Thursday, December 24, 2009


A few years ago, I picked up a Canon EX EE, which was a strange SLR, to say the least. Other than shooting with a Canon T70 for a month, and borrowing a Canon Rebel 35mm SLR and using (for years) a Canon Canonet 17, that was the extent of my film shooting with Canon cameras. Although I have managed to acquire and use a number of SLR systems, Canon has not bee one of them until very recently. A week ago, I picked up a Canon FTBn from a fellow A3C3 member, Kevin Mount, for $30, which included the 50mm 1.8 Canon lens. I put in a couple of Zinc-air cells and the meter immediately sprang to life. The camera is rock-solid, much like a Nikon Nikkormat from the early 1970s. I took it out to shoot with on the next day with, bringing it along on a UM Art Museum trip with some fellow A3C3 photographers.

Voyage to the dark side

To like:
Match-needle metering
build quality
breech-lock lens mount system
used lenses are pretty cheap
Canon's hi-quality optics
DOF Preview and mirror lock-up
straightforward manual camera design

To not like:
use of PX-627 batteries (Mercury) requires a work-around today
lens controls backwards from Nikon (of course, non-Nikon users will say otherwise)
sometimes odd filter ring of 48mm

The quality of the images I got back were very good, as the 50mm 1.8 is a seriously nice lens. I can see why these older Canons appeal to many photographers, and I now have a camera bag with some lenses to make up a nice kit for future outings.


No Snuggie, please

Oh, so shiny!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What was I thinking?

I was rummaging around through some old files on a hard drive, and came across this photo that I shot in 2002 when I must have been selling the item on ebay:

An Apple Quicktake 200, which I recall buying at a deep discount around 1997, when Apple discontinued it. It was not even a megapixel camera, as the images were no larger than 640x480 pixels. But, I was probably seduced by the cute rainbow apple and the ease at which I could upload an image onto the web. The fact is, I probably would have been a lot farther ahead to have taken the money I spent on that camera and used it to buy a really neat film camera! I think today's 5-dollar keychain cameras take photos with about the same resolution. The point is, don't be seduced by new technology, just because it's new. Instead, wait for it to become mature to the point that it does not limit the way you would do things. When I think of the images that I took with that camera that will never be larger than 640x480 pixels, I could kick myself.

The Quicktake 200 originally sold for $600, but I'm quite sure that I paid far less for it, because Apple stopped marketing cameras in 1997. Some history about it is here.

I don't imagine that I sold it for a whole lot in 2002, but I bet whoever bought liked that shiny rainbow apple...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Tale of Two Ponies

Kodak has a long history of interesting names for its cameras. Brownie, Instamatic, Ektra, Medalist, and so on. At some point, it seems that they had almost as many film formats as camera names. In their effort to corner the consumer market, they had a camera and film size for every niche. During the Great depression, people were not buying as many cameras, and certainly were not using as much film, so someone got the great idea of selling a camera that was small, inexpensive, and held only a small roll of film. Let's see, 8 shots per roll should do it -- that might be two Christmases worth of photos in some households. So, the great minds at Kodak came out with the Bantam series of cameras with a new film size - 828, which is based upon the width of 35mm film. However, instead of the film being placed into a daylight-loaded cassette, it was placed on a spool with backing paper like 127 film, the next largest roll film size. Bantam - as in small (bantam roosters, bantam-weight boxers, etc.), meant that the collapsible Bantam cameras could easily be placed in a pocket, and the fairly sharp lenses in those cameras gave reasonable results. The Bantam camera first appeared in 1935, and the famous Bantam Special, designed by that great Art Deco designer, Walter Dorwin Teague, appeared in 1936 for the grand price of 110.00. Not exactly pocket change during the Depression. The Bantam Special was discontinued in 1948. Today, that beautiful, if largely unusable camera regularly sells for $200-$300.

