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Repnow: Intro to world of photography

By Staff | Aug 29, 2014

How many parenting patterns have you repeated in your home? I lost track in the nine years with Lydia. Earlier this year, one pattern that made a vivid memory for me 43 years ago was repeated – purchasing your child’s first camera.

Unlike me, Lydia very seldom used our cameras. However, when we moved into smart phone mode, she quickly caught on to the camera function. Before I knew it, there were photos of me bending over the kitchen trash can or sleeping with my mouth open. She has enjoyed taking equally flattering pictures of Jan – such as a snap taken after she finished mowing the lawn on a hot day.

With this bit of fun, however, did come some learning and that made me smile. Lydia quickly realized that often cell phone photos were simply terrible and this motivated her to want a real camera. I wasted no time in passing on that photography has become, in a rather quiet and unassuming way, a major influence in our lives. With books, ads, magazines and television, photography dominates a large portion of our visual world and entertainment. Not to mention the role it plays in education and information services. Photography has also become one of our most popular and accessible hobbies. It is enjoyed equally by both men and women, providing a satisfying means of recording and preserving our most memorable experiences. On her ninth birthday, Lydia received a bright blue Canon digital camera. She was excited to take the camera for the first time on her third-grade field trip to the Turtle Mountains. Her images include friends and one very nicely composed scenic.

Memories of my mom explaining and showing me what makes a good photograph quickly came back to me. Back then, I used her camera. It was a bit more expensive as film (remember that?) was used to expose each photo, and several of my first attempts were not good. Her first lesson on photography still remains strong with me today. She explained the difference between a snap shot and good photograph is usually just a little extra thought and care. The image of me rolling out the cookie dough is the perfect example of her eye. She had the ability to see a photograph, and often had her camera handy.

For my 11th birthday I received my first camera from my parents. It was a Kodak Instamatic 44, which featured a manual knob instead of the usual lever to advance the film. Little did this knob know that it would end up having more turns on it than the paddlewheel of the Minnie H. It could use color, black and white, or slide film. It retailed for a mere $9.95. A very cool feature was the automatic advancing of the flashcube during winding, which proved to be very handy when I captured a few photos of my brothers darting about our Underwood home in their undies! Nothing like a bit of overexposure to calm the hotshots. So draw your own conclusions on Lydia’s mischievous photo snapping.

I took to heart my Mom’s advice about extra thought when taking a photo, and it was for this very reason I actually did not take my first photograph with this camera until August of that year. Each summer day I kept thinking about what would be my first photo. I wanted it to have fine composition, impressive lighting, and meaningful subject matter. Finally I discovered the image while riding in the car on the way to swim lessons in Riverdale. It was in a beautiful golden wheat field south of the Underwood Cemetery on land farmed by Gary and Doreen Miller. Gary’s black and white International Harvester pickup with the red fuel tank in back was parked in a swathed field of perfection, beneath a serene sky which was painted with white-shadowed plump clouds. Upon returning from swimming, I took my camera and walked north of home. I captured a common harvest scene. In a sense, it was an intro to “depth of field!”

I wasted no time in taking the other 11 photos needed to finish the roll of film, and then it was processed at Evander’s Rexall Drug Store. I am sure employees, Carol Oie, Larry Evander and Agnes Berg were tired of me asking if my pictures were in. The pictures from this 126 film were processed so that the customer received two photos – one which was a 3 x 3 and the other being 2 x 2 . As I opened the packet, the harvest field was first and it was simply beautiful. In time, I went on to study professional photography, and as I view this photo today, it still proves a point. Good photographs clarify, emphasize and dramatize the essence of the subject while capturing a moment in time. It also reminds me that thoughtful and keen waiting help develop our ability of selecting viewpoints that achieve simplicity by subduing distracting elements that nearly always exist. Now that is advice beyond picture perfect!

Often I am asked for tips on taking better pictures. Here is a list with helpful hints for traditional, digital and even cell phone photography.

1. Realize that the most necessary ingredient in any photo is light. Watch it and study it in different times of the day. Learn to control it.

2. Look your subject in the eye. Stoop for children, use a ladder for tall folks. The light of eyes makes the striking image come alive.

3. Use the rule of thirds for composition. Watch where horizontal and vertical lines meet. This is often an excellent subject placement.

4. Avoid bright sun as it causes people to squint and it will create deep facial shadows.

5. Move in on your subject and be amazed at the details.

6. Look for the unexpected viewpoint. It is one of the qualities that makes “wow” images.

7. Always be sure to hold the camera steady. Jittery hands cause blur.

8. Learn to use natural light, reflective light and back lighting to add warmth and interest.

9. Study composition, line, form, pattern and color. Use these elements to enhance images.

10. Remember the most creative element is the person holding the camera. Use your imagination.

This recipe comes from Hilda Rothmann, Doreen Miller-Radke’s mother. Hilda and her husband, Jacob, had a farm at Washburn, which was crowned with a great view of the river. Even in the dark of winter, the outlook and light were most cheerful. My dad often made farm service calls and all of us sons knew that when he asked us along, it usually meant that we would be in for a home-baked treat at the kitchen table. This was certainly true at the Rothmann home; she not only had cookies, but German prune strudel.

Many years later I asked Hilda for her strudel recipe. It was most delicious and a fine way to greet any coffee hour. Growing up in a Scandinavian home, the fare often included stewed prunes and other cooked fruits, which are glorious solo, but when combined with bread and frosting can remove the deepest gloom. Please meet one of the best dessert treasures I know.

German Prune Strudel

This is exactly how Hilda presented it to me!

Work 4 cups of flour, 1 cup shortening, 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp salt all together. Then add 2 pkgs. of Fleischman’s yeast dissolved in cup warm water with 1 tsp sugar added. Work into soft dough and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, divide into four parts; roll out to inch thickness and spread with sweetened stewed and mashed prunes. Fold both sides towards the middle, let raise 1 1/2 hours or so. Bake on a cookie sheet. If too long, form into a horse shoe and bake in a 375 degree oven until golden in color. When cool, frost with powdered sugar frosting and sprinkle with chopped nuts; then cut into bars.

How I stew prunes:

1 1/2 cup prunes

1 cup cold water

cup orange juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

A touch of cinnamon

If time allows, soak prunes in cold water for a couple of hours then add orange juice, brown sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes or until soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. When cool, mash with fork.

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