27 Years of Progress in Photography :)

On ClickinMoms members often post “My Progress in 1 Year” or a similar time period and I look at the photos in amazement, feeling like a slow learner.  In other threads, where amateur photographers lament that their photos are no good, more experienced photographers reassure them and remind us not to compare ourselves with others but only to ourselves.  So I’ve decided to do that.  And I’m going to go way back and find the oldest photo I’m pretty sure was taken by me.  And then I will pick several more from decades in which I have been using a camera and compare them.

I think this one of my siblings and my cats was taken by me because there is another shot with me in the photo but not one of my siblings, like we traded places and the camera changed hands.  I vaguely remember the occasion too.  It was sometime after we received stuffed animals wearing sweaters for Christmas, and we put the sweaters on our cats, Princess aka Prinny and Charlie.  I’m estimating it was 1985 or 1986.  Don’t ask me what camera it was.  I have no idea! LOL  It looks like there are focus issues, but I got in nice and close and the composition isn’t too bad!

Here’s one of my earliest landscapes.  It’s the Lone Cypress in Monterey, California.  My husband and I drove through here on our way down the coast for our honeymoon in 1996.  I guess it breaks the rule of thirds, but this was a favorite of mine.  I liked it better than the postcards I’d seen.  By this time I was definitely a shutterbug, but I still can’t tell you much about my camera other than that it was a 35mm point and shoot.  Sorry I only have this small version digitally.  Someday I intend to scan some or all of my old photos.

In the early years of our marriage, we often got together with friends to play board games.  Here we are playing Star Wars Monopoly.  I like the composition.  I think I must not have had a good scanner when I scanned it years ago though.

In 2000 we moved from California to Virginia. Just before moving, I took my first photowalk and shot about a dozen pictures of the town we had lived in for four years, Glendale.  I didn’t call it a photowalk then.  I had no aspirations of becoming a fabulous photographer yet.  I was just passionate about recording visual memories.

In 2001, guess what became my favorite subject!  I must say, though, that this is actually a still shot taken from a camcorder tape.  I recorded a lot of video with that old camcorder and every time I would grab still shots like this.  I did take a lot of photos of my first baby with my 35mm point and shoot camera, but those are in albums; few are scanned and available on my computer.

I had to scroll through my files quite some time to figure out when I got my first point and shoot digital camera.  I knew it was in the year before Caroline was born, and it turns out it was November 2002.  Perhaps it was an early 31st birthday gift from my husband to me.  However, the first photos taken with that Sony Cybershot are a few of me sitting at my desk with Rhiannon climbing on me, dated November 17, 2002, obviously taken by my husband.  The next set are dated on my birthday, all taken by my husband.  And then finally I used the camera on the 23rd to photograph Rhiannon in a new poncho and again with a pile of books.

I continued for eight years taking digital point and shoot photos.  I was busy taking care of my babies and recording their early years. My method was to take about a dozen of any one scene and usually one of them turned out great.  My aspirations to become a fabulous photographer grew very slowly toward the end of these years.  Here are my daughters in the middle of 2004 in an interesting action shot, as they are about to “race” across the room.

Near the end of 2006, Baby #3 had arrived, and I was starting to try to be more artistic about my photos.

Jumping ahead to 2009 . . . Look!  I found another shot of Ian holding my hand.  😀  I remember one of the things I loved about my Sony Cybershots (I had two of them in the eight years before I got my DSLR) is that I could easily point the camera anywhere with one hand.  For instance, I’m holding the camera down low, in front of me, and turned around to take the following photo.  I was a little hesitant about losing that ease when I was considering moving up to a DSLR.  Now, however, I have a live view function on my camera, but I prefer to look through the viewfinder.

By the way, 2009 is also when I began doing Project 365.  For the first two years my goal was simply to record memories though.  Last year I actually did a bad job of the project, though I was starting to realize the benefits of it for improving my photography.  But this year my most important purpose in doing Project 365 is to practice photography as often as I can.  I have been more consistent about taking daily photos this year than ever before, yet I think I have taken less photos over all this year compared to 2009 and earlier.  I think more before I shoot than I used to, and don’t usually take a lot pictures of the same scene anymore.

