Friday, January 2, 2009

My first camera.

Hi Pentaxian friends,

For those who read this blog regularly, you already know that I'm French Canadian, a native of Montreal now living in Southern California, and that I have been a Pentax user for more years than I care to remember. So if my "Franglish" makes some of my sentences strange, now you know why. I do the best I can!

Nowadays, we are so impatient. We want everything and we want it now. I'm a little like that too but I wasn't always that way. I got my first camera when I was about fourteen years old. It was a brand new Minolta Hi-Matic 7S. I paid $79.00 for it, plus tax. In those days, a long, long time ago, I was still in school of course and worked at a hardware store on weekends. Miracle Mart (similar to today's K-Mart) had the camera on sale and back then, you could buy anything with a layaway plan. So I bought the Hi-Matic 7S with $5.00 down and promised to give them $5.00 every two weeks until it was paid for.

I couldn't wait to get my hands on the camera. Everytime I gave them another $5.00, I asked to see the camera. When about half the camera was paid off, I asked the manager if I could bring the manual home with me. He hesitated for a while, but I convinced him that after giving them $40.00, it would be pretty silly for me to take the manual and never come back for the camera. I guess that my sobby face made him feel sorry for me and he let me have the manual. I was thrilled. It took me nearly three months to pay the balance. I tell you, when I finally got the camera, I knew everything about it for having read the manual about a hundred times.

It was a very simple 35mm camera. So I learned how to compose, learned about aperture and shutter speed, learned about film sensitivity (ASA) at the time but now referred to as ISO. I had to focus manually with the built-in rangefinder. Can you imagine that? I could only use the one lens attached to the camera, a Rokkor 45mm f/1.8 lens. It was prehistoric compared to the DSLR cameras available now. I couldn't afford books and magazines. Fortunately, we had a local library and I was able to read many books about photography and even some of the magazines. At the time, the predominant magazines were "Popular Photography" and "Modern Photography", which luckily were available at the library. I couldn't speak or read English at the time so I was constrained to looking at the pictures only.

I would look at all the ads and scrutinize all small pictures of the Pentax Spotmatic. I would compare prices of all the New York camera stores and dreamed about the day I could purchase one. There was no way that I could have bought one at the time. I was buying one roll of 36 exposure film one week and had it developed and printed the next. You know I had to be very careful with my shutter finger. Can you imagine 36 exposures every two weeks! Actually, I was able to get 37 and sometimes 38 exposures by closing the back cover when the film sprocket was just starting to grab the film. I kept that camera for years and that’s how I learned photography. I grew up, started making a decent salary and finally purchase the Pentax Spotmatic, some lenses and I’ve been hooked to Pentax ever since.

My point in all of this is that I had to pay my dues. I learned little by little, and I was forced to slow down and really compose my pictures. It’s great that we have DSLR cameras now that can shoot three or more frames per seconds. It’s great that we can take thousands of pictures in a single weekend. It’s all great and I’m having the time of my life.

Just because technology has given us super advanced photographic equipment does not make any of us a good photographer. Today, just as it was when I was a teenager, you have to learn the craft. It’s always about the photographer and seldom about the camera. So don’t be so impatient. You can purchase all the equipment in the world and have it now, but that won’t make you a photographer “now”. You have to pay your dues.

As for my Hi-Matic 7S, I don't know what happened to it. Writing the above blog made me think about how much I loved that camera. I have to get on EBay and find another one in good condition...and I want it now! :-)

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque

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