Chasing Kids and Light
By Jason Pierce
14 Jun 2009
For many years, photography for me was a love, hate relationship. I continually tried to be a "photographer" while never truly grasping the relationships between ISO, shutter speed and aperture. The irony was that through high school and college I was becoming incredibly proficient at Photoshop and digital imaging. My first experience being Photoshop 2.5 LE on my high school yearbook staff. In other words, I understood imaging but not the image. The only thing I did know for sure in this period was that I hated to use a flash.
In 2001, my precious daughter arrived. The only cameras I had were disposable but I was constantly taking photos of my daughter and sending prints home to our family. None of these were great images but they documented her first few weeks. Then came a breakthrough. We visited our family a month after she was born and my dad handed both my brother and myself a new camera. He has always had an eye for photos and he was tired of us both sending poor images home. He loved seeing the baby and my brother's adventures in the Coast Guard but he wanted better photos. He gave us both an Olympus Stylus. He had even bought one for himself. I loved it because I could turn the flash "off." Then came another twist, he told me he loved 100 ISO film. These two separate moments helped me to discover what my true passion was for photography, chasing the light. I had a camera, a baby, and now a curiosity for 100 speed film but I refused to use a flash. Hunting for the right lighting conditions has consumed me from that moment through the past 8 years and it has been a wild ride.
Our son arrived in 2003 and I spent six months researching digital cameras. I had not had good experience with them in the past but the 5-8 rolls a month we were developing was eating into the budget. I couldn't afford an SLR so I settled for an Olympus 5050 which had manual settings. A month later, the Rebel appeared for under $1000 and the $800 investment in this camera with a flash and cards seemed like a waist but I was wrong. The 5050 had a bright lens and I immediately began shooting in full manual mode. This is the part where the relationships between ISO, shutter speed and aperture began to make sense. I was obsessed with photos. By 2005, we had over 13,000 digital images in iPhoto.
Looking back, I was establishing a habit that has ultimately defined me as a photographer. I would shoot birthdays, Christmas and vacations but these photos didn't really matter. They were just for the album. My real passion was in discovering lighting situations where a flash wasn't needed. To this day, I call these "holy crap" moments. I would be playing with them, watching them, eating dinner, or just walking in from work and I would see the light casting itself on them in a way that blew my mind. I would say to myself, "holy crap" and run for the camera. My wife could see it in my eyes and would allow me race away from whatever we were doing to grab the camera.
I am now the proud owner of a DSLR. I had outgrown the 5050 and I was pushing it to do things I don't it was never meant to do. The new camera is barely a year old and it has helped me to create photos that I was only dreaming of with my previous two cameras. By shooting with limited gear in tough lighting conditions for the first 7 years of my children's lives, I began to understand things about photography and lighting that can't be easily taught. Light is everything.
I feel truly blessed to be able to capture my kid's and my beloved wife in situations where the light is genuine. I really believe heaven will open itself up for anyone chasing the light. It has helped me to show my family how I truly see them, beautiful.