On Photography, Part Two.

I had quite a response to my previous post, “On Photography”, I wonder to what degree that is because everyone has a interest in or experience with photography. A.K.A. “Writing with Light”.  Today, just about 100% of the population over the age of 10 has a camera. The strange thing is, most are hyphenated cameras. There are Cell-phones with cameras, PDA’s with built-in cameras, laptops with cameras (most of those are really video cameras), cameras built into light fixtures and books to spy on the babysitter, and even remote cameras you can access across the internet and “snap” pictures half a world away.

There are cameras built into ATM’s and elevators. Cameras in banks and bodegas. Cameras can be built into mailboxes and Cop cars, traffic lights and stop signs, beds and doors. And lets not forget, (five year annual appointment coming up) anal probes.

(Aside: Why do Dentists and Proctologists insist on printing the images they get and showing them to you?)

This introspection lead me into thinking about and remembrance of the cameras I’ve owned or used throughout my life. Starting with the Kodak Starmite 1961 (I or II). A plastic body, a plastic lens with a fixed focus (infinity) and still used AG-1 flashbulbs.  This being many years before the first photographic strobes became available.

Mine had brown trim, and there were no bottom switches that I remember, so it was probably a cheaper model. Which is what you would give a thirteen year old boy. But it used 4cm square roll film (medium format) and took great pictures. The first pictures I ever took of the North River in Pembroke were with this camera. Also the first pictures of a girl. Karen Spiers, a sweet little blonde from Norwell. Also my first real girlfriend, Joyce Hunt. No, can’t find that one.

And family, Me and my Grandmother, Thunder.  Yes….THUNDER.

When (my soon to be wife) Donie asked for a picture of me to show her girlfriends this is the picture I sent her. She still married me, strangely enough.

I think I brought that camera to college with me, but what happened to it, I have no idea.

At school in Long Island, NY, I met my friend John S. Burns. He loaned me a German made, Argus 35mm Range Finder camera. I had that for quite a few years and took a lot of photographs with it. A equal number of color and black and white as I remember. John might still have some copies of those photos, I have none.

It was after Done and I were married that I purchased my own first camera of quality.

The Canon 35mm, SLR, FTb 1974.

Broke the bank I want to tell you. I remember Donie saying,”OK, that’s such a expensive camera, you shouldn’t need another.” (Oh boy! “Honey, did I mention that you can get additional lenses for this camera?”)

This is the camera that documented our early married life together. This is the camera that started me on taking trips, just for the purpose of shooting photographs. The first day I ever shot more than ten rolls of film in the course of the day was in April 1976 for the bi-centennial in Lexington and Concord. I shot President Ford, the unending march of the militia reenactors down Battle Road, and Presidential helicopter leaving.  We must have walked ten miles. All that remains now are my memory’s. That camera had a basic light meter built in. Later (inspired by a Nikon School course)  I bought a separate light meter. I took some great photos with that camera. Many years later I got the opportunity to repay my friend John for the loan of his Argus when his son went to college and needed a camera and lenses to use. I gave him the FTb with all its lenses and the old camera bag. Plus, optical filters and 1x and 2x ring filters. One of these days I hope Andrew shows me some of the photos he took with this old warhorse.

Next, I picked up the Canon GIII QL.

I still had fond memories of that Argus range-finder that I had borrowed for several years. The size and lack of ability to add more lenses meant that this was a camera I could carry with me almost always. And it took great pictures. As I remember. I don’t think any of the images from this camera have survived.  I lent this camera to my folks for a ocean cruise they went on, it was then I discovered that I have no idea where my photographic talents came from. Not from them, definitely.

After the Canon, and inspired by the Nikon course no doubt, I purchased my first Nikon. The N70, SLR 1994, with matrix metering and auto-focus capability.

I added quite a few different lenses to the camera kit for this baby. Short Zooms, long zooms, wide angle fixed and super-wide zoom, fast normal lenses and mid-range fast portrait lenses. Flash cords and remote trips. After a few years I added remote, wireless slave flashes plus the poles and tripods needed to set them all up.

As I began to get into Photoshop and began scanning my negatives into the computer, I started to think about resolution and the size of the negative. I bought my first medium format camera since the Kodak, the Seagull 120 TLR . A Chinese copy of the Rolliflex.

Back to basics.

This was a camera that slowed things down, no burst mode, rapid fire shooting. Back to setting the shot up slowly, thinking it through. Huge negatives that could be cropped and still blown up to any print size you wanted. We went on vacation in Montreal and this was the only camera I took. What wonderful images we came back with. I’d love to try that again, can you still get 120 roll film?

A couple of years later I attended a camera show in Boston, and discovered the Bronica RF645 Rangefinder Camera Set with 65mm Lens 2002, Ta Da!

The 645 film format or 6cm x 4.5cm negative size gave you three times the resolution of a 35mm negative. The rangefinder function was fairly fast. But the lenses available were fairly slow (F4).  Bronica never developed the 135mm fast lens that was promised. So what I had was limited but powerful landscape camera, and thats what I used it for. I had this camera for least than two years, I put less than 100 rolls of film through it. In that time I planed many photo safari’s around New England, concentrating on capturing the beauty of our New England towns and landscapes. Due to the lack of decent 120 medium format film processors locally, I had at least a dozen exposed rolls waiting to be sent out when the fire came. What a beautiful camera it was, solid build quality and a satisfying weight in your hands. Searching the web for the image of the RF645 I discovered that the camera today still commands a top price, $1,800 on Amazon and preferred uses for it are were as mine, a portable medium format landscape camera. This is the camera I really miss.

Lets see, it seems we are coming to the end of the list of the dead. But lets not forget the Nikon Coolpix 995, a versatile and useful addition to my collection and the first digital camera I came to depend on.

This camera had become my traveling companion, it usually sat in a box in the back seat to satisfy my need to have a available camera at all times. Thus, it escaped the house fire. And for many weeks became my only camera. Returning to the MBTA parking garage in Braintree one afternoon, a month after the devastating loss of the house and all in it, I realized that the side window of the Honda was broken out. Apparently I had not remembered to close the box and the Nikon was visible. Someone had broke in the window and stolen it. Now that was cruel. Have I mentioned yet that 2004 was not my favorite year?

These were the cameras that I learned photography with, the cameras that I carried with me through my married life and that became the tools that I depended on to accomplish what I was trying to do with my photography.

This is a good stopping place, I guess if there is still any interest there will be a part three.


About On the North River

Forty years toiled in the Tel-com industry, married for 36 years widowed at sixty-one. Tea Party supporter. Do like to kayak, cook, take photos, bike, watch old movies and read.
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