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My Story

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Copyright 2005 Andy Richards

I have been making photographs for over 40 years.   An Estate Planning and Business Attorney by profession, photography is my passion.  I shoot primarily outdoor, nature, “travel” subjects.   I use digital editing software liberally to enhance my photographic vision.   These days, I split my time between Michigan and Florida, but take every chance I can to travel to other places to photograph.  My Photographic Images can be seen at LightCentric Photography.  Please visit my site and I hope you enjoy the photography.

Beginnings . . .

In 1977, I attended a small, rural college in Vermont for a year.  One of my favorite professors was a talented and avid photographer who is often published in such sought after venues as Vermont Life Magazine. I was living in one of nature’s premiere natural “studios” and my interest in the camera and photography was kindled.

There was a lot of “shoot and hope” involved

Armed with my dad’s Asahiflex 35 mm camera with 55 and 135 screw-mount lenses, an assortment of filters, a General Electric hand held light meter, and some Kodachrome 25 film (which, for those old enough to remember, was measured, not in ISO, but ASA), I began my photographic journey.  Early results were ugly, but this equipment was probably the best tool I could have stumbled on for learning the “mechanics” of photography. This camera was made prior to the Pentax Spotmatic and all its “progeny.” The lens had a ring that you turned wide open so you could see to compose and focus. Then, you turned it back down against the “stop” (I have always thought this is why they are referred to as f- “stops“).  If you forgot, you got nice, clear (as in wholly transparent) slides. When I purchased my first “automatic” camera (the only thing automatic about them was that they stopped down automatically when you tripped the shutter – oh, and they also had a built-in light meter), I appreciated something technology had done for us, that most of us now take for granted.

I also quickly learned that color transparency film was a very “unforgiving” medium. But that was a good thing, because it taught me how critical correct exposure is. There was just enough “forgiveness” in negative film that you could be sloppy with exposure, and possibly never realize it. Not with transparency film. If I were teaching a serious new photographer today, I would want them to start with an all manual camera and transparency film (assuming I could find some 🙂 ), just so they could see and appreciate this aspect of photography.

He asked me if I wanted him to say nice things; or if I wanted an honest critique?

At the same time, I began to learn a little something about composition, and perhaps more importantly, the outlook that however “good” the photographic result is, there is always something that can be done to make it “better.” When I finally got a couple slides I was really happy with, I proudly took them in to my “professor-mentor” to share my “success” with him. His comment is something that I have never forgotten and I try to use the same philosophy whenever I ask someone to critically review my work and whenever I review the work of others.  He asked me if I wanted him to say nice things, or if I wanted an honest critique?  I learned something important about photography (and indeed, life) in that moment.  Excellence in any endeavor requires that you have no “pride in authorship.”  Everything you do should be subject to constructive critique and you must be willing to have an open mind. This doesn’t mean that you always have to agree with the critique. That’s the beauty of art. We all have different likes and dislikes.  But it does mean you must be open and willing to listen, and perhaps more importantly, learn.

I learned something important about photography in that moment

Moving On . . .

In 1980 and 1981, I was a “staff” photographer for my College Newspaper and College Yearbook.  The best part of that experience was the time I was able to spend in the darkroom. I learned much about exposure there — both in the camera, and later, in the darkroom. My darkroom experience was limited to B&W.  For years afterward, I dreamed of the day I would have my own color darkroom. Little did I know that when that day finally came around, my color darkroom would be digital and carried around in a briefcase!

From 1981 to 1984, I attended Law School in Washington, D.C., and for most of that time, the cameras were sophisticated door stops.  I got married soon after graduating from law school, and my wife and I spent the next 10 years or so, trying to get traction in our careers, raising two children, and making “home improvements.” The cameras, unfortunately, mostly collected dust in the basement over those years.

I  didn’t understand why a metered photo of a silver-roofed barn on a bright, snowy, sunny day came out underexposed!

