Sharing is Caring
Photography and the Information Highway
I’m a Baby Boomer. I was alive, for many years, before “the internet” was such a ubiquitous part of our lives. In fact, I’m so old that when I read some futurist’s prediction that there would be machines, outside of banks that would allow you to deposit and withdraw funds it seemed like just so much crazy Science Fiction. A machine that dispensed money? HAHA!
Of course, 5 years later suddenly ATMs were everywhere.
Such seemed to be the case with the internet and like any good wannabe luddite I hated the idea of using email at work and those damn blackberries. Nevertheless, I was overwhelmed by the technology wave and tried not to drown. I learned MS DOS, bought a computer and forged ahead. I must admit I did enjoy “surfing the net” although it did seem, often, like a waste of time.
Social Media? My kids had “My Space” accounts and that just seemed gross to me. Self-indulgent, gossipy, anti-intellectual garbage. Toward the end of my career as an educator I discovered Facebook and Twitter. Facebook, to me, was just a glorified “My Space” but Twitter, hmmm, that seemed possibly more interesting. Snappy commentary and humor, photos without a lot of explanation, and links to interesting material so that I could “surf” again. I also followed a few blogs and thought, ‘If I ever have time I wouldn’t mind doing something like that”.
My dream, when I retired, was to spend time with my precious family, travel and camp and hike and take pictures. As quickly as I could I sold my BMW, bought a truck with a camper shell, and hit the road to Yellowstone National Park. I’ve always been a landscape photographer fan and I found by simply using my iPhone I was able to get some pretty good photos. I made about 700 images and after I came home and downloaded them I decided to put a few on a Twitter account. I’m a solo traveler most of the year and wanted to share with others the wonder of the place I’d just visited. As Mary Oliver says, I wanted to, “Tell about it”.
To my surprised delight, people commented on them and “liked” them. Some folks asked about the areas I visited, the routes I took, and generally discussed my trip. I began to collect a new group of “friends” that shared similar interests. Without exaggeration a new world seemed to open. I did, indeed, start a travel blog and bought a Nikon DSLR.
I set out to connect with other people who shared my love of the outdoors and the West. 4 gentlemen on Twitter captured my notice quickly. PJ Finn, a longtime Montana photographer who had moved to the desert, another Montanan Chris La Tray and two exceptional San Diego based photographers Alex Kunz and Joe Smith.
As I continued my travels I began to generate more and more of a desire to improve my photography and so I looked at lots of photos. Thousands and thousands of photos. My hunger for a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art grew rapidly. I thought I was getting better then, after making a series of crummy images, not so much.
I then, based on my social media contacts alone, met a few of these fellows I’d admired so much on Twitter. On my way to Southern Arizona I met PJ Finn near Joshua Tree for a short walk and a talk about life and the desert and photography. I had lunch and went for quick hike with Alex Kunz and Joe Smith. Thanks to Alex in particular, my learning began in earnest. My photography went from “see a pretty place and shoot” to looking and thinking about what I was trying to accomplish and share each time I raised my camera. This was fun and rewarding and meaningful. I began to share more of what I felt in my heart and head.
Strangely enough, to me, my love and enjoyment and appreciation of photographic art increased immeasurably by the associations of the people I’ve met online. My original reluctance to connect, it turns out, was groundless. Because of my online associations I have bought a new camera, joined the San Diego Photo Club, met many outstanding photographers, taken Lightroom classes and brought an unexpected enrichment and enjoyment to my life during retirement.
I have always believed that staying original and participating in creative endeavors was essential to one’s mental health and acuity. Yet in my career, I sat in an office for nearly 40 years and felt my imagination dying. I didn’t dream that this “Twitter and blog thing” would revitalize and motivate me and bring me so much joy in the later years of my life. So now I ask people I meet on the road if they have a Twitter account and if they say, “No”, I think – “too bad. They just don’t know they’re missing”.
Jeff Hubbard is a retired educator. He was a High School teacher, school administrator, and college professor. He has a doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California. He lives in Tustin, CA, loves the American Southwest, and is patiently waiting for his wife to retire so that they may relocate to New Mexico.
You can learn more about his travels and photography at www.southwestdude.com.