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For Photographers – Where it all Started

Washington DC Wedding Photographer: Stephen Gosling Photography

The first thing I want to say is that I am under no illusion that people read my blog, let alone other photographers.  I in no way think that the way I do things is the correct way and I am not writing these posts to tell people how to shoot or how to run their businesses.  I am however going to be writing about my experiences; my failures, my successes, etc.  If these posts help anyone, great!  If not; no big deal.

That being said…

*** 2nd Disclaimer – This post is a little all over the place.  If I lose you somewhere just ask me a question in the comments section. ***

This is actually a question that I get asked a lot.  And I have never really sat down and thought about the whole story.  So, here goes…  to make it a little more photo relevant I’m going to add some camera info in there, but please forgive the haphazard nature of this post; I’m a photographer, not a writer.

When I was 16 years old I went to Spain (the island of Majorca) to climb some mountains with friends.  We stayed in a monastery by night and walked, hiked and climbed a number of mountains by day.  I had always had a passing interest in photography and used this trip as an excuse to buy my first camera.  That camera was a Canon EOS 300 SLR (film, not digital) that came with 2 ‘kit’ lenses; 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 & 70-300 f4-5.6.  I read the manual backwards and forwards figuring out how to use it.  And if it wasn’t for that camera I would not be where I am today.

When I returned home from Spain I was hooked.  I enrolled in an A-Level Photography course so that I could learn more.  A Levels in England are the qualifications we take after we finish with high-school but before we go to university.  You usually study for your A-Levels from 16-18.  So, I was now studying photography and shooting as much as I could.  Looking back; I was awful.  But we all have to crawl before we can walk, right?

* Random side note. This might help you understand the English school system better.  We go to high school for 5 years.  From age 11 to age 16 – think of this as the first 5 years of Harry Potter.  At the end of our 5th year of high school we take GCSE’s (General Certificates of Secondary Education) in an array of different subjects – think of this as Harry Potter’s OWL’s (Ordinary Wizarding Levels).  Now after we finish our GCSE’s we can choose to study for our A-Levels (Advanced Levels) – think of this as Harry Potter’s NEWT’s (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests), years 6 & 7 of the books.  Now, Harry Potter had the convenience of studying all 7 years at the same place.  Most of time this doesn’t happen.  You usually go somewhere for 5 years and then somewhere else for the final 2 years.  I hope that helped 😉 *

After I finished my Photography A-Level (and some other studies) I applied and was accepted to the Liverpool John Moores University to study a BA(Hons) in Documentary and Fine Art Photography.  This is where camera number 2 comes in.  I decided to upgrade to a slightly better camera (looking back I probably should have looked at better lenses but alas…); the Canon EOS 3 SLR (still film here people) was purchased.  For my entire first year of university; this camera came with me practically everywhere.  And this is where (thanks to a dedicated university technician called Graham) I came to get a good technical understanding of my equipment.

Now; this is where we take a little deviation from how I thought my life would go (not that I had a real plan in mind but still; I didn’t think it would be where it is now).  In England; university degrees take 3 years, not the usual 4 it takes here in the US.  After my first year (with two left to go) I decided to spend my summer in the US working as a camp counselor for a kids summer camp.  I was 19 and mentoring kids ages 6-10 for 10 weeks in the middle of nowhere in Oxford, Pennsylvania.  The camp I was teaching at also happened to recruit from the college where my now wife was attending; The College of Wooster.  So began a 2 year long distance relationship….

When I returned home from the States, upon the advise of my tutors I again upgraded to a new camera.  This time taking the leap to a medium format system.  I purchased a 2nd hand Bronica SQA-i (beautiful 6×6 negatives!) with two lenses; 80mm f2.8 and 150mm f3.5.

Back in college I used to spend my time photographing locations and open spaces (coincidentally a lot of those spaces were religious institutions).  Now I concentrate on people.  But if it wasn’t for spending all that time photographing empty places I wouldn’t have developed my eye in the same way.  I love to find symmetry when I shoot and I think shooting churches way back in college really helped me.

I still have the Bronica and its 2 lenses (see pics above) and miraculously it still works!  I need to start shooting with this thing occasionally and see the results I get.  I think it may come along to a couple of engagement shoots as a way to ease its way back into my shooting habits.

When I bought the Bronica it did not come equipped with a meter so I also had to get my hands on one.  This leads me to the 2nd piece of equipment that has made the trip with me to the States, and it is a piece of equipment that I still use today (on studio and lit portrait work) – the Sekonic L358.  Still one of the best light meters on the market!

So I graduated from university and two days later I fly over to the States to get married.  My wife and I then head to NYC where I spend about 5 minutes working as a photo editor, and after that we move down to DC and that’s where we still are.  We moved here in June of 2007 and I just couldn’t be happier!

The final piece of equipment that is still with me after all these years (and has actually been with me the longest) is my tripod.  I was 17 when I bought a Manfrotto 055CL tripod.  This thing is heavy but it’s dependable and works like a pro.  Its been up mountains, to many countries and now comes along to the very occasional wedding and most of my editorial portrait shoots.

So, that is my ‘how I got into photography’ story.  Its been a fun old journey this far and I’m excited to see where else it will take me!

And just for fun, here are some embarrassing images from university;

A 2nd year project about religious institutions.

A 3rd year project about my next door neighbour Harold.

A 1st year project about religious institutions.

Some 2004 shots from New York with my old Canon EOS 3.

I’m just glad I’m a better photographer now!

Contact Stephen about your wedding – stephen@goslingphotography.com
View Stephen’s Wedding Portfolio – www.goslingphotography.com

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