Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wow... 2006 has been something

2006 is about to close, with the chapter called 2007 about to begin. I can't predict the future, so I'll say something about the past 12 months instead. Photographically, it has been an amazing year. I have met a lot of new local friends via Flickr -- we have had numerous meetups, gone to several museum exhibitions, and hoisted beers and cameras together. The Ann Arbor Area Krappy Kamera Club (TM) formed back in April, and since then, we have also had monthly meetings, shoots, and in a few months will have an exhibition in town.
Flickr is everywhere

My daughter Marjorie graduated from high school, and is attending Northern Michigan University as an Arts and Design major. I'm immensely proud of her and the photography that she has been doing. I'd like to think that I have had something to do with it. We have gone on many trips around the state in her pursuit of old theaters, and she has only a handful left to photograph. Hopefully, she'll do something wonderful, like write a book with those images.

My wife Adrienne has been very supportive in my photographic endeavors, and I know she has probably felt like a camera widow at times. But, I couldn't do any of this with her doing all the things that she does. She's my biggest fan and an honest critic.

Throughout the year, I have made many new contacts and I would especially like to thank Mike, Matt, Ross, Erich, John, Sam, Andrea, Kate, Doug, Cynthia, Sid, and Abby for their friendship and good humor. It's amazing how a circle of friends can grow when certain interests are shared, and photography and the arts in this corner of Michigan is alive and well.

Lastly, I'd like to list the top 5 local photographic events:

(1) Edward Weston exhbit in Muskegon (fabululous)
(2) UMMA Photographic retropsective (amazing)
(3) Michigan's Family Album exhibit in Lansing (overwhelming)
(4) Ansel Adams Polaroid exhibit in Grand Rapids (surprising)
(5) Annie Liebowitz at the DIA (even tho I missed it-- I heard it was great)

One month from tomorrow, I'll be having an exhibit of my own... stay tuned.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saturday Morning


Today started out with some decent fog, so I got my gear together and rushed over to West Park, where some infamous, gnarly old willow trees reside. The fog was not thick everywhere, and by the time I got to the park, it certainly wasn't ideal, but it was there. I hauled out my Pentax 6x7 and my Coolpix 995, and shot a roll of b&w film, and a few digital shots, as I figured I may as well since I drove over. The digicam shots didn't look too bad, and I'll see how the roll of film came out later on.

It's been a fun week away from work. While I have not been doing anything really exciting (not counting the trip to Detroit to see Spamalot!), I have been able to spend some quality darkroom time and get organized.

Happy New Year to you all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Playing with a Pen Cam

Chelsea Icons 1

If you have been following my photostream on Flickr, you probably have seen a few recent images taken with my Aiptek MegaCam - a 1.2 MP digicam that is a bit over an inch square and a hair over 3" tall. It's called a pencam, due to its shape. Now normally, I like to get as many megapixels out of a camera as possible. My first digicam was a Logitech Photoman - a b&w digicam with an image size of about 490 x 360 pixels. At the time (mid 1990s), I thought it was amazing (and of course, had I been serious about photography, I would have dismissed it). My next digicam was an Apple Quicktake 200, which produced 640x480 color images that were actually of decent quality. Still, though, it was pretty low-res, but not bad for web stuff.
Since then, I have used increasingly complex digital cameras, and my current digital SLR is a Nikon D70s. It's an amazing camera, and pretty much does whatever I want, except shoot b&w film, but that's another story. Anyway, I have been doing a lot of "toy camera" film photography in the past few years, and recently became curious about those bottom-feeding digital cameras, the 10-dollar keychain cameras. I then saw a reference to the Aiptek PenCam, which is selling for 9 dollars (!!) as a refurb unit online. DIGITAL VIDEO & PHOTOGRAPHY "On the Cheap" has a nice review of cheap pen-cam style cameras, and trying to use them with the Mac OS. Of course, ideally i'd like to be able to use this camera with my Mac, but since i have a Dell laptop, I can email the images to myself, etc., if I need to.

I bought the Aiptek MegaCam a few weeks ago, and for a cheap little 1.2 MP camera that's not much bigger than a cigarette lighter, I am very impressed. It's got some quirks, but if used within its limitations, it takes pretty good snapshots for web use, and the colors are saturated. It's my digital Toy Camera, since I have no idea what my results are until I upload the images to my computer.
Definitely a fun toy, and at the price they are selling for online, I can see someone buying them as party gifts!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I love black and white film

Foosball players
Thursday night was the monthly Flickr Meetup for Ann Arbor Flickr people (if you have no idea what I am writing about, Flickr isn't just a photo-sharing site, it has become a social phenomenon). This month, we met at Leopold Brothers' brewpub on North main Street. Since it was the end of the school year, close to Christmas and other holidays, the pub was not as terribly busy as it was the last time we met there. Most of the ardent flickr people were present, and some new faces (though long present on Flickr) were in attendance. Almost everyone was shooting digital, but Ross, Jon, and I were shooting film. Nothing captures a pub atmosphere as well as good old monochrome film.

