Saturday, December 31, 2005

Dec. 31, 2005

last day of the year...
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
It has been an incredibly gray week and a half. I think the sun ALMOST popped out on Wednesday when we had a brief thunderstorm, but withinb a few minutes, it was hidden by more clouds. As a result, I have not been too inclined to go out shooting anywhere -- gray and dull. Instead, I have been scanning in slides and negatives and posting them on Flickr. I am amazed at how many sheets of negatives of b&w film I accumulated this year. Probably about 50 rolls of film, both 35mm and medium format. Only a few sheets of slides, since I had been doing most color work with the digital camera, unless it was landscapes or working with my classic cameras.

I took this shot this afternoon -- it was still gray, but we had wet snow that was melting on the branches, so there were some water drops that were rather cool.

Yes... if you look closely, I have a speck on my sensor that I have to remove. It took all of a month of using the D70 before I found a speck of dust. Considering how many times I have changed lenses, that is pretty good. If I had just left the kit lens on, it would have taken a lot longer, but where is the fun in that?

Happy New Year and best wishes to all of my friends.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Copying Slides

decrepit bar
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I finally tried out a slide copying device with my Nikon Coolpix 995. It's a simple little device that holds the slide in front of the camera. All I had to do was place it on my light-table, put the slide into it, and shoot in macro mode. Amazingly, it works very well, and of course, gets the job done faster than using my dedicated Minolta Dimage slide scanner. Plus, it allows me to look at a sheet of slides on the light table, pop one into the copier and take a shot immediately. For showing the slides online, I think it is a wonderful way to go. If you have a DSLR and a slide copier from your film camera, you can do it the same way.
This shot is of a closed-up bar in Calumet, MI. It has seen better days, but I enjoyed shooting this decrepit entrance with the broken glass blocks. It has a Detroit feel to it, but it was in the UP. Shot on Astia with a Nikon FM2N, and copied from the slide with the coolpix. Not too shabby...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sometimes You Have to Shoot Indoors

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Today was one of those days. I was itching to get out of the house and do some shooting, but it has been one of those gray, barely above freezing days, where the snow is slushy, the sky gray, lighting flatter than Kelsey's nuts, and not conducive to wandering about the countryside.
So, lucky for me, Adrienne had to work at the Botanical Gardens today, and Marjorie and I went out in the afternoon and photographed plants in the conservatory for a while.
It was nice.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

Brownie Flash Six-20

brownie flash six-20
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I love finding out new things about old things. In this case, I have a beautiful example of a a Brownie Flash Six-20. Complete with flash unit. I never thought of using it until recently, thinking that I really didn't want to respool some 120 onto 620 reels, when I have so many other simple cameras that work without the extra steps involved.
Well, I pulled it off the shelf, and was pleased to find that a 120 spool of film fits just fine. So, I am shooting with it this week -- only 8 shots on a roll of film, because the negs are those great 6x9 cm size. I am going to play around with doing some contact printing over the winter break, so I will try printing onto some ancient Kodak Velox paper. Perfect for this vintage camera.
You can read more about the Brownie Flash 620 here: Junk Store Cameras and here: The Norwood Teague Brownie Collection

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
There is something about signs that compels people to photograph them. I could have said shoot them, but then that conjures up a completely different image. You know, the ones we see near state land where some moron decides that maybe a stop sign with holes is more fun than trying to shoot a deer.
No, I'm talking about signs we see every day and never think much about. Take this one, for instance... One of the reasons for signs like these is that there too many people with little common sense. Of course, the steps are not being maintained.. there is 2 feet of snow on them, so why in hell would I want to walk there?
Anyhow, I like shooting signs (with my camera). Sometimes they are pathetically true, other times, very funny, perverse (for us smut minds), or plain examples of timing and good fortune. Whatever the reason, they are a part of our lives, and something that we often take for granted.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Winter is a Good Time for Black and White

Lion in the snow
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
If you are some of those unfortunate enough to live in a climate where it never snows, this entry won't be very useful to you. If however, you are able to look out your window right now and see a bunch of white stuff on the ground and don't live next door to an exploded flour mill, then this post applies to you.
WINTER -- monochromatic -- black and white --
Snow and anything it covers; ice and all it surrounds. A great time for black and white photography, whether you are using film, or... ahem, digital.
It's a good time to look at form and shape and subtleties of how the snow makes things look diffferent. Sometimes more beautiful than they were before. Sometimes uglier, too, especially when the slush piles around things.
The photo here was taken several years ago with one of my Argus C-3 cameras with a roll of Kodak C-41 b&w.
Argus C3 standard - an American Classic
Using a manual camera in the winter is a good idea. Batteries can get cold and leave your caamera a useless piece of machinery. But, here are some tips to help with winter shooting:
1. Keep your batteries warm or carry an extra set if you are going to outside for more than a few hours, especially if the temperature is below 20 degress F.
2. Carry a plastic bag to put your camera into when you come inside so that moisture does not condense all over your camera and optics.
3. If you are metering a scene that is snow covered -- compensate your exposure by at least +1. That is, if your meter says f16 at 1/125, shoot at f11 at 1/125 or f16 at 1/60. Your meter will underexpose a pure white scene by at least 1 or 2 stops, so you can also dial that in as +1 or +2 on many cameras, film or digital, unless you are shooting in manual mode.
4. If you are using a tripod -- put a length of foam pipe insulation over the base section of the legs so you won't freeze your hands. It will be a couple of bucks well spent.
5. Black and White Films -- Try some Ilford Pan F 50 for fine-grained results. Some people advise shooting it at an ISO of 32. See what works for you.
Another good film to try is Fuji Neopan 1600 for those low-light evening shots, interiors, etc. Fun stuff to play with.

