Posts Tagged ‘photography’


A “Gripping” Adventure

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

Over the weekend, I proved to myself that I haven’t become “all thumbs” when it comes to fixing things. You may recall my earlier postings concerning all the tit-for-tat upgrades I’ve been making to my two sons’ computers, and all the troubles I’ve had with getting things right so that peace and order are maintained in my universe. After a long struggle, I think I’ve reached that point…for now. This time around, the “fixing” involved one of my own gadgets.

My 35mm film camera, the one I used to take all the photos I’ve been posting, is 17 years old. It’s still a very serviceable camera, and takes great pictures. However, it has developed one “cosmetic” problem in the last few years: the rubberized coating on its handgrip has deteriorated and become very sticky; when holding the camera, the grip “sticks” to my hand and is very uncomfortable.

I wondered if the manufacturer could still service the camera and replace the coating, so I called their customer service department on Thursday and talked with a representative. They no longer provide factory service for it, but they do have a list of independent service centers that could possibly do the work. I was given the name and number for the one closest to me (“close” is a relative term; they are actually six hours away). I called them and talked with one of their techs, and he understood exactly what I was explaining – considering how rare that seems to be these days, it felt very refreshing! He told me that the entire handgrip would need to be replaced, and said I could either send the camera to him to do the work, or he could send the part to me and do it myself.

“It’s easy,” the tech said. “You just remove the bottom plate and the front cover, and the grip comes right out.”

I agreed, so I gave him my address and payment information and he shipped the part out. I received it on Saturday, and it did indeed look like it would be an easy item to replace…once I got the front of the camera off. There’s where my first problem came up – I didn’t have a screwdriver tiny enough to remove all of the screws in the bottom plate. I had to make a run out to buy one; but, of course, no one sells just one…I ended up getting an entire set of electronics screwdrivers. Now, not only can I take my camera apart, but also just about any piece of electronics that has tiny screws holding it together.

Finally, with tools and spare part in hand, I sat down with the camera and started to work. Six screws out of the bottom plate, and the plate popped off. A couple more screws on a side bracket, then three more on the front cover, and it lifted right out as well. The next problem turned out to be the handgrip itself; after some searching, I discovered there were two screws inside it (inside a compartment that also holds the battery) that needed to come out. Once those were done, the old grip easily separated from the camera. I reversed the process to install the new part, and a few minutes later I was finished. No missing pieces, and nothing left over – looked like a success to me!

I picked up the camera and looked at it. From the front, it looked once again like it did when I purchased it back in 1993. I held it using the new handgrip and I played around with it for a few minutes, holding it in different positions and pretending to shoot. It felt very comfortable, as it used to be years ago when it was new – felt like a success to me!

The final test, of course, is to take it out and run a roll of film through it to make sure I didn’t damage something else in the process of replacing that part. I believe it will be okay, making my first camera repair a complete success. I’ll be sure to post a few pictures later.

Please don’t be getting any ideas – just because I fixed my own camera doesn’t mean I can fix anyone else’s…unless it’s exactly the same problem on exactly the same model – and I’m not telling you what that is!


A Day At The Zoo

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

Last Sunday afternoon, my wife and I did something we haven’t done in several years – we went to the zoo.

The city of Gainesville, Texas is home to the Frank Buck Zoo, a small facility next door to a large city park just south of the city center. It is named after Frank Buck, a Gainesville native who specialized in collecting wild animals from Africa and putting them on display in zoos and in his own traveling stage show. His catchphrase was “bring ‘em back alive”, which at the time was in sharp contrast to the usual practice of Westerners traveling on safari and killing what they hunted to decorate their walls back home.

Once again, we grabbed my cameras to take a few pictures – my wife with the digital, and me with my trusty 35mm. We entered the park and were greeted by a huge carving depicting several of the animals species that are on display.

Following the carving was the first enclosure, which housed … wait for it … pink flamingoes!

The zoo has changed dramatically since we first visited it almost ten years ago. Back then admission was free and the number of animals on display was very small, consisting mostly of species native to the region such as owls, coyotes, bison, raccoons, roadrunners (yes, they really do exist), and bears. There was a petting area for the kids to visit and interact with goats, sheep, cows, and pigs, as well as a few exotics such as tamarinds and lemurs.

