On April 18th, 2018 we had the pleasure of interviewing author and photographer Farrell Eaves about his book, Mr. Eaves and His Magic Camera. Mr. Eaves is a retired professional engineer and a veteran of the United States Navy where he served as a photographer.
All of this began back in 2001, when Mr. Eaves was attending an advanced photographic course taught by Bruce Dale of the National Geographic. He was in the process of capturing some general scenery around Pecos, New Mexico when all of a sudden his camera took a plunge in the Pecos River. After many attempts to salvage the camera, what came of it was spectacular. This is a compelling story of how, "Disaster can be the serendipity in disguise."
During this amazing discussion many lessons were learned and I hope that you'll learn that in all life's beautiful messes, there is magic to be seen.
- Caela , Social Media Coordinator
Caela: What types of photos do you generally enjoy shooting?
Farrell: Those that lend themselves to superb rendition by the "magic camera". I enjoy shooting portraits and landscapes.
Caela: In your book, the preface states, “Disaster can be serendipity in disguise.” As our readers will later find out...this was very true! First share with us a little background on this magic camera?
Farrell: I purchased the Nikon Coolpix 990 from Nikon, factory reconditioned in about 2000. I loved the way it records images as if in another normally unseen dimension. The demand for composition and the angle or position of the camera has a profound affect on the recorded image. I know on the spot what the result will be.
Caela: Tell us about the day your beloved camera came to its demise at the Pecos River.
Farrell: I was attending a photo class in Pecos,NM taught by my friend Bruce Dale of National Geographic fame at the time and we were on a photo shoot for that evenings critique when someone yelled ,"Mr. Eaves! Your camera!", and upon turning to see what happened, discovered that I had knocked, tripod, camera, and all into the water. I twirled the camera by it's strap in an effort to remove the water from it as it was thoroughly flooded with water. The battery compartment had opened on impact so the camera was totally soaked.
Caela: Did you think you could salvage the camera?
Farrell: I had no idea that the camera was salvageable! When we returned to the conference center and, later that day, I tied the camera to the windshield and drove on the interstate in the warm, dry NM air. When I finally returned to the center I discovered that the pilot light in the gas heater was emitting warm, dry air, so I left the camera on the stove all night and through the next day. Finally the camera lens which was previously fogged-up was clear so I installed batteries and a compact flash media card and snapped an image of a chair beneath a ceiling light. The thrill I felt cannot be reasonably described and that evening in our critique session, shared it with everyone. The rest is history and and an exciting and blessed event was just beginning. I wanted to express my thankfulness by concentration on antique missions, crosses, and artifacts across much of the US, especially in NM, Colorado, Utah,and, Arizona.
Caela: To your luck the camera turned on! What did you expect to see when scrolling through the shots?
Farrell: I had no idea at first. Later as I learned the unique attributes of the camera , I was able to reasonably compose shots that were compatible with the cameras ability to record the scene. We never have anything happen where we can't find good in it if we dig hard enough.
Caela : The photos, not what was expected turned out to be a work of art. That “broken camera” became your “Magic camera”. Share with us what it was like to see your photos beautifully distorted?
Farrell: It was, and is, very exciting.
Just a slight tilt of the camera can change the color of grass from pink, to red, to blue. I have found when photographing the American flag, it doesn't change the colors.
Caela: Your plan was not to experiment with your expensive camera and a large body of water, but the unfortunate happened and surprisingly turned into something even more beautiful. How did this experience enlighten you and shape the way you continued to take photographs?
Farrell: I used the camera in a way that rendered the scene being photographed in a very special way. I photograph what's agreeable with the camera. Faces aren't agreeable, but I can alter the color just by tilting the camera. With this camera, like any other area of photography, its all about composition.
Caela: What do you love most about this camera opposed to buying one of the new cameras in the market?
Farrell: Well, they can't do what this camera does. This is the only camera in the world that is known to do what it does. There is no contest. It does some very special things.
Caela: What lessons did you learn about photography after this event?
Farrell: This event served to drive home what photography is really about, and that is, compose the scene in the cameras viewfinder, not later by manipulation.
Caela: And what advice would you give other photographers who may have had a similar situation occur? How can you turn unfortunate situations into something beautiful?
Farrell: One must always try to see an opportunity in all events, unfortunate or otherwise: there is always another opportunity. Just remember, that no matter how thin you pour a pancake it always has two sides.