Thursday, December 30, 2010

Odds and Ends, and a special goodbye to Kodachrome

I was going to work on some grand and profound final blog post for the year, but I have so many little things to finish up, that I will spare you my profoundness. If there has been ONE recurring theme in the photographic world this year, it has been the final demise of Kodachrome. I swear, between on-line forums and the news media, you would think that the end of photography as we know it was near, based on the angst and nostalgia about Kodachrome. To be fair, what's really poignant is that Kodachrome is defined in the age of the baby-boomer and post-war America (well, post-WW II, at least. We have been in some conflict almost continuously since Korea). Although it appeared before 1940, 35mm Kodachrome became a hobbyist's film in the late 1940s and early 50s when people had more money to spend on photography, and documented their vacations and events on slide film, which then became slide shows to be shown with projection. [I should note that after pro photographers went to Fuji Velvia and Provia, and then digital, Kodachrome once again, became a hobbyist film.] For those of you that grew up with Powerpoint, let me tell you that a Powerpoint slide shown in an LCD projector is NOT AT ALL like a good Kodachrome slide on a screen. They are almost 3-D - without special glasses. Anyone growing up in the 50s and 60s and 70s probably attended at least one home slide-show or home movie night (also shot on Kodachrome 8mm movie film). Most are not memorable, because just like when home videos became the rage, people are not good at editing out the bad stuff. And, if you have sat through slide tray number 3, your mind numb, and eyes glazed over, you will know what I mean about editing. Just to show that I have indeed, shot Kodachrome (the first being sometime in the early 1970s), here is a scanned image from a slide...
Little Presque Isle from Wetmore Landing
2009 - Lake Superior shoreline near Marquette.

Of course, none of that matters now, as nostalgia tends to gloss over the glazed eyes. Kodachrome was a great film that did not simply fall by the wayside. It has, unlike any other film I know, become a cult phenomenon, and with the last rolls being processed today, has attained an almost mythic status. Today's article in the New York Times visits Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, KS. For those that bemoan the loss of processing because they just found a roll in the fridge or in their uncle's closet... don't complain when you are late to a party and the booze is gone.

A Pentax ME for Me.

Yesterday I was out shooting a bunch of ice and water photos along the Huron River, and afterwards stopped at Huron Camera in Dexter to pick up some processed film. I wandered over to the bargain bins and picked up a beautiful little Pentax ME SE. I already have a slightly beaten ME that is a great street camera, since it's light, sturdy, and is an aperture-priority camera. The SE version has brown leatherette (I'm not sure how else it differs), and is quite attractive. The 10 dollar sticker beckoned to me, and I ended up getting it for $5, since it was quite possible that it didn't work at all. After I got it home, I cleaned it up a bit, put in new batteries, and it sprang to life! I found that I had a spare cover for the motor drive opening in the bottom, and I'll shoot a roll of Ilford Delta 400 in it to test it out. Adrienne sewed together a new nylon strap to my specifications, and it will be a great street-shooter with it. Isn't that a pretty camera?

I was out at night shooting with Marjorie and Stephanie last week, and used my Canon 1000D and the other Pentax ME. I shot a roll of Kodak Gold 400 and Ektachrome 100S, which was cross-processed at Huron Camera. This one image, shot with a center-spot diffusion filter, is my favorite of the evening...
Nickels arcade evening.

Best wishes for 2011 - Who knows what the new year will bring?

Edit: I found this interesting link on YouTube -- an early test of Kodachrome as a movie film, dated 1922!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Putting the "cool" into the Coolpix

Coolpix 800

I was doing some organizing and cleanup at work last week, and rediscovered the ancient (1999) Nikon Coolpix 800 that has been sitting in a cabinet. It was dropped by a student out in the field around 2001, which effectively broke the camera, as the front lens assembly detached, causing it to rattle around in the camera. You can imagine that I was not happy about it at the time. Even though it's only a 2.5 MP camera, it was a pretty decent one at that time. So, it sat hidden away for almost a decade, until I took it out, put in a CF card and 4 batteries, and watched it come to life. The fact that the lens assembly is loose, made for some interesting effects. It's basically a shake & shoot camera, as you have to jostle the camera to get the lens in some position to shoot. That makes for some serendipitous effects, and if you follow my blog, you know how I like that stuff... The photo of the camera above shows the lens askew behind the clear glass front, and it often has a tilt-shift effect.

Some results:

Me, at work.

at night

tree lights

things remembered

and the coolest shot...
A gift from a friend.
The cover of Mark Twain's autobiography. I love the way the letters have that zoom effect!

None of these images have been photoshopped. This is the way they came out of the camera. In a way, this is like finding lemons and making lemonade, I suppose.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Latest From the A3C3

A bunch of us from the A3C3 (that's the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club)collaborated on a project using simple disposable cameras loaded with Ilford XP-2 film. I edited the book, and published it on I like the fact that Lulu allows you to upload your own design via PDF, rather than have you pick out a design template for the content. Our book, "Monochrome In My Pocket" contains 48 pages filled with photographs from the photographers that participated in the project. One month is all we had to shoot the images, and overall, I am pleased with the results. If there was only one thing I wish could be different, it would be glossy paper for the book. However, at $7.50 a copy, it's pretty good and shows what one can do with with a simple camera. As I reiterate in the book, "It's the photographer, NOT the camera."
You can buy a copy on Lulu if you want to see some good photography...
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Checkered Past

checkered past

Last week I finally developed an old roll of Kodak Tri-X that I removed from some old camera a while ago. It was a 20-exposure roll in the old green and yellow cassette that dates from the late 1950's to mid-60s. The film had quite a bit of base fog, but the negatives were easily scanned. After I viewed the dried negatives, I started laughing, as every person in the photos, except for an infant, wore a checkered, short-sleeved shirt. It was a back yard scene, set in June (based on a photo of a peony flower amidst the picnic photos)-- representative of blue-collar middle-class families of that period in time. The cars, late-1950's models, look fresh, so my guess is between 1958 and 1962. The place could be somewhere in the Detroit suburbs.

The fun thing in these photos are the people wearing the checkered shirts. Obviously done to possibly honor the grandpa, or else it's a strange cult. I'm betting on them having a laugh at someone's sartorial choice.

Family resemblance.

ace photographer

it was a vanilla world

I need more beer!

Developing found film and getting results like this makes it really worthwhile. I would say that it's a rarity, because all too often, a camera back gets opened in the intervening 50 years, ruining those latent images from the past.