Photography runs in my family. My grandfather Frank, who I call Papa, is a wonderful photographer who worked his whole career in photographic retail. He met my grandmother, Carol, on a packed New York City subway car in 1949. He had a camera slung around his neck and its long lens was poking into my grandmother’s chest. She was 18 and totally gorgeous. People compared her to a young Lucille Ball. Right before he got off the train, Frank asked Carol for her phone number. She took a chance on this tall, skinny, handsome photographer guy and blurted it out. Later, her mother told her she was crazy for announcing her phone number to a subway car full of strangers. But my grandfather turned out to be a very nice boy, and he repeated that number to himself until he got a chance to write it down. A week later, Frank and Carol had a date. The rest is history.
It’s such an amazing story, and even if it’s been exaggerated through the years, I still love every detail!
All this is a very roundabout way of sharing my family’s interest in photography, and my rekindled interest in what used to a major pastime of mine. My Uncle Waye, Carol and Frank’s younger son, is a professional photographer. During my childhood, my dad took beautiful photos on our vacations and blew them up into huge prints for our house that guests would always remark looked professional. And my cousin Claire, who’s 16, is a really talented artist and photographer. You can see her work here.
I first began taking photo classes at my local community college during summers in high school. I worked my way through two semesters of black and white and one semester of color. This was the olden days, when everything happened in a dark room. A few years later, when the whole world seemed to transition at once to digital photography, I bought a little Canon Elph, thinking I’d continue using my film SLR for “real” photography. But who really wanted to deal with film anymore? Not me.
A few weeks ago, thanks to generous Chanukah contributions from my dad and Uncle Gerry, I was finally able to purchase my first digital SLR camera. After a lot of research, and with the help of my uncle Wayne, I settled on a Canon XSI. I had actually gone ahead and purchased a Pentax K200 from Amazon when I realized, through further reading, that the Canon, though it didn’t have the weather-resistant body seal of the Pentax, had a live view function, similar to the screen you use as a viewfinder on a compact digital camera. I find this ocassionally useful for framing difficult shots, especially with a tripod. The live view function combined with the Canon’s rechargable battery and lighter weight sealed the deal for me, and I ended up returning the Pentax and spending just a tiny bit more for the Canon.
I am pretty thrilled with my purchase, especially since I got, as a gift from my mom, a wonderfully versatile portrait lens. It is a 50 mm prime, which means that although it can’t zoom in or out, it lets in a lot of light, allowing me to shoot indoors more often without a flash.
By now I’ve probably bored everybody out there who isn’t a photography hobbyist. But in any case, I’m going to post some sample monochrome self-portraits here. Self portraits can feel kinda vain, but they’re a great way to get to know what a camera can do at your own pace and in peace and quiet. For this first series, I used the camera’s remote control shutter release to photograph myself shaking my head “no” with shutter speeds of half a second and a full second.
More experiments in the next post.