Just Above Sunset
July 4, 2004 - Through the Viewfinder

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Through the Viewfinder

July 4, 2004

By Ivan “Poncho” O’Toole


The first photo lessons was provided by a future Pulitzer Prize winner in the lunch room at “Fifty Rock,” (Associated Press) but the second one was also rather impressive.


It was the Sixties, and the ads advised that the man with a Nikon was master of all he surveyed.  Just out of college, with a camera slung over the left shoulder, and walking around New York City on a day off, could it get any better?


The camera was my graduation present and it seemed to be the photographic equivalent of getting a Ferrari with your driving learner’s permit.


After wandering around the Village, it was time to hop a bus and go uptown.  I sat next to a fellow on bus who had an old German camera (not a Leica) and I was feeling rather smug about having a better camera, when he dropped the information that he was an editor at Popular Photography magazine.  OK maybe it is the photographer who can think - and the equipment is a secondary concern.  Maybe there was more to taking a good photo than buying an expensive camera.  Then again, didn’t Sterling Moss once set a course record for the Nuremberg Ring course using a limousine?  Didn’t Ansel Adams use a bulky old view camera? 


Carrying a Nikon with a good assortment of lenses around can wear a fellow out, especially when you realize that the Sixties are over and you can qualify for membership in AARP. 


Still, over the years some of the best photo opportunities cropped up on days when all the photo equipment had been left at home.  Film cameras are fading from favor, and so when the chance to buy a small 35 mm with a 25 to 105 zoom came along, it seemed like a good idea because, that way, it could be tucked into a pocket and always be available.  After a few years of heavy usage, it wore out.  Then I noticed small cheap disposable cameras in the local supermarket that were about as costly as a regular roll of film.


Nice thing about a five-dollar camera is that you can be rather cavalier about it.  If it gets lost, so what?  Of course, you could take better images with the Nikon gear, but in the digital age, it is fun to always have a camera available.  My local photo store has a deal where they develop the film and make prints but also put the entire roll of film on a CD for me, which means I can send the good shots off to the Just Above Sunset world headquarters, in Hollywood, electronically from my home computer.


The photos you get from a five-dollar camera are adequate.  Does anyone, anywhere give awards for adequacy?  Maybe somebody should because sometimes good enough is good enough.


Other times, when shooting with the Nikon F, just holding the camera feels fine.  It’s kinda like settling in behind the steering wheel of a Cobra. 


I do wish, though, that I had made the effort to go to Max’s Kansas City and see the Velvet Underground play.  They say life is art without an eraser.  Now, if all the folks who’ve read and enjoyed this column applaud really enthusiastically, the editor might be persuaded to bring back more installments in the future. 


Samples –


Sidewalk art in Beverly Hills:

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A Henri Cartier-Bresson moment:

Clikc here for large image...

A trompe-l'oeil mural in Santa Monica:

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Text and photographs copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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