I came of age at an interesting time in the industry I chose for a career. At an early age I fell in love with photography. Watching the magic evolve from seeing something happen to capturing it on film then paper to show others later was cool. I got my first camera when I was 10 years old, a Kodak Instamatic camera. I still have that camera. Not long after I got that camera, I entered a photography contest, and won first prize. The contest was from a Royal Ambassador Magazine. I think the prize was $10, but the memory of winning far outweighed the dollar amount.

I got a darkroom enlarger and other equipment one year for Christmas. I converted the closet under the stairs of our house into a darkroom and it was not long before I was developing my own black and white photos. The first time I watched an image suddenly appear on paper in the developer tray under the darkroom light was something I will never forget.

I started mowing lawns to earn money to buy a 35 mm Camera with various lenses and better darkroom equipment. As I added to my darkroom equipment, I outgrew the under-stair closet. I set up my new darkroom in the bathroom I shared with my brothers. When I set off for college in Northwest Arkansas, I packed up my darkroom and brought it all with me. I soon learned that the school needed photographers and darkroom workers for their newspaper, I signed up. I moved all my darkroom equipment to the school’s darkroom. With their equipment along with mine we could get a lot of work done without having to rely on one set of equipment. The degree I worked towards was a Bachelor of Science in TV Broadcast Production. As I used my photography skills for the newspaper, I was learning a new skill of video production.

After college, I did not find a job in my career right away. I went back to work in the shipyards while I looked for work in my chosen field. I found a place that needed video production people but on a volunteer basis. So, I worked during the day in the shipyards and nights & weekends volunteering for camera work and video editing. It was not long before I was offered a job where I volunteered. Working there was a great first step in my broadcast production career. One important thing I learned in those early days was there are times when you need to volunteer to get more work later. I also learned that bartering for business goes a long way instead of holding out for a paycheck or cash for work.

Fast forward to my third job in my career, I was working at Second Baptist Church in Houston. There were other people on staff that were also early in their career. I recall editing for someone on staff a promotional video and got paid with a fresh pizza. After a long day of work and the extra few hours working on their video, that pizza tasted great! Another young lady on staff who is a professional singer asked me if I would edit some of her videos into a short promotional video that she could send out to get potential work. She said that she does not have much money to pay me for the edit, so I was not expecting anything when I handed over her edited video. She shows up with two of her friends and they sang to me in perfect harmony the song, “Billy, Don’t be a Hero.” I have to say, that was the best pay for the work I could ever imagine. I will never forget that. It was awesome!

As I approach the last few years of my career, editing videos of the International Space Station and other Space Flight ventures, I find myself taking pictures with my phone every day, mostly of my dogs and cats. The days of darkroom work are long gone. I enjoyed every minute of working in the amber lighted rooms that smelled of chemicals. Who would have thought back when I got that first Kodak camera in 1968 that one day we would be taking pictures with a phone you carry everywhere? Times have changed but I do miss the simple days.