I like taking pictures. I like it a lot. My first camera was a Kodak Ektralite 10, eons ago – before cable, but not before the Atari 2600 (had one of those). I still have them somewhere. They weren’t great. But, that didn’t stop me from taking pictures. And I took a lot. I went through tons of that 110 film. It got expensive after a while, and I was told to cut back a little. I did take that camera with me everywhere, which is how it got stolen. I had it at school, someone took it from my locker. But I’m not bitter…yes, yes I am. I want my Ektralite back.
After that camera, my brother and I both got the short-lived Disc camera, also by Kodak. I was glad to have it. I was going into withdrawal, not having a camera of my own. My mother wouldn’t let me touch her camera all that often – a Minolta X300. My brother and I took a lot of pictures on a trip to Florida. Surprisingly, we have lovely shots from our trip to Florida. That was the last major trip we took as a family. After that, there was college to save for, and health issues we didn’t know about…all sorts of things that kept us from going on another major journey. Makes me a little sad to think about it, actually.
High school graduation. I’d waited four years to ride up on the orchestra lift in a nylon – or polyester or lacquered sandpaper, or whatever it was made out of – gown and mortarboard, tassel jauntily placed to whichever side means I haven’t graduated yet, then moved to the side that means I have, staring out over my last high school audience. I went to an arts magnet and focused on theater and choral performance. I’d started out with writing, too, but dropped it because I didn’t get along with the new teacher. I’ve regretted that ever since.
After the ceremony, families stood in the foyer, congratulating the new graduate, and giving presents. There weren’t many, but they were thoughtful. Truly thoughtful. My mother gave me a giant Mickey Watch wall clock. Doesn’t work anymore, but I still have it. My sister gave me a car. Still have that, too. And my father gave me my very own 35mm camera. It was a Pentax, and it was all mine. I was in tears I was so happy. My mother, in a not-that-surprising lack of tact, declared it wasn’t good enough and we would instead return it and replace it with a camera the exact model as hers. I tried to protest, but my words fell on deaf ears. We were replacing it with a different camera.
I took that Minolta to college, and I took a lot of pictures my first few years. Then I ran into the old specter of developing film. I couldn’t really afford to do that anymore, so I stopped taking pictures for a little while. Okay, for a long while. Close to a decade, really. My camera sat in a box, in a closet, in the dark. I carried it with me whenever I moved, but it sat, untouched, for the most part. There were pictures now and again, but the money for film and developing just wasn’t there. So I had to let it go.
In 2001, I moved to Colorado. I took my Minolta with me. My mother couldn’t take pictures anymore, so I also took her telephoto lens. I shot two rolls of film in that first year. Once again, though, I ran into cost. I still have those two rolls of film,undeveloped. I got frustrated and put the camera away again. I didn’t even think pull it out when I was travelling to the national park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The only pictures I have are in my head, partly because I didn’t have a camera, partly because the pictures from the person I was traveling with had a water-based accident and become a solid brick instead of individual pictures. It was difficult after that to convince people there was a yak farm in Gunnison, Colorado, which is actually still quite a ways away from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Trust me on that one, I was the driver.
Forward to 2008. My closest friend and I go out to little towns in the area for the day. She brings along her digital camera. Hmm, now there’s a thought. But I can’t really afford one, so I don’t give it much thought. Just a seething jealousy that she has a digital camera and I don’t. I found a little camera for $20 at Target, or Wal-Mart, or somewhere like that. Nothing spectacular; it took pictures no better than the average cell phone. But it was a camera, and it was digital. No developing costs! No film costs! No flash, either. No focus, no distance…it was essentially a disposable camera. But it was a camera.
Then one day, my friend took a look at what I was using, and said “I have another camera that I’m not using. You can borrow that until I have to give this one back to my mother.” She never had to give that camera back; her mother had moved on to another camera. So I got to keep the one she loaned me. It was my last Kodak. A whopping 3.1 megapixels, it took decent pictures. It even had a manual setting, where I could adjust the aperture and shutter speed. Oh, I was in heaven! Finally, the greatest problem I had with photography was resolved – no more development costs, no more film costs! I breathed easy, and began shooting in earnest. It was with me on my second drive up Pikes Peak, and it took some very interesting photos. I see them now and I can recognize the limitations of that camera. But at the time, I didn’t care. I had a camera in my hands, and I didn’t have to pay to get the pictures developed. I could just put them on my computer.
I really didn’t have a lot of money to spare at the time. I’d been laid off the fall before. I was going back to school, though, and getting unemployment, so I had money to live on, until I could find another job. My Kodak suffered a catastrophic accident in 2008, though, falling off a counter in my kitchen. My stopgap of holding the battery compartment closed with a hair elastic was wearing thin. Even though I really didn’t have the money to spare, the photography bug had bitten – I had no choice. I did my research, and I found Canon. Once again, my first target was the city-owned tourist attraction, Garden of the Gods. I thought my pictures were good with the Kodak. After my first day with this new Canon, I knew I was wrong.
Except for the Minolta, all of the cameras I owned qualified as point-and-shoot cameras. Even the later ones that had a manual option, those were considered point-and-shoot cameras. I replaced my first Canon with another, ten megapixels this time. If I so desired, I could print pictures up to 16″ x 20″. By this point, I’d been able to convince myself to take chances with what I had. I was still jobless, but I bought it anyway. A friend of mine had asked me to shoot an event for her, and the camera I had just wouldn’t do. It had been dropped – like the Kodak – and suffered damage. It didn’t focus properly anymore. I didn’t have anyone to borrow a camera from, so I had to replace my existing one. Another Canon, another point-and-shoot with manual options.
In 2011, I had to leave Colorado. I hadn’t found a job, unemployment had run out, and I was effectively homeless. I rejoined my family in Ohio. I knew I’d move back home at some point. I just planned on my return being a bit more…triumphant. A number of the people who’d been laid off when I was hadn’t found a good job and had moved – to home, to another city with more opportunities, or planned to move. I had applied for many jobs. I had taken the placement tests and preparatory classes with the employment office. But I couldn’t find anything. I dropped out of school the previous year, just five classes shy of my Masters of Science in Accounting. The move back has been good for me, though. I have a job now. I’m paying my bills, and I have a savings account. And I have another camera. It’s a Canon – I’m fully converted to Canon these days – but it’s not a point-and-shoot. I finally got my DSLR.