Monday, July 06, 2015

Photography ~ My column from Sunday's paper

My Army buddy Kirk Trachy sent me a photograph this past week that he took in the fall of 1971. The photograph was taken on the breaker wall that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Bay of Colón.

I was barefoot and shirtless, wearing only cut-off blue jeans. In the photograph, I was squatting down at water’s edge about to snap a picture of a seabird or one of the exotic fish that lived in the bay. It was back when my hair was thick and my waist was thin. That moment seems like a lifetime ago.

Seeing the photograph reminded me that I’d never owned a camera before then. In fact, I don’t remember ever taking a picture before then.

My sister Mary Lois had a Brownie Instamatic that she carried around her neck for years snapping pictures of family and friends. Once she took a picture, she’d twist a big knob on the top with her thumb and index finger to advance the film.

Her pictures were hit and miss. Some of them had heads lopped off, and some were as fuzzy as mittens, but her pictures are the ones that bring a smile to our faces as we flip through the old family albums. She provided our photographic record.

Had I paused to consider the magic of photography back then, it might have occurred to me that being able to take decent pictures would have come in handy, but it wasn’t my time.

While stationed at Fort Monmouth in July 1971, Kirk was learning about photography. He had a Pentax camera, as I recall. After taking pictures one afternoon, I went with him to the photographic darkroom on the base and watched in fascination as the images began fading to life from a blank white sheet of photographic paper.

The Army paid paltry wages when I was first drafted, but then the military realized they could lure people into joining by paying a decent wage. I still couldn’t afford an expensive camera, but owning a nice camera made it onto my wish list.

As it turns out, most of the people in my communications training class all received orders for Panama.

Soon after we settled in at Fort Clayton, a group of us made our way to Panama City. I walked into a duty-free store filled with professional-grade cameras and high-powered stereo equipment. I fell in love.

My first full payday, I plopped down on a Canon FT-b camera with a 1.2 lens. The camera in the U.S would have cost three times what it cost there. I shot thousands of photographs while in the tropics, most of which were Ektachrome slides.

After my time in Panama, I became the family photographer and with a little sorting, you can watch every family move through the stages of their lives.

Learning to take pictures was a gift, and I have my old friend Kirk Trachy to thank for starting me down that path.


  1. Anonymous11:53 PM

    You have to have a photographer's eye to take good pictures--& YOU have it!!

  2. I would like to hear the story of the picture you posted today.

  3. Thanks to those old photographs to record a visual family history. Love that photograph with the amazing spider web.

    Have a great day.

  4. Funny how one gets started on something we end up loving. You do take great photos and I love this one of the cobweb

  5. I think it is true, Fishducky's comment up top. Training is good, training with a natural talent in a particular area of interest is really education.
    Like the spider web catch.

  6. You definitely have an eye foy photography. I always enjoy your pictures.

  7. Funny how talents can be discovered and enjoyed! One of the great pleasures of life! You do take cool shots and I love when you do some magic with photoshop!


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