A Bad Day With A Camera

Looking Closer

My first camera was a Kodak No. 2 Brownie Model F (Canadian) box camera, which I have previously mentioned elsewhere. The list of things that it is not good at greatly exceeds the list of areas where the poor thing excels. One of the things it cannot do at all is close-up photography.

Peeking Rose Carpet Creeping Sedum, Our front flower bed, Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-18

I got the camera from my grandmother on my fifth birthday. It was her first camera as well, purchased second-hand by her in her early twenties decades before the Second World War. It had a lot of miles on it by the time it was passed to me and it had a few more to go. I set to work with it and promptly blew through what I was told was a month’s worth of film in about a day or so. Gran took all of my rolls of exposed film to the drug store and brought back envelopes of prints with negatives a few days later.

Alien Seed Pods, Our front flower bed, Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-18

Blur. Blurred. Blurry. Blur. Out of focus. Camera shake. Blur. Blur. At age five I could not have told you what photomacrography was, a focal length, or what a minimum focusing distance was. What I could tell you was that a No. 2 Brownie didn’t get the details in the head of a dandelion or a bug on the sidewalk or the penny I wanted a close-up picture of.

It’s a bullseye, Our backyard, Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-18 (Cross-processed effect)

My gran tried to patiently explain to me that the camera only focused on things ten feet or farther away and that it was never designed to photograph things close-up. This honestly offended me. Why would someone invent a camera that photographed people and not bugs and small things? Bugs are more interesting than people and what is the use of a camera that won’t photograph them?

I am certain this is a metaphor for something, Our backyard,
Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-18

I remember grandmother just sitting there and giving me that look. Then she suggested that I should take pictures of my friends the next time we were playing because the camera was very good for portraits of my friends. Okay, yes, but what if we were catching bugs together?

There was that look again.

She put the camera up on a shelf and told me I could have it and some film to use again later, and I was not to use the entire roll in five minutes as I had done before. I think practically all of the negs and prints got binned. I was definitely off to a bad start as a photographer.

Blown cone, Our backyard, Strathmore,
Alberta, 2024-02-18
Flower on ice, Our front flower bed,
Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-18 (B&W)

Times have changed since I got my first camera. Macro capability is something that is being built into I would say the majority of digital cameras these days, especially phone cameras. Are they good enough to get National Geographic-quality images of an ant on the sidewalk? No. Will they do justice to a bee in a flower now? Hell yes. They can easily do what my No. 2 Brownie never could.

No idea what the hell this is, Our backyard, Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-18

It’s fun to be able to walk up to something and take a macro picture of it even if I have no idea what it is or what it is called just because I like the shape of it and know that I have pretty good odds the image will turn out well enough to be usable. I went on a macro photo binge in my yard this morning using the Olympus FE-120 I was gifted by my wife’s uncle and that I wrote about previously. I had discovered it was quite good with macro work and I wanted to exercise it some more.

Olympus FE-120, Front, Strathmore,
Alberta, 2024-02-11
Olympus FE-120, Back, Strathmore,
Alberta, 2024-02-11

It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to hold your camera close to a subject without even bothering to compose the image on the viewfinder or display, depressing the shutter release, and having faith you’ve captured something worthwhile. I got to be five-year-old me again for ten minutes in my yard this morning and it was marvelous. Especially since there was no film wastage to get yelled at over now.

Nasty is as nasty does, Our front flower bed, Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-18

The miniature world around us is so much fun to see and explore even with a mediocre, vintage digital camera, and it’s a shame when your camera won’t allow you to do that. If it can’t, look into getting one that will because you’re missing out. Even a used older digicam worth about $20 will give great results and bring much pleasure if it is close-up capable (look for the little flower symbol).

Persistence, Weeping Willow, Our front yard, Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-18

The best thing about this morning was that not only did I get macro images with the camera in hand, but my hit rate has also improved. One hundred percent of my close-up images were rubbish from my very first day of shooting with a camera. I’m pleased to report that only ninety percent of this morning’s images were unusable. Ten percent improvement in half a century of shooting! Now that’s brag-worthy.

Note: All of today’s images were produced using an Olympus FE-120 point-and-shoot digital camera, but it felt just as good as shooting with an old Brownie to me.

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© 2024 Sean D. McCormick

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