I was born in Germany too many years ago and started photography with a tinny box brownie when I was twelve-ish. Maybe earlier; it's a while back and exact dates elude me. I was given my first brand-new 35mm camera for Christmas when I was 16 (or maybe 15?). From then on I had little pocket money to spare for anything else but films, developing and printing. Next up was a basic enlarger and whatever it took to print my own b&w photos. Worked for a while part-time in a photographic store and learned all about equipment. Even briefly owned a second-hand Leica M3, before I gave it up and traded it for an Ashai Pentax Spotmatic (still have one), because that way I could hook it up to my telescope and take pictures of stars and solar eclipses (astronomy being another passion of mine). And, yes, I wish I still had the M3! But you gotta make choices when your cash is limited.
Some years later I emigrated to Australia; spent a lot of time traveling around; studied physics; got married to an amazing lady; had two daughters; raised my family; became a software engineer and then technical writer; lived for a while in the UK, Japan and the US before settling for almost two-decades in Dunedin, a lovely town in southern New Zealand, and I still miss it sometimes; did a cognitive science degree; wrote over a dozen novels, the first one published in Canada in 2004, and most of the them available these days as eBooks, and another dozen screenplays; wrote, produced, directed and edited a feature-length rom-com (just for the heck of it) shot with a basic consumer DV camera (Sony TRV50); did the occasional wedding video; plus a gazillion other things. As one does, right?
Finally my wife and I returned to in Australia. We currently live in the 'country' north of Brisbane, where light pollution is just low enough to allow one to take the occasional cool picture of the sky. Not 'country' enough for me (Central Australia skies are so much clearer), but the absence of street lighting is a definite bonus. I don't much like cities and I loathe light pollution. When we can't see the stars at night, our horizons contract, and we lose our sense of natural wonder. That's because looking up at a clear night sky is the only way to look at something that approximates infinity. Especially nowadays that we know that the sky is not some far-distant hemispherical cover, closing us in, but an unimaginably large space filled with energy and matter, most of it apparently invisible!
Photography remained with me throughout all these years, occasionally bringing in small profits. I fought the transition from film to digital photography, until I finally surrendered and bought a Sony Cybershot 7-megapixel point-and-shoot as a second camera—and finally realized that there's life after 35mm film. Not just life, but better life. A better life indeed. Of course, it's not the equipment, but what you do with it. And you can do a lot, if only you learn to see. Especially with digital.
As an early adopter of Photoshop—from before the days when 'photoshopping' became a verb—I had no problem taking to the digital darkroom, but never went into SLR-mode until Nikon finally came out with consumer-level, economy DSLRs that had 24 megapixel sensors, which I considered a credible replacement for 35mm film.
Nowadays I use Adobe Creative Suite CC for part of my image-processing toolkit and—thanks to Jeff Cable for the tip—Photomechanic for image downloading, sorting-out and even some management after that. As of recent I've taken to a nifty piece of software called Capture One 9 Pro, which I actually find much more productive than the clumsy and often-crashing Lightroom. Still using Adobe Camera RAW for creating panoramas, and PS for the complicated and fancy work, but otherwise COP9P is my favorite tool for tethered capture and RAW processing. More on this here.
And where does it all come from? How does one end finding one's way back to this path?
I come from a family of visual artists, so I guess my photographic passions have a foundation there. Never thought about it much until just a few years back. Always thought my 'creativity' streak was pretty much expressing itself as a storyteller. But the 'visual artist' thing seems to be genetic, except that, unlike my parents I'm drawn to what photography is all about: drawing with light; usually without mucking around with it too much, but enhancing and highlighting that part of reality which is visually-perceptible. Finding its hidden contents and meta-meanings and suggesting to the viewer what might be there—which sometimes just is what is; but not always, and especially not when taking pictures of human beings.
Finding one's way back is a different story altogether, in more ways than one.