Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Technicolor Wonder?

Technicolor Techni-Pak 1
I received a surprise package in the mail about 6 months ago from a friend in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  She sent a still-unopened single-use camera from the early 1970s called the Techni-pak 1, sold under the Technicolor name.  The camera is a compact 35mm with a 20-exposure roll of color film.  I opened the plastic wrapper, and everything was pristine.  The back of the camera had all the instructions one needed to operate it, and in 1972, one could mail the camera with the finished roll to Delta Sales Corp. in Cincinnati OH + $5.95 and receive back 20 3.5" square prints, negatives, and another camera loaded with film.  Appearance-wise it looks like a small Kodak 126 Instamatic.  There are two aperture settings -- bright (f/11?) and cloudy (f/5.6?). The simple lens looks to have about a 40mm focal length. The camera was made in Hong Kong.

I was originally going to go ahead and shoot the film that came with the camera, but sanity prevailed.  It's probably C-22 process film, and over 40 years old, so the results would have been predictably abysmal.  I opened the back of the camera (there are two plastic tabs that hold the back on, along with the sticker with the instructions.  I was surprised to see sprocketed 35 mm film.  The supply side was rolled up into a tight coil inside a plastic sleeve.  The take-up spool is also unique, with plastic vanes inside that meet up with the film advance cogs.  Pulling up the film winding wheel releases the take-up spool. This of course, all has to be done in the darkroom, and the loading and unloading is actually fairly easy.
The back is easily pried open with a screwdriver. Two tabs hold the
 back closed, along with the label.

I tossed the original film and replaced it with a short length of Arista 100 film.  This allowed me to develop the film last night and scan it this morning.

Shooting with the Techni-Pak1
It's basically a mini Holga with the square format.  One must press in a small button before advancing the film.  It looks like there are flash contacts on the top of the camera for something like a Diana-F style flash with two posts. You can do multiple exposures if you want.
The supply side is rolled inside this sleeve.
The take-up spool has the film leader taped to it.
pressure plate on back

All the instructions you need!

Results --
Impressive for this type of camera!  The square format is perfect, and the 10 images I shot on the Arista 100 film were properly exposed.  Take a look for yourself:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Sure Shot with a Sure Shot 115u

Canon Sure Shot 115u
A little history:
As we moved into the digital camera explosion, manufacturers still had to cater to the average consumer, and in 2003, a really good digital point and shoot was still quite expensive. Consumers were caught between buying a point and shoot digicam with about 3 megapixels  for around $400, and engaging in the new adventure of digital  prints, etc., or buying a film camera that used technology they were familiar with. Canon introduced  the Sure Shot 115u in 2003, a stylish, compact camera that also looks a lot like some of the digital cameras of that period.   It should be noted that it was expected that the world-wide market for film cameras was diminishing, as it was estimated that 50 MILLION digicams were sold in 2003.    That is a lot of cameras, and yet not all consumers wanted a digital camera, some opting for what they were familiar with.   My 85-ish mother in-law was thrilled last year when I have her a fairly recent high-end Canon P&S to use, as she really missed "getting prints."   

 In June, my buddy Marc and I stopped at a Goodwill store in Petoskey, MI.  I don't usually expect to find much in the way of cameras these days, but I ended up buying a nice-looking Canon Sure Shot 115u.  At first glance it looked like a digicam, but  for $1.99 I figured it was worth a try to run some film through it.  When the camera was new in 2003, it sold for about $130.  This particular camera looks like new, and like many film P&S cameras, it was probably quickly relegated to the closet as a digicam replaced it soon after it was introduced.

