About the other Martin Taylor

A History in Cameras

Childhood: 110

When I was a kid in the 70's, whenever we went on holiday or even for a day out my Dad carried has chrome and glass viewfinder camera like a badge of adulthood responsibility. Like most boys I wanted to be a grownup and like my Dad so I asked for a camera for mt 10th birthday. The camera I received was a product of its day; a 110 cartridge camera. The camera was perfect for a child, with fixed focus and no exposure controls to worry about I carried that camera on my belt in its denim case (it was the 70's after all) for several years.

Prinz 110 - My first camera ever

My parents reminded me how expensive film was to buy and process so I was as careful and frugal with my exposures as I could be. I still remember taking my first ever shot with film in my own camera. It was at my 10th birthday party of my friends around my cake. As it was a 'special occasion' I even spent one of my precious flash cubes. I was nervous as I composed and took the shot, almost expecting some kind of recoil from the camera at the weight of the occasion' For a moment, as I instructed my friends to pose and "say cheese" I felt like a grown-up.

Months later, after finally finishing the cartridge, after my Mum had sent the film off to be processed through a bargain, mail-order processor, I finally got the little print back. It wasn't too anti-climactic an experience. You could recognize everyone and I hadn't cut off anyone's head or any other photo faux pas. But even at that young age I wanted to do better and I headed off to the local library to read about photography. By the time I hit 13 I was enamored with the wildlife programs coming from the BBC especially "Life on Earth". I wanted to be a wildlife photographer and by hitting the books I had learnt that I needed an SLR and a telephoto lens to get started. To placate me I was handed my Mum's old 35mm viewfinder camera (a Halina Pet) - at least it was 35mm and had some form of focusing and exposure mechanisms even if they did rely on guess work. The prints came back showing an obvious light leek and so my parents finally relented ...

Teenage: Mechanical SLR

Zenit EM

... sort of. If I saved up my pocket money for half the cost they would get me the Zenit SLR from the local department store which was my object of lust. It took a lot of saving for a 13 year old but I finally got my first real camera in time for the summer. I pored over the manual and other books and immediately started saving for a telephoto lens. The camera was heavy and complicated and I loved it. I felt and smelled like a real camera. I made do with the 58mm standard lens for a while, first supplementing it with some cheap extension tubes and a home made flash bracket so I could try some close up flower and insect photography. Getting back the prints, and later the slides, was sometimes exhilaratingly and sometimes immensely disappointing. I continued to try to learn to minimize the disappointments.

I'd read that the press photographers carried a 135mm telephoto and a 35mm wide angle as their main kit but that wasn't enough range as far as I could see. If 135mm and 35mm were good wouldn't 200mm and 28mm be even better? I found a secondhand screw mount 200m no-brand telephoto in a camera store near to my high school and using some birthday money and holiday money it was mine. For the first time I felt like a serious photog (although I still had a load to learn). A fire broke out in a shed behind where we lived and I caught a few half-decent shots of the firemen dealing with the flames using my new lens. I submitted the pictures to the local rag who, although they didn't use them, sent me a nice letter of encouragement and a few rolls of film.

Praktica MTL5

Then I started to become obsessed with the fact that my light meter on my Zenit did not take the reading through the lens but over the top of it. It was old fashioned and worked but I was convinced it wasn't good enough. At that time a friend at school was finding his Practica MTL-5 too slow to use and was upgrading to something with automatic exposure so I got his cast off for half what he had paid for it a year earlier. I know had a decent M42 kit with a couple of bodies and a few lenses and other accessories which kept me going for the next few years of exploration.

Young Adult: Japanese SLR

OM-2 spot/program

By the time I got to college I thought I knew a lot about photography. I thought I'd earned the right to carry a decent camera. This was the mid-80's when decent cameras came from Japan with newfangled computer controlled exposure systems and manual focusing zoom lenses. I worked long hours through the summer and the harvest on a local farm to raise the funds to buy my dream Olympus OM-2spot/program system with a couple of zooms. During the following winter, as an avid climber and hiker exploring the Yorkshire Dales, I learnt a lesson in the dependability of these new electronic miracles. My new camera ate expensive little coin batteries for breakfast. If the camera was used in the cold the batteries would just die and the camera would quit working. When you're half way up a climb when this happens your expensive camera becomes little more than dead weight. I'd never had that problem with my old East German relics.

Olympus OM1

The following summer I was back working on the farm to pay for a secondhand OM-1 and a couple of prime lenses. The OM-1 became my old dependable whenever I was going out into the elements with my precious OM-2s reserved for less physically demanding situations.

A friend discovered an old, half-abandoned darkroom in our college and we quickly set up a little camera club. The college AV guy taught us the basics of developing our own B&W film and prints and then left us to it. We started to get hard core, reloading our own film cassettes and buying paper and chemicals in bulk. And then, just as I was starting to start to really learn something, college was over.

Death of enthusiasm (P&S):

Olympus Stylus/Mju

The darkroom was no longer available to me and I had to find a real job. As the pressures of earning a living took over the my Olympus cameras started to gather dust in the closet only to be extracted and cleaned off when I was going away on vacation. The death knell for my enthusiasm came when I was given a P&S, autofocus, zoom compact. It was clever and it made sense to carry instead of my bulky SLR rig but it inspired no enthusiasm. I started to take less and less pictures and when I did pickup a camera it was just to grab a snapshot. Occasionally I'd still get out the SLR's but film was becoming a pain without a darkroom to use and time to use it.

Re-established Enthusiasm (digital):

C7070 and C2000

In the meantime I was working in the tech sector. I moved from the UK to California. I fell in love and got married. And then I started to see a couple of my early adopter friends with the first mega-pixel cameras. Interesting. A year and a half later the cameras were up to 2.3 mega-pixel and good enough to abandon my film P&S. I stuck with what I knew, Olympus, and bought the well reviewed 2000z. It was expensive but it gave me back my enthusiasm. Suddenly I was taking a camera everywhere again. I was experimenting with things I'd never waste film on; hand holding 1/15th or slower shots under incandescent lights, etc. I took hundreds of shots a day and I started to go out with the express purpose of taking shots again - something I hadn't really done since college.

Sony F717

Next I started to play with post processing on my computer and leaning Photoshop 5. Next was the quest to get a decent print from an inkjet. By the time I was half-happy with the results cameras where up to 5 megapixels and my wife surprised me with one of the new 'prosumer' cameras as a gift. My enthusiasm just kept building. I started to seek out others as obsessive as myself. I would pickup my old film cameras with new found respect. I started to collect photography books. I wanted to talk about photography, not cameras.

Getting Serious (prosumer digicam & photoblog):

Old & New Digital Rebel (300d & 400d)

Then, while a photo buddy and I were exploring the web for information about photography self-assignments I came across PAW (picture a week) sites which led me to the first photo(b)log I'd ever seen. Here was a self-paced, flexible, creative way for anyone to get their work seen. I wanted in. I dabbled with free services but always wanted the flexibility my own domain and 'real' photoblog allowed. In October of 2003 I registered, found a host, installed movabletype and set up my own photoblog. Since then posting to my photoblog has gone through peaks and troughs but has always continued. It inspires me to keep trying and learning and allows me to use my long dormant creative side and to connect and share with others who are as obsessive about photography as I am.

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