What does any of this have to do with ponies, you ask? Well, in 1949 Kodak introduced a well-made camera called the Pony 828. That camera used 828 film, and I believe was the last model to use 828 sold by Kodak. The Pony 828 originally sold for $30.00. That's still a nice amount of money for a camera back then. The Pony 828 was sold for 10 years, and was replaced by the Kodak Pony 135. The example shown here, the model B, first appeared in 1953 and was in production for 2 years, when it was replaced by another Pony 135 model.

Pony 828 on the L and Pony 135B on the R

Note that the Pony 828 has no rewind knob and frame counter, as it uses a green window on the back to keep track of what frame you are on. Like other roll-film cameras, the film just rolls from a supply spool to a take-up spool, and then you remove the completed roll for processing. Definitely not a design for anything more than a very casual photographer!

Note that the Pony 828 (bottom) is smaller than its 35mm successor:

The other difference between the 828 and 35mm versions is that the 828 negative is larger than the 35mm model. Bantam negatives are 28mm tall x 40mm long, whereas 35mm is 24x36mm. Noticeably larger, but not like 127 film. Within the constraint of the format, the Bantam negative is actually pretty good.

secret garden
Taken in August 2009 at my house with the Pony 828 on 40+ yr old Verichrome Pan (828) developed in D-23 for 6 minutes.

I shot the roll of Verichrome Pan and expected mediocre results if only because of the age of the film. I wasn't worried about the lens, as that same lens and shutter is found in both Pony cameras:

and I knew from experience with the Pony 135 to expect fairly crisp images, so long as the zone-focus scale was set properly.

Parker Mill
A shot from the Pony 135B, taken a few years ago.

It's pretty obvious that the Bantam film/camera category had limited appeal. The folding Bantams were stylish, but lacking in features, and apart from the Bantam RF and the Bantam Special, were easily eclipsed by 35mm cameras. The Kodak Pony 828 was the Bantam's last gasp at the "low-end" of amateur cameras. I somehow got hold of a Pony 828 when I was in college and shot a roll of Kodachrome 25 with it-- and I still have the slides. The other spoiler for the 828 film was that I know of only one other US company that produced cameras taking that size -- Argus. The Argus Minca (or Model M)had a short life, being a pretty basic and cheap camera. There was also the Coronet Cub (out of England), but I have never seen one.

The Kodak Pony 135 cameras are generally pretty decent cameras, and were emulated by the Argus A4. The only Pony to avoid is the Pony II, as it uses an EV system (like the Argus C3 Matchmatic) with limited exposure options.

One last shot from the Pony 828:
411 Lofts
411 Lofts in Ann Arbor, March 2009.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Little UP Vacation

Adrienne and I traveled up N to Marquette for the Thanksgiving holiday, to be with our daughter and her gf. Marjorie and Stephanie treated us to a fine Thanksgiving dinner that was different from any that we previously had -- all vegan. I found myself not missing the turkey at all. Of course, a trip to Marquette would not be complete without doing some photography. I traveled light this time, bringing only a Nikon FM2N and 3 lenses, a Yashica A TLR, and my Canon G11.

A visit is never complete without a stop at Presque Isle Park - and a place that is always different. The wind was howling pretty good along the lakeshore, and the waves were pounding the breakwall.

breakwall action

I didn't take any photos on the West side of the park, as the wind and driving snow was too fierce to even think about taking out the camera!

The next morning after Thanksgiving, I went over to the Dead River N of the city. There was a thin layer of snow on the ground, giving everything a crisp look. The light - very flat - was great for reflections off the river.

