vintage box cameras from my husband’s collection.
I was given a camera when I was eight years old and since then I’ve always liked to take pictures. My mother had an Agfa box camera when my sister and I were children and I remember her showing me how to use it. I must have been about seven then. I couldn’t put the film in or take the finished one out at that age but I did understand the idea of aiming it at the subject. Mum mostly liked to take photographs of my sister and me. I still have those photos and I remember that sometimes I didn’t want to pose for them. I’ve always preferred to be the person taking the photos to the person who was in them. My camera was one of those plastic cameras similar to a Diana camera although it wasn’t a Diana. It took 120 roll film the same as mum’s box camera. I didn’t put many films through it in childhood. Probably no more than two or three. I still have photographs that I took of my mum and my sister in a local park and others that I took on board the ship that brought us to Australia. Unlike mum, I didn’t just want to take pictures of our family. I wanted to take pictures of things that I found interesting in the world around me. I still do that today.
A bit dusty but this is my first camera given to me around 1965.
My next camera was given to me when I was about thirteen. Instamatic camera’s were just becoming popular and as the film was in a cassette they were easy to load and not too expensive. I had two or three of those cameras over the next ten years or so. The first was a Kodak I think, then two Agfa’s a 133 and 233. I really became more interested when colour film became more widely available because I wanted to record the world as I saw it. As I grew old enough to go to places on my own the camera went with me to local events, the Royal show, the Highland Games, the Christmas Pageant and of course on family outings. My sister and I started going on steam train trips around Adelaide and country areas and I took lots of photos of trains, stations and scenery. When I met Hubby we discovered that we shared an interest in photography as well as railways and after a while we started to plan our pictures so that we didn’t have too many identical train photos. We found we had different styles though so usually when we looked at photos from a particular holiday or outing we knew who had taken what. We had a lot of fun trying different sorts of cameras and only the cost of developing films held us back from taking even more pictures.
We bought a super 8 movie camera and made a few films of our steam train journeys which Hubby would splice together usually with much cursing when the film broke or jammed. We had a little dabble with slides and still have boxes of them from the 80s and early 90s which one day I must put on the computer.My stepfather gave us an old Paxette 35mm camera which I didn’t care for but Hubby liked and used for some years. We bought a used Yashica 35mm camera which we both liked very much. It died on us during a trip to Alice Springs but luckily one of the things we learned early was to always have a back up camera with us so the instamatic cameras played that role and we still got our photos of Ayers Rock.
We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on cameras but we decided to buy a brand new one next. We bought a Zenit EM which cost about $100. It was not a bad camera even though it was built like a brick. We got some good photos with it so later on we bought another so that we would have one each. One of the Zenit’s came with us on our overseas trip in 1990 and in Moscow Hubby received a few looks when he took it out. A foreign tourist with a Russian camera caused a bit of a stir. “Photocamera Zenit EM (6862587703)” by Aleksander Markin – Photocamera Zenit EM. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
In 1987 I started a full time job and one of the first things I bought with my earnings was another camera. There were several camera shops in Adelaide at that time and several of them were in the eastern end of Rundle Street. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to buy this time reading books and magazine articles and looking in those shop windows. My eventual choice was a used Pentax MG and I kept using that until I got my first digital camera in the early 2000’s. We both liked the Pentax cameras and as time went on Hubby bought a couple of others and a selection of lenses. By this time we were keen motor sport fans and as we regularly went to the F1 Grand Prix and other motor sport events in and around Adelaide we wanted longer lenses and faster lenses to capture the action. Hubby has a very steady hand and he was very good at panning with the action. I don’t have a steady hand so my solutions were to use a faster film speed and to choose a good spot, focus on it and let the picture come to me. I’d take pictures of the drivers if I saw them walking about although I would never rush up to them as others did as I was too shy. Hubby’s pictures of the off track action often seemed to be largely of the “Fosters Girls”.