In 2009 and 2010 I began getting serious about photography. First I enrolled in a photography class at ScrapGirls, a digital scrapbooking website, where I also took a design class that also helped me with photography.  In the photography class, I learned about the exposure triangle, but I mostly focused on composition, since I didn’t have much control over shutter speed, aperture, and ISO with my point and shoot.  I could adjust the white balance though.  Here’s my first white balance assignment.  It was at a scrapbooking site, so of course I made scrapbook pages for all the assignments!

In spring 2010 I discovered CreativeLIVE and watched John Greengo’s Fundamentals of Digital Photography.  I loved his humor and teaching methods and ended up buying the class. I credit him with making the exposure triangle clear to me, and his class fueled my growing desire to upgrade my camera.

In June 2010 my Sony Cybershot died.  It might have been caused by my daughter’s carelessness, but I wasn’t mad because I’d been wishing I could get a DSLR for months.  😉   I had already been researching and after one more very long session at Best Buy I became an excited owner of the Canon Rebel T1i.  Here is one of the first photos I took with it.  I don’t know whether I was in automatic or aperture priority, but I did note in the caption in the metadata that I did a focus-recompose.

I didn’t spent much time on the automatic settings. I decided right away that I didn’t pay hundreds of dollars on a camera just to let it decide all the settings.  But I didn’t jump into manual either.  I figured out how to use the priority modes and spent the first year and several months mostly shooting aperture priority.  Sometime in mid-2010 a friend told me about ClickinMoms and I subscribed to their newsletter, but I didn’t feel ready to become a member (it’s expensive) until Black Friday when they offered Lifetime membership at 40% off.

Unfortunately, I was intimidated by what I saw on ClickinMoms, uncertain what I wanted to do with photography, and I didn’t spend much time there in my first 9 months.  I decided I could scrap 4 hire more immediately and I got that started.  I also began working for designers and digiscrap stores.  My Project 365 was very sporadic.  However, I did join a couple of local photography clubs in 2011 and bothered the more experienced photographers with questions every time we got together. 😉  One of my photography club meetups was at the Renaissance Faire where I took this.  Aperture Priority f/4 ISO100

Late last summer I remembered that I want to be a fabulous photographer and I began visiting ClickinMoms frequently and reading photography blogs and websites.  I bought Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson and read other photography books.  I took a 10 week class on photo composition at BigPictureClasses.com which was inspiring.  Best of all, I got a bit of feedback on my photos.  In one assignment, we photographed objects arranged in a way that tells a story and makes them seem to interact.

For Christmas 2011 all I wanted was a 50mm 1.8 and I got it.  In January I finally switched over to manual for good.  I had tried it several times over the first 18 months of owning the camera but kept going back to the easier priority modes.  But somehow it finally clicked last January and now I shoot manual about 95% of the time.  Probably my next most used setting now is automatic/no flash, for when I just want to quickly grab a photo.  Here’s one of my first manual shots that made me happy.

I have spent the first half of this year focused on photography before scrapbooking, unlike last year, and feel I’ve made good progress.  I took Shooting 101 at ClickinMoms in May and that cleared up some metering issues for me.

Here’s one of my favorite photos from May.  f/2.5 1/100sec ISO400

Well, looking at it this way, I really can see progress!  Next step, in August I’m taking Natural Light 101 at ClickinMoms. I will continue to partake in CreativeLIVE offerings as well, and I will participate more in the critique forum at ClickinMoms.  I still don’t know if I want to go into business, but I’m sure I want to keep working on being a fabulous photographer. 🙂



  1. Thanks for sharing your memories and your process. I am still in the take lots of photos and delete stage, and you are inspiring.


  2. Thanks Heather! I delete a lot of photos too. I may not have deleted any several years ago. I couldn’t bear to delete any photo of my kids unless it was entirely too blurry to make out. I even kept the photos the kids snapped of the ceiling fan, their toys, themselves blurry in the mirror, . . . LOL We got a waterproof shockproof (I hope) point and shoot camera last week at the Ritz going out of business sale and Ian took his first photos of the ceiling fan and a Lego instruction booklet. My kids can load their pictures to their own computers now though.


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