End of the year. And one item on my list of things to do was looking through a box of the late Carl Schuppel's cherished camera gear. Several cool finds including two rolls of film still sitting unexposed in two camera bodies. And then, there at the bottom of the bin was his Nikon FM. An old camera. Easy to pass over. I'm not even sure what Schup used it for...or when. But then I remember what I used mine for...
...it was 1979 and I was trying to decide between steady money working in a machine shop or taking a chance that I could make a living as a part time newspaper photographer. Always follow the heart. Decision made, I sold my Chrysler Conqueror boat, scoring enough money to pay off my car. And..and... had enough left over to buy a new Nikon FM camera and a 105mm lens.
As years went by, my assignments at the Northwestern grew, and so did my passion for photography. Everywhere I went, my FM went with me. Throughout the years I learned little tricks...like metering off the grass and knowing the correct exposure would be the bottom two meter lights. And thanks to help from a young Omro businessman named Jeff Kemp, thinking I was really cool because I bought a motor drive for the camera.
It was manual exposure. Manual focus. About as basic as it comes. And as basic of a camera that it was, I learned. And my skill and portfolio grew.
I brought that camera to EAA when I started there in 1984. I used it for some of my early air to air missions, but realized technology was moving forward and there were not only better, but better suited to use in an air to air environment. The evolution of Canon cameras kept me on the cutting edge of technology. By the time I retired my Canon 1V as my last film camera I had forgotten about that little FM.
As the digital revolution continues, I occasionally look back at the "old days" when we had to limit ourselves to 36 frames before reloading. And seldom shot above ISO 400 because of the film grain. Today, my Canon 1D Mark 4 is as good as it gets. But every now and then I'll glance at Schup's FM, now sitting in my office, and remember where it all started. And smile.