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  • MJ

Take a pic-cha!


We're getting close to the time of year where many of us migrate back to the little part of the world we grew up in. We'll all cram into a small kitchen and surround ourselves with familiar sights, smells, sounds, and faces that make the holidays important.

For me, one of the best parts about going home for the holidays, or anytime really, is looking through old family photo albums. I have a handful of top picks, superstar photos that I'll never forget and always look forward to seeing again. Once I get past those photos, the seemingly less important snapshots move into the spotlight. Photos that highlight the Bruno's epic fashion sense back in the day.

Photos that make me remember fondly, if not a little painfully, the year I had chapped lips so bad there was a red ring around my mouth. As I look at these photos I begin to recall somebody in Mr's Volbrecht's third grade class asking me one morning what was on my mouth? I told them it was just leftovers from the strawberry milk I had at breakfast. What?! I was so embarrassed!

Then there was the night my dad brought home hot chicken wings. After the first bite, my mouth caught fire and I ran straight to the bathroom to sit under the sink for the rest of the evening, surely providing a few laughs for my parents. Ok, I'm starting to ramble about this trip down memory lane but I guess that is actually the point.

These random photos are some of the most important things I own. Being able to look at one picture and instantly recall so many feelings and stories about something as simple as chapped lips in third grade is really important to me. I know my memory isn't going to get any better and these little 4x6 prints, as far as I know, are the closest thing to time travel.

So what does this have to do with traveling across the country? I'm not a very good photographer but I really like taking photos. On our journey I have taken the photos I wanted to take and then made it into something tangible that will hopefully be around for a few decades. I am looking forward to looking back on them year after year and get all those warm fuzzy chapped lip feelings once again.

I have old gear that I've purchased for a fraction of the price it cost new. It works fine and I don't think that the gear really matters. Some of my favorite photos I've taken have been with my phone. Some of those favorites have been printed on crappy paper at Walgreens by somebody who doesn't give a crap about the quality of the final print.

This brings me to something I've been trying to be better about over the last few years. PRINT YOUR PHOTOS. Or don't. I really shouldn't be telling you what to do anyway. But hear me out. Those photo albums full of memories at mom and dad's probably wouldn't be around if they had iPhones back then.

When is the last time you picked up an envelope filled with prints? When is the last time your computer or cell phone died and all of the photos on the hard drive died with it? I'm guessing there are many people who remember the latter much more clearly than the former.

Seriously, it doesn't cost that much and you will be so happy you did. I'm not saying you should print everything either. If you do your shooting on your phone or a digital camera it's cheaper than it has ever been. You get total control of your edit and you can pick the best of the best. Or the best of the worst, like this!

Or this! Pretty adorable right?

Ok let's talk about gear. I know I said I don't think it matters that much, and I don't! However, I like to nerd out about stuff that I'm interested in as much as the next person. It's my party and I'll nerd out if I want to! I have a few different cameras and they all do the exact same thing, but variety is the spice of life which means I have a few of these light tight boxes with fancy glass attached to them laying around. Film? Digital? Why not both?

DIGITAL!

The newest, most technologically advanced image capturing device I own is a camera that's been around since 2012. It's a straight up dinosaur in the digital photography world. The Fuji x-e1 is a 16 megapixel APS-C camera with some number of autofocus points of which I just use one. The one right in the center. I have one lens for it, the Fujinon xf 35mm f/2. Which is about a 50mm equivalent in 35mm film terms. It's a really great camera for carrying around all day. It weighs next to nothing and the photos that come out of it are great. This camera was $999 new for just the body. I snagged one last year for well under $200. It's the only digital camera I've ever owned aside from a little Nikon Coolpix I had in middle school. Im sure that took nice photos too but I never printed them and the camera died a decade ago so who's to say?

FILM!

Next is a 35mm point and shoot that is near and dear to my heart. The Canon Sure Shot Supreme! It's the same model we had in the house growing up and it took it's fair share of embarrassing photos that I still cherish to this day. It's small, sharp, and easy to use. I like to shoot film in addition to digital and this is probably the easiest way for me to do that. It's not quite pocketable if you wear skinny jeans but it'll slip into a backpack or jacket pocket with ease. These can be had for less than ten bucks and take great photos.

Ok, time to start pretending I know what I'm doing. I had both of these next two cameras on my shoulder one morning at Yosemite (because I wanted to shoot two different films) and people mistook me for somebody who knows how to take great photos. I took dozens of photos for random people upon their request all morning. Hopefully they printed those! First is the Canon Rebel Ti. I got this camera way back in 2005 and have loved it ever since. It's crazy light, easy to use, and can accept any of Canon's EF lenses. This camera can be had today for next to nothing.

Plastic SLR's from the 90's aren't as sexy as their all metal ancestors from decades before so the hip kids aren't really interested in them. This is great for me because it keeps prices way down.

The next one is something I could only dream of back in the day. Black body, vertical grip, 5 FPS and top speed of 1/8000. Woah. Sports Illustrated here I come! Price in 1992? $1200. Price today? Less than 40 bucks. If you shoot a Canon DSLR and want to dip your toe into film photography you will feel right at home with any of the film EOS cameras.

So what about lenses? Same theory applies for me. Buy old stuff! You can pick up a wonderful 28-135 with Image Stabilization for under $100 if you're patient. This cost was about $500 new back in 1998 and was Canon's first lens with IS. You can get a nice set up for about $230 that would have cost just under $2000 new. Have these tools magically stopped taking great photos just because they're old? No. Shoot what ya got folks!

Are any of these world class, life changing, Nat Geo worthy images? Hell no! Do Erin and I like looking at them anyway? Yep. Are they worthy of a photo album that will spend the majority of its life in one of our closets? You betcha!

It doesn't matter what you're shooting with. Just shoot! You probably have a camera in your pocket everywhere you go. Make those memories! Print those photos! You will never regret documenting your friends, family, trips, and LIFE in a tangible way.

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