Q & A: The Camera

A week before I set out on the ride, my beloved Canon A2 camera body broke after seven faithful years of hard use. One of the dials lost its traction and spun freely, rendering the camera useless.

I really didn't have money lying around for a new camera. I had just bought some spendy leather pants, and the details of the trip ahead were all unknowns, including the financials. So, instead of buying a camera equivalent to the A2, I decided to throw down $99 for a cheap, discontinued Rebel body - my logic being that, essentially, a camera body is just a little box that keeps the film dark. I shoot strictly manually and never use the programmed settings.

However, the body is only half the camera; there is the lense, as well, and though I like shooting with a more basic body, I never compromise on a lense. I only took one lense on the trip, my delectable 28-70 f2.8 Canon L Series lense, a lense that still makes me swoon every time I hold it. It is gorgeous; heavy; worthy of being the centerpiece on a dining room table - if I had a dining room table...if I had a dining room.

Anyway, along with being cheap, the Rebel body is extremely light, and with my lense attached, it was totally unbalanced - it felt like I was holding a lense with a growth on the back of it rather than a camera with a lense on it, and it made shooting with one hand impossible. None of this was the end of the world, but it was definitely a nuisance.

It should be noted that everything I have said about camera bodies here pertains to film cameras. I shot film on the trip, not digital. I love film, with a deep, romantic love that will never die. The names alone - Portra VC, TMAX 3200 - make my heart flutter, as does the smell of processing chemicals, the time alone under a dim red light bringing images to life.

But, these things are as foreign in Wyoming as palm trees, and so when I moved here, I began shooting digital. Charlie's early photos were shot with a borrowed Nikon D70, which was a great camera, but I yearned for my sexy Canon lense and recently bought a Canon EOS 30D. It reminds me of my A2 - fewer bells or whistles than the other models, but savvy enough for one to be confident in, and it has a nice heft, creating the perfect balance.


MichaelK said...

I still desperately wish that there were some way to magically transmute my F3HP into a digital.

Digitals just don't have that reassuring heft.

taza said...

just found you serendipitously, whoopee!
i plan to come back and read more later on.
thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

My wife sent me the link of Charlie and I found myself here... I am so jealous.. :)

My wife and I took a road trip in May 2007 that lasted an entire month... coast to coast. It is by far the best thing I have ever done and WY was the most beautiful.

I don't know if I could give up everything I know in the corporate world and move to "the country"... But I love dreaming about it!

Good luck!!!

Brandon(Age 30);)
Charlotte, NC

Retired Blog: http://dempsterfamily.blogspot.com/

Andrew said...



Unknown said...

I have a Canon AE1 that I adore. I would probably cry if anything ever happened to it. It is such an amazing piece of equipment. I also have a small, none-too-sophisticated digital camera that I use because a) my parents gave it to me and b) it's nearly impossible to get anywhere to develop my own film where I am (and I don't trust other developers).

P.S. Found you through one of Dooce's links.

Kevin and Beth said...

I love Charlie, he is amazing beyond belief.I had a beautiful Siberian Husky that was nothing like a regular dog. Really smart, could, she could learn anything. I also had a baby red fox too, I was blessed to be able to be around her and watch her. When she was still tiny she could jump from the floor to the back of the couch with no effort whatsoever.
I'll be reading!

WriterWomanFromWisconsin said...

Hi! I found your blog through mentalfloss.com today and thought I would say hi! I took a solo road trip - not as far, and not on a Vespa, in an Element - and I fell in love with Montana, so I understand your move. :o)

Good luck with everything!

schmelorama said...

Thanks for answering my camera question. i am a film girl too, but it's hard these days to refuse the candy of the instantaneous peek at what you just captured. good luck w/ keeping your film developing muscles toned! catch a snowflake for me, please...

Kyle said...

I found your other blog today and followed your link over here. I must say, I don't know if I could do what you did. (My D300 and lenses definitely couldn't fit, that's for sure.)

Even though you're a Canon girl, I'll keep reading. Thanks for the tales and the pictures.

Unknown said...

Of the numerous things I wish I could say to you, I've resolved to keep this relatively short and voice that you're my hero. At least one of them. Your work in both your writing and photography is simply inspiring, and while things like blogs are generally left to self expression, yours is more than that. Perhaps it was unintentional, but you've become a teacher and a reminder for things many of us forget when it comes to simply living.

I hope you continue blogging and posting your work for a long time, because I'll definitely be reading.

Anonymous said...

K1000 or nuttin'.

Anonymous said...

andrew - L-E-N-S-E is also correct.