Dola, Andrea, Ross
hit or miss

Technical details - Nikon N6006, 50mm 1.8 Nikkor AFD lens, Eastman 5222 developed in Diafine, shot at an ISO of 400.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

Last Thursday evening, my wife Adrienne and I joined a bunch of her co-workers at Aubrey's Saloon in Ypsilanti's Depot Town. I brought my bag with a couple of toy cameras to do some shooting later on, since I had yet to do my night photography assigment for the Ann Arbor Krappy Kamera Club. We had some beer and food, and said our goodbyes, and I went back to the car for my tripod. There is a really neat alley/park that looked good in the night light, so I set up my Holga and took one time exposure. Right afterwards, David, Will, and Connie came around the corner, heading for the parking lot. Will was dressed as Saint Nick from the party earlier in the day, and as I saw him there in the alley, I told everyone to get out of the way and for St. Nick (I mean Will) to freeze. I opened the shutter for about 10-12 seconds, and that was it. I had no idea what to expect on the film. That night, I developed the film, and it wasn't until I scanned in the negative the next morning that I realized that I had indeed, captured Father Christmas in a sort of timeless, ambiguous image. It's not really a posed image, because I never expected Will at that spot, but I was prepared, which was a good thing. I'm sure I can improve on this image, but I think the spontaneity and charm might be lost were I to do it with a plan in mind.

I shot the rest of the roll and none of my remaining images were as interesting as the one above.

store window and retro toys

Monday, December 11, 2006

3111 Packard Street

Photography is a wonderful thing. It preserves our past, whether that past was 10 seconds ago or 100 years ago. It's a way to pull out recollections from seeing an image that means something to us. We may not remember a face in out memory too well, but when we see a photo of a long-lost relative or friend -- we know them immediately. A photo can remind us of what has been gained -- or lost.

3111 Packard

In this instance, I realized on Saturday that two old Cape-Cod style houses on Packard looked to be slated for demolition any day. I stopped by Sunday and took a few cameras, and took a few photos...

It's a shame that these two interesting houses were let go for so long. I'm sure they were built in the 1930s -40s. People lived there and watched the neighborhood expand around them. Now, after having been vacant and unloved for several years, crews came in and took out all the trees and shrubs, and I am betting that the houses will be gone this week and replaced by who knows what.

From a photographers's view, these houses are rich in texture, and the Techpan film really captured them. Stark.

Nikon FM with 28mm lens, Techpan rated at ISO 25 and developed in Technidol LC.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rouge, Revisited

For those that love the industrial landscape, there are few places that evoke the awe of America's industrial might like Ford's River Rouge complex. First photographed by Charles Sheeler in the late 1920s, the Dystopian landscape of the Rouge complex is a fascinating conglomeration of steel, brick, smoke, and glass. More recently, the English photographer Michael Kenna spent a great deal of time over a decade ago photographing the Rouge complex during the twilight hours, evenings, cold weather, and gloomy days. The University of Michigan's Museum of Art (UMMA) is now presenting an awesome exhibit of about 75 of Kenna's Rouge photographs at their offsite gallery on South University.
The Rouge Exhibit banner

I went there last night with Adrienne and some of my local photography buddies, and it was an enjoyable hour looking over Kenna's images. The industrial landscapes, often abstract, sometimes grand, and sometimes peotic depictions of industry, are truly wonderful. Deep luminous blacks, great tonal scale, and intimate print sizes (I think no larger than 6 x8") invite the viewer to get close and examine the details, or to just step back and see the abstract shapes of the complex. Smokestacks with vaporous apparitions, repeating shapes, nocturnal ghostliness, and beautiful reflections on water provide an amazing array of superb photography. Most of the prints appear square, so of course, we photographers were wondering about the negative format, and we still are curious as to why they were all labelled as "Sepia toned" when at least to our eyes, they had the look of split-toned images or Selenium. I may just have to ask the curator.

Matt checks out his countryman's work.

I like the look of this off-site gallery. For one, it's a nice space for photographic exhibits, as showcased by this extensive showing of Kenna's Rouge series of images. It's intimate enough to feel like a small gallery, but large enough to really have a decent-sized show. It's also flexible in regards to partitions, so viewers don't feel like they are in a cavernous space like the main gallery in the UMMA.

Kenna Exhibit

If you have a chance to see the Kenna exhibit, you should go (it's also free). Not only is it of regional interest, but it's just wonderful photography that is well-presented. See the UMMA web site for times, but the exhibit runs from Dec. 2 to January 14.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Brownie Bull's-eye

A 620 bakelite camera from the 1950s. 6x9cm negative. An ebay purchase, it arrived today -- and despite looking like it had sat in a garage somewhere, it's in working condition. I did a little cleanup, put in a roll of 40-year-old Verichrome Pan, and I'll see how this hunk-o-bakelite works out.