Have fun, and remember Dec. 21 is the Winter SOLSTICE. Happy Solstice to all. After that, the days get longer...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Natural Ornaments

natural ornaments
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
The other day we received another 6 inches of snow. Since I live only 2 miles from work (unlike all you poor saps that have to commute), I either walk or take the bus. Anyhow, I took the bus Friday morning because I knew the sidewalks would be a real pain in the butt. As I finally made my way to the museum parking lot, I saw a group of snow-laden spruces and this viburnum bush. I had been waiting all fall to take a photo of it, but never really saw a decent shot until that morning. Sometimes you don't have to travel all over to get something that pleases you. It can often be right outside your door.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ypsilanti Pinholes and Meeting New People

Matt Callow
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Last night Marjorie and I drove over to the Ypsilanti District Library on Whittaker Road (a very cool building) to hear Matt Callow's presentation on pinhole photography and to see his photo exhibit. It was actually a decent crowd of about 30 -- all of the seats were taken. Matt's presentation was informative and hearing how he became "obsessed" with photography certainly resonated inside me. Matt has been photographing the "old" parts of Ypsi, and his pinhole work was a pleasure to view.

It was also a good night to meet other people that we have "met" online via Flickr - Matt, Andrea, and Erich. I also saw my buddy George O'Neal as well as David Bay and Sue Campbell, long-time acquaintances at UM.

Kathy Daly, the contact person at the YDL, did a fine job with the facilities, and it looks like we can look forward to perhaps taking part in some additional photographic shows in 2006.

It was a lot of fun chatting with other photographers, and definitely looks like we made some new friends last night.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Yes, I'm having fun

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
with my new Nikon D-70s. After seeing my blog last weekend, Santa decided to make an early visit to Big George's and took me along. I am very, very, happy with it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pinhole Exhibit in Ypsi

Exhibition Flyer
Originally uploaded by Matt Blackcustard.
Another photographer that showcases his work on Flickr, Matt Callow (known as Matt Blackcustard on Flickr), will be exhibiting some of his pinhole work at the Ypsilanti District Library on Whittaker Road.

Matt's images on Flickr are memorable, as he has been doing a lot of prints using the VanDyke Brown process, as well as conventional B&W work with pinhole and toy cameras.

If you get a chance, check out the exhibit.

Friday, November 25, 2005

What I want for Christmas!

Now that the holiday frenzy has started, beginning with what retailers call "Black Friday", it is only fitting that I post my very short Christmas list. Yesterday's paper came with dozens of inserts from retailers, wanting my dollars on gifts that for the most part, don't do much for me...

My want list:
1. Peace on Earth
2. Democracy and integrity in our government
3. Nikon D70s

The first two items I can forget, since it's wishful thinking, and anyway, they would never be delivered on time for Christmas. Santa just can only do so much.

Item three, though... hmmm. I think that Santa (and I know my Santa is a female) could probably fit this item into her sleigh. It's lightweight (the camera, not the sleigh), powerful, and with the 18-55mm lens, I will be pretty well set with a complement of lenses, as I am covered with all my other AF lenses at home. Why the more expensive D70s instead of the less-pricey D50? Well, Santa, you see, the D50 uses SD memory cards, instead of the CF cards that the D70s and all our other digital cameras in the house use. Buying enough SD cards would eat up another couple of hundred dollars, and introduce another memory card format to complicate matters. The D70s has other functions, such as depth-of-field preview that a photographer like me needs for macro work. The special white balance functions are essential, too. The D70 is a fast, versatile DSLR that has a bunch of great features that will allow me to use all my older flashes, too. So, yes, the D70s is the camera for me.

A couple of sites have some excellent reviews. I love Ken Rockwell's site -- he's an avid Nikon user, and his review is based on a real user's perspective, not a generalist review or something from a photo magazine. DPreview is another good site with in-depth reviews of lots of other cameras, too.

So, if you are finally looking to buy a DSLR, I think the time has come. Price/features are really something. Yes, a new film SLR is still cheaper (though not for guys like me -- a Nikon F6 is more expensive than the D70s). I am NOT abandoning film -- b&w and classic cameras are still a heck of a lot of fun, as is Medium Format. However, for color work, I think digital has largely won over many. I have greatly enjoyed my Fuji FinePix S7000 over the past year -- I have probably shot close to 10,000 images, if not more. But, I miss the ability to use a lot of my fine lenses and macro gear that I can use with my Nikon cameras. In addition, the ability to shoot at f/1.8 if I want or at f/22, is a big advantage of a DSLR over a fixed-lens camera like the FinePix.

