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.