Tom Darling – Featured IPA member


I’ve had two passions in life.  Bikes and photography.  I got involved with motorcycles at an early age because they were cheaper than cars.  I got involved with photography working on the High School newspaper and Year Book.  After High School I joined the US Army and spent the next 20 years riding motorcycles and taking pictures all over the world. My only formal training in Photography was a correspondence course thru New York Institute of Photography.  Back then all military bases had a Photo Craft Shop.  Many had very well equipped photo dark rooms with instructors and you only paid for paper and film.  That is where I was “discovered”, making prints in a Photo Craft shop in Belgium.  Since I had my own cameras and knew my way around the darkroom I was diverted from Nuclear Operations to the personal staff of the Commanding General as a photographer and later a Photojournalist. The next thing I knew I was in Vietnam carrying a camera instead of a rifle.  Young and dumb I got a thrill out of chasing around with a camera.  I was lucky in that I got to spend a lot of time working and coordinating with many of the AP and foreign correspondents.  I did end up getting a bunch of my work published in books on the Battle of An Loc. I also still have a permanent display at West Point and the Armor Museum at Fort Knocks Kentucky.

After retiring from the US Army I stayed in Germany doing commercial product photography for catalogs and brochures.  In 1987 I relocated to Colorado and took over a Photography studio doing Weddings, Seniors and Portraits.  I found running a full-time family type studio was interfering with my other passion of being a full-time biker which wasn’t really socially acceptable back then.  It was also the time of transition from film to digital and I didn’t really want to change.  The first digital cameras were really expensive and the image quality wasn’t very good compared to medium and large format film cameras.  I had no desire to go to a computerized darkroom.

So I sold the studio and headed to Arizona where you could ride motorcycles year around.  I soon realized that riding motorcycles didn’t pay well.  The Harley craze was just beginning so I decided to follow my second passion and open a Harley shop.  I soon found myself working my butt off.  I wasn’t taking pictures and I didn’t have time to ride.  People had told me that you should not make your hobbies your profession and I didn’t listen and now I had reached burn out with both of my passions.  Then I had a heart scare and my doctor told me that if I didn’t reduce my stress level I was going to die.  I sold the motorcycle shop, divorced my wife and spent my life savings going through my bucket list and didn’t die.

I was back to riding motorcycles and I decided to get a DSLR (Nikon). I was blown away with the technology in the newer DSLR.  Where was all of this back when I was making a living with photography.  There is a button or menu option for everything.  So many button’s and menus.  Then I realized the pictures weren’t really better just easier.  We got there with our manual cameras.  The next thing I knew I was missing pictures because the camera didn’t know what I was trying to do.  Seems in the end I was still smarter than my DSLR.  Then Leica announced the M-Monochrom.  A B&W digital that handled just like the film cameras (M3 and M6) that I had used before.  After Vietnam I sold my Leica equipment to move up to medium format.  Back then 35mm was for amateurs.  Shooting with a digital Leica brought my passion for photography back.  It felt and handled just like my old film cameras.  Everything I had learned and practiced over the years about exposure, aperture, shutter speed and ASA was the same.  I’ve always been old school in a Picture is not a Photograph until it is printed.  I find it sad that in today’s world the iPhone is the most used camera, but almost nothing gets printed.  People are leaving out that last step in photography.  People today are content with Facebook quality.  The next big step in returning the passion to my photography is I no longer have to please the art director or client.  Now I shoot what I want when I want and the only person I have to please is me.  The pressure is off and I take the pictures the way I want.  I’m enjoying photography more now than I ever did.  Now I just enjoy sharing my photography with friends.  Now I enjoy photographing places and things.  I’m taking my time and smelling the roses.  When I’m out shooting the photojournalists thing kicks in every now and again and a do a kind of series to tell the whole story but those are just for me.

I can’t stress how honored I was when Spyro wanted to make me a Featured IPA Member.  I really enjoy this group.  I have become FB friends with many of the members and really enjoy seeing their work and the sharing of info among members.  I have been able to revisit many of the places I have been over the years.  I really enjoyed the photos from the Mykonos IPA meet that the members shared.  One of my highlights this last year was attending a little Mini IPA Meet Spyro had in Arizona.  With this group you feel like you know the members in the group and it is really nice to actually be able to meet.  I really applaud Spyro and the admin for the time and effort they put into making this group a success.

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Ride hard and take lots of pictures.

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