Finding Purpose with My Grandfather’s Old Photos

How I avoided the trap and started taking photos


Last year, I fell into a classic trap: I convinced myself that I’d take more photos if I only had that new camera. Yeah, that didn’t work (obviously). What worked was something unexpected.

Three months after I bought that new camera I found some old boxes my grandfather (Les) had in storage. Strangely enough, no one had known about the boxes except him. We only found out about them after he passed away. Let me be more specific about “boxes” though: I found 72 Kodak carousel boxes, all with full of film slides. That wasn’t all, I also found boxes of film, prints and old Nikon gear. The gear included things like the Nikon F4, 105mm f2 defocus lens, 85mm f1.8 lens.


Les was proud of his work

The gear and photos were all in perfect shape. No dents, scratches, or scuffs. Les took incredible care of his gear. He didn’t let it stop him from going out and taking photos, though. I can’t tell you the number of stories I’ve heard of about Les skiing down the mountain with a shiny new Nikon SLR on his back. No case, no pouch, only photography.

Les skiing with his camera is a great example of how much fun he had taking photos. He didn’t worry about being able to use the photos for something later. He didn’t worry about people running into him when he was skiing down the slopes with a camera. He went out, had fun, and shot.

Les had asked me to go through photos when I visited him but not these photos. He had a box in his apartment with a few dozen family photos. We never went through those because we didn’t have a working slide projector. Funny enough, I now have 2 working slide projectors in my office. Les was proud of his work and he was always excited to show it off.

I had no idea he had photos like this
Or these

Les dreamed bigger

Les always dreamed of traveling the world as a National geographic photographer. He talked about how great it would be to travel the world taking incredible nature photos.

Les didn’t just dream bigger for himself, he made it infectious. I remember taking a photo with his Nikon D200 when I went out to visit him in Colorado in 2013. When Les saw that photo he thought it was the greatest photo in the world! You couldn’t go into his room without him talking about it and showing it off to you. To be fair, I am his grandson and aspens are his absolute favorite.


My Own Way

Things I’m not good at admitting my work is any good, being bold enough to take the shot, dreaming of something bigger for my photos.

When I think of what Les did, I can’t help but be inspired to take my own photos. Not just subject-wise but in terms of how you go about doing it. Carrying a camera with you everywhere and just having fun wherever you are. That was the thing about Les, he didn’t travel just for photography. He went on business 95% of the time. He had fun and got some awesome photos out of it.

That’s how I got out the trap. I was bolder, I started to carry my camera everywhere. I started to look for the shots even if I couldn’t take the picture. I started to shoot like Les. The rest of the way into ‘becoming a photographer’ involved a whole whole lot of Unsplash.


December photos are now for sale
Week 36 of daily photos
Follow along: Instagram // Facebook // Twitter 
Les’ Unsplash // My Unsplash
Next week: How Unsplash made me a photographer
Like what you read? Give Nathan Anderson a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.