First of all, I don’t consider myself an artist. I am an amateur photographer just striving to take the elusive perfect shot.
My foray into photography began, as I suspect it did with a lot of people my age (hint – just became Medicare eligible), playing with my parents’ camera, a Voigtländer my father brought home from Germany during his time in the army. Lack of funds for film and processing severely limited my photographic development (no pun intended).
After graduation from the University of Kentucky, I acquired a Nikon EM 35mm SLR film camera with a series E 50mm lens (I should have held onto it. That model was only made for a couple of years. It may be a collector’s item. Besides, film is making a comeback.) During that phase of my life, work, getting married, purchasing a house, etc., got in the way of photography, and the camera was relegated to documenting vacations, birthdays, and holiday gatherings. It was pre-social media, so the photos didn’t even make it “online” and for the most part ended up in a desk drawer.
Two things happened during Y2K that dramatically changed my photographic journey, one obvious, one not so obvious: A Digital Camera and Youth League Sports. Purchase of my first digital camera coincided with my son’s starting to participate in youth league basketball and baseball. For the next seventeen years, my son played Little League, middle and high school baseball and basketball, and finally varsity college baseball. I was passionate about photographing him and his teammates and the digital camera allowed me to learn by trial and error, shooting thousands of photos. As he was honing his skills as an athlete, I was honing mine as a photographer, always striving for that perfect sports shot.
Then as quickly as is started, it ended. My son graduated. But by that time, I was hooked. I needed to shoot. But I no longer had diamond or court side access and frankly didn’t have the motivation to shoot teams that I didn’t have a rooting interest in. I was technically competent with the camera but other than sports, felt like a beginner in all genres of photography. So, for the past six years I feel like I have been starting over, searching for my niche, photographing anything and everything that gets in front of my lens, and still waiting to take that perfect shot.
Vine Ripened in the Bluegrass
Like many Kentuckians, I believe that the taste of a home-grown, vine ripened, picked fresh off your own plant, tomato is hard to beat. For that reason, even though I live in a suburban Lexington neighborhood, for a number of years, I have grown a handful of tomato plants every summer.
In the summer of 2021, one of my plants produced a cluster of tomatoes that were just begging to be photographed. Not before or since has one of my plants produced that number of tomatoes in such a close proximity to each other. Even when all the fruit was still dark green, I knew that I might have an interesting photo as the tomatoes ripened and showed their colors ranging from green to bright red. So, every day I watched and when the first ones turned red, I decided it was time for the shot. As the sun went down, so as not to show the rest of the backyard, I lit the plant with an off-camera flash, and took the photograph.
From a technical perspective, it was one of the easiest photos that I have ever taken. It was only ten feet from my back door, there was only one logical composition, the subject was stationary, and very little post processing was needed. But in another sense, it was one of the hardest. I knew I had to wait until at least one tomato had ripen to a bright red, and as any of you who grow tomatoes know, rabbits, squirrels, and other varmints also like backyard grown tomatoes. For a couple of weeks, I breathed a sigh of relieve every morning when I saw that the garden had not been raided overnight.
The photograph was awarded Best Color Image in the Lexington Creative Camera Club 2022 Annual Print Show and Best Digital Photograph at the 2023 Kentucky State Fair. And best of all, my wife Carrie and I got to eat all those delicious Vine Ripened in the Bluegrass tomatoes.