Dead River

I shot two rolls of b&w with the Nikon, so it will be fun seeing how those came out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Charis Wilson, Weston's Muse, dies at 95

I was reading my New York Times this morning, and in the obituary section, I see one of the most famous nudes in photography. That carefully composed nude of Charis Wilson by her then lover, Edward Weston:

Charis died last Friday at the age of 95. She was an amazing woman, and there is no question that she helped Edward Weston enormously. He very likely would never had gotten a Guggenheim grant without her writing it. Charis' "girl-next-door" beauty and Edward's photographic genius became a synergy that possibly was Weston's best period of work. She was his muse, his model, and collaborator. Who has looked at the image above and not fallen in love with it? A chaste yet sensual image, it's probably the most accessible nude photograph. One of many that Edward took, and unlike a pepper, needs no interpretation.

Charis and Edward have been the subject of a number of books by others, but it was her autobiography that told the real story. Through Another Lens My Years With Edward Weston by Charis Wilson and Wendy Madar tells the story from the woman that was there. One cannot help feel a little sad about the parting of Edward and Charis, but she had outgrown Edward, and Charis moved on to another life, and a very long one at that.

I was greatly moved by a recent documentary and hearing Charis' voice tell her story was riveting. At her advanced age, she retained the grace that she seemingly always had. If you are interested in seeing that excellent DVD, Eloquent Nude is available online for $25. There is also an interview with Charis from 1982 at the Smithsonian Archives.

Charis Wilson may have passed on corporeally, but she'll never grow old. That, is the beauty of photography.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Medium-Format Fisheye Fun

I have no doubt that there are "Lomography haters" out there, but whether one loves or doesn't love the Lomo folks, there is no denying that they have introduced some fun into film-based photography. I reviewed the new Diana+ quite a while ago, and yes, it's a cheap plastic camera, but I saw that they had cleverly added some features, such as the pin-hole and removable lens. Now, I see where their design has paid off. Back in October, I purchased the 20mm Diana Fisheye lens (as well as the Nikon SLR adapter, but that's another review) from Lomography online store. I felt it was a pretty cheap accessory with a potential big fun factor.

I give big kudos to the Lomography people for their colorful packaging and fun aspect of their products. Really, there is no understated yellow and black box here. The box contained the 20mm fisheye lens, a cleverly-designed accessory viewfinder, front and rear lens caps, a carry pouch, and instructions. The accessory finder easily attached to the Diana+ camera, as did the Fisheye lens. I suspect the finder is the same as the one on the 35mm Fisheye 2 camera. It gives a pretty good approximation of what you'll get with the new lens.

The lens close focuses to within a foot of the camera, which is pretty darn cool, though most of my shots have been made of subjects 2 meters or more from the camera.

OK, so it looks cool and funky, but how does it work? Let me first say that I think the image quality surpassed my expectations. Second, to get the full circular fisheye effect, you need to remove all the masks and shoot full-frame (12 exposures). Otherwise, the negatives will be cropped a bit. Third, this is a lot of fun to use.

Load o'pumpkins

I took a bunch of images back in mid-October, and these pumpkins were among my favorites. I took some shots for World Toy Camera Day, and this one of the top of the spillway at Barton Dam is kinda neat. You can see the bridge in the background.
Barton dam

The Diana Fisheye lens ought to be great for shooting in tight spaces. Sure you will get fisheye distortion, but if that effect appeals to you, then go for it!
garage studio
Take in my garage at the studio night for the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club.

Overall, I would rate the 20mm fisheye as one of those accessories that justifies the purchase of a camera. There is no doubt that the Diana+ is a fun camera. But, having a circular fisheye image on 120 film is a real blast. I can't wait to make some darkroom prints from some of those shots.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who We Were - a review

Who We Were - A Snapshot History of America by Michael Williams, Richard Cahan and Nicholas Osborn. 2008. CityFiles Press, Chicago, IL. ISBN:0-9785450-1-x hardcover, 240 pp. 45.00

The people at the website Square America -- a treasure trove of found, vernacular photographs -- put together an engaging book with the title "Who We Were - A Snapshot History of America." With photographs ranging from the humorous to the tragic; from the round photographs from the original Kodak (taken from a surrey, no less) to a Hasselblad photo from the moon, Who We Were is a delight to read.

