Snapshots do not pretend to be objects of fine art. They are primarily evidence artifacts we shoot in order to prove that we have done something or have gone somewhere. In the case of vacation snapshots, we take them in order to share our amazing, happy experiences with others and to keep as souvenirs for posterity.
We see our own vacation pictures in a much different light than those that have been shot by other people. Anyone who sat through travelogue slide shows, in the past, knows the presentations could get boring, quickly. Much the same is true, now in the digital era, with images posted to social media. We look at our own vacation pictures with wonderment and feelings of nostalgia; our acquaintences flip through them quickly, if they bother at all.
As Photograph Month draws to an end, soon, I decided to rummage through a couple of boxes of old vacation snapshots that were never placed into photo albums. Some are extra duplicates that didn’t get sent to friends. Some were just weeded out because they were extraneous.
All of today’s images were taken on inexpensive, hand-held, film cameras that seem very quaint by today’s standards. There is a lack of sharp, crisp focus due to the limitations of unsophisticated lenses and the graininess of photographic film and papers. However, these images have aged reasonably well. I think they have some small bit of artistic merit. Most of these were shot, simply as experience evidence so that I could look at them in later years in fond remembrance. Well, those years are dawning right now.
I was eleven years old when I got my very first “real” camera as a birthday present. It was a basic “Ansco Cadet” roll-film camera that required 127 size film. There was only enough film on a roll for twelve exposures, so I had to be very choosy and careful about each photo. I also had to pay for development and printing out of my own pocket.
I still had that Ansco camera when I was 15-years-old and our family drove to Yellowstone National Park. I don’t remember the circumstances around the picture of the black bear, but it looks like the stereotypical snapshot people take when wildlife is sighted along the side of a road. I’m glad that the month and year of the photo’s printing is stamped on the edge of the snapshot, because I failed to record any technical data on the back of the picture. It reads, “JUL 68”.
Many years later, I visited Yellowstone frequently. By 1991, I had a Canon Sure Shot point and shoot camera to take along on trips so I didn’t have to lug around my SLR and a bag full of gear. During a hike, that summer, I came across a shallow stream and decided to capture it. The image was shot on Kodacolor ASA 100 negative film and processed at a “Fox Photo” outlet.
The Golden Gate Bridge is the world’s most photographed bridge, and is also one of my favorite subjects. The western view of the bridge was shot on Kodacolor ASA 200 negative film with the Sure Shot set on “panorama” mode. It was developed and printed at a local Walgreen’s photo department.
Several years ago, a friend and I rendezvoused in Mumbai, India. We took a southbound train to Karnataka State to meet our Tibetan Monk friends at Sera Je Monastery. This was when travelling light was a very smart choice. Yet, I wished I had brought my SLR in order to capture the amazing sights of India. The Sure Shot was a reasonable compromise because of the difficulties of journeying through that country.
I wanted to capture a view of a residential building on the monastery grounds and aimed upwards. At the moment the shutter clicked, a kite appeared in the frame. The bird is what makes the snapshot noteworthy. This is the building where His Holiness the Dalai Lama stays during his visits to Sera Je.
The film was getting short in the Sure Shot so I tried to get as much into a frame as possible. There were many fascinating artifacts inside the Golden Temple at the same monastery. In the foreground is the dais that is used by the Dalai Lama when he teaches at the monastery. A very large Shakyamuni Buddha statue overlooks the spacious room. I noticed the portrait of His Holiness later, after I got home and had the film developed. Both of the monastery pictures were shot on Fujifilm 200 then processed and printed at the Norfolk, Nebraska Walgreen’s photo department.
During one of my visits to Los Angeles, I decided to hike through Griffith Park. I brought along my trusty Sure Shot in order to take some views of the city. I stayed past sunset and found an amazing vista of L.A. at night, but I didn’t have a tripod. I improvised by placing the camera on the top of a stinking garbage can. As steadily as possible, I squeezed off a few exposures. Only one of them didn’t suffer from camera shake. The photo was shot on Ektachrome ASA 100 slide film and was sent in to a Kodak processing location for development.
I hope my pictures have inspired you to raid your own vacation snapshots stash, too.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes professional photographer Terry Richardson. “I like using snapshot cameras because they’re idiot-proof. I have bad eyesight, and I’m no good at focusing big cameras.”