All that you ever wanted to know about me (multiplied by 117)
My grandfather gave me an old brown box shaped camera when I was little. He was always taking pictures and he had so many cool old cameras. My grandmother would buy me film, 127 black and white. I can still remember that smell, not quite minty and not the same smell as 35mm film today. After popping off the 12 exposures I couldn't wait to get the prints back from the lab. Usually the same pictures, my grandmother, my grandfather and Candy, the German Sheppard who belonged to Maria the neighbor.
A few years later, I think it was the summer after my grandfather died, I came across some of his dark-room supplies. Some photographic paper, chemicals and a film developing tank which I brought back home with me. It was remarkable that I was even allowed to keep them, since I was only 13 at the time.
After taking over the crawlspace under the stairs, I outfitted the light fixture with a Y so I could have a safe light on one and a regular bulb on the other. My first print involved sandwiching a 127 negative between some photographic paper and a sheet of glass. I would screw in the regular light bulb to turn it on and count off the seconds for exposure.
That year my dad bought me a Canon AT-1 for my birthday. That was the fully manual version of the A series slr. Next came the Omega B600 enlarger and an inexpensive zoom lens for the Canon. Now, fully equipped, I went on to be one of the yearbook photographers for my high school. I mostly enjoyed taking candid shots, but I covered most of the sporting events also.
When my sisters got old enough to require separate rooms, we converted one of the garages to a bedroom for me. There was enough room for me to have my own bathroom. My dad gave me the option to have a darkroom instead if I wanted one. Hell, I'd go to the bathroom outside, if that's what it took to get a real darkroom. Being able to process prints standing up instead of kneeling and crouched over was such a luxury!
At this point, a sophomore in high school, I just couldn't get enough of photography. I somehow managed to save enough money to buy a Canon A-1 body. As far as I was concerned, that was TOP of the line. It had a digital readout in the view finder for crying out loud!
Next came color, the death of my young but fairly extensive photographic "career". Back then I just didn't "get" Black and White. To me it was always a limitation that I couldn't do color in the darkroom. Unfortunately, it became quickly apparent that I didn't "get" color either. It was so difficult and expensive. Since processing a print had to be done in total darkness, I couldn't pull it early if I over exposed a bit. And color balance - that really sucked! I remember I took this shot of a mounted police officer in Philly that I was really proud of. My first print had a cyan cast. Then I over compensated and the next one was too yellow. I don't think I ever got it perfect, and it sure cost me a lot of money trying.
After High School my priorities changed a lot. Girls, beer and making money (for girls and beer) were most important. I still liked taking pictures, but I was afraid to take my A-1 anywhere for fear that it would be damaged. I ended up trading in all of my SLR equipment for a Fuji point and shoot. I don't remember the model, but it took great pictures - until a really wicked wipeout on the ski slopes killed it. That started my decade long photographic hibernation that lasted until -- digital!
I can still remember marching into J&R to buy my first digital camera, a 1 megapixel Olympus. It came with some version of an adobe editing package. Photo-deluxe or maybe even photoshop. I don't know what I enjoyed more - taking pictures with my new camera or swapping heads with Adobe Photo-chop. I think I upgraded twice, ending up with a 3.1 megapixel 3030 zoom, which I still have - complete with underwater housing.
I got so fired up at that point that I actually bought a Nikon N70 film slr. I probably shot less than 10 rolls of film before selling the works on eBay. I guess I got tired of blaming the labs for my lousey pictures. In any case, I vowed to get the first DSLR that Olympus made that was 8 mp or greater. And I did, the E-300 and now the E-510.
So here I am. I don't take pictures like a pro, but I think I am getting pretty good at spending money on camera equipment like one. I am really happy that I somehow stumbled onto SmugMug. It has kind of given me a purpose to start taking more pictures. The communities and forums here are the best. The people are helpful, encouraging and kind of like a family that I have never seen.
Who knows, maybe I can even earn a few bucks to pay for my B&H Photo addiction.
Alex Tiethof - November, 2007.