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Bill Gregory. He really loved that camera.

The camera Bill is holding, a Mamiya C33, has a rather black history with this photographer.

Here is my first black experience with this camera.

When I arrived at Cherry Point I did have experience with various cameras. But not with the Mamiya C33.

You have to remember that I was just out of Boot Camp and any Marine was just another Drill Instructor to me. They all scared the shit out of me. I said 'Yes Sir" to anything that walked. I soon got over this fear and went on to an disrespectful 4 years in the Marines.

But especially the first couple of months I was to afraid to ask questions or to question an order from any Marine. If it didn't make sense who was I to question their orders?

This fear of questioning any order or instruction given to me by any Marine was to end in a small disaster on my first photo assignment for the Windsock.

My very first assignment was to photograph a very senior Segrent Major in the Marines. The Segrent Major was being interviewed by one of the Windsock reporters. I was to use the Mamiya C33. That was our primary camera at the Windsock. Only problem was I had no idea how to use the camera and my boss Sgt Dave Deyerle was out on another assignment.

I couldn't even load film into the camera. And it was empty. If the camera had been loaded with film then that first assignment would have ended entirely different.

New camera. No film in camera. No idea how to load the camera.

So I asked someone in the photo-lab. In those days the Windsock photo-lab was just a desk, a couple of file cabinets and a small darkroom inside the base photo-lab. Photographers everywhere.

The one Marine I ended up getting instruction from wasn't worth shit. Instead of showing me how to load the camera he did it himself and handed the camera back to me.

I looked through the viewfinder and I see a red-bar in the viewfinder. I don't know what this red-bar is or what it means to have the red-bar showing. Remember a more senior Marine loaded the camera so it must be O.K. and who am I to question it?

Camera loaded and ready to go I travel over to the headquarters building to meet the reporter and go for the interview. The strobe we used I had prior experience with, the one on the camera shown above, so that wasn't a problem. I took several photos all the while imaging I was working for Playboy magazine and taking the photos you see at the bottom of their monthly interviews.

Once back at the photo-lab I processed the film. After running the film through the hypo I take the reel out and get my first look at the first photos I have taken as a Marine photographer. Nothing, nada, zip. I mean completly clear film. Entirely blank negatives. What did I do wrong? I didn't know and now I had to tell my boss that I had completly screwed up. Not a good beginning.

Walking out of the darkroom Dave, my boss, is standing there and he asks how they look.

I tell him.

Dave goes over to the camera and looks through the finder and laughs. "Don't you know what the red-bar means?"

"No sir."

"I'm not a sir, I'm a sergeant."

"Yes sergeant."

He asked me who I got help from? I told him.

I know, you want to know what the red-bar means. The Mamiya C33 can take various lenes. The idea is that when you change lenes you make sure the red-bar is in the viewfinder because then the film is being protected from exposure. There is a knob on the side of the camera that raises and lowers the light blocker and the red-bar.

Unlike a 35mm camera that uses a focal plane shutter, that is in the body of the camera, the Mamiya uses a leaf shutter, that's inside each lens. This means that 35mm cameras come with a built-in light blocker and you never have to worry about exposing your film when changing lenes. Not so with the Mamiya C33. You better remember to lower the light blocker before you remove a lens and then remember to raise the light blocker after you install the lens.

What really pisses me off, now that I remember this story, is that it is entirly unneccessary to use the light-blocker when changing film. Remember there was a lens on the camera. The leaf shutter is always closed until you take a picture just like a focal plane shutter.

Lesson learned. Never forgotten.

Only once did I need to use the light-blocker while on an assignment and that was the other black experience I had with this camera. I'll hold that story for another day. [Next]