The Great Spotted Woodpecker

In the good old days of analogue photography you were extra careful not to waste an exposure, especially when you were young and always short of money. My first camera was a Praktica MTL-5, a robust East German Single Lens Reflex camera of good quality.

I bought it second hand from a Navy Pastor who had just bought a brand new camera with much better and electronic options as he was a keen photographer. But just as happy as he was with his new camera, so was I with the still perfect old one he sold me for a more than fair price, it was a bargain for a seventeen year old boy.

The Praktica was used for years until I got other things to do like joining the army where a camera was not allowed but I kept it safely in a wooden chest in my bedroom at my parents house along with other treasures. But before I joined the ranks in green I had a good year to practice with the camera and I got quite good at it. Now as I had a special interest in nature I took the camera with me into the woods near the place where I grew up in Swampyland to see if I could take a sharp picture of a bird.

Now this camera only had a 50 mm lens on it so you had to get really close to the subject if you wanted it to be visible after development and it had to be a really sharp picture. So you had to be good in sneaking up on birds sitting in a tree without stepping on a dry branch and be really quiet.

Photography was a form of art in those years, each exposure had to be just right and you had to consider a lot of variables such as diaphragm and depth, light source and strength and more. And with birds you had to adjust all those things manually within a second or else the subject would have flown away before you’d had a chance to pus the button. And even pushing the button was an art in itself as it was heavy and made the picture fuzzy if not done properly.

Of course my picture of that Great Spotted Woodpecker didn’t turn out right, you could hardly tell it even was a bird. So after paying for development of 24 exposures that photograph ended up in the bin.

Today I had to think of this again when I went to the same woods where I took that hazy picture and had at least five great Spotted Woodpeckers to choose from with my camera. The best of five is shown below, still not my best picture and slightly hazy but I’m not going to throw it in the bin. It will stimulate me to go back there again and do it right.

I still have that old Praktica by the way, there’s a film inside. I might take it with me on my next trip there.