So, Santa, I hope you feel generous this year. I'll even put a some extras out for you...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Winter Photography

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Today is the first real snow of the season -- the roads are icy, and it looks like we will get a few inches. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I think they should reschedule that holiday to much earlier in the fall so that travellers don't get snowed in, like so many seem to. Doesn't bother me... we usually stay home.

Shooting in winter presents a whole new range of photographic opportunities, as well as challenges. Keeping ourselves warm and dry...and keeping our camera gear dry. Most of the vibrant colors of the other seasons are missing from our landscape, and when we find those colors, they contrast so well with snow. In addition, the daylength is oh so short. For those of us that like to shoot after work, forget it... it's dark when I leave for home. So, weekends and days off become more important for outdoor shooting. That raking light of the somewhat diminished sun makes great shadows on the landscape. Dark clouds behind front-lit trees. Black and white compositions with snow and trees. Lots of things to shoot if you just look.

If you are not the cold-weather type -- try doing still-lifes inside. There are lots of subjects to try out, and it's a good time to try using different lighting techniques and backgrounds, as well as different lenses and accessories.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Expired Film?

hawkeye shot
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Last weekend I shot a roll of Verichrome Pan 620 in my Brownie Hawkeye. The film came from a lot that someone gave me at the Argus Meeting back in May. The expiration date was 1961, meaning that the film is at least 45 years old! It rolled on okay into the camera, and I took some shots with it in Jackson and Hillsdale, MI.

Developing was fairly straightforward, though it took several tries to get it on the reel. I developed in Diafine for 3 minutes. This is a sample frame, scanned directly from the negative. All I did was adjust the curves a bit. Frankly, I am pleasantly surprised at the fact that the film was still useable, let alone getting a decent image from it.

Here is a pic of the camera!

That's the wonder of analog photography. Try doing this with a 45 year old digicam...

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Other Mike Myers

An acquaintance of mine, Mike Myers, has a really interesting exhibit at the Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti. Titled "Animal Dreams", the exhibit runs from Nov. 2 to Nov. 23, and Mike will often be there on Friday evenings with his work. His photographs are interesting, offbeat, and delighful. The b&w images were taken at places like Cabela's in Dundee, a private "Dinosaur Museum" in Michigan, and other similar venues. Mike's photographs are humorously titled, and the black and white depiction of what might be typical tourist spots, give them an altogether different mood. Check out the exhibit!

Michael C. Myers - Animal Dreams

Riverside Arts Center
76 North Huron Street
Ypsilanti, MI
Gallery - 734-761-3661

See more of Mike's work here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In Praise of Well-crafted Cameras

Contina for Me
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I purchased this Zeiss-Ikon Contina III at the MiPHS camera show in late October for $40. It's a beautiful camera. It's in excellent condition, everything moves as it should, with a precise feeling about it. It came with a 45mm f/2.8 Pantar lens, which I now know is removeable, thanks to my friends over on Craig Nelson's site . If anyone has the 30mm and 75 mm front elements for this camera, send me an email. These cameras were made 1955-1958, which means this camera is about the same age as I am.

Right now, I am shooting a roll of Ektachrome 100, and from everything I have heard, the images ought to be very good, unless I goofed somewhere...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Camera Swaps

checking out the wares
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
This past Sunday, Oct. 23, Marjorie and I spent the day at the 34th Annual "Photographica Trade Show" which is sponsored by the Michigan Photographic Historical Society (MiPHS), and held in Novi, MI. I'm a board member, and the two of us ran the MiPHS table, selling used gear and items that had been donated. In all, we sold nearly $200 worth of old cameras, parts, accessories, flashes, and darkroom equipment. Rock-bottom prices, because we are interested in selling the stuff for the organization, and not hauling it all back home. I wish some of the vendors would do the same. For some types of collectible cameras, yes, there are some minimums, once should not go lower on. But, there are several sellers there with their tables filled with the same items that I have seen them cart around to shows for the last 5 years, and it's probably been longer than that. With the same prices, of course. I don't know about them, but my hobby is not hauling photo gear back and forth. If I'm taking something to sell there and not on eBay, I'll be selling at a good price.
Some other sellers had some great prices on things because they obviously feel the same way. I ended up buying only a couple of cameras -- a Zeiss Ikon Contina (35mm) in really nice shape for $40. A bit on the high end, but I know the seller, and felt it was worth it for me to buy it from him. I also bought a $5 Imperial Reflex (plastic crappy camera, but cool), and a few other non-camera items. Marjorie bought an olive Argus A...

Monday, October 17, 2005

A new Argus book!

A new book!
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
This is the new book by Henry Gambino -- Argomania. A much-welcomed addition to classic camera literature, and especially nice to see a book on Argus cameras.
So far, it's been very informative, enjoyable, and well-illustrated.

