Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I knew this would happen if we got a digital camera

My favorite camera store has closed, and I'm mourning it today. It was the kind of place that was totally unique, and I'm really sad to find out that they've gone out of business.

About six years ago, I inherited a Nikon F3 from landisdad's grandfather. I had always been interested in photography, but had never had the cash to get a really good camera. I had (and still have) a point and shoot Pentax, but the F3 was a real windfall for me. There's nothing auto about it. In order to shoot well, I had to learn how to focus, read up on filmspeed, and understand something about shutter speed. It's a great camera, but a total bear--the thing must weigh three pounds. Once, when I had it hung around my neck, I leaned down to give the Bee a kiss, and whacked her in the head with it, and was wracked with guilt for the next three days, as it gave her a huge bump.

It's the kind of camera that, if I'm shooting a rally or march, older newspaper photographers will come up to compliment me on it. It's sort of like being in a little club--the club of the serious amateur photographer.

I don't have a flash for it, so I can really only use it during the day, but it's been the camera with which I have taken some of my favorite photos of my kids. Landisdad's grandfather was a pretty serious photographer, and it came with both fisheye and telephoto lenses, so it's really useful in crowd photography. I usually just shoot black and white film with it, although I've taken some amazing color pictures too.

About four years ago, I started taking all my film to a camera store that was around the corner from where I worked at the time. It was a wonderful place, staffed by people who really knew something about taking pictures. It was not terribly far away from two different art schools, and there were always student photographers in there, both in front of and behind the counter. Once, when I had to take the F3 in to get repaired, the guy who fixed it for me offered to let me name my price for it.

But I never felt like it was the kind of snooty place that only catered to professionals or serious students of photography. They liked amateurs like me. And it was also the kind of store where the same woman was always behind the counter, knew my name, and threw an extra can of film in my bag once a year or so, just because I was a good customer. They never mentioned it when I made grievous photography errors, probably because they all knew that the way you learn to do something complicated, like take really great photos, is to make a lot of mistakes.

I've changed jobs three times since I first started going there, but it was always the place I trusted to do my good developing, even when I stopped working in the city, and started having to drive nine miles just to get there. I got to the point where I was only bringing in film if I had to be in the city for some other reason. And I was ready to drop some off last week. But it was closed.

I knew that the push of digital would be hard on places like this. I knew that the fact that the neighborhood is getting gentrified would make it harder to pay the rent. But I didn't think it would happen so soon.
I was just there last month, and there were no signs that they were failing. For god's sakes, there's a RitzCamera on the next block that seems to be thriving!

It saddens me, because I know that the presence of Ritz helped to shut them down. I like my digital camera, because it makes it so much easier to send pictures of the kids to my mom. But I've never felt the urge to make an 8x10 out of a picture that I took with that camera. I've never just sat and looked at the velvety texture of the Bumblebee's face in one of those shots, the way that I have looked at her face in some of my black and white work.

• Posted By landismom @ 5/03/2005 01:32:00 PM
I would love a decent camera, but they are so expensive, I need to start a camera fund!
Yeah, I never would have gotten a camera this good for myself. They are really astronomical!
I totally agree with you on real vs. digital. Somehow the digital don't do the same as the real, and my very best shots all are from my old Minolta...
chip, yeah, the digital is all right for what I think of as the "snapshot moment"--things like birthday parties, etc. One of my main frustrations with the digital camera, though, is the slowness of shutter speed (I guess it's not shutter speed but image capture). Since I'm used to shooting with regular film, I spend time to focus, etc., but I'm not yet used to timing my shots to three seconds from now. Consequently, I have a whole bunch of digital pix of the side of one of my kids' heads.
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  2. My daughter is the Bumblebee. My son is the Sweet Potato. You'll have to ask their father.

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