Photography 101½

23 05 2008

Ice photographer

Please note cutting-edge high-tech camera bag that resembles simple ziplock 

I embrace new technology with all the speed and élan of a grapefruit. Until I became The Adventure Blogger, I thought a blog was the mark of ink left behind by an excited fountain pen, and I’m still not quite sure what RSS, meta tags and Web 2.0 are. But I must confess that for all my Luddite tendencies, I rather do like digital photography.


My first camera was a spiffy 110 cartridge. As the viewfinder didn’t actually look through the lens and I therefore couldn’t see precisely what I was snapping, I invariably ended up with at least one close-up photo of a very blurred finger on every roll. Nevertheless, I was still utterly devastated when it was ruined by a large tub of egg salad during a picnic. It valiantly tried to recover, but never worked - or smelled - the same again. From there, it was onward and upward. My next camera was a 126 cartridge. This one came in a spy kit, along with a pair of plastic handcuffs, a magnifying glass and a pen with invisible ink - which wasn’t invisible at all (just pale yellow) and which dried out as soon as I removed the cap for the first time.


Eventually, I graduated to 35mm. Bit by bit I added lenses, teleconverters and motordrives, most second-hand and often lovingly scratched and dented.  All that glass and metal weighed a ton, but I could never imagine travelling without it. In fact, somewhat masochistically, I was never happy unless my bag of goodies was dislocating my shoulder, twisting my spine and leaving me in general discomfort.

After all, one must suffer for one’s art, mustn’t one?!

As if all that gear wasn’t enough, I also carried stacks of AA batteries and an enormous ziplock bag stuffed with more than 40 rolls of film for a long trip, each one meticulously colour-coded to indicate its speed.


There was a huge excitement after every trip when I went to collect my photos from the lab. Opening the envelopes was akin to Christmas and a chance to re-live those travels. It was a highlight almost as eagerly anticipated as the journey itself although usually tinged with disappointment as inevitably some photos - and perhaps entire rolls - were blurred, under/overexposed or had been foiled by camera failure.


Generally though, I was a very happy boy.


Until a darkness loomed on the horizon and threatened my comfort zone. A great cloud known as ‘modern technology’ and the encroachment of digital imaging, which required - heaven forbid - a computer to properly use and enjoy. Images could be manipulated and adjusted afterwards far more easily and efficiently than in a darkroom, and who needed filters or knowledge of f-stops and shutter speeds when you could just play with it on your laptop at your leisure? It was like Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel with an air brush and stencils, or the Bayeux tapestry decorated with iron-on transfers.  I viewed digital photography as blasphemy and crawled back into my cave vowing never to surrender.


Just as I was dragged kicking and screaming from counting on my fingers and toes to a using a cutting-edge abacus, so I eventually moved onto digital photography, groping and feeling my way through pixels and megabites. Even with an extra battery pack, my new camera weighs considerably less and I still enjoy all the fun of a manual SLR camera. There’s also the added bonus of instantly knowing whether I have photographed a great landmark, or the tip of my index finger. I have traded in all my old gear for a lens…yes, one lens, and love my new travel companion almost as much as my 110 cartridge.


This one, however, is kept well away from the egg salad.




Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008




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