When we are young, we seem to have endless time to pursue our hobbies and dreams. Somehow, life and responsibilities catch up with us and smother out the hours. My father was a true camera nut and gadget guy. He found joy in taking photos and noodling with gear. It rubbed off on me and I recall my first SLR camera was a Mamiya Sekor 500 DTL. My main photography efforts were focused on motocross races and my high school sports. After high school, I settled into a Nikon FE2 SLR and a collection of good glass. For years, I enjoyed shooting around the SF Bay Area and then moved to Los Angeles. Film. Real film. Colors with Kodachrome and Fuji Velvia. Tri-X 400 black 'n white. Then suddenly it all stopped. Life had caught up with me and my gear went by the wayside.
Fast forward to 2011. My 8-year old daughter, Sydney, had taken up "competitive Pokemon". Yes there really is such a thing. She and I drove to Indianapolis from Philadelphia for her to compete in the US National Championships. The long drive served as great daddy-daughter time and allowed us to catch up on important things like singing along to her favorite songs.
Saturday morning she scampered off to her matches in the convention center. She won her first match and was happy. I generally don't watch her play. It's her game and I don't want to hover and add parental pressure and expectation. So I kept busy visiting with other parents and exploring. She went on to continue the winning streak to 7-0. She lost the final match of the day but would continue on to play in Sunday top cut matches (Top 32, Top 16, Top 8, Top 4 and Finals). Her luck continued and she ended up in competing in the finals for the National Championship. Best two-out-of-three games. After a thrilling introduction of the competitors to the crowd, I retreated to my hotel room. I didn't want to jinx her by starting to hover now in her championship match. Later, a dad texted me that it looked like the match was going to game three and I better return. I did. And I witnessed a very exciting game as my daughter had a chance to claim the championship title with a knock out on the opening turn of game three. But it wasn't in the cards. Despite a great effort and well fought game, she lost the match. She packed up her deck with a look of both joy and sadness. I ran on stage, threw her on my shoulders with a big "Hooray!"
But now for the real story I want to tell. I had no pictures. None. A momentous event in the life of my daughter and I captured nothing to save the memories. And then it happened. For days and weeks after the event other parents and friends sent me pictures they had taken over the weekend. But the most special photo was the one that captured the moment just after she lost the championship match and was packing up her deck. Wearing that cute little Pokemon visor. A priceless moment in time preserved. I could not be more thankful to have that.
A few weeks later, my father died.
Cleaning up his home, I found his stash of camera gear. Really cool vintage stuff. An old Leica, a mint early Canon AE1. Boxes of gear. Lenses, flash attachments and film canisters scattered about. Then it hit me. The pieces of the puzzle aligned and it all came back. The inner photographer reawakened. I could be "that guy"! The guy that took the special photo for a parent and saved the memory of that all important match. I had been serving as a Pokemon judge. I knew the game. I knew the players, the staff and broader game community. All I needed was gear and permission to shoot. And so the journey began. Follow me as it continues.