Friday, April 17, 2009

Returning to the promised land

When I was in high school one of the local newspaper guys came to yearbook/journalism class to talk about photography. (I had been hooked on photography in jr. high when some other elective class that I wanted, I don't even remember what it was now, was full and the counselor sort of just "put" me in journalism. They shoved a camera in my hands and that was the beginning of something beautiful (wink).) 

This newspaper guy made some good points about this and that, I don't exactly remember what. Then he said something that I took to be gospel truth (for whatever reason) and it influenced my view of photography for quite a while -- in some ways to this day. He said that of the big 5 camera makers, Nikon was best, then Canon, then Pentax, then Olympus, with Minolta bringing up the rear. He didn't, in that moment, give any rationale for this statement at all. He simply stated it as fact. !!!  Being quite green and impressionable, I thought something like, "Hey, this guy does photography for a living. He must know what he's talking about." This "gospel" about camera rankings was reinforced when Dad's secretary, who was a student of photography at a nearby school, told me the same thing-- exactly the same-- Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Minolta - in that order. That order is, apparently, the order of the universe.

Fast forward a a year or so. I have, by this time, become so rabidly interested in photography that I probably sweated darkroom chemicals. Though I hadn't been asking for it directly, I was really hoping my folks would buy me a camera.  I got a long okay with the Pentax K1000s that the high school had, and I even got to use the Canon AE-1 with its zoomy zoom from time to time. Then, in one of those strange and wonderful moments in the life of a teenager,  my dad said, "Let's go see about a camera." I about fainted, I think. "What?" I said, "Really!?!" Sure enough,  and we headed off for Inkley's in SLC

Now, I had been reading Popular Photography for a couple of years by this time, and I was really sure what I wanted. Nikon's FG was fairly new on the scene (1982) and was billed as a "super compact" and "super cool." I had been greasing up the ads in the magazine with my eager mitts for quite a while. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, the camera of my dreams. In fact, I still get a little misty-eyed when I see one... (sniff). 

I don't have any clue what Dad spent on it, but I remember being more than a little excited about watching him negotiate with the camera salesman (and yes, it was a man) and putting together a kit for that FG, with a short zoom, a flash , a bag, and some filters, etc. I could hardly believe my good fortune. 

 Dad billed this purchase as "a camera for the family," and talked quite a bit, to his credit, about my using the camera for family pictures and family events, etc. I listened to him with about half an ear, I think. I was too mesmerized by that all black body and svelte lens. Oooooh, it was nice. I did end up taking lots of pictures for the family, and, in fact, won a few contests with pictures of my siblings. I hope I lived up to Dad's expectations at least a little bit.

Fast forward a few more years. We're in grad school in Pocatello and the extended Draney family has a vibrant  MyFamily site going. Like nearly every other human in the United States at that time, I wanted to move to a digital camera to make posting pictures online easier. I did my homework, looked around A LOT, and eventually settled on the Olympus C-5050. In the back of my mind I was probably thinking a bit about that old ranking-- Olympus -- fourth on that list--- what am I doing? Hmmm. Still, I was pretty influenced by a couple of review, John Dvorak's in PC Magazine, for example (no link to it that I can find, which is too bad, because it was a good review). I watched dozens of auctions for them on eBay and eventually snagged one for a good price. Phew. Welcome, Clark, to the digital age. 

I loved that little camera. I took it everywhere and took pictures of the kids, of my office at the university, of the railroad tracks in town, of flowers, of bike paths, of insects and trees, of anything and everything. It was a renewal of my love affair with photography. Keri has, for quite a while, called my obsessions-- like with computers, cars, or cameras--- my "mistresses." I guess there is an element of truth in that. I loved that little black beauty. 

Then I broke it....

It was sitting on a low chair and it dropped just a foot or two onto the carpet. "No big deal," I thought at first, but flukey things happen and my baby was DEAD! (sob)

Time passed. I consoled myself by buying another Olympus point-and-shoot, the C-7070, but it had poorer low-light performance and wasn't as easy to use. I was still really impressed by the output of the Olympus image processor, but I hadn't found a replacement for that wonderful C-5050.

I was so impressed by the output of the Olympus line, I eventually bought an E-500, Olympus's DSLR from a few years ago. The kit lenses where pretty good (the longer zoom being much sharper than the shorter one), and I got a flash and a sync cord and, in a word, "stuff." I used that kit of Olympus equipment to reenter the commercial realm of photography-- doing a few family portraits and taking pictures of the rising Twin Falls temple. Photography became more than a love affair-- it was now also a "going concern."

Now, during all this time, however, I was occasionally thinking about that ranking-- that list. My darling sister has a Nikon D70 and has loved it. She's made quite a name for herself in her circle of friends in Las Vegas. She has a sharp, artistic eye, and puts her Nikon to good use. I was also keeping track of the advancements in Nikon's DSLR line. I drooled over the D100, the D70, the D200, and the D3 at various stages. I wasted quite a few hours reading reviews of cameras I could never hope to afford (namely the D3) and observing the passion that Nikonians have for their equipment. In short, I was an openly Olympus fan and a secret Nikon noodler. I was living a divided life-- fully loyal to neither and never quite able to pour my whole photographic self into my "work." Oh, the pain of it all. 

You know the ending of this story by now. You knew when you read the subject line, of course. I have returned to my roots. I got a Nikon this year. I'm home and I'm happy. (And you, dear and patient readers, are tired of hearing about this camera. )

Can a person covet his own possessions? I'm pretty sure the answer to that question is yes.

No comments: