The Death Of Prince And What It Taught Me About G.A.S.

84427255.MQpD2KFZ.5DPrincePba

Prince’s Yellow Cloud Guitar (and Tito Puente’s Timbales) on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Shot in 2007 with a 5D Classic and 28-75mm Tamron lens.

Breaking News: Just as I had published this, I heard of the sudden passing of yet another music icon Chris Cornell. My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. You will be missed Chris!

Update II: Chris Cornell’s death has been reported to be suicide. Damn, such a waste of talent. Whatever was troubling him, I hope he is at peace now. RIP.

Here’s a little Throwback Thursday to ponder on…

Just recently music fans paused to remember the first anniversary of the death of music icon Prince who died on April 21, 2016 of an apparently accidental overdose.

Music is my other lesser known passion and as a person whose childhood and adolescence were rooted in the 80’s, Prince was a huge musical presence in my world.

Just like folks who grew up hearing of Sinatra, or the folks who grew up on the Beatles or  Elvis, I grew up hearing the name of Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, just to name a few.

PAISLEY PARK

So what does Prince have to do with cameras or G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) ? Not sure if Prince was into cameras as there are precious few photos of him actually holding a camera. The only ones I saw were of Prince holding a Nikon. As you know, Prince was almost always in front of the camera being one of the most famous people on the planet.

I actually thought about this article over a year ago, at the time of his passing. What sparked it was seeing reports on television, after his death, which showed the inside of his huge Paisley Park compound. Within these walls were a very large and incredible music studio. This studio must have been filled with everything imaginable for perfect recordings. There were stages where he would put on shows for friends or fans he invited in. Film production studios. Just to name a few things known to be in this once (and still) mysterious building.

Also in his posession were an awesome collection of unique guitars, wardrobes, and I’m sure lots more.

So once again, what does this have to do with me or cameras? Well, it really got me thinking. Just like many of you, I have ravenously bought, sold, and collected some really awesome cameras and lenses through the years.

When money was good, I went through it like there was no tomorrow, most of it spent of whatever photographic gear I was chasing at the time. I did this until I went flat broke and had to sell them off. Then when times were good again, pattern repeat. When times got bad again, pattern repeat again.

"Camera Legend's Lair" Just a sampling. It is rumored that there are many more interesting items in the vault :-)

“The Camera Legend Lair” Just a sampling of the cameras and lenses that have come through the lair! Rumor has it that there is a secret vault with even more goodies 🙂

Sure there are lots of famous (and not so famous) people with expensive houses and lots of expensive toys and possessions. But what struck me about Paisley Park and why I’m using it as an example is because Paisley Park was built for, and around a singular individual and that was individual was Prince. Once he was gone, it’s hard to imagine the feeling of emptiness that must’ve been felt in that building. The spirit of that building died with him.

WHAT THE DEATH OF PRINCE TAUGHT ME

When I heard the news that Prince had died, it seemed surreal. How could this seemingly healthy, larger than life figure, only 57, be gone in a flash? Sure, we now know the official cause of death was apparently from a self inflicted, accidental overdose of a powerful prescription drug. That does not matter now. I see life as unpredictable. Anything can happen at any time. Accidents, crime, a deadly disease, natural disasters. Anything can take us out in the blink of an eye.

When Prince died he left all those posessions behind and without a will, he left a bit of a mess for his family and lawyers to figure out.

Prince’s death reminded me that one day there will indeed be no tomorrow. I had been thinking about my own mortality a lot since my Dad’s passing in 2011 and now even more so as I continue to grow older by the day. Prince’s passing just once again proves that old adage…”You can’t take it with you when you’re gone.” Except for his musical brilliance. He took that with him and it will be a long time before we see another one who has that combination of musical genius, charisma, and showmanship again.

Sure, he may have (in my opinion) taken the look from Little Richard, the funk from James Brown, and even some showmanship from Elvis, but he put it together in one package and backed it up with musical ability. While Michael Jackson may have been the “bigger” of the two stars, Prince actually wrote, played, and produced most of his music himself while Michael mostly had songs chosen for him and top musicians playing for him, not to mention Quincy Jones producing for him.

As for G.A.S. I’m in no way saying that Prince had G.A.S. and I do feel he had the power, the means, and the right to do whatever he wanted with his money. But we can look at this in two ways…

One. You could say he lived his life to the fullest. I’ve heard it said somewhere that it’s not how many years one lived, but how he/she lived those years. If so, you can certainly say Prince lived a full life and did everything and more than most people ever will in his 57 years than most people could, even if they lived to 100 years old.

Or two, we need to think more about the fact that one day we will all die. We should do our best to make our decisions based on this fact, be conservative and save our money for our children and for their future.

For me personally, it’s a little bit of both. One, I feel that life is to live. Since as far as I can tell, we only have one life, we should live it to the fullest. Then again I do have a family, and God forbid, I could drop tomorrow and my family wouldn’t have a clue what to do with the mess I left behind.

