Spoiler alert. This post is not really about the camera listed or any specific camera gear for that matter.
Cameras are regularly used to document moments of joy and momentous occasions. In this post I will be talking about how cameras are tools not only used for documenting life but for coping with loss as well. They have recently for me anyway. Photography was first about having a connection with my Father. Of the many things we bonded over this was one of the first things I remember. But before I get to that let’s breeze through some recent and not so recent posts that play a part in this narrative first.
The OG Pentax ME Super.
After witnessing my Dad documenting our family with a Kodak Instamatic…
…and a Polaroid SX-70,…
…not to mention me tagging along with my own One Step as my first camera, the ME Super is the camera my Father moved to next when I was a child. He then stayed with this camera even up to a Grand Canyon trip just a couple of years ago.
Other cameras came and went, but this remained his go to. Dad was an OG hipster well into the digital era on accident. As a result it was the first SLR I ever used when he taught me so many years ago. While I now like to consider myself a logical brand agnostic sort, as did he, it would be dishonest of me to say that Pentax did not imprint on me to some degree as a result. Exhibit A from a full on Pentax bender from a few years ago:
I had the fully automatic camera in the upper right corner for a couple of decades before giving it to the local camera shop to help fill their bins. I still own three models above having recently bought my way back into digital Pentax a bit (Still have the ME Super and the free to me film SF10. Film 645 and K-70 have left the flock also.).
It is not all about Pentax. Dad drifted to other brands like I do. When my Dad passed away last year finding and completing the last available exposure on a roll of film left in another of his go to cameras provided me some comfort. Shot on a Nikon point and shoot. I wrote a blog post about the experience.
No matter what brands we use we would always find our way back to Pentax. When Dad’s ME Super packed it in I bought him a digital Pentax DSLR and another ME Super to replace his original.
The return to the Pentax K-1.
I recently experienced a three component convergence.
1) I recently started musing about what camera I would really like to have as a result of gadget acquisition syndrome. As I pointed out in that post after thinking about it the camera on the top of that list was not some pixie dust laden budget busting camera. It was a relatively, as compared to other cameras on the list price wise, reasonable Pentax K-1. Not cheap, but far more reasonable than many other cameras on the market.
Not only is it capable but, as I pointed out in the post linked above, it has a sentimental component to it as well.
3) With the holidays upon us my Father has been on my mind even more than usual lately. In that last post mentioned above I stated that one of my favorite photos that I ever took of my father was taken with that lens.
This got me to looking at other photos taken with this lens more closely when I realized something. Many key moments of my Father’s last few years were not only taken with this lens, but this lens on the Pentax K-1. As much as I liked it I had let the Pentax K-1 go as a “logical” thing to do some time ago.
I took this photo of my Father at a family dinner in 2016.
This photo with my Dad (2nd from the right) was taken on a visit to the family homestead July 2016 along with two of my uncles and another family member. Seeing the men get together and talking always warmed my heart.
The next shots were hard to view once I realized when they took place. This sequence was taken while we were visiting my Father in the hospital. I had tried to convince myself at the time that this visit was routine and my Father would be back to form shortly. But looking back I now realize this was the very beginning of the most heart breaking emotional journey of my life.
In addition to a means of bonding with my Father, photography served as therapy by way of distraction. The more stressed I am the more new techniques I practice, the more gear I shop for, and the more photos I take. And I had never taken pictures like this during any visit before. Or since. I believe some part of me knew this was different. I managed a strong façade for my kids, but likely also for me. Looking back on these pictures I now believe on some level, conscious or subconscious, I knew more than what I was able to admit to myself at that time. This visit felt different. And not in a good way.
Four months and two weeks after these photos were taken and my Father was no longer with us.
What to do with this convergence, I wondered?
Well, I already had the lens so the next step was then obvious to me. After first discussing with and being encouraged by my wife I secured another K-1. Add my Dad’s camera strap and here we are.
Logically I know this changes nothing, but as I suspected once this was put back together it brought a level of comfort in hand. Along with the memories there is something reassuring about having a brick of a DSLR in hand. From snapping a picture to fighting off a zombie horde as a melee weapon you are good to go.
And I will take a bit of comfort any way I can get it.
Sidebar: Sentiment aside this is a beast of a camera. More will come soon, but even taken just on its technical merits alone this is a fantastic choice. For starters just take a look at the product shots highlighting the switchgear and ergonomics. It has been missed and I am glad to have it back.
What have I learned from all this?
A few things, but what rises to the top is this. From me to me, and it might speak to some of you, dial back the Dr. Spock shtick.
Stop trying to make sense of everything. Dad passing has been a major disruptor for me as I have since abandoned my long held obsession with everything being “logical”. This past year of upheaval has put a finer point on this line of thinking. Many are struggling with a loss of loved ones. A loss of “normalcy” even, whatever that means any more.
Another thing that both events have raised for me is that tomorrow is not promised. That does not mean go hog wild and lose your mind, but if there is something that you have been meaning to do now would seem like a good time to start.
This has borne fruit on many levels for me. With regards to this blog specifically it can be seen in my focusing on or refining multiple post themes like “This Old Lens“, “This Old Camera“, and “Revisiting Old Gear“. Also played a part in my pushing myself by writing more posts like “Can Vintage Digital Be A Thing?” theoretical exercises and this very post you are reading.
Away from this blog photography out in the real world is limited now because the world is on fire and all, but I am taking this time to watch for sales on lighting equipment and practicing at home…
…for the day that the world does open back up. And I have stepped out of my comfort zone by writing posts about lighting which I have not done much of in the past.
Even shot my first wedding, which is something I would never have done before.
This all helps because this blog is therapy as well.
As importantly no longer have I been examining that which I had been meaning to do but had not I also starting examining those things that I have done but cannot really explain why. And “because that is always what I have done” no longer cuts it. If I cannot verbalize an explanation that motivates me to continue it now goes. This makes even more space in my life for what had gone undone.
I hope that reading this post has provided a distraction for you as well. I close with a few photos of the camera that was at the start of my photography journey taken with part of the inspiration of this post.
Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Go out and create something yourself whatever your chosen area of expression is. And I wish you all of the best and much success to you in all of your endeavors.