5.10.2007

How i got d igit all ...

I started taking photographs when I was pretty young. My uncle is a professional photo-essayist. And whenever he would come to visit he would pull from his belongings a shiny metal attaché case which, when opened, showed off the coolest looking cameras and lenses. Nikon, they said on the front. I'd watch as he thoughtfully and purposefully selected a lens mounting it on a camera with "F" emblazoned on it. Just above the Nikon logotype ... nothing else, just "F." Keschunk! It was beautiful! He showed me how to hold it, how to focus and how to release the shutter ... 1/30th of a second! What a great sound! Then the film advance …

By the time I was ten, he had shown me how to develop my own B&W film and make contact prints. I was using a camera that my mom had lying around. It was an old Kodak something with a bellows that folded out from a front closure and it used 620 B&W roll film so, the negatives were pretty big. I had a little darkroom tucked under the basement stairs where they might have stored coal or something back pre-gas furnaces days. I could develop film and make contact prints about 3x4.

By the time I had reached high school, dad let me use his SLR a Canon FT QL … in fact, he just gave it back to me a few months ago. It’s been about 30 years but it still felt potent in my hands. I was a photographer for the school paper and year book and his letting me use the Canon was the perfect way to keep me out of major trouble. It also meant I had unlimited access to enlargers, chemicals, film, and the school darkroom! It had to be the most expensive three years in all the school district history. My buddy and I took thousands of photographs! I still have some of the B&W prints.

Right after high school I bought my first Nikon … well … Nikon made, anyway. It was a brand new Nikkormat Ftn (discontinued a year later). It was a great camera … not a Nikon but, so much closer than anything else I’d had. I say it “was” a great camera because it was stolen from me while on a trip to Denver with a couple of buddies. It was sad because it happened the first full day in our nine-day trip which included stops in LA, Santa Barbera and San Francisco. I was crushed. We stayed with a friend of ours in San Francisco that lent me his SLR for the last three days of the trip … so, photos exist, they just don’t cover the entire whirlwind.

When I got back, insurance money helped purchase my first Nikon … a used F Photomic Tn. I had it. The keschunk! Twist the f/stop ring to register the widest opening! The shutter release … 1/30th of a second! What a great sound! I used that camera for almost twenty years. It even got stolen from my apartment and recovered when a pawn shop reported it had received it.

But times change and I thought I needed something more … automatic … something more … updated. Around 1997 I started shooting an N90s that I bought used from a local dealer. This camera was sooooo cool because I didn’t have to shell out the extra bucks for a motor-drive! It was built right in! I could blast off 6 fps. Thirty-six shots in just over 6 seconds! This was the coolest. And I could hook it up to my computer and get all sorts of info about every shot! And it still sounded like a Nikon and it was all black and had a command wheel and programmed presets and would read the ASA right off the side of the film canister! And it ran on four AA batteries … forever!

Then, it hit me ... like a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist. Computer ... camera ... computer ... camera. Why am I spending so much money on film and processing!?! Why do I have to wait to find out that I have a bunch of crap on a roll that I just spent $20 on!?! Why don't I sell my darkroom stuff and beef up my computer, sell the N90s and go digital!?! It seemed as right as rain. Natural. Almost biological, slap-myself-in-the-forehead-duh-obvious!

So ... I've been shooting Nikon for a long time and now image making is all digital. I can put a 2gig card in the camera and take 358 RAW images before having to change the card! Then, I can transfer them to my computer and ... well ... uh ... I'm not sure. So many questions arise: white balance, RAW, JPG, exposure, color space, workflow, processing, organization, storage, batteries, printing, publishing, sharing, Photoshop®, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

The answer was ... start blogging ... someone must care.

i shoot nikon

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