Brownie Bulls-eye

This is the "Champagne" version -- a little sexier than the more common black and silver model. Original price was about $15, this one was $5 + shlepping. Not as pristine as I had hoped, but I'll see what kind of shooter it is. It does have Bulb setting as well as a tripod socket... so fun will ensue. It came with a finished roll of Kodacolor II. Not sure if it'll be worth developing, though. I have been wanting one of these for a while, and if memory serves me right, one of my vintage camera buddies had great success with his. Now I need to get the black and silver one, too.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Abstract Umbrella


I was walking near the Kerrytown part of Ann Arbor on a sunny day (rare this fall) a few months ago. I walked past some metal sunshade umbrellas and saw this abstraction. I had my Holga with me, and took one shot. Never thought much about it. Last night I finally printed the negative and was blown away by the image. Had I really taken that? In this case, the b&w image was far better than I had seen with the camera, and I'm quite pleased with how it came out on paper. It reminds me of some of Laszlo Maholy-Nagy's and Man Ray's high-contrast abtracts.

I have been struggling in the darkroom for the past few times this week, trying to get back into printing, which I hadn't done for a few months. Getting the "feel" back, and getting good prints made, took me a few nights, and last night I went to bed happy with my efforts. I need to make a bunch more prints for my show, and I hope I'm as satisfied with them as I am this one.

Technical details: camera - Holga. 400 film, printed on Ilford Multigrade FB paper, Ilford Warmtone developer.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Six years ago this November

Six years ago...

I shot my first photos with a medium-format camera, a quite crappy Spartus Full-View with a roll of quite good Ilford Delta 100 film. This is the house at Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor, one of my favorite places to test out a new camera. I have been leafing through my binders filled with med format negs, to determine which ones I'm printing for my upcoming show. Of course, I'm just using toy camera images, not the "good"cameras. I'm still amazed at how many rolls of film I have shot in 6 years.

This image probably will not end up in the show, but I think I am printing it tonight, if just to see what a real print from it will look like. Note the lens aberrations... definitely a Crappy Camera!

As I look back on my experience, it's hard to believe I only started shooting with toy cameras, etc. 6 years ago, and this roll is the first one that I shot. Sometimes one gets lucky.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gift Ideas

It's that time of year when in just a few days, the official christmas shopping insanity starts. I confess that there is really nothing I need this year. But perhaps you, dear reader, are wondering what to get for a favorite photographer, and maybe you need to leave a hint for your favorite Santa.

Plastic Camera

It's been a good year for photographic books, and my favorite book this year is Plastic Cameras by Michelle Bates. This 228-page book published by Focal Press (ISBN 0-240-80840-1) is an excellent guide to the history of toy camera photography, with many prime examples of photographic excellence by other photographers (some of whom are on Flickr). Plastic Cameras also has chapters on how to use the Holga, how to modify it, and tips for shooting. It also has an index! I like the way this book inspires me to try some things out, and I believe that Plastic Cameras is a must-have for anyone using toy cameras, or if you want to inspire someone else to try them. Obviously, available at discount from

Of course, to go with the book, you might need a Holga camera. In Ann Arbor, Big George's Home Appliance Mart on Stadium Blvd. has them - Mike Myers tells me it's the best-selling FILM camera in the store. Otherwise, get online to Freestyle and buy a Holga there. Don't forget 120 400-speed film. 400 from Freestyle is a wonderful bargain at less than $2 roll. Of course, if you can't develop your own B&W, I suggest Ilford XP-2 in 120 format which is a C-41 process film. For color, any 400 iso film will do.

There -- all your shopping done for less than $60. Don't forget a card. You can buy mine online at Cafe Press. I'll thank you for that -- and, don't forget a mug or other item for the non-photographer!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Yashica Gets a New Home

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I purchased this nice Yashica-A for $30 last weekend at the MiPHS Photographica Show (see earlier post). It's in really fine condition, and I have always wanted one of the Yashica twin-lens reflex cameras. Not that I don't already have enough TLRs, but I enjoy using them, and every one has a special place in my heart. This one is no exception. It's not up to par with my Rolleiflex, but it's not a bad TLR, either, and would make a great entry-level model (which it was was) for anyone wanting to do some medium-format photography.

This is the basic TLR from Yashica, and it was produced from 1958-1969. So, at minimum, this camera is 36 years old. It works as well as the day it was sold... something that you won't see in cameras being produced today - especially after 36 years.

I put a roll of Arista Ultra 100 (becoming a favorite film - available from Freestyle) and did some shooting around campus last Wednesday. I wasn't disappointed with the results, and will shoot with it again this week -- if the weather is decent.

Here is a good source of YashicaMat information

One shot from last week - scanned and duotoned in PS:


Friday, November 10, 2006

pinholed again

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Every once in a while, I decide to play with producing images from a pinhole camera. It's a method that some people absolutely love or are else indifferent about. Locals like Matt Callow have really done some nice work and received some well-deserved attention. For me, it's a fun diversion now and then, and I appreciate the work of others, but it's not my favorite mode of making photos. However, for our latest Krappy Kamera assigment, we are supposed to modify a camera or make a camera, so using Ross Orr's instructions, I modified a cheap little Vivitar 35mm camera with a 28mm lens, into a pinhole camera.

My only problem is that the hole for the part that housed the lens is a small circular opening, and I had to file away some of the opening, but not so much that I could not use the sliding lens cover as a shutter for the pinhole. As a result, my images are circular, but overall, it was a pretty easy conversion. I used Delta 400 film and exposed the shots at somewhere between 10 and 15 seconds.

