The Evolution of a Shutterbug

I joined the United States Navy in 1990, looking for a way to get myself moving in a direction that had a future I would want. I signed up to be part of the naval nuclear propulsion program. The first 2 years of my time in the Navy was spent learning everything I needed to know to do the job I had volunteered to do. After 16 months of boot camp, Nuclear Field ‘A’ School, and Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Florida, it was time to move on to the Nuclear Power Training Unit in Windsor, Connecticut, for six months of ‘prototype’ training with hands-on operations training at a mockup Navy submarine propulsion plant with an operating nuclear reactor.

As the training moved on, it occurred to me that I would be moving on to a real ship to do the job I signed up to do, and that there was a lot to see and remember along the way. I began to think about how I would capture those memories and look back on them as I got older. I knew I was going to need a camera to chronicle the adventures upon which I was going to embark. In the little free time that I had, I began to investigate photography publications to get some written advice on what was involved and figure out what I was going to need to capture those memories.

As I write this, it has been 30 years since I reported to my ship for duty in Bremerton, Washington. Having spent a year in the Pacific Northwest during my childhood, I already knew of and recalled the natural beauty that surrounded me in that part of the country. Being a young and junior second class petty officer in the Navy, I scraped together enough money to buy a Pentax 35mm SLR camera and started taking pictures of the landscapes surrounding me. While my skills and critical view of my work have evolved over the years, I keep some of those images hanging up around the house. I do so remind me of the times and places those images represent.

After many years of dabbling in landscape photography to memorialize things or to simply relax in the back yard, the opportunity was presented to me to share this craft with veterans. A colleague and fellow gym rat (well, I used to be!) shared that she was looking for help on behalf of an organization where she volunteered as a photographer. An organization known as Honor Flight was bringing a bunch of war veterans from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials built in tribute to their contributions as warriors. I was well pleased and excited to be offered such an honorable opportunity! Of course, I would help!

What I did not know then were the consequences of such an act. I was invited back to do more photography with subsequent events of the Indianapolis chapter of Honor Flight. Through my friend and colleague, other opportunities with other chapters of Honor Flight came about. The Top of Virginia chapter is another with which I have had the privilege and opportunity to shoot with my friends and colleagues. Then the Four State Community Veterans Engagement Board needed help photographing the Veteran’s Day parade in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Though COVID-19 resulted in cancelling two of those events, it was back in 2021.

Beyond the scope of my photography shifting to encompass people and events, but my skills continue to improve along the way! I have also met many other photographers in the area shooting at all levels from new-comer amateurs to seasoned professionals. It has been an enriching experience that I would not trade for the world!