I will give you three choices; to die forever, to live for a time and return, or to live forever

There are two sorts of people in the world. Those who love Ken Rockwell. Those who hate him. I am in the former group. The reason is simple. I lost my Nikkormat FTN, with its f2.5 105mm lens (gulp), in 1983. My wife, three small children, and I were hiking in a quiet, easy section of the Cathedral Ranges, about 100 kms NE of Melbourne. We stopped for a drink and snack. Two hours later, I reached into my bag to retrieve the camera and yes it was gone. Couldn’t go back to retrieve it, with the weather changing and a 4 hour round trip and 3 small kids and if you’ve been to this part of Australia you know things can go bad if you don’t take care. I think it’s behind the third rock on the left as you round the bend where we stopped, I have never gone back to look. I reckon the camera would still work.

So, after years of taking shots, scanning negatives for the best one to enlarge, taking the B&W film into our bathroom/darkroom and emerging with a masterpiece, I gave it away.

The early years of digital photography whizzed by in a blur. I still maintain my life membership of the Australian Photographic Society, so for years I read the monthly mag with a mixture of amusement and disdain as digital struggled to compete with the Almighty Film, until, until, two years ago I happened on Ken Rockwell and read his entire blog. Hard to explain, you’ve got to look at it. He covers photography in an idiosyncratic way, emphasis on Nikon, with titles like “Your Camera Doesn’t Matter” and he yabbers on that ISO and pixels don’t matter but it’s your head and your imagination and no, zoom lenses don’t really matter, use your feet, and everything he said made sense. His camera and lens reviews are written in spoken English, if you know what I mean. So I bought the cheapest digital SLR, a Nikon D40. Hey, it was terrific. Now I have moved up to the D7000 and I set it up just like Ken and I do everything he says. There is no BS on his site. No long words. It’s all good. Perfect? Nearly. I would like a second opinion on his colour vision as he might, just might, over-saturate the settings, but I love him.

And he comes from La Jolla, California. I visited the Scripps Clinic, Division of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, when I was a young Fellow in the specialty, and walked the streets of La Jolla in amazement, having flown in a light plane from LA to San Diego along the coast. La Jolla alone would be a photographer’s dream.

The original native Americans who lived there, and still do, are the Kumeyaay. Some of their traditional narratives are translated, here is one courtesy of Constance Goddard Du Bois, about the creator who realises that things might not go so well for humans, they could die, so he tells them: “I want to know what you wish to do, and I will give you three choices; to die forever, to live for a time and return, or to live forever.” Some of the people said, “We want to die now forever.” Others said, “We want to live for a time and return.” Others said, “We want to live forever.” So they talked and they talked, and they did not know what to do.Then the fly came and said, “Oh, you men, what are you talking so much about? Tell him you want to die forever.” So they talked and they talked very much, and they made this choice, to die and to be done with life, and to die forever. This is the reason the fly rubs his hands together. He is begging forgiveness of the people for these words.”

I reckon Ken could grab a great macro shot of that fly, just the right exposure to display a faint movement of the fly’s hands, with the fly’s eye in superb focus, background blurred with terrific bokeh effect…

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