Since then the park has grown to several times its old size, charges a modest admission fee, and includes a large African Savannah enclosure housing zebras, antelopes, ostriches, and the showpiece of the park, a pair of giraffes.

A large elevated walkway was constructed across the savannah partly to give visitors a bird’s eye view of the animals in the enclosure, and partly to allow the giraffes to move from one side to the other without too much difficulty.

The zebras had a young foal scampering about with them.

The giraffes and ostriches, meanwhile, were taking advantage of the tall shaded feeding station to get out of the sun, which made the park extremely hot that afternoon.

Next door to the African exhibit was a small area representing Australia and housing their most famous native species, the red kangaroo. The zebras weren’t the only ones who had a new baby this spring; I caught a view of a female ‘roo with a joey in her pouch.

As I mentioned earlier, it was a very hot day. When we finished our tour and returned to the entrance, my wife couldn’t resist stopping in the gift shop and picking up an ice cream bar.

All in all, it was a very pleasant – if hot – day to go to the zoo. I’m not sure when we might return, and there’s no telling what will change between now and then!


First Hike

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

Last week I posted a short history of my photographic prowess, or lack thereof. Toward the end, I mentioned I had a revived interest in taking pictures, and was trying to decide whether to use a digital or a film camera. Although I didn’t say it, I was also trying to figure out where and when I would have an opportunity to get out and shoot. All of those questions and more were answered over this past weekend, courtesy of my wife.

She had the idea for the two of us to visit a local wildlife refuge on Sunday afternoon to “try a short hike and see what we could see.” I agreed, and packed both of my cameras for the trip. When we arrived shortly after lunch, we drove around for a while just looking at what was where (it’s not a small place; the refuge is some 8,000 acres in size, with a mixture of grasslands, forests, and wetlands all bordering a huge lake).

We made our way to the Visitor’s Center, where two volunteers cheerfully answered our questions and offered several suggestions for hiking trails. The Visitor’s Center also had a neat little exhibit area with native wildflowers, and bushes of aromatic wild roses nearby that reminded me of the Cherokee Rose bush my mother had in the backyard of the house where I grew up. My wife grabbed the digital camera and started shooting, so that pretty much decided what I would be using for the day! I picked up the film camera and took a few shots as well, hoping that I wouldn’t mess up too many frames on the roll.

We left the Visitor’s Center and drove over to one of the nearby hiking trails. According to the maps, it had several ponds and trail loops of varying distances from one to two miles. Given that my cameras do not have long zoom lenses to photograph wildlife without getting too close and scaring them, we decided to photograph whatever local flora we found. And, since neither of us has been out hiking in years, we decided the distance would be short enough for us to make it a good first effort.

We started down the trail by crossing a small footbridge, and made our way through a tree-shrouded grove past our first pond. We moved along past that and out of the grove into a grassland area, snapping photos of assorted flowers along the way.

The trail led us to another large pond with a wooden pier that had the sign “Crawfish Pond” on its side. After exploring the pier and looking out over the pond, we continued on the trail to a rest area in a shady spot on the opposite end of the pond. We stopped there for a little while, commenting on how pretty and peaceful the hike had been – we had only seen three other people the entire time we were there and they were back at the head of the trail, leaving the entire area just to us.

We left the rest stop and continued down the trail, which branched off in different directions at different points depending on how far one wanted to hike. We chose a shorter route that led us between Crawfish Pond and a smaller one called “Frog Pond”, where we also stopped to explore for a few minutes. It wasn’t quite as pretty, so we didn’t spend as much time there before moving on.

We gradually made our way along the trail, passing several bluebird houses set up along the way. These are mounted on posts with large cones under them to deter squirrels from climbing up and taking over the birdhouses for themselves.

We made it back to our starting point safe and sound, later learning we had traveled about a mile or so. Again, we had not been on a hike in years, so it worked out well for us.

We left the trail area and followed a “driving trail” through some of the wetland areas. The refuge is a rest stop for migrating birds, and we had hoped to see some of them. Unfortunately, we found only a few egrets and geese, and a couple of large birds which I believe were herons, all out of camera range, but we enjoyed the drive around the relaxing scenery.

