Fun and informative thread. It is nice to get a sense of folk here. Let me start by reiterating how much I've learned from you all, and how nice it is to gain a sense of your life-journey in and outside of photography.
My folks bought me a little Ansco 120 box camera when I was 10. (That was 56 years ago!) I immediately became "the family photographer," an appelation with which I was enamoured. :-) That was the beginning. I went on to take lots of photos over the years in my 'yout' and then, in high school, take on the role of school newspaper and yearbook photographer where I first got to get my fingers wet in the school's darkroom and learned about developing and enlarging my own work. When I went into the Army as a volunteer during the Vietnam era, I became by default, my Combat Engineer Battalion's recon photographer. That was interesting. Field work, darkroom set up in a GP medium tent, only did darkroom work at night since it was too hot in there to work during the daytime. I had to learn on the fly to calculate development times when my chemicals could only be cooled to about 90F. I developed a sort of "reverse zone system" to compensate. LOL Recon missions were fun. I eventually dumped the Speed Graphic provided by Uncle Sam in favor of a Nikonos that I bought w/ my own money at an Air Force BX. That sucker was immune to the dust, mud, muck, rain, rice paddies, small arms fire, etc.
After Vietnam I taught basic B&W photography at the Post Craft Shop at Ft. Lewis, WA, and managed the darkroom there for a couple of years, as a side-job. When I got out of the military I applied and was admitted to Brooks, but didn't go due to financial constraints. Instead I sought a career in the Fire Service in California. Over the years I rose throught the ranks and became Fire Chief/CEO of one the Los Angeles area fire departments. I received a PhD from the University of Hard Knocks during my career due to some unusual circumstances and opportunities in helping to represent and manage the city I worked for. All the while retaining my interest in, and doing some photography as time allowed.
When I retired, I had the privilege of pursuing my avocation in a serioius way, and as luck would have it I bought a Bronica ETRSi kit (pretty extensive) just before the dawn of digital. Fortunately, I saw the writing on the wall early on (after reading one of Michael's early articles on "is digital as good as film" in the Canon 10D era), sold the Bronica kit before it was completely without value, and bought a little Olympus 3."somthing" mp ditial camera, then an Olympus E10, and took classes at a local art insitute in "Photoshop."
The rest, as they say, is geography. I now have a thriving consulting business in mentoring future senior fire service leaders, and helping fire departments with leadership and organizational development. I basically flunked "Retirement 101" but that has enabled me to afford a really nice digital darkroom w/ a couple of printers, a really nice computer and monitor, and some good FF and APS-C digital cameras and lenses. I shoot 99% for my own pleasure, make prints for friends, neighbors, and other photographers. I find the pursuit of a really fine print as rewarding as the image capturing process iteself. I'm completely self-taught (well, taught by Michael & Jeff really when it comes to digital) and had a "highlight" moment last year when I attended a session or two at the Palm Springs Photo Festival. I noticed a guy at the Epson Vendor Booth who was talking to people, taking their files and making prints for them while tutoring them on file optimization for printing. Interesting. They had a table with various prints made on the different Epson offerings, paper-wise. I noticed that they didn't have an example of Hot Press Natural on the table, so I went out to my car and brought in a print I had just made on that paper and gave it to "the guy" saying that if he'd like, he could just throw it on the table as an example. The guy looked my print over pretty carefully, then told me it was a "really nice print" and put it on the table. I came back at the end of the day to fetch my print and "the guy" reiterated what a fine print it was and that he'd had a lot of comments from people on it. "The guy" (I'm so dumb I didn't even know who he was - had I known I'd never have dreamed to foist one of my prints off on him) turned out to be R. Mac Holbert! Holy cow. I think when I found out who he was and that "he liked my print" it made my year. Perhaps decade. (I suspect Jeff is getting a kick out of this anecdote.)
As I said, I'm pretty much self-taught all along the way, and deeply appreciate LULA and all of you for your knowldge. I learned early on what a "good print looked like" from going to see exibitions of folk like Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston, Joseph Karsh and others. I still go to the galleries in Carmel evey chance I get to absorb and learn by observation.
I'm not all that prolific. I don't care to be. I'm always in pursuit of an idea that is never fully realized on paper.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.