I read today of another camera store closing, up in Cambridge circa 1955. Ferranti-Dege called it quits last month, and I’ll resist the temptation to label the passing as another victim of the digital (now nearly complete) revolution.
What struck a chord was that this article caught me slap in the middle of cleaning out my collection of haven’t been used since I don’t know when roll film cameras. Both 35mm and 120 format have been dug out from an inch-deep layer of dust, originally destined for eBay (I kid myself) but more likely Hospice, where someone else will list the items on Planet Auction.
What a rush of memories. Anyone out there nostalgic for a 17mm f4.0 wide angle, or as we knew it then, fish eye? My favorite over the years was a 35mm f2.8, which eventually became an extension of my thoughts and seemed to know where the action would be coming from next.
Auto aperature was the big deal. Focus was manual. Exposure was calculated and set. F-stops and shutter speeds. Natural light or artificial. Tungsten or strobe. Shots were considered, though the guys with the Canon 8-frames a second motor drives and a 250-exposure bulk magazine didn’t suffer.
I don’t recall what got me started in photography. Maybe the Kodak Hawkeye my grandfather gave me when I was 10, but it wasn’t until college when the bug really bit. Coincidentally that’s when SLRs became the rage, quickly elbowing out rangefinders and sheet film users as 35mm expanded the photographer base well beyond the snapshot threshold.
A huge part of the magic was what happened in the darkroom. I enjoyed the mechanics of threading a roll of b&w onto a developing reel, working in the dark, feeling your way. I still have my darkroom equipment, including an eight-roll Nikor tank that could develop, what, nearly 300 images at once?
Agitate, invert, wait a minute, repeat. Pour out the developer, pour in the stop bath, then fixer, then a 20-minute wash before being hung to dry. My darkroom world was perpetual red light.
Once dry the negs were cut into strips, proofed, then stored. All very Zen. Not like today. Insert memory card. Insert fresh batteries. Shoot away. Photoshop. Post online.
The article contains several quotes that accurately relate the camaraderie of pre-digital photography to the very much individual pursuit it’s become. Today I use a do-it-all point and shoot with built in zoom, menu driven exposure compensation, lighting prefs, and perhaps my favorite extra, a not too bad video mode. I enjoy the convenience. And I miss the discipline.