Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Framing Creation


Smarts Hill
It bothers me some that I’ve become attached to an inanimate object: my new camera. Realizing I had left it at our Lovell house and had to do without it a few days, I became mildly depressed. We were heading to Connecticut for my nephew’s wedding and I had to take along my backup camera, a Nikon D7100, which I leave in our South Portland house for just such an emergency. Only last April it had been my main camera and constant companion and my older D60 was the backup. When the new D850 finally arrived after months of waiting, I was infatuated and the D7100 felt like an old girlfriend.

Ram Island Light

The older camera had rendered me thousands of great images over five years. It was always within reach, and with its 24.1 megapixel capability I could enlarge images with little blurring if I didn’t crop them too much. Colors were good, automatic focus worked well, and I have several lenses for it. When Nikon introduced the D850 last September — a full-frame DSLR for half the price of Nikon’s flagship D5, and with equivalent capabilities, I had to have it. It’s biggest advantage is that it shoots at a remarkable 45 megapixels. It’s also very fast, has great dynamic range, and enormous versatility in low light.


There are drawbacks though. Because it’s a full-frame camera, I can’t use my older Nikon DX lenses. Well, I could actually, but they would diminish the D850’s capabilities so what would be the point? I had to invest in a new 28-300 millimeter FX zoom lens for another $1000. However, 28 millimeters isn’t quite wide enough for many shots I want to get. I miss the wide-angle function on the 18-270 I used for nearly ten years with my two earlier cameras.

Diving Loon

My very first camera was a red plastic box I got for Christmas around 1960. It used 620 film and flashbulbs. I can still remember how they smelled after going off — a scent I’ll never detect again I don’t think flashbulbs are manufactured anymore. I shot off several rolls but they sat in a kitchen cabinet for a long time before being developed, because I didn’t have the money. Processing was expensive. There wasn’t much I could do to frame a shot with that old box, either. I could walk around my subject. I could get up high or down low, but those were the only options.


In the late sixties I worked after school in the camera department of an old King’s Department Store in Tewksbury, Massachusetts where a Demoulas Supermarket now exists. When it wasn’t too busy I would take a 35 mm Minolta SRT-101 out of the display case and admire its workmanship. It was a top-of-the-line camera in those days but at $199.99 it was way out of my reach. For our first Christmas in 1971 however, my wife, Roseann, gifted me with one. That was forty-six years ago and I still have it. Although I haven’t shot with it for perhaps fifteen years and may never again, I do take it out once in a while just to admire its fine tolerances.


In the 5th verse in the Gospel of John he says: “God is light.” The late psychiatrist Scott Peck said once: “Sometimes I think God really IS light,” and I believe he was correct. That’s not all God is of course, but He does illuminate His creation. Without light we see nothing. Some say a camera is a tool for capturing light, but I see it as a way of capturing the play of light on the things He willed into existence, including my loved ones and the world in which we live. Everywhere I go, I’m thinking of how to frame some portion of what I’m seeing around me through a lens. My imagined frame might be a few inches across, a few feet, a few yards, or several miles.

Bug Light

That manner of seeing is especially acute just before and after sunrise, then again just before and after sunset. If there are clouds or mist to filter and reflect light at those times, I feel like I’m in heaven. Living on the side of a west-facing hill in Lovell gives me more opportunities at twilight, especially after a summer thunderstorm. In South Portland, there are several places within a five or ten-minute drive where I can watch the sun before and after it clears the Atlantic horizon before breakfast.


Other mornings I’m at Kezar Lake in Lovell when it’s mirror-like and misty. While checking the properties I care for and it’s not unusual for loons to surface only a few yards from where I’m standing. Perhaps they sense the veneration lake dwellers hold for them because they’re unafraid as I snap frame after frame.


Perhaps I’m so attached to that camera because it encourages me to notice beauty all around me I might otherwise miss.

5 comments:

CaptDMO said...

How much do your "new" cameras rely on electricity, hardware, and computer software, to "exist".
Where DOES one get Tri-x, or Kodachrome these days?
WHere can I get film spools , processing chemicals, and printing paper, for a Brownie Hawkeye?
Oh sure, one would have to use ALL the meters, filters, timers, flashes, 1-hour photo kiosks, that were available to Mssrs. Brody and Adams, but....
Meh, I suppose that they were just a flash in the pan.

Montedoro44 said...

When I was single-digit age, my father's camera had an accordion pleat -- a switch popped out a door, and he pulled out the lens/accordion. When the roll of film was taken, he put it in a bag connected to a card and mailed it somewhere for printing. Maybe a week later, we received a little booklet of 3x3 or 3x5 B&W photos, along with another mailbag. I still have the camera, but I'm afraid to pull the lens out all the way because the leather pleats are kind of crunchy after 60-70 years.

It is hard to imagine the next revolution in photography. After all, there is no chemistry, no need for external gizmos, and the results are instant and better quality, and if you can stand slightly-less-than-the-best, the camera can fit comfortably inside a ball-point pen, take thousands of photos, improve their quality, record sound and send them to everyone you know in a few seconds. And yet, it would be foolhardy to think that except for even finer resolution, that we have arrived at the end.

Tom McLaughlin said...

There's always an iPhone 8 in my pocket and the images it produces have good resolution. Ever since I began shooting with that Minolta SLR forty-five years ago though, I have to be looking out a lens. Viewfinders don't to it for me, and neither does looking at a screen to frame an image. For that matter, neither does a fixed lens. I'm hooked on zoom lenses to get that golden ratio, or an approximation of it.

Peter said...

You have taken some beautiful photos Tom, nice job!

Tom McLaughlin said...

Thanks.