Nintendo game that allowed players to take pictures of Pokemon characters from the vantage point of a moving railcar. Photos were judged after each level, and, when I played the video game as a kid, I always scored high. But it wasn’t points I was after. It was the opportunity to be the master of my own vision and to share with family and friends the result of my developing photographer’s eye.
Little did I know a flame was lit. But it was one that would be ignored for quite some time.
After the age of 12, I became fixated on skateboarding. I pursued it vigorously with a one track mind and was fortunate enough to pick up a few sponsors from different companies. And then, at 21, I had to have surgery because of it. I needed, at this point, an outlet to express myself while slowly healing. I had a mountain of passion bottled up and waiting to be expressed, so naturally I did what every broken skateboarder would do. I turned to my Blackberry 8900 Curve.
The phone was crap, but the camera was the real selling point. I captured everything, and thought that everything that wasn’t my own image wasn’t worth paying attention to. That is, until I met Ansel Adams.
Adams was a brilliant photographer who captured time in season; a landscape photographer who made images of national park landscapes look so filled with life that they’ll continue living forever. Though Adams died in 1984, I can assure you we met in the summer of 2009, in the place where some of his most famous work stems.
Every July, my church attends a conference at Yosemite Valley. In the Village, there’s a gallery dedicated to Ansel Adams’ legacy as an artist. Someone recommended I see the gallery, and, upon viewing it for the first time, I can only say that it hurt to see his work. I actually, physically felt pain. Not the kind that bruises skin, because in time that type of hurt heals. This was different. The pain I felt was like the hard realization I came to as a kid that I couldn’t win a fight with my older brother. He was too strong for me, too good. Ansel’s work compared to mine was like comparing my older brother to a younger me. And I knew he had me beat.
I felt small then when I started this photographic journey, and still do when comparing my work to Ansel Adams. His work is inspiring and motivating, not only for me but also for the world. I entered a race that day I saw his gallery, and my every intention was to run to win. So I mustered myself off of the floor, because I knew I had a lot of ground to catch up.
In that same year, school began and I purchased new equipment. Canon was the wand I chose and the Art Institute of California was my Hogwarts. I grew in my camera knowledge over time and, since then, I’ve developed my eyes to see things the way I hope Adams might have seen them himself. I feel that photography as a medium of art is one that God allows us use to stop time and look into a subject we had no part in creating.
Adams said, “Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” As a believer in the Christian faith, I hold fast to what Psalm 95 states that “in His hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, and He made it: and His hands formed the dry land.”
In the end, this is all God’s creation. I just hope as my photographic journey continues that I’m able to better capture the vast world out there waiting to be shown. And until I’m told either by God or my peers, I won’t stop besting myself until Adams is bested by me.
Until then, I consider myself to be in chase of Ansel.