JoziFolk - images of everyday life in South Africa

Resuscitating an Old Friend

October 9, 2014


It's funny how quick we are to toss out something that, just a few years ago, was the state-of-the-art and that brought joy and wonder to us when we got it.
 Last week I lunched with a keen, amateur, photographer who regularly produces work that is the equivalent of that of any professional photographer. He is a successful businessman, at the top of his profession (not even remotely related to photography) and has the financial means to own and use the best and latest photographic equipment. And there is no doubt, his work reflects the quality of his chosen tools and his considerable skill.
 I, on the other hand, am not as financially flush and often wish I'd listened to my father and got myself a "real job" instead of going into journalism. (Just kidding!). While I have no regrets about the path my life has followed - where else would I get to go on military operations on a submarine and interview and photograph presidents, guerrilla leaders, thieves, murderers, prostitutes and everyone in between? - I do wish it was more lucrative.
 So I cannot upgrade my cameras and must use what I have.

Earned me a living

 Many years ago I bought a used Nikon D70 that earned me a living and produced countless photographs published in a variety of magazines. It also faithfully worked and brought home the bacon at weddings and other events. 
 By no means Nikon's top-line camera at the time, it still offered some amazing features that are still right up there today. For example, the built-in flash can be fired at shutter speeds up to 1/500th of a second and, if you use off-camera flashes, you can take flash pictures at 1/4000th of a second. And that's not with some fancy Nikon-only flash unit!
 To my knowledge, no new-generation camera can do that.
 The D70 offered a modest resolution of six megapixels that, by today's standards is miniscule but I have a print in my lounge, shot with that camera, that is 90cm (36 inches) wide and shows no pixellation whatsoever. How is that possible? I took the original file to a commercial (not photo) printer, as they regularly have to up-rez images for banners, billboards etc. They produced a larger digital file that I then took to a specialist photo printer.
 At the time, many newspapers still happily used Nikon's ancient flagship D1, a camera offering all of 2,7 megapixels!
 The rear screen of the D70 is about the size of a postage stamp and awkward to use but, at the time it was released, it was the same as everything else and we knew no better and just got on and did the job.

CHA Error

 But then my D70 started playing up. The dreaded "CHA" error appeared on the LCD screen. In the meantime I'd spent much time reading reviews of new cameras and quickly convinced myself I needed to dump this piece of old, outdated junk. 
 Overnight, the camera that had delighted me when I bought it, suddenly in my mind, and the minds of the experts who only a couple of years before had glowingly praised it, became useless.
 I never bothered to see if my faithful companion could be repaired. What was the point? It was old and useless! So I stuck it into the far reaches of a cupboard, forgot about it and bought something more modern.
 You may be wondering this is going.
 A couple of weeks ago, while sorting through that particular cupboard, I came across the forgotten D70 and, as I held it, memories came flooding back. It reminded me of wonderful times we'd had together and adventures shared.
 I remembered how easy fill-in flash was with it and soon got to wondering whether my old friend could be repaired. To cut a long story short, the answer was "yes" and I was able to do the repair myself. I discovered one of the pins that engaged with the Compact Flash Card was bent and, after a bit of digging around with a jeweller's screwdriver, managed to straighten it and all was fine.
 I've been using the D70 over the past few weeks. Not exclusively but rather tailoring it to situations where it operates within its limits.
 There is no doubt, camera technology has moved on dramatically in the almost 10 years since Nikon launched the D70. The ability of today's cameras to handle poorly-lit situations is a universe away. To be honest, the ancient D70 is a "well-lit-scene", ISO 200, camera and even then, if you under-expose in the shadows, noise is obvious.
 But so what!? Just get the exposure right. Back in the film days we loaded our cameras with one particular speed of film and worked with that.
 My resuscitated Nikon D70 is certainly capable of producing high-quality images and will become another arrow in my photographic quiver. I'll use it in dodgy areas, where theft is a possibility.
 It's an old friend and, as I grow older, I increasingly value lasting relationships. I hope we're going to be together for a long time to come!
 
Some images I shot with the D70

 

Sometimes you just have to be optimistic

October 6, 2014
 A couple of days ago, as I roamed the streets of Johannesburg in search of subjects and stories, I came upon a group of young black men.
 It appeared they were having a picnic which is not something you see every day. These guys were all youngsters, I don't think any of them is older than about 22.
 I stopped to chat - something just six months ago I would never have contemplated doing. You see, back then I'd have figured we'd have nothing to talk about. After all, where would a middle-aged, c...
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About Me


Hilton Hamann Hi! I am Hilton Hamann. For almost three decades, I've photographed and written about fleeting moments, big and small, in South African history. I first picked up a camera while still at school when I started working for the local newspaper in Springs. After a stint in the army and Angola, I returned to the newspaper. In 1982 I joined the Sunday Times, South Africa's largest newspaper, where I became the Pretoria Bureau Chief and military correspondent and primarily covered unrest in the townships and military operations in Namibia and Angola. In 1986 I left the Sunday Times to pursue a freelance career and my work - through London-based photo and news agencies, Camera Press and Planet Syndication - appeared in hundreds of publications in over 55 countries. These included, London Sunday Times, Penthouse, International Defense Review, Janes Defence, News of the World and dozens more. South African publications included: Fairlady, Independent, Johannesburg Star, Living Africa, Sawubona, De Kat, Insig, City Press and Sunday Times. In 2002, my work with UNITA in Angola, resulted in winning a Finalist Award in the Mondi Magazine Awards Competition, South Africa's most prestigious journalism and photojournalism competition. I am also the author of four books, including the best-seller, "Days of the Generals - the story of South Africa's Apartheid-era military Generals" that is now in its 8th reprint and is included in the US Library of Congress. I have photographed, guerrillas, presidents, film stars, captains of industry, criminals and common people.

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