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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My ex'es

If you think that this post is about me writing a chronicle about women in my life, I will promptly disappoint you.

This is however, a chronicle, about every camera my hands have held, my eyes have seen through, captured the moments and memories forever to be viewed and cherished or banished forever in those shoe boxes in the attic. This might also be a long post, longer than if I had chronicled women, that is.

My very first dabble with photography was during my trip to Kodai during my 11th grade annual excursion. A rich friend of mine got his point and shoot camera to the trip and was taking pictures. In those days even a Yashica point and shoot was a luxury (only a handful of my classmates had access to one). When this friend asked me to take a group photo, the camera bug literally bit me at that precise moment in time.

It was two years later, when I came home after my first year in college that my dad took me to Burma bazaar in what was then, Madras. It used to be this smuggled goods market dealing mostly in knock off gadgets. I got my Yashica autofocus with a manual film wind. I guess it was nothing more than a pinhole. Stuff that today is handed out as a freebie at company picnics, worth probably a dollar or two and mass produced in China. But to me, that Yashica was everything. I used to pedal for 30 minutes to the banks of the Ganges just to take pictures of the boats. I also realized that photography was a hobby for the rich. I had to make sure I took pictures worth printing.

Three years and a few hundred pictures later, the Yashica was left back in India. I wanted my parents to send me pictures of them every now and then to the USA. I knew, I was not going to return for at least two years. After looking at all the autofocus and SLR's the other graduate students and professors were sporting, I knew that my second camera would be an SLR. I did not have the money to buy one for a few months, so I used to go to the library and read up on SLR's. Finally during the christmas break, I charged a few hundred dollars to my first credit card and bought a Ricoh KR-10M. Most of you are wondering, "A What?". Well, you have to understand that it was cheaper than those Canon's and Nikon's but had some amazing features!

That camera took a few thousand pictures, and a copy of every print is now safely tucked away in some box in Chennai, or so I hope. I would take pains to send the prints through friends or mail it and my parents would just look at the 5 or 6$ in postage and complain! or say things like "we want to see you in those pictures. We really dont care about all that scenery or high rise buildings!". Those were divisive times. A time that made me see things in different light, and the Ricoh was a big part of creating that divide between me and my parents.

The camera had also grown over the years and put on a few pounds. There was a bag, a tripod, a few zoom lenses, filters of every kind, etc. etc. Even had a piece of black stocking tied around a lens hood which served two purposes. It was an excellent diffuse filter and doubled up as something to remember my friend Victoria! One fine day, during a snow storm in upstate New York, a guy broke into our house and stole the whole bag! I was shattered. To top things off, a close friend died of a heart attack at 26! during the same time. I refused to hold another camera for more than a year.

My dear brother, who had come to visit me during a short assignment in the US asked me to buy him a camera before he went back home. We happened to meet in Philadelphia. So I took him to Rittenhouse square in Philadelphia to my favorite used camera store. The old man recognized me after two years of absence! I picked a 15-20 year old Pentax, the one with a metal and black leather finish body, manual film load, rewind and a silk screen shutter. After we bought it and were about to separate at the train station, my brother surprised me by handing me the camera as he boarded his train! He said it was my cure, and he knew I loved that thing dearly. He didnt know a thing about SLR's and would buy a autofocus with a zoom in DC.

So, the love affair started again and many a picture was taken with the old Pentax. We spent some glorious days in London taking in the sights. When the rolls came back, it was a shock to find that I had shot 6 rolls of blanks! I was near tears. Took my baby to a local doctor and he said that the silk screen was getting stuck. At the same time, I got married, all of a sudden. On my way back to the US after a whirlwind marriage and a promise of a prolonged romance, I gave away the Pentax to the young boy who was holding that powerful light in my face during the wedding. He was learning the wedding photo/video business and I sincerely hoped my giving away the near antique Pentax would take this kid away from the video business and someday save many a groom and bride from those blinding lights.

I had in a fit of rage, bought myself a Canon EOS Elan II after the London debacle. The Elan, was a camera so smart, so sexy that my wife used to get worried I would elope with it some day! It added some pounds of its own and my wife was the official bearer of the camera bag during our long road trips. She got sick of hauling it, and once we found out that she was pregnant and the doctor told us "make sure she doesnt lift anything heavy", the first thing she refused to lift was that camera bag and tripod!

I started practising with the other newborns around us. My wife saw that I got 7/24 right on a roll. To her chagrin and those of the parents of the kids, I complained that the kids werent co-operating well! All those other parents were sporting handy digital cameras. The SONY DSC's, the Canon Powershots, the Nikon Coolpix'es and what not. We did our homework (the subject was not photography, it was economics!) and got the Canon S30. Considering this was purchased a few months before the baby shower, and also considering it was so easy to use that San and even her fresh off the boat mom took a liking to this camera, it was a welcome addition to our family! In our case it was like bringing home a puppy a few months before you deliver the baby. Our puppy loved our baby, and went on to love our second baby as well!

Now that most of you readers know, the S30 has been growing old and the digital revolution is truly upon us. Add to it, I am surrounded by people who sport cameras that can zoom all the way to heaven or hell and it was just a question of time before I got an SLR camera. My one previous attempt with the Digital Rebel failed because it had focus problems and I had to return it two years ago. It has been a constant love hate relationship with the S30 the last few months, what with her refusing to open up and giving me E18 errors, just when I am in the mood for some fun. I was to put it simply, UPSET!

San decided to give me the best anniversary gift, by letting me choose the camera I wanted. Her initial budget however was a few hundred dollars! I sounded happy and was reading reviews online for practically every camera announced in the last few years when I had a stroke of luck. The Rajni movie "Sivaji" was released! Now if you are thinking "what the @#$# ?", let me explain. San insisted on paying 20 bucks for this movie ticket for a premier show. She knows that on a matter of principle I am against price goughing and I wouldnt go. I told her that I am not going to miss this movie being a big Rajni fan and all, but will wait for 10$ tickets. I will go for the first 10$ show and have fun. She went and watched the premier show with Balaji anyways and I managed to send her on a guilt trip for spending double and the clever fox that I am, insisted that I also get to spend 2x on the camera! She laughed, and relented at my logic. She had just come back after watching Sivaji and somehow my using the 2x logic to increase the camera budget by a few hundred dollars appealed to my dear wife, and she got me :

The Canon Digital Rebel XTi (400D) and a Tamron 18-200 Aspherical Macro lens!!

You will see plenty of pictures soon and I hope this beauty stays with us for years to come. The powershot, still works and San will use it to take pictures of me taking pictures!

Someone has got to photograph this photographer, right ?


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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 1:55 AM, Blogger visithra wrote...

;) such stories ;)

ive never owned a dslr - but ive had a few point n shoot n the current fully manual one is the closest to a dslr - getting one is still in the pipes ;)

congrats on the new cam;) i guess she loved the movie eh? ;p

may u take awesome photos with it ;)

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:49 PM, Blogger Kavi wrote...

All the very best with the new love !

You write so well. Even if it is about pictures !

It was a gripping tale and i could almost see you and all the others doing the things that they did. Like the light boy !

I am used to click snaps. But havent invested serious money. Your post is making me take the first step in that direction..

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 9:12 AM, Anonymous F e r r a r i wrote...

I have EOS 350D with Sigma lens. I am looking for a Macro lens too ;) I am very much in love with my camera :D

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

Nice commentary. Now you need to start travelling to places that can do justice to your camera.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 11:47 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...

thanks visithra. she loved it. I will also love it, when I see it.


kavi, looks like you are already complaining about your cell phone camera.. you are on teh right track. constant reminders to yourself and the wife about the virtues of a digital SLR.. and before you know it, she will be watching Dasavadharam for a 2000 rupee ticket, and you will get your chance.

Ferrari, your shots of the Paarsons valley were fabulous. the 400D looks and feels like my old EOS Elan II !! Just feels a little odd that the lens is heavier than the camera.

anon, planning to go to Tioga pass and get some Ansel type pictures..



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