In Loving Memory

Photographer Dorothea Lange once said that a camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera. I’ve found that to be true. Since I started shooting several years ago, I’ve come to notice things I never would have seen before. But I’ve also found that getting the settings right on one of my vintage cameras can considerably distract me from what I’m trying to see. That’s why my favorite vintage camera is my Canonet QL17 G-III. When it’s in my hands I almost forget its there. I put it in automatic mode, choose a shutter speed, and get shooting. I frame and then I focus, which takes a deft motion of a single finger.

I was to meet my brother for dinner in Broad Ripple. I had loaded some black-and-white film into my Canonet and it was a clear day, so I drove over a little early. I shot along the canal for a while, capturing a couple bridges and the canal itself. Then I strolled down a side street, where I came upon a mural painted on the back of a building. I didn’t think much of the mural, but I liked this detail.


11 responses to “Captured: In Loving Memory”

  1. versa kay Avatar

    I entirely agree with you. I had some beautiful cameras, [at least that was what my envious but better informed friends told me] , but I never had the patience to master the various settings or options or controls available. I admire the great photographs that people like you who are patient enough to learn the nitty gritty of excellent photography shoot for us. But I am ever impatient and intent to capture that fleeting and illusive candid moment for ever. So whatever camera I have in my hand, I use it only in the auto mode. It has served me well and I’m content.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I use a digital camera most often, and leave it in Auto or Program mode 99% of the time. In Program mode, I fiddle with white balance or exposure a little bit, but otherwise let the camera do the rest of the work. Most of my vintage cameras require a lot more of me in terms of setting exposure and distance. Even my Canonet can’t do it all, at least not automatically. But among my old cameras, it remains one of the easiest to use.

  2. Stealthoneill Avatar

    Great shot! I’m very much an amateur and only learning the rules with my Canon D60. I’ve always loved the draw of vintage cameras and the authenticity to them. The time to setting up a shot is reaped in reward afterwards.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks! I am, and probably always will be, an amateur too. You’re right about there being something authentic about a vintage film camera. I keep meaning to take my Canon S95 out of full auto mode and try setting things up more manually so I can learn from the experience.

  3. Lone Primate Avatar

    First: that’s a gorgeous shot. It’s soothing and deeply melancholy all at the same time. It reminds me of dark, rainy days before I started school. Very evocative.

    Secondly: amen, brother! There’s nothing like the means to record an instant, momentary configuration, or sentiment to actually train your eye and mind to seek those opportunities. My real regret is how often I’m too shy to pull the camera out for fear of geeking the place up. But taking the subway to work now, I’m rapidly beginning to get over that. I won’t stick the camera in anyone’s face, of course, but if I see someTHING interesting, I’m not bothered so much anymore if people judge me for being a nerd. I AM a nerd! :D

    1. Jim Avatar

      Nerd pride!

      I’m reserved by nature but am becoming bolder about whipping out my camera when people are around. I’m thinking about dipping my toes into street photography this year — just going Downtown with my S95 and one of my vintage cameras and seeing what happens.

      (It’s Indianapolis vernacular to capitalize the parts of the city — Downtown, the Northwestside, etc.)

      Glad you like the shot.

  4. jacullman Avatar

    Great AWESOME picture! Haven’t taken photos with film in a long time. You’ve inspired me!

    1. Jim Avatar

      I hope you will load some film into your camera, and share the shots on your blog!

  5. Michael Avatar

    “I keep meaning to take my Canon S95 out of full auto mode and try setting things up more manually so I can learn from the experience.”

    I’d highly encourage that. I RARELY use Auto or Program mode on my A620. Because of the shots I often do, I’m usually in shutter priority or full manual mode. Of course, that takes much more time so if your subject isn’t inanimate, you may not get the shot you really want.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Yeah, I think I’ll start playing with shutter priority mode more. My subjects are almost always inanimate, so I can take all the time I want setting up the shots.

      1. Michael Avatar

        And if you want to spend endless hours playing with your camera, load up the CHDK hack, which unleashes the true power of your Canon. It baffles me why Canon doesn’t just make the capabilities available at the start.

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