My Next Camera: Etseri, Svaneti

A simultaneous pair of misfortunes has caused me to change the way I think about my photography again lately.

First, some history. The first camera I ever used was a Kodak Instamatic shooting 126 film, which came in sealed canisters; this was 1978, and I was 11 years old. We had recently moved back from Rhodesia to Canada and were doing an almighty road trip west from Ontario to Vancouver Island, camping as we went, as we were wont. C’mon, beach sunsets are easy! There’s a framed 16 by 20 inch blow-up of one of my frames from that summer waiting for me back in Canada, to lug it back to Georgia sometime: My First Print.

My dad bought himself a Minolta 35mm SLR (film, of course) in the 1980s, along with several lenses; all manual focus. I used it every chance I got. There are several rolls of film I developed and printed from while I was at high school, including one of colour slides, the rest being much easier black and white.

Then Dad bought me my own 35mm film camera and a 50mm standard lens for my 16th birthday, a Yashica; it took not only its own lenses but also the far superior, unaffordably so, Contax ones. Onwards! There was no stopping me. When a friend and I set off on mountain bikes to tour the world in the summer of 1989, I used this camera when reporting for my local town newspaper of our adventures. I still had it, along with a short-range zoom, when I shot the events of August 19, 1991 in Moscow, USSR. I now have hundreds of 35mm rolls to scan, at 20 megapixels. And Dad’s own old kit, when he switched to point and shoot.

It was only in August 2008 that my great friend and photographic mentor in the UK, NWB, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, selling me his old Canon EOS 450D (digital), an 18-55 kit lens, case, extra batteries, and a hefty Photoshop manual for photographers... all for Ј100. I would’ve been crazy to turn that down, right? So I didn’t. After a winter in Ushguli shooting film, my second winter there was the time of virtually unbridled freedom. I never filled up the 4 GB card in a day, which would have taken more than 400 frames of 10 megapixels to do. At day’s end, simply save to laptop and start editing. NO dust and scratches to clean up! I still have the film kit, but have not used it once since.

Now... this spring, the EOS started giving me a new error message and refusing to shoot. I googled the error, of course, and discovered that it may have multiple sources, and may not be repairable. But at 10 megapixels, I figure it’s time to get a newer, much higher resolution body, and still be able to use the same lenses, which are great quality. I’ve had it for seven years, and it was old when I bought it. As a stopgap, I’ve been using my wife’s 16 megapixel compact, but I bet you never noticed, did you? Even though it only shoots jpeg files, not RAW, if you know what that means.

Also, I lost my cheap cellphone, a gift from Samsung from my Imedis Gmirebi TV shoot of late 2013, and needed to replace that. I went with a Nokia Lumia 520, which at least has a 5 megapixel camera and shoots 720 pixel video into the bargain. Not my first phone with a camera, but not bad.

Thing is, I’ve also found and downloaded three programs for this thing to do special types of photography, after researching what was best in the freeware category. One does HDR (high dynamic range), one shoots time lapse videos, and one stitches together panoramas. Cool! This is new. My EOS could to none of these things automatically at all, although I have laptop programs to do them from what I shot with it.

So, while I wait and amass funds to buy the new EOS body, which won’t be cheap, I’m realizing that there need be few limits to what I can still shoot. Photography is changing faster than one can keep up with on a normal budget, but one can still manage with what one has.

The photos are that First Print from 1978, and yesterday’s first phone camera HDR shot out the back window.

Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1000 members, at .

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

Tony Hanmer

25 June 2015 22:53