I Owe It To Doug


That right there is a somewhat mediocre photograph of a decidedly unmediocre dog named Doug. I mean – it’s decent, right? But not terribly great.

Doug and his very waggy pink tongue deserve more.

Therefore, on behalf of all of the Dougs in the world, and because I am going to Africa very, very soon and have all manner of much, much larger animals to photograph, I am pleased to announce that I’m working on the Photography badge this month!

My appreciation of captured moments goes back to my very first camera, a slim lavender 110 that I used at summer camp to take exceptionally (not) compelling shots like this:


(It was July, 1991. I had a crush on him. I don’t think he reciprocated.)

Upon entering high school, I developed (Get it? Developed!) a fascination with the makeshift dark room at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club across the street from my house. I soothed this curiosity by enrolling in two straight semesters of the same photography class my freshman year. Same. Exact. Class. Twice. In. A. Row. For some reason, the faculty didn’t stop me from squandering precious artsy fartsy credits, probably because they were more worried about the kids who were doing drugs during study hall.

Image taken from The New York Times Store Picture Vault

Dorothea Lange’s ‘Riverbank Gas Station,’ 1940. Image taken from The New York Times Store Picture Vault

During high school, I also started learning about Real, Actual Photographers, namely Dorothea Lange, high priestess of dustbowl imagery. During an exceptionally creative English class, my friend Christy and I were given the task of reporting on Lange’s photograph Riverbank Gas Station – the trick being that we weren’t told the photographer’s name and had to research the answer to ace the project. Through the magic of the card catalogue and some serious library snooping (this was pre-Internet, people!), we located the shot in a fat photography volume and it started to dawn on me that taking pictures wasn’t just this passive thing meant to document the banal stuff I did with my friends, but rather something that had the power to carry deeper meaning.

Of course, all of those deep thoughts disappeared in college, where I spent my time studying, dancing, developing crushes, and vanquishing peppermint schnapps. However, the Ghost of Photography Past reared its head during grad school, when I borrowed my grandfather’s old cameras from my mother and produced a flurry of…um…“artistic” black-and-white shots:


(Sorry, Cheryl.)

In the years since, I’d like to say that my technique has improved. However, it’s disappointing to realize that my camera sits mostly unused, while my iPhone takes the lion’s share of photos, and even more disappointing to realize that I’ve lost most of the marginal manual camera operation skills I once possessed.

Therefore, August shall become a crash course in Learning How To Use My Camera A Whole Lot Better. I’m digging into a stack of library books (currently enjoying a tasty read called, simply, Travel Photography) and enlisted a group of professional photographer friends to not just guide me through camera basics, but also share what makes them tick.

Until then, please enjoy this photograph of my massive cat, and stay tuned for a better photo of Doug at month’s end – after all, I owe it to him (and to myself).


(Eddie Cat Halen in repose)

If you’re curious about the current state of my photographic skills, feel free to wander over to my Flickr page and my Instagram collection.

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