Where it all began
It is not another tutorial, tip or tricks to capture a photograph. It’s about me, since I’ve been noticing my name has been on and off on social media during last few days with all kinds of stories, I decided to write this. First off I must say that they’re not bad, neither I’m offended by any of those conversations. But the information that has been published are not 100% true therefore I decided to dedicate few minutes and tell you ‘my story’, how I got here what made me get here and clarify few things.
Choosing photography for living wasn’t a mistake, but it all happened all of a sudden. The best breakthrough of my life I must say! I’m coming from a little above the average family segment and definitely not from a Artistic background. The first camera I ever owned was a gift from a friend of my father who claimed as a pro photographer in town. The camera he gifted me had this super awesome function, and that is splashing water when click the shutter button. Funny right ? Lemme make it clear yes, it was toy camera J
Where did life take me with my very own toy camera? Nowhere. (I lost it, or perhaps broken). The second camera I used is a real reel camera; and my father bough it cause my family and I had a trip planned to Kandy, and that was my first ever encounter with a real camera. Time went by … and after leaving school; I was doing some basic jobs here and there. Luckily somehow I managed to get a certificate on Computer Hardware and network. Once it was done I did work for few companies. By the way I was working since I was sixteen (16). I worked as a support staff to an Advertising company near my home, that’s where I found my first boss and to date they are close to me than my cousins (won’t reveal due to privacy).
Anyhow I never had a dream to be a pro photographer in my life, even when I used my mobile camera to capture some magnificent shots ( according to me and my close pals ) I never imagined my life going anywhere in that field, not even in the wildest dreams, but one day, I think When I was 20 I thought that it’s time to stop depending on my parents and I should find a way to make a living. I took a decision a to leave Sri Lanka just for 2 years and a cousin helped me for that (ah cousins! My Favourite Sister ). The day I left to Sri Lanka I kept a promise to my self that I won’t come back without a job, and so after going through few options I found a place called ” Baskin Robbins (yeah! The 31 Flavour’s)” and they had vacancies, nothing related to IT though, that matched with my working background/history. So I joined with them as a Helper, to load, unload ice cream to trucks and also it was my job to supply/deliver them to hotels and restaurants with the driver. Paid to cover my expenses and after all I am simple man 😉
When we normally hear about Dubai, first thing comes to our mind is, ah! A Muslim country; a country full of rules ( atleast that was my perception of this country ). Like many would think I thought the same when my cousin first asked me to move there to work. But for my surprise it was totally different, Dubai is an amazing country with well-educated Arabs. Luckily for me with the job role I had at BR I got the chance to travel around the of whole of UAE ( United Arab Emirates ), just about in a week I almost travelled to every corner of UAE. The Northern part of this country is really amazing and beautiful; filled with mountains, our normal travelling routes had the views of valleys, mountains and desserts, lots of them in fact, and in the morning light I was able to witness the best serenity dessert views and mountain valley views. The only thing I had on my hand was a smart phone, which I took from my first salary. I used it to take lots of pictures. Sometimes the driver would ask me what do you do with this much pictures?
Almost after 10 months I got an opportunity to work in an office as an office assistant, my job was to enter sales invoices to the ERP system and organize daily documents in the office. During that time I got an opportunity to cover an event, which we sponsored, Dubai Rugby Sevens, ameanwhile I got chances to shoot/cover some cricket tournaments in Dubai Cricket Stadium and some night parties which was directed to me through personal contacts. I only owned a small Canon point & shoot camera, but for the above-mentioned events I borrowed a friend’s Canon DSLR. Few months after, I knew it was time to buy a better camera, so I decided to invest my yearly bonus to buy my very own DSLR , which was a Nikon 5200. Since I was new to Nikon it was a bit tad complicated to understand the functions & settings, so I grabbed the manual and read it. That helped me to understand the gear in and out ( well sort of 😉 ) .
Now lets jump into the ‘photographer’ journey…
So I got the 5200 I knew how to take pictures in manual mode. xD. But I started to ask my self, if am I getting the best out of my camera, and I waned to find answers, the hunt for ‘answers’ began, when ever I saw an image that I liked on Facebook posted by someone, I added them and I asked them how they did what they did, one of these photographers was based in Dubai and this awesome man asked me to join him to learn while shooting together and (drum rolls) that’s how I met one of my best friends, Thusitha. He reads a lot, he go through each and everything and he’s the one who initially taught me about long exposure photography. Trust me, when he showed me a long exposure photo from Dubai Marina, I mocked him saying it’s photoshop gimmick LOL . But he forced me to do some research and he said ‘you’ll enjoy it’. We learnt together we shot together and I was improving with his guidance.