You can get a copy from Aeone Communications, 73 Old Dublin Pike #181, Suite10, Doylestown, PA 18901 or contact ISBN#0-9770507-0-X; price is $39.95.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Spotmatic Spot

Mill at Mt. Victory, OH
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
You have seen the term, a "Kodak Moment." I just thought of a new one - A "Spotmatic Spot" Why? Well, I shot this photo with my old Pentax Spotmatic with its 50mm f1.8 normal lens. It's a classic camera by any definition. This Purina Mill in Mt. Victory, OH is also a classic spot. The image is almost timeless. It could have been taken 30 years ago or 30 days ago. Actually, I took it in June of this year on a photo safari trip with Marjorie through northern Ohio.
I spent at least 30 minutes, if not longer, shooting here, using digital, medium format, and 35mm. The Spotmatic is so nice to use -- nothing complex, almost an extension of myself. No meter. Used sunny 16 rules and common sense with the filter. It was one of those times that the subject was so right, and I just happened on it -- sun was perfect, and all I had to do was point my camera.

I used an orange filter to accentuate the sky just a bit, and the film was Ilford FP4+. Developed in HC110B.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Senior Portraits

trying to decide
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
If you are the parent of a child that is a high school senior this fall, then you have undoubtedly received mail from local photo studios looking for your dollars. A LOT of dollars. Some unabashed lines such as "the most important photographs of your life" had my daughter Marjorie cracking up. She sees through the charade of salesmanship to know that you do not have to spend between $500 and $2000 to get your senior portraits done. She's lucky, and so am I, since I am a photographer, and so is Marjorie. I don't wish to demean other photographers -- they are in a business to make money, and that is their only job. So, whatever angle they put on taking senior portraits to make a buck and support their families is fine. But, I know I can take portraits, too.

I spent a few hours over two days shooting her in several locations. She wanted b&w only. I shot mostly with digital -- in b&w, too. She could look at the screen afterwards while I was shooting and decide if she liked what I was getting. For the most part, I was amazed when I saw the images on my computer and then printed out. She was no longer the "kid" -- I was taking portraits of a young woman at the beginning of a new phase in her life. So, maybe they are not the most important photographs of her life, but as I look at them, I know they are the photos that demarcate the girl from the woman.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Dave, We Miss ya!

The end of an era
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
For many years, we had Dave Kozyra in town, either at Studio Center Photographic, or later, when he bought the business, and it became Dave's Photo Emporium. It was a sad day back on April 16, his last day of business. It was the best place to exhibit photographs in town, as well as a fun store to buy used and antique camera gear, talk shop, or rent a Hassleblad...

I realized I had not posted this earlier, when it was more timely, but I forgot that I had taken this shot of Dave in front of the store. Nonetheless, Dave left a void that has yet to be filled... both in camera gear and in having an accessible gallery.

Whatever Dave is doing now... I hope he is happy not to be minding a store, but he is missed by many of us!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Kodak Paper, 1887-2005, R.I.P.

Back on June 16, 2005, Eastman Kodak announced that it was "discontinuing" the production of its silver-based black and white printing paper. Kodak said it will stop production of the b&W paper at the end of this year. But the world’s biggest film manufacturer will continue to make black-and-white film and chemicals for processing. As the industry shifts rapidly from chemical-based to digital imaging, "demand for black-and-white paper is declining about 25 per cent annually and Kodak could no longer justify being in the market", Kodak spokesman David Lanzillo said.

Thus ends over a century of Kodak's production of black and white paper. Kodak’s original papers were made for “paper negatives” but for printing positives, they marketed a printing out paper (POP) that was used to make contact prints from larger negatives. Most missed by today’s fine-art printers will be some specialty papers, such as their Azo and Polycontrast Fine Art papers. The bulk of Kodak’s paper production is for the commercial photofinisher market, which uses little of no true b&w paper. However, as a practicing black and white photographer, I confess that I rarely use Kodak paper, instead buying papers made by Ilford and others.

Kodak's decision will undoubtedly convince some that the death-knell of film is upon us, and the death rattle of 35mm film cassettes can be heard in the shadows. I disagree. Kodak's problem is that they are trying to become the Digital Imaging Company the way they were the Film and Paper Company. Unfortunately, there are many competitors in this arena, and Kodak will be slugging it out with Fuji, Canon, HP, Kyocera, Nikon, Konica-Minolta, etc. Dumping their b&w paper production is probably not the big loss that some think it is -- Ilford, Forte, Kentmere and others will be afforded what market remains, and they will fill it in a manner more beneficial to photography enthusiasts. Here is what Kodak should think about doing -- spin off the silver-halide part of the company and call it Yellow-Box Classic or something, and have it become more of a niche company, catering to the Fine art and amateur world. Sure, very few commercial photographers are using b&w paper and film any more, but that does not mean there is no market.

