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Encouraging others and exploring oneself

Guest Blogger- Doug Sparrow

Welcome to SAMI ANNA!

Please join us in our blog takeover by Doug Sparrow as he shares his journey into the photography world.

Dearest Reader,

This is a moment in the rambling mind of who I am. As a photographer and person.

The short introduction of who I am goes something like this…I am an officer in the US Army that started out my active duty service as a junior enlisted Soldier over seven years ago. Twice deployed overseas, I’m the son of a father who served for 30 years in special operations but now mostly gardens, and a mother who still serves her Faith through missionary work throughout the world.  An avid hunter and outdoorsman, I attended 15 schools, have been to more than 70 countries, and have the vast and very expensive collection of hobbies that speaks of a lost person that is on a mission to find the beauty of passion. And that’s where who I am matters far less than what I’m here for. Beauty.  

What is beauty?

Merriam-Webster defines it as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”  To me, photography is about exalting the spirit.  As my interests and hobbies consume my time and focus, I use photography to supplement those hobbies and interests that coalesce into one focal point. The Wild. And so, when it comes to photography I nurture the beautiful flame atop the candle rather than the roaring fire in ones soul begging to consume. 

Why I enjoy taking photos:  

Am I passionate about photography? Not really. I love my family and want to make them proud with everything I do. I love my fiancée and will cherish every moment of this incredible life with her. I love mentoring and leading the men and women that serve in the military. I nurture that love. But passion? I’m simply passionate about ‘The Wild.” That yearning for something more, something vastly greater than myself.  It’s enticing in a humbling way. One of my favorite quotes is from Captain Jack Sparrow. Yes, our last names make it ironic. Yes, it’s from a Disney movie. But no, that doesn’t diminish the fact that the quote is incredible. “Now…bring me that horizon.” It spoke volumes to me when I heard it. To ask the unknown and unachievable. To pursue the unknown and do so by motivating those under your charge to do the same. Now, that is a guy, an idea, a purpose I can get behind. If I’ve learned anything in my 30 years of life, 70 countries visited, and tens of thousands photos taken its that all I need in life is the beauty of the pursuit. The chase and the hunt. When it comes to photography, all I am is a hunter. 

Why I started:  

Reason #1 - Let’s call this the forcing function to buying my first camera. Soon after I moved to Alaska, a very dear friend of mine was getting married in a small ceremony and had asked if I would be the marriage commissioner for them. Of course I was more than excited and honored to do so. I even said I would take the pictures for them so they didn’t have to pay a photographer. Did I know anything about photography when I said that? No. Not in the least. What I did know was that I was willing to do anything to make sure their wedding was perfect. And apparently that meant obligating myself to something I knew nothing about. I forgot about that obligation soon after. Months pass by and the wedding day had come upon us. His now wife was getting ready at my apartment while he was elsewhere with the groomsmen getting ready. She casually mentioned how kind she thought it was that I would be taking their pictures. I told her how excited I was to be a part of their wedding but I had to get something from the store. I drove straight to Best Buy and bought a Canon 6D and two lenses. Yes. I literally walked in, asked for the best camera they had in stock, whatever lenses made sense for versatility, and drove straight home. Did I mention that I bought Lightroom because the Best Buy sales person said it was useful? Well, I bought that too. While she was getting ready I unpackaged the camera and googled everything I could on taking casual portrait photos and candid photography.

Reason #2 - I have traveled the world.  I’ve seen things that people dream of seeing. I have seen things people have nightmares about. And through all the years, all the countries, cities, and villages, I had not one photo to show for it. Somehow in my shallow youth I thought that those memories were mine until they faded. When they faded there was some innocent beauty in knowing they were at least mine for a time. That kind of romantic thought process died when I finally realized I didn’t want to let go of those moments. Screw the romantic in me, I was clinging to memories and I’ll be damned if I was going to move to Alaska and let that mindset live on. How selfish of me to hide the views, the smiles, and the love that I was blessed to see for myself. Moving to Alaska was that singular change in my life where I knew I needed to start capturing the rare beauty that I blindly stumble into so often. 

I try to seek out the shadows and dark corners and dusty table tops of the world
— Doug Sparrow

Style of photography: 

I looked up styles of photography. I didn’t find one that fit me. I enjoy wide sweeping views and depth of emotion. But as much as I dislike staged photos, they’re hard to escape sometimes. Maybe a candid photographer? Could be travel or wildlife also. I’m not sure. But I suppose ‘photographer’ would suit me just fine. As for what I really think of my style, ‘curious’ works best. I have no formal training. No academic experience in the fine arts or photography. I lack the patience to sit through the instructional youtube videos. I enjoy reading about the technical aspects of photography when I can find the time to do so. But mostly, I’m a tinkerer by nature. So I tinker with the camera, with the settings, with the light. And maybe I’m breaking all the traditional rules of photography. Rule of thirds works. But I catch myself not following it as much as I should. Focal points don’t match up to what some people find appealing. And frankly, I don’t mind. I respect and admire so many photographers and am caught up in some photos that I forget where I am in that moment. But that’s not what I’m looking for for myself. I just want to take a picture. That’s it. And as I tinker, as I find so many photos I’ve taken that missed the moment, I learn and I grow in my own way as a photographer.

What inspires me: 

I try to seek out the shadows and dark corners and dusty table tops of the world. Be it metropolitan Lisbon, the mountains of Alaska, the valleys in Swaziland, or villages in Guatemala I have seen, drank in, and savored, I intend on finding more. Much more, in all its peculiarities. It may be hunting or backpacking that drive me to these corners of the world. It could be charity work, military deployment, or pure curiosity. But just having my camera with me lets inspiration find itself in my viewfinder more often than not. Inspiration looks different to me every time I find it. The common denominator is the fact that maybe there is someone out there that hasn’t seen this view, this place, this emotion before in their lives. And its my responsibility to give people that moment of mine to make theirs if they so choose. 

Pedantic as I am, I hope this sparks at least a reminder to seek The Wild and bring your camera with you. Your reasons for taking the photo are yours alone, but share that moment. You could very well help someone make it theirs. And never forget, few things in life are as beautiful or pure as two strangers sharing a moment. 
Stay Vigilant, 
Doug Sparrow 

 

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“Now…bring me that horizon.”
— Captain Jack Sparrow

A recap of his work: