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Johnny McTaggart

Pentaxian Profile · 03-08-2012 · By PF Staff in Pentaxian Profiles
Johnny McTaggart

It was really like coming home for me.

Or like the first time I laid eyes on my wife.

It was so comfortable, so right, that I just knew we’d be together for the rest of my life.

That was the feeling I got when I pressed my eye against my Pentax, clicked the shutter, tilted the camera forward slightly, then looked at the image on the LCD screen.

I know that might sound dramatic, but it really is the best way to describe it.

Now, this wasn’t something that happened to me at a tender age either - I was 38 years old.

To understand how I got to this page, though, I need to tell you where I’ve been.

For the better part of a dozen years I was an award-winning sports columnist. I was young, confident, and on the fast-track in my profession. However, in Nov. of 2005 I lost my job. I was okay with that though. I really thought my skills would land me at a bigger and better location, with more prestige, more exposure, more money.


Months went by and nothing happened. Then, those months turned into a year, and then another year, and another. Before I knew it, I had been out of work for more than five years. Nothing was working out. I went on a few interviews, freelanced for a few publications, but nothing I could hang my hat on, nor pay my bills with month after month.

Needless to say, my confidence withered away, I sunk into a deep depression, and really felt myself losing hope.

In early 2011, however, I landed a steady freelance job with an online publication.

To really secure the job, however, I told them I could shoot the games I covered as well.

ThunderNow, I really had no experience at all with photojournalism, no equipment at all nor any money to purchase it, and no clue how to shoot - sports in particular.

Of course, I told my new bosses I had some experience with photography. Which I did, I guess, I had a class in middle school, but nothing since. Luckily, they didn’t ask to see a portfolio.

I hated to lie, but I really needed the money.

Believe me, there is no worse feeling than not being able to provide for your family.

Anyhow, I went online and did some research, then went out and bought the best camera I could afford (and one that let me make payments – thank you QVC) a Pentax K-r with the kit lens, and went to my first assignment camera-in-tow.

It was the girls basketball state semifinals and finals at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.

For a week or so before the event, I read as much as possible about shooting, watched as many educational videos on YouTube as I could and emailed as many professionals as you could imagine, hoping I could get a crash course in photography in 10 days.


Next I headed up to Michigan State University for the two-day tournament, my new Pentax K-r in tow, along with a 24-75 Tamron f/2.8 I picked up literally on the ride there (my wife was quite upset about that purchase at the time).

Just before the tipoff, I found a spot along the baseline beside photographers with gear worth more than my car, work published in prestigious publications, and years of experience. I was way over my head, I thought.

Then game started, I took a deep breath, pressed my eye to the viewfinder and pushed the shutter.

I fell in love with it from the very first frame. Every aspect of shooting – the creative, the mechanical- all of it.

I chimped and chimped and chimped that day, each photo giving me more confidence and more motivation.

During halftime, in fact, one of the veterans came up to talk to me. I told him my story and he took a look at some of my photos through the LCD screen on the back.

“You’ve got a real knack for this, you know!” he said. “I’m not just saying that either. Promise me you won’t stop shooting.”

I did, then immediately I called my wife from the stadium and relayed the message to her.

The coolness of that assignment didn’t end there either.

When I came back the next day for the state finals I noticed that many of the students from the school playing that afternoon had taken one of my photos from the previous day, from the website I was shooting for, and gotten it printed on t-shirts!

I took this as a sign from above that I'd found my calling! And I feel like I have.

Since then, I've had hundreds of photos published in a wide variety of publications all over the state and beyond. Had dozens and dozens of reprints sent out to readers, and shot everything from more sports to military homecomings to portraits and even a wedding. I've even been contacted by a publisher to possibly put together a book of pet portraits.


To this day, I'm still shooting with my K-r (although I want to upgrade to a K-5 ASAP) and loving every shot, every moment, every image.

I’ve got lots to learn and experience yet, but I feel I’m on my way.

I'm proud to call myself a professional photojournalist these days and, despite what other pros might say, I'm proud to be a Pentaxian.

I hope that by reading my story you might see that it’s never too late.

If shooting is where your heart is, then dive in head first.


PF Staff's avatar
About the author: Various writers regularly contribute articles to the Pentax Forums homepage blog. More recent articles are published under each author's forum username. We hope you enjoy our guides and news coverage!