I used to go to rock concerts in those days too and a couple of times I sneaked a camera into the theatre to take pictures. You were not supposed to of course, no phone cameras in the 80s. I didn’t want to use a flash because I didn’t want security to spot me and also because I felt that it was discourteous to the artist to pop a flash right in front of them if I was sitting in a front row. I used the fastest film I could buy, 400 ASA at the time and Hubby explained to me the concept of “pushing” film when it was processed. We alway took our films to the same guy to process and so he would make sure he made a note of it if I asked him to do that. I also quickly learned that if you are far away from the stage you are not going to get much of a picture without a zoom lens. Not all my photos turned out but I have one set I love that I took at a Split Enz concert and I still look at them and think “Did I really take those?”
Neil Finn in his Split Enz days at Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide c1982
I’m not saying that we were terrific photographers. Hubby went to a couple of adult education classes to learn a bit more and tried processing film. I just concentrated on getting exposures right and the composition I wanted. We both regularly culled our prints when we got them home throwing out all the pictures we didn’t like before anyone else ever saw them.
It was a long time before we went digital. The cameras were too expensive for us at first and Hubby, in particular, clung to his film cameras but I was getting frustrated by the cost of processing. As computers became a bigger part of my life I liked the idea of being able to quickly get my photos onto the computer without the need for getting them put on CD’s first or scanning them in. I was also interested by the idea of being able to improve photos that I didn’t like so much with software. I decided to buy a used Kodak digital camera from eBay. I think it cost me $50 but was a good way to see how I’d get on with digital cameras. I found that I liked it a lot. I didn’t have to worry about running out of film so I could take more pictures. It was around then that I started to photograph my dolls a lot. If I didn’t like a picture I could try to fix it or I could just delete it and not end up with a useless print. I liked that because it seemed less wasteful. Buying batteries was a lot cheaper than buying film and getting it processed too especially once I switched to rechargeable ones. The little Kodak eventually met its maker when I dropped it one day so I bought another point and shoot camera, a Fujifilm. I knew I couldn’t afford a DSLR. I had started going to cricket matches in the summer and a year later Hubby bought me the Nikon Coolpix L120 that I use now so that I could take better pictures at the matches. He has recently bought himself a used digital camera but he loves his old cameras still. He collects them and when he gets one that works he likes to try it out. Sadly it’s not practical for him to do his photography with vintage cameras often because it’s hard to get hold of 126 or 127 film and near impossible to get it processed. He does have a few which take 120 film which you can still buy locally and is thinking of taking up processing films again.
Some of Hubby’s camera collection.
Cameras on display.
These days I store most of my photos on the computer and don’t print many at all. I do enjoy scrapbooking though and have made a few themed albums with favourite photos. Sometimes at scrapping workshops I’ve been to I’ve felt out-of-place though. Everyone else seems to be making albums full of pictures of children and cutesy sayings while I’m doing holidays, buildings, cricket or pets. I enjoy sharing my pictures with others though. I liked Flickr a lot until recently. I have a lot of photos stored there and still upload ones I like a lot as an extra back up but since it has been changed a lot I find I prefer sharing here on WordPress. I sometimes do photo challenges and I find that now when I go out I’m looking for interesting pictures to take for them.
A page from our pet album. Photos by David Jensen
Which Way Queen Victoria Building-Sydney
I still like the idea of getting a DSLR although there would be a lot of features to master on it. I know I could take better sport pictures than with my present camera. On the other hand a little camera that you can put in your handbag or pocket is very good for spontaneous pictures. The best camera is the one you have with you after all.
I have taken photos with my phone but it is not a smart phone and I didn’t find it satisfying. I’d only use it for recording purposes for example to take a picture of the steak we had for dinner that was so huge it took up most of the plate or the broken wheelie bin that some inconsiderate person ran over so the council would give us a new one. Smart phones and tablets take quite good pictures now I’m told so at some time in the future carrying one of them might be an alternative to the point and shoot compact camera.
Photography has given me a lot of pleasure over the years. Now blogging has renewed my interest again. I still have some goals. I would like to learn more about photo editing. I use Picasa to crop and enhance photos but I have Adobe Elements and I would like to learn to use it properly. If Hubby does decide we can afford to buy a DSLR I will teach myself to use it too. I know that he would like to buy a Pentax as he wants to use the lenses we already have and that’s fine with me. Most of all I just want to keep getting out and having fun with my camera.