Friday, August 10, 2018

Picture this....

So, as often happens, it all started with a camera.

First, there was strictly film in the camera - a Kodak Duoflex - when I was in Middle school. Long before digital.


 It used a roll of Kodak film, of course. Probably 12-shots.

These dozen experiments would be unveiled a week or so later when Walgreens returned my black & white prints. 

Oh, the suspense!

Quickly I learned to make sure to carry it with me to record things, events, and people. Mom even tried snapping some family photos...usually with the sun over her right shoulder as we squinted.

To capture a moment that could be shared later... even many years later.

I had discovered Time Travel when in my early teens!

In Bishop England high school, the whole adventure was bumped up to a new level..someone donated a large camera that used a sheet of film sized 4 x 5 inches.

Little did I realize the history that the gift Speed Graphic press camera and I would have together.


After a year of using the large-format camera, I joined the Marines right out of high school.

It was 1957 and the world was at relative peace, breathing a sigh of relief after 3-years of bloody battles in Korea.

My older brother had joined the Air Force and had spent some time there. 

My younger brother was still in high school so not in harm's way.

I joined the Marines on a curious basis - 6 months active duty and then 7.5 years as a member of a local Marine Reserve. 

After boot camp at  Parris Island, I was finishing advanced infantry training up in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune.

The first 6-months were the worst - and the roughest  - time as a Marine and I looked forward to receiving my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) assignment.

The first 25 fellows who came out were headed to MP (Military Police) School and I knew I would make a terrible MP.

At 6' tall and 129 pounds, I was in great condition but was not a big husky Marine.

During the interview, I brought up my photo training and the Captain said "OK, you'll go to the Base Photo Lab"

(It was a bit more involved than that... with me claiming to have my photos published in LIFE Magazine. Oh, and TIME News magazine. 

(Hey, why the hell not, at that point?)

The Warrant Officer at the Photo Lab had a laugh when I explained what I had done to be assigned there and, once he found I did indeed know how to use a large-format camera, I was accepted.


My six-month active duty was about up, and I was told I could re-enlist for 3 years and not have to attend Reserve meetings. I was in a happy place and gladly signed up and extended my tour of active duty.

Peacetime was a great time to be designated as a Marine Combat Photographer!

Traveling with the Camp Lejeune football team to other bases to compete meant now I was doing Sports Photography. 

While in San Diego to play the MCRD team, I met some friends at the relatively new University of San Diego and was offered a photo scholarship to start a few months later when I finished my enlistment!

I accepted, packed all my darkroom gear and cameras and headed West.

I set up a terrific darkroom in a small room  with a long sink and running water downstairs in the main classroom building 


My first year there in San Diego, we produced a yearbook for the College for Men. 

That may have motivated the College for Women to start thinking about doing one of their own in the 9-year old college. 

When I was a rising Sophomore, I was hired by the daily metro papers to work in the Union-Tribune Photo Lab. 
We tried split days off and working weekends,  but I eventually took a time-out from college.

In six months, I was promoted to Staff Photographer and was out on the street....carrying a 4x5 Speed Graphic camera.

I eventually went back to USD in 1966 and graduated in 1968.

Oh, I was still working at the paper but, by then, the paper had down-sized to the much lighter Mamiya 330, a medium-size format camera of 21/4 x 21/4 images.


Later we started using a complete line of Nikon cameras and lenses. So the long transition was done


My aching back from the heavy and bulky Speed Graphic became a distant memory. 

Until just a few days ago!


First, a buddy had touted me on a Speed Graphic t-shirt he had bought online 

He and I had lugged these cameras all over San Diego a long time ago.

So. I bought the shirt.



A few days ago a fellow photographer who is leaving town was selling off lots of cameras and other gear so I stopped by.

I bought a vintage (non-working but repairable)  Bronica medium-format camera for $20. As we talked, I mused too bad you don't have a Speed Graphic.

"I have two, he responded. One just the camera that I am keeping and the other is the complete 4x5 kit with camera, lens, flash with two heads, a dozen film holders, etc in the original fiber case for $200."

I left with my old friendly workhorse, the heavy "repairable" non-working BRONICA film camera, and a $20 Kodak photographer's vest.

Well, I already had a photo vest that was too small and another that was way too large. His was medium-size. Perfect fit.

Now it is mine.

(Click on the photos and links for more details).

Whenever you go "shopping," it's a good idea to leave credit cards and checkbook at home. 

Otherwise, you've gone "buying."





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