Back to my roots

FILLERS

BY JOHN CULLEN

When I started out in the newspaper business 48 years ago, I was a writer/photographer. As I grew in the career, I shifted more to photography and was named Iowa Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 1980. I continued to write but my greater interest was photography.

Later, when I became an editor, I had to forego most of the photography and concentrate on writing. When I moved into management, both writing and photography were shunted aside as I focused more on making sure we had enough money coming in to pay the bills. Art took care of the writing.

Now, as I have stepped away from day-to-day operations of the business, I decided to get back into photography. First of all, I missed it. Secondly, I needed a hobby other than watching TV all day. I still report to the office for 2–3 hours each day, but I need something else to occupy the rest of my time. I tried golf as a young man but I never got into it and gave it up after about eight years of chasing Arnold Palmer. No desire to take it up again. Mark Twain called golf “a good walk wasted.”

As I walked to and from work each day, I’d notice things along the way that would make a good picture. So I recently invested in a good camera designed to take high-resolution photographs. It’s a Sony, which was a hard camera to swallow for a guy who grew up shooting with Nikons and Canons, the traditional workhorses of photojournalists. I chose the Sony because Doug Mills, White House photographer for The New York Times, is impressed with it, especially because it will shoot completely silently unlike traditional single lens reflex cameras that make a loud kerchunk sound when the picture is taken. The New York Times switched its photographers to Sony, followed by the Associated Press. They’re all good cameras, it’s just personal preference, just like some people like Chevys while others favor Fords.

I’m inspired by Hugh Perry, who after retiring from his legal career has become known for his excellent wildlife photography. And Bruce Ellingson, retired Buena Vista University professor now living in Minnesota, who has created a great portfolio of landscape photos, particularly of national parks and Buena Vista County.

My idea is not only to take pictures for my own enjoyment, but also to contribute to The Times as time and laziness permit.

I’d also like to recover some of the cost of the camera, so I may take on commercial work if anyone would like to use my services.

Another area I plan to investigate is aerial drone photography. It’s a growing realm of photography, both commercial and journalism. However, a person who wants to operate a drone commercially must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA doesn’t want some idiot flying a drone into the flight path of an airplane, so a test is given to check the drone operator’s familiarity with aviation rules and procedures. Once we’re certified we’ll invest in a drone. This is another matter which depends on getting a handle on Covid. I don’t want to walk into a test site with a bunch of people in Omaha or Des Moines until it’s medically safe. I’m waiting for a vaccine.

Meanwhile I’ll continue my devotion to the printed word with these timeless weekly pearls of prose.

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