Trying to get more serious – Part 3 of how I got into photography

Last week I left you where I was pregnant and did think working in a darkroom wouldn’t be good. It would be around 3 years before I picked up the camera again.

Being pregnant for the first time was a busy time. We had no room for a baby where we lived, so we needed to move.  Then not long after she was born we moved to Denmark. We were only there for 7 months, but it has to be said that one of my biggest regrets in life was not taking the camera with me and taking photos there.

When we came back to Australia I was around 5 months pregnant with my second daughter and then that took up my life again. Babies and home were all I seemed to have time for at that time, or so I thought.

I have to try and rely on my memory here. I think Klara, my youngest, was around 6 months old when I thought I would get some professional photos of them taken. I used a local photographer and told him I wanted casual images of them, nothing too fancy. He suggested I dress them in a similar way, so I did. They both wore denim overalls with lovely red knitted jumpers (sweaters) underneath.

When we got there I realised it was oil and water, really. He tried putting them in a lovely antique pram, but of course, they looked stupid because of what they were wearing. The overall look was bad. The other thing I hated was that I paid money for those photos and walked away with nothing. It wasn’t cheap and I was so disappointed. I thought to myself, I bet I could take better photos. I know now that I was very naive and I didn’t have the experience, but it was something that I could work on.

Now with that idea, I knew I would have to learn a lot more about photography and how to use my camera.

There was no internet but I soon found out from my local photo printing place that the local camera club, Ivanhoe Photographic Society, was running a beginner’s course. It seemed like it was the perfect thing for me to do, so I enrolled.

I loved the course and soon found myself enjoying taking photos again, but this time I knew more and could take better photos. My photography went crazy. I was obsessed again. This time, however, I had to do it while also being a full-time mother. That did mean I spent a lot of time photographing my girls.

As you can imagine I have hundreds and hundreds of photos of my girls. I just pick out three. These were taken with film and I’ve just photographed them with my phone from an album. Briony was born in 94 and Klara in 95.

The photography course lasted 6 weeks and I stayed on as a member. I loved going out and taking photos and soon got back into the habit of driving to places to see what I could capture.

I don’t remember how long after this but I soon realised that photographing my children with a camera that was all manual was hard. Manual focus made it even harder. I wanted a camera with autofocus. So I spent a lot of time trying to work out what I wanted. Another woman who did the course with me had purchased a Canan SLR but she was also having a lot of trouble trying to work out how to use it. I knew whatever camera I chose had to be something that I didn’t have to read the manual to work out. I should be able to just pick it up and use it.

I found myself looking at Nikon. They had a wide range of cameras but in the end, I chose the Nikon F90X. I like that it could be fully manual or fully automatic. It was sort of middle range and I liked that it used AA batteries, so I could get them anywhere if I needed to. So I purchased it along with the 70-210mm lens and the 35-105mm lens which I was told was good for portraits. I still have the camera and lenses.

I would ask friends and couples to come around so I could photograph them. Have fun with that kind of photography. I took lots of images.

It was good having the club to help me take photos, but after a couple of years later I realised it wasn’t for me. There were a couple of reasons and I am going to share them with you.

The first was because of the following image.

I did this image based on something I saw in a magazine. It was done in the darkroom by painting the developer onto the paper instead of putting it into it. I was so happy with this and entered into one of the competitions that the club was always having. Other people in the club thought it was great and very different. The judge slammed it. He basically said it was crap. I couldn’t believe it, just because it was different didn’t make it that bad. (I haven’t photographed it well and the background is white.) It was when I started wondering if the club was really for me.

Then not long after that, there was another competition for Urban Landscapes. I thought industrial. At the time a company had just put out a black and white slide film, so I thought I would use it. It cost me heaps and I had to send it to Sydney to get it developed. I entered it in the slide section and I won. I could hear rumblings that the image didn’t deserve to win. Let me show it to you.

I loved it and I know others did as well. I ended up entering it into another competition in which I didn’t do very well. I heard those same people behind me saying things like I knew it wasn’t very good. That did it for me and I was out of there. I pretty much left the club after that.

I realised that people were there for the competitions and therefore they were all competing against one another which meant if you want to learn you were on your own. I hated it so much.

I left and never joined another club again.

OMG look at the word count, I’m going to leave it there for this week. I thought we would go further but didn’t realise I had so much to say. Next week we can look at my photography journey up to my time that saw me leaving film behind.

Here is a gallery of some other images that I took during the time that this post covers.  See you soon.


You might be interested in …


  1. I am thoroughly enjoying this series. Will be checking back for the continuation.

    to this day, it still blows my mind that autofocus was created.