Why bother with late-model P&S cameras, anyway?
As someone that appreciates classic cameras -- and I have definitely had my share of them over the years, a plastic P&S camera must seem like a silly purchase.  But remember, these later high-end models have pretty much all the features one might desire in a 35mm pocket camera - a zoom from 38mm to 115mm, various shooting modes, excellent optics, and as much technology as one can pack into such a small space.  In addition, a print from one of these cameras, using good technique and low ISO film would have blown away any digicam at that price point. In fact, this Sure Shot can handle 25 - 3200 ISO film.  Don't confuse such a camera with the tons of trashy plastic cameras that were available at the time.  In my mind, however, this camera would be perfect if it had only a 35mm 2.8 lens.  Without the zoom, it would be lighter, faster, and a perfect P&S for snapshots and street photography. The typical f/5.6 aperture is due to the zoom feature.  A wider, faster lens with no zoom would be preferable, in my type of use.

I ran a roll of expired Tmax 100 and while I did not use the camera as I normally might have tested a camera, the results are satisfactory.  I'll try a 400 ISO color film in it next to see how it does.  Don't underestimate these cameras, they can produce some good results.   At some point, these newer P&S cameras will become quite "classic."  If you see one for less than $20, pick it up, and use it.  I think you'll be surprised at just how good they are.

It's true that the "best camera" is the one you have with you, and these compact 35mm and APS point and shoot cameras were easily carried around.  It's a shame that they are not more appreciated than they are.  While the all-metal classics may have all the retro appeal, some of these plastic wonders are possibly better in terms of features and compactness.  However, its obvious that now your phone can probably do a better job, since it's always with you.  In 2003, well, that was not the case.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

June Just Flew By

some of the people on the garden tour
Well, it seems true that the older you get the faster time goes.  I am not sure where the month of June went, but I know that I have some of it captured on many rolls of film.  First of all, there was getting our gardens ready for the Ann Arbor Garden tour, which took place on June 13.  So, the first half of the month was taken up by that.  It was a huge success, and we had over 800 people go through our yard in 6 hours that day.  Hardly time to take any photos of event, as I was busy answering questions and chatting with visitors all day. The rain held off for the most part, and a constant stream of visitors went through.

Rolls of film to be processed.
Then, there was  Photostock 2015, which has become a yearly rite of photographic cameraderie (intentionally misspelled) in NW Michigan.  Bill Schwab continues to make the event relevant and attract a growing ban of people that are not only excellent photographers, but darn good people.  My buddy Marc Akemann and I went together, and as is the case on our photo trips, it was a lot of fun and I went through far more film than I thought I would.  I met some very interesting photographers that presented their work at the Birchwood Inn.  Anne Berry and Lori Vrba showed their passion for their work, and it certainly resonated with me.  Photostock is more than a bunch of photographers playing with their gear, talking, and drinking over the fire -- it has always been a source of inspiration where we get to see what other photographers are doing, and what photography means in their lives. It is easy to say "Photography is my hobby." It's often harder to tell others your motivation, what inspires you, and what role it play in your everyday experience.  You can get that at Photostock.   Just a few samples of images from Harbor Springs are below.
Fence scene

Foggy Morning

Twilight Harbor Springs

On the way up and back, I continued photographing all of the post offices that I encountered on the back roads that we drove.  Someday, they will be put together in a book, but it really is one of those long-term projects.

Back in Ann Arbor, I went to drop off a roll of color film to be processed at CameraMall, and finally succumbed to the lure of the Fuji X100S camera.  It's another tool, of course, but it's pretty damn nice.  I'll do a separate post on it soon. My initial feeling is that Nikon should allow Fuji to design a camera for them.  This one has the look and feel of a film camera, and the results are wonderful.
A new tool, the Fuji X100S

The next week found Adrienne and I traveling to Luther, MI for the annual Michigan Entomological Society meeting at Rockwell Lake Lodge, which is owned by Hillsdale College.  It was a great time to see colleagues and friends, and I was presented with a Honorary Lifetime membership for my 30+ years of service to the Society.  I really had no idea that would happen, and I was pretty much speechless when it happened.  I have never been so surprised!

So, here it is July 5th, and in another day we are travelling to Marquette for a few days, and I'll report on that trip after we return.  

Here are a few shots from the X100S.

