Seventy years of photographic passion

My name is Eb Just and I live with my wife on a ‘country living’ block North of Auckland, New Zealand. Seven years ago, I sold my Self Care Group business, freeing me to retire and enjoy more of my long-standing photography and travel passions.

Thinking about this article, I recalled pretending to take photos with an old box Brownie as a young boy. But I was 7 years old when I took my first proper photo. It slightly shocked me to realise that this was seventy years ago! The camera, which I still have, was a 1930s CERTIX 120 Folding Camera, with a Schneider Radional 105 mm F4.5-22 lens.

In 1952 my family (parents and 2 boys) emigrated from Germany to New Zealand. The 8-week journey by train and sea ended at a rail-stop in the middle of farming country on the North Island. We were met by my father’s great-uncle, with a Ford Model-T, and taken to his farm-house. We entered a world of ‘milk and honey’ and an exciting start to a whole new life, never to be regretted!

Jumping forward to the start of my career, I graduated from Teachers College as a primary school teacher (years 1-8). In my first year of teaching, I bought a Kodak Retinette 1B with a Reomar 45mm f2.8 lens and a built-in coupled selenium meter. It gave excellent results.

My growing interest in photography was nourished by friendship with a photographer, who was also the manager of the local Camera House store. This turned into a part-time job on Friday nights, with a staff discount and the chance to handle a range of the latest photographic equipment. Combined with eager reading of many excellent photography magazines, it marked the start of an ongoing case of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

Later, married with 3 young children and a mortgage, I wanted to supplement my pay by doing weddings and functions, using an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic 35mm kit and a Zenza Bronica 21/4 kit. But I earned barely enough to pay for the gear, so the Bronica was sold. I kept the Pentax for family and personal photography.

The evolving technology and design of cameras became a big part of my interest in photography. Over the years I have enjoyed many “point & shoot” cameras, such as: Minox 35ML, Fuji DL Super Mini, Olympus XA2 and LT Zoom 105, Minolta Himatic and Dimage Xi, Panasonic DMC-FZs, Canon PowerShot S80, Yashica Electro 35CC, Fuji X100, Sony RX100 IV and more!

At the end of the 1960s, I resigned from teaching and for the next 25 years built a sales, marketing, and general management career with several multi-national companies. This required some overseas travel, but also allowed family trips to Europe, South East Asia and the USA. Similarly, I was able to visit most of New Zealand. Often, I made time for personal exploration and photography.

In 1985 I had an opportunity to buy the NZ company I was managing. I was also able to buy a local business in beauty therapy equipment, supplies and skincare products, complete with a couple of day spas, and a professional training school. These 2 businesses became the foundations of Self Care Group.

My photography was very useful within the business for product and model photography, catalogues, training manuals, newsletters, conferences, promotional posters and brochures. I chose Minolta for my photo gear as I liked the ergonomics and quality of both cameras and lenses.

In 1990 I was able to purchase the professional hair and beauty market’s leading magazine, “Headway”. My photography was even more useful and enjoyable. I found professional hair shows were high fashion events, giving many editorial photo opportunities, and a Minolta camera upgrade.

My brother Wolf and I are also the best of friends, with a common interest in photography. In 1995 we took our first travel adventure together, an exciting three-week African Safari in Botswana and Zimbabwe. This included 3 Okavango safari camps, Victoria Falls, 6 days canoeing down the Zambesi River, Kariba, and the Hwange National Park. We both had Minolta Dynax 700si cameras and Sigma lenses, as well as plenty of Fujicolor SUPER HGII 200 ASA film.

On arrival at Machaba, our first camp, all the staff were grouped at the entrance and welcomed us with a passionate dance and song, giving me goose-bumps and moist eyes. On our first afternoon game drive, we turned a corner and saw a young bull elephant standing in a river pool. The setting sun shone through the trees, giving a golden glow. The elephant trumpeted as I took his photo, and I fell in love with Africa! Subsequently, we went back to Africa 4 times, adding Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya to our list.

Not only had our adventure been amazing, but our friendship also strengthened. However, it was 10 years before we undertook another exploration, to the Ecuadorian Jungle and the unique Galapagos Islands. Again, we had a fabulous experience.

