• Mike Ridgway

A Passion Rekindled

At the end of 2010, I found myself in a new country, on a new continent, with a fundamentally altered life. At the age of 29 I had decided to leave a good job and comfortable lifestyle to enlist in the US Army. Upon arriving at my first duty station in Germany, I was eager to travel and see all those historical places that I had read about my whole life. I never actually thought I would see them, but there I was! All of my friends and family shared vicariously in my adventure by telling me one thing over and over: take lots of pictures!

I did! I traveled all over Europe, Australia, Indonesia, and a few less savory locations. I found that I was becoming obsessed with the "high" of discovering new locations and cultures, and recording those moments for all time. Every shutter release, every angle found, every moment captured only intensified my desire to do better. My passion for capturing and sharing moments grew with each moment captured. The intense satisfaction I felt after my first day in Paris, sitting in a pub enjoying a beer and looking over my shots from the day, letting the experience sink in............ will be with me forever.

Olympia in Greece. Taken in the July, 2012 as I traveled Europe on post-deployment leave from the Army.

Of course, life takes it's course. As I continued my enlistment with a different unit in Fort Polk, I became consumed with Army deployments while working on my education. My new-found passion for photography fell asleep until March of 2018. In that month I visited the Torpedo factory in Alexandria, VA with a friend of mine. For those not familiar with the Torpedo factory, it is a former naval munitions factory that was converted into an art center. I admired the work I saw there, which began the rekindling of my passion. A second visit this year in May, along with the near completion of my Master's program and I was finally ready to commit time, resources, and energy to my photography.

I started with an Olympus OMD 10 Mark III, a beginners level mirrorless camera with some pretty amazing capabilities. I focused on landscapes, urban photography, and creative ideas. I quickly discovered the basics of photography: working on manual with the shutter, aperture, and ISO. My interest quickly expanded to time-lapse photography, astrophotography, and macro photography. In my search for locations I quickly discovered local spots in the DC metro, such as Rock Creek Park, the National Arboretum, downtown Arlington, downtown DC, and more.

I quickly expanded beyond local shoots to the surrounding area. I discovered the darkest location on the east coast, Spruce Knob in West Virginia. My first attempt at astrophotography was at Spruce Knob with my Olympus camera and no idea what I was doing. Despite the fact that the Milkyway shots I came home with were not really good, I was excited what I managed to get with so little knowledge. I also learned a ton of valuable lessons, including the fact that I needed another camera and better, more versatile lenses.

One of my first Milkyway shots from Spruce Knob Lake. The lessons I learned on this first trip in June were invaluable.

Since my first trip to Spruce Knob I have returned twice more. I have also begun planning longer and further expeditions, with plans to head out west next year and further thereafter. I am excited to finally begin this adventure doing something I love! This blog will record my expeditions, photographic progress, and interesting topics and subjects in photography weekly. My next blog post will focus on astrophotography, including the tools, techniques, and locations for landscape and deep field astrophotography. With that being said, welcome to my new blog, my new adventure, and my rekindled passion!

The Milkyway from Spruce Knob Lake on my second attempt at astrophotography. This image is untracked, unstacked, and at a lower ISO than what could be shot. Progress is planned and coming soon!

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