Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Photo

Marty! Open Me First!

That was the tag on a brightly wrapped present under the tree. It was 1957, and I had just turned eight. If you were alive in those days, I bet you had a tag like that on a present you excitedly opened first.

It was a brand-new Kodak Brownie with built in flash!! My own camera! I was thrilled. There were three rolls of film with it, and I took all 36 pictures in the next few days.

My Kodak Brownie Camera, 1957

I can remember many of the photos I took, even though I don't have most of them. One was of Grandpa L with his dog Tuffy. Another was of Polly wearing a hat that had a face embroidered on the back of it, with long, yellow, yarn braids attached. She didn't take it off for weeks. (She was four.) I took one of Tom and Dad building a very cool snow fort in our backyard that ended up taller than Dad. Plus a picture of mom in a full skirt and red lipstick, holding baby Jo over her shoulder facing us. My friend Karen captured me in my new plaid pants that glorious Christmas morning. We hadn't studied composition yet, but I love the memory of the way our living room looked, even off-balanced. I was pretty off-balance in those days, myself!

Marty, age eight, Christmas 1957.

One of the fun things about taking pictures is that my mind records it at the same time, so it's filed away in some box in my brain. Every once in a while, when I'm digging around in the attic of my brain I run across these old images, and I can imagine times and people, rooms, what I was wearing, and how I felt. The pictures aren't in folders organized on iPhoto, but they're part of the virtual photo gallery in my personal archive.

I married a true photographer with telephotos, and lens caps, a blush type brush to dust off the lens, and a special foam, cut with holes where every attachment would fit and be guaranteed not to bump into any other valuable piece of equipment. The prize possession was a heavy camera case that looked like a silver lock box bank security people have chained to their arms. I longed for the days when I just lugged a heavy back pack over my shoulders.

Hasselblad cameras are very good, very heavy and large. You don't tuck this into your pants pocket, or stash it in your purse.

I became the best boy, or the boom, or whatever they call the lackey who gets to haul all the heavy camera bodies loaded with various types of film for any sun condition. A true photographer must have his hands free from such encumbrances, so he can leap onto walls, or rocks behind trees to get the perfect light and position.

My little Brownie was tucked away with all the unworthy, unsophisticated gear. Dee was a man with a tripod, and I had learned early in our life together that my role was to tote the gear, brush off the lenses, blow (ever so softly, so no spit is accidentally expelled) and be aware of casting shadows. I'd learned about this etiquette faux paux by golfing with my dad. Men in hobby mode can become very obsessed and ornery about where your shadow happens to cross over their space.

I learned to set up the tripod and place it on walls, roofs, cars, benches, in preparation for the ultimate goal of a real photographer--the night shot.

The Rucksack and suitcase were traded in when I became responsible for dressing, coiffing, feeding, and keeping the new modeling crew we suddenly had in tow. They were darling, always available, and free. Not always co-operative, but those moments led to great candids that look funny in retrospect.

Last year I re-picked up the hobby I had experimented with on my eight year old Christmas. I have a digital camera now, with all the bells and whistles and I am good enough to produce some fairly decent pictures.

Mine is a CoolPix and it's red. It fits in my purse or pocket and after pouring over the manual for a week or so, I'm taking great pictures!!

Dee's still stuck back in time, with his numerous, heavy Hasselblad lenses and lost lens caps while I've moved along with technology. Dee has created a dark room in every house we've lived in--even the previously mentioned 8' x 35' trailer bathroom was often covered with black out fabric as he concocted formulas for developing his works.

It's amazing how quickly I can download my work to the computer, tweak them a little, organize and store them in their categories. I can order a hard copy, edited, sized, and emailed in a folder to share on Shutterfly, while he's still searching for the camera body that's holding the fast speed film. He's a real photographer that talks about apertures and white balance while I spin my little dial and choose "Party Mode" and "Inside the museum."

He now carries the tripod so I can keep my hands free for random, spontaneous shots. It is very fun. In a pinch, he uses the photo I produce rather than go to the trouble of taking his own, and not knowing for days whether it even turned out. (You know, that old unpredictable sun and shadow thing. Too bad he can't scroll down to "Sun"....oh, and I've got one called "Shadow.") It's almost like a real camera, but the answers are too easy for a real photographer.

To think it all started one fun Christmas morning because I opened my camera first. The lesson here is always have your camera out, at the ready for the unexpected expressions you can capture with the magic of Christmas Day.

Polly, Tommy and Marty, Christmas morning about 1955

What are your camera habits? Do you pose pictures, or randomly shoot? Do you download them immediately, or are they in your camera forever? How would you compare the old cameras to the new digital cameras? If you're giving one as a gift, what kind would you experts recommend? Are there books or classes that have helped you get started?

My camera still calls to me "Open Me First!"


gab said...

Mom! I LOVED this post!!!! LOVED the pictures too. I know Dad always made photography so intimidating to me. I never had any interest at all...until my children and digital camera came along and I could snap and snap and snap and delete all the bad ones!

So glad we are in the Photography Club now. It's so fun to see life through another's lense!!!

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

I have a huge amount of respect for those old time photogs. I can't imagine the tedious hours spent recording aperture and shutter speed, then getting the film back and comparing your stats to how the pictures turned out. It amazes me that Opa still prefers that method. I'm much more made for the digtal age myself!

marta said...

cute oma. you really are a great GRIP as they say. i love the digital age and the download immediately instant satisfaction. i try and star the ones i like and come back and work with them later. i'm glad you are so up with the times!

kenju said...

I LOVE those pics; especially the bottom one! I have a digital camera given to me by my son-in-law and I download them ASAP.