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10 Years of Photography: Part One - Beginnings

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

This Black-capped Chickadee came to feed on a peanut butter pine cone on my photography decennial.


Yesterday was a significant anniversary.

September 8th, 2019 marked the ten-year anniversary of my photography passion.

This past decade has been quite the adventure. I have gone through four different cameras and taken over 200,000 photos. In the process, my photography has evolved dramatically.



This is my first photo. I captured this blurry, terribly-composed shot of a California Scrub-Jay on September 8th, 2009.

Like all things, my passion started out small. I was given my first camera, the Canon PowerShot S50, when I was nine, and at first I used it casually to take snapshots.

Me at age 10, holding the Canon PowerShot S50. Today, I fondly refer to this as "the brick camera".

Gradually, though, I began to take photos more intentionally. I sought out opportunities to capture any plant, insect, or bird I saw on camera. The birds that dwelled in my Southwest Portland yard were rather tame creatures. They became even more docile when I set up birdfeeders. The birds were so comfortable that they let me approach until I was only a few feet away! As a result, I was able to capture frame-filling shots with only a 3x zoom.

Below are some of my best photos from 2009.

The individual pixels are nearly visible in these pictures. While experimenting with the brick camera's settings, I somehow set the image quality to 0.3 megapixels - bare bones resolution.

Once, my experimentation turned to tragedy (in my nine-year-old mind). After taking what I thought were spectacular pictures of Anna's Hummingbirds and American Robins, I clicked through my camera's settings and selected "Format." After this, I went to look at my photos again. They had vanished without a trace.


In April 2010, I used the camcorder to capture this shot of Tufted Puffins at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

By 2010, I was using the brick camera in conjunction with the Sony HDR-HC5 camcorder. Although the camcorder was better, its four-megapixel image resolution was still a far cry from the quality I desired. I was loving photography, but the more pictures I took, the less satisfied I was with the quality I was getting from the PowerShot and the aging camcorder.

After doing some research, I picked a new camera, and received it from my parents in Christmas of 2010. It was the Olympus SP-600UZ, and although it was still a point and shoot, it was a giant leap up in terms of image quality and features for me. This camera featured a 12-megapixel sensor and a 15x zoom! I became enthralled with photography even more than I had before and took picture, after picture, after picture!

While I snapped away, the tame backyard birds became even tamer. Before long, I was able to feed them from my hand! With practice, I learned to hold my camera in my right hand while chickadees and nuthatches (like the female Red-breasted Nuthatch above) landed on my left hand.

Above is a self-portrait I took with the Olympus camera that December. The first pictures I captured with this camera were not particularly impressive, since I was just beginning to familiarize myself with the settings as 2010 came to a close.


In October 2011, I captured this photo of a female Anna's Hummingbird hovering over flowers in my Portland yard.

The year 2011 was the year I focused on photographing birds in flight. I would set my camera up on a tiny tripod on my desk and wait for birds to fly to the feeder. With the camera focused on the birdfeeder, I held the shutter button down and froze the birds' wings as they hurried to stuff themselves with seeds and suet. At the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, the Raptors of the Desert Sky show also provided great opportunities for capturing birds on the wing.

The results were extremely exciting, despite the poor image quality of the rapid-fire setting on my Olympus. From that point on, capturing birds on the wing became my favorite photography challenge. I even took an award-winning photo of birds in flight (BIF) with my new camera in 2011. The photo below won second place in the youth division of the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Photo Contest.

In January 2011, I captured this shot of Cackling Geese in a flapping frenzy at Commonwealth Lake Park.

Standing in front of my photo at the awards ceremony.

For now, I was greatly enjoying all of the features this advanced point-and-shoot had to offer. I felt like a true photographer!


This Manzanita flock of Western Sandpipers flew haphazardly around me in April 2012.

As 2012 dawned, I continued my BIF photography. I also began to consciously make more creative compositions. That summer, I was notified that one of my pictures, a shot of yellow pond lilies (see in slider below), had won in the Get to Know Contest. This photo was featured in the 2013 Get to Know Contest calendar. The big prize, however, was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, Canada. The park was beautiful, the people were friendly, and the wildlife were endless. This trip was a wonderful experience I will never forget!

While the year marched by however, I started to feel uneasy about my camera's capabilities. I'd been doing some reading about DSLRs, and I began to desire the ability to control the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings of my camera. Buying a DSLR seemed prohibitively expensive though; an unrealistic dream for a twelve-year-old. But I was determined. By Black Friday, I was paging through newspaper ads for the electronics departments of Best Buy, Fred Meyer, and other businesses. Although I couldn't get it at Christmas, I would find a way to buy my DSLR!

The promise of the perfect camera was on the horizon!

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