Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On the Cheap

on the cheap
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
The other day I finally developed a roll of film shot with this unassuming, cheap, and plastic camera. It's a Vivitar IC 400, with what appears to be a 28mm f11 or f8 lens. I paid a dollar for it at the Recycle Reuse Center in Ann Arbor. My daughter looked at me with disdain when I picked it up - "That's such a piece of junk." She said (or something to that effect). Well, I have a thing for these often-maligned little cameras. For one, they usually have a fairly sharp lens. Second, we all know it's the photographer, right? Think about the usual target audience for these cameras -- people that use a camera for some special event or a trip to the zoo, etc. All they know is they think they need to record the event, and hey, that camera is 6.99 -- it ought to do the trick. Like legions of people before them, using box cameras from Kodak and Ansco, or plastic 127 cameras, and later still, Instamatics. All for the same purpose - snapshots. Photos destined for some album -- maybe. Now we have digital, with the same people taking the same shots. (Trust me on this... I see them on Flickr).

So, where does that leave this sad little 35mm snapshot camera? A $1 buy at a thrift shop, now destined to take images that the snapshooters would never imagine.

I used a roll of Ilford HP-5+, developed it in D-76, and the negatives were scanned on my cheap Epson 3170 scanner. I adjusted the curves a bit, toned some in Photoshop, but that was all. I think the results look pretty good.

The set is here

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Back Roads

rows, trees, and sky
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Yesterday, March 25; Marjorie and I went for about a 5 hour drive, starting from Chelsea. I drove down M-52 to Adrian, and we stopped there to shoot some photos of the Lenawee Historical Society's building and some other nearby structures. Then it was back on M-52 into Ohio. We travelled W on what was 120, and we must have taken a turn into Morenci, MI. Mo was delighted to find a cute little theater called the "Rex." I was amazed that the small town had a theater, but bigger places were some distance away. Always good to see that some things can survive.

From there, we travelled W on Territorial Road, which is at the MI-OH border, and I saw some nice terrain that could be good places to go back to in the summer for dragonfly work. We eventually ended up in Fremont, IN, and then went back N into MI, going up Quincy Rd to US-12. There are quite a few Amish farms in that area, and some pretty nice scenery. At a small lake, we saw dozens of Sandhiil Cranes, and more came flying into land in the late afternoon sunlight. It was a beautiful moment.

On US-12, we started near Allen, which is a HUGE antiques place. Will have to go back there again. The drive back took us through more small towns, some strange weather -- a brief snow/rainstorm that was quite intense for about a mile. Then it cleared up again.

It was a nice drive, and something that I enjoy doing with Marjorie. I wonder how many teen-agers enjoy doing that?

The photo was taken along Quincy Road in Branch County, as the sunlight raked across the field. I saw the scene coming together and pulled over and had time for about 5 shots before the sun went behind a cloud.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

See them soon...

Palladium Prints
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
In case you haven't already seen them, the 14x20 Pt/Pd prints by Kenro Izu of the grounds and temples at Angkor Wat are really something. The show, at the Univ. Mich. Museum of Art (UMMA) goes until April 2. Platinum/Palladium prints have deep rich grays and blacks that look like no other b&w material. The images are just amazing, and evoke a mood akin to what the first western explorers may have seen when they encountered these amazing structures in the Cambodian forest.
The thought of toting around a 14x20 view camera is pretty daunting!

For more info: Passage to Angkor: Photographs by Kenro Izu, January 21, 2006–April 2, 2006

and I just found this out -- lectures coming up:

Kenro Izo talk tomorrow (Friday, March 24) at 12 Noon at the U of M International Institute, 1080 S. University, Room 1636, "Photography as a Tool for Social Activism"

Kenro Izu lecture and interview, Sunday, March 26, 3:00 PM at the Museum

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

good book, fun cameras

good book, fun cameras
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I finished reading Mike Johnston's book this evening, "Lenses and the Light-Tight Box" -- a collection of essays on cameras and lenses, which for photographic gearheads like me, is a fun read. Mike is a good writer, and some of the chapters in the book have appeared elsewhere in photographic magazines. He's not out to push a product-- he tells what he thinks of a camera. He does not mind shooting sacred cows when necessary. His take on lenses is that almost any lens is good at f8. It's what you do with the lens that matters. If you enjoy reading about cameras and lenses and photography, it's a book you'll want to read. It's available online at

Monday, March 20, 2006

Peace, Please

Fallen Michigan Soldiers
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
On Sunday, Marjorie and I attended the "Stop the War" rally on campus. It was pretty crowded compared to last year, and seemed better organized, since it started on the Diag in front of the UM Graduate Library. Dick Siegel sang at the beginning, which was a nice addition. I spent my hour there shooting the various people with signs, symbols of a growing frustration with the current regime in Washington. I had to leave at 2 to go to a friend's place for a get-together, but Marjorie apparently did the march downtown, also taking photos.

To say that I am angry with Bush and his cabinet would be an understatement. The arrogance, incompetence, and hubris of the white house goes beyond anything I have seen since I started voting many years ago. We will unfortunately, bear the weight of their misdeeds for many years into the future, both politically and economically.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Through a Lens, Softly

Elizabeth Ponders Her Kyak
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I think I have a title of a photo book. Through A Lens, Softly. It would be a portfolio of images taken with a Lensbaby lens or any of the toy cameras, such as the Diana, Holga, Brownie Hawkeye, etc. Once I narrow it down to about 50 images, I'll do it.

