When I was about fourteen, I got my hands on my grandfather’s old Nikon SLR. I can only assume that my dad had it for years (grandpa died when I was a baby), but I’m really not sure how I wound up with it.

The batteries had long since died by the time I got it. It took two watch batteries, which we didn’t have lying around, so I had some time to read through the manual before I finally got batteries and could actually play with it. It was a lot to try to wrap my head around, with no experience beyond a cheap Kodak 35MM, but I understood the basics and shot a few rolls of film.

I’ve still got some “artsy” shots I did - they’re laughably inane in retrospect, but at fourteen I thought it was the coolest shit ever. More importantly, every shot came out looking better than any other picture I - or anyone I knew - had even taken. All I had seen was blurry, under-lit, off-color shots from regular point-and-shoot cameras, so getting that first roll of film back was like seeing color for the first time. The focus! The colors! The detail! I had never imagined that regular people could produce pictures that looked like a professional took them.

Granted, they didn’t look like a professional took them, and a lot of them were out of focus, but the difference was incredible. I only shot a few rolls on that camera - when you’re only source of income is mowing the neighbor’s lawn, photo development will put a significant dent in your budget, so I put it on a shelf and forgot about it. A few years ago, my brother took the camera and used it for a photo class, and as far as I know he’s still got it. I don’t think he’s used it since, so I could probably get it back from him - thing is, development hasn’t gotten any cheaper.

My dad also had an SLR camera - an old Sears model - that he used once in a while when we were kids. I can’t even remember him taking any pictures; I just remember the tan camera bag that always sat high up on a shelf in our front closet. Last fall, I borrowed it from him for a couple weeks. It had been stored in the garage for several years, so the body was a little moldy, the fibers around the mirror were all dry-rotted, and if I looked closely, I could see tiny spiderweb patterns in the lenses (Mold? Moisture?). I shot a few rolls, a half-dozen shots actually came out, and they all looked like crap.

I mention all of this because the photo bug has been biting lately. I initially borrowed my dad’s camera because, thanks to Flickr, I was seeing more and more really nice photos and I wanted to try my hand at it again. In the past couple months, four friends have gotten digital SLRs - a Nikon D70s, a D80, a Canon Rebel XT and an XTi. They keep coming down in price (as these things will), and Nikon has a whole spread of options (D40, D50, D70, D70s, D80) so they’ve been looking more and more tempting. Granted, I can’t afford a $600 toy right now, but I can think about them without crying about my bank balance.

BP brought his Rebel XTi with him this weekend and let me play with it more than he probably should have. I’ve posted a bunch of pictures from the weekend, including some he shot. I always thought that the auto-focus lens was sort of a cop-out, but you can take nice photos really easily with it and still flip over to manual focus when you want more control. It was convenient in the bar, when we were just taking a bunch of quick shots of people, but also easy to get a little more particular about things.

Now that I’ve actually had the chance to play with a digital SLR for a bit, I want one more than ever. It’s still on the Wishlist of Shit I Won’t Be Able To Afford Until I Finish Paying For College or Maybe Win The Lottery, but sooner or later, I’ll be able to get one.