New Beginnings

In the early 1990’s, the spirit re-awakened, and it was time for something “new.”  I bought my first “auto-everything” SLR, a Nikon N6006, and began anew my self-study in photography. Almost twenty years prior, I had started my journey into “serious” photography.  During that time, I picked up a little knowledge here and a little there, and was able create some reasonably nice photographs.  But there was a lot of “shoot and hope” involved.  While I understood the basic relationship of f-stops and shutter speed and ISO speeds of film, I really didn’t understand how it worked. I wasn’t familiar with things like “exposure latitude.” I truly didn’t understand depth of field, and the concept of hyperfocal distance was a new discovery.  Other than the old, hackneyed idea of “keep the sun over your shoulder,” I didn’t really understand the concept of lighting. While many of my exposures were reasonably good, I really didn’t understand why my shot, for example, of a silver barn on a sunny, snowy day in Vermont came out underexposed! There was certainly plenty of sunlight. Using resource materials like the Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure,” John Shaw’s Books on Landscape and Nature Photography, books by Arthur Morris and Larry West, and materials from the New York Institute of Photography, I began to learn the basic fundamentals of photography in a much more technical way.  I also read books by Ansel Adams and began to see some of the nuances of exposure. These resources taught me about the benefit of early and late day light, and about the direction of light and how it affects the textures and colors in a photograph. They taught me the benefit of using flash (who would ever think that one of the most effective uses of flash is in broad daylight, often in bright, sunny conditions?).  They taught me techniques to isolate my subject and ways to insure that the important parts of the photograph were properly exposed.  Most of the work on this website (for a number of reasons) comes from this later “era” of photography. I did have some “successes” in prior years and some of those may appear here in the future as I find the time and inclination to work them into my “digital darkroom” workflow.

The Cameras unfortunately mostly collected dust in the basement during those years

The Digital Age . . .

In the early 1990s, along with every other consumer and most serious photographers, I became aware of  digital media.  I still could not justify the expense of a “darkroom.” At the same time, the “personal computer revolution” was in full swing and both my wife and I used them daily in our careers.  Digital bodies cost several thousand dollars at that time.  At first, Kodak was the company marketing and selling them (Using primarily Nikon and Canon body parts and adding the electronic digital components). Those first bodies were mammoth in physical size, but were only in the 1-2 megapixel range!  Eventually Nikon came out with its D1 and Canon, its own counterpart.  I had been “married” to Nikon since the 1980’s and have followed their branding more closely. This is not a vote for Nikon or against Canon; just a matter of investment in accessories, and of familiarity.  In my view, Nikon and Canon are “Ford” and “Chevy” and its hard to go wrong with either one.  Because the cost of a “DSLR” was so prohibitive, most of us hobby shooters dismissed them as a nice dream.  The real digital revolution sneaked up on all of us in the form of consumer digital cameras.  My wife and I bought our first digital point and shoot, a Canon with less than 2 megapixel capacity.

The real digital revolution sneaked up on us in the form of consumer digital cameras

When I purchased a film-based camera body, I knew that If I took good care of it, it would retain a fairly high resale value.  I also knew that a 20-year old body, in good condition, would still be able to use all the new varieties of films and render the same images from those films as the top “flagship” film body from any manufacturer.  We were unfortunately soon to learn that, like the personal computer, the same could not be said for digital cameras.  What consumer point and shoot cameras did was continually and inexorably upgrade and eventually, made the “pro-style” 35 mm bodies (in film, “SLR” and now in digital “DSLR”) “affordable” for us hobbyists.  But what it also did was made those expensive DSLR bodies we buy obsolete every few years or so.

Of course, the industry has made huge strides since those early days, with archival inks and papers, and today, I have the capability, in my home, of affordably printing 13 x 19 prints which rival the quality of any traditional photographic print I ever had.  And Photoshop has come from its “rudimentary” (amazing that I can say that, since even the first version of Photoshop contained so much mind boggling magic that I doubt any one person could ever take full advantage of what is in the program) beginnings to become an incredible and full-featured tool for photographers.

