Allen Huffman, photographer...?
January 23, 2002
Occasionally someone writes me with a request to use some of my photos. Most often this is someone who has visited one of the parks but didn't take any (or enough) photos of their own and wants to print out some of mine for their scrapbook. Other times its someone wanting to use the images for desktop wallpaper. Every now and then someone asks if they can use my photos on their web site. Every time someone writes to me asking to use my photos I am flattered and a bit surprised.
After over five years of putting photos on the web and taking more than 20,000 pictures, I still don't consider myself a photographer. A photographer, to me, is someone who actually knows a thing or two about cameras. I can count the number of cameras I've owned on one hand and all but two of them were purchased for me by my wonderful grandmother. I never did much with the first instant camera she bought me when I was still in junior high school, but I distinctly recall taking the Kodak Disc camera she got for me later to EPCOT. In fact, I may have some grainy opening year photos from that park in a real album around here somewhere... There was also a nifty consumer 35mm camera she got me during high school (or after graduation?). It was great but I doubt I ever shot more than a dozen rolls of film on it. I still have it somewhere (and probably the others) stored away in the basement.
I didn't really start to take pictures until I decided to purchase an Epson PhotoPC digital camera in 1996. The world wide web was very different back then. Slow connect speeds (14.4 modems, 28.8 if you were lucky) kept the web fairly graphic and photo light. Early Disney fan sites might describe things in the parks, but they rarely had any images. I vividly recall my desire to see pictures of the versions of Haunted Mansion attractions that "SteveZ" described on his web site. None were to be found, at least not in any quantity, until years later.
When I stumbled across the Stephen Banks' family vacation web page and saw pictures he had taken and uploaded to the web each day during the trip via a digital camera, I thought "wow, that would be fun!" I did some research and out of the few camera models available (Apple QuickTake cameras, a few Casio models, and the new PhotoPC) I decided upon the Epson. It seemed to be the best value and I would go on to use it for about five years.
I have fond memories of running out to the Disneyland parking lot where I would pop the trunk and hook up the camera to download photos into my laptop. The limited 5 megabytes (after I upgraded it from only 1) meant I could have no more than 99 images at 640x480 resolution before the memory was full. At the end of 2000 I finally decided to upgrade. I purchased a new camera with a view screen, sound and movie capability, higher resolution and removable memory. Today I visit the parks armed with 200 megabytes of flash storage and a camera capable of creating a single image 8MB in size... Wow.
But I still don't consider myself a photographer. Except for the brands I research, I know little about cameras. I also have no formal training in taking pictures. Sometimes I try to frame a shot but most of the time I just look around and say "hey, that looks neat" and click away. If you ever find a photo that you can't figure out (or one that doesn't seem to have any obvious reason for being taken), e-mail the link to the picture and ask. In most cases I'll have some reason for taking it, such as "oh, I noticed they removed a bench and had plugged up the concrete where it used to sit" or similar. If I do actually have some talent for photos, I've yet to have any real photographer point it out to me.
This is why I was surprised to be contacted by a woman who wanted to use some of my photos for a brochure she was putting together. I inquired a bit about how the photos would be used, and stressed how I don't own the rights to any Disney images that I might have taken pictures of. They assured me they have proper clearance to use the photos in their brochure, so I agreed and asked for a photo credit and a few copies of the finished product.
Today a package arrived for me and I was pleased with what I saw. On the front cover of this six page booklet was a photo of the Hollywood sign and the Disneyland train station. My train station photo! One page two was a nice picture of the castle (did I really take that?) and page three had a real nice looking angled shot of the California letters in front of Disney's California Adventure. On the last page was a picture of the Downtown Disney sign at night. Very nice. I was actually impressed by the quality of photos that I had taken.
The best part, though, was the bottom of page three, where it said simply:
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and me. Good company, I think. Although I've had some of my photos used in print before including one in Renaissance Magazine and a few in an Iowa newspaper, this time it felt really special because I got to see my name in the credits.
But I still don't consider myself a photographer.
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