John McGarry

John shot film back in the 1970s and 1980s, mostly Kodachrome 64. Work and family obligations caused me to sideline my photography except for family vacations and holidays. After I retired, I realized how much I had enjoyed photography. I bought a D80 with the kit lens and began to reacquaint myself. One of my major interests was macro photography so I got out my 25-year-old Nikon 105 f/2.8 micro (MF, no metering) and used a light meter for exposure. Shortly after that I bought the 105mm f/2.8 AF-S micro and spent a lot of time shooting flowers and bugs. He later bought a 300 f/4 lens which he used with tubes or a teleconverter for close-ups of insects. John also became proficient in focus stacking. Another interest to me is shooting sports, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture the peak of the action. Eventually he moved on to a D300 body and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Another interest he enjoys is shooting the white-water race here in town as well as various sports at local high schools and prep schools such as soccer, lacrosse, track and field, field hockey and rugby.

When asked about travel related photography, John recalls for my 70thbirthday, I went to Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks with my son.  That was a special trip to take with my son and it also gave me the chance to photograph in areas with dramatic and beautiful landscapes. I had not done a lot of landscape photography before that trip. Since then I’ve taken several photo trips including five ANPATs (Annual Nikonians Photographic Adventure Trips), photo tours to Bryce and Zion, Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and White Sands National Monument and three trips to Iceland, all of which gave me many amazing landscape and wildlife opportunities.

John reminiscences it was 1978 when I first joined SCC. I had very little experience before then. I didn’t even own a camera when I got married. My wife had a Kodak Instamatic which we used for snapshots. After a couple of vacations using the Instamatic, we decided to buy a 35 mm camera to try to get better results. When asked what motivated him to join SCC, John replied, I joined the club mainly to learn; I wanted to delve a bit more deeply into photography. I also wanted to be able to compare my results with others. I was a mechanical engineer, eventually becoming a project manager.  I found as time went on the demands of my job were leaving me little time and emotional energy for photography and I stopped participating in the contests. I stayed in the club for a few more years into the early 90s going to programs that interested me and doing some judging.  My first serious camera was a Minolta SRT 101. Focus and exposure were all manual and Flash sync was accomplished with a sync cord from flash to camera. In fact, my first flash was with bulbs and a flash attachment. I also bought 35mm and 135 mm prime lenses for that camera. I got to the point where I had to decide whether to continue with the Minolta system or sell it and start over. I opted to switch to Nikon and purchased a small Vivitar Electronic Flash. 

Like other long-time members of the club, John has witnessed many changes. The main differences in the club over the years are the differences in photography. I went from a fully manual operation to an aperture priority camera, Nikon FE. Autofocus really started after I became less active, so I never used AF until I went digital. Film shooters became fewer and fewer and now we no longer have slide contests; it’s all digital. Print competitions were B/W only. Several members had home darkrooms and B/W film processing and printing were done by the photographer. Commercial printing was not acceptable. Some of the makers did color developing and printing but there was no color print contest. Going from one monthly meeting to two was also a significant change for the club.

When asked in what ways has your experience in the club helped you become a better photographer, John replied the contests were helpful, being able to compare my work to others and see what was successful. Helping develop my judgment to the point where I could either agree with the results and the comments or disagree and know why. The programs and workshops and the opportunities to discuss photography with the other club members were also helpful.  When discussing to what extent John has been involved in the club, John recalls in his early days in the club, I served as Slide Competition Chairman, Vice President and President. At that time the Slide Chairman was responsible for lining up the judges, collecting the slides, assembling them for judging and then putting the show together for the meeting. In my current membership period, I’ve been participating in the contests and doing some judging. I’ve also put on a couple of regular programs, a member’s mini and a couple of ATB programs

After a few years in SCC, I decided to broaden my horizons a bit and I joined Charter Oak although SCC remained my main club. I also joined PSA and started entering international salons. I started in Color Slide and Photojournalism competitions and then added Nature. PJ didn’t have that many salons in the US, so I started entering foreign salons. I eventually made the PSA list of leading PJ exhibitors of the year (based on number of acceptances). One year I was in 8th or 9th place but all the people ahead of me were from other countries so I was the leading US exhibitor. I also judged a PJ salon in Westchester and a couple of camera clubs in the Midwest asked me to judge and provide commentary on a couple of their monthly contests. I also judged at most of the area clubs. After I retired, I was trying to decide where I wanted to devote my time.  I had been a member of the club for several years, so it was in the back of my mind as something I might want to get back into.  It had been many years at that time since I used a camera and had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. The technical part came back quickly.  Post processing was a whole new area where I was starting from scratch and I’m still learning. It’s been fun. 

Nikonians has been another very valuable resource in my development as a photographer. If you ask a photography related question on one of the forums, chances are you will get a correct answer in short order or there will be a sincere effort to help you solve your problem. My first trip to Iceland was on a Nikonians Academy photo tour. I had wanted to visit Iceland for many years and when Nikonians offered it for the first time in 2013; I took advantage of the opportunity. It was a great trip and made me want to see more of that beautiful country. As a result, I went back to Iceland in 2014 and 2015.  Closer to home, any time I can get out to a dew-covered meadow early in the morning and find multiple subjects it’s a great way to start the day.