In early 2002, Nikon announced its first “prosumer” DSLR Body, the D100.  By December, 2002, I had, with some trepidation (I knew that I would be “compromising” my F100 film body, because the new D100 body was clearly not an F100 body with digital parts), packaged up my F100 and my Coolpix for trade in on the D100.  Two years later, I upgraded to the Nikon D200.  I subsequently “upgraded” my DSLR camera three more times: to a D700 “FX” (“full frame” sensor) body and a Nikon D7000 “DX” (APS sensor) body, and finally to a Nikon D800 FX body.  Occasionally I used a Canon G12 Point & Shoot Camera.

The “Next Big Thing”; Mirrorless . . .

Each time that I have “upgraded” to a new body, I have had some misgivings.  But after having done so, I haven’t looked back.  In that spirit, I boxed up the D7000 FX (which had become my primary “backup” camera – a very expensive item to have just sitting in the bag, in my view) and “traded” it and my Canon G12 for the then relatively new Sony NEX-6 “mirrorless” interchangeable lens camera.  What attracted me was that this body was the equivalent of the G12 in size, with interchangeable lenses, and the very same “DX” sensor that was in my D7000!  I thought it would make a good substitute for the G12 and it had the ability to use my Nikon lenses with an adapter, in manual focus mode (so it also could serve as an emergency backup).  It grew on me quickly and shortly, I was shooting with a Carl Zeiss prime lens.   In 2013 – 2014, after a happy 30 years as a dedicated Nikon shooter, I “liquidated” my entire Nikon inventory in favor of the new Sony A7r full frame (I have since, traded the 36mp A7r for the 24mp A7) and a couple more Carl Zeiss lenses!  In 2015, I bought a new Sony “point & shoot” camera; the RX100iv.  This little pocket camera makes some amazing images and is really a “pro” camera packaged in a very small box.  I like this little power-packed tool a lot.  So much that it has been my sole-carry camera on 2 out-of-country trips.  It is very freeing to carry a camera and a very small, light tripod for travel.  I will still keep the A7 and lenses for trips dedicated solely to shooting, and for more “serious” endeavors.  But the little cam is the wave of the future.

Yes, I “Photoshopped” It! . . .

I use Photoshop almost exclusively (these days with “plug – in” software – primarily Google/NIK – liberally worked in) and have read thousands of “how to” pages.  And I still have only scratched the surface on what can be done with the program. There are, of course, alternatives to Photoshop.  However, Photoshop (and more recently, its sibling program: Lightroom) has been the industry standard for years.  With its new cloud-based setup, it remains to be seen whether it will continue in that leadership position.  Some of the alternatives give it a serious run for the money.  I currently use Photoshop CC as my “workhorse” photo editor and Adobe Lightroom CC as my image file management software.  I have not yet embraced Lightroom’s capability for post-processing workflow – though it appears to be estimable (the “engine” for raw processing is essentially identical to Photoshop’s ACR).  I occasionally use Photomatix HDR software, but the Adobe built-in capability just gets better and better.

I look forward to continuing to learn about digital imagery through study, practice in the field, and work in the digital darkroom.

My photographic inspirations include Bryan Petersen, from whom I have learned so much without ever meeting him; Ray Laskowitz, who has given me sage advice and whose photographic vision, I someday hope to approach; James Moore, a friend and mentor and skilled teacher and photographer in his own right, and the late, Arnold John Kaplan, who at 97 plus before his death, was still going strong, writing and shooting and inspiring me to live and photograph!

The LightCentric Galleries include Fine Art; Landscape (including Northern California, Vermont, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Wyoming and New Mexico); Cityscapes (in the U.S., Canada and around the world); Images from around the world (including Venice, Rome, Mykonos, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Canada, and the Carribbean); Wildlife; Flowers; Nautical and Agriculture Galleries.  You may purchase my images there. Images can also be purchased directly from me in electronic format, or such other manner as we may agree.

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