Box Camera to Telephoto Lens

Early on, at perhaps 12 or 13 years, I was the proud owner of a Box Brownie not that any photos remain.  Still I would produce it, fiddle with the simple controls and take photos of my family.

Box Brownie

This image, taken from the internet is just how I remember it.

My Father had a Voigtlander that he had taken from a German naval officer, most likely in Denmark where he took formal surrender from the garrisons around the Danish coast.


Again an image of one from the internet.  Dad let me use it and I felt a serious photographer.  It was beautifully made and I would take it from its leather case just to admire it, the precision and the fascinating way the bellows opened.  He kept it in a cupboard with his enlarger and other developing equipment.  I never saw him develop and print his film but I suppose he had kept it all from before the war.  It inspired me to develop and print – black and white only – my own photos.  I acquired a brilliant Russian enlarger that packed into a small brief case.


The enlarger packed into the brief case

I was in my early 30s and was slim enough to crouch in the cupboard under the stairs that I had transformed into my darkroom.  I can still feel the excitement as I watched my first print appear; it was magic.  Most have gone the way of all things, though I have a couple or so left.  I swapped it with Dad for his full-sized enlarger which I never used.  All that is left is the base board I use as a ramp for the lawnmower and the lens which is a lovely chunk of glass that  I use as a magnifier; when I can find it.

In the late 60s Dad gave me his Nikon F with Photomic head and three fixed lenses in a wonderful leather case.  I tried to find it just now.  I know I have it somewhere but here is an image from the web again.



It was a great camera and opened my eyes to how good prints can be with a decent camera and decent glass lenses.  I still like Nikon, sturdy, fabulous optics, reliable; though I now use Panasonic digital cameras.

Until a few months ago, I have never used a telephoto lens.  It is something that I was interested in using but was never sure what I would use it for.  Anyway, as Oscar Wilde advised, I gave into temptation and bought a 150 to 400mm lens – equivalent to 300 to 800 for a 35 mm wet film camera.  It is a work of art and high technology and extremely heavy due to the lenses being glass, as all good ones are.  It is complicated to use and very heavy.  The first pictures I took were of a grey wagtail sitting on her nest.  I had to lean round the corner of the house trying not to fall in the river- or leat to be pedantic – adjusting focal length and focus.

Next day I used a tripod and photographed the damsel flies dancing and courting over the yellow water lilies.

One of the ducklings had been sucked under the sluice gate opposite the balcony but it magically re-appeared.

This is where the Wagtail flies to feed.

Wagtail's retreat

We have found bullets imbedded in the limestone wall and the pock marks from, what looks like, a machine pistol.  The Gestapo were here.   The spirit of an old lady asked us to plant a rose bush in memory of those killed.  A couple of years ago we brought one out from England and several soldiers gathered round at the planting ceremony.  The week before the bush was covered with about 30 blooms but new buds were developing and I photographed one with my new lens.


The house is tranquil now.


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