I took the camera out to Matthaei Botanical gardens and shot a roll in the conservatory. I like the way this giant agave looks like a more diminutive spider plant!

Monday, November 06, 2006

A big haul of old roll film

A big haul for 25 bucks
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Sunday was the big event of the year for the Michigan Photographic Historical Society (MiPHS) -- our annual photographica show in Novi. It was really well-attended this year -- with over 240 people coming through the door. I spent most of the day behind the table for the society, hawking our items for sale (all of which were donated), and having a good time talking to people. One of the things we had was in our silent auction -- a big box of about 75 rolls of old film -- 127, 620, 120, 116, 616, and 828. I won that item for 25 bucks, which is a pretty good deal, even for old b&w film. A lot of it dates from the 1970s, which is pretty recent compared some 620 I had that expired in 1961. It was still useable, so I'm guessing that the Verichrome Pan in this lot isn't too bad. There are a bunch of rolls of old Kodacolor X (C-22 process) in 620 that I will probably sell or give away just for the metal spools.
It will be especially interesting to play with the 828 and 127 film. There were some funky brands in there that have not been seen in a while, and I'll just keep those as examples. Anscopan, Ideal and Perutz film. The Ideal was made by Agfa, and has the Kryptar name on the roll. Sounds like it came from Superman's home planet...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Good News!

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Last night, I found out that I have been scheduled for a photography exhibit at the Pierpont Commons on UM's North Campus. Opening date, Feb. 1, 2007. Working title for the show will be "Through a Lens Softly - the Lure and Magic of Toy Cameras." I'm excited and scared as hell. I'll keep my friends updated on the event.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Trip to Visit Marjorie

Lake Superior shoreline
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Last Thursday, Adrienne and I drove to Marquette (MI) to visit Marjorie for Parents' Weekend at had been 9 weeks since we last saw her, and it was a beautiful drive up to the UP and over to Marquette. The larches in the UP were mostly orange-yellow, contrasting with the spruces and pines nearby.

We had a great time with her, and drove over to Republic, Iron Mountain and Crystal Falls on Friday-- shot lots of photos along the way. Saturday dawned stormy, with hail and amazing winds. The Superior lakeshore was whipped into a frenzy of crashing waves and huge swells. We stood on the "Black Rocks" of Presque Isle and shot photos of the awesome power of Lake Supeior. I shot film, Marjorie went digital. It was all we could do to stand there and take photos.

Sunday, we climbed Sugarloaf Mountain on a very crisp but sunny morning (something that has been quite rare down around Ann Arbor this fall), and the view was excellent. We could see the waves -- albeit smaller trhan the previous day, but they were still impressive.

It was a good weekend visiting our daughter, and it was nice meeting her friends. I'm envious that she has such awesome scenery just a few miles from her campus.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fun in Rochester

My new honey
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I returned home last night from my weekend in Rochester, NY, where I attended the Photohistory Symposium XIII. It was a fun time, and I was there along with some other fellow members of the Michigan Photographic Historical Society. Four of us went together in a van, and had no problem with Canadian or US Customs. It had been a few years since I'd been in Canada, and the quick way to Rochester was through Canada. We arrived Friday afternoon, and the evening's get-together featured free drinks. Everyone received a free copy of a huge volume on Steiglitz's photos, courtesy of Eastman Kodak!

Saturday was cool and cloudy, and all of the presentations were at the George Eastman House (GEH), the premier center for photographic history. The first talk of the day was on the history of digital photography -- it was by far, one of the best presentations that day, and also very informative. The rest of the presentations were certainly informative, and like all symposiums, the quality of the presentations varied. There are clearly some amazingly knowledgeable people out there, and I came away with a head full of new facts and ideas.

Starflash color

some nice colorful Brownie Starflash cameras at GEH.
I didn't get too much time to fully explore the GEH, except for the newest exhibits and the gift shop -- which was damned good for a lover of things photographic. Of course, what I really would have liked to have seen is a Kodak Factory Outlet store! I did pick up some nice books, and a GEH hat. They had a lot of goofy plastic cameras there, including the Holga and the Lomo Fisheye. Oh yes, I did try out the real photo booth -- and didn't realize that everything started as soon as I put the money in... it was laugh, though.

Gift Shop Cameras

The camera trade show was Sunday, I was there for a couple of hours -- it was great to see new "junk" that I had not seen before. That's the trouble with going to local camer shows year after year, so a new place was refreshing. I didn't buy too much because I just didn't have the money, but it was fun looking. (I'd also like to know where in hell some of these people get their prices...)

sale table

Trade Show sample

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Traveling Light

Traveling Light
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I'm leaving with some friends tomorrow -- for a trip to Rochester, NY, where we will be attending Photohistory XIII. This conference takes place every three years, and features a range of topics having to do with the history of photography. What better place to go, than the cradle of American photo industry -- the city of Rochester. Historically, there have been a bunch of companies in that region that have had a lot to do with optics and photographic processes, including of course, the company once known as the Great Yellow Father. I'm not going to digress into the problems with the once mighty Kodak, but there is a lot more past there than future.

