Bio – Revised
Having two jobs I love, gynecology and photography, is a blessing. The photographer in me actually started about the same time as the doctor in me. A manual film camera, purchased during my senior year of medical school, was my first “real” camera. As a side note, my father thought it was an exorbitant purchase for a medical student and shamed me into taking it back to the store; as I recall it cost about $120. Thinking about the situation upset me, and shortly I returned to the store and repurchased the camera. I reassured the salesman that I would not be back for another return. From a photography standpoint, I have never looked back.
My training in obstetrics-gynecology was done in the U.S. Army, along with a few years of pay-back service. My medical practice became gynecology-only many years ago, allowing more time to pursue other interests. Several years of active duty in the Army in southern Germany provided an opportunity to travel and take lots of photographs. I married my wife, Elisabeth, during medical school, and we had our two children, a daughter and son, during my residency training. We now have four grandchildren that provide great photography subjects, well most of the time.
Before I became really serious with photography, my spare time was spent with both fresh and salt water fly fishing, sailing, and a smidgen of Bluegrass fiddle. In order to spend more time with my children while they were growing up, a private pilot’s license allowed me to attend out-of-town ballet performances and away swim meets. The private-pilot thing was no small feat since I have a fear of heights. That’s another story for another time. These activities have been almost totally replaced by my passion for photography. I have to eat, so my other hobby, gourmet cooking remains intact, with northern Italian being my favorite cuisine.
I wanted to move from the level of serious amateur to professional in photography. A pro- photographer friend suggested I take thousands of photos and be my own strongest critic. Street photography became my passion, making it easy to take a gazillion photos of a variety of subjects. It was easy to move from street photography to women’s fashion, the next stop in my photographic journey. But realizing I could not shoot women’s fashion professionally in my hometown of Savannah, Georgia, I am having a blast with portrait and headshot photography. I jokingly say “I have not decided what I am going to do when I grow up.” Just having fun!
Connection skills, learned both as a physician and photographer, enable me to give my clients photographs that characterize who they are. Now that you know something about me, please call and give me the opportunity to get to know you and take your portrait/headshot photo that will elicit a “like who you see” response!
Original Bio – Detailed
I am fortunate to have two professions, both things that I love to do.
I am a practicing gynecologist and a professional photographer. My plans are to continue both, hopefully for a long time.
IN THE BEGINNING – The photographer in me actually started about the same time as the doctor in me, some 40 years ago. My first “big purchase” while in medical school other than medical books and an engagement ring was a manual 35 mm Bessler SLR camera. It did have a built-in light meter. As I recall, the noise made by the mirror going up and down when shooting was enough to startle a rock musician. My father was not too happy with me when he found out about the camera, thinking it was inappropriate for a medical student to make such an “elaborate” purchase. I am sure that all children do things without asking their parents. I actually wish I had done more “discussing,” but that is a revelation that comes with age.
Once on Active Duty in the U.S. Army, I moved up in the world of photography with a Nikkormat EL. My Internal Medicine Internship and Obstetrics Gynecology Residency were served at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, just outside of Tacoma, Washington. Back in the “good, old days” there were no restrictions on the number of hours per week physicians in training could be required to work, so we did put in long hours. But we also had some time off and a little cash in our pockets since we were First Lieutenants while in training. Don’t get the wrong idea; we were not rolling in money but just had a little more than our peers in civilian life, many of whom were making slave wages. There were other perks while on Active Duty such as being able to purchase camera equipment at reduced prices and getting inexpensive lodging on base when visiting places like San Francisco.
NIKKORMAT EL – Back to the topic at hand, photography. The Nikkormat EL was manufactured from 1972 to 1976 and was the company’s (Nippon Kogaku) first autoexposure camera – it could be operated in manual or aperture-priority modes. Nippon Kogaku of course would become Nikon in 1988. With two additions to my family, daughter and son, I shot a fair number of photos, both black and white and color. There was a large darkroom on base which made developing and printing the B&W fairly easy. Looking back I never rally embraced B&W so shot more color. Kodachrome 64 became my workhorse, with occasional dabbling in Kodachrome 25, some Ektachome, and a few of the print films. For those who have not shot film, Kodachrome was the first mass-marketed color film, had great color reproduction, and lasted “forever.” There is a state park about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City, Kodachrome Basin, named for the film, and even a Paul Simon song, Kodachrome, released in 1973. To get the density and dynamic ranges that Kodachrome does naturally, you have to take digital images to Photoshop or other post-shooting program to get similar results. If you had any Kodachrome lying around, hopefully you had it processed before December 30, 2010, the last day Dwaynes’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas processed the last rolls. The older I become (that is another subject), the more important history is to me by helping find my “direction.”
