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Making memories with the camera

Jamie Drake

Outdoors columnist Jamie Drake

Have you been bitten by the photography bug? That’s the only kind of bug I want flying around me this spring.

Cameras and picture-taking have always been a part of my life. If you’re a reader of a certain age, you can remember a time when taking pictures wasn’t as easy as just whipping your phone out of your back pocket.

Not only was film expensive, it was delicate, too. You couldn’t expose it to light and it was debatable whether you could send it through the airport X-ray machine or had to hand-carry it through security. Back then there weren’t any fancy digital cameras or smartphones with unlimited Cloud space to store images or apps to help you add filters to your pictures.

I remember the first camera I ever had. My parents made a gift of it for my eighth birthday. It was a Polaroid Sun 600, the iconic instant camera popular in the 1980s. The film packets were so expensive, I probably only took a few dozen photos each year. I had to be quite choosy about what I’d point at and shoot.

It’s been so long since they were in style that instant cameras are once again in vogue. Three of my daughters have their own Fuji Instamax cameras, and the other two desperately wish they had their own. My girls carry theirs with them everywhere.

The cameras come in a rainbow of colors these days, not just plain old black like my Polaroid was In fact, I’m pretty sure black isn’t even a color choice. But they still have to be choosy about what they photograph. A lot of things have become cheaper over the last 35 years, but instant film is not one of them.

I can’t ever remember a time when my father didn’t have a camera. He had a professional-grade Nikon that he kept in his truck, in a padded camera case of course. He always had a tripod folded up and stored behind the seat just in case.

Whenever we were out and about in Southern Maryland and something interesting presented itself, he’d let me have a try at capturing it. He’d coach me on “depth of field” and the composition of the shot and, over time, I developed some decent photography skills.

Film wasn’t cheap and getting it developed cost a pretty penny, too. Every few weeks he would take a couple of rolls by the newspaper and their photographer, Gary Smith, would work his magic in the darkroom of the Maryland Independent.

Gary always welcomed me and my father into the darkroom, kindly answering any of my questions while I marveled at the photographs of notable Southern Maryland events clipped to the many cords encircling the room.

I still have several of the photographs that Mr. Smith developed, framed and on display in my home. The subject matter is as varied as this wonderful area we call home — from horses in repose in a pasture at Cedarville Farm to a bend in a fence located outside Dr. Samuel Mudd’s historic home. My favorite photographs are several images of Allen’s Fresh throughout the seasons.

Nowadays, the most picture-taking I ever do is with my iPhone. Trying to get a good shot of the supermoon rising over the Patuxent River on Monday night showed me I need to brush up on my photography skills, significantly. But I’m up to the challenge.

My sister gave me a Canon digital camera for Christmas, and my oldest daughter is about to embark on a photography unit in her middle school art class, so it’s high time we take our picture-taking skills to the next level.

Photo contests upcoming

I invite you to join us in our quest to make this spring all about learning to better use the photographic technology available at our fingertips.

And there’s no better motivator to improving your photography than the possibility of winning some cash and bragging rights.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is holding its 15th annual watershed photo contest this month.

Photographers of all skill levels — both amateur and professional — and ages 13 and older are invited to participate. A winning photograph could net you cash prizes from $100 to $500 and your photo featured on CBF’s website, in their calendar or perhaps on one of the pages of the magazine “Save the Bay.”

Photographs should highlight the positive aspects of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. All photos must include water from the Bay or from another body of water within its watershed.

Images can depict landscapes, people, wildlife or recreation.

Photographs must be submitted by March 31. Judging will be done by a panel of CBF employees and a fan-favorite will be chosen by the public in the Viewers’ Choice Gallery in April.

Best of all, it’s free to enter this contest.

You can submit up to three photographs for consideration. Contest rules and details are available at

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is now accepting entries for its annual photo contest through August 31. Entering this contest will cost $10 for up to three images with additional entries $3 each (no limit).

Winning entries will be featured in the “Maryland Natural Resource” magazine and in the 2021 wall calendar. The grand prize winner will get $500 cash, a one-year Maryland State Park and Trail Passport, a five-year subscription to the DNR magazine and five copies of the 2021 calendar.

The full details of the contest are available online at

I have fond memories of spending time with my father and his camera. This spring, I’ll be making memories with my oldest daughter and my new camera, capturing the beauty of this area we call home. And I hope to see you out there, too.