In addition to photography I have renewed interests in a couple of other hobbies since retirement: model railroading and pocket knives. The focus of my model railroading is narrow gauge railroads of the 1920s – early 1940s. I am acquiring/building equipment. I hope to start building a modest layout in the near future.
The pocket knife collection has gained a few modern “classics” from Schatt & Morgan, Northwoods and Great Eastern Cutlery. My favorite piece is a Buck folder signed by Chuck Buck, a gift from my friend Ray. There are a few knives from Case, Spyderco, MCUSTA, Ontario, ESEE, KA-BAR, Camillus, Victorinox, Wenger and Boker. I also have a few fixed blades. I think I am pretty happy with my collection, unless I see something extraordinary the collection will not grow any more. I want to enjoy what I have. As Spock said, “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but is often true.”
It was the best of times, it was the…. oops, wrong story.
We last had a cat about 17 years ago and have been talking about getting another pet. Last year I made some inquires with a few local cat breeders, but there were no kittens available. On August 9th we went to the Seattle Humane Society’s Catapalooza event to check out the cats. We definitely were only going to look.
At the adoption center we walked around and looked at the various available pets. I found a shorthair tabby named Jack that was extremely outgoing. He never stopped rubbing my hand while I was petting him. I picked him up with no problem – some cats do not like to be picked up. Kate and the kids also looked at Jack and seemed to bond with him very quickly.
We decided to adopt Jack and filled out the paperwork. When we sat down with a staff member we learned that Jack was closely bonded with his brother Nikki and they had to be adopted as a pair. At that time we didn’t think we wanted two cats. We walked around some more and thought we might look at Jack’s brother who was hiding behind the cat furniture when we were looking at Jack. We talked to the staff member again and requested to see Nikki. He turned out to be a big cat with much the same coloration as his brother.
After a short discussion and encouragement from our daughter (she has two cats), we decided to take the plunge. We are glad we took these two guys home. They are currently staying in a bathroom until they get used to us. They come out for short periods under supervision to explore their new home.
Jack and Nikki have great personalities. Jack is the intrepid explorer. He sticks his nose into everything and is very active. He is never too busy to come over to be petted and have a conversation. Nikki is more of the gentle giant. He is 17 pounds of lap filling love. He has bonded with Kate and has quickly become her baby. He waits for her to get home and spends the evening snuggled up next to Kate in her chair.
As the holiday season approaches the pressure seems to take a sharp rise. Exactly what the pressure is I am not sure. Perhaps the pressure is caused by the expectations I place on myself. For the last few years the holidays have brought a feeling of emptiness. Yes, I am with my wife and children and am thankful. Many years ago there was a bit of magic associated with this time of year. I often blame the blues I experience on the extreme commercialization that takes place months before the holidays. When I was a child there was not a sign of Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Now it seems to be unusual for Christmas displays not to appear before Halloween is over.
I have experienced depression for many years if not all of my adult life. Recently I participated in a depression and anxiety group. I learned that as bad as I thought my depression was it was pretty much minor league. There are some who have crawled into a hole and have begun to pull the dirt in on themselves. At least these individuals recognized their depression and sought help. I learned that depression is a downward spiral fueled by one’s own thoughts. In the group we were given tools to recognize depression and what triggers it. We practiced techniques to fight and help prevent depression.
There is a well-known prayer that asks for the strength to change what we are able to and accept what we cannot change. Acceptance is not always pleasant or easy. I can change my perception of the world and the people around me. Life is not waiting for the storm to clear. Life is learning to dance in the rain.
I am aware that I will never be completely free of depression. I do know that I will be okay. I also know I am loved and for me, that is enough.
I met my friend Bill around 20 years ago when we lived in Lynnwood, WA. We both shared an interest in photography. Bill and I made the step into digital cameras around the same time. He chose a Sony and I went with a Minolta. When we both upgraded to DSLR cameras Bill went with the Sigma SD9 and I the Canon 10D. We did a lot of photography together. The only area we didn’t see eye to eye on was politics, Bill the conservative and I the liberal. In spite of that we had a great friendship. Bill was always there when needed to help with something or just a friend to talk to. Bill and his wife moved to Oregon a few years back into a home they owned and had rented out for years. As often happens when people move away we didn’t see much of each other. Phone calls and emails became our main means of communication. Bill’s wife Gail stayed with us several times when she was in the area visiting friends. My wife and Gail have remained very close over the years. We drove to Oregon a couple of times to visit.
The last time I saw Bill was in January of this year. The visit was short due to Bill’s health. He was diagnosed with a form of leukemia shortly before moving to Oregon. He finally succumbed to the health problems he had been fighting over the years. Last night we had a very short but thunderous storm. The lights flickered and even darkened for a moment after a rather loud thunderclap. This morning we learned that Bill had died last night. That storm had been Bill’s 21 gun salute.