Sadly (or maybe not, depending on) Prince did not have any living children to think about, which may have given him additional “freedom” to use his money in whichever way he wanted. But if you do have kids or close family, then you should probably take them into consideration when you ponder on your next photographic splurge. Is that $6000 Leica M or $5000 pro Nikon or Canon really worth it?

Now if you had your heart set on buying some new expensive gear, don’t let me bring you down. I’m a sinner, so I’m not one to preach. Go ahead and buy that Monochrom or Nikon D5 or whatever strikes your fancy! I’m just expressing how I feel about it now. Fellow gear hounds and hoarders, I’d love to hear how you feel about this!

 

Flashback Friday: The Olympus M-1 Film Camera

DSC_0669M1CamFAC

The Olympus M-1 35mm slr. Basically an OM-1 with a few external and internal differences. The most obvious give away is the “M-1” logo on the top plate of the camera. Otherwise, the M-1 and OM-1 are cosmetically and functionally the same.

The Olympus M-1 is a 35mm SLR introduced by Olympus in 1972. It is the original OM-1.

The M-1 was originally a part of the Olympus “M System” as they called it. They were all set to go, even having a full set of lenses made to support the M-1. Only one thing they forgot…Leica already had an “M System” out!

From all accounts, Olympus changed the designation of the M-1 to the “OM-1” because Leica protested the use of the “M” and “M System” as it conflicted with their M series rangefinders and their lenses.

The M-1 is basically an OM-1, which is among the finest and most iconic systems camera ever made. A modern masterpiece from the brilliant mind of the late great Yoshihisa Maitani, the genius camera designer of Olympus.

There are some differences between the M-1 and OM-1. Main thing you need to know is that the M-1 says “M-1” on the top plate and it cannot accept a motor drive.

There is a wonderful page that tells you everything you need to know about the M-1 if you google “Olympus M-1 film camera.”

As a camera, it has an all manual 1s-1/1000s plus bulb shutter and originally took a PX-13 mercury battery, which has long been outdated/outlawed. The battery is only needed for the meter and yes, the camera can operate without a battery. You can use a replacement battery and my recommendation would be the Wein MRB625 Zinc battery which at 1.35v is closest to the original mercury cells.

RARITY, PRICE AND COLLECTABILTY

This one is not as easy as it looks. While the M-1 is certainly not as common as the OM-1, I don’t think I would call it rare either. “Rarer” would be a better word I guess.

They don’t seem to come up for sale often, but you do see them at fairly regular intervals on eBay, usually by sellers who stress that it’s “RARE.” I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but you know what I mean 🙂

I got mine for $40. It is not in perfect condition, eyepiece and focus screen looks to need replacing, viewfinder needs cleaning, but the shutter works though I haven’t tested it for accuracy. It’s going to be a fixer-upper for me which should be fun.

I have seen people asking up to $500 for this camera, usually on eBay, but they ain’t getting $500! 🙂

Most camera lovers will know or search and find out that the M-1 is basically an OM-1, a camera you can get anywhere from $10-150 dollars depending on condition and how much you want to spend.

A more consistent and fair price for this camera I think is around $150-250 in excellent condition and preferably with a lens thrown in.

SamOM

“Zuikoholic” 2009. With the black Olympus OM-1 and 40mm f/2 Zuiko lens. As far as I know, the M-1’s were only made in chrome.

Of course, for a collector with money, and if you are a true Zuikoholic you probably wouldn’t mind paying extra just to have that “M-1” in the house 🙂

BOTTOM LINE

The Olympus OM-1 is one of my favorite manual SLR’s of all time. The beautiful styling, mechanical shutter and all manual exposure makes it a pleasure to use just for the pure joy of photography.

When I gave up on my Minolta X-700 from 1985 and after trying Canon and Nikon in the 90s, I settled on a couple of OM-1’s and it carried me through the rest of the decade giving me thousands of precious memories on film. And as the 90s came to an end and digital was dawning, my first digital camera was an Olympus C-3000.

The M-1 being the “rarer” version of the OM-1 makes it just a little more special.

These cameras live on in their OM-D incarnations although I think all the OM-D’s lack the true heft and feel of the classic film OM cameras. As imagers, I think the OM-D’s are great!

DSC_0671M1OMDFAC

“Generations” 2015. The Olympus M-1 film camera on the left and the OM-D EM-5 on the right. Yes, I know that OM-D needs a little dusting off 🙂

In closing, there is no doubt that the Olympus M-1 (and OM-1) is a true Camera Legend that inspired a whole generation of photographers and continues to influence photographers and camera designers, even today.



The Instagram Society And The Age Of The Ugly

Did you take a perfectly good photo or even a bad photo and “funk it up” using one of those cool Instagram filters? Come on, admit it…Yes, we’ve all done it! 🙂

In the past few years, there has been a resurgence of what I’d like to call “ugly” photographs. No disrespect intended to any one photographer, I myself have posted many “ugly” photos!

DianaCam1

The Diana F+ “Toy Camera” by Lomography. Worn out and missing its plastic lens.

So what do I mean by “ugly” photos? Well, I’m talking about photos that are blurry, have lots of digital grain or noise, vignetting, fake scratches, funky colors, HDR, and a myriad of other things that try to accentuate the actual photograph.

