I accept that one of the aspects of having been alive in this earth for more than a half century, there are many things that I experienced or grew up with that are foreign to many people I know. My first real camera was a hand-me-down from my Uncle George. He had a classic Nikon F with Photomic Finder, which he gave to me during my tenth grade year of high school. It was nearly as manual an SLR camera as you could find. And it was such a great camera to learn on.
Nikon still makes an incredible camera – my son recently fulfilled his dream of owning a Nikon D850. It is a gorgeous piece of equipment, a digital camera in keeping with Nikon’s legacy of setting the bar for SLR cameras. My son has an amazing eye. My dad and I both have enjoyed photography as a hobby, and I think we have both taken some pretty great photos over the years. Yet when I see the images my son has taken, mine look like a child’s photos snapped with an old Kodak. He truly has a gift. And I never tire of seeing his images. He also has an incredible understanding and appreciation of technology, knowing how to truly marry art and technology as he produces lovely photos.
Over the years I have enjoyed learning about photography, including different lenses, focal lengths, the balance between shutter speed and aperture, film speed and clarity, filters and contrast. I also learned how to process 35mm black and white film and to print my own prints in the darkroom, using an enlarger and the various processing chemicals. I had fun experimenting with cropping images, adjusting exposure times, and other techniques to manipulate the raw black and white negatives and the images on them.
A few years later my dad caught the photography bug as well. One of my dad’s most endearing (and expensive) traits is that when he gets involved with a hobby, he goes all in. Just as I received a wonderful camera from my uncle that launched my photography hobby, my dad was given his father’s Leica, an even more manual camera than my old Nikon F. He then purchased a series of Nikons and lenses, in keeping with his method of taking on a new hobby. He then entered into the world of developing and printing his own negatives and prints as well, buying an enlarger and all the chemicals and equipment needed. He set up darkrooms in the houses they lived in, and spent hours learning many of the same things I did about photography and printing.
Today is Father’s Day. I was able to call my dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day. And I was fortunate enough to have both of my kids join me for dinner. After dinner my son and I were sitting outside enjoying the gorgeous evening light as the gift-of-a-day wound down. He had his beautiful new Nikon digital camera and we were talking about lenses. He has his heart set on an awesome new lens and is trying to figure out the best way to purchase it. I was recalling the various lenses I had back when I was using my old Nikon SLR’s. We each appreciated the attributes the different lenses provided and how they affected the photos we took.
The metaphor should be obvious – what we see and how we view it is dependent upon what lens we are looking through. Different lenses will change the appearance of the exact same object. Selecting the right lens is as important as any aspect of photography.
Likewise, I believe it is a critical component to life and how we view the world around us. We all bring our own lenses to the game. We choose which lens to view life through, and often need to change lens depending on the situation. But which lens we look through is OUR choice. And that affects the resulting view we have.
I also recall playing around with different filters on the lenses. I just scratched the surface of filter options, and recall spending a lot of time messing around with an adjustable polarizing filter. This filter allowed you to reduce the glare of an image, though it also reduced the light coming through the lens. With my old Nikon F, which had no through-the-lens-metering (that’s what that big honking box on top was – a light meter) – I had to manually adjust the settings – aperture and f-stop – to compensate. And since this was the time of film and weeks-long processing before you could see the results, there was a lot of guessing and intuition that came into play.
So it is also interesting to understand how the addition of filters to the lens can further alter the image. And again, we can choose when and what filter to use.
Of course camera lens filters are not the only kinds of filters. And filters, like lenses, can also be a powerful metaphor. We often talk about a person’s filter – or lack there of – when they communicate. A filter by definition is meant to catch certain usually undesirable elements, allowing only the good stuff to pass through.
The filter in my pool, for instance, is designed to catch the various things that make the water dirty or otherwise undesirable to swim in. I believe that is also catches things that can’t be seen. It has been a nightly ritual of mine to take a post-work dip in the pool. I usually bring the dogs down with me, and now finally have a dog who loves the water as much if not more than I do. So in addition to the dirt and leaves and black lab fur that the filters catch, I also imagine they are full of my stress and worries, as these wash off me during my nightly swims.
At least that’s the lens I choose to look through this with.