If you like reading, below you will find my little story.
In the late sixties, when I was about 10 years old, I received the first camera as a gift, an Agfa ISO-RAPID I, that still keeps working. Who knows why, I immediately started to photograph animals: dogs, rabbits, hens. The results were not amazing. The 42.5mm lens with a fixed aperture of 8.5 and a shutter capable of two times: 1/40 second for clouded weather and flash and 1/80 second for sunny weather, everything fixed-focus, were not ideal for that kind of photographs. Also, getting too close to the subjects, as long as the latter were in agreement, the focus was lacking.
About optic physics and photographic technique I knew very little at that age, so I stayed with my doubts. I wondered how they could make some beautiful photographs that appeared on books and magazines, ignoring that the cameras, the lenses and the films are not all the same and that there were so many essential accessories for a photographer. It was thus that the disease remained in incubation for more than ten years and only broke out violently in the early 1980s.
In the meantime I had acquired my little experience in the observation of wild animals and their behavior. I come from families who have practiced hunting since immemorial time, by hobby or by necessity. My father was a hunter and I learned many things from him, first of all that you should not always shoot, but only without fail, when the target is well in sight, at a useful distance and knowing where other hunting people and dogs are. Otherwise it is better to give up. An injured animal suffers needlessly and can be lost. In addition, ammunition costs money.
Carefully observing the surrounding scenario is a good rule for photography as well. We do not find unwanted subjects in the shots and even the films, like ammunition, have their own cost. I must confess that those rules, sometimes, have cheated me. I lost some nice pictures for not having fired a burst, but it is stronger than me, I prefer to calculate before, even if sometimes I make the wrong calculations. Being able to take a good picture by shooting at random is more about the camera than the photographer.
My maternal grandfather, a mountain man who had fought the First World War in the Alpine artillery, carrying cannons up and down the mountains, hunted to give his family the protein of meat, at that time very scarce. In the breaks of hard work in the alpine forests, he patrolled the territory in search of traces of animals. He had learned to distinguish the male and female excrement of the mountain hare and therefore the areas frequented by one and the other. He hunted exclusively the male, because the female would have generated the offspring to hunt the following year. Grandpa knew so many things!
I never liked seeing the animals killed, but I must have something in my DNA about hunting. Or it is only the curiosity to know how they are and how they live the animals with which humanity is losing touch.
The diffusion of magazines and television programs on nature and the environment awakens my passion for photography after twenty years of age. I also wanted to document, record, archive and show to others what I had only observed until then. I could also afford to spend a little more money and that was how the first of a long series of SLR cameras arrived, The Praktica MTL5, a 35mm SLR made in East Germany by Pentacon between 1983 and 1985. I have kept that too. With the camera came the “bazooka” Pentacon 500 mm f 5.6, a telephoto weighing 3.5 kg and about 50 cm long. An arquebus not easy to carry in the backpack along with other junk, especially in the mountains on difficult terrain. Sometimes I remembered the grandfather who carried cannons up and down the mountains in the snow.
Despite the physical exertions and the often unsatisfactory results due to weight, size and poor handling of the equipment, strictly without autofocus, it was at that time that I enjoyed it more. Probably the age and the pioneering spirit have had their importance. In those years destiny introduced me to a dear friend, Baldovino Midali, from whom I learned many things about nature and photography and today we continue to exchange ideas, information and advice. I must say, unfortunately, that in the last years Baldovino will transmit me the virus of videography, which will further complicate my existence.
Baldovino, besides being very nice and expansive, is a very particular person. He is a baker by trade. He has an innate talent in interpreting the behavior of animals, especially birds, and an acute sensitivity to the problems of nature, environment and humanity. He has the good fortune to live in a mountain area with an ecosystem still intact, but this is not enough to explain the excellent results of his work as a photographer, videographer and documentary maker. It is applied a lot in the study of fauna and flora as well as in photo and video shooting techniques and is good in social and professional relations. He spends many hours in observation and as many in a camouflage tent waiting for the right moment, often in prohibitive weather and environmental conditions. It remains a mystery how he manages to carry on his primary work as well: churn out every morning of good fresh bread for its customers. Because Baldovino, in making bread, puts the same passion he puts into making documentaries on nature.
The MTL 5 was followed by two other Praktica, the BC1 and the BX20, until the choice to opt for something more technological. In those years the Canon EOS 50E, the younger sister of the vice-flagship EOS 5, arrived on the market. The EOS 50E introduced an enhanced version of the 3-zone eye-controlled autofocus system that was first seen on the EOS 5 camera. That system was able to focus on the subject that was in the portion of the viewfinder to which the pupil of the eye looked. For my experience it was a very evolved, fast and fairly precise system. Very useful to keep the subject in focus when you want to put it in a decentralized position of the frame.
However, with the advent of the digital age, that technology has not been further developed. Probably I will be wrong, but I suppose it was of military derivation and perhaps the movements of the pupil were controlled by something not too healthy for the eye.
The EOS 50E wanted a companion worthy of her, so she divorced from the 75-300 zoom and chose the Canon EF 100-400mm f / 4.5-5.6 L IS USM zoom, which is the telephoto lens I’m using to date.
2003 was a shocking year for various reasons and the scenario changes completely with the arrival of the first consumer SLR with the digital sensor instead of the film.
The Canon EOS 300D was a significant milestone in digital cameras. For me the time when I spent more money on film than in cameras was over. The era in which I immediately saw the result without having to wait for the processing of the film had begun. If I was wrong, I could cancel and redo the job immediately. If the light changed, it was no longer necessary to change the film. Finally, in that epochal novelty and in the binomial digital camera-computer, I saw another positive aspect: a return to the past, to black and white, to the camera obscura and then to the possibility of modifying, correcting and adapting a photograph in post-production, unthinkable thing with color slides without going through the scanner with a loss of quality.
Some time ago we tried to produce some photographic and video material on the effects of guns (slow motion, etc.). We started using a semi-automatic AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle.
After overheating the rifle barrel and spending several tens of dollars in ammunition, we have scaled down our project. Stopping the Kalashnikov’s bullets is not that easy.