At the wheel of the old Buick Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar Kodak Plus-X 2017
I’ve never been very good at moving fast. I’m more the slow, thoughtful type. But there are moments in my photography when a wonderful scene emerges before my eyes and I have to move fast before it disappears. Such was this moment.
I forget what my camera’s settings were. I probably didn’t even know as I framed and focused. I probably just twisted the aperture ring until the viewfinder’s exposure needle registered good exposure, pressed the shutter button, and trusted that on such a bright day I’d have settings that would give me enough depth of field.
I was right. And I moved fast enough to catch the girl’s delighted smile.
My Pentax ME had developed a light leak, so I sent it off to Eric Hendrickson for repair and CLA (clean, lube, adjustment). It came back looking and smelling like new. There really is a new-camera smell!
Naturally, I dropped film right into it. My son had given me some Kodak Gold 200 for Father’s Day, so that’s what I used. Here is said son photographed with said film.
My sons had come over for the weekend so I invited the rest of the family for a cookout. It was early July, and I was very close to having the house ready to list for sale. So we threw a little bash to say goodbye. Naturally, my dad had to tell his stories. Here he is in mid-story, with Margaret watching me take the photo.
My garden’s flowers were at peak, so I photographed them. I think half the exposures I’ve made all spring and summer have been of my flowers.
I didn’t know a Pentax ME could operate as smoothly as mine does now! I’ve owned three, you see. While all have worked well enough, it wasn’t until shooting this roll I understood how roughly they all operated. The controls are all supposed to feel silky smooth. Truly, this overhaul made my ME, a camera I’ve always enjoyed, twice as joyful to shoot.
I do need to double-check the meter, however. Eric’s service includes calibrating the meter, but to my surprise my daylight photos all looked a little overexposed. Thankfully, a half-stop down on Photoshop’s Exposure control is all they needed to look right. However, blazingly bright days have characterized this summer. Images I’ve taken with several other cameras have benefited from some fiddling with the Exposure control. My ME is probably fine. But if something isn’t quite right, the sooner I get it back to Eric the better.
Oh, here’s one more flower shot. I’m just so pleased with my gardens this year. They’re the best they’ve ever been. I hope the person who is buying my home loves these flowers at least as much as I have, and cares well for them.
Margaret and I walked Indianapolis’s Warfleigh neighborhood to see how we liked it, as we continue to consider where we might like to settle one day. The Meridian Street bridge over the White River borders this neighborhood. I love to shoot this bridge, even if this isn’t much of a photograph.
While making this walk, the metal cap that covers the winder unscrewed itself and disappeared. I noticed it while we walked, so we retraced our steps in hopes of finding it. No luck. So I emailed Eric to explain. A few days later a spare cap arrived in my mailbox. Very nice.
We knew it would be crowded and loud and bright. We expected to be overwhelmed. Yet when we arrived there, we were disappointed. It was just giant televisions. And it was exhausting.
You’ve seen vintage photos of Times Square, I’m sure: neon and incandescent signs lining Broadway, lighting the street as if it were daytime. Coca-Cola! Gordon’s gin! Camel cigarettes! Admiral televisions! Canadian Club! I don’t know why I expected it to still be that way in this age of giant screens.
We reached Times Square after a full day in the city. After a cruise on the Hudson River, we had walked from Chelsea Pier all the way to to the World Trade Center, and from there to the Brooklyn Bridge. We took a crowded, jostling subway back to Midtown. And then as night fell in Times Square, we couldn’t tune out the screens’ always-in-motion subjects. They kept tweaking our peripheral vision, making us turn to look. It kept us disoriented, and sapped what little energy we had left.
It shows in my confused photography. The noise, both visual and aural, was too much for me, and I couldn’t clearly think about my shots. So I just vaguely aimed the camera and hoped for the best.
And then, there was this guy. The fellow in the bright green jacket, sitting. Looking serene. As if none of this were happening around him.
I didn’t actually notice him until I processed these shots at home. (If I had, I might have put him in a more interesting place in the frame.) But then I remembered: I know how to do this. But I couldn’t practice it because I went in too tired after a highly stimulating day walking around Manhattan. I was carried away in the excitement of an otherwise great day and had pushed too far. I couldn’t focus internally, so it was no wonder I couldn’t focus my shots.
So here, then, is how to stay fresh and able to focus when surrounded by chaos — whether with your camera or just in your own head as you do anything.
Learn your limits — and how to work with them. What happens in your body when you are about to cross into overtired and overstressed? For me, one tell is pressure at my temples. Another is an empty, blank feeling. A third is that I talk less and less with people around me, as if I’m conserving energy. When you recognize your warnings, pause to refresh.
Also, learn to recognize situations when you tend to tap out. Early in my career I went to a lot of conferences. At first, the high stimulation wore me out each day by late afternoon, and I had nothing left for the evening, when the important networking happened. So I started not signing up for anything during the last afternoon session. I went back to my quiet hotel room and read and napped. This refilled my tank enough that I could network the evening away.
Check in with yourself from time to time. Under normal circumstances it’s easier to read yourself and know when you’ve had enough. But in an unfamiliar setting or on a very exciting day, it’s easy lose touch with yourself. So pause from time to time to scan your thoughts and your body to learn how you’re feeling.
It had been a very long day with a lot more walking than we are used to — at least five miles! We had stopped for a rest a couple times, once at a little historic church near the WTC (photos in a blog post to come!) and once at a Starbucks. Those would have been great times to take a minute to scan my mind and body and see how I was doing.
Dip into your energy reserve with easy mindfulness techniques. Even when you’re tired and stressed, you can do some quick, simple things to find a little internal calm and a little extra energy that can carry you through.
Many mindfulness techniques take a lot of practice to do well. Fortunately, there are a few you can do anywhere you are with little or no practice. My favorite is to stand still where I am, take a few deep breaths, and raise the corners of my mouth into a thin half-smile. This lifts your mood a little. At the same time, I use a technique called “willing hands” — I let my arms hang straight down at my sides while deliberately turning my unclenched hands so the palms face forward. This helps you accept the reality you’re in and be calm in it, even when it’s overwhelming. This might sound silly to you — it did to me when I first learned it — but when I tried it, I found it worked immediately. I stand there like that for just a couple minutes, which is usually enough to let me focus and think again.
And then I get on with taking more photographs!
Canon PowerShot S95, shot raw, processed in Photoshop.