My first SLR camera – Part 2 of how I got into photography

It was so good to hear how many of you enjoy last weeks post, and if you missed it, here is the link to it, Becoming a photographer – Part 1 of how I got started.

This week I’m going to tell you the next part. I had thought that next week would be the finish of it, but after looking at this today I am going to need to break it up into more parts. I hope you will be okay with that.

So, where were we? Last week we finished with me moving to Melbourne and 3 years after that meeting my husband. I’m not going to say those 3 years were easy, because they weren’t. We all deal with grief in different ways and I had my own journey. I’m not going to go into that here, because really, it isn’t important for this story.

So I met Dave and we started going out together and then we got married 9 months later. It was quick, but really it was also because we thought we were going overseas. It didn’t happen, but the marriage did. Not long after we got married Dave thought we should get a camera. Obviously, it was going to a point and click sort of thing. He picked it out and we ended up getting it from overseas through a friend. It has always been cheaper to get stuff from overseas.

I did use the camera, but I don’t know if I have any photos from it, or where they would be. However, it made me like taking photos again and at the beginning of 1993 he asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I don’t know why, but it seemed like the right time to ask and I said I wanted a camera that I could have more control over. One where I could change the settings, have manual settings. We happened to be in Sydney at the time visiting his mum and he had an uncle that had once had a camera store. We asked him what he thought would be the best camera and he came back with the Pentax K1000. He said it would cost around $200.

I had to wait for it, only a couple of weeks but then we found out, once it was too late, that it was going to cost $400. I had it by then and a new photography journey started.

Pentax K1000

If you don’t know the camera then let me help you, it was a completely manual camera. The only auto thing to it, if you could say that, was the light meter inside it. There was a needle that went up and down inside the viewfinder that told you if your image would be too light or too dark. To get the best exposure it needed to be in the middle.

It has to be said, I knew nothing about aperture, ISO or shutter speed. Though having said that you didn’t really need to know ISO as that was determined by the film you used. I did know that bright sunlight was for ISO100 and as it got darker you went up the numbers to 800 or more. Then all I had to do was use the shutter speed and the aperture to get that needle in the middle. It is amazing that any of my photos worked.

Here are some photos from one of my rolls of film.

I am always amazed that I got anything. I guess that needle did the job, though I wouldn’t want to look too closely.

I only did black and white. I thought if I’m going to get serious about my photography then I need to do B&W. I have no idea why I thought that, but it is what I did.

Of course, shooting in black and white presented some interesting challenges. Beyond the obvious and of what works and what doesn’t, you had to develop and print it all yourself. I mean  you could send the film out, but it was so expensive. To help me with that I enrolled in a black and white printing short course. In it, I learned how to load the film into a cannister to develop it and then how to actually do that. After that, we got into printing.

I loved it, or so I thought. My husband agreed to let me buy what I needed and I turned the bathroom in our flat into a darkroom. I was all set to develop and print my own images.

I did it a lot initially.

There are some of those photos I took that first year. These are just the scanned negatives. I’m not sure how many I printed or where they all are now. I might have to see if I can find them for you one day. However, I should point out, that I did develop all of these films.

Unfortunately, it all came crashing down when in September that year, 1993, I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter.  I was told it was safe to use the darkroom, but I didn’t want to risk it. So I sort of put the camera away while Dave and I got ready for our first baby.

We were house hunting and doing all the things that you do at that stage. I really didn’t get back into it for about 3 years. By then our daughter had been born and not long after we went to live in Denmark for about 7 months. When we came back I was pregnant again with our second daughter. When she was almost a year old I picked it up again. However, this post is already very long, so we can continue that part next week.

Next week, Part 3 is about how I started to get really serious about photography and finally learning what I needed. This part should take us up to around 2003.

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  1. “… they were all competing against one another which meant if you want to learn you were on your own.”

    I think this is still the case in a lot of places, especially with creatives. Not all, of course — there’ve been times in various forums online where I’ve learned something due to someone else’s generosity with their knowledge and experience…

    But these times are a stark minority in the overall… It hasn’t happened to me personally that often, but I’ve seen questions like “Where was that taken?”, “how’d you do that?” met with contempt and disdain. It’s pathetic.

    I may not know much; but such as it is, I’ll share.

    Okay, I shouldn’t bring my rants to your posts.. sorry. That bit just struck a nerve.

