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Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I have been trying to learn about photography. I started my personal photography with a camera that I got through the mail, having carefully printed the address on the envelope enclosing the cardboard order form cut from the back of a food box, together with the required six Sugar Daddy candy wrappers and 25¢. The camera that was mailed to me was all plastic, black, and very small, but it used real spools of film that I could just afford out of my allowance. I took pictures of my cat, our dog, my sister’s guinea pig, my brother’s squirrels, our tortoise, our cockatiel bird, and my sister, over and over, my sister. She was a willing model for every silly pose we could think of. The pictures had to be taken outside in good light. Most cameras I knew about still didn’t have flash attachments. Kodak started advertising a camera that had interchangeable “flash cubes” that you stuck on top of your camera for indoor pictures. I couldn’t afford a camera like that. I loved my little camera. I grieved when the kind of film it used was discontinued.

After awhile, I wanted a better camera. I saved and saved until I could buy a Kodak Instamatic camera. It took me a long time. I took so many pictures with it that my family and friends all knew they weren’t safe from permanent records with me around. They called me the “creepy camera nut.” While I was working for the Oregon Department of Transportation, I got to know the guys who went around the state taking the official photographs. I learned a lot about photography from them, and I bought an SLR camera. I took a photography class in college. I made myself a little darkroom. My habit got somewhat serious, and the Boy Scouts made me a photography merit badge counselor.

I finally burned myself out when I was in Europe one time and figured out that I wasn’t actually seeing anything, just framing everything through the camera lens. I felt actually removed one degree from living life; I was in the business of recording it, not participating in it. I threw my old SLR away and didn’t take any pictures for years. When I was ready to take some photos again, one of my friends revealed that she had rescued the camera and had kept it for my future. I was happy to take it back, but I had a shock when I couldn’t focus it. My eyes had finally changed so that I needed glasses, and whatever correction I needed, I couldn’t use the camera with or without the glasses.

My photography went back to fixed focus “idiot” cameras. I didn’t take a lot of pictures; the results were too disappointing. But “idiot” cameras improved and I began to take more pictures.

I hated my first digital camera because of the delay between pressing the button and the camera actually opening and closing the shutter. No more action pictures. No more candid shots. No way to take a shot from a moving vehicle, unless you liked the surprise of what you actually got. I got this camera the day before we left for a trip to Israel, having dropped and broken my good camera that same day as we were packing. I had a lot of surprises, most of them unpleasant, in learning to use this camera, the worst of which were the battery problems and the uselessness of the view screen in strong sunlight, of which there is a lot in Israel in June. Fortunately, our tour group got together later and traded CDs of photographs. People with the nicer SLR digital cameras had taken hundreds of photographs, and we were happy they shared them all with us!

A few years ago my husband surprised me with the gift of a new digital SLR camera, the kind with a smart focus that lets you first adjust the camera to your eyesight, and then it allows you to focus. I love taking hundreds of pictures and not worrying about developing. I love that it doesn’t eat batteries. I love the zoom, the wide angle lens, the ability to adjust everything manually or let everything be automatic. I love trying new effects. It doesn’t have a view-finder screen; it has a viewfinder like the cameras of old, but then you can see your picture on its screen instantly. I love this camera!

I think back to the plastic candy-wrapper camera. I think I like my present camera just as much as I did that one. When I learn more about this blogging business, I will put some pictures on it from my different cameras and see if I’ve learned anything about photography.

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