Budding Writer, 1979: A decent photographer

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This sunset is over easy on April 16, 2023, in North Hero, Vermont. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Although the same isn’t true of all journalists — especially broadcasters who must meet morning deadlines or those who work for afternoon newspapers — I found that the life of a weekly newspaper reporter fit nicely into my night-owl nature.

…Another late morning. … The better part of the afternoon and evening were spent at the Journal Opinion writing two stories on Fairlee — so I’m glad they pushed me to check up on the Zoning Board meeting (even if the article sucked.) The evening was pleasantly spent with Tom, Nanci and Robert at the J-O and in chatting with the selectmen in Fairlee. The article was a bitch because I still don’t have enough background material and have to struggle when reporting on working meetings.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed working + trading quips with the office staff. I was especially pleased when they decided to use 2 of my photos — and gave me a print of my picture of [two friends]. I think I’ll get that blown up. I’m proud — I’m becoming a decent photographer, too!

Journal, Volume II
16 April 1979

Much of the late-night cycle was a hangover, so to speak, from my college days, so it was easy to carry it into a professional life. In local journalism, most meetings a reporter covers take place at night. On a weekly or daily with late enough deadlines, that meant you could cover a meeting, go back to the office, then go home.

The magic of editing and layout would be done while you were brushing your teeth and fluffing your pillow, and the story would appear the next morning.

Ironically, that’s changing even as journalists get better tools to do their work faster. Newspapers and their print shops have fewer employees, most of whom expect “normal” work hours. Few newspapers still have their own presses. That means their press runs are queued with those of other newspapers, and consequently the deadlines are earlier. The days of reading about late-night meetings or breaking news the next morning are pretty much over.

As for being a “pretty good photographer,” I think the camera I was still learning to use was a Nikon FE single-lens reflex that I bought at a New York City camera shop around Christmas. It was probably the one that froze on me while covering the Playboy protest in February. I was still learning how to use it then.

The FE had two lenses — one for regular use and one for more distant (though not quite telephoto). My favorite feature was an automatic mode that adjusted the shutter speed according to the lighting conditions. I was, and still am, a complete idiot about camera settings, and needed something that I wouldn’t have to fiddle with while on assignment.

The FE is in our attic somewhere. Years later, when I became a family man, I bought a Milolta Maxxum SPxi, which had more automated features and flexibility. I still have that one; in fact, it has an ancient roll of film inside. I probably ought to check that out.

Hmm … maybe it’s time to try to get this roll developed. It’s been in the camera since … when? By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
My trusty Milolta Maxxum SPxi got me through my dual roles as family photographer and news reporter until we entered the digital age. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Eventually this family man was burning through a lot of film (and developing costs). A brick-shaped digital point-and-shoot got me through a few more years, before I switched to a Panasonic Lumix F28. I still have that and use it occasionally, but today most of my photos (and probably yours) are shot on a cellphone. Mine is an iPhone 13.

Nowadays, a budding young reporter (or a veteran one) can carry around the camera, darkroom, and video camera in a pocket and use the same device to file stories instantaneously. That ends the late-night cycles — and leaves more time for a real life.

2 thoughts on “Budding Writer, 1979: A decent photographer

  1. Geo says, “Ah, but is it possible to get that ancient film developed?” Celeste, jaw agape, says, “Howard covered Playboy?” Roll that camera film!

    1. Hi, Celeste. I have had developers process ancient film but usually it doesn’t come out very well. I may try anyway.
      But it won’t be Playboy quality material. That film is from my family man days. And even in ’79, I didn’t get a chance to cover Playboy (and certainly not the shoot!). I did, however, cover a protest on the Dartmouth Green in which there were no scantily clad women (or men) because it was -15 degrees F.

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