WHY I LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY

I got my first camera when I was 22. I’m not counting the Brownie camera I inherited from someone when I was a kid. It had a lens that I think was made from the bottom of coke bottle, but was not as sharp. My father took a lot of pictures, all of them awful. My mother painted, but I never saw her pick up a camera. In those days, cameras were either very expensive or junk. Typical, middle class families didn’t usually have “real” cameras, but everyone had a Brownie box camera. The quality of which might be okay or horrible, depending on luck of the draw.

96-Me Young in MaineI had a friend who was a photographer. He even went to a real photography school. I got interested in pictures. Started looking at books of photography. I learned how to process film (though I never learned to like the chemicals) and make prints in a dark room. As I was about to leave on my first vacation to Martha’s Vineyard — before it was “the hot” destination it later became — my friend gave me a camera.

By Dnalor 01 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 at, Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42486209

By Dnalor 01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 at photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

It was an old Praktica with an f2.8 Zeiss lens. No automatic anything. Manual film loading. No light meter. There were three settings: film speed (now ISO), shutter speed, and f-stop. Since the lens was a fixed focal length, telephoto meant running forward for a closeup, and back the other way for a wide-angle view. Agility and speed counted, especially because focusing was manual too.

That trip to Martha’s Vineyard with that first of many 35mm cameras was the beginning of everything. You can read more about it on ALFRED EISENSTADT AND ME.

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I’m amazed my pictures came out at all. But they did. Not only did they come out, they came out amazingly well. From that point on, I was hooked. Throughout the 48 years since then, I’ve stayed hooked on photography. I have a decent eye for casual portraits and landscapes. I’m getting better at other things and modern equipment makes experimenting with various types of pictures easy. Which is good because running back and forth would not work for me these days.

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Even relatively cheap modern cameras have more technology packed in them then the most expensive cameras had “back in the day.” The only thing that has not changed and cannot change (because there are physical laws that apply) are optics. Lenses. Glass. There are properties attached to a lens that are immutable. Optics are. You can’t negotiate them. They are a physical fact.

No camera, no matter how advanced, will ever be better than the lens through which you take the picture. That’s why your phone is not as good as a real camera with a good lens.

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It doesn’t have anything to do with software or any of the bells and whistles modern photographic technology tries to sell you. Bottom line, it’s all about the lens. If you have a good eye and a sharp lens, you’re in business.

I work at photography, but mostly, I play at it. It’s fun. I know many photographers who are better than me. Some of them are not merely a little bit better, but a lot better. I am awestruck by the work they do. Most of them have far better technical skills than me and frequently, better equipment than I can ever hope to afford.

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But I really love taking pictures. Photography has been my hobby my entire adult life. It has saved my sanity when everything else in my life was going horribly wrong.

Of all the hobbies I can think of, it’s the only one for which you will never grow too old. It never gets boring. You can take it with you wherever you go. These days, you can share your pictures with the entire world online. It gives you a reason to get out of the house when you ordinarily wouldn’t bother. It’s a way to be creative without needing a special room or expensive equipment. Because even if all you have is a cell phone, you can always take pictures. A good eye can overcome mediocre technology … and no amount of great equipment or software can make up for a poor eye.

So grab your camera. Go forth and take pictures!

40 thoughts on “WHY I LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY

  1. My first was some kind of Brownie Hawkeye. One day while visiting a National Park upstate NY I was climbing on some rocks, boulders to be exact, and the back fell off the camera and down a crevasse, never to be seen again. I then took to borrowing my brothers Argus C-3, but he was an odd dude for as soon as he saw I was interested in something of his, which he wasn’t using, he of course wanted it back. My Dad took pics of us almost every Sunday, using a twin lens reflex of some kind (Not Rolie), but I always managed to fall or bump into something creating a big ugly scab on my face. Better luck next week Pop…

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      • My first really serious camera was a Miranda “G” SLR, suggested to me by the house photographer at Grossingers. He knew a guy, who knew a guy who had a camera shop and got me a deal. Which, by the way, was how I began to learn that it was good to know someone close to what you sought. Anyway I really don’t remember if it was a great deal or not, but I thought it was at the time. It had a removable pentaprism so I could take pictures without holding it up to my eye, giving away my intention of photographing you. I took many candid shots that way, pretending to fiddle with the camera while holding it sideways etc., which I’m sure wouldn’t have come out, as good, if I needed to raise the camera to my eye. Today we have articulated LCD screens giving us somewhat the same advantage.., and more.

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    • Ben, do you have any of those pics your Dad took of you and your Brother?
      I’m not a camera maven like you and Mary-lynn. But I’m glad she encouraged me to get involved. It was my first creative thing after retiring from TV news. It also gives us something to do together outdoors.
      I enjoy taking pics. I see little stories everywhere.

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      • Pop took pics of me, my sisters and a few of my brother before I was born. My suggestion is you keep taking photos with the way you see things. Over time you WILL get better.., and it is a great thing to do together. I know I enjoyed tooling around with you and Mary-lynn, and only sorry we could go farther due to weather north of here.

