I wish I had a picture to show you, but I don’t


We heard their bells first, and as we wiped the cobwebs from our eyes we spotted the cows all around the VW busses. We had woken up surrounded by cattle and a bemused herder tending to them. We were somewhere in the mountains of Algeria and (the night before) had pulled off the side of the road onto some nice, green grass to camp. It was quite a sight.

I wish I had a picture to show you, but I don’t.

I didn’t carry a camera on that trip, in my youthful smug superiority I was convinced that taking photos while on a trip was foolish, that nothing could compare to what I had seen with my own eyes so I didn’t need photos. I knew all this because I was 18.

Part youthful rebellion, part extreme pig-headedness.
You guess the percentages.

My father was a professional photographer, and I had grown up a household chock full of Zeiss, Hasselblads and Leicas. And just like most teen males, I had little patience for my stupid father or his silly profession, and I defied his wishes by not bringing along a camera on that trip. Stupid, stupid me.

As much as we try not to, we all turn into our parents. Fast forward 20 years, teenage angst gone and my father suddenly seemed a hell of a lot smarter. I now carry a camera with me most everywhere and have some excellent shots from my various world journeys to show for it.

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Dad is long gone. The effects of too much pork, stress and just having me as a son did him in at an early age. I got his cameras, or at least some of them. When I traveled, I hauled along a shiny 35mm SLR of his. I actually took some pretty good photos with that camera, but the weight and bulk of the camera eventually caused me to ditch it from my pack. I needed something a lot lighter.

As better-quality point and shoots came onto the market, I tried various models of those, usually something from Nikon. The weight and bulk were not an issue, but the photos were just not as good as with the old SLR. I tried better and better successive models of point and shoot cameras. Ones with better lenses, spot focus and I also began using better film. My photos improved slightly, but I still saw them as “snapshots” and was disappointed.

Digital cameras arrived, I jumped aboard as an “early adopter” and paid the price.

What I got on sale for $399 is now available for less than half that price. I should have waited until the better ones; the ones with four megapixels at least, were inexpensive.

For awhile I carried both my Sony Mavica and my better-than-average point and shoot. That way, I reasoned, I could email digital photos home to friends and family immediately. (This dumb idea is on par with buying pricey concert t-shirts. Won’t your friends believe that you were there at the concert unless you have the t-shirt?).

Since I also had brought along a ‘traditional camera’ I could also take regular photographs, have the film developed and printed, frame the prints and decorate my house. I had two cameras! The best of all worlds! (well, except for the bulk)

What is the perfect solution? I don’t have the answer. Maybe a good point and shoot, maybe an SLR, maybe a digital camera; I’m still trying to figure it all out.

Does anyone even use film any longer? I still have about 20 rolls of color film. And a big stack of concert t-shirts.