Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – My Photography Journey

This week, Amy asks us to get up close and personal with our photography journeys. As I always write my submission later in the week of the challenge for publication on Thursday, I’ve already had the pleasure of reading many journeys that have already been submitted. You can read Amy’s challenge post and journey here.

My journey started in the early 1960s with a Kodak Brownie Starmite camera. I was a paperboy, and sometime before I took the opening photo in 1963, I used my earnings to purchase the Brownie Starmite (photo from the web). In those early years, this 13-year-old stuck pretty much to family photos similar to the shot of my nephew. At the time, I didn’t know what I was getting into as I learned about Verichrome Pan 127 film and Kodacolor.

One of my brothers was in the Navy and one Christmas (or it might have been Thanksgiving), we were invited onboard his ship to join in a holiday dinner. I took my camera along, but for some reason, this appears to be one of only two images I captured that day. The other was also an exterior shot. I surmise that I was probably told that no photos would be allowed onboard the ship, but it could also be that I was too busy enjoying the family gathering.

At about the same time, I purchased an 8-mm movie camera, a Nikkor. I fancied myself a cinematographer, but that never went anywhere, and I got tired of the expense for a 2-minute silent movie of people standing stilted in front of the camera. I once tried to create a “James Bond” thriller with some friends of mine, but except for a few scenes, that, too, went nowhere.

In my sophomore year of high school, I enrolled in a photography class, got to use real single-lens reflex cameras (Pentax, if I recall correctly), and became familiar with darkroom work. I got so wrapped up in that processing mode that I didn’t spend much time working on my skills behind the lens. I set up a home darkroom in my closet to enlarge and process prints. I even dabbled in Kodak’s C-22 color process, a finicky color printing methodology that no other classmate in my three years of photography class ever attempted. That didn’t last long as I switched to Ektachrome 35mm slides, a much easier medium to process at home.


As I found my life’s calling, got married, and started to raise a family, my interest in photography wained, and save for a trip to the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming In the late 1970s, virtually all of my images were of family and friends. In July 2015, I ran across those images on paper, scanned, and shared them in a blog post here.

As I readied for retirement, I rekindled my interest in photography when my wife and I decided we would like to travel. It wasn’t much after my retirement that I decided to start this blog to document our journeys. The image captured of the Oahu skyline was captured with a Fuji Finepix 3800. I stepped through a couple of other point-and-shoot cameras before acquiring a Nikon D5500, my first DSLR.

In the nine years since my retirement, we have traveled only to a few “exotic” places like the island of Tabuaeran, a coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean, about a two-day sail on a cruise ship from Hawaii. Most of our travels are in the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central American countries. In the process, I sold the D-5500, purchased a lightly used D-7000, and acquired a collection of lenses and accessories.

When my “professional” camera was excluded from a couple of venues, and for times when a larger camera attracts too much attention, I purchased a Sony RS100V. It looks to be an “amateur” point-and-shoot camera that is ignored by the “camera police.” Yet it is sophisticated enough to give me the tool I need for available light images and is extremely portable and easy to carry. Since purchasing a new cell phone, the Samsung S20 Ultra, I admit to not using the little Sony at all. Even though I have graduated to a Nikon D-500 for those times I want the best camera and lens I have, I often find myself using my Samsung S20U for day-to-day use.

The image above features a two-shot panorama from the S20U that was stitched in Lightroom and final processing completed in Luminar 4. These two final panoramic images are best viewed by clicking on them to enlarge if your browser supports the function.

In conjunction with my volunteer work, I’ve been doing some drone photography. That training opened up a new avenue of imagery for me. I purchased a Mavic Air drone for my personal aerial images when the mood strikes (and the law allows.) The panoramic image above was created by stitching two photos captured with the Mavic Air drone. It features Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho.

Those who have been following my Travel Tuesday posts are seeing many of my latest images captured on an 8,000-mile (12,875 km) road trip across the northwestern tier of states. We visited national parks and traveled many miles on scenic byways. In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the great outdoor parks and scenic road trips are as safe as one can travel for recreation. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to follow my wife and me on our journeys. Thanks to Amy, also, for giving us an excuse to share our own personal photographic journeys.

John Steiner


25 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – My Photography Journey

  1. I enjoy reading your journey, John. The photos your early photos, they are precious. The panorama image was stunning, the clouds, lights, and further storm… Wow!! It takes a lot of skills to shoot two images, and more so to merge them. The last one is incredibly beautiful. Thank you for taking time to share your memories with us.

    • Thanks! I really like to create panoramas but they don’t show well in blog posts.

      Due to the expense of large media, I’ve found they don’t get printed either.

      That just gave me an idea. Small metal prints are relatively inexpensive these days. Maybe I could print the image on two or three of them to be displayed side by side on a long wall.

      • A couple years ago, I took a photo taken in Peru to the local Office Depot. They did a good job. Thank you for letting me know small metal prints.
        Your panorama photos will look great on a long wall.

      • Thank you for putting up the challenge that brought me the idea. I got the three small metal prints I’ve done from Costco. An 11×14 is $34. I upload the image to their website and they ship it to my house.

  2. Glad you took up photography again, John! Even if there was no James Bond those days, I am sure you had great fun…Drones are popular here as well, in my biologist group we have avid “flyers”. Precious photos of precious times for you. And your panoramas are breathtaking! Thank you for sharing your story – and let’s hope someday there will be traveling again. You certainly made the best of this year.

  3. It has been a challenging year for travelers. Thanks for the compliment on those panoramic images. It has truly been fun to read all of the stories of my blogger friend’s photo journeys.

  4. My parents had that little Starlite camera. I took my first photo on it when I was 6 years old. I think that is when I actually fell i love with photography. I just never had the money to buy a good camera or develop the film. I enjoyed reading your story and seeing your photos. 😀

  5. Fun post John – really enjoyed your journey. Those panoramas are glorious, especially the first one – I hope everyone does click on it as it really needs a larger screen to be appreciated. Loved your starter camera LOL, it’s amazing we didn’t all just throw up our hands (or just throw up) and walk away from photography forever! Glad you stuck with it and became the photographer and blogger that we know and love! Thanks for sharing the journey with us

  6. I totally get your comment about about the switch from film to digital. My Nikon F3 sat unused for years for that very reason… the nostalgia of film wasn’t enough to overcome the work involved.
    Your images are really great. It’s a wonderful thing for us that you did get back into photography.

  7. Wonderful history, John. I love your panoramas and the shot of Oahu. Gorgeous. Like you, my husband spent a lot of time in the darkroom when he was a teenager. I keep hoping he’ll pick up a camera and keep me company now… It hasn’t happened yet. Your foray into drone photography is really fascinating.

  8. hey john – this was fun to go from a brownie starMite to the drone
    with lost in between
    and the little snippet about the camera police reminded me about how people have responded over the years to cameras and that was a good idea to use the Sony

    • Thanks! Glad you enjoyed that trip on the wayback machine to my teen years. 🙂
      Cellphones and mini cameras are so popular these days, no one gives them a second thought. The bad news, though, is I can’t use my long telephoto lens to get “up close and personal.”

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