Through The Eye Of A Camera

Photo by April Baumgarten
Photo by April Baumgarten

“What would you like for your birthday, April?”

“Hmm,” my high-school self pondered. “I know! I want a camera, Mom!”

When my 18th birthday rolled around, I opened my present to find a point-and-shoot. The cameras were just becoming popular as photography entered the digital era. It was unreal at that time a camera could hold hundreds of photos versus a couple dozen on a roll of film.

Photo by April Baumgarten
Photo by April Baumgarten

As excited as I was, there was a look of disappointment on my face.

“Is something wrong?” my mother asked.

“I wanted a camera like yours, Mom,” I replied.

It wasn’t a better version of a point-and-shoot. Mom had a Minolta with a high-powered lens. It was top of the line. It had all the options you could ask for back in the day. And it took crisp, clear photos.

In short, it was the camera to have.

She used it to take photos of cattle and, occasionally, let me use it for my 4-H project. For a decade, I had tried to perfect my photography skills so I could get “a big girl’s camera.”

Unfortunately for me, a camera like that cost hundreds of dollars, and Mom thought, rightfully so, that was too expensive.

“If I knew you were going to be a photographer for a living, I might consider it,” she said. “But you will never have a job where you would use a camera.”

It’s a fun little joke I like to tell when people ask how I got into journalism. Mom rolled her eyes every time I say it. 

It sounds a bit egotistical, but I don’t brag about too many things — except for my photos. I’ll admit it. When I see a photo I took that I think is amazing, I tend to show it off to everyone. It’s like getting that rush after shooting that big buck or getting a perfect score on a figure skating routine. It’s hard to explain.

Photo by April Baumgarten
Photo by April Baumgarten

And while I’ll admit that I’m no match for the photographers at the Herald, I still can’t help but smirk when I get that “wow” photo.

Why do I find myself wanting to rush out to the car after I hear there is a fire? What made me want to risk ripping my jeans on a fence line just so I could get combines harvesting wheat under the super moon? And why was I so eager to get out to the Heart River Golf Course to catch Dean Sams of Lonestar trying to make a putt or Kat Perkins belting it out in concert? (Yep, that was me dropping names.)

Photo by April Baumgarten
Photo by April Baumgarten

Usually, I wonder how to get the perfect photo — crouching down on the dirt, finding a building to stand on or adjusting my settings to get the Ferris wheel effect. Occasionally, however, people often ask me why I take the photos I do.

I don’t understand it myself. I was told once that photographers see the world differently than other people. Maybe it’s because I get a thrill out of capturing intense moments, like a fire taking over the prairie.

Perhaps I just want to share my experiences with other people, to show them what the world looks like in a different way. There is just something about being able to show people what I see when I am lying down in the dirt or leaning over the edge of a building. .

Why do I like taking photos? Maybe somehow I can bring a smile to someone’s face, or make them feel upset yet give them understanding of the importance of the image. If there is one thing I want to do, it is help people realize what is going on around them.

Tony Hawk got a thrill from being the first to land a 900. Team USA, and the rest of America, got their high from defeating the Soviet Union in the Olympics.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing the world through a 200 mm lens. And I can’t wait to find something new to shoot. With my camera, that is.

This column was previously published in The Dickinson Press, but I am looking for some good photo ops in the Red River Valley.

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1 Response

  1. Chuck Bush

    You did a great job explaining why you take a picture. I take pictures to see what they will look like. And I share your reaction to taking a picture that I think is really good. But mostly, for me photography is just great fun.

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