After the driving tour, we decided to call it a day and headed for home. Next, I had to get my film developed – something I had not needed to do for several years! Amazingly, very few places are left in town that will develop 35mm film, CVS Pharmacy being one of them. So, I took my completed roll (I had started another that was still in the camera) over to CVS and had them process it. An hour later, slightly anxious with anticipation, I went back and picked up my prints and photo CD.

How did they look? See for yourself; several of them are posted with this blog entry. I did find some problems with several shots, and I think I know what happened; to be sure, I’ll have to do some testing with another roll of film. But all in all, I was pleased with my work.

Now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling, I wonder where I’ll be going and what I’ll be shooting next? I guess we’ll all have to wait and see!


Once a Photographer, Always a Photographer

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Yesterday's Memories

Looking at a friend’s recent photos posted on her Facebook profile, I was reminded of a different time many years ago when the most complicated part of my life was keeping the dust off of a camera lens.

Just as the personal computer age began (late 70s/early 80s), I had developed a very serious attraction to the hobby of photography. Back then, 35mm film was all the rage, and after borrowing a camera for about two weeks during the summer of ’79, I was hooked. Unfortunately, the cost of buying a new camera always seemed to be just out of reach, and there was nothing like eBay around back then.

Toward the end of 1981, I finally had enough income from a steady job to afford a camera. My choice? A Minolta XG-A. It was a clean, basic 35mm camera, really sharp for its day, and could take excellent photos. It was about as perfect a choice for a first “serious” camera as I could have made. Starting from a simple kit with a camera and a standard lens, I soon added lenses and a flash to my collection, as well as a tripod and special effects filters. To top it all off, I got a large camera bag to hold all these little bits and pieces.

I was in heaven! My camera went everywhere I did, and I annoyed more than my share of friends, family, and college roommates with all my picture-taking. I sought out new people, places, and things to be subjected to my photographic onslaught. I experimented with different types of film, from basic color and black & white to slides and professional portrait films.

My little Minolta served me well through my college years. After leaving school behind, I decided I wanted to move up to a better camera with more features. I traded away the XG-A and purchased a new Minolta X-570 to use with my old lenses. It was another great model, with enough bells and whistles to keep me busy for a very long time.

I was soon off doing even more shooting than before. I was invited by friends to photograph their weddings, which I gladly did; for a time I even flirted with the idea of developing a side business in wedding photography, but never followed through.

By the early 90’s my equipment was starting to show its age. Newer camera “systems” were coming out with better features and greater capabilities than ever before. I decided to take the plunge and start over with all new equipment. After many months of research and  hands-on testing I decided on the Canon EOS Elan. By then zoom lenses were the standard, and the lens that came with this camera was excellent for general purpose work.

Soon after getting the camera, my life started to change dramatically: I got married and started a family. My photography continued for a while, taking pictures of babies turning to toddlers, but as life got busier my time got shorter, and I was spending more of it working and caring for my family; as a result, the time I could spend working with my camera slipped away. It would come out of its bag for special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas, but otherwise it sat alone and forgotten in a corner of my closet.

About three years ago, all my business travel finally paid off in the form of a gift, a Canon Digital Rebel XT. With no more film to purchase and with images available instantly, it was easier to find a few minutes here and there to take a few photos. But still for the most part, both cameras (yes, I still have the Elan) have sat in silence.

Recently, my interests in photography have started to increase. The source of my interest has been the postings of photos by two friends on their Facebook pages. One has been posting very artistic photos for months, and they always catch my eye; the other hasn’t been posting as long, but many of her images remind me so much of the types of photos I used to take that it’s hard for me to not take notice. Between the two of them, especially the latter, I have felt a groundswell of desire to pick up the camera once again.

But which should I use? The Digital Rebel is pretty good, and film does have its limits – you get one chance per shot with film, so you have to really be on your toes to capture the right moment. But, there’s something about taking a picture on film that digital images simply can’t capture – a warmth of color and feeling that electronic sensors can’t detect and memory cards can’t record. Perhaps the thing to do is try them both and see which one works best for my interests.

Either way I decide, it surely promises to be a grand adventure. Look out world, my camera and I are coming back!