My history with cameras goes back quite a few years to my junior high school days.
If I’m doing my mental math right, I think my fascination with them started when I was 12 years old and began going to Outlook High School. At the time, you could sign out a video camera from the library for a night, or if you timed it right and opted to sign it out on a Friday afternoon, then you had it for the entire weekend. What a score that was. If you had plenty of blank VHS tapes, you had free reign and the possibilities were endless.
I can remember making little stop-motion animation clips and staging full-blown wrestling matches with my younger brother, and even scribbling out a “script” and shooting a news program with a few friends.
Later, our school class assignments allowed my friends and I to get creative and we would typically decide to make video projects. We were certainly no Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg, but we were having fun and flexing some creative muscles, which didn’t go unnoticed by our teachers and more often than not produced some solid grades and fair praise for going “outside the box” when approaching the assignment.
By the time I’d approached my last few months of high school, I had my own video camera that was almost glued to my hand the way everyone’s smartphone is glued to theirs today. I remember grabbing it from my locker one day in April when it was announced over the intercom that students needed to get out of the school immediately because someone had called in a bomb threat. I knew I just had to document the moment.
Looking back on it now, was my past trying to foreshadow my future career…?
A few years later, when I did find myself at The Outlook, I became acquainted with the Nikon DSLR camera that’s still here to this day. I believe it’s a 2002 model, and it’s been here longer than all three of us. It’s my go-to camera for sports like track & field, football and basketball. Aside from that, I’ve had a trusty little Canon Powershot ELPH 300 for nine years that’s never left my side. All those great landscape and sunset shots you may have seen on my Facebook page, Derek Ruttle Photography? That’s the work of my four-inch little buddy. It’s been over the border with me, across the West Coast and back, taken pics with a handful of celebs, and helped capture life in this part of the world.
But it’s time for it to retire.
This past Sunday, I brought home a brand-new camera, a Canon Powershot SX70 HS. It’s something of a hybrid between a point-and-shoot and a pro-grade DSLR. I knew the model I wanted, I did the research and read the reviews, and I wasn’t taking no for an answer and settling on something else.
I’m looking forward to learning all the ins and outs of my new camera gear. My oh my, the eye-grabbing landscapes, vistas, and scenery that this bad boy’s gonna capture!
But when I do go out and start setting up that perfect shot, what am I going to see? The world’s changed a lot since I was a kid. We’re in the midst of a viral pandemic and walking on eggshells in the hope that we’ll finally turn that one corner that spells the eventual end of this unprecedented time in our lives. If that’s not enough, violence and racial divisions are rocking the world, especially after the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
So, when I start to frame that shot, what am I seeing? Am I seeing through the eyes of a Canon or a cannon? Joy, happiness, and fulfillment, or sadness, despair, and darkness? Is it truly up to me as the guy behind the lens, or will forces collaborate to paint a picture of a world more fragile than ever right now? Maybe it’s both, at least for the time being.
To this day, I have a few handfuls of photos from 20+ years ago that captured a time in my life where the world wasn’t quite so dark to me yet. I can’t say I was all that innocent in my teen years – my friends and I know where some bodies are buried, so to speak – but we were still technically kids and there was still a decent blanket of vulnerability and naivety over us. I pull those old photos out from time to time, or else I bring them up on my Facebook page since I’d managed to scan them digitally about a decade ago. I look at them and smile.
These days, I don’t know what my camera will capture from one day to the next. That’s always been par for the course in this job, but in the world we live in right now, I’m split between *wanting* to capture the good and the uplifting, but *knowing* there’s always the chance of capturing the bad and the melancholy.
I’m trying really hard these days to make sure it’s not the latter.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.