A couple of months ago, just after I had moved into the new house, my step mom gave me her old Pentax camera. It turned out to be a fluke because she was gathering a bunch of stuff to get rid of when I called her. She had the camera in her hand and said, ‘I have this old camera, but I think I’ll get rid of it because I haven’t used it since probably 1990.’ My quick protest brought a little piece of joy into my life when she brought it down for me, rather than chucking it into some else’s possibly not as appreciative hands. And although I don’t know much about manual cameras, I am destined to learn.
So the story continues. You may be wondering where this is going, or come to quick conclusions, as the photo above is of an obviously busted camera. This photo is not mine, but does represent how I feel right now. When I initially got my camera I knew it hadn’t been used in years and that it would need some things replaced. I changed the batteries for the light meter, and figured I’d be fine. I started taking photos of anything and everything, and even met some interesting people along the way.
John – My friend, Shay, and I went for a walk on a terribly hot day after work down the street taking photos (and sangria on the sidewalk beside us). One of the houses we passed had an old man sitting outside, and he waved and said hello to us. A few steps later, Shay was trying to convince me to ask him if we could take some pictures of him, and I protested, asking her to do it. I finally went up and asked him, and when he asked what it was for, I told him that I was trying to learn how to use my camera. It was like his eyes got brighter when he heard me say that as he followed with, ‘Let me take a look! I used to sell these things!’ He noticed that the light meter wasn’t showing up, but simply advised that I was doing the right thing by having it on auto and taking as many shots as I could. He also asked us to come back with our photos after we’d had them developed and he would give us pointers on how to improve.
After the first roll of film was done, I was so excited to manually wind the film back into its canister so I could take it to the store to get it developed. But, once it came down to it, I realized I didn’t know how! I figured I would just spin the winder with the arrow, and hope for the best. Opening the back of my camera when I got home later that night, I discovered that I had not released the film before winding it, and it was too late to fix it. The film was exposed, and all of the images lost.
I was upset after this had happened, but was determined to figure it out. I figured the only way to learn with this type of thing was trial and error. I confidently popped the new roll into the camera and started shooting again. Taking photos of things I had shot on the initial roll as well as new things. Over the weekend I ended up going to some of the Vancouver Pride festivities and met up with my friend Kaity who is always fun to take pictures of. A few of us tried to make it to the Pride Festival after the parade, but ended up at the beach about a block away because we couldn’t take the heat anymore. It was the perfect opportunity to take as many photos as we could as we were wading in the water, and I took advantage of it.
Getting the tip from my friend Vanessa, I managed to release the film and give the winder a twirl! I was so excited when I figured out how to properly get the film out of my camera, and even more excited to develop the great photos I had taken. I ended up being late coming back from my break at work on Monday as I scurried back from the London Drugs close by, and watched the clock until the day was done, and it was time to run back. When I got to the photo lab counter, I basically threw my pickup slip at the technician and waited impatiently while she went to get it. She came back with a slightly fuller envelope than I expected, and gave me a sympathetic look. ‘I tried to develop it, but all of your film was all over-exposed. I didn’t even bother trying to develop the ones that were slightly there because they would’ve been mostly white. Your light meter is broken.’
I swear my heart sank into my right knee when she told me that. I was so disappointed that all of the potentially amazing photos were… never even captured. I’ve been upset about it for the day and a half and avoiding anything but cleaning my house as a result of my defeat. Apparently light meter repairs are really expensive, but I figure it wouldn’t hurt to go get a quote from somewhere to see how much it would cost. Worse case scenario, I can buy a new camera rather than getting this one repaired.
There will always be more opportunities for great photos, but it was just a major letdown. I guess you live and you learn.
Ever used a manual camera? Any tips for next time that you want to share?