My Precious

My most precious gift

Nikon F by Nikon
My Father
Marshall vs Xavier
We are...Marshall
My precious Nikon F
The Jill-B.
Barge on the Ohio
Dragging cable
Staten Island Ferry 1973
Old Woman's pose

My most precious equipment is my old Nikon- F fitted with a Nikkor 24mm f2.8 prime lens. A gift from my father, it is the first SLR I ever owned and has exposed thousands of rolls of film. It is the tool with which I learned how to see and has been my constant companion for over 30 years.

It was with me, a fledgling yearbook photographer, on the sidelines in Huntington, West Virginia when Marshall University's Young Thundering Herd beat Xavier in the final seconds of their first home game of the 1971 season. The victory came less than a year after the tragic plane crash that took the lives of seventy-five team members, townspeople and airline crew.

It was with me on a foggy morning on the Ohio River aboard a towboat named the Jill-B where the crew showed me how hard river work can be. The images from that day remind me how dangerous it felt out in the water when the fog was so thick you couldn't see the shoreline. The towboat crew switching massive empty barges for ones filled with tons of scrap iron using eyes of radar for guidance. To this day I remember it as my best single day shoot.

It has taken thousands of portraits of people whose names I can't remember, but whose faces I will never forget. A little girl with her prized pet turkey. A workman taking a break on the Staten Island ferry. An old woman posing with pride on her newly swept wooden sidewalk.

The images of my sons and daughter, family reunions, graduations, wedding anniversaries and family trips were trusted to it.

Kodak no longer makes the 35mm aluminum cans which were taped to the strap long ago to hold extra film. The paint on the 24mm's focus ring has worn down to the brass from the times I've touched it. I know the sound of the mirror flop as well as I know the beat of my own heart. I know the action of its controls more in my hands than I do in my head. I have held it so many times it has become an extension of me. It has never failed me.

The true reason I hold this camera in such high regard is that it was my father's investment in something in me that no one else saw. A gift allowing me to explore and develop my creativity through a glass lens. A gift that has been and will continue to be a passion for the rest of my life. A gift that has provided a lifetime of wonder and inexhaustible pleasure. But, most of all, it showed my father's love and trust. I will always keep it. It is beyond precious to me.

18 responses

  • Joerg Schlagheck

    Joerg Schlagheck gave props (11 Jul 2009):

    Love this story!

  • Jim Thomas

    Jim Thomas gave props (11 Jul 2009):

    Great story! I love this camera and this lens too. Fantastic!

  • eithne mythen

    eithne mythen gave props (13 Jul 2009):

    Wonderful touching story, love the essay , the shots and your wonderful Dad...

  • Lori D'Ambrosio

    Lori D'Ambrosio gave props (13 Jul 2009):

    Thank you, Lew for your most inspiring story. I still have my Nikon F and have been shooting about as long as you have, You have inspired me to bring it out of storage and perhaps I will shoot some film.

  • Penny Nannini

    Penny Nannini   gave props (17 Jul 2009):

    very touching story Lew.

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham (Deleted) gave props (18 Jul 2009):

    This is a fantastic story. Very moving. You are so blessed to have found your passion so young and to have someone support you in it. I have a strong feeling I would like your father.

  • Marco Martinez

    Marco Martinez gave props (19 Jul 2009):

    Wonderful story. Reading it, I felt how highly you regard the trust your fater put into you and how grateful you feel. It was very touching and well-written.

  • Kevin Kabuki

    Kevin Kabuki gave props (23 Jul 2009):

    Yeah. There it is. I can relate.

  • D. Treiber

    D. Treiber gave props (28 Jul 2009):

    Engaging and emotive. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

  • Mary Brown

    Mary Brown gave props (11 Aug 2009):

    What a moving tribute to both your father and your camera. Very well-written!

  • Katherine Nak

    Katherine Nak   gave props (8 Jun 2011):

    Fabulous story, touching and from the heart. The photo tells a thousand words. Thank you!

  • Yaz Hawkins

    Yaz Hawkins gave props (22 Feb 2012):

    It's one of the best story I have read in JPGmag! Love it!

  • Michele Wambaugh

    Michele Wambaugh (Deleted) said (29 Mar 2012):

    Touching & wonderful, a true testament to Father & photography!

  • Etan Doronne

    Etan Doronne said (28 Jun 2012):

    Touched me.

  • Ash .

    Ash . gave props (18 Oct 2012):


  • Tracey Quinn

    Tracey Quinn said (17 Jun 2013):

    So moving and personel. well done! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (1 Sep 2013):

    touching moments and touching story.....congrats

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (13 Sep 2013):

    I loved the story and it was a wonderful investment that your father gave you. Congratulations for it getting published in the JPG magazine. Well deserved!

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