The big unanswered question here is -- what will Kodak do next? There will always be a market for silver-based photography. Whether the product has Kodak's name on the box or Lucky Film from China remains to be seen.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Playing with Polaroid PolaBlue Film

Polablue dragonfly
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
PolaBlue is a weird film. It was (is?) made to produce reverse text slides with a blue background. Therefore, it's a hi-res and hi-contrast film. Also slower than molasses with an ISO of between 8 and 10. I was given a couple of packs of it -- each package has one roll of film and a processsing cartridge. You expose the film and put it and the developer cartridge into the Polaroid Autoprocessor unit..turn the cranks, and voila! in 5 minutes you have developed film that can be used for slides. A great idea for quick slides in the pre-digital photography world -- I recall using this film in the early 1980s for a presentation.

Now however, PolaBlue is an anachronism. I don't know if it is still being sold. The film had an expiration date of 1992, so I figured that I would try a roll out as a slow pictorial film and go for the weird effects. Before I tried it out on something that took planning, I tried a roll out in my yard. To be honest, I am amazed that it was still working. So what you see here is a shot of a dragonfly lawn ornament. The really cool effect was after I scanned the slide and inverted it in Photoshop. That gave me this image.

So, I will save the next roll for when I will be shooting something with lots of hi-contrast forms. That should be interesting, and I'll know what I got within 5 minutes...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Walker Evans is on the Way

I just found out that the UM Museum of Art is showing a Walker Evans (1903-1975) exhibit! It's basically a retrospective of James Agee's and Evans' collaborative work, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which appeared in book form in 1941. I always liked Walker Evans' images, and there is a good biography of him by James R. Mellow. The Agee-Evans venture is an interesting book, and I think without Evans' images, Agee's prose would lack the impact that's provided by the photographs. It's hard to imagine that sharecroppers could be so dirt poor, and in the context of the Great Depression, maybe they weren't quite so bad off as some. And I have to wonder -- if white sharecroppers were that bad off, how bad did African-Americans have it? Something to think about.

For some background on Walker Evans, I suggest these sites:

Walker Evans Revolutionizes Documentary Photography

Getty Museum

Art Cyclopedia

I look forward to seeing the show!

Addendum -- I first viewed the exhibit on 10/28 -- it's an excellent show with 78 prints and ancillary letters and documents. Well worth seeing Evan's original prints, many of which did not appear in the book.

Walker Evans

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Female Photographers and Self-nudes

Originally uploaded by aikitherese.
I have come to the conclusion that some of the best nudes I have seen have been self-portraits by women. On flickr, you can certainly find plenty of nudes -- as well as on other photo sites.

As a bona fide art form, the nude has a long history. Most artists were men, thus nude females as a subject were always from the male viewpont. As photographers started doing nudes, they were at first photographing similar subjects and settings as some of the paintings done by their painting forebears.

Enter Edward Weston and Imogene Cunningham, who in my opinion, photographed some of the best nudes. Weston's were sometimes abstract, but always sensual, and I think were always very positive images. Cunningham's images were of a variety of women, sometimes soft, other times abstract, but again, always strong images.

Since then, how many photographers have shot nudes? Tens of Thousands? How many ways can one show the female (or male) form? Millions? Almost always, there has been the photographer and the model -- two minds. Is the product that we see because of the photographer or is it good because of the model? I suspect that if we based an image on glamour or sex appeal alone, rather than the body as a landscape,we might have differeing viewpoints on that. But, what if the subject and the photographer are one and the same? Then, the image becomes a personal statement combining the emotions and physical attributes of the model with the technology and photographic abililty of the model.

Until digital, the best instant feedback one could get for such self-images was a Polaroid. Not really well-suited for most serious photographers. You still had to wait a while to see the results. With digital, one can view the image via the LCD remotely (for those with flip-up screens) or at least see it immediately afterwards. The mood of the shot, positioning, and so one, do not get disrupted. The photographer then adjusts her position to get exactly what she desired in the shot. Easy? I wish it were so, because if it were that easy, anyone could do it. It still takes - vision, persistence, talent, and a thick skin. You are not just the photographer, you are the model.

There are many talented female photographers that do self-portraits on flickr ( I am pointing out one that goes by the screen name of aikitherese. Her self-nudes are sensitive, dynamic, expressive, and just damn good photography. Sometimes they remind me of Weston, Stieglitz, or Modotti. Overall, many of them could hang in a gallery somewhere. Take a look --aikitherese

I don't believe I could shoot anywhere near as good a nude as those Therese does of herself. I certainly could never capture myself the way she does -- and I would not even attempt it.

So, is it the photographer or the model that makes a great nude? Sometimes they are one and the same and you can't separate them..

Friday, August 19, 2005


The University of Michigan's Museum of Art is currently showing about 20 images from Monte Nagler, an accomplished large-format photographer. It's showcasing his newest book, published by the UM Press - Monte Nagler's Michigan ( here). The black and white photographs are mostly landscapes, and true to his Ansel Adams background, only one has a person in it. However, this is Monte Nagler's Michigan -- not mine or yours. His photos are beautiful, and as an admirer of his work, I would love to have any of them hanging on my wall -- especially the one of the inside of the Capitol dome in Lansing.