Baldwin PO

Ludington State Park

back stairs, Ludington.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Packing the Camera Bag(s)

In a couple of days I'll be leaving for northern Michigan to attend Photostock 2015 near Harbor Springs.  I went to my first Photostock in 2008, and have been to most of them since then. Photostock is organized by Bill Schwab, a fantastic photographer, and is attended by photographers of all kinds. Film and alternate processes dominate the scene, but there is no snobbery -- just a bunch of folks with different gear, interests, and methodology.  It's a great way to meet other photographers, learn something new, and basically, have a great time shooting film and laughing with others.  It's fun to reconnect with people I only see there each time, and to make new friends.

Each time I go, one of my biggest decisions is figuring out what cameras I will bring.  One year it was the Pentax 6x7 and a few other 35mm, plus Holgas, etc.  Another time it was Nikons and the Hasselblad, etc.  Well, the Pentax 6x7 is gone as is the Hassy system I had.  This year, I'll bring my beautiful Mamiya C330 Professional, the Leica M2, Minolta X700 and XG-M (a new buy), and a couple of plastic cameras.  I haven't yet decided if I'll bring something like my Nikon 1J1. I may leave all the digi stuff home.  Though for shooting video, it would be worthwhile bringing it.

Then, the film.  I ALWAYS bring more than I will use in 4 days, but who knows what I'll end up shooting?  Better to have too much than not enough!

Weatherwise, this year may be wet and cool.  It doesn't matter though.  There will be enough to keep us busy.

I am looking forward to getting away for a few days. It seems like forever since I have been on the road doing any photography.

Always bring lots of film...

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Honest Camera: Mary Ellen Mark 1940-2015.

I'm saddened by the loss of one of America's great photographers.  Mary Ellen Mark died this week at the age of 75.  In September of 2013, I had the good fortune to see a lecture by Mary Ellen Mark as part of the University of Michigan's Penny Stamps School of Art and Design  Lecture Series.  Early on, I appreciated her gritty images of people in unfortunate circumstances.  While she was a documentary photographer, she also seemed to have a way of getting close to her subjects.While sometimes they are grim reminders of unpleasant situations -- she showed that all was not right with the world, as in the series of photographs of poor families on Ohio that appeared in Life magazine in 1989. Along the lines of  Lewis Hine, she was able to give voices to those without a voice via her photography.
This image belongs right up there with those of Walker Evans
 on the sharecroppers of Hale Co., Alabama.

My recollection of her lecture at the Michigan Theater was that this diminutive woman with her twin braids projected a humble persona, yet was confident and fully engaged in the presentation of her work, -- and  a master of her craft.  She told us how she worked on some of her more famous series, and I think her compassion allowed her to get such amazing images.

Later, I attended the Q&A session, and listed to the questions and her answers. Many of the people in the audience were college students, and it was interesting seeing the contrast of Mary Ellen, steeped in the tradition of using film, and these young beginners, who grew up in the digital age.  One young woman asked why she didn't get people to smile in her photos.  Mary Ellen gave a great response to what some might regard as an inane question.  She took the time to talk about how making someone smile removes the authenticity of the moment, much less a  a forced appearance.  I thought about that for quite a while, and I have had others ask why I don't smile for a "selfie."  What the hell am I smiling about?    No, Mary Ellen was right -- a grin should be a natural moment, not a fiction.    She answered a lot of questions and I admired her gentle yet firm demeanor.

She also told us that she felt very lucky to be able to do her photography at a time when the printed page was THE THING.  Many of us have probably seen some of her documentary work without realizing that she was the photographer.  She was an accomplished photographer, and that is still an understatement.

With Mary Ellen Mark, It was not not about the personality, the camera, or the gallery.  It was about telling an honest story with her camera.  She was able to become part of the surroundings, and yet not seeming to affect the subjects.  That's a hell of a talent -- and to come away with images that move us as well.  I am glad that I had the chance to see her in 2013.  Rest in peace, Mary Ellen.  Your photographs will speak for you - always.