Once George Eastman made photography available to the average person, the era of snapshots began. No longer would families sit stiffly at a photographer's studio, dressed in their Sunday best. The snapshot became the way to document the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary. As with any technology, some folks were better at photography than others, and as cameras became easier to use, everyone in the family could become the photographer of family activities. Thus, the rise in photography also mirrors the changes in American society, as families became more upwardly and territorially mobile. The snapshot became a way to keep families abreast of events as they spread apart. It's no surprise too, that as families became more disconnected, the snapshots that were once important to one part of a family, became scattered to the winds as family members died off and distant relatives had no appreciation for the photos taken "back in the day." That sets the stage for the Square America authors, as well as all other collectors of vernacular photography. It's one thing to collect old photographs, but providing some perspective on them is a more difficult task, sometimes requiring a fair amount of keen detective work to provide a narrative about the image.

Who We Were accomplishes the above quite well. With over 300 photographs, starting from the 1890s to the 1970s, this book chronicles the larger changes in American society by showing the small events that shaped it, and were shaped by it. Some of the photographs are chilling -- a massive KKK parade in some city in 1922; burning oil wells straight out of Dante in 1930; an approaching tornado in gritty black and white. Others will make you laugh, as girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, and parents appear in snapshot form. Others are revelatory. A photograph of tenant farmers in the South picking cotton with a sharecropper's house in the background is every bit as effective as a photograph by Walker Evans. Whomever took that photograph may have had a different agenda, but the image is no less effective at showing the situation.

The photographs in this book are reminders that our past isn't so different from today in that people are interested in pretty much the same variety of things -- our children, the opposite sex, funny events, relatives, pets, work, interesting events, vacations, wars, and all the events that impact us. The clothes, the houses, the transportation, and the technology may change, but we are not so different from the people in those images.

I really enjoyed the narrative of the Who We Were, and the photographs selected for the book really do provide a time-line of US history that is palpable, as the images are based on those taken by the average person. They were not taken by a news photographer, FSA artist, or professional, but the people impacted by or participating in the events. That is a people's history, which makes it all the more interesting.

If you go to the Square America site as of this writing, there is a $15 discount on Who We Were. My book also came with a DVD with vintage home movies on it, as well as a snapshot!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Black is Sexy - The New Canon G11

And so is the new Canon Powershot G11...

I have been looking for a new high-end rangefinder type of digicam. There are a lot of times that I don't always want to use a DSLR, or I am out shooting film cameras, and a pocketable digital camera would be a good asset. I used to own a Canon Powershot A570, and although there was much to like about it, it was a pain to use it manually, what with all the menus. On top of that, it was a small camera, and I found the small buttons a bit bothersome at times. In addition, the start-up was slow, and I eventually replaced it with a Fuji Finepix S700. I gave the Fuji away to a deserving photographer, and replaced it with a used Nikon Coolpix 8700. A good digicam for doing many things, but it's not really compact...and it's slow. I love it for doing ebay shots.