Since I'll probably be attending a lot of the presentations, I won't have too much time for wandering around -- though a George Eastman House visit is much anticipated. Consequently, I'm going light with the camera gear this time -- A Holga, Nikon Coolpix 995, and my Nikon N80. B&W film, a couple of filters, and a flash for the Holga. Memory cards and spare Li-on battery packs for the coolpix. Yes, I could have packed the D70 and that could have been it, but it seems only fitting that I shoot film in the place where the US film industry started. I'll use the coolpix for displays and at the trade show.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ektachrome -- The beauty of slide film.

carpenter bee on anemone
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I don't shoot slide film like I used to. I remember coming back from a week-long trip to New Mexico in 2003 and sending off something like 30+ rolls of slide film for processing. Most of my color work is digital now, unless I am shooting medium format or playing around with vintage cameras. However, every once in a while I like to shoot some slide film, if nothing more than to keep me honest. Now, I might shoot less than a dozen rolls of 35mm slide film a year, but I still shoot a LOT of B&W.

I put a cassette of Ektachrome 200 ED in my Nikon 8008 - back in August, and finally got it processed last week. The color palette of slide film is so different from digital. The ED200 isn't as fine-grained as the 100, or even Kodachrome 64. But -- it has a depth and pleasing appearance that digital just does not have - yet.

I have a roll of really old Kodachrome 25 in my Nikkormat. I shot some not so long ago, and the color looked great for 25 year old film!

With scanners being so cheap today -- transparency film is a blast - especially with medium format cameras. It really is much easier than the old days when one had to get an internegative made from a slide if you wanted prints. Now - just scan and you are good to go.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rural Magic

Afternoon Sun
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I was driving down a dirt road a few weeks ago in Sharon Township, and the afternoon sun was just perfect for those richly-colored shots. Some warmth from the low angle, nice raking light, and of course, a picturesque subject helps, too. I shot this with a recently-acquired Brownie Hawkeye Flash (BHF) -- I picked up 3 cameras on ebay for $13.50, which included the shipping. I was using expired Agfa Optima (125) film, which has great saturation.

I am always amazed every time I get a roll of nice images from these cameras, but maybe by now I shouldn't be. They have attained a semblance of cult status among certain types of photographers, and given that they sell so cheaply and produce such decent results, I am amazed that the prices haven't gone up. However, Kodak made a bazillion of them, so there is a huge supply of them out there (unlike the Diana cameras, which now go for as much as $75).

If you want to try something a little different, get yourself a BHF. Make sure that you have a 620 takeup spool for your 120 film, and if you are not developing your own film, remember to ask the lab to return your spool.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Roadside attractions

the fence keeps the sky in
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I know it's time to pull off the road when I see something that I know I have to photograph. In this case, I was driving N on Easudes Rd from the Nan Weston Nature Preserve. I had passed by the fence going the other way an hour or so before, but on the way back the sky and the sun were perfect. I had to pull over on the dirt road and capture this moment. The white fence dividing the earth from the sky and few puffy clouds were a perfect moment. It was one of those times that something just grabs me and I have to shoot it. If I didn't, I'd think about it the rest of the day. I stopped the car... and then backed up about 100 feet to get back to the spot that I knew was perfect.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Krappy Kamera Night

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Tuesday evening I hosted the monthly meeting of the Ann Arbor Krappy Kamera Club. It was our best urnout so far, with over a dozen participants, including some new faces, and people from much farther away than Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti. Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Dexter were also represented. We started the evening presenting the results from our assignment, which was to do a photograph, or series of photographs, representing something about the future. A couple of people really got into presenting some future scenarios, such as Mike's "Skin Farming" series. His narrative was hilarious, and the images very imaginative.

I followed with a demo on mounting and matting using both archival methods, and the dry-mount press. We had planned on watching the movie "Pecker", but it was getting late. It certainly was a fun evening, meeting some new people, as well as meeting some people for the first time that I have "known" on Flickr for quite a while.

Erin (e50e on Flickr) was having a great time shooting some of my old cameras with her Holgaroid -- which was also a very interesting camera on its own! Presented below is one of her very cool images from Flickr of my Crest 120 camera:


It will be interesting to see how this group goes- having been involved with it from the start -- I'm optimistc that we will have a going concern of people that enjoy using and producing some real fine photographs with these crappy cameras.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Old Methods

baling crew
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
On Sunday afternoon, I was asked to photograph some equipment at a threshing/baling gathering in Bridgewater, MI. My friend Dick wanted me to photograph the old Ann Arbor Baler that was there -- a model he had used as a kid. The baler used Sunday was made in Ypsilanti, MI - sometime in thw 1920s. The entire operation is very labor-intensive, and it took at least 4 guys to slowly turn the pile of wheat straw into bales. Other than the intrinsic antique mystique of such a process, one has to ask why? Of course, these guys were not using old equipment to do their every-day farming, but found a satisfaction in using cantankerous old machinery that was 80+ years old. Just to show that they can. That sounds a lot like why some of us use old cameras. Not that we can't get a good image quickly from a modern camera -- but the old gear forces us to slow down, savor the moment, and try and get the best image we can out of sometimes cantankerous old cameras. So, even though the guys there didn't realize it ... that guy with the fancy cameras has a lot in common with them. Of course, my camera collection takes up a hell of a lot less space than their old tractors, balers, and threshers!