This photo was taken last summer at Crystal Lake, MI, where Adrienne, Marjorie, and I were guests of Elizabeth and Vanessa. I used a Lensbaby on my Nikon FM2N for this photograph. I shot a series of them, and I think this one is may favorite. Some phoptographers get so caught up in lens tests, resolution, edge to edge sharpness, and so on, that I sometimes wonder if they spend more time being gearheads than shooting. Not that I don't like a sharp lens. But sometimes, you want to capture something else -- a mood, or a feel, and in some cases, the image is a lot like our memory of an event. Never really sharp, but the overall impression is there. I think that's where the Lensbaby lens comes in. That's one of the things I like about this photo. It's a lot like a piece of memory on film.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Something Fishy

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
A few weeks ago, I shot a roll of film in my new LOMO Fisheye Camera. Finally had the film processed and have scanned in a few prints. This is an amazing cheap camera. I paid $30 including shipping for mine at Design Within Reach on the web (DWR). It weighs but a few ounces, and gives a 170 degree view. Pure Fun. Even though it has a viewfinder, it's mostly there to give you a vague idea of what the camera is pointing at. It can focus from a few inches to infinity in the same shot. I have barely scratched the surface of its creative potential. The camera also has a built-in flash -- which takes forever to charge, but not a big deal.
I know that some people will just think it's silly, but screw 'em. The world needs more silliness of the good kind. This camera will make you smile.

Last night, I attended the first meeting of the Ann Arbor Crappy Camera Club, for want of a better name. There were five of us, and I can kick myself for not doing two things: 1. Getting the time right. I thought all week it was at 7:30 for some reason, and when I got ready to head out, I saw that the note said 7 pm. 2. Find the address ahead of time. I thought it was on Edgewood near Pittfield Village, so I went there. No. It was on Edgewood off Stadium. WTF - why does Ann Arbor have two streets with identical names? OK, one is Edgewood Drive and the other Edgewood Ave. My mistake. Thankfully, Adrienne has a mini-phonebook in the car and I looked on the map to set myself straight. I feel bad because I am usually the first person to arrive at such things, and missed a good half hour of getting to know the others.
Anyhow, this was a formative meeting - low key, what do we want to do?- sort of thing. Our next meeting is the 4th Tuesday in April, and I will bring along at least one more person (Matt, if you are reading this...). I promise to be there on time.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

news flash

news flash
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
I picked up an old film envelope at the Salt City Antiques Store in Ypsilanti yesterday-- and this was on the inside. Pretty cool, and of course, it still holds true.

Today, I drove to Rochester, MI to serve as an appraiser for at the Rochester-Avon Historical Society's appraisal day. I was there to do cameras and photographs, and though not terribly busy, I had some interesting people and items come to my table. The most interesting item, and one that I know nothing about, was a child's "Magic Lantern" -- from Germany, circa late 1800's - the light source being a kerosene lantern, and the slides were hand-painted scenes. I guess they didn't worry about the kids burning the house down because they had more sense back then.
Anyway, it was a pleasant and interesting afternoon, though when I was ready to leave, I had a searing headache, and had to stop at a Walgreen's on the way home to get some pain reliever. Ever try to decide on a pain reliever with a nasty headache? It's enough to give me a headache, if I didn't already have one.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Someone Special To Me

Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
Every once in a while, a truly special person comes into your life (aside from a spouse). Bill Brudon -- artist, photographer, bibliophile, story teller, historian, and medical illustrator. I met Bill years ago, but knew of him by reputaion long before that. He was the Scientific Illustrator in the Museum of Zoology until about 21 years before I started work there. His work was legendary. Then, I met him at some museum function, and many years later, met him again when he was volunteering as an artist for the Ann Arbor Flower Show, which was being done by Matthaei Botanical Gardens. He and my wife Adrienne became good buddies, and I would run into Bill frequently -- either at the gardens, or the flower show itself. Sometime around 2000, Bill became aware of my renewed passion for photography , and started giving me tips about what to do, and seeing my enthusiasm grow, also provided me with cameras and lenses, and film. Bill's roots in photography go back to when he used to develop sheet negatives for his father, who was also an illustrator and photographer.
So, Bill knows his way around a darkroom, and his art background gives him a different perspective on photography.
Fast forward to 2002. I find out that Bill and Margaret are thinking of moving to a retirement community in Chelsea, MI. I was of course, saddened, because stopping at Bill's on the way back from work had become commonplace, and whether it was to shoot the breeze for a few minutes, or hear his "hey, young fella" followed by " how would you like one of these?" whereupon he might pass along a candy, a roll of film, or a lens.. I never knew what to expect, but his enthusiasm for looking over my progress never waned. Well, it so happened that Bill and Margaret's home was a dream home for us, and we ended up buying it from them in 2002. In the span of a couple of days, we helped them move out, moved in, cleaned up our old house so the buyers could move in to it the next day. That was just a whirlwind of activity, that I am still amazed that it all happened the way it did.
The house came with extras -- a fully furnished darkroom, a film fridge, a few more cameras, and a lot of photography books. Each time I use the darkroom, I imagine Bill there at some point.
Bill and Margaret are still in Chelsea, and I talk to him frequently on the phone, and make a trip over every once in a while. If there is one regret that I have, is that I did not know Bill before throat cancer took away his once-beautiful voice. Luckily, he still does have a voice, though it is raspy... Make that two regrets -- it would have been fun to have spent a week on a photography safari with him on Beaver Island.
Here's to Bill. I call him Dad because he's like father to me, and will always appreciate the many ways he has enriched my life.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

New Scanner

bisti badlands
Originally uploaded by argusmaniac.
This afternoon, my new scanner arrived. It's an Epson 3170 Photo scanner, and has carriers for 35mm and medium formats. At a price of $64 and free shipping, it's an amazing value. This is the first scan that I did -- a shot from 2003 in the Bisti Badlands in NW New Mexico. Camera was my Kiev 60 Medium format SLR, and it's going to be fun scanning in a bunch of negatives. The scanner is a "factory refurbished" model... so it ought to be well-checked out.