Old things

I’ve always loved old things. I have my grandmother’s cast iron dutch oven that’s at least a hundred years old. My grandmother once let me keep an arrowhead I found on her property. It seemed ancient and wondrous to me. Sadly, it didn’t take long for me to drop it and watch, horrified, as it split into two or three pieces. I was inconsolable.

I distinctly recall the day I discovered a row of old books in the graduate library at university. One day I was walking down an aisle looking for a new carrel to claim — someone had the nerve to squat in mine — when I noticed I was no longer surrounded by rows and rows of standard books. No, the racks here had fewer and larger books mostly lying flat with the covers up just beckoning me to open them.  I found that I had stumbled across shelves full of books from the 16th and 17th centuries. Meaning they were 300-400 years old when I touched them. I was transfixed.

I suppose it’s no wonder history was my favorite subject. I was probably in 6th grade when I started taking home 900 page books on ancient Rome and Greece from the local library. These were often college level books so I admit quite readily I didn’t understand everything I read. But years later I would have these  “Aha!” moments when I learned something that explained what I had found quizzical as a boy.

Today’s digital cameras and lenses are astonishing technical marvels jammed full of the latest electronic innovations. This is mostly good because they can produce excellent photos. Hey, I like new things too! And I have no qualms about enjoying the fruits of the technology that goes into them. Over time I accumulated an assortment of lenses and bodies that I love to use. But as I continued my search after the perfect lens, I came across photographers that spoke lovingly of older lenses that still create excellent images despite, or maybe because of, the older technology and designs.

Of course I was intrigued. I read up on a number of possibilities and picked up a few lenses on ebay. They have some advantages: Typically cheaper and lighter than their modern counterparts. But they can present challenges too. One is that many of these lenses do not have autofocus. This is a double-edged sword though. You will certainly miss some shots because you can’t or don’t focus quickly enough. But … your photography may improve because you slow down and think more about your shot.

I had hoped to find a lens that was superior to anything I already owned in that focal length but I was disappointed in that quest. But I haven’t regretted my purchases at all. They may not be better lenses but they are good and do have their charms. Everyone once in a while I grab one of the lenses and make a point of shooting with it for a few days.

This time I chose the Nikon 105mm f/2.5 lens. Or I should say “one of them” as there were several iterations of this lens going back to the 1960s. My version dates to 1972 which makes it over 40 years old. How well does it work? Let’s take a look.

Yule was visiting all of last week so of course he makes an appearance.


I think he might be reacting to the garlic I put on Scrappy’s food that day.


The garden is a good place to test a lens. I’m pretty sure this bee is commonly referred to as the “Darth Vader Raider”.

These seem way to dirty for anyone to consider eating … in my opinion.



We have lots of yarrow this year. I like the yarrow. I like to tell people that the flower was named for Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul, and Mary. It might be true.


I love the daylilies too.

And a few leftover odds and ends.






  1. Mary Tonningsen

    Thank you for sharing yourself, as well as your beautiful photos, with us, Rob! Very enjoyable! I always enjoy trying to figure out what type of plants are in the photos – was having trouble with the bottom right one. Finally figured out that it’s ‘The Tiny Christmas Tree Lights” plant. I only see it about once a year, so it took me a bit.. The wiry stem was finally the giveaway. 😉


  2. sargentmt

    Enjoyed reading the personal story. I must say for an old lens each of the pictures are just beautiful. And of course I always like seeing pictures of Yule and Scrappy. I wonder who left behind their feather. I’ll have to do a little research on that yarrow story.


  3. Jana

    Interesting story Rob. Not only do we learn about the many dogs in your life, but we learn about you. 🙂


  4. I think that most of us have an attachment to years gone by (at least back to our childhood). So many people get attached to old cars, old photos, old letters/post cards. I guess that it is probably a tangible link back to different times? I have never been too interested in old books, but yet I saw (and bought) a book “The College Survey of English Literature.” It was copyrighted in 1942, and this version seemingly published in 1960. I tend to lead a mentally and physically active life but,one day, I really hope that I will set aside some time to actually read it.


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