Hello, I’m Bob Leroux
I have been taking photographs of aircraft and aviation subjects for most of my life and have also been taking and sharing lots and lots of photos of my family and our adventures. Often I’m asked about my equipment, specifically what camera I used, so here’s a narrative history of my camera equipment over the years.
Growing up as a young boy I began exploring photography using the cameras that were in my home. My family had an old Kodak Beau Brownie No. 2 camera that used 120 roll film on a wooden spool. Likely, it had been my grandfather’s camera that ended up at our place. It had two viewfinders, one for portrait and one for landscape, along with a corresponding tripod socket. The shutter had a sliding adjustment with one speed for normal photos and another speed where you would hold the shutter open as long as you held the shutter release – how it’s called “bulb”.
The family also had a Kodak Junior 620. That camera used 620 roll film and had an adjustment for shutter speed and aperture, and a little built-in desktop tripod leg.
Those were the days of roll film and taking those precious rolls to the local drug store for developing and printing. With great expectations I would wait a week or so to see how they all turned out, some with success!
Then, as a teenager in 1968, I bought a brand new modern 35mm rangefinder camera, the Yashica Lynx 5000. This is the camera that I used to learn about photography including a bunch of technical stuff such as ASA film speed, shutter speed, aperture, depth-of-field, electronic flash, hyper-focal distance, etc. I used an awful lot of colour slide film learning all this new stuff but most of all I learned about lighting, composition and framing for an uncluttered background. Then I really got into photography and progressed to black and white film and my own darkroom for developing the film and making prints up to 16 x 20. I felt like I was becoming a real photographer!
After a few years I advanced to a single lens reflex (SLR) camera with the very capable Minolta SR-T 101 that was equipped with a 58 mm f/1.4 lens. It was built like the proverbial “Tank”. It was a very rugged camera; I had it tied on a saddle horn riding through the desert all day, and got it wet in the bottom of a boat, but it just kept on shooting. Now there were new things for me to learn; penta-prism viewfinder, inter-changeable lenses, focal-plane shutter, through-the-lens metering, depth-of-field preview, mirror lock-up, infrared film amd filters – lots of filters, and shooting night photography and fireworks.
The Minolta served me well for several years then it was time to upgrade again. It was sold to make way for the Nikon FE when the FE was first released to the market in 1978. The Nikon FE was considered an advanced semi-professional camera that introduced me to aperture-priority auto-exposure mode, exposure compensation, multiple exposures and the extensive family of NIKKOR lenses. The light meter in this camera is exceptional and I would mount it on a tripod and take night photos. The camera would automatically calculate an exposure time of up to several minutes!
This is the camera I used to take the photos of our children when they came along and for all our years as a young family.
In 2016 I bought my current camera, a digital single lens reflex (DSLR), the “prosumer” Nikon D7100, and have since been learning the many facets of this amazing “computer system” that is also capable of capturing images and videos. The big new features for me with this camera are auto-focus and image stabilization. Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction (VR). Today’s cameras have AUTO just about everything so the modern DSLR allows one to pay more attention to lighting, composition and creativity. The good thing is you can turn off as much of that auto stuff as you want and still shoot as much as you like in manual mode to give you more control.
I still have the Brownie and the Lynx 5000 as collection pieces, and also the Nikon FE which I plan to use again soon, to get back to the basics of film photography.
Also for most of my life I have been a pilot, first learning to fly as a teenager when I was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadet, then after college I had a career as a pilot. You could say that I learned to take “portraits” of aircraft at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontairo. In the late 1970’s I was working next door to the museum as a flying instructor and would often take my students to the museum for them to learn the various parts and pieces of the aircraft. Needless to say, my camera was often with me. I would try to frame the subject aircraft with no identifiable modern items in the photograph. The photos often looked as if they could have been taken when these Warbirds were operational. The museum had an airshow every June and that’s where I had the opportunity to photograph Warbirds from the museum and from around Canada and the United States. It was really quite a gathering often with aircraft that I had never seen before so it was a great photo opportunity.
My career as a pilot was with Transport Canada as a Civil Aviation Inspector and now that I am retired there is more time available for photography and to fly my Piper Turbo Arrow IV.