Family: Grandpa taking the kids to the hot spring

Follow me

Being a Grandparent gives you a lot of options. The involvement level you embody with your Grandchildren can range from a distant old curmudgeon to “one of the kids”. You aren’t required to do anything, it’s all voluntary.

In this photograph Grandpa Smith demonstrates the willingness of a guy trying to be “one of the kids”.

He is leading an expedition to a hot springs on the banks of the rowdy Salmon River in central Idaho. In the photograph he is visibly nervous. The reason for this  is not only because he just hiked up a menacing granite rock face with children but because the dark stripe on the rock is caked with the most slippery algea known to man. It’s scientific name is “super duper slippus”. They found out about the algea after they were already up there. It was too late to go back. One misstep and it would be the roughest waterslide in the US. 

They all made it to the hot springs OK and only a couple of them cried for fear on their descent.

Why didn’t I go up there? Who else would take the photograph? You’re welcome.


Photo tips, technical information and philosophical droppings

The Rolleiflex was set to Sunny 16. 1/125 at f16. Portra 160nc film

As a younger photographer I dreamt of the all the cool photo gear that was out there for me to try. I’d study the work of other photographers and ask one question: I wonder which camera/lens/film/developer/paper/frame he used to do this photograph? I was fixated upon the “how”. It was so much fun. Camera gear is attractive. Ever heard of the term “camera porn”? Camera porn is photography of sexy camera gear.

I am still attracted to the 50mm f1.0, the Canon eos 1ds mk IV, the Leica M9 and so forth. I am attracted but I also chuckle inside because I have owned every camera that I could possibly want at one time or another and have found one truth with them: They are a fools paradise. They offer fringe benefits. Most exotic gear is useful only on exotic occaisions.

When I graduated from Brooks I purchased the coolest camera known to man, the Nikon f5. It was advertised as “the camera from the future”. It posessed lightning fast autofocus, 7 frames per second, solid construction, shutter speeds up to 1/8000 and customizable features. Opening the glossy, black boxes labeled NIKON was transcendant. I nearly cried.

I practically slept with that camera, I enthusastically photographed with it. I was in love. After the first month, our honeymoon, I discovered problems in our relationship. It was heavy, like a clay brick. The autofocus was loud and it focused on the central point in the viewfinder, that was annoying. I caught myself looking at my trusty Pentax Spotmatic from time to time. The spotmatic had three lenses a 50mm a 24mm and a 135mm. It was lightweight, small and the lenses rendered a softness that was very easy on the eye.

I stopped using the Nikon and went back to the Pentax. I eventually sold the system on Ebay to an excited Texan. Ebay is amazing, no?

It was like this for years. Buy a new camera, sell it, try this, try that. Every serious photographer needs to wade through the river of equipment to find their own way. Every photographer has a vision and matching the right camera to their vision takes time and effort.

I’ve not purchased any camera equipment since 2007. It feels great to be comfortable with that part of my career. It’s much cheaper too.

-Jon Ball is a portrait photographer living in Boise, Idaho. His portraits can be found at Thank you for reading photo tips.


  1. Jon,
    I can relate to your comment about looking for the “how” in photography. Sadly and with some disappointment, at the end of my exciting quest for the great specific photography secrets, thinking I would learn about new amazing techniques or lenses, I get the top of the hill and the oracle is sitting there with a laptop doing post processing using CS4. But is it sad? Sometimes I look at photography as a dreamy art. And art is not just beautiful, amazing or attractive because of the final output, but because of the technique, pain, sweat, or knowledge it to achieve it?
    Is it “sad” that what was once an art (difficult, cumbersome, less people were willing to go through the pains to achieve it) is now something that most anyone can do with a computer program? What do you think?

    What got me thinking about that were these images, by the way.

    Maybe these pictures were a combination of great photography and post processing techniques. Maybe that is the balance.

  2. I’m not so sure about your statement:

    Is it “sad” that what was once an art (difficult, cumbersome, less people were willing to go through the pains to achieve it) is now something that most anyone can do with a computer program.

    It is true that is it easier to produce now as apposed to standing in the darkroom for hours on end but it has always been difficult to produce great art. Digital technology only makes the fine adjustments easier.

    The conception and execution of fine art is as tricky as ever. No computer can seek quality content and photograph it with sensitivity. Relying on Photoshop to make your photography great is a slippery slope. Photoshop can either make a great photograph greater or a bad photograph only decent.

    The amount of photography online is staggering and most of it is rubbish. Be careful what you study because filling your head with images of mediocre imagery will do nothing but deterioate your own vision. I don’t poke around much online. I mostly look at books, especially fine photographic monographs. Those people had to labor over the images and edit down to the very best. Most (90% or greater) of the images that I love are not online. At least not readily. They are socked away in great photography books and museums.

    I looked at the images you linked to. Interesting stuff. That person has a distinct vision.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s