More rain on Melrose's plain ...

... in his 60s, he discovers photography

photos by Richard Legault

Photos by Richard Legault, commentary by Mirror Editor Don Norris.

Richard Legault is a wandering soul, from a military family some six decades ago. He has lived pretty much everywhere -- for a short time, and then it was time to go somewhere else. And perhaps, finally, he has come to Melrose and after only two years in this small city, he calls this place home.

One day he heard that the Melrose SilverStringers (publishers of the Mirror) were looking for photos of the continuing rain we had here in New England. It sounded like a nice thing to do -- photograph raindrops. Fortuitously, Jack Beckley, director of the Council on Aging, happened by, heard Rich's comments, and offered the company camera -- a two-year-old Olympus D550 point-and-shoot model that the Stringers bought for newcomers.

So. Without any instructions except how to turn the camera on, Rich took up photography. On his first try at a bunch of rain-drenched evergreens, his automatic flash went off and gave him an electronic start. He soon decided he wanted no flash at all -- and so discovered available light photography.

The trouble was, he didn't know how to shut the flash off, nor could he figure out how and when the flash was programed to fire. He walked about the gardens of the old Beebe Estate - on which our Council On Aging carriage house is built -- with his new toy, sometimes catching rather unusual and attractive photos of raindrops -- and others that were blasted with too much flash.

At the end of the day he had a card full of wet photos, at which point Jack showed him how to download his digital pix into one of the computers in the new computer lab. Bang! the first photo came up on the screen. Instant gratification. Shoot one minute, and there's the picture, almost immediately on the monitor. Fantastic.

Most amateurs, like Rich, don't bother reading the instruction manual. Hey, it's a camera, and you just push the little button. This, of course, justifies the auto-everything on modern cameras. You don't have to know anything and you get nice pictures.

But Richard was special. He has an eye for composition, for color, for form, for beauty. Most folks will stand a mile away from their subject and the resulting photo is boring, to say the least. Not Richard. He moved in close -- how else does one photograph raindrops?

I tried to explain to him, just recently, how his camera works. F-stops, diaphragm, shutter speed, film (or sensor) sensitivity, depth of field and selective focus. But it was too much at one time, so I suggested he get the manual from Jack, study it, and pick up the how-tos once he had learned a little more about his totally automatic camera.

It didn't work. "I don't want to read all that stuff," he grumbled. "Not when I have a nice smart guy like you to teach me."

So that is where we left it. I suspect Rich will join the SilverStringer photo team, and learn the mechanics of this hobby from those already using it. In the meantime, the photos on this page are those he shot on that rainy day when Jack Beckley loaned him the company camera.

Not bad. He'll do all right.

Two weeks after Rich made these photographs, he took sick, was in and out of the hospital, and then suddenly, he died -- too young. He was an upbeat person, willing to volunteer, willing to learn, willing to do his share. The Stringers mourn his passing.

March 2, 2007

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