Recalling My First Photography Lesson from My Dad

Two interesting observations when I am overseas: people think that I am a musician when they see me carrying my guitar in a hard case and a photographer when they see my rather gigantic camera that is hard to go unnoticed.  Fortunately, I do have a band and I do have  passion in photography.  And I must say, it is much easier to strike a friendly conversation as an artist than as what I do from 9 to 5.

One common observation my friends made these days – which by the way, I am sure it meant well – is that: So you have picked up photography as your new hobby?

OK, here is where the confusion sets in.  Am I instantly become a photographer when I own one of those state-of-art imaging products?  Or have I been a photographer so far for so passionately taking pictures wherever, whenever I can, and to share them online all these while?

My dad is a great photographer.  His black and white large prints developed with his own hands inside his tiny dark room have won awards before I was born.  Sometimes I wonder what I could be had I inherited his art talents on top of his genes.  Then here came the babies and there went the dark room because my mom was concerned over putting the dark room chemical with our baby food inside the same refrigerator.  I am telling you, babies are bad for hobbies.

Fast forward to my early teen when my dad gave me my first photography lesson.  Even at that young age, I felt a tremendous pressure to be a disciple of such a great master who turns out to be my own dad.  My dad set up his SLR camera on a tripod pointing it to a miniature model of a concert stage (yes, he has other talents too) and asked me to adjust the focus of the lens.  Back then, there was no auto-focus and you had to turn the lens manually to obtain the right focus.

How easy that lesson one would have been but I just couldn’t set the focus.  I had so many attempts that I saw my dad’s face dropped lower and lower and thinking back, what would have gone through his mind?  God gives him such a great gift but his son was a complete retard in photography?

If not for that first lesson in photography, we would not have discovered that I am quite badly short-sighted.  I think my mom must have attempted to resolve this deadlock between the photography master and his disciple by having my eyes examined.  It is good to have a rational mind in the house.  Thank you mom.

Since then, my dad and I have left things as they were.  I did not go beyond lesson one and he did not talk about photography except when he brought up his war stories of how he was chased by the villagers in Hong Kong while he was going after his award winning shots.  How I envy my dad.  To have such great talent and execution.

My first digital camera was bought in the year of 2004.  8,000 shots are made from that day.  I have bought my first dSLR camera less than 2 weeks ago.  And the shutter has clicked more than 2,000 times.  I think in a way, my passion in photography has been around for years.  Now, I have found a better tool to articulate what I wish to capture.

So, what makes me a photographer?  Is it the tool or the passion?  I have no clue.

11 thoughts on “Recalling My First Photography Lesson from My Dad”

  1. I have been to many sites about photography, and read many discussions about this and that camera versus this and that lens. I think ultimately, photography is not about the camera nor the lens, it the about the person behind the tool. If you have a passion, flog it to death, and that will be what you stand for.

  2. Darkspore – I like your definition. By the way, I think I really need to train up my hand muscles and forearm muscles (neck muscles too). Pretty heavy tools we have.

  3. I wished my dad could teach me a thing or two about photography, else I wouldn’t need to wait til my early 30s before owning my first camera. LOL. As for your question … I am damn sure it’s not the tool. Look around local photography forums … you’ll see tons of people flaunting the best and expensive equipments but many of them produce photos that are meant for the Recycle Bin on the desktop. There was once I waltzed into a stadium to cover a S-League match and a (rich) hobbyist looked at me and asked ‘what lens are you using?’. I grinned and later saw him with a big bazooka expensive white lens … and the next day he happily showed me the photos … I almost fainted.

  4. Ndroo – Thanks for dropping by and I think you are right. I hope my pictures won’t make you faint though … ha ha ha … that is one funny encounter you have.

    For many years, I have been sticking with my point-and-shoot and recently my camera phone, then I said to myself: what if I can do something different …

    Anyway, I enjoy dropping by your site. Gives me much inspiration to work on 🙂

  5. Photography is first & foremost passion and the “eye” for photography (for me).

    Your dad had a big influence on your photography today, with his award wining photographs. The passion was passed down to you !!

    Cameras & tools would play a part somehow somewhere, in different situations.

    My dad, uncles and cousin had a big influence on my photography today, I started playing with a Pentax manual film SLR when I was young !


  6. JH – I like the way how you put it. And for the life of me, I could not recall what manual film SLR I was messing around with when I was young! Whatever it was, it was much smaller than the one I am having right now. How strange.

  7. I think our dad would be very happy if he reads this blog. 🙂

    hmmm… seems that our dad passes the similar but different genes to us. You have passion in your professional photography with your Nikon SB-900 while I have ‘passion’ in taking my ‘millions’ of photos with my Canon IXUS 850 IS. HAHA… 😛 The camera is already one of my ‘necessities’ in my handbag! Should go back and count how many photos I have. haha…

    Not sure whether this can be called as ‘talent’ in my case. But I do enjoy taking every happy and special moment in our life. 🙂

  8. Lora – I know! I think we got mom’s genes too on the love in photographs. Maybe that’s why why when our family travels, thousands of shots are taken each trip.

  9. Darkspore – Thanks for the link! I did check it out. Very technical article. Lol. I wonder if the writer uses the Monochrome picture control that comes with the D700 on that study.

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