One Giant Jump For Man
December 1st, 2011

So out of the blue today I got a call from Philip Sandberg, who is in Salt Lake to visit his daughter and attend the birth of his fifteenth grandchild. Philip asked if I’d like to have the operator’s manual for the camera he returned earlier—the Kodak Signet 40 I had sold him way back in 1966 for twenty dollars at a time when I was hungry and desperately short of cash.

That was almost half a century ago. How is it that Philip Sandberg never lets go of anything? Why, I’ll bet he still has the scorecards from our epic checker matches.


Yes, he does!

In those days I called him “Sandbag,” which didn’t bother him a bit. See, Philip is from Canada, where nobody ever gets worked up about anything unless a hockey puck is involved. I’m quite the opposite. In our college dorm I was the Bobby Fischer of checkers, whereas Sandberg was Boris Spassky. Except in this case Spassky always won. In fact, Philip “Boris” Sandberg went on to become the reigning checkers champion of Brigham Young University.

By the time Philip captured the crown I’d moved off campus and was rooming with my cousin David, who was president of the BYU Square Dancing Club. This to give you some idea of what a scintillating social life I was enjoying in those days.

I was a member of no club and the champion of nothing. Mostly what I did was wander aimlessly around Provo in search of someone I could relate to. Alas, I never found that person. Had I just kept up the search for another forty years, I’m confident I still would have never found that person. That’s because BYU is a magnet for crazy people. There, I’ve said it, and I stand by what I said. It’s true. Go take a look for yourself if you don’t believe me.

This is not to say that a degree from Brigham Young is worthless. Philip Sandberg went on to become a successful soil scientist in Alberta, and if you’ve ever been to Coaldale, then you know just how interesting the dirt there is. I have no doubt he is a solid citizen—or subject of the Queen–whatever it is they call themselves up North. Myself, I was never able to capitalize on my diploma from BYU. Matter of fact, I’ve kept it a secret all these years. To look at me now, you’d never know I ever went to the “Y”; that is, unless you look closely and notice the twitch.

But getting back to that operator’s manual. I am definitely grateful that Philip is a hoarder and hasn’t tossed it. I’ll be happy to have it back, because there is a line in it that when I first read it stuck in my head.

“Don’t let your camera keep banker’s hours.”

Growing up, I had been told to take pictures around noontime, always with the sun at my back. This is what my parents had been taught back in the day when film speeds were slow and lens apertures small. Hence the standard direction: “Hold still and squint!”

Ere long I was out shooting pictures at all hours, including nighttimes when the bank was closed and all the bankers asleep. And I have made it a point NEVER to have the sun at my back. That’s pretty much all you need to know if you’re interested in taking better pictures.

-Richard Menzies