When I started taking an interest in photography in the early 80’s, we’d always send out our film for developing and prints. The “good” photos were sharp, clear, and well exposed. The “ugly” photos were blurred, under/over exposed, and the colors were funky. The ugly photos were relegated to the trash bin, or for me, the bottom of the stack since I never throw away photos.

MinoltaJoeDadC

“Family Classic 1985” Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens. What a “real” vintage print from nearly thirty years ago looks like. Dirty, scratchy, colors getting funky, but wonderfully nostalgic…to me anyway 🙂

In the film days, I don’t remember many people looking at a blurry print with wonky colors and thinking it was beautiful. Yes, you had the occasional odd print that was technically horrible, but looked pleasing to the eyes. However, there weren’t many of them.

Today though, people relish in these things! Why? Well, I’m sure a lot of it has to do with today’s Instagram society. Of course, Instagram provided an easy way to “funk up” your photos by making them look old, faded, blurred, etc, etc, basically all the stuff I listed above.

YashicaC

The Yashica EZ F521 “Digital Holga” Toy Camera.

The main reason I believe for today’s interest in “ugly” photos and probably one of the reasons why Instagram and “Instagram-like” filters are so popular these days is simply due to one fact…

As digital cameras get better and better, the images look cleaner and cleaner. They look “perfect” at times, and as such the images begin to look homogenized, pasteurized, and sterilized. A technically perfect image begins to look bland because of how clean it is.

YashicaHydrant

“The Hydrant” Yashica EZ F521. A perfectly bland, unremarkable image from the Yashica digital toy camera. Something that could only be appreciated by the “Age Of The Ugly” society 🙂

And with so many people into photography these days, some try to stay above the crowd by using these filters or techniques that will give that extra “oomph” to their images.

There’s also a bit of nostalgia for that film-like look. Many youngsters today are actually shooting film. Some actually love it, and some are hipsters riding on what they believe is retro cool. I suspect most are in between.

I ran into a teenager recently in Central Park shooting with a Polaroid One Step, and I thought “Dude, seriously?!” 🙂

Anyway, I was happy to see such a young person with a Polaroid, it can only be a good thing.

SX

The iconic Polaroid SX-70. Apologies for the poor quality of this photo. It was a quickie done for my Instagram stream.

Speaking of Polaroids, this is probably where it all began. Let’s face it, Polaroids were never about high technical quality. They were originally intended for quick prints and proofs. The resolution was never really high on small Polaroid prints, except for some of the oldest instant films which have not been made in years.

The Polaroid’s best distinction was the ability to give a unique “look” due to the soft prints, the unpredictable color shifts, and the best of user error. And each and every Polaroid instant print is unique because each print represents that very moment the shot was taken.

SpeedGraphicCam

“Speed Graphic” 2011. A Polaroid print, shot with the Polaroid SX-70 and Impossible instant color film.

The most ironic thing to all of this “ugliness?” Well, since I started shooting film in the 80’s I have seen 35mm film improve year after year with super-sharp films like Fuji Velvia, Kodak Ektar, and a few others. Then you needed to step up to medium format to get even better, sharper images with even less noise. And then, if you wanted to take it further, you had large format film with its superior sharpness, detail, resolution and lack of grain.

All of a sudden, digital photography comes of age in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The cameras and lenses got progressively better and sharper. The images had less and less digital noise, distortion, and we get to cameras and lenses that can take near perfect images in almost any situation, which is where we are at today.

So as a “backlash” to all this progress, we are back to wanting “ugly” 🙂

SamC

“Underdog” 2011. Shot with the Yashica EZ F521 “Digital Holga.” Toy cameras with all their “ugliness” can be lots of fun to use and can produce unique images.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It can be neither or both. It can be a good thing for creativity, for something different. However, it can be a bad thing because it gives everyone a perfectly good excuse to be a sloppy photographer.

Again, I’m not knocking anybody, but trying to understand the evolution of what I’m seeing in photography today. I’m guilty as sin of posting many, many ugly photos! Personally, if an “ugly” photo is done well, it can be a beautiful thing. Some people do it really well. I am not one of them though, but I try 🙂

Butterfly

“GPS” 2010. Shot with the original 2mp iPhone and Hipstamatic.

But to understand why people would throw all this photographic and technical progress away and funk up their photos with beautiful ugliness, there is no answer. All I can think of is that line of the Michael Jackson song…”If they say why, why? Tell ’em that it’s human nature” 🙂

GinSmok1

“Smoke Daddy” 2011. Shot with the original 2mp iPhone and Hipstamatic.

SXCam

“SX” 2011. Shot with the original 2mp iPhone and Hipstamatic.

Note: This is just one man’s view and commentary. I do realize that art is highly subjective. In fact, I used to say myself, “One man’s art is another man’s junk.” 🙂

However, this is about photography more so than art and when “art” begins taking over your photographs, then you’ve got something different from photography. Thanks for stopping by! I do appreciate the time you spent. Thank you.