My first big oops

Camera vs bicycle

Or, camera vs bicycle.

I was such a cool dude. Not only had I bought a proper SLR, but I had a neat rangefinder compact as my carrying-around camera. It may have lacked that expensive red dot on the front, but it was like a good camera (bad pun, but work with me here).

I had read everything I could find on people like Don McCullin and seen his battered cameras surviving bullets and worse. So my little rangefinder could live in my messenger bag. With a bit of luck the black paint might wear and show some brass on the corners. Then people would know I was an experienced photographer.

So the messenger bag went on the rear carrier of my bicycle. It was full of books and binders, and made a nice flat load. Except for the little camera. This wiggled itself into a drooping scrotum of canvas that brushed the spokes and was drawn into the gap between the wheel and the stay supporting the rear carrier.  Those skinny little wire spokes wiped the lens right off the front of the camera body.

This was the first and last time I had insurance on a camera. The small amount of money I got back went towards an Olympus XA2. This had a sliding cover over the lens – no fool me; I wasn’t going to get caught the same way twice. There is a saying though that if you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans. Or a certain duck I was coming to know.

I was on holiday with friends. We were at the seaside. The waves were fantastic – crashing into the sea wall and occaionally spraying up over the promenade. Dave and I leant over the wall – Dave to look, me to get a photo of the waves and spray. Just as we leant over, there was a deep booming noise below us. That would be the wave that climbed the wall and hit us so hard we got salt water up our noses.

The poor Olympus was flooded. I believe I got one picture of Dave with it, then rewound the film and tried to get it dried out. I was nearly succesful: the electronics continued to work, the lens was clean and I seemed to have escaped the touch of the duck. Until I lent the camera to my parents. They mentioned an odd cracking noise when my mum tried to move the focus lever, which then moved freely up and down. The brass thread that focused the lens had seized with salt water, and the little arm and pin that turned the lens to focus it snapped under the strain.

I did what any misguided idiot would have done and tried to repair it. The camera came apart easily enough and a wee dribble of WD40 freed the focus thread. Careful work with a piece of alloy from a beer can and a dab of Araldite made a new focusing arm. But it didn’t really work very well and the (infamous) shutter button began to play up.

It’s replacement was an Olympus XA – the proper one with rangefinder focusing. I still have it and I have beeen very happy with it. I have avoided feeding it into moving machinery and generally kept it away from water. You will be pleased to learn though that this was not the last camera I flooded, but more anon.

What’s it all about?

Shoot back
Not me, by the way, but the spirit of curiousity lives in us all.

and why Fup Duck?

Well, if my mum asks, it’s because I’m a film-using photographer.

So, I’ve been taking photographs for a while now. Film faded, digital came along, then film rose again. I’ve had access to cameras since I was quite young: my mum gave the family camera for a school trip to France and was horrified when I came back with pictures of waste bins. I have owned, destroyed, swapped and sold a range of photographic gear. It’s an interest (OK, a hobby) that has never left me.

In all this time I am largely self taught. As in I have never done any formal study or been on a course. The library and various magazines were my friends as I explored fail-space vigorously. Every time I would try something, Fup Duck was peering over my shoulder. Each time I did something horribly wrong, I knew I had Fup Duck.

But while Fup Duck was my frequent foe, the duck was a good teacher if you listened. But you had to listen to yourself, as ducks can’t talk (although you can often hear them laughing). So every time I opened the camera back or the developing tank to see a smiling Fup Duck, I would try to think what I’d done wrong so that I could avoid doing it again. Unless I meant to do it, in which case I called it art.

So hereinafter are the tales of Fup Duck.

I hope you enjoy them and possibly avoid the ones you haven’t experienced yet.


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