Sunday, February 19, 2012

Enchanted Hours

For the last several days I have been crawling around in the innards of two old thirty-five millimeter cameras.

Now why would anyone do that you ask? I mean everyone knows film is a dead medium. Digital is the ONLY way to go.

And yes, everything you’ve said, you didn’t really say it cause this is a blog, but you would have said it if you’d had one of those nifty, neat and cool, Dick Tracy writs radios, wouldn’t you? Course you would cause you know a thing or two and you have every right to express your opinions and when you see someone driving off a cliff it is your duty to tell them, “Hey you’re getting ready to drive off a cliff.”

So I’ve been told and it didn’t do one bit of good, cause I am a resurrectionist. No, not like Burke and Hare the Scots grave robbers of the nineteenth century, I love to try and bring back life into old stuff. I’m sitting next to a stereo system which cost thirty-seven dollars. It has a receiver, five disc changer and a turntable for LP’s. (If you aren’t old enough to remember LP’s get someone to explain them. They’re like Frisbees with a greater purpose and you could use them to listen to music before there was a tinny Ipod to carry around. Besides the old vinyl records sound better than those MP3 thingies and you can’t get Jackie Cooper’s band playing the theme to Hennesy on MP3. Yeah, I know, you don’t know what Hennesy was. Take it form me there was funny long before Seinfield.)

See I scrounged around at Goodwill and the Salvation Army looking for parts for my Frankenstein and over the years I’ve managed to put together two respectable stereos that way. No, they aren’t as cute as a Bose and they don’t have an Ipod dock, cause I don’t have an Ipod.

Back to my story, I got them because one of my pals have them lying around catching dust and didn’t know what to do with them and besides film is dead so they might as well go to the junkyard.

This wasn’t helped any by a double-breasted, hounds toothed, oil slicked photo expert who said, “Film is dead. These things aren’t worth anything to anyone and you should toss them before you trip over them and do yourself an injury.” Okay, maybe the injury part was made up, but that was the jest of it and it was just plain wrong.

It is true that film cameras are not in demand these days. Digital is just so easy, you point, shoot, download and print and it’s all done and over.

Back in the old days, you never really knew what was lurking inside the magic box, might be the next Ansel Adams or just a blurry piece of silver-coated plastic. What you thought I was going to say POS? No way, I’ve never seen a POS come from a camera. True I didn’t always get what I was aiming at but I always found a use for what I did get.

So my pal, brought the two cameras to me and said, in effect, “They’re junk, play with’em.”

The first part was wrong and the second part was right and that’s a fifty-fifty average which is not at all bad.

Okay so the first step was to check them out. Fortunately cameras aren’t all that complicated, one end has a hole in it and the other has a flat carrier to hold the treated plastic. You let light in through the end with the hole and move the plastic along so that you only take one image per measured section, unless you are in the advanced class and want to do a double exposure. Yes, tell them that’s what you had in mind even if you did just do it by accident, it’s always better to claim you did it on purpose.

Took a while to clean things up, nothing nasty or foul here just too much time sitting on a self not working and that is as bad for a camera as it is for a human. Once they were clean I could get into the insides and see what was working and what wasn’t.

Okay, now for the part where I fess up and admit that I do not know everything there is to know about every brand of camera. I used Miranda cameras when I was doing film and I had four or five of them and they never let me down. I also found that when you are working away from your home-20 it helps to have a machine which can use multiple lenses designed for something else and something cheap enough so that you don’t want to jump off a cliff if you drop it in the river. So if these had been Mirandas I would have been ready for teddy. But they weren’t.

Fortunately the Internet makes this sort of thing easy and it only took a coupla hours to find the correct user manuals. Good thing too. I never used a completely automated camera and didn’t know that one of my new toys has to have battery power or it is a paper weight. The other news flash was half of the problem with that camera was the batteries were inserted upside down. I wouldn’t have known without the manual and batteries for this sort of camera only run down every six months or so so I am pretty sure my pal either forgot which way they went of lost the manual and couldn’t refer to it to find out. Batteries in and presto, chango it works! Not only does it work, but it has more double-secret stuff than a house full of Deltas.

I was enchanted.

The other old timer wasn’t so far wrong either, it just needed a bit of cleaning and some touch up and it sprang to life too.

So now I can go back to my pal and say, “Tak’em they’re yours and they work.”

Of course to be really sure, I’ll have to run a roll of film through each one and wait on the developing, but in the mean time I can send the guys back home. It will be a hoot to take the pictures by later in the week and see the expression of the face of someone who thought I was administering Last Rites when al I was doing was applying a Band-aide.

And what do I get out of it? Seven, maybe eight days of unadulterated joy playing with the senior staff members, not to mention learning all about two brands of cameras I never had a chance to use in my film career.

They say that learning new things, not just taking on the daily crossword in the paper helps fight off Alzheimer’s. I don’t know and I do the crosswords too, but they don’t give me the jump-start trying to bring back old technology does.

And yes, when the film comes out of the soup I’ll give you a look. But why don’t you see if there’s some obsolete technology you can try. Just changing the tools and techniques you use might fire off your creative juices. You never know, there might be a cave painting in your future!

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