Amazing what you find at flea markets!


Recently I visited my family retreat, in a tiny village in north Devon, with my girlfriend and parents in tow.  It’s usually a very relaxing and low-key affair on the coast and a very slow pace of life with loads of pubs to visit or in some cases stagger in and out of.  You get the general idea…

On a lovely stroll into the village my sometimes annoying urge to want to take pictures materialised.  I had promised Vicki that I’d leave the Nikon at home in London, this time.  She is a photographer too but is somehow able to switch off photography mode when she’s away, and so she should…but if only I could. Conversation during this stroll was in other arenas, like going and buying an ice-cream or stuffing our faces with some freshly caught fish (with chips of course).

Suddenly, I thought, totally out of the blue of my first ever camera that my dad had bought me when I was around 14.  It was an Olympus OM10 and he had really gone to town and got me the manual adapter for it and a motor drive as well as numerous lenses.  He had taken me on a summer holiday to Tintagel, in Cornwall, and I guess that’s where I first learned, by trial and error, how to use an SLR camera.  I remember going to the castle in Tintagel overlooking the swirling and violent sea crashing against Merlin’s Cave.  Below on a rock climb down you could visit where according to legend the wizard supposedly hung out.

It must have been something in the air – maybe it was, being on the northern coast of the West Country perhaps.  I wanted a camera like that again and said to Vicki, as we walked towards the fish & chippie, how I wished I still had a 35mm film camera to bring to places like this and take arty shots of fishermen and their boats and Martin Parr-esque pictures of old ladies with their socks and sandals sitting on the stone wall eating ice cream.  I could almost feel Vicki’s eyes roll upwards.

There’s something about shooting on film with an older camera that seems more authentic and in some respects makes you feel more like a genuine photographer. Yes I obviously have to shoot digitally when I’m working, you have to move with the times, but that doesn’t mean I can’t shoot film when I’m being a hobbyist.

I had sold that Olympus OM10 maybe nine or ten years ago when I put the money towards a Canon EOS 1N in my university days, as I needed a pro camera that would be able to shoot sport.  I was shooting Premier League football at weekends in Southampton for a fanzine and wanted to look the part in front of all the other wire agency snappers.  It seemed the right thing to do at the time as I was a broke student and needed the cash…I could have got a job I suppose!!

Back in Devon, as we worked our way, around the various gift shops and one-off artist stores, along the street across the road from the sea wall, we came across a small flea market.  I always like rummaging through these places; yes most of it is junk but every so often you discover a little gem.  There is one in the Brighton Lanes where you find very valuable items indeed but being in Brighton, the hub of all things trendy, people cotton on to what’s valuable.  In places like this you could in all likelihood find a first edition Superman comic from 1938 that could sell for $1m, as happened in the States last year.  Nobody would know it.

I asked the shop keeper if he had any cameras.  He pointed, I walked.

Lo and behold, sat almost gleaming and in pristine order was, miraculously, an Olympus OM10!!!  Vicki and I looked at each other in disbelief.  The camera I was thinking about just minutes ago, craving to have in my hand, was now sitting in front of me.  What are the chances?

I picked it up and inspected it.  It looked okay, but it surely wouldn’t work, would it?  The shop owner, realising my interest, came over with cradled arms worth of accessories to accompany the camera that I guess had been stored out back.  Included in this bundle he had two more lenses for the camera.  He placed it all down in front of me.  I had to buy it, I know a bargain when I see one.

DL: How much do you want for this camera.

Shop keeper: I dunno…a fiver…?

DL: What about the other lenses to go with it?

Shop keeper:  I tell you what son, they’ve been sitting here ages, you can have the whole lot for a tenner.  I’ve also got some other bits and bobs you can have here too.  Here ya go….

He handed me a Tesco carrier bag full of all kinds of odds and ends; including a miniature tripod, a weird kaleidoscope-style filter, a couple of unknown made auto focus lenses and  an Olympus flash.  What a stroke of luck (or coincidence)that just minutes after walking and talking about this camera to Vicki and how much I missed having it, I would own one again!!

Once I inserted a roll of Fuji 36 Exp I soon realised, out of habit from many years working digitally, it didn’t have a viewing screen on the back to check the exposure…it was then I realised how lazy a digital photographer I’d become!!!


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