Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tomthemick@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

New View On The World

Once I forgot to take my camera with me to our city house. We’d driven all the way there before I realized it, and it gave me a sick feeling that I wouldn’t have a camera at hand to record some aspect of the beauty I knew I’d be seeing over the three days we would be there. It’s crazy, I know, but part of me was hoping I wouldn’t see any so I wouldn’t have the feeling of loss that not being able to record it would bring. I got through it, but resolved never to forget it again.
Old man at Bug Light, South Portland, Maine with the D7100

Shooting a beautiful schooner with perfect light in Casco Bay last weekend, I noticed a spot in the viewfinder that I couldn’t get rid of by cleaning the lens, the filter, and the mirror, so I brought it to Photo Market in Portland for advice. They tried unsuccessfully to blow it out and said it would take a $50-dollar cleaning to remove it. That meant I’d have to leave it there for twenty-four hours, and it made me realize how much I needed a back-up camera. Oh I have a little Nikon Coolpix that takes pretty good pictures - but I mean another digital SLR. For lay people, an SLR is a single-lens-reflex in which you can look right out the lens of the camera instead of through a viewfinder or at the screen on the back when you’re framing your shot. After shooting with an SLR for more than forty years, I can’t go back unless it’s an emergency. It’s just not the same.
Cottage road in the rain at Lovell, Maine with the old D-60

After shooting for years with a Nikon D-60, I’d been pining for a new 24-megapixel camera and after getting a bonus last week from a client, I sprung for the D-7100. After downloading the first day’s pictures I was thrilled. I had sat on South Portland’s Willard Beach in twilight and shot whatever came my way, which was a lot. Schooners and draggers made their way in and out of the channel. People of all ages ran, walked, and swam by my field of vision. The sun came in and out behind me to my left and I felt great snapping away. I could frame it all any way I wished with an 18-270mm zoom lens. There was nothing before me I couldn’t shoot.
View from Willard Beach with D-7100

This may sound funny, but it took me back to when I first walked in the woods with a .22 rifle. I felt like I could hit anything I chose. Older men used to tell me they preferred taking a camera with them instead of a rifle and now I understand. It felt as if I could capture anything. I could capture its essence without hitting it, and my range is infinite. The 24-megapixel resolution is so high that after downloading images onto my laptop, I notice details I didn’t see through the lens.
Willard Beach boys with D-7100

Some purists I know refuse to alter their photos in any way after shooting them because they feel that to do so wouldn’t represent objective reality. Part of me respects that and I used to hold the same view, but not anymore. As my visual acuity diminishes with age, I use glasses which are trifocals. Wearing them, my perception changes with the tilt of my head. If I wore the kind that automatically darken in bright light, that would further alter it. If I put on sunglasses, it would change still again. Things look different in morning mist and at twilight than they do at high noon. Visual perception is always changing, so if I further modify it with a photo-editing program, am I sinning against reality? I don’t think so. I’m putting my own interpretation onto it. The way I rearrange that particular digital configuration of zeroes and ones is my own perspective on God’s creation, and man’s.
Granddaughter Lila with old D-60

As a writer, I respect the editing process and I’m not sure there’s an limit to it. Any configuration of words can be improved by editing, and I suspect that’s true with visual editing as well. My dream is to organize my life so as to be able to spend hours a day editing a few hundred of the thousands of images I’ve taken and which I love. Editing photos is indeed like editing words. I could do it endlessly. Without deadlines or other responsibilities, I believe I would. (Although none of the photos on this post have been edited - yet)
Leaves with old D-60

Good technique trumps expensive equipment every time and I’ll always love the inspired shots I’ve taken with all my cameras, but I’ll be able to do so much more with this one. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who found just what he wanted under the tree.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Greg Benton said...

Simply lovely Tom. Very pleasant indeed.

8/7/13, 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Texas Transplant said...


So pleasant to see beauty in today's world when there is so much that is ugly presented by the media to us as "gritty" realism.

8/8/13, 5:08 PM  

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