So, after I had sold off a bunch of photographic items, and amassed a nice Paypal balance, I started looking at reviews of higher-end point and shoots, as well as the new Olympus EP-1. I had forgotten about Canon's lineup. As tempting as the Olympus camera is, I don't like the lack of an optical viewfinder, and the camera and lens would have set me back $900. That's real money. Not as much as the drool-inducing Leica M9, but that's not even something I could aspire to afford. So, I started looking around a bit more, and the new Canon G11 really appealed to me. I liked the idea of it being only 10 megapixels, the flip-out LCD screen, the optical viewfinder, and the CONTROLS. Real twisty dials to set ISO, exposure compensation, mode, and the 28-140mm (35mm equivalent) zoom fits perfectly in most of my shooting. So, I ordered one from Beach Camera (and they take Paypal!), and it was at my door in 2 days, with free FedEx shipping! It came yesterday, and and after I charged the battery and reviewed the manual, I was ready to fire away.
First impressions:
  • LCD image is awesome!
  • Easy to navigate menus and options
  • ISO dial, exposure comensation and mode dials are metal, and bring back the build one expects in a good rangefinder camera
  • I like the built-in ND filter
  • Lightweight, yet feels like I have a real camera in my hands
  • I can use an external flash...and results are very good
  • Optical viewfinder is pretty good... certainly not 100%, but I can use it for street shots.
  • Colors and clarity are very, very good.
This is certainly an expensive (for me) "point and shoot". At $499, it's obviously the top of the line in Canon's P&S stable. The difference between it and the Canon A570IS that I used to have is easily seen. There is a reason why the G10 became a favorite camera of many pros, and it's obvious that the G11 has improved on its predecessor. Canon did something almost unheard of -- they reduced the megapixel count from the previous iteration, and by all accounts I have read, it has increased the quality of the images at higher ISOs. So far, I have barely put 200 shots through the camera, so future shots will be taken at higher ISOs.

I'll be giving the camera a more thorough workout, but today, I took it on a walk in Parker Mill County Park and found it a lot of fun to use. Next time I'll bring a tripod to try out that ND filter the way it should be used... long exposures of moving water.

Fleming Creek

Monday, October 26, 2009

Praktica Makes Perfect

Praktica FX3 1956-59

I worked all day yesterday at the Michigan Photographic Historical Society's (MiPHS) sale tables, and sold a ton of stuff for the Society. I didn't venture out and about the floor at the Royal Oak Elks Lodge all that much, so I don't have a report on what interesting items were at the sale. I did however, stop at one table where the vendor had a box of several Praktica SLRs. These cameras were all made in post-war East Germany by K.W. (I'm not going to spell it out, but you can look it up), which was later absorbed into Pentacon VEB. The Praktica FX3 was made between 1956 and 1959, and lacks an instant-return mirror. It has a M-42 lens mount, and shutter speeds from B- 1/500 sec. As you can see here, it has a "waist-level" (WLF) viewfinder. Not the most Praktical way to photograph with 35mm, but it works. I decided that I had to have the Praktica, as they have always intriqued me, and it was in good working condition, or at least it seemed to be. The lens is a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm 2.8.

Anyhow, I cleaned up the camera last night and took it out today and shot a roll of Kodak Gold 100. The WLF takes some getting used to (though my first SLR in 1974 was an Exa IIa, and it had a WLF), and I am sure bifocals don't exactly help. Of course, you have to wind the film to reset the mirror. One one hand, the WLF should be good for street photography, since it is not obvious what you are photographing. On the other, it sucks for vertical shots.

I dropped off the film earlier this evening at Walgreens, and picked up the CD an hour later. I'm impressed not only with the sharpness of the images, but my sunny-16 metering skills haven't diminished (ha! you say, yeah but it was C-41 print film...). I have a few other M42 lenses to try out with it, but the Tessar is a good lens to stick with.

A street vendor at the edge of campus.
Street vendor

A Ginkgo tree at the Museum:
Ginkgo Splendor

A look at Cobblestone Farm:
Cobblestone Farm

The front door there:
Farmhouse door

Overall, I'm impressed with the results. It'll be a challenge shooting with this camera, since the WLF does take some time to get used to and adjusting the focus really requires use of the pop-down magnifier. On the other hand, using f/16 and prefocusing for street photography should yield some interesting images.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A woodsy walk soothes the psyche

Today was perhaps one of the nicest days all month. October has been chilly and often damp this year, and there haven't been all that many days when it has been without a chill. I took a hike over to Nichols Arboretum for a long lunch, and shot a roll of Kodak Gold 100 with my Nikon FG. There are not than many reds in the woods at the Arb, but there are lots of yellows. I had a good time traipsing around and realized that I should throw out the crappy tripod I keep at work and bring in one of my better ones.

