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Seeing Things


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Seeing Things

12 Jun 2008 10:25AM   Views : 577 Unique : 432

Seeing Things

No, Iīm not psychic. Nor delusional. I hope you didnīt think that of me? The title of this blog entry is about something else entirely. You see, it's about photography. Big surprise, on ... Wink

Nothing too arty-farty, just good photographs of landscapes, architecture and things. Ah, there are those "things" again. Everything is a "thing", of course. And you do see things when you're into photography. What I just mean to say, is that you look around you somewhat differently when you're a photo fanatic. You have this imaginary viewfinder in front of your eyes, and you are, subconsciously or otherwise, constantly framing views all around you. And if there's one you like, out comes the camera (which you try to always have with you, naturally) and you make an attempt to preserve that view forever.

That's basically what photography is all about, I think - for me, at least. Preserving views as memories, as keepsakes, or as a kind of personal art. I think for me it is more the memories than the art that got me into it. Even as a small boy, I tried to preserve things. No, not nature - I wasnīt very nature-minded as a young lad. No, I mean memories again. Take fun-fairs, for instance ("carnivals", if you insist on using the American version). Other youngsters would spend the money their parents gave them to go to the fun-fair on rides and candy, mostly. Oh, I went on rides as well. But I always tried to do something that would leave me with something I could keep. I would try to win a prize in the shooting gallery, for instance. However small and insignificant the prize, anything I won would go home with me and give me a feeling that somehow I had preserved the fun of the experience. I would treasure it for a long time, look at it, think back, and enjoy.

When I got just a little older, in my teens, the fun-fair became less important to me. But the inclination was still there. Anything that was fun or important, I would somehow want to preserve. The summer holidays, for instance, especially if my parents decided to spend those abroad. I was still young when I tried an ancient folding camera my grandfather had left my father, and he in turn left it to me. I still have it. I took some nice black and white pictures with it, although operating it was a bit, well, a hassle, to be honest. Next up was a plastic Keystone 125 compact camera. It looked a lot like the disposable film cameras you see a lot nowadays, only bigger and less colourful (Keystone used the drab light beige tone long before computer manufacturers adopted it). And it was so easy to use, that it helped me preserve many fond memories - the fountains and the Bärengraben in Berne (Switzerland), the world's highest church tower in Ulm (Germany), family gatherings, dinner parties, and lots of other things I couldnīt possibly remember now if I didnīt still have those pictures. Of course, not everyone was happy with my preservation of certain memories. My grandmother, for instance, objected strongly against the capture of the moment where she opened her mouth further than ever to let a huge spoonful of pudding in...

But, of course, I wasnīt always satisfied with this method of taking photos. When I was fourteen, I made my acquaintance with someone who owned a single lens reflex camera (SLR) and who printed his own pictures. That was quite the revelation to me - being able to shoot what you saw, and with a lot more quality than I was used to. So I took a paper round and after some hard work and saving every penny, I was the proud owner of a Pentor SLR and my very own dark room. I was one of those lucky teens who had his own running water in his bedroom, so I didnīt have to occupy the bathroom for my darkroom activities. My bedroom did have a huge window, though, and my dad and I made my very own black blinds using cheap agricultural plastic and two wooden sticks. Before long I was snapping away, and making my own prints.

When my brother started taking a new friend of his, Fred, home a lot, Fred of course noticed what my great passion was. And he asked why I didnīt do anything in colour. If I wanted to, he could supply me with large quantities of colour slide film cheaply. (Actually, I seem to remember most of them were given to me free of charge, and I still donīt understand how Fred did that. It seems now that a friend of his worked for Kodak. But however you did it, Fred - thanks!) "If I wanted to..."! Of course I wanted to! Having just been given a much nicer camera, a Minolta SRT 101b, for passing my finals (and getting good grades, something my parents had apparently not expected - no faith in me...), I was anxious to try out these new possibilities. So I entered the world of colour. And it really was a brave new world for me. It opened up whole new possibilties. I took my Minolta everywhere. I especially liked the photo opportunities I had when I was offered a trip to the United States for free by a generous airline, Lufthansa, which had just opened a new air route from Frankfurt and Amsterdam to Los Angeles. (I worked for a travel agency and often talked customers into flying Lufthansa, since they had some convenient non-stop flights, so I was a valued travel agent, I suppose.) And, of course, going to England and Wales for two years was a bit of luck for someone who likes to photograph landscapes and architecture. I had never taken so many pictures of mountains and castles before! (Never make the mistake of calling Welsh mountains "hills"! Or worse - calling Wales "England"! God forbid...)

And then, one day, I dropped my camera when I was getting out of a train (didn't have a good camera bag at the time, so I often just carried my camera in my hands). And those paving stones they used for the platform were tougher, I am afraid to say, than my Minolta. Normally that would have been a great excuse to buy a nice new camera. But the travel insurance company also found an excuse, and refused to pay for the damage to, or replacement of, my camera. And since I was a young father who unfortunately had just lost his job, paying for the replacement from my own funds was out of the question. I still had a used, vintage Zorki rangefinder which I had picked up cheaply at an auction during the time I was living in South Wales, but I didn't have a working exposure meter for it anymore, and so I put that camera away as well. It would be years before I continued with my hobby. Over twenty years later, I still didn't have a budget that enabled me to really pick up my old hobby like I wanted to, but ... well, read on, and you'll see.

My wife has always been into crafts and arts. She has tried out everything under the sun: knitting (by hand and machine), drawing, crocheting, weaving, painting, water colouring ... you name it, she's tried it (except for pottery, which she still desperately wants to try). And one of her brothers once gave her his old camera when he bought a Nikon SLR. She used it, but not very fanatically. And since it was a bit of a hassle to carry it around with its separate exposure meter and all the extra bits, it first got into a forgotten corner, and later into a forgotten box. (It must still be around somewhere, but since itīs in a forgotten box, weīve forgotten where it is exactly.) Years later, when she had her own craft company, she concluded one day that it would be expedient to have a good camera to make pictures of the samples she made for her business. So, although our private budget would not have allowed such a purchase, she was able to buy a really nice Canon 1000Fn SLR camera. When she started using it more and more, my desire to take my own photographs flared up. But I wanted my own camera, for obvious reasons, and I couldnīt afford a similar purchase privately, so I pushed my feelings of longing away. And then I got interested in eBay and the whole concept of being able to buy almost anything from almost anywhere in the world without much trouble, and without much money, opened up whole new possibilities.

Oh, my equipment wasn't spectacular at first. I wouldnīt have minded a Canon EOS or Nikon digital single lens reflex at the time, but was quite happy at first with my second-hand Canon EOS IX with a Soligor 28-210mm zoom lens. And I loved the additional equipment I wanted when I was a young boy, but couldnīt afford at the time - among which a vintage mini rangefinder: a Rollei 35b, which quickly become one of my best-loved traveling companions. I didn't take any world-shattering pictures with these cameras, but I took them everywhere I went and they gave me some really nice photos. Some good enough to show to the world, and many others simply as a nice way for me to preserve memories of my travels and the people I met.

And since then, I have experienced again what I described above (only now with better - digital - kit): I see things differently. I appreciate different clouds and colours in the skies more. I love tiny little details in flowers more. I see potential pictures all around me. Itīs a different way of seeing things. In fact, it's seeing things I hadnīt really noticed for over twenty years, and it has really re-opened the world for me in ways I had forgotten about.

Tags: Photography Memories Things Seeing Conrad

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