Ode to My Camera

070I received my first camera the year I graduated high school. Superman bought it for me. It was a Pentax K1000. I’m sure he had no idea how much I was going to love that camera … or the fact that he was going to buy me my second, third and fourth cameras too, for various wedding anniversaries … or especially the fact that we would eventually use that very camera to take pictures of our three newborn children … but there it was, in bright birthday wrapping on my 18th birthday, ready for me to discover.

My first pictures were the summer after high school. We went to Disneyland – Superman and me, and two of our friends, L and D. I took a ton of pictures that day. I zoomed in on faces, got lots of “buddy shots” and had plenty of pastel-muted Disneyland landscape in the background. When I first got those pictures back from Sav-on, I leaned against the glass counter, flipped through them, and fell in love. I was hooked.

After that, it was a rapid succession of shutter shots: my first days of college, our newborn nephew, my first Christmas back home, my roommates.

Superman and I would spend weekends traipsing through L.A. – I was always drawn to natural places, like the botanical gardens, Will Rogers State Park, the Santa Monica Pier, the Griffith Observatory. I’d snap away. The concept of framing came quickly, and I loved focusing on a single small thing in each photo. Every single small thing told a story, I quickly discovered.

That Pentax K1000 lasted me 20-odd years. It was the camera I used to take all the pictures of my kids as babies. I knew other people had Nikons and Cannons, and thought several times about “trading up,” but I really saw no need. I loved my Pentax.

Once when we were in a wilderness park, on a hike with our kids when they were small, I was snapping pictures of the children and their hiking sticks, the leaves, the trail, the little brooks running through. I suddenly came into a clearing where a man was standing, in a wide, sun-dappled spot. He had a gigantic camera in the center of the clearing on a tripod, and was focusing on the fallen oak leaves, the log bridge providing trespass to another side, the light coming down through the leaves. He turned and stared at me for the longest time. I nodded a brief hello, then started to feel uncomfortable under his stare – I turned back to look for Superman and the kids.

“Kids?” I called nervously.

But when I turned again, he was still looking at me from about 20 feet away.

Finally, he grinned. “Is that a Pentax K1000?”

I looked down at my chest, where it was hanging. “Yes.”

“Great camera,” he said.

I beamed. Finally someone understood my devotion. …

As film became more and more obsolete over the decades, though, we decided to buy a digital point-and-shoot. Eventually, I started to leave my Pentax at home. It was heavy. It was cumbersome. The film was expensive, and kind of a pain. My Pentax began to feel like a favored child’s toy that had been loved to death but served its purpose.  

And now – just a few weekends ago – I took the total plunge and bought a digital SLR. I feel a little guilty. I feel like I’m abandoning a faithful friend. But I still will always love that Pentax, and it will have an honored place on a shelf in my den. It’s still the camera we used in our first summer after high school, the camera we used for our wedding, the camera we took on our honeymoon, the camera we used for a squawking newborn in the plastic bassinet. It’s the one that took the enlargements of our kids in the pumpkin patch, our daughter picking berries in Nevada City, Nate in the baby backpack in Tahoe. It went with us to Ohio, Carmel, Eugene, San Antonio, New York, Arizona, San Simeon, Santa Barbara, and more. It captured our first home, the fox we found in the back yard, the kids’ first plane trip, the elephant seals by Carmel, and Chris learning to paraplane when we were 22. It took pictures of several people who are now deceased and several babies that are now grown. That camera has seen a lot of stories. …

How about you? Have you had to “break up” with an inanimate object that saw you through a good portion of your life? A couch? A dining table? A radio? A car?

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0 thoughts on “Ode to My Camera

  1. I feel like I need to go find my Canon and give it a pat. I loved my camera. I never got the hang of…what did you call it?…framing a picture but I loved taking pictures and I took tons~! I loved my giant zoom lens so I could sit on one side of a room or across a backyard and take pictures with no one posing. They end up being everyone’s favorite pictures even if they are slightly fuzzy. I got a little Canon Power Shot point and shoot and I have to admit it goes EVERYWHERE with me. It’s in my purse at all times. But I really, really, really want a big old camera again with a giant zoom lens.

    Breaking up is hard to do.

  2. I really love that camera too. It felt so sturdy and did survive quite a few spills in all those years. It has given us so many awesome memories. Thanks Laurie for putting it all into words so beautifully-our little camera, ahhhhh…

  3. Great post. I was just telling you last week about my fondness for old 35 mm cameras. There is just something about the photos they take that is so real. So many digital cameras today can take pictures that look like CGI images. A 35 mm camera is raw and real. I’m scouring ebay to find a WWII era Leica 35 mm. I’ll let you know when I find one.

    I remember the pictures you took of me and our nephew at the Museum of Science and Industry inside the jet engine. Seems like so long ago, and yet it seems like yesterday…

  4. Kat and Crystal — Ah, so you guys know what I mean — feeling the same way about your Cannon (Kat) and your Mac/Sony (Crystal). When those items are with you through “thick and thin,” and “see” so much of your life, you get a bit attached, huh?

    Kat — using a zoom to get closeups of people playing candidly is the BEST. No wonder those are everyone’s faves!

    Chris and Dave — Yeah, you guys are in a LOT of my photos!

    Dave — Let me know if you find a Leica. Make sure you can get the film, though, too. Film is getting harder to find. I used to buy super high-speed film (1600) because I didn’t like to shoot with a flash (looked too fake), but that film is hard to find now. Thanks for reminding me about the pics at the Museum of Science and Industry. That was a fun day! Eons ago, huh? (`86?)

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