Nonetheless, it was better than no tripod at all, and I took some fun photographs. I stopped at Walgreens after work, dropped off the film, went next door and browsed books at Barnes and Noble, and went back and picked up my developed and scanned film.

warm day in October

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fun With Sun

I was surprised when I walked into the local Barnes and Noble bookstore a few weeks ago and saw a cyanotype printing kit by the front door. Cyanotypes are one of the oldest alternative photographic processes that are easily done, and combined with modern digital techniques, remain an accessible way to make original art from photographs (more on that later). You might have seen the original "Sunprint" kits in catalogs or in gift shops. The kits were really nothing more than a dozen sheets of 4x4" blueprint paper, a rectangle of acrylic, and a sheet of instructions for making prints. I used larger sheets years ago when I did a workshop with 4-H kids.

So, I purchased this attractively packaged kit for $14.99 (it was less with my B&N discount card), and opened it up after I got home. It's a nice little introduction to cyanotypes, and what sets it apart from the "Sunprints" package is the included book by Kate Marlowe. Sun Exposures, A guide to Low-Tech Photography is a nice introduction to photograms, alternate processes, and low-tech cameras, such as pinholes. I was surprised by the small book, and it's obvious that this kit would make a nice gift for budding photographers and anyone that enjoys the hands-on of DIY photography.

The kit includes the book, sheets of cyanotype paper, and acetate overlays to create some different photograms. The back of the book has a list of resources and suppliers for those that want to do more with cyanotypes and other photographic techniques. I think it's $15 well-spent.

You don't need to just use some flat objects to make photograms to have fun with cyanotypes. You can shoot digital and use a graphics program to make a digital negative, which you print on overhead transparency film (denser negatives work better) and then use that to produce a positive cyanotype. Or, you can scan in a film negative and do the same. Or, you can find antique glass photographic plates and make prints from them on the cyanotype paper. Of course, larger negatives = better prints. Anything larger than a medium format negative (6x6 cm) will be suitable.

The other beauty of cyanotypes is that if you use blueprint paper, all you need is water to process them. No darkroom needed. Cyanotypes remain a viable artform, and you only need to go to the Alternative Photography website to view some nice work. The Detroit Institute of Arts has held cyanotype workshops in its new wing. One web resource has videos showing how to make your own cyanotypes.

So, all you really need now is some sun. I see it it's going to be a sunny day here (finally). Time to go make some prints!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

World Toy Camera Day 2009

Saturday, October 17 2009 is World Toy Camera Day -- a day for people all over the world to take photos using "toy" cameras. Even though that term is now in common usage, I dislike it because it tends to have a negative association with people that are not aware of the wonderful imagery that has been made from plastic cameras such as the Holga, Diana, and a bucketload of cheap plastic 35mm crappy wonders. However, for want of a better term, World Toy Camera Day (WTCD) is always fun (just a sidenote here regarding fun. Have you ever tried typing while a cat is on your lap and pushing its way onto your keyboard? Johan is doing just that...).

For more info and photos from WTCD.... go here, here, and here.

I'm not sure what I'll shoot with, but very likely the Fisheye Diana... A report on it is coming soon.
Gourds and squash

Monday, September 28, 2009


About 9 years ago, I started photographing Richard Alexander's farm. He's a retired UM professor, and has a small farm out near Manchester, MI. It's been something that I have worked on in bits and pieces, with the idea that someday, something good would result. Dick will be 80 years old this November, and I realized that I need to go back to his farm and do more photography...
hand drill
He has a workshop in a small outbuilding (well, actually a big outbuilding, or a small barn, take your choice). I have been meaning to photograph it for years, but put it aside. Now, I have gotten all excited about shooting it -- just so much "stuff" that is fun to explore with a variety of techniques and cameras.
an old saw

Next, I want to photograph Dick while he's working on some projects in his shop -- he makes some fantastic canes, so maybe that would be a good activity to capture him at. Maybe this weekend.