    1. I have to admit I have found some of it online too. I am secretive about how I process my images, but the rest of it not. I have my reasons for it, and it would be just my luck that I share it and then someone else goes out and makes a ton of money from it. So I don’t. I do however share other information if asked, happy to do that. The only time I don’t share location is if it was a place I shouldn’t have been, or it was private property and I was asked not to.
      I like helping people if I can. Though I have none people who were not very nice too.
      No problem putting your rants here Matt, it is good for other to read as well, so thank you.

    2. Oh, I get it. I think the reasons you are unwilling to share certain things makes complete sense (especially private property)…

      To be fair, most of these experiences I’ve had were years ago when I first started out and was looking to learn more. I suppose it could still be there in those places — I’ve long since stopped visiting forums if I want real information.

    3. Thanks Matt, good that you understand.

      Though what you experienced probably still happens. Try being a woman in photography, I’ve had so many men over the years try to lord it over me, like they know what is best and what I should be doing. It is frustrating to say the least. I don’t do forums either, for exactly those reasons and the ones I just stated.

  2. I am enjoying this series. I also started out totally manual and developed my film for a college photography class. I was writing for a newspaper then and had some of my photos printed to go along with my articles. Waiting for your next episode.

    1. That’s great Anne. So you have been doing it for a while Anne, I think you were probably much better at printing than me. Thanks for sharing Anne.

  3. Memories! I started with a Russian Zenit. Always liked my little dark room, as It was my little hide-away where nobody could bother me! LOOKING forward to next episode.

    1. I haven’t heard of that camera, interesting. Yeah, not sure about he darkroom, but that will be in the next episode. Thank you Bronlima.

  4. It’s really interesting. I lived in the film era, too, but not interested in photography back then. Only around 2010, I learned how to develop a film in a part-time photography course I took in Singapore. Looking forward to the next one!

    1. Yes, film was different than digital, but the way you take photos was the same. How did you enjoy developing the film? I found it all rather boring, but that’s for the next part. Thank you Joey.

    2. It was an interesting experience, but not quite practical to shoot in film today. 😅 I love the tone of photos taken by a film camera, though!

    3. It is too expensive doing film these days. That is one thing I like about Fujifilm cameras they have settings that imitate their film.

    4. Yes, Fuji is appealing in that sense! Unlikely I’ll change my alliance, though. 😅 For a long time, I’m with Nikon (main camera) and Olympus PEN (walk-around camera).

    5. Well you never know, I never thought I would leave Nikon, but look at me now, lol. Though you might end up going Olympus.

  5. Our lives are not always linear, that’s where we grow. I also bought myself a Pentax K1000 on recommendation in 1983 and shot only B&W film too, I felt it was best for learning to take photos. I still have that camera and still use it for B&W film, but also have my DSLR.

    1. I think that is why the camera was recommended to me in the first place, because it was a good one to learn with. Funny how many of us started with it. I did sell mine, but was given another one recently, though I never use film anymore. I’m strictly digital, which I will get into eventually with this story. Thank you Bernadette.

  6. Your photos from that period are great and you clearly had a strong eye for composition from the start. I remember having to deal with every single component being manual and really struggling with the ISO at first.

    1. Thank you Laura. Composition is a funny thing, it seems some people are just naturals with it and it is something that I’ve always been told that I’m good with. Actually only one person has ever said I was crap at it, but she doesn’t count I feel. There is a lot to think about when you are using manual, that’s for sure.

  7. I still have the Pentax and some basic 50mm lens, bought it from eBay for like 200 bucks as well. Nowadays it is probably 400 😛

    1. That’s great Anna, I sold mine, but recently I was given another one, which was really lovely. You are right, it probably is that much. It is amazing how much people still want them. Thank you.

  8. My first SLR was also a Pentax–a Spotmatic F. I remember that needle thing! I still have the camera. Many years ago, I had it refurbished, but it still didn’t work right so rather than bring it back, I just packed it away in its case. Many good memories with that camera, though.

    1. Isn’t it funny how many of us had a Pentax first, they were great first cameras. I sold mine sadly. The needle thing was funny. That’s sad that it doesn’t work anymore, but I’m glad you had good memories with it Lois. Thank you.

  9. Thank you for sharing your photographic history and journey, Leanne, a very interesting story! ❤️

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