We realised that there could not be many more trips if we only went once every ten years. Fortuitously, I had seen the documentary “Heart of Ice”, of Sir Peter Blake’s expedition to Antarctica aboard the Seamaster and thought, “We must go there”. In December 2006 we boarded the Russian Polar Ship ‘Professor Molchanov’ at Ushuaia, Argentina for our first of 5 expeditions to the Antarctic region. They included visits to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

My most unforgettable wild-life encounter arose on a visit, by the Russian Ice-breaker Kapitan Khlebnikov and its helicopters, to a colony of some 10,000 Emperor Penguins on Snow Hill Island in the remote Weddell Sea. I trekked across the ice to a smaller group of Emperors, some distance from the main groups. A curious group of Emperor chicks came waddling towards me, guarded by a few adults. I lay down with my camera and waited. When they were little more than a metre away, I took photos. I couldn’t see another human being anywhere and it became a very emotional moment. It truly felt like visiting another planet.

We were very lucky to have four beautiful days with the Emperors on the pack ice at Snow Hill Island. On the following trip, Khlebnikov passengers were unable to go ‘ashore’ at all and were stuck in the ice for an extra 8 days. I found that my new Sony DSLR A900 with the Sony 70-200 mm f2.8 G Lens provided excellent results. But at the end of 4 whole days on the ice, where I had this 2kg+ combination on my neck strap, I had a rather sore neck.

Apart from the 10 African and Antarctic journeys, we also had enjoyable adventures in Spitzbergen, Norway, Iceland, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Venice (Carnival), and in many US States. We are also making re-discovery trips of our own country.

In the days of film (including the first African safari) I had enlargements made from colour negatives. Later, I bought a quality Epson flat-bed scanner to digitise images. For slides, I bought a Minolta scanner. A free copy of Adobe Photoshop 5 came with the scanner, allowing me to make modest adjustments and to ‘spot’ the images. I have used Photoshop as my main processing software ever since. Over time I added Topaz and NIK plug-ins. Recently I have decided to explore Luminar 4.

For each trip, I have produced a photo book. These are eagerly awaited by me from the printers and pleasure when received by family and friends. I now have 20 books in my library. Earlier I produced a web site, but it proved onerous. I am now looking at Squarespace.

March 2018 proved to be the downfall of my long relationship with Minolta/Sony. I took my new Sony A7RIII on a 2-week Iceland Photo Workshop and quickly learned that it didn’t work in temperatures below zero. That proved most frustrating for too many photo stops. This reminded me of a trip to South Georgia in 2018 where my brand-new Sony SLT-77 camera stopped working completely, and in 2019 in Vermont where a new Sony SLT-99V also died.

In September 2018 a Photo Workshop in our South Island saw me try a Fujifilm X-T2 with an XF16-55 mm F2.8 lens. At less than 1.2Kg this combination was very easy to carry. I immediately loved the dynamics of the analogue-style layout, operation and looks. The weather resistance was reassuring, the pricing of bodies and lenses attractive, and the quality of the images amazing. I was hooked on Fuji X.

In April 2019 I tried a Fujifilm GFX 50s kit on a landscape tour in our South Island. Gorgeous! But, maybe too much for overseas adventures, especially with travel restrictions on size and weight.

In September 2019 we headed to Tanzania and Kenya on a 3-week safari. By then I had already upgraded to an X-T3 and X-H1. For lenses, I used the XF50-140 and the XF100-400 (with and without the 1.4x extender). Excellent!

By now I have a selection of 15 Fuji lenses! I take a varied mix with me according to photo and travel needs. This year I added the X-Pro 3 to my body selection. During my Covid lock-down my X100V and X-T4 arrived (Wolf will inherit the X-T3 and X-H1). I’ve tried the X100V and loved it (I still have the original X100). It’ll be great for family visits and street photography. The X-T4 looks and feels fantastic (I’m just sorry for the Made in China label).

If I could only take one camera and lens on a general trip, I think the X-Pro3 and the XF16-80mm F4 would be my choice.

"My name is Eb Just and I live with my wife on a ‘country living’ block North of Auckland, New Zealand. Seven years ago, I sold my Self Care Group business, freeing me to retire and enjoy more of my long-standing photography and travel passions."

2 Comments

  1. A wonderful, warm story accompanied with amazing images that bears reading more than once. Thank you, you have brightened a grey cold British evening.

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