Old workshop

I think I'm a much better photographer now than I was in 2001, so I'll have to go back through those older sheets of negatives and slides and see if there are things I could do again and improve on. As a documentary project, I'm not sure where I want to go with it, but maybe I'll ask Dick if he'd like to write up some text for some of the images.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Photographic Jewels

I won't lay any claim as to being a wordsmith, nor as a chronicler of photographic trends or as a literature reviewer with a long history of literary postings. However, as a photographer, and an avid reader, I enjoy reading truthful and insightful writings about the craft and creative process of photography. I also enjoy seeing good photography presented in a way that inspires me and engages my creativity and my thinking. In that vein, if you have never read an issue of LensWork, I encourage you to do so. Of all of the modern photography publications that I have read, I think this one comes closest to being about the art of photography, and not the nuts and bolts of geardom, processes, and current trends. In other words, it's the end result that inspires me. It's sort of like seeing a great exhibit in a museum somewhere, except the photographs on the wall are by people somewhat like me. In addition, the commentary is very good, and the editor, Brooks Jensen, may just be one of the best essayists around when it comes to photography.

It's not an easy publishing environment right now, but it seems that Jensen is finding a way to make LensWork uh, work. Unfortunately, there are no longer any copies available on news stands, but if I understand the decision to sell only by subscription, they are not losing money with unsold copies. It's the one magazine that I eagerly anticipate in the mail. If you love making photographs in b&w, and enjoy seeing well-crafted images, you should subscribe to LensWork.

But wait, there's more! Brooks Jensen has published several books on photography and the creative process. I have read two of them -- several times over, in fact, and should be required reading for photography students. "Letting Go of the Camera" and "Single Exposures" are quite possibly some of the most honest writing that I have seen about photography and the entire creative processes surrounding it. As my title says, they are photographic jewels and belong in your hands. Jensen finds ways to sell photographs, to put them in the hands of viewers, to make them accessible, and to make them affordable. Is there is a disdain there for galleries? Yes, of course. But, you should read Letting Go of the Camera to find out why, and you'll probably find yourself nodding in agreement.

In addition, Brooks Jensen also does podcasts, which offer his commentary about photogrpahy and creativity. Certainly worthwhile listening to.

[Disclaimer here -- In no way, do I profit from telling you to subscribe to LensWork. It's just a damn fine magazine (though calling it a magazine is almost demeaning) about photography that will inspire you.]

Finally, I have to add that the recent issue (July-August 2009) was nothing but a delight to read. It honors the memory of Bill Jay (1940-2009), by presenting a number of his columns that appeared (and some that never did) in LensWork . Some might think that Bill Jay was a curmudgeonly old photographer, but he died too soon. His writing, sometimes pithy, was totally full of truth and often very humorous. I can see why Brooks Jensen had him write for LensWork. Truth, humor and beauty, all in 96 pages.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Great Wall

My Great Wall of Camera

The camera, not the wall in China. I purchased this camera in July via ebay from a seller in China for about $140. After seeing some of Andrew Moxom's superb images at Photostock this year, I realized that I had to find one. There are not too many "crappy" cameras that have the features of the Great Wall (hereafter referred to as the GW) DF-2. Shutter speeds B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/200; helical focusing 90mm lens with f3.5 - f22 apertures. Single-lens reflex viewing with a "waist-level" finder. The camera is largely based upon the German-made KW Pilot Super camera of the late 1930s. I did not have a manual, but Moominsean's blog was very helpful, and he has already discussed the history and use of the camera, so I won't bother repeating it here.

So, with some excitement, my first time out with the camera was the steam train festival in Owosso, MI. I figured that I might get a few good images there, and I shot some expired Techpan (ISO 25) and some old Verichrome Pan. Old film, old trains, wacky camera. A good combination.
waiting for the train
This woman was dressed in a vintage outfit, and damn I got her perfectly with the waist-level viewfinder. The out-of-focus areas are really dreamy.

