Gratitude · My Family

Elbows In

Today is my Dad’s birthday – Happy Birthday, Dad!

I’ve mentioned this before, but my father is a photographer (retired) and he is responsible (or at fault) for putting a loaded camera in my hands at a young age and letting me loose on the neighborhood.

It was one of those boxy little cameras that used a flash cube…I shot the roll of black and white film in a matter of oh, seconds, probably, and went back to the basement door in our kitchen and called down to him "Now what?"

He stuck his head out of the darkroom and answered "You’re done already?"

And I haven’t changed a whole lot since then.  Too bad the digital age hadn’t hit yet – my parents probably could have bought a summer home in the mountains with the money they’d have saved on film and flash cubes.

But then, if it had been the digital age, I would never have learned how to process a roll of film – including how to load that roll of film in complete darkness, just by touch.  I would never have learned to print contact sheets, with all my little images in nearly-neat rows on a single 8 x 10 sheet.  I would never have encountered the pure magic of printing a picture and watching the paper as it rested in the developer tray, waiting, rocking the tray gently, practically coaxing the hidden image to slowly appear.  My picture.  That I took.  And processed.  And printed.  Myself.

So in honor of my father, and to give him a good laugh as well, probably, here are a few old pictures I dug out, pictures I took (as evidenced by every single flaw you can see).


This is our back deck, and in the back you can see the grill…and in front of that – some buckets, and some little tiny blurry things.  Those are some of my little plastic farm animals and my little tiny Fisher Price people.  Note the…well, the blurriness, and the crookedness…it was ART.


Next up, my younger sister.  Even then she was interested in karate…that must be some sort of kata she’s doing.  And of course, THAT would explain the blur of the picture.  Nothing to do with me.

That’s the vegetable garden behind her.

Since I’d mastered black and white so handily, I was quickly promoted to color….


I specialized in group photos of both people and animals.  Here’s a shot I took in our kitchen (see the wallpaper in the back?  I love that wallpaper.  I wish I had some.  Just to look at.  All different kinds of flowers all over it.  Sigh.).  Note how EVEN THEN, I was rather, um, overly organized, and if you look closely, not only are all the animals grouped by species, but also by color.  Especially over there on the right.  I don’t even know what all the little black and blue and red things are, but at least they are grouped by color.  Very important on a farm.  And see the happy Fisher Price family in front.  Not dead center – no, it’s a much more visually interesting image BECAUSE they are off center.  I was quite the prodigy. 

The one good thing (well, one of so many) about this shot, is that it’s not as blurry as the previous two.  Clearly, I was improving.  I remember my father’s mantra – "keep your elbows in" – keep them tucked against your body, to steady the camera.  If you can keep yourself still, even in the middle of a strong wind, the picture will be the better for it. 

I could go on and enlarge that to mean something more universal, but I’ve got to get the kids ready for school, so I’ll leave that up to anyone else reading this.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Dad.  I’m keeping my elbows in!



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