In the eighth grade my dad finished the darkroom, gave me a little Kodak Retina 2A camera, 100 feet of film, some film canisters, a box of old photo paper and some chemicals. He told me that when I ran out I would have to buy my own materials. With that old camera, and mentoring from Dad, I learned the basics of photography. Before long I used up all the materials Dad gave me, and I was buying my own.
Being in the eighth grade my income was limited to the few lawns I mowed in the neighborhood. Soon I was mowing more lawns to support my photography habit (I mean hobby). Since then, photography has been an important part of my life.
Dad lent me some really cool hand-me-down photo equipment. I played with his old 35mm equipment and with his medium format equipment--I fell in love with the clarity of medium format. I did mainly black and white processing in my home darkroom, but later outfitted my darkroom for color processing. I quickly decided color processing was not worth the hassle. I would rather pay the guys at Longs to do my color processing. Dad taught me to hand tint photos, manipulate photos in the darkroom, and touch up negatives and prints alike, as well as some other special effects.
One thing Dad did not have was a large format camera, and I decided that since I loved medium format I wanted to experiment with large format. For my high school senior project I built a large format view camera. After many long hours over the work bench in Dad's garage I had a beautiful 4x5 view camera made of cherry wood. I spent countless hours my senior year of high school under the focusing hood of my view camera and many sleepless nights in the darkroom perfecting photographs from my large format camera. I loved spending time in my darkroom.
I loved (I still do love) photographing people, especially those who think they cannot have a decent portrait taken of them. My favorite part is when I can produce a portrait that brings a smile of delight to their face.
I was certain I would never embrace digital photography. Mom bought Dad a 2 megapixel digital camera for Father's Day, back when a 2 megapixel camera was state of the art. I used the camera occasionally. At this point I was still not convinced that digital photography could produce the same quality photographs as film.
When several of my friends joined the military and wanted pictures of home I began taking pictures with Dad's digital camera, making postcards, and sending them to my friends. When my boyfriend (now husband) moved out of town to go to school I made it a point to have a new postcard each week. This "postcard of the week" project produced a significant number of postcards. My military friends were shipped off to Iraq, and they reported that the guys they met and showed my postcards to were so impressed with the beauty of Nevada County (where we grew up) that they wanted to visit some day. They thought it looked like home town America. Hearing this I decided to share my work with as many people as possible.
Postcards in hand, I drove to Nevada City (a town in Nevada County that sees a lot of tourists) and walked up and down Broad Street and Commercial Street until I found a gift shop that would sell my work without charging me rent on space. I sold a few cards a month and eventually expanded to mounted prints, as well as some greeting cards. I am thrilled to think that people are hanging my work on their walls and sending it to their friends and loved ones.
I took high school and college photography classes and continued to be mentored by Dad. I still credit Dad for most of what I have learned in photography, as he has been my greatest source of information and assistance. I still shoot film on occasion, but I am satisfied that digital photography now gives me the same quality as film. I now shoot with a 10 megapixel digital SLR (single lens reflex). The enlargements that come from my camera are beautiful and I enjoy my "digital darkroom" as much as the traditional darkroom.During college I worked in a copy shop doing graphic design. This is where I really learned Photoshop. I also worked in a camera store, a photo lab with a small portrait studio and a Sacramento Estate Planning law firm called Ellison and Robie.
I have been doing portrait photography for many years. I have been doing wedding photography for several years and I absolutely love working with couples and their families to capture the timeless moments of the special day.
In addition to being passionate about photography, I always wanted to be a family law attorney. So, during law school photographing weddings and doing portraits when I could and I also took a job as a legal assistant at Help-U-File Family Law and Ward & Associates. After passing the California Bar Examination I went to work for Bez Law Firm as an associate attorney and helped out with paralegal type work at Law Office of Robert Pacuinas. Now I have my own law practice in the Sacramento area called Jessica Ryan Law Firm where I primarily practice family law.
Even in my law practice I enjoy working with couples be it to help them adopt a child or amicably dissolve their marriage so they can open a new chapter in their lives.