I have used film cameras for most of my life. Starting with a Kodak Brownie and ending up with Nikon SLRs. A while after I was using digital cameras I purchased a Voigtländer Bessa R3A made by Cosina in Japan. This eventually grew into a collection of three camera bodies and seven lenses. I was totally committed to using these great little rangefinders and excellent lenses. The results I was getting with film seemed to be better than the output of my digital gear, at least in terms of dynamic range. I was scanning the negatives first with a Canon FS4000US film scanner and then later with a Nikon Coolscan V. I was in love with film photography and my Voigtländer rangefinder cameras. For those who have not used a 35mm rangefinder camera, there is a certain romance, a connection with famous photographers and a feeling of exclusiveness when shooting with one of these beauties. The king of rangefinders is the Leica. The Leica rangefinder is a piece of art you can take photographs with. If you own a Leica you have the crème de la crème of cameras. Everything about them exudes quality and craftsmanship. This does demand something from the photographer – a significant amount of cash.
This is where the Cosina made Voigtländer comes in. For a much smaller amount of hard earned dollars one can experience the joy of rangefinder photography. These are not the same German built beauties that bear the Leica brand. The Voigtländer is a blue collar camera and a great of bang for the buck. They are the children of a camera loving gentleman who happens to run Cosina. I was able to accumulate my modest rangefinder gear for less than the price of a current Leica rangefinder body.
This now brings me to the point of the story. With my entry into the world of micro four thirds photography my beloved Bessa rangefinders were taken out into the daylight less and less. It came to mind recently that they had not been used in two years. I did a lot of rationalization and finally last week made the decision to sell or trade my rangefinders. They served me faithfully once more and delivered enough cash value to purchase a couple of new lenses for my newer cameras. Lenses that I would not have been able to afford otherwise. Today when I was using one of my new lenses I was thinking of my Bessas.
A bit over twelve years ago I ventured into the world of digital photography with the Minolta DiMage 7. It was a good camera by the standards of the day. It was equipped with an excellent lens and was easy to hold. The major drawback was its enormous appetite for batteries. As the years rolled by I moved on to a Canon DSLR. A few years ago I discovered the u4/3 system. Built on a standard developed by Olympus and Panasonic it seemed to offer a lot: decent image quality, interchangeable lens, compact size and the ability to use virtually any manual focus lens ever made with the proper adapter.
After shooting with three different Panasonic cameras I now use the Panasonic GH3 and lately the GX7.
I am a bit old school when it comes to photography. I have always been a bit uneasy with all the automatic features of modern cameras and wanted a fully manual camera. This is what attracted me to the GX7. While it has all the features one would expect on a digital camera, it is very easy to operate manually. In this aspect it is as close to using one of my 35mm range finder cameras as I could at a fraction of the cost of alternative cameras.
The GX7 is constructed on a diecast magnesium alloy frame and has a solid feel. It is compact but not overly small. It fits in my hands very well.
The controls are easy to use and are ergonomically arranged. The electronic viewfinder works very well for me. The viewfinder doesn’t exhibit any vignetting of the image when viewed through my glasses. This is very important to me. All of the electronic viewfinders from Olympus and Panasonic have dark corners (including my GH3) that force me to move my eye around in relation to the eyepiece to view the entire image. It is probably caused by a combination of my eyesight, my prescription and the magnification of the viewfinder.
Over the years I have bought, sold and traded many cameras. I have kept my Nikon F2 and a small collection of Nikkor lenses. I also have a Cosina Voigtlander R3A and R4M with a small assortment of lenses. These lenses can be utilized with an adapter. Because the u4/3 sensor is smaller than the 35mm frame size these lenses were designed for the angle of view is half of what it would be for on a 35mm camera. This in effect doubles the focal length – a 50mm lens when mounted on a u4/3 body will have the same field of view of a 100mm lens on a 35mm camera. This “crop factor” as it has become to be called just leads to confusion so I don’t think about it. I know what the field of view will be for a given lens from experience.
This adaptability has breathed new life into my vintage lens collection. The Nikkor 300/4.5 is currently my longest lens and works very well with the GX7.
In my nearly 60 years of photography I have used many cameras. The GX7 ranks as my all time favorite. It has a very natural feel and is very much an extension of my eyes. It is not perfect but comes closer than any camera that I have used to that level.
If you are in the market for a new camera give the Olympus and Panasonic u4/3 system cameras a look. I think you will be amazed with what they offer.
I just read a post on my friend Ray’s blog about his first Harley Davidson ride. It reminded of mine in 1965 on a hot Spokane summer afternoon.
I can remember the thrill and terror of stepping up to a ’50 Hydraglide from a Honda S90. Many mishaps and a lot more near misses. On my first ride just after picking up the bike on east Sprague I was headed north on Division. I was sitting under the RR overpass at Sprague and Division waiting for the light to change. Enjoying the sound from the burned out glasspacks echoing from the concrete and steel I wasn’t paying much attention to anything else. The bike was in gear, right foot on the ground and left foot on the clutch. Right in the middle of revving up the engine the bike start to tip to the left. I took my foot off of the clutch to keep from falling over. Immediately with a screeching tire I rocketed through the red light and cross traffic. If it weren’t for the rail on the back of the seat and the pucker factor the bike would have departed without me. Amid the squeal of brakes and honking horns I safely crossed through the chaos a much shaken and wiser rider.