This isn't the equivalent of a Hasselblad, a Kowa 6 or any other MF SLR. It's in its own class. Elegant crappiness. I really like the fact that the lens has a 52mm filter thread so that I can add close-up lenses..and with the SLR viewing, no parallax problem!
Castor Bean plant at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

I look forward to doing a lot more shooting with this fun camera.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Contest from Ilford

Ilford, that stalwart b&w imaging company, has launched a new contest, called "Image on a Box Photographic Competition North America 2009." You need to use Ilford Delta 400 film and print on any Ilford b&w paper. Hmmm. I wonder if they'd allow 10 year old Delta 400 film? I still have some left in my bulk loader that I use from time to time. I guess it would be a good idea to buy a bunch of fresh Delta 400 and use that, though, especially if I want to shoot with 120.

Just for kicks, I checked my Flickr photos for images tagged with Delta 400 and found quite a few. Some I had forgotten about:

basement relics Taken in March 2006.

intersected space Taken with an Olympus RC, March, 2008.

love, like weeds August, 2008, Pentax ME

Playin' Cowboy Nikon F2, July 2001.

Saturday, August 15, 2009



I was shopping at the local Recycle/Reuse center and picked up this 1939 Kodak publication about Kodachrome...then a fairly new development in the world of photography. When I got home, there was a package from Dwayne's Photo with my 5 sets of slides from the last of my Kodachrome that I sent in for development. Sort of a funny coincidence, and there is a span of 70 years in that photograph above. Below, a quick scan of one of my shots of Bond Falls on Kodachrome, taken with my Nikon F3HP and a ND4 + a polarizing filter.

I'll need to mess a bit with the colors from the scanner, but those slides sure do look nice.

A shot from Sunset Point (aptly named) on Presque Isle Park in Marquette. Nikon F3HP, 24mm lens, KR-64.
sunset from Presque Isle

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fruits of Labor

"Why do we photograph?" Is a good question. It calls into play a lot of reasons, some of which involve the documentary nature of photography. To convey an event through our eyes. To share what we see, how we felt, what we did, so that we won't forget, so that others won't forget, and so on. It's not necessary to defend why we do it. We just do, and sometimes events unfold that justify whatever reasons we had for hoisting that camera.
For a number of years, from 1984-2002, I spent a week or so at the Huron Mountain Club, NW of Marquette, MI, doing entomological research. A number of papers were published on the insects that I worked on, and I'm quite happy with what I did there. I also carried a camera with me out in the field just about every day. In the 1980s it was a Pentax MG, and in the 1990s and 2000s, I used Nikons and several medium-format cameras. Some of the images I took later on were related to my research, but many were not, as I knew that my time there was coming to an end, and I wanted to document some of the beauty of a place that very few people outside of Huron Mountain Club members and researchers (working under the auspices of the Huron Mountain Wildlife Foundation) get to see.
Some of my images were placed online on my Flickr account to share. Last year, I was contacted by History Works, Inc. to use some of my images for a book documenting the history of the Huron Mountain Wildlife Foundation and the research that has taken place there. I was happy to donate a number of images, and finally, today, I received a copy of the book in the mail. Having one of my photos grace the cover was proof to me that all the shots I took of Ives Lake were worth the effort. I was never content to just get one shot, to document that I was there. As anyone knows that photographs seriously, you go back to some spots to shoot repeatedly because there is always the chance to get a better image than you did before, to capture something a bit different. So it was with this image. One thing I did notice when providing images for the author -- my photography greatly improved after 2000, when I began taking it seriously and thinking about what and how I was shooting. Those later images comprise most of my photos in the book.

I have over 15 photographs in the book and it's really great to see them in printed form-- a better venue than sitting closed up in the file cabinet inside sheet after sheet of slide pages.