Many of today's working photographers and photo enthusiasts had their start during the age of film. I was certainly one of them. I got my first summer job at a fast food joint in the resort town of Sauble Beach, Ontario. The year was 1976. I was 12 and earned $2.15 per hour flipping burgers and making milkshakes. By the end of the summer I had banked over $1K - an amazing amount of money back then. My father insisted that I purchase something useful and said, (insert thick German accent) "Peter, you're not going to vaste your money at za arcade. You're going to invest your money mit zomething useful."
My dad was a bit of photographer and owned a beautiful Voigtlander camera from the old country. As a young child I remember my dad always carrying around the camera and taking snapshots of family gatherings and the occasional day trip we'd go on. I'm afraid I absolutely hated having my picture taken. I don't think there's a photo of me in my dad's collection where I'm not crying or pouting. Even back then I must have known that I would be much more comfortable on the other side of the lens.
I decided to invest my summer earnings in a new 35mm camera. My dad packed me up in the car and took me to the local camera shop, 30 minutes down the highway. We looked at a few and I walked out with a brand new camera under my arm - a truly massive, beast of a thing, a Soviet-era Zenit. As exciting as it was to enter the world of photography, that tank just wasn't doing it for me. A year later and it was definitely time to trade up in quality and down in heft. Dad packed me in the car again and off we went to the small camera shop. My dad was never one to rush a buying decision and we must have looked at two dozen cameras. Fully automatic cameras were just coming in, but the price for those was a little more than a pimply-faced teenager could afford. Plus, my dad insisted that I learn photography the proper way, by purchasing a fully manual camera - the Olympus OM-1n.
That was the last film camera I ever owned - a great little machine that still works. I pumped countless rolls of film through - print, slide, black and white, and infrared. I enjoyed experimenting. Photography was definitely not a cheap hobby - $5 per roll, $20 to print. It adds up quick. It did force me to really focus on the composition because I couldn't afford to take a dozen shots of the same subject.
My little OM-1n worked hard during my teens and early twenties. In my late twenties and into my thirties my teaching career and young family took more and more of my 'spare' time and the camera sat on the shelf for extended periods. I have to admit that I'd lost interest in photography. But that was definitely going to change...
Here are a few of those early shots.
My brother(left) and a friend of his playing catch on the beach.
I would have been about 13 or so when I took this.
My first double exposure attempt. My brother was often the 'guinea pig' for my photographic experiments.
I still love what frost can do for a subject.
This was shot at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Peter Baumgarten is a professional photographer and educator. He is also an Olympus Visionary and NiSi Official Photographer.