By Larry Colen
I took my first photography class when I was 12, in Summer school in 1973 right after we moved to Felton. A few months later my dad and I set up a darkroom in one of the bathrooms of our house. I continued doing photography fairly seriously through college, unfortunately after I graduated, I no longer had access to a darkroom and with so many other things happening in my life I didn’t do much photography until I got my first DSLR a Pentax K100D super in 2007. Overnight I went from “meaning to get back into photography” to always having a camera handy, wandering around looking for photos whenever I had a few free minutes and averaging 700-1000 frames a day.
People ask me what sort of photography I do, and I jokingly say that I usually use a camera, although it has been over 40 years since I would put objects on a sheet of photographic paper and expose it using the enlarger. I particularly enjoy technically challenging photography that until recently was not even possible, at least with affordable photographic gear, such as nighttime landscapes taken by starlight, or social dancing in dimly lit rooms. I try to always have a camera with me as many of my best photos were ones I got because I was prepared when an amazing scene presented itself. I also enjoy doing portraiture but that is less about technical ability than getting people to relax by teaching them how to look better in front of a camera.
One of the fun things about photography is how I need to engage both my technical and artistic minds to get the best shot. There are several things that go into making a great photo, not only does it need to be good enough technically, it should be visually appealing, and photos are like sentences, they should have both a subject and a verb. I keep the entire process of the photo in mind so I always shoot in RAW to have the most information to work with in post processing. You also don’t get a great photo by putting in more good things, you get a great photo by taking out everything that isn’t great. I try to keep this in mind both when composing my photos and when editing them, and the most critical stage of editing is to only show your very best photos. In an era where it costs a fraction of a penny to store multiple backups of a photo, I can take hundreds of frames for every image that I show online, and thousands for every one that I print.
Another common question is about what sort of camera I use, the short answer is that most of my photography is done with one of my Pentax DSLRs. After a trip to Burningman where I shot with both my DSLRs, and my first camera, an Argus C-3, originally made in 1939. The C-3 is an incredibly simple camera more noted for its tank-like ruggedness than image quality. When collecting my best photos, I realized that your camera doesn’t limit the artistic quality of the photos that you take, only what photos you can take. That being said, in an era a competent photographer can get publishable quality work in reasonable light with just about any decent camera made in the past five years that since I enjoy photography that pushes the technical envelope Pentax does deliver tremendous sensor performance for the dollar, and the In Body Image Stabilization means that every lens I use has shake reduction allowing me to get clear hand held photos at 1/10 second, or slower.
Artist’s reception at Johnny’s Harborside
493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz
December 4, 2021 at 2:30 pm | Bar will be open
Happy Hour menu at 3:30 pm
Follow Larry at flickr.com/photos/ellarsee