By the way, I was there for a little over an hour, and shot about 200 digital color images, and 45 black and white film images with my Mamyia 645E. I love those larger negatives, as the photo here illustrates very well.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Stone House Memories

Stone House
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I've been in sort of a reflective mood all week, and in looking for a negative for a photo that is to appear in Lightleaks magazine, I came across of series of negatives that i shot with a Holga in 2002. Funny how things turn up. I scanned several of the negatives, as I don't recall ever making prints from them -- I'm really pleased with the images. I have taken a lot of color slides of Ives Lake and Stone House in the Huron Mountain Club while I was doing research there a week or so almost every summer, from 1984 - 2003. I don't think any of them have the emotional appeal that the shots from the Holga do.

Of all of the places I have been in Michigan, the time I spent as a researcher at Ives Lake remain some of my best memories. The quiet lake with it silence punctuated by the loon calls, is a place that I have been priviledged to stay at. I may never have a chance to go back, and there are some shots that I know would be an improvement over the ones I took back in the 1980s and early 90s. The Stone House is an amazing structure, built by Longyear around 1910 or so.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Well, a week ago, we travelled to Marquette to take our daughter Marjorie to NMU tos tart her freshman year at NMU. My wife and I returned home Sunday, after spending a couple of days at a cottage on Burt Lake. Marjorie is doing fine - we get a call once a day and of course, email. She'll be busy with classes and following new paths at college. Meanwhile, at home, it's taking some time to adjust to not having the focus of our activities here for the last 18 years. There is this new-found freedom of sorts... I just hope that I put it to good use.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Alpena's Geodesic DQ
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
One of the things I have enjoyed this summer has been the numerous short trips my daughter and I have taken, and the myriad of photographic opportunities that have arisen during them. Sure, we all have a destination to get to. But instead of taking the interstate and main roads all the time, consider a lesser highway, another route, or even dirt roads (which are still plentiful in Michigan).
The beauty of going somewhere without a plan -- other than to be flexible-- is that you see things. See a cool barn? Stop along the road and take some photos. See a neat little store? Stop and go inside. It's likely that you will find something that appeals to your interests on such a trip. I hate to use a cliche title from a book, but "The Journey Is the Reward" is appropriate in this case.

I used to be rather introverted, not talking to people, and believe it or not -- shy. Becoming a photographer changed a lot of that. Of course, I hate the typical... "are ya taking piktures?" but the camera has often become an introduction into what I do, and sometimes, talking to someone for 5 minutes will give me more information on a place than I could have ever found out on my own. For instance, earlier this summer, we stopped at a small place called Montague. There was a sign for an old drugstore still hanging at the entrance to what looked like an old-fashioned place that had a real old-time soda fountain. I told my daughter we should go in and get something. As the woman that served us made our chocolate malts, she told me that her father had owned that drugstore for many years, and had to sell off most of it to have money to pay for the care of his ailing wife. The duaghter owns a part of the building, and she's operating the section that was the original soda fountain -- everything there was vintage 1940s-50s green and chrome. She buys parts on eBay. I never would have known all of that if we hadn't talked. Of course, the malteds were good, and only after we got in the car did I realize that I had spilled some all over the front of my shirt...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

arc and sky

arc and sky
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
In case you haven't noticed, I seem to have a thing for man-made structures set against clouds. Sort of like chaos meets order. Or perhaps structure meets nature. whatever. I sense I have a theme going here, and I realize that it really does take time to put together a body of work. Especially so, if one is not a full-time photographer. On Sunday, Marjorie and I ventured down to Adrian, MI. We found a newly-opened coffee house and art gallery -- Davinci's Coffeehouse. I spoke with the person in charge of exhibiting, and I think I will forge ahead and try and get a show together for them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Getting my act together

Getting my act together
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
It has taken a while for me to think that I had enough saleable images of consistent quality to actually put them into a series of photocards. I'm trying to figure out what my pricing will be -- and I'm in the range of 3.50 to 5.00 -- what are your opinions? I think right now, I am leaning at $3.75 each, or 4 for 12.00.

The cards are real photos (not ink-jet crap), and come with matching 5x7 envelopes and are packaged in a mylar envelope. Obviously, they can be framed as is, or used as blank greeting cards.

I guess my next move is to see if I can find some local outlets for them. I feel they are as good, if not better, than some of the other photo cards I have seen out there. If you are interested in purchasing some, just because you are a reader of my blog... 3 cards for $10, which includes postage. You can pay me via paypal.