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  2. My mum only had a Brownie Box Camera when I was younger, so that was my first experience with a camera. Developing photos myself never came into the question, such things were not encouraged in a working class family. Cameras seem to only be used on famile holidays, but not for anything else.
    I have Mr. Swiss to thank for waking my interest. He was always into new stuff, and brought home the first digi camera. I did not bother so much with it, but when he gave me his third one, which was quite good I was hooked. One thing lead to another and I got my first DSLR a couple of years ago. Now have my second – a smaller version that I can take everywhere, and have collected a few lens on the way. It is a reason to go out, to take photos. It compensates for a lot of things I can no longer do due to various golden oldie problems. I am the passenger in the car, but it is amazing what you can capture from a car seat. I enjoy my walks purely because I can take photos on the way. I love to take something out of the ordinary and am always searching for the exceptions. Yes, photography is a wonderful hobby and proves that I can still do it with my various handicaps. The telephone camera is naturally not the perfect solution, but when writing a blog and you need that certain photo it is perfect. Just take a photo of what you need and upload it online from the mobile, at least that is what I do. Saves time on setting up the computer.

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    • I really think absolutely EVERYONE on every continent had one of those Brownie cameras. Some were better than others, but mostly, they were really BAD.

      I try to take a camera with me everywhere. And I always have the cell phone, though the quality of those pictures is kind of pathetic, but if that’s all I’ve got, I use it. We have a lot more fun with photography since Garry started shooting, too. It’s something we can do together and it’s also something we can do when we are away. One of the few activities I love that I can still DO. There’s so much i can’t do anymore, so it’s nice that this one thing looks like it will go the distance with me 🙂

      I shoot from the car too, though pictures come out better if the car windows are clean!

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  3. This was a lovely read Marilyn.
    A lens “made from the bottom of coke bottle, but was not as sharp”, haha! 😀 Hilarious!
    My first camera was a Nikon something with a lens something that I got from my brother when he died. I still have the camera tucked away in a drawer.
    I was 15 and had no idea how to operate the camera, so it was trial and error. The problem was that I had to send the films for developing, so when the photos came back I had no clue what I’d done wrong (I couldn’t remember which settings I’d used).
    It’s good to hear that you will never grow too old for photography and that it never gets boring. Now I know that I can continue with my hobby. I’ve given up on skateboarding and downhill biking – two of my previous hobbies.
    Hopefully photography will help save my sanity too!

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    • I’m told that some of the old Brownie cameras had German-made lenses, but since they were unmarked and all sold by Kodak, you never knew what you were getting. Mostly, they were bad. Ranging from pretty bad to really terrible.

      I got interested for real after my son was born. It started out because I wanted to take pictures of the kid, but it ended up a lot more than that. I’m grateful for photography. I can take pictures IN the house when the weather is bad and spend hours messing with them on Photoshop. I forget to be anxious, depressed, etc. I just focus on the visual and it really has kept me from going totally bonkers. There have been some bad years … decades, really … in my life. I don’t know what I’d have done without photography.

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    • Cardinal, I forget the age, aches and pains when I’m on a shoot with Marilyn. My body becomes young again as I kneel, stretch or lie down for shots.
      Later, I pay the piper.

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  4. I had to look up what a Brownie Box camera was… My first camera was a 110 camera. I can’t remember if it took good pictures or not, but it was handy and traveled well. 🙂 Your pictures, as always are gorgeous.

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      • The Argus C-3 was my step up from my Brownie, which I thought was originally designed for the Girl Scout troops of the same name. I still have some pics floating around that I took with the Argus C-3…

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  5. This was an enjoyable and inspiring post. I dallied in photography in my younger days. I had a yashica without any bells and whistles, it was all I could afford and my prized possession. I didn’t even mind the chemicals, but I mostly worked in b&w. Yet, once it went digital I lost interest. I admit to just taking shots with my iPhone without much thought. Following you and other photographers is really urging me to pick it up again, my 10 year old son has an interest and has just been handed-down his dad’s old camera so perhaps we can learn together.

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    • It’s so much easier now than it was with film. The cameras have a zillion function, but most of us don’t use almost any of them. Semi-automatic and autofocus? And no expensive film to process and print. You can make all the mistakes you want and it want cost you $$$. And, it really IS fun.

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  6. I had a Brownie camera too. Unfortunately, I was so unimpressed with the pictures I took with it, I soon lost interest. Now the cameras of today – that may be a different story.
    Leslie

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    • If you don’t already have one, get one.., even the cheap..uh.. inexpensive digital ones can do a surprisingly decent job. I know that Marilyn doesn’t think much of the cameras offered in cell phones, but I’ve taken some great shots with my iPhone. It’s the “in a pinch, it will do” theory and supports the old adage “it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.”

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  7. You guys are good photographers.
    But even an amateur can take pretty good pics these days with these new cameras and unlimited images. Even more so with the editing software around. I save a ton of my shots with lots of editing. You can do pretty well anything to a pic now.

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    • Yes. Except compensating for very low light when taking a photograph of a black dog in shadows. Trust me on that. I just spend a couple of hours trying and realized, finally, it wasn’t happening. Sometimes, you really need more light.

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  8. I’ve sold a lot of my old photography equipment but am holding on to my manual Pentax Asahi K-mount lenses in case I ever get a new camera and a lens adapter. I used to shoot with transparency film, had a light table and loved it. I switched to digital in 2006 and it just wasn’t the same. I realize I could just stick with shooting film but it feels kind of a waste knowing that I could have a digital version and that I would probably miss out on some good shots fidgeting with manual controls. I think my manual film cameras are worth more than my Canon 30D that I bought for $1800 in 2006. Sharp lenses rock!

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