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Daily Inspiration: Meet Gary Carter

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gary Carter.

Hi Gary, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Grew up the son of a police officer, and worked as a police officer myself. For several years, I thought photography was interesting, but I dismissed the idea because I wasn’t sure what the point of me taking pictures was as nobody would ever see them. At the time, it seemed like a silly idea to get into something that I couldn’t share.

In 2016, I have diagnosed with stage three cancer. As I was getting ready to start the surgery, and the radiation that was to follow I went on a trip to Yellowstone with my wife. I had purchased a cheap DSLR camera for her for Christmas. During that trip, she was taking pictures and she let me use the camera to take some pictures too.

I was surprised at how well some of the photos turned out and I was hooked. With Instagram and Facebook, I realized I could share my pictures. I even uploaded a few to Shutterstock to see if they would sell. Looking back at my early work there are a few great shots, but also a lot of cringe-worthy material.

The cancer surgery and radiation came and went. I successfully survived cancer. Sadly my marriage which had been struggling at the time ended. I decided to buy my own camera and continued shooting.

Going through my photo collection, I was looking at some of my duds and trying to figure out what went wrong. I bought some online classes and when I had extra time or if I was on a slow night shift I buried myself in learning more. I quickly switched from the dreaded auto setting to shooting in manual. Every time I made a mistake I was on a personal quest to find out what went wrong and correct it.

I bought better cameras and better lenses and continued to build my knowledge. I was shooting landscapes and wildlife at the time. I remarried and my new wife convinced me to start doing portrait photography. Enlisted one of my wife’s friend’s families for my first family photo session. I was surprised at how little I didn’t know about taking portraits. It’s definitely a different skill set than wildlife and landscape.

My first session went okay, but the learning had to start again. I invested in more equipment and more learning. I now shoot several times a week and I love doing portraits. I never stop learning and I love trying to overcome challenging situations.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Stage three cancer was definitely a big challenge so was my divorce.

Along with those challenges was going from picking up a DSLR and setting it on auto and pointing and shooting hoping something would turn out I spent many hours on my own learning how to really use a camera and learning lighting. That can be a real challenge without an instructor to ask questions.

Fortunately, in today’s world, there’s Youtube and more formal online classes. The formal online classes were the best investment I made in my photography education.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I spent twenty-four years as a police officer.

Ten of those a sergeants supervising other officers. I now do photography full-time. I enjoy portrait photography, but at the heart of it, I love landscape and wildlife photography. There is a rewarding feeling to capturing a beautiful image that tells a story. There is a satisfaction to creating that I can’t quite explain.

Someday I would love to have a gallery to showcase my landscape and wildlife work. As it is, I currently have a website and Instagram where I can share that work.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
I think the biggest factor is being able to see the shot without the camera. Sometimes a beautiful shot can be picked out of a not-so-beautiful environment.

I remember being on a boat in Hawaii. The boat wasn’t pretty, and the ocean was just endless boring blue on all sides. There was a deep-sea fishing reel attached to the boat. I had my camera and zoomed in on the reel. The resulting photo of just the reel is actually beautiful and interesting. Being able to see the potential in any situation is huge.

The other characteristic of portrait photography is being able to work with people. Being comfortable with others and making them comfortable with you is huge. Nobody likes working with the standoffish grumpy guy. Who’s going to hire that guy more than once or refer him to friends?

You have to love people and be willing to communicate with them with a positive attitude.

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