by Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (Retired)

Dick Kraus

There was no Spring this year in the Northeast. April, May and June were cold, rainy and miserable. Normalcy finally descended upon Long Island and the rest of the East Coast with a vengence. August began with the heat and humidity that is more appropriate for this time of year. Of course, now we are all complaining about how oppressive it is. Which brings up the maxim, "Be careful what you pray for. You just might get it."

Barbara and I had been griping about having been rained out of so many outdoor concerts which we so dearly love in the summer. So, a few weeks ago we decided to brave the heat and the sweat and we packed a couple of heroes and some iced tea and headed to Heckscher Park in Huntington. We got there about two hours before the start of the concert because we knew that the Long Island Philharmonic is popular and draws huge crowds. We were able to find a nearby parking spot on the street and we set up our canvas chairs in a good spot and then took a leisurely stroll around the lovely pond as magic light descended upon the scene. It was a delightful evening and a light breeze masked the humidity and it became very comfortable as the sun sank behind the tall trees that overspread the concert area.

OK. OK. What does all of this have to do with photojournalism? Don't click off just yet. Have patience with a senior citizen. If you have followed my blatherings in the past, you know that it takes awhile for me to make my point.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. We got back to our chairs and had our picnic dinner. There was still an hour to wait, so I settled down in my chair and enjoyed the darkening scene as the cicadas in the trees chirped their love songs and warned of another hot day tomorrow.

I noticed a young man, maybe in his early 20's, setting up his chair next to mine. We nodded a silent greeting and I watched him unpack a Nikon D40. He fastened it onto a nice looking Manfrotto tripod and snapped on a longish looking lens.

"What lens is that? An 80-200?" I asked.

That was the lens I favored when we started using the Nikon D-1 as my newspaper career came to a close.

"No, it's a 300mm prime lens," he answered.

He told me that he was an amateur and had rented this lens to supplement his own wide angle zoom. As the night wore on I watched him as he shot the concert. At intermission, he chimped his shots and let me see them on his rear screen. He had some nice close-ups of the conductor and some of the orchestra members in action. I asked him if he ever considered using a slower shutter speed to introduce some creative blur to the images of the conductor's wildly moving arms and hands.

We talked a little about how digital photography had killed any vestige of discipline in today's photographers. It's just too easy to shoot and shoot and shoot, and then hit delete, delete, delete. I told him about the neolithic era of photography when you shot film and had to change rolls every 36 exposures.

"Film?" he said. "I really want to try that, some day."

"OH, MY GOD!!! The realization that there were photographers who had begun shooting in the digital age and had never shot a roll of film hit my aging brain like an avalanch. Why did this epiphany just come to me? Have I been living on another planet all of these years. Jeez!

Later that night, as I tried to find a comfortable position while I waited for the air conditioner in the bedroom to break through the hot and humid air, my mind went back over the evening's dialogue.


I thought back to my first day at the newspaper. I carried in with me, my Anniversary model Speed Graphic and a bag full of film holders and Press 40 Flashbulbs.

Holy Hyperfocal Distance, Batman! We've come a long way since then, haven't we?


We spent many, many years with 35mm film cameras. My first one with the newspaper was the original Nikon F. It was just a small, light-tight box that had an interchangeable lens on the front and a pentaprism on the top to view, compose and focus the image. There was a shutter speed dial on top and an f stop adjustment on the lens. A lever on the top right advanced the film and wound the focal plane shutter. And, that was it, No bells and whistles. No automation. You needed a separate exposure meter to determine how to set your shutter and aperature.


Years later, a very rudimentary exposure meter found it's way into the camera's prism assembly. It would only measure the light being gathered by your lens and you would manually adjust your shutter and aperature until a needle lined up with a center mark. It wasn't terribly accurate, but, it was a start. It would be years before really efficient and automatic meters would come into being. And now, if you set your shutter dial to "Idiot Mode" ("A" for Automatic), the damned thing would do all the thinking and adjustments for you.

In rapid succession came autofocus, rapid wind motordrives and then along came digital cameras which give you such exquisite control over the rendering of your image and they keep improving every time you turn around. It is so easy to get a good photograph under conditions that were thought impossible back in the day.

As a newspaper photographer, back then, I would worry that my focus on a moving subject might be a little off and maybe the light had changed between the time I took the light meter out of my camera bag and the time I pushed the shutter button. Maybe my flash fill was too harsh. A thousand "what if's" plagued me until I got back to the office and souped my film. There was no such thing as "chimping" your film to make a quick check so you could correct whatever problems you might have on the next frame.

My God! As I write this, I can see myself wearing bearskins and chipping my images onto the stone walls of my cave.

So many advances in technology in my lifetime. It boggles my mind. And, not just in photography.

In the 60's and 70's we carried a pound of dimes in our pockets to feed into pay phones (later it would be quarters and it would be three pounds) so that we could keep in touch with our desks. Later we tried CB Radios but they didn't work well for us. Finally we got a fairly reliable walkie talkie radio system. But, now...cell phones. Instant and reliable communications in a compact package. What a life saver that would have been if we had them earlier in my career.
And getting to assignments? We covered a large territory at Newsday. For the most part, I covered assignments in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. That alone meant traveling over 100 miles a day on many days.I would also get assignments in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and The Bronx and Westchester Counties. Sometimes I would have to go over to New Jersey or Connecticut. So, I needed books of street maps for the local counties and folding maps for the other states. And, even with all of them, I would still have problems trying to locate where I had to go.


Early on in my career, in the dead of winter, a couple of boys fell through the ice while skating on frozen Lake Ronkonkoma. They were rescued by an off duty cop. That night I was sent out there to get pictures of the boys and the cop. The latest map didn't show all of the roads around the lake since new homes were being built and new roads added almost daily. It was snowy and pitch dark and the new streets had no streetlights nor did they have street signs. I drove around for hours and at one point my headlights pierced the blackness and reflected back at me. It was water. Another 20 feet and I would have driven into the lake. By the time I finally located a pay phone to tell the office of my difficulties, I was told to forget it. They had tired of waiting for me and the cop went home and the kids were put to bed.


After I retired in 2002, I treated myself to a GPS. Now, I type in an address, and a nice young lady's voice tells me to turn left in 200 feet and take Sunrise Highway to Exit 32 and exit the ramp and make a right and in fifty feet I am at my destination. Wow!

Where were all of these wonderful technologies when I so desperately needed them?

Dick Kraus
A voice from The Dark Ages

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