The collection of cameras on a shelf in the darkroom.  My first camera is on the left

This is the first SLR I bought from money saved up from mowing yards.

When I was 10 years old, I got my first camera for my birthday, a Kodak 110 Instamatic.  I loved taking pictures with that camera.  The following Spring, I entered a photography contest and took 1st place.  The picture is one I took in Mexico of a donkey.  I took the picture from the back of our station wagon and you could see the inside rear-view mirror and outside was the donkey.  I was so excited to win a contest.  The next year I entered the same contest and won First Place again!  The picture I entered was of my younger brother Donny at a track meet.  Donny had won first place in the Long Jump and the picture I took of him caught him in the air.  I had also entered two pictures at that same track meet of a relay runner with his dog running along side during the race.  I took another picture of that runner holding his dog and the first-place ribbon.  The photography contest created a new category called ‘sequence’ and awarded me first place for those two pictures.   I still have those framed awards.

As I got older, I started mowing lawns for spending money.  I decided that I was going to get an SLR 35mm camera and lenses.  I got the big idea of going to a real estate office and made a deal with them that when they want to show a house, let me know the day before and I will mow the lawn for $15.  My Dad helped me convert our boat trailer where I could carry our riding mower to the yards.  We bolted a couple of sheets of ¾ inch plywood to the trailer using U-Bolts.  We would tilt the trailer back and drive the mower on, then hook up to the station wagon.  We would tie down the mower to the trailer.  I made a lot of money that summer and bought my first SLR.  I got a Konica Auto-Reflex A camera along with a wide-angle lens, standard 50mm lens and a 70 – 210 telephoto zoom lens. I carried that camera and lenses everywhere.

The next summer several of us from church went to Mexico to work with some missionaries.  There was guy who rode in our car and helped with the driving named Manuel.  As always, I rode in the back of the station wagon and I had an old ammo box that I carried my camera and lenses in.  I had that 50-caliber ammo can packed tight.  When we crossed the border, the Mexican Customs paid close attention to that ammo can.  I had to take everything out and show them that this was a real camera and lenses.  When we left the border, Manuel was driving and I said that if anyone sees an iguana to let me know, I wanted to get a picture of one.  Manuel saw an iguana on the side of the road and stopped so I could get that picture.  Everyone waited for me to unload that ammo can and assemble the camera for the picture.  When I was finally ready, the iguana was gone.  Manuel started calling me “Eveready”.  That name stuck for many years since my family would not let me forget. 

After high school, I backpacked through Europe for about 5 months.  I took that same Konica SLR with lenses with me, but I carried them in my backpack.  I brought ten rolls of 36 exposure Kodachrome slide film.  On the first part of that adventure I studied at a place in Switzerland called L’Abri.  At L’Abri there was a worker named Bob who was also a photographer.  I became good friends with Bob who taught me some good photo techniques.  I recall him saying that a moment missed for a good picture is forever gone.  Always be ready.  I try to follow that advised to this day.

I later attended college and got involved with the school newspaper as a photographer. I spent three years working as a photographer which included doing a lot of darkroom work.  We had to develop our own film and print them for the newspaper layout.  I really enjoyed working in the darkroom.  There were times when I would spend most of the night developing film and prints that I would go to my morning classes without going back to my apartment to clean up.  The people sitting around me could smell the chemicals I used in film processing.  I sort of enjoyed watching them trying to figure out “what stinks?”

When I first started college, my Major was Broadcast Video Engineering with a minor in Philosophy.  In one of my Philosophy classes we were assigned original statements and one I came up with was “Photography: Stealing from the greatest thief of all, Time.”   Later I ended up changing my Minor to Bible since I saw more value in learning that instead of philosophy.

During my college time and about a year after, I worked for a Tugboat company and I always had my camera nearby, either in my car or somewhere on one of the boats.  I got some great pictures along the Gulf Coast from Harlingen, Texas to Pensacola, Florida.  I spent ten years total while in high school and college working on the boats until I got my first TV Production job.  Once I started my TV career, I rarely had the time or the need to have my film camera around, but I did continue photography as a hobby.  During this time, I had bought Nikons and lenses for Nikons.  I had a Nikon F3, FG and an F4.  My F3 and FG were stolen when my townhouse was broken into while I was at work one day.  I bought the F4 right after Jennifer and I got married.

In 2002 when we expanded our garage for my car projects, I also had a 12-foot by 15-foot darkroom built.  I had it fully furnished with a large darkroom sink and two Bessler enlargers. I enjoyed teaching Jennifer and the kids how to develop Black & White film and prints.  As the years moved past, darkroom supplies became more difficult to find.  Then when digital photography came available, that killed film cameras and chemical darkrooms.  You can still get chemicals and other supplies for darkrooms, but they must be shipped from the UK.  I have not found darkroom supplies anywhere in the US these days.

I bought my first digital camera around 2005, a Nikon D70s.  This Nikon was the most advance camera I have owned up to this point.  My Nikon lenses I had for the F4 fit the D70, so I did not have to invest in lenses.  When cameras came on cell phones, then smart phones, I found myself leaving the Nikon at home more often. When the smart phones took better pictures than my Nikon D70 since they had more pixels, I left the Nikon stored away.   In the last year or so I found myself looking at the Nikon website to see what was new, but when I looked at the prices, I came to the conclusion that I will probably never have another camera. 

Last week Jennifer and I were working to get the storeroom in the garage back in shape.  It has been a mess since the flood.  On Friday, She and I took a trailer load of junk to the dump that we had pulled out of the storeroom.  After the flood, we kept what we thought were salvageable things from the debris piles and put them in the storeroom and darkroom.  These are the last things we must do to be totally done with the Harvey Flood. When we got back from the dump, I unhooked the trailer in the driveway, parked the Tahoe and was starting to push the trailer through the garage to its parking place in the backyard.  Jennifer and the kids came from the house to the garage carrying a box.  She said, “Take a break, we have something for you” I sat in the lawn chair and she handed me the box.  When I opened the box, there was another box inside, a Nikon box!  I was speechless!!  They had bought me a new Nikon that will work with my old lenses for Father’s Day.  I have never been so surprised.  I was almost in tears that they would do this for me.  Jennifer said, “It is time you start using a real camera again.”  Will had brought my old Nikon backpack out to the garage so I took the lens off the D70 and mounted it to the new Nikon D3500.  It was a perfect fit.  

Last Tuesday I met with my family for our usual breakfast and my brother Johnny was there.  I had my new camera with me.  Johnny said with a smile, “We can call you EveReady again!”