I met Mr. Nagler about 5 years ago at an event in Ann Arbor. He's easy to talk to, and at that time, I was just getting back into photography and taking it seriously. It's good to see that someone can make a mid-life career change like he did, and be successful at it. Unlike a lot of photographers schooled by Ansel Adams, Monte has focused on areas other than the Western US. His landscape work is wide-ranging, and very popular. His Michigan is presented in such a way that you know he loves his home state, and we are lucky to have a person of his caliber recognized by the Governor as a "state treasure."

The images at the UMMA are downstairs in what is called the "Paper Gallery" I call it the purgatory gallery because it's dimly lit, and is really just a hallway past the bathrooms and leads into office spaces. They usually have photo exhibits down there, unless it's a major showing on the second floor, like they did with Manuel Alvarez Bravo a few years ago. Hopefully, when the UMMA gets their addition, photography will be displayed more prominently there.

Diana Cameras -- Fun Stuff

As the Stomach Churns
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I finally got out my Diana camera Monday and took it to the Michigan State Fair -- shot a roll of Ilford HP-5, actually developed the film during the same week, and scanned in the negs yesterday. For the first time, I got a bunch of images from it that I really liked. Maybe it's the subject matter (partly) or maybe it's that I am finally getting accustomed to its idiosyncracies. Whatever, I think out of 16 shots, at least 4 are real keepers.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Daughter Does Good...

I am a beast.
Originally uploaded by I am Jacques Strappe.
My daughter Marjorie scored a big one with her Best of Show entry at the Michigan State Fair. She had already receieved a State Fair Gold Ribbon award, and she was judged against other gold ribbon recipients. So, you could say she's the best of the best. In any case I am happy for her, quite proud, and also a bit envious. Way to go, kid!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Argust 5th

Argus 5th
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Tomorrow is Argust 5th (August 5th) the 5th world-wide Argus day. A day to take your Argus camera and shoot some film. See the Argus Collector's Group for more details!

You can see last year's Argust 4th images here:

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Canonet GIII QL-17

cool camera
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
This highly desirable camera is a great little rangefinder camera. I bought mine about 5 years ago at a resale shop for $10. If you go to Steven Gandy's Cameraquest site, you'll find a bunch of information about it. ( I replaced the foam seals in mine after I first acquired it, installed a mercury battery, and the camera has worked flawlessly ever since. If the battery goes I could still use it fully manually; otherwise it's a shutter-priority auto exposure system. With its matched flash - Canolite D, the camera does really well with flash exposure.

My camera is pictured with its series VI filter holder and a yellow filter.

Should you find one of these for sale, pick it up. If you have been shooting with digital for a while, you might have forgotten the instant response of a film camera.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

superior bay, superior day

superior bay
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
We just returned from a week in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or UP. The UP is my favorite part of the state, perhaps because it reminds me more of where I grew up in northern NY. However, the fact that the UP has Lake Superior to the N, L Michigan to the S and L Huron to the SE, means that it has an abundance of shoreline. This was my first foray into the Keweenaw N of Houghton, and it is a fantastic place to visit. Lots of photographic opportunities, and someday I'd like to spend a week or two there, not just an overnight visit.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Photography Books Part 1

more books
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
A few posts ago I asked how many cameras were too many. How many books are too many? Specifically, how many photography books are too many? I guess there is only the limit of space. In my house, I have about 30+ shelf feet of photography books. Some of them are classic works by famous photographers, some of them are booklets from Kodak, camera manuals, collector's guides, darrkroom hints, technical manuals, and others are just page after page of beautiful images.

Why do I collect them? My interest in photography is wide-ranging. I love the history of the medium, the personalities of many of the greats, and of course, for every famous photographer now dead, there are bound to be a number of biographies about him or her. Ansel Adams, known as Saint Ansel by many, led a fairly straight life. Not too many skeletons in his closet... but Edward Weston! A complex man that was inspired by many things, photographed many things, and many women. His existing daybooks, compiled by Nancy Newhall, make for interesting reading. One of his loves, Tina Modotti, herslef a famous photographer in her brief career, is also the subject of a fine biography. She too, was a very complex persona. Banned from Mexico because of her Communist activities (really it was a trumped up murder charge, but it was really because of her stirring up the masses), she spent an exciting life abroad as a Communist agent of sorts, and eventually returned to Mexico. A movie could be made of her life.

Okay, I really got off on a tangent there, but the point is, a photograph is not merely a photograph. It's also a manifestation of the photographer's mind and heart. I'm not talking about birthday snapshots, but serious photography. Many of the books I have featuring images by a single photographer are sort of like glimpses into their selves and beliefs.

