While it seldom factors into my actual pastoral work, I’ve been a photographer for around thirty years now—starting when, at the age of 12, my father gave me a neglected Canon AV-1 kit that was laying around his office. “The others say it doesn’t work,” he told me. “But if you can get it to work, you can have it.” It worked fine for me, and I shot many a photo (including a number of them published in the school newspaper and yearbooks) with that camera.
Dad, however, was a Minolta guy at the time, and in high school I switched to a Minolta X-700 so that I could take advantage of his extensive and growing lens collection. Later—in my 20s—I switched again, for a while shooting a Pentax ME Super, then settling in on Nikons for a long while: first an F3, then an N90s (a system which I shot for the better part of a decade). In 2005 I finally switched to digital, and found that Nikon’s D100 was a good (if already somewhat dated) analogue to my beloved N90s system—and it accepted the same lenses I already had, so that was a plus.
At a mere 6 megapixels, however, the life of the D100 was limited; in the late 2000s, I sold it for what little bit I could get (relative to the price I paid for it), and for what seems like a good while now we have had only a “point-and-shoot” Nikon—a CoolPix P7000, really a very good little camera—and our iPhones for capturing photos of any sort.
Through the years, by the way, I’ve also shot with varying other systems; dad had a complete Bronica ETR medium format system in his studio, as well as a Toyo 4x5 view camera—both of which I used extensively. I picked up a Bronica system of my own in my 20s, this time the ETRSi (I had an ETRS backup. I sold that system before seminary, but then I got a couple of other medium format systems in my 30s: first, a Kiev (a Russian knock-off of the basic Hasselblad 500), then a Mamiya M645. I really liked the Mamiya system, but the one I had left me zero upgrade path to digital, so I sold it for pennies a few years ago. And I got a Crown Graphic 4x5 press camera in the early 2000s, which I still have (and it still works) but I never shoot it. It’s just too expensive to shoot film anymore, unless you have a full wet darkroom set up (which I did in seminary, but had not been able to set up again since—so that gear got sold last spring in a yard sale).
My biggest regret of cameras that I’ve owned and sold was a Zeiss-Ikon Super Ikonta C (pictured above), a 6x9cm viewfinder medium format camera that I got for a song. It worked, and the lens was super-sharp—plus it looked awesome on display on a bookshelf. I sold it for far less than it was worth (though I didn’t know it at the time), and now these things go for hundreds more than I would put into a camera that I would shoot only occasionally as a novelty. Alas.
All of this is building up to an announcement, of sorts, that I’ve scrounged together some cash given to me for birthdays, etc. and bought another camera. I’ve been reading about the “micro four-thirds” format and system for a few years, and have been very interested; it seems like a perfect medium ground for me: small size cameras and high portability, yet with a wide range of interchangeable lenses available and camera bodies ranging from the most simple and consumer-friendly to ones with near-pro (or some would argue fully professional) capabilities. They all allow full manual exposure and focusing, and the sensors, while much smaller than a full digital “SLR” camera (like the Nikon D series), turn out really fantastic images. An interesting thing, too, is that the µ4/3 system is the result of an agreement or partnership of several manufacturers—including Olympus, Panasonic, Kodak, and others—so there are a wider array of lenses for the system than for many systems from major manufacturers. (Thus, an Olympus lens will work on a Panasonic camera, etc.)
And so I picked up a used, 2011 model from Panasonic, the Lumix GF3. So far I’m still getting to know it, but I really like what I see. I haven’t made any prints from it yet, but the images I’ve taken look very good on the screen; I’ll post an example or two once I actually have something that feels like more than just playing around and getting familiar with my equipment.
I’m really delighted to be re-engaging with more serious photography. I think it will give me a welcome aside from the other endeavors I have in front of me, and perhaps I can make some art that others will enjoy, as well. As I go through the coming months, I’ll post more about photography and my reflections on it.
And now that Jack is 12, maybe it’s time for him to get more fully introduced to photography as well! He was just talking about wanting a camera the other day… maybe sometime in the next year I’ll get him started, just like my dad did with me.