Jay Petersen, as with many people, took casual photographs for most of his life, usually shots of his family or travels. About fifteen years ago he and his wife got interested in birding and that hobby soon lead him to take photography more seriously. Along the way, he converted to digital photography (he especially liked not having to pay for the film processing for all his experiments). After using early digital point and shoot cameras for several years, he decided to try a DSLR and bought a Canon Rebel XT and a couple of lenses. He was still busy with work, so his learning was mostly limited to vacations and birding trips - those were the times when he could really concentrate, practice and learn. Most of his efforts were on getting better and better bird photographs. This lead to long lenses, tripods, and dealing with the exposure trade-offs required for capturing images of birds that were often far away and moving.
When he was first doing birding photography, there was not a lot of effort spent on composition since getting a sharp image of the bird seemed to be hard enough. However, after some time he did start to get more interested in composition, and in photography of other subjects, particularly in an artistic way. A major step in this direction was a trip that he and his my wife took to Italy. The trip was lead by an artist and a photographer who ran a week-long workshop based in Casperia, a hill town in Umbria. At this point his wife was a couple of years into her post-corporate career as a pastel artist and she convinced him to join her since the trip combined art and photography. He learned a lot both from the trip leaders and from the other attendees, most of whom were quite accomplished.
He was still working at that point, so photography continued to take a back seat to his career in software design and development, but he was definitely hooked. Starting in the fall of 2009 he began taking a monthly class with a professional photographer and teacher, Laury Eagan. Laury is a very good fine art photographer and her teaching emphasizes composition, exposure, color and texture. He really enjoys doing the class assignments and hearing her critiques of his photos and those of the other students. As with the workshop in Italy, it is also very productive to have the interaction with the other students. He retired in 2010 and has been able to spend a lot more time with his camera (currently a Canon 60D) and the software (Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, Photomatix and the Nik suite) that he uses to processes the images that he captures.