Dale Peterson said...

Spell check: The singular form of lenses is lens.

Dindin said...

Hi! i was feeling really down today but when i opened my mail and found charlie's pictures (from cute overload), my spirit got a lift. You have such an inspiring existence...Thank God i found your blog.

TheTwoInNewYork said...

Sweet! I myself have a canon EOS 400D and I love it alot, but I can't take pictures like you.. I'm beginning to think it ain't the camera. ;)

medazzaland said...

One of my listeners to my show (www.thehollywoodpodcast.com) just turned me on to you. My scooter plays a major role in my life and show. Anyway. Can't wait to read more about you and you journeys.

The Hollywood Podcast

Sam said...

My canon got stolen - I was so depressed I swore I'd never get another one.
I have a digital fujifilm E550 and it's practically growing out of my hand now. I hardly ever set it down. (Well, it's sitting in front of my keyboard.)
Love it. But I do miss my canon.

Anonymous said...

Where were your luggage?

ORION said...

I too was a Canon A2 aficionado - underwater I used a nikonos V but now have reluctantly moved to digital. I find it so restrictive in many ways...the instant gratification somewhat makes up for it...

Anonymous said...

I've often contemplated "dropping out" and moving to a remote location.

How did you go about it financially as far as buying the cabin, land, monthly expenses, etc.?

Alessandro Melillo said...

I just fell in love with this Canon:
and I fear that sooner or later I'm gonna buy that!

Have Great holidays Shreve, and a Happy new year.


Anonymous said...

Sweet - A visitor to my set sent me your link. I don't have much time on internet in Africa but I must say I enjoyed your photography and will try to stop in now and again.

I'm riding around the world on a motorcycle. you can check out some nice dunes from Sosselvlei in Namibia right now at : www.worldrider.com

you are quite adventurous. A VESPA! Good god.. well how's it holding up?

Good luck and stay in touch


Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the next post

Anonymous said...


Love your pictures. Tried looking for your lens but couldn't find it on the Canon site. Can you post a link?

It's a God Thing said...

Thank you for this post. I have a love for film cameras also, but got sucked in to the black hole of Now, Now, Now and (seemingly) unlimited # of shots that digital has to offer - so I bought a little dorky Canon PowerShot (I like Canon, too). It might as well have Dora the Explorer printed on the side. AnyWho...I've been contemplating getting a REAL digital camera, but haven't really wanted to take the time to figure out which one. I love your work and your description of old school pictures has me encouraged that our tastes are probably very similar. I think I'll start my research with your new Canon. THANK YOU!!


P.S. I've been a subscriber to The Daily Coyote for a while now and really look forward to his arrival in my inbox periodically. Today I just discovered your Vagabond blog. Dude!!! How awesome are you?!? SF to NYC back to WY?!?!? You are a woman from my neck of the woods! (Not to mention you write exceptionally well and take beautiful pictures of the most beautimous trio of siblings.) Okay...I'm finished stalking you now. ;) Thanks again!

Theresa said...

Thanks for answering my camera and photography questions. I just found this blog while looking at your Daily Coyote website, and I see where you talk about it even more. As soon as I decide which camera to buy, I'll be unstoppable. I've already been without one waaaaay to long! Thanks for your help, as well as the rekindled inspiration!


Anonymous said...

Ahhh, my first love is my Canon A-1, with the 85 mm f1.2L as my primary lens, and a 24 mm f1.4L as a secondary. I also have a 50 mm f3.5 macro that is extra-crispy for those special shots.

Then, Canon went auto-focus, but lied to us! They claimed the post of the back of these lenses would keep them current with new features, but it was all a lie! So, with obsolete lenses that would not work with any current Canon body, I switched to Nikon digital in protest. I now have both the D200 and D300 bodies, with a range of fast lenses . . . not as fast as the Canons, but with digital, it doesn't matter. Now, with all this fancy digital, I find that nothing is as wonderful as that Canon A-1 wet-process film camera!

You and I would have MUCH in common otherwise. I too love the outdoors, animals, gardening, and such. I have a Troy-Bilt horse tiller, a chipper/vac, compost tumblers, and a totally organic garden and orchard.

One thing . . . I'm almost exactly twice your age. It is always refreshing to find anybody who shares the same appreciation of nature, as God intended it to be. The only example I know where man did something to nature without causing severe harm is the twelve miles of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, Colorado. They got that right!

Jim Bob

Danny said...

Awesome job and great photos of your trip! Yeahhh definitely too much info on some aspects. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down!