    1. That makes me happy to hear that people are enjoying the series. I am enjoying going back over it all.
      I know, autofocus is so good. Thank you.

  2. I love the conversational tone of your story telling. It is so relatable. Can’t wait to read the next installment. 🙂

  3. I had a similar experience being a member of a camera club. I actually learned a lot from the veteran members of the club and they were always very patient explaining things to me and teaching me new skills. However, a lot of the club’s focus was on entering regional and national competitions and that aspect of the club was not for me. I am probably the least competitive person I know so my participation was as a learning opportunity. However, I found that more often than not there was not that opportunity for growth because a judge would just slam an image without actually providing constructive criticism or useful feedback. I did win a couple of regional competitions but I found that too many judges just didn’t “get” my photography or what I was interested in. For example, for a category about portraits of children, I submitted a shot of one of my sons emerging from a bush roaring like a wild animal. The judge said it was an ugly shot because of his open mouth and he didn’t understand why someone would take a photo of a child while they were making that expression. I stayed in the club until we emigrated but I opted out of the competitions and just focused on learning from and being inspired by the other members and events like guest speakers.

    I just realized what a long comment this is. Oops!

    1. It is good that you were able to find people who were willing to help you Laura. I’m not much into competitions either. I found the same thing with judges, for many it was there way or no way. I think many didn’t understand the difference between critiquing and criticising. That is sad. You can point out the faults of a photo in an encouraging way, but they should also find things that are good. I remember someone saying something to me about babies, they said the baby might be ugly, but you can always find something nice to comment on, the baby has beautiful eyes, etc. Photos are the same, you can always find something positive. OMG I can’t believe the judge did that with your photo, so insensitive. I don’t think I would have entered them either Laura, but good on you for sticking it out.
      It is a long comment, but you had a lot to say, and there is nothing wrong with that, so thank you for sharing your experiences.

  4. This is a really interesting series, I’m really enjoying your story! The photography club incident struck a chord with me… I’ve never joined a photography club for exactly that reason – the emphasis on competitions. Looking forward to part four!

    1. Thank you Stuart, good to hear that people are finding it interesting, still lots to come. I don’t get the emphasis on competitions, unless it is just an easy thing to do. I thought there would be outings and stuff like that. I was wrong.

    1. Is this your way of saying you think it is boring haha. There will be another 2 parts at least. I didn’t realise it was such a long story. Thank you.

  5. so much fun to read your journey Leanne! Very interesting Thanks for sharing 🙂
    And yes, i agree photography should not be about competition but about sharing and inspiring each other!

    1. Thank you as well for reading it, it is very long and still lots to come.
      I like the sharing and inspiring others a lot more too. 😀

  6. Interesting story! I often hear about those clubs, but have never joined. In fact, I have no local photographer friend and always shoot alone, which I really like. 😅 After leaving the club, did you have occasions to know other local photographers?

    1. Thank you Joey, the clubs can be toxic. That is sad to hear you always shoot on your own. I often go out with other photographers. I’ve found some that have become really good friends.

    2. Oh, I’m quite an introverted person, so really enjoy shooting alone. 😀 I primarily shoot long exposure photos at blue hour, which is a time for me to calm down, destress and reflect my life, therefore good to be alone to do it. 😅

    3. That is good that you like shooting on your own, I like company. Sounds like it is a good thing for you. That is great.

  7. I think my Toastmaster training helped me understand that competition and judging is so subjective. I’ve learned a lot from my local camera club and their judges, taking in what is said about other photos in addition to my own. Sometimes they say a photo is great but it’s not picked as a winner. I learn the most when a judge picks apart my photo and gives me suggestions on how they would make it better. A good judge will say, “This is my opinion.” And, it does take talent to judge well and fairly. Looking forward to your continuing story.

    1. I get that Anne, but the problem is many judges don’t. Anyone can be a judge with these competitions and some of them are just not very good. They don’t understand that you can critique an image without criticising it. I did the judging for a competition at the same club a few years back and I always tried to be positive with what I said. I pointed out things that I didn’t like, but always found something that was good in it as well. You learn a lot more that way I think. I learn a lot from when I was doing my fine arts degree, by getting your work looked at you learn what is a good way to do it and what isn’t. What is helpful and what is just destructive. Thank you Anne, still more to come.

  8. Great photography, Leeanne, I don’t care what that judge said! Your girls are adorable! ❤️☺️

  9. That sounds like a pretty awful club. Where was the encouragement and assistance?! Glad you got out when you did, Leanne.

    1. It was a hard club to be a member of, it seemed like each week it was competition based. Yeah, well, there wasn’t much of that. I am glad too Lois, I’ve learned more away from it. Thank you Lois.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from LEANNE COLE

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading