Photography School and Tools

Since I’ve decided to get back into photography this year, I picked up where I left off by brushing off my Minolta SRT-201 that I used in college for my photojournalism classes. Even when I got it in college, it was already “old”, so now it’s a freaking antique. Having been an early adopter of digital cameras, specifically point and shoots which are oddly back in fashion with Gen Z, I hadn’t touched that camera or any other film cameras since the late 90s. In yet another example of how technology has made me lazy and dumb, I quickly realized I have forgotten most of my training on F-Stops, apertures, and ISO. So I’ve brushed up on photography basics by watching photography videos on YouTube which I’ve put into a playlist called Photography School.

As for my camera, I’ve been carrying it around in a LowePro waist bag that’s hilariously 90’s retro with a number of lenses in it. Somewhere over the years and the moves, some pieces got knocked loose as there is a shutter speed strip blocking the viewfinder. I briefly thought about taking it apart and cleaning it, but this thorough video on cleaning and repairing the Minolta 201 convinced me I had neither the time nor willpower to make that move. Luckily, I live near a camera store focused on film cameras that could repair it called Seawood Photo. I should get the camera back in a few weeks cleaned and hopefully in great working order. Inside the waist bag, I also found a roll of undeveloped black and white film that Seawood is going to develop. I have no idea what is on it but I probably shot it in the spring of 1994. No telling what’s in that time capsule, but I’ll post whatever comes back next week as I wait for the camera to be repaired.

One of the things I love most about getting into (or back into) a hobby is falling into these deep niches. The places where some insanely smart person has spent hours transferring this arcane knowledge they’ve acquired over years into a 25-minute video with ~12k views uploaded in 2009. It feels like finding a dusty old book on the library shelf that’s out of print. I also love finding the shop where there’s one person who kept up their craft over the decades when it was out of fashion to end up being “one of the last remaining people in the area who knows how to fix (film cameras, turntables, etc)”. In a world of instant access and automated everything, it is great to find people who still know how to use tools and apply them to an analog trade.

Speaking of tools, I have a terrible habit of buying a bunch of stuff early in the discovery phase of a new hobby. I have a garage littered with stuff I bought online that I “needed” to get into coffee roasting, archery, weight lifting, or whatever hobby I was excited to learn about at the time. This time, I’m trying to buy as few things as possible. I want to let the constraints drive creativity and resourcefulness, which is the harder and longer way to learn – not my usual M.O.

Luckily, I unexpectedly found some reinforcement of that idea as I was going through my YouTube photography learning journey. It came from Cody Mitchell who has spent the last few years in his van being a professional YouTuber focused on photography. After finding his video on “How to Meter for Film Photography“, I watched his video “Filmmaker fits ENTIRE STUDIO in a Camper Van”. After seventeen minutes of going through all the work he has put into his van “Ynez” and how he’s been living in and creating out of it, he ends with a look back on how the space and tool limitations of van living have made him a better photographer. I recommend watching the whole video, but at least watch the last section where he talks about constraints. I found it highly inspirational and applicable to all new creative endeavors.






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