The catalog is here

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Classic Michigan Shore

Classic Michigan Shore
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Marjorie and i went on another photo safari last Friday, with the eventual goal of the Traverse City area. She had 10 or so theaters on her list to photograph, and I think her final ccount was 11. We started with Grand Ledge and wound our way through to the west coast near Muskegon, hitting Grand Haven, Whitehall, Montague, Pentwater, Ludington, Manistee and Onekama on day one. Saturday, we started with Frankfort, Point Betsie, Empire, Glen Arbor, Suttons Bay, Traverse City, and Elk Rapids. We spent a lot of time in Traverse City, and even saw Michael Moore there, promoting the Traverse City Film Festival, which looked like a lot of fun. I can't begin to describe many of the sights that we saw along the way. The rolling hills of orchards and vineyards, farms and gardens, beautiful cottages and awesome houses, small towns with character, and the many things that say "this is Michigan." One of my favorite images so far is this one from Portage Point on Lake Michigan, near the small village of Onekama. When I think of lake Michigan shoreline... this image is the quintessential embodiment of that. Not so much the lake itself, but the sky and the dunes, and the grasses.
We did almost 900 miles on our trip, and in 3 weeks, Marjorie starts college. So, this trip was extra special for me.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

canoes and a bunch of photographers

Canoe Livery
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
On Tuesday evening, I met with a bunch of other Krappy Kamera Club members at Gallop Park. Marjorie joined me, and since she couldn't find her Holga, she brought the exact opposite -- her Hasselblad. Anyhow, we all met at the Canoe Livery , and fanned out from there, shooting whatever our little Krappy Cameras could handle. I took this shot with two different Krappy Cameras -- my Holga and my Meteor (an interesting 620 camera sold in 1949ish with adjustable apertures and focusing.). This shot was taken by the Meteor, and it was the first roll that I had run through it. I'm quite surprised at the results... they are not crappy. The film is J&C Classic Pan 200, developed in Diafine.

I'm not one to go shooting with a crowd, but in this instance, it forced me to come up with some subjects in a short time. Afterwards, we met at the Corner Brewery in Ypsi, which is quickly becoming a favorite place to meet and have a beer.

The Clack goes click!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Presque Isle Park and a Diana

blackrocks 3
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
In early July, I visited Presque Isle Park, which is on the outskirts of Marquette, MI. Adrienne, Marjorie, and I were there for the incoming freshman orientation at NMU. I can see Marjorie going there and photographing --- a wonderfully abstract area known as Black Rocks is superb. I shot this image with my Diana, and it's definitely a spot that I would like to shoot with some of my better medium-format cameras. The fissured, lichen-encrusted rocks, small pools, and juxtaposition of sky and lake, make for some excellent photographic possibilities. Lucky kid...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Flickr Meetup

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Last night, 8 of us from the Ann Arbor Flickr group met at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. It was great getting together with some people I have met on Flickr, as well as making some new friends. The CB is a fine place for such meetings -- great locally-brewed beers, no smoking, and no loud music! Parking is also free. We talked for over 3 hours, and it was a fun evening. Hopefully, these meetings will get even more popular. The AA Krappy Kamera Club will be meeting Tuesday evening at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor, 7 pm.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ansel Adams in a New Light

New Exhibit
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I doubt that most people realize that Ansel Adams did a lot of pioneering work with Polaroid films and their cameras, and was a good friend of Edwin Land. Adams felt that the instant process was a great idea, and did a lot of testing for Land. The latest exhibit at the Grand Rapids Art Museum -- "Ansel Adams and Edwin Land: Art, Science and Invention - Photographs from the Polaroid Collection" is a really interesting look into that collaborative venture. Obviously, Land felt that having a highly-regarded photographer of Adams' stature work with the new materials would be a vindication of the new process, and not only did Ansel use the films, he did extensive testing. The letters, test photos and eventual fine-art photographs produced with Polaroid films and cameras, are a remarkable exhibit from the Polaroid Corp.

I have read Adams' book on using Polaroid materials, but did not realize that many of his highly-regarded works of later years were produced with the Positive/Negative B&W Polaroid films. That was a new revelation for me. In addition, there are many works by Adams that Edwin land purchased from him -- BIG prints that probably graced his offices at one time. It's a really fine exhibit that includes color SX-70 images, as well the b&w works. It certainly should not be missed by Polaroid devotees, nor by lovers of AA's work. The exhibit runs from June 23 - August 27 of this year.

Another exhibit running concurrently is that of Architectural Photography by Hedrich Blessing Studio -- "Building Images: Seventy years of photography at Hedrich Blessing." There are some amazing examples of fine architectural photography from this Chicago firm. Definitely another must-see!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Yesterday morning, I was in Munising with my family. I left the motel room early, slipping out into the very cool morning air abround 6:45 am. I drove the mile or so up the road to the parking area for Wagner Falls, one of the prettiest waterfalls in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan for you non-Michiganders). I hade been there a couple of times before, and always had to battle through people being there and trying to shoot decent images.

Third time is a charm... there was nobody there -- the air was still, a mist hovered over the falls, and the sun was not shining on my subject. Perfect. I was able to spend over an hout there shooting away until, satiated, I packed up my gear and headed back down the trail. Only then did I meet a couple on their way in. 1.5 hrs alone at a waterfall - ideal conditions -- perfect. nirvana. I had fun. I shot dozens and dozens of digital images and finished off 2 rolls 35mm film.

Did I say that I had fun?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Is there such a thing as too much?

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I'm getting ready for a week up north. What cameras do I bring? We are going to be spending some time in one place for a few days ata time, and doing lots of driving around. Marjorie wants to photograph theaters and architecture. I want to photograph rural scenes, nature, macro, and whatever funky stuff we see. We are taking the van. We will have lots of room.

