zero-to-hero-susan leonard Sue Leonard and her camera
Home / Zero to Hero / Susan Leonard

Susan Leonard

 8th Jul 2017

The title of the series is ‘Zero to Hero’ - well I certainly set off with Zero but I am nowhere near deserving of the title ‘Hero’.  That’s for folk who have overcome adversity.
But I will tell you about my progress from ‘zero’ to 2016.
I bought my first Canon SLR film camera back in 1979 but not long afterwards had to sell it - hard times struck.  Anyway, travel forward to 2002 and I bought a very small digital camera with a ‘huge’ 2.2 megapixel sensor and an equally ‘huge’ 3.75x digital zoom - no such thing back then as optical zooms.  I took this pocket sized beasty to the USA for a 5 week trip and I got some great photographs with it - once I’d realised that there was a huge time lapse between pressing the shutter button and the camera actually taking the photo. Just as well it worked out ok because it cost me a whopping £500 back then - digital was only just coming out for the general public (I’ve always been ahead of the times) so the prices were much higher than they are now.


I was hooked and in 2006 my partner bought me another Canon but this time it looked like a ‘real’ digital SLR camera but wasn’t an SLR - it was a PowerShot S2 IS. It had all the modes - auto, A, S, M, P but the lens was not changeable.  Digital camera’s had taken huge strides forward but I hadn’t - I had no idea what to do with it.  Read the manual - oh right.  No help - told me what each button did but nothing else.
I’d read about the light meter on your camera.  Eh?  What light meter?  My camera doesn’t have a light meter. 


I was ‘green’ until one day I came across Mike Browne’s website.  Back then it was a subscription site and after watching some free video’s I was hooked, I paid my subscription and, well my learning just increased and continued to increase (I’m still learning, there’s always more to know).  I bought Mike’s DVD ‘Digital Photography Exposed’ - things got better and better.  “Oh so that’s what they mean by a light meter”, “Oh that’s how you get the background blurry”, “Oh that’s what different lenses do to perspective”. Geez was I learning stuff - I couldn’t get enough.

In the 2007 I upgraded to a DSLR camera - a Canon 400D, then in 2009 I upgraded again to a Canon 40D, which I still use to this day. Then in 2012 I sold the 400D and put the money towards a Canon 5D Mk iii.  I blame my partner for getting me that first ‘real’ looking camera and Mike for explaining things so well - it’s their fault I’ve spent all this money on camera’s, not to mention lenses.  I said not to mention lenses. Shhhhhh.
Anyway back to about 2010 or so, I went down to the photography show in Birmingham (then called ‘Focus on Photography’ or something like that) and I met Mike on his stall.  I even sold a few of his DVD’s for him, we had a great chat.


I continued to work really hard to boost my knowledge of photography but then entered the doldrums - I was becalmed, I was directionless.  Going out taking photographs just for the sake of it just isn’t me - too lazy I guess.  I needed something to aim for.  I looked round for camera clubs and, well, honestly they weren’t my cup of tea, they were competitions, competitions, competitions orientated nothing else.  They were also old school and anything out of their comfort zone was not acceptable.
What now?  That’s where the internet came in handy.  I looked up the Royal Photographic Society and discovered that they had different membership levels.  THAT’s what I needed to do - work towards gaining Licentiate membership of the RPS.  That was one hell of a task I can tell you.  It’s all very well being able to take photographs but being able to make up a cohesive panel of ten photographs that sat well together - now that’s a different story.  So, in March 2014 I joined the RPS at the Photography Show in Birmingham and in March 2015 I was awarded my Licentiate membership, also at the Photography Show in Birmingham.  Now THAT gave me confidence - I was as good as any of the folk at the local camera clubs, the difference between me and them - I wanted to learn more and more - they were stuck goodness knows where in the past. 

Mike’s website is my ‘go to’ website for learning experiences but I must say, I’ll learn from anyone on the internet - YouTube is great for that.
I’ve won a couple of ‘for fun’ photo competitions online - Mike and Melissa you have great taste in choosing my photographs (smile, smile). I’ve also been on a couple of photography workshops - the one to Iceland in 2015 with Mike was amazing.  I have to say, having two camera bodies each fitted with a different lens was very useful in the very cold climate.


My zero state also included photo editing and over the years I have also learned so much from various videos watched on YouTube, books as well as courses that I’ve purchased online.  My editors of choice are Lightroom CC working closely with Photoshop CC.
My most recent endeavour - lecturing about photography onboard cruise ships - came about by sheer chance.  I saw a Facebook entry on the RPS page asking if anyone could do lecturing about photography at short notice, on a cruise ship. Aghhh not at short notice but “I could do that!”.  I didn’t have any materials or anything but I felt confident that I could do it.  I wrote to the cruise line and asked them if they would be interested in me doing this and, well you could have knocked me down with a feather when they said yes.  Oh deary me, says me (well not quite those words) I’d better start putting some lectures together.  I signed a contract to do 3 cruises and boy did I work hard to put the material together. I bought a projector and I practiced and practiced - it’s not easy getting your voice right either - you don’t want to sound too staccato. You have to know which slide is coming next at all times, etc etc. 


My first lecture was in March 2016 and I was well prepared - you’ve never seen anyone so dedicated to making sure I did it right.  It all paid off in the end and I was given good ratings by the passengers.  I gave 2 instructional lectures, 2 workshop type lectures and 2 travelogue slideshows.  I did the same format again in June and then again in October - except that the latter didn’t have travelogue slideshows because I’d increased my number of instructional lectures.

So what for the future?  Well, I’ve just finished working on yet another instructional lecture and will be sailing on two cruises in 2017.  I am also desperately trying to settle on a topic so that I can apply for my Associate membership of the Royal Photographic Society. 

If you would like to check out, or even buy, some of my photographs, they are available in many different formats from my website