I had the occasion this week to reminisce again. I guess that when you get to a certain age, one does that more frequently.
Earlier in the week, I was engaged in a discussion regarding a frequent topic in our office. I again made known my intense dislike for all big box-type stores. My frequent target is Walmart. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the people who work there. My disgust is with the very concept of the big box stores.
To me, in spite of the alleged convenience and, yes, the lower prices, they are a perfect example of what America is not about ... or at least, used to be not about.
America used to be about encouraging free-thinking and an entrepreneurial attitude. "Mom & Pop" stores, "family-owned" stores, those were American.
Communal stores with prices dictated by a small group are, to me, a socialist-type establishment found in a Communist country.
A number of the big-box retailers have, in the past, specifically indicated their desire to put small, family-owned-for-decades stores out of business. They wanted to be the only game in town.
I was reminded of what a great loss small businesses are again this week.
I needed to take photos this week in a poorly-lighted courtroom. I decided to use a lens that I purchased at BK Photo, in Troy, many years ago. It was a Nikon 135mm f2.0 lens. It has no auto focus ability. It is just a great lens for low light.
I ended up with that lens because as a younger photographer, I would do like many photographers and photo enthusiasts alike would do on Saturdays. I would head to downtown Troy to BK Photo.
BK Photo manager Sonny Fulks knew that I had been looking for a fast lens for football and basketball. He had just taken the lens in on trade and made a point to let me know that he had a great used lens that would fit my needs.
I purchased the lens and used it for a number of years, until auto-focus technology saw to it that the lens found its way out of my camera bag.
That type of service, someone who works at a small specialty store looking out for a customer, is sadly lacking in today's world.
First of all, if you walk into any place that sells cameras today and even ask them about a specific product that is not on their shelf, they will not know what you are talking about.
Another thing that I see is that many of today's camera enthusiasts are far less capable photographers than they believe themselves to be. Digital technology is partly to blame, for aspiring photographers and even a fair number of so-called "professional" photographers think that using Kentucky windage to zero-in on the proper exposure is acceptable.
In the "old days," we had another advantage that today's shooters do not. When we took our film to a store such as BK Photo, experienced experts were behind the counter. They would never hesitate to go through photos with a customer and offer constructive criticism and advice for making the next roll of pictures better.
You cannot fix something if you don't know that it is broken and you cannot improve your photography without someone who knows what they are talking about giving advice on how to make improvements.
I'm sorry, but you are not going to find that sort of help at a Wal Mart or Meijer. The technicians there know how to operate the equipment they have and their sales staff knows how to repeat the sales pitch they were taught about cameras they have in stock ... and that is just about all.
The other place that people look for advice is on the Internet. Just who are you getting photo tips from? Many of the bloggers and self-proclaimed experts that I see on the Internet have less real experience than those they are offering advice.
I miss the old days. It is true that I could not shop for groceries or household items at BK Photo. I don't ever recall seeing that as a disadvantage.
I do believe that a good part of what I am today as as photographer is due to assistance, advice and even some constructive criticism that I received years ago from Roy Baker and Sonny Fulks at one of those family-owned specialty stores that monster establishments like Wal Mart drive out of business.