Adventures of a father and a photographer. Tales about the mystery and excitement of family travel.

torstai 31. elokuuta 2017

Bad Ass Photographer


Years ago, I got a chance to visit Florida. The local brass band was invited to the Finlandia days at Fort Lauderdale. It was a festival organized by the Finnish immigrants to celebrate their Finnish roots. Unfortunately, the band had no money for such a trip and the members had to pay for their own flights and accommodation. I was on my first year at the university and had no money as you probably can imagine. I somehow managed to get the money together and was able to go with the band. It was once in a lifetime opportunity anyway!

Being a young man, in my opinion I was the best photographer in the whole wide world. Oh yes, I had the SLR and two lenses, too! For the younger readers: before digital cameras were invented, the system was called SLR. Mine was the Olympus OM-10, a legend of it's time. And the lenses were an old Soligor 35mm f2.8 and my precious, the Vivitar 100-300mm f5 zoom lens. To carry all that stuff, I had a huge old aluminium camera bag.

All right, to carry that kind of equipment to the other side of the world, a sturdy camera case seems like a good idea. But nobody told that even in February, to a Finn, the climate in Florida is hot! There was 20 centimeters snow in the ground when we left and when we got out of the plane, the air temperature was nearly 30 degrees Celsius! But because I was the soon-to-be Steve McCurry, I carried the beast all over Florida with me without complaining. Only sweating heavily.

Otherwise the trip went beautifully. Sometimes I was even able to use the bloody bag as a seat when the others had to stand. The gig at the festival went great. We saw lots of places I had only dreamed about: the Disney World, Kennedy Space Center and so on. And I took so many rolls of photos I was wondering what I'm going to eat when I get back home. For the younger generation: film was expensive and developing it costed even more money.

After two weeks in the warmth, it was time to get back. We had a stopover at the JFK airport in New York. It was a domestic flight from Miami to New York and the friendly wings of Finnair would take us back home. But before you can go into a plane going abroad, you have to go through a security checkpoint, right?

The lady at the security desk put my huge camera bag through the x-ray machine. Her face quickly changed from friendly to grim. She pulled the bag back and ran it through the machine again. Then she turned to me and asked: Excuse me, but what is that? She was pointing at the zoom lens.

This was one of my first trips abroad and I hadn't used English that much. I was very, very nervous. The shear thought of the security control was making my knees shake and now the officer was asking me questions in a foreign language. I managed to mumble: It... it's a camera lens.

She looked me and then the lens with a pondering look. She looked back at me and grabbed her radio. I heard her say: Charlie, could you come over here? At the other side of the hall, a door opened and the biggest security guard I have ever seen walked to the counter. For what I could see, he had a gun and all. At this point the great travel photographer was almost fainting.

The big, big guard asked me to open the camera bag. I opened it with shaking hands and sweat pouring in my back. I must have been the most suspicious looking traveler of the day. The security officer by the counter asked the man: Charlie, do you think that's a camera lens? Beside the counter I was nodding like a maniac. Charlie was thinking for a while which seemed to last just about three hours to me. Then he said: Mm.

At that point the first officer said to me: Ok, you can go. You have never seen a skinny Finnish boy carry a huge aluminium camera bag to the check-in so fast.

Olympus OM-10

A couple of words of my first SLR camera body. The Olympus OM-10 was a very popular camera back in the 20th century. It was not too big, reasonably priced and still a very good camera body. Before the digital era started, I carried it to the US, Egypt, Australia and many other places. That camera taught me the basics of the photography. In good and in bad. I still have two of those and I wish I could use them again. Maybe I'll go back to film some day and get them out of the showcase.

You can read more about the camera here.

PS. I wish I had some photos of the Florida trip to share. Unfortunately, I don't have a film scanner. That's why I used a photo from Disneyland Paris. Just add some palm trees yourself.

PS.2. If you want to see the work of Steve McCurry, please check out his Artsy.net page.
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