Hello! And thanks for having a look at my blog.
First, let me introduce myself with a short photography oriented biography or maybe I should call it a personal history of my photographic background.
Before I go any further, let me offer some links to recent photographic articles I have written, should you have any interest:
I was born in 1942, and raised in Cedar Rapids Iowa. Yeah, I’m old… I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with an English major bachelor’s degree in 1964. In 1965 I married my wife Judy. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in 2015.
I became interested in photography in 1958, and purchased an Argus C3 camera. This was a 35 mm rangefinder camera with a fixed lens, and variable aperture and shutter speed controls. During my college years I moved to a Yashica SLR, and later a Pentax Spotmatic.
Later, after graduation from university, I moved to Chicago-land and began my working career. Two years later I was invited to join the firm of Burke and James, an old line photographic equipment manufacturer and distributor. B&J manufactured a complete line of large format equipment, from 8X10″ cameras to enlargers. The company maintained a huge collection of new and used lenses, plus a facility for modifying lenses, applying vacuum deposited optical coatings, mounting in shutters, repairing shutters etc.
I started in inside sales, and over a few years held several different positions, including being in charge of the lens facilities. In the process, I learned a good deal about photographic optics. Later I became an outside salesman for B&J, my first sales territory being Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, and living in the Dallas area. After 14 months I was promoted to the Chicago territory, the best territory in the company, and held that job for about four years.
During that time my amateur career as a photographer continued. I was doing local highschool sports for a weekly suburban news paper. They particularly liked me because I could both write the story of the game and take the pictures. This meant I got more money. Also, I got the further away games because they had to pay milage for only one reporter instead of two.
I had the B&J lens inventory at my disposal, and could and did borrow lenses. A number of the lenses in the inventory were for Leica screw mount. One day a dealer I was calling on offered me a used Leica 3f that had just come in, and I bought it so I could see what those lenses were about. I had been used to my SLR’s, but quickly fell in love with the Leica. The methodology of using a range finder camera, plus the form factor, somehow were just a better fit for me than the SLR. Of course I still used the SLR for sports with longer lenses, but the Leica for everything else.
Later I moved up to a rather beat up Leica M-2, which nevertheless served me faithfully for years until I eventually sold it for more than I had bought it for.
I was doing my own darkroom work as well at the time, though I do readily confess I never much cared for darkroom work. During that time I also wrote a few articles for camera magazines of the day, which magazines sadly are only memories now. I also wrote articles for ham radio magazines, and also a few articles for computer magazines, all of which I am happy to say I was able to sell.
But times change. Burke and James was losing money, and there seemed no realistic path to a profit. The owners decided to sell the business. In the end, B&J was split between two buyers. Ilex Optical of Rochester NY bought the manufacturing portion of the business, and Burleigh Brooks, an importer and distributor selling to camera stores took over the distribution business. I was offered a position with Ilex, but my wife and I simply were not ready to make a move to New York State, and we demurred. I was then invited to retain my position as a salesman for Burleigh Brooks, which I accepted.
But within a few years, both Ilex Optical and Burleigh Brooks were failing, and both I and my boss at that time, Jere Benedict, were let go, effective the day that the Chicago offices were closed.
Acting as partners, Jere and I opened a new firm named Bencher Inc., derived from a combining of our names. Our first product was a copying system designed to make copies of X-Rays onto 35mm film or microfilm.
Sales of the product were quite disappointing. In looking for a way to survive, we started manufacturing other products – photographic copy stands, graphic arts camera shutters, and photographic changing bags. We were very close to failure when we received a large order for our graphic arts camera shutters. Our shutters featured an improved design for the shutter blades that greatly increased the shutter life. In the years that followed, that business slowly dried up and died, but the initial order gave us the cash flow Bencher needed to survive.
In the mean time, our other products began to gain traction as well, and while Bencher never grew to the size we had hoped for, it offered us a solid business and a living for almost 40 years. Along the way, we acquired the Majestic Tripod line, and also got into the amateur radio business. The amateur radio products fit our manufacturing capabilities very well and were an excellent addition to our business.
Finally, in 2016, we moved to liquidate Bencher, so that we could retire. Product lines were sold off, the remaining inventory disposed of and the manufacturing equipment sold, all bills and salaries due were paid, and the company honorably dissolved.
Back in the 1980’s, I had gotten burned out as a photographer. Particularly working with customer service, and being immersed in the industry led me to a point where enough was enough, and the cameras went onto the shelf. Over the succeeding years I had several “point and shoot” cameras for such things as family pictures, and in that process went from film to digital but nothing fancier.
In 2105, my wife and I took a tour of Scotland, starting in Edinburgh and then across the Highlands and on to the Isles of Skye, then Mull and last historic Iona and back. I took many pictures of the unbelievable beauty of of Scotland; many of them in a wide angle perspective, and could not wait to see them properly when we returned home.
I was bitterly disappointed. Pictures that looked great in the optical viewfinder simply were not sharp, especially into the corners, where I had often placed important elements of the picture.
In retrospect, I surely should have known better, considering my prior experience with lenses. I was asking and expecting way too much of an inexpensive zoom.
I began to look into a more serious camera, thinking I would end up with a medium level DSLR, when I discovered mirrorless cameras and was almost instantly a convert. I had never really been a fan of SLR cameras – too many moving parts, too great a back focal distance to allow for a flipping mirror making lens designers jump through new hoops, and frankly I much preferred the form factor of the Leica cameras I had owned earlier. Another plus I found was that mirrorless cameras are lighter and smaller.
I studied the market offerings as much as I could over the internet. I did not want to spend a fortune, preferring to get my feet wet, and ended up purchasing a Sony A-6000. I also purchased a Sigma 30 mm f1.4 and a Sigma 60 mm f2.8 lens.
Right from the get-go, I was astounded by the quality of the pictures I was able to shoot. Exquisitely sharp and of high resolution, beautiful color – and easily optimized and modified on a computer screen! No more hot, smelly darkrooms!
I was hooked again.