It Wasn’t My First Love

Over the years, I’ve had many hobbies, including woodworking, writing, motorcycle touring, and flying my own airplane. But I never particularly engaged in photography. 

My brother, Roger Worley, was an avid photographer for most of his life and my inspiration when I finally began my journey. (Photo by Niki Worley Henry)

I experimented with photography a bit in my high school years, photographing members of a ballet class for their parents and taking a few random photos around my town. But I wasn’t really bitten by the photography bug. On the other hand, my brother was an accomplished photographer for most of his life.

As my life progressed, I was lucky enough to travel a lot, including visiting many parts of the U.S. at someone else’s expense. I often took a small camera, which, more often than not, remained in my pocket or suitcase. Taking photos just wasn’t “on my radar.”

Then, in 2016, I was privileged to be invited to accompany a college volleyball team on a playing tour of Europe. We spent two weeks touring sites in Italy, Slovenia, Austria, and Czechia between the six matches the team played against European teams. Those cities and countries’ sites weren’t something I could pass up, and I came home with 1,500 or so photos. My wife, who was also on the trip, took another 1,500. 

Suddenly, I was hooked. And it didn’t hurt that I could engage in a little friendly competition with my brother.

First Steps

I already had a starter DSLR camera – one that hadn’t seen much use since I bought it. In fact, I hadn’t bothered to take it on the European trip. I shot all my photos there with my cell phone.

I invested in a few accessories: a tripod, a speed light (flash), some filters, and a small shoulder bag to carry accessories. And I was off and running.

At first, I really didn’t know what I wanted to photograph. But one day when I was searching the internet for ideas, I ran across information from a man called Scott Kelby. It turned out that he is one of the premier photography trainers today and has a comprehensive training site called KelbyOne. I registered for a trial subscription and started watching his video courses.

Street Photography

Observing people has been a major facet of my career for most of my life. So I was naturally attuned to the general idea.

One of the Kelby videos featured a New York photographer called Jay Maisel. His major emphasis is called street photography – photographing people in public places, generally in candid or unposed situations. Maisel calls it “capturing people being themselves.”

Contrasts of the Street
The sun shines on a woman listening to her smartphone while a few feet away in the shadows, a homeless man digs in the garbage can for food.

After watching that first video, and two subsequent interviews with Maisel, I decided to try it for myself. My first forays with my camera in downtown Louisville were apprehensive. Would people get mad if they saw me taking their picture? Maybe even react violently? Would I even see anything interesting?

Certainly, Maisel captured some fascinating images of people but could I do the same? I had learned that what I was doing was completely legal. Courts have ruled that it is permissible to take photos of people, even without their permission, so long as the photographer is in a public place such as a sidewalk.

There are some restrictions to this, but in general, the ability to photograph in public falls under the First Amendment. I am not a lawyer, but a lawyer named Bert Krages published a comprehensive guide for photographers on the subject. However, it should be noted that the laws regarding street photography may differ outside the United States.

Unfounded Concerns

My fears proved unfounded. In four years of photographing people on the street, I have never had a person get violent or even mad. I had one instance where a woman saw me raise my camera and held up her hand. She simply said, “Please don’t take my picture.” I nodded and lowered the camera. There was no reason not to honor her request. I could walk a hundred feet and easily find someone else interesting to photograph. 

Ironically, the most adverse reaction to my street photography came from other photographers, particularly those in two photography clubs I belonged to. “I wouldn’t want my photo taken without my permission,” was a common response – ignoring the fact that in today’s world, we have our photo taken without our overt permission hundreds of times a day by security cameras on streets, in stores, in shopping malls.

In time, I also became more discerning in what I photographed on the street. Rather than just photographing people who ‘looked interesting,’ I began to concentrate on looking for color or light/shadow as elements of the shot.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities for street photography – at least the kind I practiced – largely disappeared. So I moved on to other photographic pursuits.

Fine Art Photography

Early in the COVID pandemic, my research into other types of photography led me experiment with more unusual subjects. Specifically, I began to look at macro and close-up photography.

Green on Blue
Water Drops – Green colored water

One of the ideas that intrigued me was to photograph the collision of two water drops. Briefly, a drop of water falls from a height and hits a water pool. A second drop, released at a precise interval, collides with the first drop as it rebounds from impacting the pool’s surface.

This type of photography can be accomplished with elementary tools, but the result is extremely hit-and-miss. However, there are specific devices that allow the precise timing of water drop intervals. I was able to purchase such a device on sale, and it led to some interesting photos.

I also delved into artistic capture of subjects like the interaction between oil and water and close-ups of flowers and other vegetation.

Stock Photography

Early on, I was introduced to the idea of stock photography. The photographer makes images within certain specified parameters for sale on stock photo agency sites. When a photo is purchased from the site, the photographer gets a percentage of the sale price. In general, a photo may be sold hundreds of times.

I started with Adobe Stock since that was the stock agency recommended by Scott Kelby. However, I experienced little sales success with them. I also had many photos rejected, sometimes for reasons that made no sense to me. I later tried Shutterstock. I got better results but still had more rejections than I felt were justified. Sales, although better than on Adobe Stock, were still nothing to get excited about.

Finally, I decided to take the plunge to Getty. Getty Images is considered one of the premier stock photography sites and I wasn’t sure I could compete with the far more experienced photographers whose work was there. But I tried uploading a few images and I was very pleasantly surprised. 

First of all, images that had been rejected by the other agencies were readily accepted by Getty in most cases. And when the Getty reviewers rejected a photo, their explanations provided a clear understanding of what needed to be done to make the image acceptable. In three years, I’ve only had one image rejected by Getty where I disagreed with the reviewer’s assessment, and it wasn’t worth arguing for that one image.

Moreover, I’ve seen good success in sales. In fact, one image of downtown Boise, Idaho rejected by all other agencies for various reasons, has been my best seller so far on Getty.

More and more, I’m concentrating on producing images with stock sales in mind from the outset.

Sports Photography

Jonny at bat

I come from a very sports-minded family and since early in my photography ‘career’, I’ve been photographing my grandson’s participation in various sports. Even before I got serious about photography, I shot a lot of photos of my daughter’s and son’s sports activities. I had also made some forays into sports at the University of Louisville – photographing potential recruits for the volleyball team.

But the onset of the COVID pandemic caused the layoff of most of the photography staff of the University of Louisville. Since I was willing to donate my time and equipment, I gained the opportunity to shoot in-game photos of both the tennis and volleyball teams. That gave me experience in photographing the faster-moving environment of college sports.

While I probably won’t ever gain floor or field access to basketball or football – the remaining university staff photographers cover those – I still enjoy working with those college sports which normally don’t garner as much attention.

Many Directions

This hobby of photography has taken me in many directions, and most of them were quite enjoyable. I have sold a few photographs, and I’ve also done a few photo sessions for payment. But I still consider myself a hobbyist rather than a professional photographer. I do this for fun, and I hope you enjoy following the journey through my photos.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Menu