Grandpa’s Girl

My Grandfather was one heck of a man. A giant from a bygone era. Born in the 1920’s, he grew up in the Great Depression, where he learned a lesson he passed on to me. Whether or not you like your job doesn’t always matter. What matters is that you provide.

He fought in World War 2 in the Pacific Theater, working as an aerial surveyor for the Army Air Corp. In his military career, he earned the rank of Colonel. After he came home from the war, he became a police office with the New York Police Department. In his time there, be worked his way to the rank of Captain, before deciding to pursue a less dangerous roll in law enforcement.

He helped a major university establish a brand new law enforcement program, worked with banks to tighten their security, wrote a book, and earned a Master’s Degree. All while raising a family of three children and providing for his wife.

When I came into his life, him and Grandma were living in Southern Oregon, in a beautiful home right on the banks of the Rogue River. He drove an awesome old Ford F-250 from the 1970’s, had a garden shed every young boy should have access too, fished almost every day, and photographed birds.

He loved birds. Especially Canadian Geese. In Oregon, they’re a year round site, especially if you live near water. Grandpa used to love taking tons of pictures of his favorite birds. He also just loved to take pictures. He was never really an artist, he just wanted memories. There are boxes upon boxes of Kodachrome slides full of memories he captured with cameras over the years. Most of them are long gone. Except for one. His Canon AE-1.

This was his last camera. After grandpa had his stroke in the early 2000’s, he gave my dad his Canon. Photography wasn’t even a blip on my radar, and dad didn’t really have the time, but grandpa wanted dad to have it and, knowing him, he knew it would eventually come down to me.

And for a day, I got to carry her around Glen Helen Nature Reserve in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

I was a little worried about using the old girl, because the AE-1 is either full manual, or shutter priority. I don’t understand shutter priority, so I decided to use full manual mode. This has never worked well for me in the past, but hey, no risk no reward, right?

Using the camera was actually a blast. Being in full control of the process, selecting a shutter speed and then working with aperture to get the right expose really made me think about what I was doing, and much to my surprise and chagrin, some of my best pictures from the trip to Glen Helen came from Grandpa’s AE-1.

Not all is smiles and joy, however. The camera does have some quirks. For starters, like all Japanese cameras from the 1970’s, the foam light seals are pretty much gone. And the ASA dial has a tendency… No, a consistent desire, to change almost every time you wind to the next shot of film. So you have to constantly check your ASA/ISO after every single shot to make sure you’re not shooting at 400 with a 200 speed roll.

Other than those problems, the camera is a joy to use. A great size and weight, very attractive looks and a stupidly good 50mm Canon lens make for a great time photographing whatever it is you want to photograph.

So without anymore words, here’s the shots from my Grandpa’s Canon AE-1. Shot using a Canon 50mm f/1.8 FD lens, no filter, on Kodak’s (freakishly good) Color Plus film.

Thanks, Grandpa. You picked a good one.


Gotta have a beauty shot.













The Odd Couple. My Nikon F4E with Grandpa’s AE-1. Shot by another odd ball, my Olympus OM-2.




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