Long, long, LONG ago, my Dad gave me a brand new Pentax K1000 with a 50mm lens and some film for my 16th birthday. Little did he know what he’d done. It’s nearly 30 years (well, I have a few left before we get to 30) later and I’m still in love with photography.
Thank you, Dad.
I loved (indeed I still love) that camera. It went with me everywhere for several years. Now it has entered semi-retirement and sits on a shelf behind my desk at home, waiting. Every once in awhile I’ll feel the urge and will put a roll of film through it. It still makes great images.
One particular late afternoon, my friends Dennis and Charlene and I walked out to Pillar Point Harbor’s north jetty. It was a beautiful afternoon, so we turned north and walked up to the end of the beach. It was the late 80s and we lived in Half Moon Bay – what can I say, there wasn’t much to do. Dennis and Charlene, now married for twenty-plus years and still some of my favorite people, stood around with me on the beach and then the rocks, joking and laughing, watching as the sun set. Dennis mugged it up for the camera as he usually did whenever I took a photo of him, even taking the opportunity to chase some gulls down the beach, flapping his arms as he ran.
I ran across the photos from that day a few weeks ago and they brought me back to that day and made me chuckle. I remember the light and the sound of the surf and the feel of the salty breeze on my face as we walked up the beach. They are just a few photographs stowed in a box under another box, but they brought back many happy memories. Memories of that time in my life when I lived on the coast with my Dad and brother and when things were simpler and slower paced. Before my Dad died and everything changed. It was a good stretch of years.
Since then I’ve grown up. Lost my parents. Moved away. Got married, had two great kids, got divorced. Moved back to the Bay Area and started over. I still love my hometown and, although it has changed a great deal since I left, I love visiting and seeing the familiar places where things happened when I was a younger man.
This week I took the drive over to the coast after work. I made the same walk from the same parking lot where Den, Char and I parked (probably in her blue Chevy stepside pickup). This time, I had a different camera. I had different reasons for being there. It was a different sunset. This time, I was alone, but even so they were with me. I smiled when I looked over at the rock where Den had stood with his hands in his back pockets, looking out to sea as the sun set on that afternoon long ago.
That’s why photography is important to me. It’s tangible evidence that I was there. That I saw. That I felt. That I mattered.