Recently I pulled out my old Pentax camera my dad had given me. I’ve had it stored on a shelf, still in the camera bag. The outside was pretty dusty, but when I unzipped the main bag, I was immediately transported to one of the last times I used that camera. Which was about 15 years ago, playing around with different lenses. (I spent an afternoon taking pictures of my dogs belly deep in the sprawling blossoms of wild verbena carpeting the desert.)
As soon as I lifted the camera out of the bag and held it in my hands, the weight of it was so familiar. So comforting. I held it up to my eye and saw the all-to-familiar reflection of my lashes magnified in the tiny window—I always got a kick out of that. I began manually focusing on various subjects out the kitchen window. Man, I love manual focus—what freedom of composition and depth you get! I thought of my dad. I released the shutter, relishing the feel and sound of that unmistakable click. It sounded so good, so solid! It felt like my dad was right there with me with each click. I played around with it for a few more minutes, enjoying the weighty camera in my hands again.
It was my dad who got me into photography (actually he got both me and my mom into it, my mom is an amazing photographer). When I was younger, it was a very big deal when he let me start loading the film. I took pride in how quick I got at changing out rolls for him, and later for myself.
I took any and all classes that put me in a dark room. In high school I always had a photography class, summers too. I loved making prints, and my favorite part of the process was developing the images I exposed onto photo paper. I remember always having tongs in my hand and dipping my paper in each of those four shallow tubs—staring intently at the first tub waiting for just the right moment to pull my image out of the developer then dipping it in the stop bath. From there the fixer, followed by swishing it around in the wash. Sometimes I’d squeegee it before hanging to dry. I liked being in the dark, working under a muted red glow, no one bothered me there. And I loved, loved the chemical smell of the dark room.
While pulling camera accessories out of the bag, I remembered going to photography exhibits with my dad, particularly those featuring the works of Ansel Adams, whom he loved. Likely the reason I prefer black and white today, and why I like contrast, light play, patterns—it’s pretty much what I was exposed to. Plus, the story that speaks from a black and white photo just seems more…colorful.
I felt my dad’s presence in a calm and peaceful way, going down memory lane as I spread out the variety of lenses, lens cleaner and lens tissues—of which my dad constantly had me cleaning my lenses, that I will NEVER forget LOL! I pulled out funny little leather cylinder film cases, lens caps, colored filters, even an unused roll of film!
It was truly a wonderful afternoon spent with the memory of my dad and I’m so grateful he enjoyed sharing his love of photography so readily with me as it’s so much a part of who I am now. I realized taking pictures is a part of my creative history, and one of my favorite ways to capture pieces of my story today.
My love of writing…now that I got from my mom, and that will be another story 😉
Images ©Michelle Hedgecock