Then few months later, I started uploading images to Facebook, Instagram etc. most of the time I got many likes and comments but I hardly heard any critics. So I felt like there might be something wrong, oh yeah, there were no photography enthusiasts on my online profile. So I started adding them, then I started to hear constructive criticisms, where I needed to improve and what not and I loved it, I loved hearing critics and I think I learnt a bit faster than I thought, that’s because I was open and willing to listen and improve.
However I was still employed at Baskin Robbins, but with time, the work environment started to change and few good people left, and was not very pleased with the new comers. Personally I was not happy there, I strongly believe that you must be Happy regardless of what you do and where, at the end of the day we do everything in our life only to live and lead a HAPPY life right ?! . So yeh, I decided to quit the place & joined with an Event Organizing Company . While working with them I got many chances to work with many international artists like John Legend, Olly Murs, Christina Perry, Sting & Santana are few of them.
You know! It wasn’t fun like BR , the team spirit was not there . Most of the time they had whole bunch of arguments, instead of teamwork they worked to get personal credits and recognition. The person who supported me there also went against me just after few months, but it didn’t matter to me. Joined this place to be happy didn’t quiet work in my favour; in fact wasn’t even getting paid on time! But on the brighter side I was learning, after 2 years of frustration and learning I thought not to renew my contract and I started freelancing. Do I regret the two years? Not at all! At that time that is exactly what I wanted and it moulded me in many ways.
BTW forgot to mention , I met another amazing friend during this phase of my life, his name is Anjula. Both Anjula & Thusitha helped me when I was financially broke. Apart from my wife they were the main strengths that have always supported me. Infact the person who built this blog and who gave the great idea, to use social media was Anjula.
So I started doing work for my self instead of working for a boss, finally I made a value in the market and was living my basic life. I must say it wasn’t an easy to be a freelancer as only very few people knew that I started freelancing. Nevertheless , I was fortunate to land on some big projects by Sharjah Government and also some Foreign companies started buying my images. So I found my path life was getting better , I was happy and after 3 years, I thought to take a little break and I went on a vacation to Sri Lanka with my wife.
Things went wrong…
It wasn’t so fun as I expected, I went on a trip with few of my friends and on the first day I lost my Camera while I’m shooting on the beach, a wave took it away from me. So I lost my Nikon D800 + Nikon 14-24 both. How unlucky was I , you’d think – I thought the same.
However I got a chance to shoot with a Sony camera because I had no other camera to shoot with, after few weeks of shooting with the Sony I was quiet impressed with that small camera and long story short, I ended up being the Sony Ambassador for Sri Lanka. It isn’t that easy to be a brand ambassador of any brand. I was a known Nikon fan, and many didn’t even believe that I would even think giving up Nikon at that time. The camera is a just a part of Photography, the leading tool. The way it performance & the technology with the mechanism is very helpful to the person however use it.
As I said today I am a brand Ambassador of Sony, and I am happy about me, I have started from very little to nothing, for what I am today. I learnt alone I never went to a school, or to a university to learn Photography but I am successful. I did what I love and now I get paid for it. There are companies who sponsor me, there are airlines that offer me tickets for free, and there are hotels that offer me free stays.
While my class mates, friends who spent lot of time & money to study in universities, still working hard to earn a living hear I am, HAPPY, living my life, I travel, I take pictures, I write blogs and THE BEST PART get paid for it all. Basically people spend on travelling but I earn from travelling. Education is a must but you have to be smart, and all you need is courage.
Find your own path, work hard. As a Photographer you don’t need a certificate to prove that you’re a photographer you need photographs, same as a singer; certificates does nothing if you can’t sing properly. Photography competitions are also not in my interest, I hardly participate, but you can do that, do it and if you win it’s good for you but if you loose, take the experience and try again never complain. Once you win you’ll get titles, but the titles, which comes before the name will vanish when your attitude is bad. So behave wisely and be kind.
Always try thinking differently; Instead of talking too much listen and work, you’ll never worry again.
Finally… I still don’t believe that I have reached my peak, still have to work and learn a lot. But if I do fail at some point I will neither be afraid nor think twice to start from the scratch again. I can even start selling ice creams, I am happy to do that. But I will never give on Photography.
” Believe yourself, and never give up when hard time comes ”
**Some parts of my story was omitted to shorten this story, and there are many people who have helped me through out this journey and who still does. I will write again about all of them when the time is right, you guys are always in my hearts.