Here. It is a word that conjures a time and a place. It is by no means intended in this instance to suggest that I have “arrived.” Indeed “here” can mean different places at different times and in this case, I will (more or less) treat it as a chronological concept. My next series of blogs are intended to look how I started and how I got to where I am (which is, I know, a moving target).
Recently, a couple of folks I follow have posted some of their …. lets call it “earlier” ……. work. Wouldn’t want to be accused of suggesting anyone is old. 🙂 Watching this stuff made me think about images I made years ago, where my interest in the camera as an artists tool came from, and how I have evolved as a photographer. In at least one case, the guy is a talented and trained professional. His older work is good. Really good. Mine will demonstrate that I have very little formal training as a photographer or as an artist.
The primary tool is the camera
Everyone who knows me knows that I am an avowed “gearhead.” I love cameras, lenses and accessories. Don’t get me wrong. I have always appreciated that a skilled shooter can achieve results without all the newest technology and “gee-whiz” bells and whistles. And sometimes, the toys are just fun. But I don’t think anyone would argue that the primary tool is the camera. So I though my camera-evolution might be a good place to start.
Some patient (or bored) readers may actually have read the “My Story” page know a little about where I got started seriously shooting and the circumstances that jump-started that. But as I thought about gear and my first “behind-the-lens” experiences, I realized that there was a latent interest that was –perhaps–stimulated in much earlier life. My dad carried a camera around Korea and Okinawa and I certainly remember seeing photographs. As is probably the case with most families, there were always cameras laying around to capture family moments and holidays. So I cannot tell you who gave it to me or where it came from, the first camera I owned was a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. I was probably ten or eleven years old. I shot Kodak (were there any alternatives?) 120 roll film back then. And I just pointed and shot. While there may be some old black and white prints in the family archives somewhere, I cannot say I have any examples of images made. Nor do I have a clue what became of the camera.
Sometime in my teens, I acquired a marvel of modern technology; a Kodak 110 Instamatic Camera. It sported an easy loading cassette of film, and these really cool things called flash cubes.
I cannot say either of these tools had the impact on my photographic journey that later cameras did. They were a part of life. Probably a small part. But I remember them. And I used them to make photographic images. So there was the start.
Lots happened during that period in my life. My mom’s death. Sports. Band. High School and College. Moving from Michigan in the mid-west to Vermont, on the East Coast. There was a pretty long period where things non-photographic dominated. And then, 1977. A partly turbulent, partly lonely, and partly adventurous period in my life. And an awakening. A professor at college. My dad’s camera equipment. It all kind of came together.
In 1977, my dad gave me his Asahiflex 35mm camera. I made many images with this all-manual camera. Most of them were made with color-transparency slide film. Most of them were not preserved :-(. This, unfortunately, included two of my favorite images. They will always be in my minds-eye. Much of the shooting was “hit or miss.” While I had some very fundamental instruction and understanding of f-stops and shutter speeds, I really had very little understanding of exposure. Nor did I really appreciate – from a theory standpoint – the value of the tool in my hands.
Showing my true penchant for “gear,” I moved “up” to an all-automatic Canon TX 35mm SLR within the year. Surprisingly, this new gear didn’t really improve my images. One thing that was perhaps a good thing, was as a poor, college student, I did not have the ability to purchase any additional lenses. So I had to “make do” with my 50mm lens. That forced me to work with my legs.
In 1979, I moved back to Michigan and transferred to the small, liberal arts school where I finally “lit” long enough to graduate: Hillsdale College. At Hillsdale a guy in my dorm befriended me. He was the editor of the College Newspaper, and I soon joined the staff. He had an older Nikkormat camera and had recently traded up to something more advanced. Knowing I didn’t have a lot of money, he let me work the cost of the camera and 3 lenses off, by typing papers for him, and changing the oil on his car. I learned to work in the darkroom, and maybe, finally, began to understand just a little, how exposure worked. Still no formal training. And then, life. Law School. Marriage. Children. Student Loans 🙂 (proud to say I paid every penny of them). But a number of years went by.
When I finally got the urge to restart, gear was again a factor. By the 1990’s, “automatic” meant something altogether different than it did in the 1970s. At one time, it meant that your lens rested at its widest aperture when you were looking through the viewfinder and “automatically” stopped down to the chosen aperture when the shutter was tripped. The “new” automatic let your in-camera light meter tell the “computer” built into the camera what aperture to set and/or what shutter speed to use. For the experienced shooter, these were some pretty cool developments. Maybe not so much for the novice (though these features were certainly touted as a plus for new photographers). The bottom line was that the camera had moved from being a light-tight box with some very complex and amazing mechanical abilities, to a computer. Little did many of us know at the time, just how much this would prove to be true. The modern DSLR is nothing more than a camera with a very sophisticated computer. My entry into the “automatic” camera body field was the Nikon N6006. During this period I also owned and shot a retro-F1 and an N90s. I continued to shoot 95% color transparency film.
When digital imagery became available to the masses, the world changed
As I have mentioned on other occasions, in the days of film, most of us were at the mercy of the lab for display purposes. Owning your own color darkroom was an expensive and time-consuming process. And the learning curve was high.
When digital imagery became available to the masses; first through home film scanners and eventually through digital capture cameras, the world changed. We all have a darkroom now. We all have darkrooms now. I moved on through digital from my first DSLR, the D600 through a series of DSLR Bodies. As recent blogs have chronicled, at some point, I began to look for smaller, lighter, more portable equipment, moving from the DSLR to a MILS spec (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens) camera body, to ultimately, my preferred carry camera, a very small, so-called, “point and shoot” Sony camera. Much of what has driving that change has been the incredible advances in digital sensor technology.
Over the next few blogs, I will showcase some images made from back when I first started shooting, to present day.