Tags: state, shooting, experience, day, years, job, pentax, sports

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SMcGuire45 [Delete] Jul 3rd, 2012 6:36PM

Very cool and thanks for sharing! Congrats!

daniber [Delete] Jun 2nd, 2012 5:02PM

Maybe it's just a case you're a Pentaxian, but for sure your story says photos are made by the man, with heart and eye. Just after comes the gears.
Anyway, I just hope my K5 will have the same luck your K-R takes to you... and I'm happy and proud you're a Pentaxian like I am.

Mtax [Delete] Mar 15th, 2012 9:15PM

Great story. I now wonder if some day I felt into a similar situation that you had, would I have the same fate as you? I don't know that yet, but I do know your story.

Thanks for sharing.

danb34 [Delete] Mar 15th, 2012 8:13AM

Some thing just are meant to happen, my friend. I dare to call you friend because your story is so similar to mine that I thought I am actually looking in a mirror. Thank you for our words and for reminding me to constantly believe in myself despite everything that hits me and pushes me away from my goals. All the best.

RipDaJacker [Delete] Mar 13th, 2012 9:07AM

Great read and very moving. Keep up the good work mate.

Alizarine [Delete] Mar 10th, 2012 7:05PM

And here I was thinking that I can NEVER land a job as a part-time photographer with my humble K-x... with a good flash set and several other lenses.

Very inspirational story. This is a wonderful read- and model to follow! Good luck and God bless, Johnny!

rruntsch [Delete] Mar 10th, 2012 7:53AM

You found your calling, Johnny. As Winston Churchill said, "Never give in--never, never, never, never..."

ariban [Delete] Mar 10th, 2012 5:55AM

Johnny- a touching narrative and a real one. God Bless you! You will keep going up and up.

Loved the images- you do have the knack!

bgdisc [Delete] Mar 9th, 2012 10:59AM

Great story and a good read. Keep up the good work! God Bless you man!

JFN [Delete] Mar 9th, 2012 10:05AM

Some things are just meant to be, congrats to your come back, and to your new passion!!

Keep Up The Great Spirit!!


redpigeons [Delete] Mar 9th, 2012 9:10AM

amazing story and images good luck!!

tcrick [Delete] Mar 9th, 2012 8:43AM

PS - I use a k-5 and love it. Don't believe anyone who tells you that you can't shoot sports with it. I got great performance with it even in poorly lit gyms this past basketball season.

tcrick [Delete] Mar 9th, 2012 8:40AM

As a fellow Michiganian and sports photo junkie, I say congratulations ! I took up photography in retirement and now shoot for the local high schools in my area. I don't have to make a living at it but do sell some photos online to help defray costs. The kids and parents love it. Hope to see you at an event someday.

patolds [Delete] Mar 9th, 2012 3:12AM

Top yarn old china, goodonyah! Moving and heartfealt! There are many of us out there.

Cheers Paddy

fun size nick [Delete] Mar 9th, 2012 1:55AM

Awesome. As someone who's also been through a depressing period of unemployment, I loved your story (and your shots). I second MSL's comment about the emotions conveyed through your images - great stuff.

MSL [Delete] Mar 8th, 2012 10:11PM

That pro knew what he was talking about.
The cropping in every single image in this post is spot on (well to the extent a complete amateur can judge) - and the pictures are full of emotions - much like your story.

lguckert79 [Delete] Mar 8th, 2012 7:32PM

great story and your story gives me hope to one day go pro thanks

blackcloudbrew [Delete] Mar 8th, 2012 4:11PM

Excellent story and another example of how it's the skills of the person taking the image that makes it a photograph. I wish you nothing but continuing success.

KFrog [Delete] Mar 8th, 2012 4:10PM

Just goes to show, the equipment does not make you a professional photographer, skill and talent does. All this with an "entry level" camera and a third party lens. Nice going Johnny!

daacon [Delete] Mar 8th, 2012 3:54PM

That is an inspiring and a great feel good story. I truly wish you and yours continued success.

rfortson [Delete] Mar 8th, 2012 3:36PM

Cool story, Johnny! Nice shots as well. If you're doing this with the Kr, you'll love the K5. Keep up the good work.

TMB [Delete] Mar 8th, 2012 3:30PM

Very inspirational, esp. to people who want to make the jump but are worried about making a living out of it.

jeztastic [Delete] Mar 8th, 2012 3:08PM

Wow, what a great story, thanks for sharing!