Thanks to digital technology, the cost of being a shutterbug is a lot more manageable, and the number of photos you can take is only limited by how many memory cards you have. The digital age has ushered in a photographic renaissance that allows people to communicate visually with friends and family via social media. Nearly everyone gets in on the act daily with one of the technological advances that I would never have predicted, the camera phone. I grew up in the age of dial phones hardwired to the wall made of heavy, almost indestructible plastic. Combining that with a device sporting a lens and a chamber for film just wasn’t in the cards. Digital photography and data transmission transformed all that and now everyone is a photographer. I think that’s great.
Photography was always one of my interests. Remember the Polaroid swinger? It was the everyman’s instant camera, a big, white plastic thing with a bright red and white shutter button. You loaded it with Polaroid film, and after each shot you pulled out one frame of film. The pulling action released photo chemicals onto a sandwiched piece of photo paper and when you peeled off the cover you could watch the photo develop before your eyes. It had a rather pungent odor, it made your eyes water, and the photos were of rather poor quality. I loved it. As a poor teenager I didn’t have enough money to take a lot of pictures, but I did have fun with it.
My first real camera was an East German Practika MTL5B 35mm film camera; look that one up under antiques! It was the cheapest 35mm camera I could find, and I used it constantly to photograph everything under the sun. I experimented with lighting, filters, night photography and anything else I could think of. I even photographed a couple of weddings. When our children came along I lavished film on them, mostly in the form of color slides. I still have most of those slides, and my oldest daughter has the Practika along with a couple of lenses, filters, and the cheap cardboard, cloth, and plastic camera bag. We had a nice Nikon viewfinder camera for a while, until it got broken on a school outing. Then I bought a used name brand Japanese 35mm camera for a trip to France and I don’t know which kid ended up with that one.
When I got my first digital camera I went for a Nikon SLR and bought several lenses for it. It changed everything, and came along just in time for Grandchildren. My fiancee now has my original Nikon digital, and it gets used constantly. My current Nikon digital isn’t a lot different from the original one, but it was a heck of a good deal so I figured it would allow me to pass the original on. I use it each and every week. Combine that with prolific use of Photoshop digital editing and photography remains one of the great joys of my life. While I’m no Ansel Adams, it makes me happy and I love to share images on social media. I am always open to learning better photography techniques, and nowadays I try to upgrade lenses whenever practical.
There are a number of really good local photographers whose work I enjoy seeing. Greg Worden of Brattleboro, Candace Caggiano of Putney, and Peter Manship of Ludlow are my favorites. Peter Manship is now doing field seminars and a lot of great night photography. Candace Caggiano’s work tends towards people and wildlife with some really nice scenery shots. Greg Worden’s photos in and around Brattleboro are a local treasure. Social media has made photographers such as these accessible to a much wider audience. It all adds up to the fact that we are living in great times for visual media. Has the bug bitten you yet?
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.