Posts Tagged ‘camera’

This post was originally written last October, but was bumped by breaking news for a post about Kodak. I rescheduled it for this week — just in time for Kodak bankruptcy rumors to hit the world anew. Timing is everything.

I wonder what my grandfather would have made of digital cameras.

He was an avid photographer whose pictures have already illustrated, and greatly improved, a number of my blog entries. (You can click here and here to see some of his artsier compositions.)

Dropping in a new roll, 1969.

Personally, I love digital cameras because they give me much crisper shots than I’ve ever gotten. I never learned to use good film SLRs when I was younger, so my only cameras growing up were cheap point-and-shoots that took mediocre pictures.

Today I can go to Citizens Bank Park, sit in seats so far away they might as well be in Conshohocken, and use (at best) a mid-level digital point-and-shoot to take a picture of a home-plate celebration clear enough to tell one player from another:

May 2010. Click to see larger - it looks a little better that way. Taken from Section 955 or someplace like that.

My grandfather might have enjoyed the effortlessness of digital photography. As a thrifty sort, he definitely would have enjoyed not having to pay to get his pictures developed.

As a perfectionist, he would have liked the freedom to wipe his less successful shots and keep only the good ones.

And, as a creative type who occasionally painted or manipulated his pictures, he might have done some interesting stuff with Photoshop or other photo-editing software.

But, as a craftsman, he would have still kept and used a film SLR from time to time, I think. I believe the process of thinking through and changing his camera settings would still have appealed to him. He expected more from the photographic experience than just pointing and shooting.

This week’s calendar entry, from 1965, gives a hint of his attachment to the old-school art of photography:

Oct. 3, 1965

Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the picture(s) my grandfather took that day. (I’m guessing the church in question was the Methodist church across the street from his house, the one mentioned in the “Loyalty Sunday” entry of last November. It had the smallest of playgrounds, where my brother and I sometimes played as kids.)

But whatever it was, it meant enough to him that he documented his camera settings and the time of the shoot, presumably to help him evaluate the finished shots and give him guidance for future pictures.

Had he taken his “church pic” with a digital camera — particularly a point-and-shoot — it probably wouldn’t have made enough of an impression on him to write on his calendar. With an SLR, though, the thought process resonated enough with him to make him write it down.

As I’ve mentioned, I still have an old film SLR (a Pentax K1000) that my grandfather used. If I lived any closer to Stamford, it would be fun to take it to the church, replicate his settings some early October afternoon, and see what I got.

I still have a couple of recipes from my grandmothers, and enjoy making them from time to time. What I have here is a recipe of sorts from my grandfather — for art, not food. Start with two pinches of f-stop, mix in a dash of shutter speed and blend with 2 p.m. worth of autumnal natural light. Then shoot, develop and serve.

I’m not as comfortable behind the shutter as I am in front of the stove, so I can’t duplicate it. But it’s still kinda cool to have it, and to imagine the knowledge and the craftsman’s care that went into creating it.

Come back tomorrow for a vaguely related bonus post.


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The title of today’s post is a reference to this regionally renowned writer. I might have become the next him, if I’d never been to Boston.

Last month, I set out on a rural, rolling New York state highway to fulfill a personal quest.

I was visiting my folks’ cottage on Keuka Lake for possibly the last time, after 30 years of summer visits. (My folks are considering ditching New York for a more competently run and intelligently financed state.)

So I brought a camera with me and spent several hours driving from Penn Yan south to Bath, taking pictures of (mostly mundane) sights and places I remember from all those years. If I wasn’t going to get back there, I was gonna get some stuff down on film, as a lasting record.

I had my grandfather — the ostensible subject of this blog — in mind the whole time, for two reasons.

First, I took most of my pictures with a Pentax K1000 film SLR that used to be his.

K1000s are brilliant machines, as simple and solid as straight razors. While my SLR skills are primitive (I’m not great with straight razors either), I plan to use mine until it is no longer cost-effective to operate, because I like what it is and what it does.

I also knew I was following in my grandpa’s footsteps in terms of subject matter.

About two weeks before I left for Keuka, I looked at a DVD of my grandfather’s old slides, scanned in by my dad. I was surprised to find that my grandfather, in the early 1980s, had already taken some of the pictures I planned to take to capture my Finger Lakes memories.

He took the hell out of ’em, too — he got a gorgeous day and he knew what to do with it. (The day I picked for my shooting journey was overcast, not that that’s any excuse for the pictures I ended up with.)

I tried not to take any picture exactly as my grandfather had. Instead, I tried to capture some images that would preserve my memories and bring the Keuka ambiance to mind.

I think he might have found a few of mine worth considering for the family scrapbook. Here are some of our best. You can click them to enlarge — and his, you’ll want to:

Circa 1983. You can forget about the rest of the gallery and just look at this one if you want.

2011. I imagined this to be an old schoolhouse. I went up close to it and looked through the window; there was a wooden rowboat inside.

Circa 1983.

2011. No lake to be seen, but I like it anyway. Back roads are part of the trip too.

Field of Grass

Circa 1983

2011. You can almost smell the Queen Anne's lace ... if Queen Anne's lace actually smelled like anything, that is.

Circa 1983. View from my folks' dock.

2011. Different dock at a different cottage; similar view. I took this one with a toy plastic camera, hence the vignetting and general lo-fi funk. His pictures are 30 years old and look timeless; mine are two weeks old and look 30.

I suspect I have accomplished little with this exercise except to convince my readers that I’m not a good enough photographer to hold my grandpa’s flashbulb.

Still, if anyone’s inclined to see it, the full photographic record of my Finger Lakes journey can be seen here. I think I’ve nailed down most of the captions so they explain why some of this boring stuff felt to me like it was worth photographing.

My grandfather didn’t need words to explain why he took pictures of something. It shone through when you looked at his prints.

In a world full of people with my grandfather’s talent, there would be no need for writers. Thankfully, only some people have that gift.

The rest of us aspire, and hunt, and peck.

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