Sixty-six years ago I was a boy of six and I loved pretending I was an explorer. One summer day my explorations took me into the dark interior of the basement. At the time my parents and two brothers and I lived in a house known as Trimmer Hill in Pacific Grove.
In my boyish imagination, the basement resembled an unexplored cave — a place where pirates buried their treasures in chests.
Sure enough I discovered an old fashioned trunk stored among old furniture and stacks of magazines dating back to the 1930s.
I opened the trunk expecting to find pieces of eight, jewels, and gold necklaces. To my disappointment I unearthed musty smelling clothes and old photo albums. Nestled under the albums in one corner at the bottom of the trunk I discovered an old Eastman Kodak Brownie camera.
With my discovery firmly gripped in my hands, I dashed upstairs to show my mother. She took the camera in her hands as though it were a long lost childhood memento. She took it apart and inspected the inside. After putting it together, she aimed the camera at our pet cat and clicked the shutter. “Still works,” she said and smiled.
Later she took me to the drugstore and bought film for the camera. ISO 120 8 exposures Black and White. In those days color film required an upscale camera model. Developing costs also made amateurs think twice before snapping a casually thought out color photo.
That little boxed shape camera introduced me to the world of photography. I took photos of pets, flowers and the ocean. Through trial and error I gained an inkling about lighting and framing. I couldn’t wait for the photos to be developed so I could show my parents and friends.
But alas, as I grew older, the vagaries of life dampened my enthusiasm for picture taking. Other hobbies and inevitably girls took up most of my free time. The old brownie camera was packed away once again down in the basement.
Sixty-six years later, I am a man of 72 who has allowed the boy inside him free rein on his enthusiasm. I bought three Panasonic digital cameras — the GF5, the FZ1000 and the GH4. An extravagance, I know. But as a man twice divorced and living a carefree bachelor life, I have no one to splash cold water on my imagination. Framing a shot and manipulating the function buttons on the GH4 makes me feel as if I were a professional photographer on assignment for National Geographic.
I took pictures with abandonment and out of the thousands I selected the ones I feel happy about.
Recent Photographic and Video Endeavors
Steve Gardner is an American Roots and Blues musician and former photojournalist. He has also become my ad hoc teacher of photographic techniques. When I asked him which camera I should buy, he said, “It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have.”
“So in other words . . . .”
“In other words it’s not what you have . . . ”