Sunday, October 31, 2010

Short Days

I like autumn and the change of seasons. The sunlight quality in October/November is different -- while the weather may be warm at times, the sun is low in the sky, and there can be a lot of haze from dust/leaf debris in the air. The light is definitely more "golden." Sunsets can be spectacular, as well as sunrise, and with the sun rising so much later than mid-summer, it's not hard to get out there and catch it on camera. Of course, this also means short days until after most of the winter has passed, and a change in what I photograph, and when. Weekends will be more likely to be my only outdoor photography opportunities, and lunch hours during the week. Cold weather is hard on camera batteries and fingers, too. I'll carry a spare battery in my pocket for the camera if it might require one. As the landscape become more monochromatic, I'll probably shoot more b&w film, too. Of course, short days also means longer nights, so more darkroom time is a good possibility.

For those of you looking to try something different -- fall/winter is a great time to photograph the subtleties of nature in these more northern parts. The chaos of summer is muted to a few themes in winter. Colors are more like tones, except for those times when a single leaf or the red of sumac berries stands out amongst the grays and browns. The tiny details seen in a frosted leaf may be as dramatic as a fall landscape. The are many great things to see, but you have to look. Street photography changes, too. Look for those days of chilly wet weather when people are bundled up and more anonymous. Monochrome works well, and use an all-manual camera to avoid battery problems if you are planning to be out for a day. Try using a toy camera with C-41 b&w film such as Ilford XP-2 -- you'll be pleased with the results.

I took the photo below last year, and just posted it on Flickr last night. Sometimes the delay from shooting to developing can be a while, and now is the time to show it. I used my Hasselblad with Kodak Ektar100 film. The farm is in Emmet Co., MI, and is on my way to Wilderness State Park.
Just A Plain Farm

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The weather over the past 48 hours has been awesome. While Michigan seemed to be slated for tornadic winds, etc., it was not as dire as the predictors said. The clouds today were really something -- as was the wind, and I wish I could have taken the day off to go to the shore of Lake Michigan to see and photograph the tremendous waves that were supposed to be piling up. By the time I left work, the clouds seemed to have parted around Ann Arbor, with banks of clouds to the N and S. I drove over to Pittsfield Preserve, just outside of town, determined to make a photo with whatever was left of the clouds. I parked in the lot off of Marton Road, grabbed my gear and saw some trees in the distance that contrasted with the line of clouds to the south. The harvested soybean field was pretty featureless, and then I saw a small area of grass that had been left alone, out in the middle of the field. The grass, at times bowed under by the wind, made a moving foreground to show the wind, with the bank of clouds and trees in the background. I used a polarizer on the 50mm and 70-200 zoom, as the 18-55 lens on the Canon 1000D was 58mm across, and my filters in the bag are 52mm. Note to self-- keep a 58mm polarizer in the bag! Anyhow, I am pleased with what resulted, even if it was a whirlwind of a photo shoot.
moving quickly

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Recent Finds

I was in Lansing on October 12 and on the way back, I stopped at an Antique Mall in Mason, and picked up a forlorn-looking Pentax Spotmatic with a slightly moldy Pentacon Electric 50mm lens. It was only 12 bucks, and I figured that it needed a good home. Once I got it home, I realized that the mirror was staying up at speeds below 1/125th sec. Otherwise, the camera was in reasonable condition except for a missing PC flash connector on the front, and grime and tarnish. The Pentacon 50mm lens isn't an appropriate lens for the camera as it doesn't stop down automatically for metering. In addition, the meter doesn't seem to be working, which isn't a big deal. After cleaning up the camera, I found out what I need to do do fix the mirror return -- some lubrication of an arm beneath the bottom plate may fix the problem. I'll eventually get around to it and then shoot some film. I put on a Chinon 50mm 1.7 lens -- which is a pretty good one. It'll make a nice combination.
I have owned a series of M42 cameras -- and the Spotmatics are the smoothest of the genre. In 1980, I used one a trip to the Southwest, and took many Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides in those 10 days.
The Spotmatic, all cleaned up:

A Pellix, at last! On Sunday, I was working the MiPHS Photographica Show in Royal Oak. I did not plan on buying any cameras, but there was a table that had a bunch of inexpensively-priced cameras. I saw the Canon Pellix for $15, and offered the seller 10 bucks, which he accepted. This is the first Canon Pellix that I have handled, and it fits in well with my collection of Canon manual-focus SLRs. The camera I picked up came with a 50mm f/1.4 FL lens, which alone is worth more than the $10 I paid. The camera was missing a battery cover, and I took one from a non-working Canon TX, put in a fresh zinc-air battery, and the meter sprang to life! What makes the Pellix special is that the mirror does not flip up. Instead, it is a transparent, partially silvered mirror (A pellicle, hence the name Pellix) that reflects some of the light into the viewfinder, and the rest to expose the film.

This would have made a great deal of sense for Canon if the camera were to be used with a motor drive, but this camera does not accept one. I see it as a way for Canon to try a lot of new things in the marketplace, and one can debate the pros and cons of a a pellicle mirror, but the main problem is that as soon as it gets dirty, the image will be degraded. The second problem (that Canon tried to overcome by selling this model with a fast lens) is that the viewfinder is dimmer, because not all of the light is reflected to your eye. In any case, the camera is interesting, and once I replace the light seals, I'll give it a go. It IS quieter without a mirror slap, but not enough to make it the best reason for trying out the design. Canon also put a pellicle mirror on the EOS RT - which was supposed to be great for rapid-fire sports photographers.
A really good page on the Pellix is maintained by Marc Rochkind. My camera is the first version. Later on, Canon made a Pellix QL, which featured Canon's "Quick Load" system. Now, Sony has introduced 2 DSLRs with pellicle mirrors. The old Pellix is now a modern camera...

It's fun finding a new classic camera!

Friday, October 01, 2010

A Japanese Import...Sort Of

Back in May, my daughter and her partner were in Japan for a 3-week class, and I hoped that they would bring back some film from Japan for me. I didn't think that they would bring back a camera, though in this case, it was a Fuji one-time use (OTU) camera. The strange thing is that even though most of the packaging was in Japanese, the wrapper stated that the camera was assembled in the USA!

package front

package back

Opening up the wrapper revealed a petite camera with a little face.

camera front

camera back

It's a point and shoot, so the instructions don't really matter. I cannot imagine a 1940s box camera with instructions printed all over it for the user, so it's obvious people have become stupider in regards to handling mechanical things.

A few months ago I posted about the Agfa LeBox camera, a simple OTU camera without a flash. This Fuji camera is much sleeker and has a flash, plus a wider-angle lens. I carried the camera with me to the Toledo Botanic garden at the end of August, and finished off the roll in and around Ann Arbor. It's so light that it can sit in a shirt pocket without even realizing it's there. So, here are some sample photos. The film was developed at Walgreen's and I scanned the negatives on my Epson 4180 Photo scanner.

One from Dick Alexander's farm...

So, overall, the photos were pretty acceptable. The technology that can make these cheap plastic lenses perform so well within the limitations of the camera is impressive. The glass lenses on cheap box cameras from the 1950s and 60s were pretty awful, in most cases. These little cameras produce pretty decent images - a 4x6 print is usually the goal here - so long as they are used under the proper range of conditions (that's probably what the instructions were for).

So ends the trip for the camera that was assembled in the USA with film made in Japan, shipped back to Japan, packaged, sold, and then returned to the US! Thanks to Jorie and Stephanie for bring it back with them.