TIME TO TRAVEL – Sometime around 1980, I moved up to the Nikon F3 and in the 90’s to the F4. In the late 70’s I was stationed in southern Germany serving as a physician in the U.S. Army. Long weekends and relatively short distances in Europe provided the opportunity to travel, always with my camera and lots of film. Most of my photography was landscape with a bit of street photography thrown in here and there. And, of course children, as they grew up too quickly. The “big trip” while in Germany was to Kenya for a photo safari and on the same trip to the Seychelle Islands. Another couple and my wife and I took 2 weeks for the venture, one week each in Kenya and then in the islands. When planning the trip to Africa, Fred and Karen (the other couple) said they also wanted to go to the Seychelles, which I had never heard of before. Now we are getting to the photography part of the story. The 1979 Sports Illustrated Bathing Suit Issue (February 5, 1979, if you want to check it out) was shot mainly on the island of La Digue with Christie Brinkley as the featured model. The name of the article was “She Sells Sea Shells By The Seychelles” (and starts on page 38). The article stated that Grand Anse, a beach on La Digue, is the most beautiful beach in the world. What differentiates this beach from all of the other white sand beaches with coconut palms and turquoise-blue water are the huge granite boulders, remnants of a land mass from India to Africa thousands of years ago. Christie Brinkley also helped the appearance in the magazine.
BACK TO THE STATES, AND REALITY – After one more year on Active Duty in the Army, my family and I settled in Savannah, Georgia, where we have been for almost 30 years. Photography took a back seat to private flying and videography in the late 80’s due to children’s activities (son, competitive swimming, and daughter, classical ballet). I would frequently fly my son to out-of-town swim meets, and later take him and his sister to and from college. The videography was mainly of swim meets. During this same time frame, I acquired a studio lighting system, mainly to photograph my daughter dancing – I still use the same system today for studio work. I have since stopped piloting small aircraft, mainly due to cost.
ENTER THE DIGITAL AGE – Christmas 2002 was my first event shot with a digital camera. The Nikon D100 (6 megapixel) was my first digital SLR camera, followed by the D200 (10.2 megapixel) in early 2006. These of course are both DX cameras with a smaller sensor than the full-frame FX sensor. That is where the D700 (12.1 megapixel) came into the picture. First introduced in mid-2008, it is a full-frame professional-grade digital single-lens reflex camera. During these years, I was photographing grandchildren (and other relatives when necessary), family get-togethers, and scenes from occasional travel. More recently, I have had the opportunity to do some wedding photography, in addition to shooting some local civic events and professional models.
I have to relate a story about “shooting.” A recent neighborhood newsletter (Isle of Hope) stated that a photographer-friend of mine had shot a one-eyed owl on his bird feeder. Not being a photographer, a neighbor became very upset, thinking he had shot the bird with a gun! She felt “physically sick” and asked that he “not kill any more owls.” When she realized the mistake, she apologized.
According to the dictionary, a MENTOR is a wise and trusted teacher or counselor. Whatever the definition, they sure can help move the level of photographic skill to the next level, especially when you are trying to find your place as a photographer. Why try to reinvent the wheel? These pros can certainly help with the technical aspects and provide a background that will assist in developing your artistic side of the craft. With the guidance of mentors, it is still your responsibility to shoot thousands of photographs and continuously look to answer new questions with your camera (excellent advice from a photographer friend, Noel Wright).
Bill Durrence (www.billdurrence.com) is a mentor in my journey. I first met Bill when his wife invited my wife and me to attend their annual St. Patrick’s Day Party, which has become somewhat of a legend in Savannah. I had first seen Bill in action several years prior when I attended a Nikon School. My daughter-in-law (an excellent photographer in her own right) and I took several private lessons together from Bill. Subsequently, my wife and I participated in a photo workshop to Egypt on which Bill was to lead pro. The best way to describe the experience was overwhelming, exhausting, and saturated learning opportunity and photographic opportunities. The other pros on the trip included David Tajada (www.tajadaphoto.com) and Steve Simon (www.stevesimonphoto.com). Such a workshop provides an opportunity to shoot locations and subjects that may be difficult to access on your own. Additionally, the mentors’ expertise can be invaluable in developing your own photographic style. More recently, a workshop in Atlanta with Michael Schwarz (www.michaeltraining.com) helped take my use of the small flash with my photography up several notches.
I had heard about the legendary JAY MAISEL(www.jaymaisel.com) for a long time but never anticipated spending almost a week with him in Manhattan. Certain events change who we are and what we are doing forever, and his workshop was one of these events. Check out my blog November 21,2011 for details.
All photos copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2014.