My journey to the stars, Part 1
Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Kristin Gray. I have been a member of Wexford Camera Club for about 5 years. I would refer to myself primarily as a landscape/seascape and astro-photographer and I am going to talk to you over a few blogs about my journey ‘to the stars’!
It’s funny when you look back on things, I guess all the signs were there for me and photography really. I was always the kid on the school tour with a camera in tow. I remember on my 6th class school tour, I was young for the class, age 11, feeling incredibly grown up as my Mam entrusted me with her beautiful disc camera that she had gotten from the States. I don’t think I knew anyone with such a camera. At the time the compact cameras were the 35mm and 110mm film, 12 24 and if you were lucky 36 exposures!
Then, on my 12th birthday, I remember going to the market and buying my first camera. It was a Halina Vision XMS/Z 35mm Zoom, £25, of course a point and shoot camera really, but it had this small manual zoom range (35-50mm) and I thought this was just the business! This emerging passion grew more I guess when digital point and shoot cameras came out and was perfect as a 20 something travelling and exploring on holidays. I spent more time behind the lens then anything and yet still, I never at that time understood that photography was something that people could ‘do’. I remember commenting to my other half, Shane, once when we were on a trip to Wales, that ‘I saw the world through a frame.’ I tried to explain it and I couldn’t really, it was something innate that I couldn’t describe, and still I did not somehow realise this was something I could ‘do’.
Like most of us, there was a few years that pass by in a flash and various heartaches including losing my Mam at age 57 in 2011. I guess this is one of my photographic regrets, that I was not really ‘into’ photography during that time, had I have been, there are so many images I would have taken of my Mam…but you have to look at life’s positives and it is kind of because of her and those years and sadness’s and loss that I really got into photography properly as a hobby…
Shane bought me a lovely bridge camera and that was the final push that got me into this wonderful passion so completely. It really was a huge de-stressor for me just during difficult times, being out and shooting beautiful places; as behind the lens, for me, everything else melted away. With the increased presence of social media, I started to see many photography pages and forums and, it sounds strange now, but it was seeing so many beautiful images that got me to understand that this could be a wonderful hobby and that made me want to learn more about ‘proper’ photography. While I quickly outgrew my bridge camera (there were no manual controls), I still have it and I treasure it as it really was the pivotal camera for me. I now, finally understood this was something that had always been there in me, but till now, unrealised. I shot away and I started to look into the images I saw, images I would love to be able to achieve. I looked at videos, talked to photographers, read articles and I soon realised my lovely cameras’ limitations if I wanted to grow my hobby. Enter the Nikon D3000, my first DSLR camera.
Like most emerging photographers, I spent a couple of years shooting everything, and I mean everything, people, animals, flowers, sceneries, family, friends, buildings, you name it, I shot it! As Shane is a musician and singer/songwriter, I naturally fell into ‘gig photography’ for a time. This was my most important photographic learning journey, as then, I was shooting with the Nikon D3000 (an entry-level DSLR), a kit lens and a 50mm lens. And so, I really had to learn hard and fast the camera and all its settings to extract the best possible results in the restrictions of the ‘no-flash allowed’, low light gig environment. It was sink or swim really! As anyone who shots in low light knows, good sensors and fast wide lenses are what is really needed and so, to pull ‘acceptable’ shots from the low range gear I had was a challenge, to say the least, but possible, but you had to really learn your camera.
I mentioned gig photography as the place where I ‘cut my teeth’ but it is also because of this and some wonderful photographers that I meet through these singer/songwriter sessions, who encouraged me so much to push on with my photography; that I continued to learn and grow. These included a number of Wexford people, some of whom are club members. One club member here Stephen, who was at a gig and to whom I was introduced to through a mutual photography friend Kenny, encouraged me to join Wexford Camera Club. Paddy, also a club member who was a regular singer/songwriter gig-goer, also encouraged me to the club and with photography in general!
I have always been a nature and scenery lover. I remember as a young girl of about 7 – and still so clearly – the first day I really became aware of weather and have been fascinated ever since. It was a wild, wet, and windy day and I was walking to school and just stopped and looked, as if for the first time, in the rain. A little to the contrary of the story that follows, but to this day I still love the rain (but not right when I want to shoot!) but it does explain why landscape photography became so much of what I do. My love of nature and skies, clouds, and the sea brought me to my love of landscape/seascape photography. I quickly learned about the joy of ‘golden hour’ and the way you can use this light for incredible images and I traveled the length and breadth of this country shooting golden hour, sunrises, and sunsets. This madness included one straight 7-hour drive to shoot Fanad Lighthouse in Donegal, where I stayed overnight in my car just so I could get the dawn shoot in too (we won’t mention the crazy sheep!!!!).
From shooting sunsets well into twilight hours, I became more aware of the evening and night sky and just the amazing peace and tranquillity that exists at this time. The world is hushed, quiet and still. There is a peace about it that I cannot quite explain, but I know it is what drew me into astro-photography. Under this amazingly beautiful dark sky, allow your eyes to become accustomed to the low light and the sights that present never cease to fill me with wonder.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to talking about astrophotography with you in Part II.
Wishing you good light,
You can find me on the following platforms: