Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Bit of History and Then Some

There's plenty to say about what's now going on, but first I'd like to explain my roots. Somewhere around 1975, a lent out 35 mm piqued my interest. A few months later I was explaining to the loan officer at a local bank that I needed to borrow $350 to pay my car insurance because I had spent all my money in the world on a brand new Canon EF 35 mm camera. (Yes, I got the loan!)

I loved that camera. With just a 50 mm F/1.8 I learned with a passion. I read all the local library had to offer. I read and reread stacks of old Modern Photography magazines.

Before long, I found myself most attracted to macro. Closeup lenses, a lens reversing ring, and a bellows gave me a flexible and relatively inexpensive toolbox. A macro lens would have sent me back to that loan officer.

I felt the need for immediate gratification (and saving money) so I took to shooting slides and doing my own processing. I could be examining a strip of processed slides hours after shooting.

What with life's twists and turns, I began to lose interest until a friend's new found interest got me going for a while. We shot a few small weddings together and planned a business that never lifted off. In the end, I gave him my EF and he gave me his Canon A1. That is Steve's A1 in the blog header. Can't say I remember shooting even one roll in that camera. My whole photographic adventure lasted probably less than two years.

From the rangefinder to the single lens reflex to automatic exposure shutter, aperture, or both, the changes have been fascinating. Now with digital, full automatics, autofocus, and onboard camera processing, there is so much more to comprehend. But in the end, it has always come down to getting the light on the film, even if now the film is digitized. We always had darkrooms and still do, only now they are digitized as well.

I am amazed. I am now looking at a photo I shot yesterday--processed, printed, matted, and framed--up on the wall in front of me. And yet, it would be the same shot I could have made in 1975, only with much more effort, time, and money.

In the big picture, if I had to choose the most significant difference between now and then, I just might settle on film. That's where the money was--buying and processing film. My home slide processing was cheaper than sending it out but I still had to buy and mix seven bottles of chemicals. Now, I might debate for hours or days or weeks the various improvements and their significance, but film would probably win out with me in the end. I think Kodak, Ilford, Fuji, and Polaroid might agree.

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