06 April 2007

Old hobbies never die

I used to be a keen photographer. Very keen. I studied medical photography for six months as an elective as part of my science degree and contemplated moving in that direction but didn't. I learnt the delights of an SLR -- when they said as part of the course we would have to buy an expensive camera, I thought we were talking forty bucks, not several hundred. I ended up with an Olympus OM-1, the last of the mechanical SLRs -- I was tossing up between the OM-1 and OM-10, but opted for mechanical over electronic as I thought it would be more robust. I remember going to one shop, and they espoused the virtues of electronic over mechanical; the next shop did the opposite, leaving me quite bamboozled. But I made my choice, and was happy when my teacher said that yes I'd done the right thing. After the course, I considered setting up my own darkroom -- something I've always intended to do and never managed.

Anyway, I ended up taking that camera travelling, and shot around 99 x 36-exposure films in 18 months. I even had one paid photography gig while I was away, photographing a 21st birthday party for people who I'd been working for in Surrey, England.

I loved that OM-1, but eventually it broke down and went to the big camera heaven in the sky -- after several hundred dollars of repairs that didn't fix the problems. I despaired. That camera had gone everywhere with me. It had captured landscapes, the first steps of my children and a host of things inbetween. My husband had an OM-40, which I inherited because he didn't use it, but it never worked properly, I think mainly because it had spent too long not being used, so various seals and things had degraded.

Anyway, for a while I was camera-less and bereft. I wandered through family events not knowing what to do with myself, but did learn to appreciate that adage about people behind the camera being too busy trying to capture life on film to actually experience it. Always, when I travelled, the photo was my ultimate consideration. What was the best angle to catch that shot? Did I need to over or underexpose?

I always intended to get another SLR. Couldn't imagine living without one. But our budget was limited, and my husband wanted to go digital, so we ended up with a cheap point-and-click type camera, which took quite good photos. My son, who would lose his head and all his toes if they weren't glued on, borrowed the camera to take to a scout jamboree earlier this year, and of course the camera was stolen. Now I'm camera-less again, which gives me a good excuse to think about buying one. Even better, I'm going to be team teaching Photography for Writers later this year, and all the students are expected to have a digital SLR, so to teach it I'm going to have to have one too.

So, now I'm busy researching cameras that really are beyond my budget. And I find that I was so in love with my OM-1, that my heart tells me I can't look beyond Olympus. My head tells me the same thing since between us, Rick, my husband and I have an assortment of Olympus-compatible (Zuiko and Tamron) lenses, and you can buy converters to attach these to your digital SLR.

In the meantime, I'm busy looking into the differences between digital and film SLRs, which includes things like focal-length conversion factors because the image captured is smaller on a digital SLR than the 35 mm negative of an SLR. It's all so exciting. I can't wait to share my knowledge of things like colour temperature with the class, mainly because I think if they have a good grounding in such things, they'll understand not just what white balance is but how it works. So I'm burying myself in the internet and in magazines, and itching to go shopping, though a couple of the cameras I'm considering don't seem to be on the market yet, and I'm not sure I'll be able to wait long enough for their release. I just wonder whether I'll return to my earlier obsession with photography once I have an SLR again. I suspect I will. Nothing like a good obsession to keep you happy really. That's what writing is too -- it's obsessive, compulsive, and I just love doing it.


Snail said...


I used to have an OM-1. Loved it. I bought in in 1981 and took it everywhere (including Krakatoa), until it was nicked in 2005. I now have a Nikon something or other with a film back. (I was still resisting the lure of digital photography when I bought it.)

Last year, I got a digital compact, which takes perfectly serviceable pictures, but what I really want is a digital back for the Nikon lenses. Especially as I have a MicroNikkor and fancy macroflash sitting around unused because transparencies are too much bother.

You're darned right about the hobbies.

Tracey said...

Why do people pinch things? I bought mine in '81 too. I keep thinking about our digital that was stolen. It was only 2 Mb, and of course they didn't get the recharger or anything, so it wouldn't be worth much.

Anyway, it's nice to see that you obviously share the passion -- but I think I could tell that from the photos on your blog anyway. I'll have to post some once I buy the camera! And yes serviceable pictures aren't the same, are they?

Sherryl said...

Oh no, the science people are turning into camera geeks!
Seriously, I'm glad it's going to be you teaching the techie stuff, Tracey. But no, our students won't have to have digital SLRs. I doubt any of them could afford them. I think the choice will be either a normal SLR or a digital camera that allows manual settings.
I'm about to go and use up a film this weekend on "experiments" as examples (but mainly I'm doing it because I want the first 10 photos on the 24 film! that is an advantage of digital - you can take just one photo and then download it).

Tracey said...

Turning into, did you say, Sherryl? Turning into? I hate to tell you, but I suspect the scientists have always been camera geeks. We've just learnt to hide it for fear of getting that glazed-eyed look from our friends.

Ah, I did wonder about student budgets. Yes, manual controls are a must, I think. Okay. Have fun with your experiments!

Snail said...

Turning into, did you say, Sherryl?

I'm with the camera geek.