So, of all my photography books, which are my favorites? That's in my next entry!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

State of the Art 50 years ago

State of the Art 50 years ago
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Which can be said for many of my cameras. Like this Farmall tractor, a lot of cameras manufactured 50 years ago are capable of great results. It may not be the fastest tool in the shed, but it gets the job done. My Argus C3 and C4 cameras don't have any thing on them that compares to modern cameras, yet given circumstances that are not too demanding, these cameras will give good results. Just like this tractor.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Lensbaby Portraits

jen 1
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I took this shot of Jen back in April, with my Lensbaby mounted on my Nikon FM2N. It's the first time I'd used that lens for shooting people, and it really adds a different aspect to such shots. I don't think I have yet seen any lensbaby nudes...any volunteers?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

more macro notes

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
This morning, I tried out stacking 2 diopters on the front of my Fuji FinePix S7000. This is the result of a +1 and +4 diopter. The lens is not set at the macro setting, so by doing this I have pretty good working distance and Maxium 210 mm zoom (35mm equivalent). Note the blue cast to the flower at the upper left -- a common digital problem, and exaggerated by the diopters, I am sure.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

How many is too many?

While I was in Martinsville, VA, I had an opportunity to see part of Doug Wilcox's camera collection. This shot is only of the Kodaks. For those of you that have spouses that believe you have too many old cameras, show them this photo. Doug is a fine gentleman, and I was pleased to be able to browse his collection.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sepia Scenes

Old Tobacco Warehouses 2
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I don't often turn my images into sepia tones on the computer. My tastes runs more towards the Selenium toned - more purplish-blacks, less on the brown side. However, these tobacco warehouses in Danville, Virginia really looked great this way. Even more so, as a testament to the tobacco-induced brown coverings that coat the homes and lungs of smokers.
This sepia effect was done in iPhoto. However, had I shot this on film, I would have toned the prints in Kodak's Sepia toner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Back When...Ann Arbor had an industry

Back When...
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Last weekend I was in Martinsville, VA for the 4th annual Gathering of the Argus Camera Collectors Group. My daughter Marjorie was with me, and we had a great time. I'll post more images in a few days, but I had to post this photo I took of an old issue of the employee newletter, The Argus Eyes, which has this photo of the sign Argus used to have on US 23.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

How I shot the bluebells

This is the setup I used for shooting the macro shots of the bluebells and other flowers with a black velvet background. The umbrella diffuses the flash, the small mirror on the table reflects additional light up from below. It's a pretty simple setup, and note that I subsituted my Nikon F in place of the digital, since I had to use that to take the photo of the setup. I did use the F for some of the same shots, though.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Virginia bluebells - indoors

Virginia bluebells
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Last night I was eager to do some shooting of our Mertensia - (Virginia Bluebells) in our garden. Our backyard is basically a woodland wildflower garden with an overstory of hickory and oak. By the time I was able to do some shooting it was nearly dark. In addition, we have the disappointing weather forecast of snow this weekend -- after 78° on Tuesday. I figured that I had better just cut one of the flower stalks and bring it inside and do some shooting studio-style.

I'm glad I did -- Mertensia is really a tough one to photograph well. It's fairly low to the ground - bright light washes it out, and if windy, you can't get great depth of field.

So, I set it up on a table with a black velvet backdrop, used a cheap vivitar strobe behind a white umbrella, and small mirror to reflect light from below to capture the details. Fuji Finepix S7000 with +4 diopter, 1/25 (or so) @ f8.

I like this setup so much, I think I'll do more flower portraits this way.

Monday, April 18, 2005

What Would Steiglitz Say?

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I took this photo yesterday -- we finally had some clouds after about a week of pure blue skies. I used a Red 25A filter on the front of my Fuji Finepix S7000. To do this, you need to buy the tubular adapter (sold by a number of manufacturers) so that you can use screw-on filters in front of the lens. Actually, this is a good idea even if you don't use filters, because the tube gives you something to hold onto, and it protects the lenses. Mine has a 52mm filter thread, so a lot of my filters fit without any step-up/down rings. It also allows me to attach a diopter in front of the lens for better macro shots, too.

In this example, I used the camera in Black & White mode, which is what I always do when I take b&w photos with it. Since it is an EVF camera, the viewfinder is in b&w too, and that is helpful when evaluating tones in the photo. The red filter darkens the blue sky and makes the clouds stand out.

As for the title, What Would Steiglitz Say? -- it's a bit tongue in cheek. I never really thought much of Steiglitz's series of photos, The Equivalents, which are a bunch of 4x5 cloud photos. Not there there is anything technically wrong with them, I just think they received more adulation than they deserved. I saw the set of those photos last year at an exhibit at the UM Museum of Art. Perhaps at the time Steiglitz took them, nobody else thought of photographing clouds. Perhaps its just because they were done by Steiglitz. To me, they underscore that when Steiglitz took them, his most creative (photographically) years were behind him. But that is what happens when one is a legend. Everything you do becomes valuable, whether it was good or not in the first place. I still think Steiglitz was a true pioneer in his field, and he did much to advance the acceptance of photography as an art form, and of course, his introduction of modern art to the US is undeniably a huge accomplishment. But let's just say I am ambivalent about his Equivalents...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Maple Flowers

Beauty close up
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
For the past several years, I have been meaning to cut a twig from a maple and photograph the flowers. Well, I never did get it done until today. I cut a twig from a red maple in County Farm Park, brought it home, and let it sit in water for a day. It really is amazing to see the stamens pop out and make these into very delicate beauties.
I used my Fuji Finepix S7000 with a +4 diopter, AC Strobe, and black velvet backround. Shot at f8 at 1/8000 sec.
I also shot a roll of Astia with my Nikon FA, using my 60mm micro nikkor and 3 PK extension tubes. Shooting at f22, I am sure I had greater depth of field than with the digi. I look forward to seeing the slides.

