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Out of Spec

I would guess that every serious photographer I know paid considerably more for his camera than I. At $175 (mail order) even in 1974 that was a bargain, but it wasn’t out of necessity although typical high-end view cameras would cost north of $1,000. Why this one?

This camera was a Horseman sold by the mail-order house Calumet and was common in photography classrooms. Why did I choose it?

Often photographers choose so called “field cameras,” beautifully crafted light-weight compact wooden jewels. I bought one once to take to England where I was having an exhibit. After a day or so of shooting, I called my associate, Michael Conrad, and had him Fedex the rig you see here to England.

There are many features and capabilities of view cameras, and sometimes they work at cross purposes or do not really give what they promise. This camera weighs 7 pounds. A field camera would be half that, that there is a bit more I needed to carry as you can see from the beat up rig above. Leaving out the small accessories they are: 1. 5 lenses; 2. 15 film holders; 3. a bellows lens shade; 4. dark cloth and then the odds and ends.

Then there must be something to carry it in and this is a deal breaker or maker. The usual shoulder bag is a problem: hard on all of your body (besides your shoulder) because it is unwieldly and unbalanced. Putting a cameera case on a pack frame puts the weight either on your shoulders or your hips and you can easily switch. And once you snap the lid, one quick swing and you are off. The only other equipent that really matters is a set of lenses.

The choice of camera involved several factors. The rail had to be long enough for a 300 mm lens, which a field camera could not accomodate; a recessed lens board would permit use of a wide angle 75 mm lens, so no swaping of rails of adding extensions wes necessary. The usual bag bellows for large swings and tilts was unnecessary since I was not sooting archecture. Then it was rugged, it would take a beating and I could keep shooting.

Finally there was a feature I loved: the rotating back. Instead of removing the back and rotating it 90°, the back could be rotated to any angle.

I did eventually wear out my first one and replaced it with a barely used new one. I still have the camera and if I could move well enough to shoot.... Well the world has really changed and despite some limitations I have switched to digital and love it. There is no comparison in image quality. And the price of film is right.

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Engineer to Photographer

As I write this in March 2019 and age 77, I spend a great deal of time thinking about how I got here: an MIT engineer with three degrees in electrical engineering, plus a 23 year career in engineering and marketing at Bose Corporation. I was Bose Corporation's fifth employee.

I had only the slightest hint at a child that the larger part of my life would be spent in photography. My father had brought home a 4x5 press camera when I was eight, and I spent some days trying to sync the flash to the shutter with no luck, if I remember correctly. For the next 20 years or so I dabbled in photography, mostly black and white.

Also at eight years old I began classical piano lessens and that was to strongly shape my life and continues to do so this day. Photography only started to take a serious hold in my early thirties. Instead piano lead to a love of classiczl music and in my teens an intense interest in high-fidelity music systems.

I think my father's profession as an engineer rubbed off and I built a fairly elaborate electronics lab so I could build my high fidelity music system. This was a common hobby in the 1950s and when I started thinking about college it seemed natural to take up electrical engineering. I was accepted at three fine schools but there was no choice as far as my father was concerned. "MIT is the best school; you're going to MIT."

MIT was a bit intimidating, but my electronics hobby set me up fairly well. When as a sophmore I walked into my first EE lab I said :"I'm Home." I lettered my lab book in india ink and got an A+. Later labs were not so easy.

Prof. Amar Bose taught the first course in electrical engineering in 1960. It was his first time teaching and my first EE course. He was a fabulous teacher, demanding but understanding. He give us as much time we needed to do our last hour exam so nerves did not interfere with our test results.

I kept up with my black and white photography using the student darkroom. It was fun and a good diversion. I did well enough to be admitted to graduate school, but not at all sure of a direction. Hi-Fi music systems did not seem an appropriate career for an MIT engineer so for my masters degree I followed a professor I had liked into solid state phycis.

This did not work out well. My experimental thesis topic turned into a theoretical one so my love of lab work was wasted. And I simply found the subject not interesting and squandered study time building hi-fi amplifiers.

Fortunately the first ephiphiny of my life struck: "Why don't you do what you love to do." There was one faculty member I knew was working in music systems and that was Amar Bose, and so I knocked on his door. It was the best choice I could have made in the country if not the world. MIT offered a course called "Special Studies in Electrical Engineering" which meant anything you could get a professor to give you a grade on. Dr. Bose took me to his lab and it was an even stronger reaction of coming home, and it was the beginning of the rest of my life.

I finished all course work and exams for a PhD. Then I realized that it would be 2 to 3 more years to do a dissertation and after seven years, it hit me like a brick that that would be more than I could do. I told Dr. Bose and within seconds he said “Would you like a job.” After a bit a pondering I became the 5th employee of Bose Corporation.

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