In 2003, we went to New Mexico -- I took my Pentax 6x7, Kiev 60, several manual Nikons, Contax G1, a Holga, Argus C-3, and a little Rollei 35. My most memorable photos were taken at Ranchos de Taos with the Holga and the Argus.

So, I am traveling relatively light this time -- Nikon D70s with the 18-70mm lens, my 70-180 micro Nikkor, 50mm 1.8 AFD. In the other bag, I'll have my Nikon N8008, 28-70 Tamron lens, 70-200 Nikon tele, lensbaby, and 19mm Vivitar. In another bag-- A Diana, a Holga, some 35mm plastic cameras, and an Olympus XA.

This may seem like overkill, but I really like b&w shot on real film. I hate desaturating a color image to make it b&w. So, the N8008 will shoot b&w film. The Diana might get some Provia slide film if I see some colorful stuff.

Oh I forgot the Polaroid.... that's coming along too. There's nothing like it.

I'm sure someone out there is thinking I have way too much stuff. Maybe I do. But you know what? If I left the 70-180 micro-nikkor at home, I'd be kicking myself when I wanted to shoot some butterflies or dragonflies. Like anything -- the right tools make the job easier.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Horseman, Author, Farmer, Scientist, Friend

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Our friends Dick and Lorrie Alexander invited us over for a dinner and ice-cream social at the Bethel Church down the road from their farm. Dick also wanted me to take some photos so that he'd be able to include a recent one on the dustjacket of a book he's writing called "Playin' Cowboy." I probably took 50 shots, and like this one the best.
Richard D. Alexander is an amazing man. I have known him for 25 years, and am pleased to have him as a friend, mentor, and a former boss at the museum. He's not pretentious - he's a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has won their highest award, been recognized as a top faculty member at UM, and other accolades. He's one of the great minds that have tackled thorny issues in evolution and human behavior. Yet, at heart, he's still an Illinois farm boy with an amazing breadth of talent in so many things - music, art, literature, science, horsemanship, farming, telling stories, and a good human being. He retired in 2001, and since then has written at least 4 books. Some of his material can be seen at

Monday, June 19, 2006

another trip, cool stuff

dexter mill
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Marjorie and I went for a drive yesterday -- I decided that I wanted to celebrate Father's day by doing whatever was fun. That meant a father-daughter drive to no place in particular -- we just make up the route as we drive along. Our first stop was in Dexter, and we came in along Huron River Drive. I find it ironic that HRD is touted as a bike route, when in fact, it has to be the most bike-unfriendly road around. Scenic, yes. I once biked from Ann Arbor to Dexter along that road, and if anything, the road has gotten worse. There is virtually no shoulder along the entire route, and cyclists hang out into the lane - especially when they ride 2 abreast. So, I would rather they biked elsewhere more friendly. Oops that is so un-PC here...
Anyhow, we arrived at Dexter and got to the old train depot about 2 minutes ahead of a Conrail train, which was a pleasant surprise. Took a few train pics, and then we shot film of the depot, some renovated buildings nearby, and the Dexter Mill. I used my Nikon, Holga, and Polaroid, and Marjories used her Hasselblad and digicam and Holga. We then drove through Dexter to Issland Lake Road, then Dexter Twon Hall Road, Tiplady Road, ending up on Gregory. We then took Gregroy road and some other roads, ending up in Mason. We spent a few hours there shooting photos of the town, and visited a real nice assemblage of antique stores. I ended up buying a Tower 50 camera for $10. It's a 1953 era 35mm camera. I put a roll of b&w film in it today and will test it out.
We drove back on M36 to M52 to Jackson Road and home. Not bad for an afternoon, and a good Father's Day.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
The other night I tried catching up on my backlog of b&w film to be processed. I developed 7 rolls one night, 5 more yesterday. All but one are 35mm, and I still have another 8 rolls to do. The funny thing is that I am finally seeing the images of things that I might have shot a month ago, maybe longer; such as this photo of the Frog Island Brewery, which at the time (late April), was trying to get into operation. It's at the site of the former Ypsilanti Farm Bureau on Huron River Drive, and many of the buildings there are being used by the brewery. I had set up my tripod with my Mamyia 645 across the street, and while shooting some frames, I noticed a shirtless, burly guy with long hair and a beard come walking purposefully across the street from the brewery. He asked if I was from the city assessor's office. I looked at him blankly and asked what he meant. I told him that I was an amatuer photographer, and always had wanted to get a shot of this scene. He explained how much trouble they had with the city while getting this brewery operational. We talked a while about small businesses and how hard it is if you don't have someone in City Hall on your side.

I haven't been by there since then, and I do hope they are successful in getting things going. We need more people like those in the Frog Island Brewery to operate locally-owned small businesses in places like Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. They are willing to take the risk -- our cities should be helping them as much as possible.

I still haven't developed the film from the Mamiya. This shot was taken with a Vivitar plastic 35mm camera that I bought in a junk store for a buck. The film is Lucky 400. I hope those guys are lucky, too.