A Road Trip

nut bar
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Marjorie and I like traveling around and shooting photos of a variety of subjects--they usually center around the abandoned, the old, the beautiful, and the tacky. Sometimes all can be in a single image. Wandering the back roads of Michigan and anywhere in America, one can find something that falls into those categories.
Marjorie suggested that we go and travel to the western part of Michigan where we really have not explored much. So, on March 31--a gloomy day that was blustery and raining at times, we set off in search of old movie houses and Americana. We stopped in Marshall, Battle Creek, ate lunch in Otsego, saw a beautiful downtown Allegan, a wonderful barn full of antiques north of South Haven, saw a decrepit cinema in Niles, right next to a wonderful city hall; then stopped in Edwardsburg Michigan; White Pigeon; Sturgis, Bronson, and then home. On the road for 12 hours, and we saw a lot that we did not photograph.
Because of the weather, I decided that it was going to be too gloomy for good black & white work, so I shot color via my Fuji Finepix S7000. Marjorie used her Nikon FM with slide and color negative film.
It will be interesting comparing our photos. She has a good eye, and we always end up with different interpretations of the same subject.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

face it, Spring is late...

face in the garden
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I thought yesterday was the most spring-like day yet this year. Mostly sunny, and at least 50°F! Today, we are supposed to get more snow...blah.

I did get out in the afternnon, and shot a roll of film in a recently-acquired Ciroflex TLR at Cobblestome Farm.. This is the nicest Ciroflex I have seen to date. The ground glass was much brighter than the others I have. I also shot a roll of Ilford Delta Pan 400 (exp. 1996) in my Fed-5 with an Industar-22 that I recently got off eBay. The Industar-22 is about the same as the collapsible Leica Elmar 50mm lens, and it cost me less than $18.00 with shipping from the Ukraine. The negs that I developed last night from both of these cameras came out great.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Dining Out

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I was scanning in some slides last night for possible inclusion in someone's book. I really like this shot of this Calopteryx maculata female eating a small fly. I found her near the River Raisin in western Washtenaw Co. in June 2003. The mosquitoes were nasty, but I managed to get a couple of shots of this damselfy before she flew off. I used my Nikon FA with the 70-180 micro-Nikkor.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Waiting For Spring

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I shot this a year ago in a barn that is being preserved at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The barn itself is over 100 years old, and had suffered from neglect for a number of years before UM decided it was worth doing some reroofing and repair. Otherwise, it would have been in a very sad state within a few years.

The barn is now pretty well cleaned up inside, and I shot this photo with my Nikon F4, mounted on a tripod, and in aperture priority mode. I think the shadows came out pretty well, especially with the amount of light streaming in through the window. What the photo really needs is a human element though. A model with the ladder would be a good start.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Depth of Field

Poppy Pods
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
One of the harder things to teach new photographers is depth of field (DOF) and out of focus (OOF) considerations when making a photograph. DOF is controlled largely by the aperture, however, the exposure characteristics must be taken into account. Good DOF depends on a small aperture, hence a slower shutter speed. The focal length of the lens determines how much of the background will be in focus. Obviously, if you want foreground and background to be in focus, you go for a wide-angle lens. If you want a great OOF background, then opt for a telephoto. In this case, I used my Tamron 80-200mm zoom with a 2x diopter to get these poppy seed capsules close-up, yet rendering the background soft and OOF. Aperture was probably f16. I used a tripod and a lens shade, too. Image was made on Fuji Astia.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

What we see

If you want to try a fun exercise (not the calorie-burning kind) -- take one room in your house, one camera, one lens, and ask yourself what do you see that's interesting and can shoot in 15 minutes? Look at things close-up, down low, whatever. The point is for you to try and see things that you never noticed before. See things. Feel them in your brain. Look through the viewfinder and don't have a specific object in mind. You might just surprise yourself.

A bit of a clock, photographed with my Minolta S-1 APS and 50mm macro (yes, that's correct, an APS camera!)

My wife's keys for her workplace

You'll be amazed at how different things look when you really do look at them.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Wonderful Morning

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
On Wednesday (Feb. 2), we had ideal condditions for the formation of thick hoarfrost. Ice fog which quickly coalesced onto anything that was cold. I took the bus into work as usual, hopped off at my usual stop, and spent 30 minutes shooting things with my Fuji FinePix S7000. Anything that was stationary and cold, became an anchor point for a multitude of ice crystals. This pine could be anywhere - Yosemite, Yellowstone, Isle Royale, or just somewhere in the middle of nowhere. But it wasn't - it was right in front of the UM Museum of Zoology, where I work. It just goes to show you that nature's beauty can surprise you, even right outside your door.