I was in the market for a camera as I was looking to make use of the digital Mastin Lab film presets to bring my digital images closer to the way I wanted them to look (like film) and I was also considering a digital full frame that could shoot in demanding circumstances. The type of work I had been doing and the type of demands asked of me made me consider a camera upgrade. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Leica and my Pentax 645 and Pentax digital cameras but there was a gap that needed to be filled in my line-up. In all honesty, I could probably use any camera to take a photograph but in practice I have found that some tools are much better than others when it comes to certain assignments.
After some meandering and considering of various cameras (Fuji X Series? Nikon? Wait for the Pentax Full Frame? Other mirrorless?), I found myself at Beau Photo and fell upon the Canon cameras. As I was considering the 5D (we had rented one for a photoshoot at Whytecliff Park), I was looking for one in good condition (still am) but my eye caught this big chunk of a camera sitting in the back of the other Canon cameras. Closer inspection revealed it to be a Canon 1D Mark II N in very good condition and the price was within what I was looking for too. As I investigated it closer for any major scuff marks, the gentleman at Beau noted that the dirt marks on the grip may have been from “her using the camera on the ground”. Her? Ground?
When I happily took the camera home, I looked into the box and found a little note on one of the spare focusing screens. It was a pink little sticky that had the name “Roberta” on it and a number. At this point, I came to a realization that I was very intrigued about all the evidence mounting and became ever more curious about who the previous owner was. At this point, all I knew was that she was a woman, used the camera on the ground (probably for wildlife) and her name was Roberta. Would she think I was weird for calling her up or contacting her?
Through some “googling” of things, I found a website (www.neverspook.com) called “Never Spook The Animals Wildlife Photography” and found a photographer named Roberta Olenick. I sent her an email explaining that I may have purchased her camera. After a few brief email exchanges, we decided to meet up and met for the first time at a local Starbucks.
Roberta Olenick is a wildlife photographer and has a great respect and passion for nature and animals. Her images of wildlife exude a sense of playfulness and character. The animals look alive and active and interesting. She shared many stories about the camera and also about her experiences and adventures. Prior to this, we had a brief email exchange:
As part of an email, I wrote: “ Thank you for the kind words on my work. I have seen your work on the website and they are amazingly good nature photos! They have such character and I feel like the animals are very much like people :) “
She wrote: “Interesting that you feel like the animals in my images are much like people because when I was looking at your images of people, I was thinking your people were much like animals. Your people were often doing interesting things as though they did not know they were being watched and that natural behaviour is exactly what I try to capture with the wildlife I photograph. A lot of people photos don’t have that ‘wildlife’ quality, but many of yours do.”
As first, I thought that this was a strange comment to make but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense and I realized exactly what she meant.
As my friend Neil, a fellow photog focusing on bird photography (Instagram: njdav), and I sat at the table at Starbucks with Roberta, we learned that the camera had “seen” many things. With a shutter count of about 61,000 frames, this was Roberta’s first digital camera (after previously using film to photograph nature) and it had been in various places in Canada from Vancouver to Newfoundland and on extended stints in Colorado. The camera and Roberta had witnessed bears and their cubs, playful foxes, birds of various types and many other amazing animals. She explained that she would often try to get up at “first light” to get the best images.
“As for what the camera has seen … that would be almost exclusively wildlife and a few landscapes, almost never people. So it is seeing very different things now than it did with me. It was an excellent camera for me as well. If I recall correctly, I used the MkIIN from 2006 when I went digital to around 2009 or so,” she wrote in an email.
Roberta is a spunky and social person and very friendly and very open to telling the stories of her experiences, adventures and her thoughts. She explained that she had two rescue cats (which she pointed out in our emails after seeing my own blog post on my own rescue cat) who are now respectively 12 years and 15 years old.
Little did I expect that I would gain a friend out of purchasing this camera. If anything, it has been very enlightening to learn where this camera has been and to give it a second life as a documentary and wedding camera. In the same way that the camera had seen the story of a vast plethora of nature’s animals, I am hoping it will capture the story of the many, many people in this world.
Technical Note: The Canon 1D Mark IIN is actually an APS-H sensor (with a 1.3 crop factor, so it's a crop camera but not as cropped as your usual APS-C DSLR. So I didn't get a full frame camera per se but I find APS-H is more than good enough thus far).