Victoria arrived on my Southern California doorstep from Flagstaff, Arizona, amid plans to accompany her to all kinds of exciting and beautiful locations throughout the land of sun, stars, and beaches. I had been looking forward to receiving the famous little world traveler ever since being given the honor of participating in this worthy project initiated by Lou in memory of his daughter. There was only one problem – I had personally suffered a recent incident, a laceration of my lower leg, that kept me off of my feet for large parts of the day. Hobbling around with essentially one leg with stitches spanning knee to ankle was not the ideal situation for performing guided tours and carrying photographic equipment. So for several weeks Victoria and I sat, contemplating when and where we might go once we were healthy. I say we because I felt an unexplainable bond upon unboxing the small Canonete. Having come from a film background and having gotten away from a long involvement in film photography in favor of digital over time, I saw this little camera and the message it represents as somewhat of a metamorphosis, or maybe more accurately, a rediscovery of what I love about photography, the actual act of working to capture the right image and the contemplation and anticipation while waiting to see how it might turn out rather than an immediate look at the back of the camera, noting what adjustments would be needed in Photoshop. Secretly I wondered if I could still do it. The settings, the dials, the metering on this little camera were elements that I hadn’t practiced in quite a while. But that would have to wait for a while while I healed…..and worried.
So once I was more mobile I picked up a couple of rolls of 35mm film, a surprisingly challenging task, inserted a roll of ISO 400 film into the Canonete, also a surprisingly challenging task, and asked Victoria where she would like to go. Evidently Victoria was acquainted with my curious love of flamingos and asked if we might be able to see some. Well, of course, it was my pleasure to escort Victoria to one of my favorite places to photograph, Safari Park, in Escondido, California. The park is associated with the famous San Diego Zoo and serves as a facility for rehabilitation, a sanctuary, and even rescues of entire species teetering on the brink of extinction. It’s much more than a tourist attraction and it is certainly much more than a zoo. Oh, and they have plenty of flamingos. So off to Safari Park we went where I positioned Victoria on the fender of a Land Rover to let her get acquainted with her surroundings.
We ventured a little further into the park stopped to take in some information on some of the park’s birds and enjoyed meeting one of the park’s parrots.
And then it was off to view the flamingos.
Victoria was fascinated by the creatures and I pointed out to her my observation that they are somehow simultaneously beautiful and goofy looking. Victoria agreed and captured several images, expressing her admiration and wonder at the unique creatures. We spent what seemed like hours viewing them, capturing a variety of species and perspectives. My doubts about being able to capture a proper exposure proved to be overblown to some degree. I ended up with some overexposed shots, a couple of times it appears that I did not wind the film far enough, resulting in “half” shots, and some simply were not in focus. Oddly enough I found this somewhat reassuring as it forced me to consider to an even greater degree what steps are necessary to get the right shot. Happily enough good shots resulted to be able share with Victoria and all of you.
Soon we tired and decided to change venues. I asked Victoria what she next wanted to see in the area, and it was no surprise that she expressed a desire to go to the beach.
There are many beautiful and scenic beaches in Southern California, but there was no question which beach we were going to visit. Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps not, but Victoria happens to have her very own beach located in the artist community of Laguna Beach. Victoria Beach, yes, it really is called Victoria Beach, is famous for its medieval looking “Pirate Tower,” and people come from all around to see and photograph this structure that dates back to 1926. It was built by a California state senator as a stairway to provide a path from the house on the cliff to the beach and was inspired by his visits to France as part of the World War I relief effort. It now sits empty and unusable, but survives as an attraction to all who make the trek over the rocks in order to get a view of this unique landmark.
Of course, hereafter I will always think of it as Victoria’s own tower, and to all visitors I express Victoria’s story. So our day was done and I tried to remember how to rewind the film – which, you guessed it, turned out to be a surprisingly challenging task. I did, however, finally succeed without exposing our precious captures and proceeded to go through the long forgotten process of filling out an order form, checking the glossy option, and submitting the small envelope, making a mental note to check back in a couple of days to see how the photos came out. The call came sooner than expected, and the next day with a bit of trepidation was relieved to see a number of usable photos. Victoria had guided me to a successful and rewarding outcome.
As I escorted Victoria around Southern California I couldn’t help but think about the recent toll that the current flu epidemic has inflicted on children today. As of this writing the 2017/2018 epidemic has claimed 55 children in the United States alone, some 80% of whom were not immunized against the flu. My hope is that maybe, just maybe, Victoria’s message might have resulted in keeping that number from being a bit higher. I will join Lou and the rest of the photographers that have taken part in this wonderful project in continuing to spread the message. I also send my sincere thanks to Lou for the opportunity and wish all the very best.