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.