Wednesday, 29 April 2015

This photography thing...

This photography thing is very addictive.  I've been wondering how come I've re-kindled my interest in it, after a lay-off for a few years during which time I had a career of sorts as an academic.  Actually looking through The Archives there weren't many years when I didn't take any photographs at all - although for a few years they were mostly family and postcard-type snaps...not the Fine Art stuff you see nowadays on this blog (Ed: Ah come on now...).   When my career was in full flow there wasn't really a lot of time left to have a hobby.  The old Academic Life does tend to fill any spare time you might have, what with reading papers, writing research proposals, keeping abreast of other work in your chosen field, supervising PhD students, writing up your own research for publication ... you get my drift - it isn't a 9 to 5 kind of job.  Not that I'm complaining - I lived for and loved my work.  But since I took early retirement a few years ago I haven't given it a second thought.  Like most people who retire, I decided I wasn't for looking back and I haven't.  So now I potter about, look after myself a bit better, take more care of my family and home.

Anyway, as I was saying, the current level of interest in photography is, well, interesting.  Pre-Internet days you had your local clubs, where you could go along once a month or so, listen to a guest speaker, perhaps show some of your prints and enter competitions.  Photographic clubs are still around of course, but applications like Facebook have I believe re-kindled a lot of people's interest in photography.  There are numerous FB groups catering for whatever kind of photography you have an interest in - sport, nature, landscape, candid, film, name it, there's bound to be a group for it.  One of the groups I belong to - Traditional Film Photography - has more than 10,000 members worldwide.  So there's an instant (large!) audience to show your latest masterpiece to.  The downside is that too many people upload very mediocre photographs.  And of course too many other people say how brilliant those mediocre photographs are, and so it goes on.  But in between the dross there are people who know what they are doing and on balance it's still worthwhile being in the group...for now anyway.

Many photographers (like moi) have their own blog where again they store their finest work (!) in one easily accessible online place.  Of course you need to either do digital or have a scanner for film but for us film users this is a lot better than having all your prints&slides stored in a box in the attic, where if you feel like it you might dig a few out over Christmas to 'show the family'.

Anyway, just to interrupt my musings for a moment, here's a couple of photographs for you.  They were taken during one of my many stays in hospital when I was a teenager - just as my ankylosing spondylitis was getting started on me.  I can date this almost exactly to 1976, in Coleraine hospital.  From memory both these lassies were nurses, but one had the tables turned on her and became a patient for a while.  Check out the well starched uniform on her, they don't do it like nowadays.

Nurses in Coleraine Hospital, c1976
I must have been very bored - but clearly I had a camera with me.  I rather like this next one - not bad for a spotty youth methinks and of course Kodachrome did a great job with the colours, as usual.

Oxygen, anyone?

But I digress.  The think about this photography thing is, when the bug bites, it really bites.  Loads of partners of photographers are, I'm sure, driven mad by the antics of their other half.  Well, not so much their antics as their insatiable desire to acquire cameras and lenses, even when they already have enough to last several lifetimes.  In this regard I think film photographers are worse than digital ones - for two reasons.  Firstly, there are a lot of old film cameras around and most are very affordable nowadays, since their owners have gone over to the digital dark side.  Secondly, there is such a variation of kit around - different camera/lens combinations have individual characteristics with the various films available and it's all just so much fun to play with.

This was all a very roundabout way of saying I've just purchased (yet) another camera.  Now my good wife did raise her eyebrows at this, saying as the last one I bought was a very expensive and very beautiful Leica, which I love to bits.  But of course one single camera can never cover all bases...  The Leica is a rangefinder and therefore is best suited to wide-angle or very short telephoto lenses.  I had an urge to get an SLR again, which is capable of taking much longer telephoto lenses and so after a bit (lot!) of research I settled on a Nikon FM3A.  I'm not keen on all-electronic cameras, since on these older film cameras when the electronics fail they are not repairable, and so end up being an expensive paperweight.  Hence the M6, which is the last of the all-manual Leicas. Now the FM3A is not entirely manual - you can choose between shooting in full manual mode or electronic mode.  So if/when the electronics fail at some point (hopefully a long way away) in the future, the body should still be usable in manual mode.   It was a close thing between the all manual FM2 and the FM3A, but the FM3A is a newer camera and so when I found an FM3A at a very decent price with a 12-month guarantee from a reputable company I pulled the trigger. It's winging its way to me as I type...I'm excited!

Hopefully I'll get a test film through the Nikon tomorrow and be able to show you the results soon!   

Of course what I really lust after is a Hasselblad...but that's another story.  


  1. Envy... envy...! The FM3A is the only one I truly feel is the gap in my small "collection" of cameras. I got a spot cleared off for it, but never seem to get around to get one. I should have, of course, some years ago when I really had the chance to get one for a real bargain. These days people suddenly know what to expect for them. I have not given up though! I'm getting one some day! :))

  2. I have to admit the FM3A was sheer indulgence...but will be my last camera purchase for a good while. This year I'm ploughing my hard-earned ££ into the darkroom as I think that's where I'll be spending a lot of time. The Nikon is just superb, though - effortless to use, metering is usually spot on, the viewfinder is not far off the M6 and focussing is easy. Releasing the shutter is a bit of a clunk but then I've been spoilt by the M6.