Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Kodak Brownie Reflex

I have divested myself of most of my 127 film cameras, but the Kodak Brownie Reflex I have recently shot with is one that sat on a shelf for a number of years before I finally put some film in it. I had a roll of 40+ year old Kodak Verichrome Pan in 127 size,(the best film ever for box cameras), so I figured that I may as well finally try out the Brownie. While it looks much like a TLR, it's really just a box camera with a reflex (mirror) viewfinder. My camera is a bit grungy on the viewfinder part, but the taking lens (a simple meniscus lens) is clear. Note that the camera has I and B settings - for "Instant" and "Bulb". The frames are square 4x4 cm, with 12 exposures on a roll. The model I have is the "synchro" version, made from 1941-1952, meaning that it accepts a clip-on flash unit. The body is mostly made of black bakelite, and it really is a stylish box camera, complete with neck strap. I started the roll of VP127 back in June, when my daughter Jorie and I went on a photo safari to Indiana, and finally finished the roll yesterday by taking some shots in Ann Arbor. I developed the film in Kodak DK-50 1:1 for 6 minutes. That particular developer seems to work really well with old Verichrome Pan. I like the square format, and considering the age of the film AND the age of the camera, the results are pretty decent.

The theater in Angola, Indiana. June 2011.

Decatur, IN., June 2011.

The railroad trestle near Argo dam, Ann Arbor. 12/26/2011. Note that this, the last image on the roll, is quite free from the markings found on the beginning of the roll.

I might shoot 127 more often if it were not for the fact that the only b&w film is Efke, and that 127 film is a pain to scan, as there are no film holders for it. However, I certainly have enough 120 and 35mm cameras to use, and 127 remains a rarely-used format. At one time, it was quite popular, and pretty much died out as a consumer film once Kodak brought out the Instamatic cartridge in 1963. There are still some beautifully-made 127 cameras that are worth trying -- the Sawyers 127 TLR, the mini Rollei, and the Ricoh Super-44. Such compact TLR cameras are fun to use, and produce excellent results.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Retina IIa Review

If you are a collector of cameras, or a user of vintage cameras, there is one model that you should own -- the Kodak Retina IIa. You really would be hard-pressed to find another camera that fits in a pocket, has an all-metal construction, completely manual, and has a 50mm 2.0 Xenar lens.

First, a little bit about the Retinas. With the exception of the Kodak Ektra, The Bantam Special, Medalist, Chevron, and the Super Kodak Six-20, Kodak's premier metal-bodied cameras came out of the Nagel factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Eastman Kodak purchased the Nagel Kamerawerk in 1932, which became Kodak A.G. The first camera from the factory to use 35mm film was the Retina I, which appeared in 1934. A long series of cameras with the Retina (and lower-priced Retinette)designation appeared, ending with the Retina Reflex Instamatic camera in the 1974.

While other Retina models followed the IIa with advances such as meters, better rangefinders, and interchangeable lens elements, I think the IIa best embodies what makes a pocketable 35mm camera of its combination of quality and features. The strut-mounted lens allows the cover to collapse over it, protected from just about anything. The Schnieder Xenon f/2.0 lens in a Compur shutter with speeds from B to 1/500 sec., with X flash synch is excellent. The Retina IIa was sold from 1951-1954, meaning my two examples are both nearing 60 years old. Yet, the smooth operation of the camera and near-silent shutter is far better than many cameras of more recent vintage. The Retina IIa also features a "cold shoe" for use with an external flash (using a PC synch connector near the edge of the lens), or one could possibly use an external albada viewfinder for easier framing. Like many of its contemporaries, the Retina IIa viewfinder is rather squinty. Glasses-wearers are always at a disadvantage with the small viewfinders. The RF focusing patch works pretty well, except in low light situations, such as when I took these flash shots at a recent Ann Arbor Crappy Camera Club meetup at the Wolverine tap room. I used a small flash bracket and a modern Sunpak flash with a diffuser. The flash was set on Auto, and the camera was set at f4 and 1/50 sec to catch ambient light in the background. The beauty of a Compur leaf shutter is that the flash syncs at every speed.

This shot by Ross Orr with his Fuji 6x9 (Texas Leica) and Tupperware flash shows me with my Retina IIa setup:
Mark & Retina
(photo courtesy of Ross Orr)

This camera has the name "Edgerton" inscribed front and back. I bought this camera at an estate sale of a long-time collector in the Detroit area. I often wonder if Harold Edgerton had previously owned the camera. That would be pretty darn cool. My other Retina IIa was given to me by Bill Brudon in 2001, and that one is in even better shape, but the rangefinder needs to be adjusted.

Finally, a few samples of the shots taken with the setup described above, using Kentmere 400 b&w film:

Sunday, December 04, 2011

35mm Stealth - The Olympus Trip 35

Olympus has long made some legendary cameras. While the OM-1 and its descendents qualify as some of the great compact 35mm SLRs of all-time, some "lesser" cameras are deserving of cult status. Consider the Olympus Trip 35 -- Not a whole lot to adjust. It needs no batteries, as a selenium cell surrounds the front of the lens. There are two shutter speeds - 1/40 sec and 1/200 sec, as the camera operates in "A" mode unless you set it for flash (at 1/40 sec). A zone focus camera, you can see where you have it set for via a small window that shows in the viewfinder. A thumb wheel advances the film. The shutter is pretty silent. In terms of a "stealth camera" - this one really fits the description. The 40mm f/2.8 Zuiko lens focus from about 3 feet to infinity, and is a Tessar design. The ISO range adjusts from 25 to 400. There is a PC socket and an ISO hot-shoe for flash. Some limitations, to be sure, but I have seen some really fine images taken with the Trip 35. Of course, the camera has a durable metal body and very classic styling. I think it's one of those under-rated cameras that have achieved cult status simply by doing a pretty decent job with minimal controls. A minimalist street camera that has auto-exposure. Not too shabby.

I haven't shot much with the one that I have, and that's probably just because I have too many cameras to give every one of them a lot of use. If you find one for sale, test the electronics by opening the back and pointing the camera toward a shaded area. If it's all working correctly, the lens ought be be wide open where it's darker and at its minimum in the sun. Here are a few images from mine. stocking up for the Art Fair
Stocking up.

New wallflowers

Just in time!
Construction at work

How does the camera stack up with an even smaller camera such as the XA? The XA has a slightly wider field of view, is more compact, but depends on a battery for the shutter to operate. The Trip 35 has a more classic rangefinder styling, and looks remarkably a lot like the new digital Olympus Pen series. If you find one, have fun using it. Maybe you'll surprise yourself at how capable the camera really is.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Film Rollercoaster

The past few weeks have seen a lot of postings on various forums about Kodak dropping various films, the discontinuation of Kodak's Plus-X, good announcements on new products from Harman-Ilford, and the usual speculation about the role of film in the movie industry. With all these things in mind, maybe it is time to list them and provide some good links and commentary about the roller coaster we have been on the past few months.

The Film Fairy Strikes Again
A shot from a few years ago, with many expired films!

The Good and Bad (you decide)

Kodak's new Portra 400. Fine-grained, superb latitude -- maybe the best C-41 color film ever. Pushing Portra: from the folks at the Film Photography Podcast
Useful reviews:

A new pinhole camera from Harman, with a DIRECT POSITIVE paper from Ilford. I really want to buy some of that 4x5 positive paper as soon as it is in stock. Nice video review here.

Kodak's discontinuation of Plus-X -- a great summation of this by my friend Ross Orr on his blog.

To be honest, Plus-X was never my "favorite," and in medium format, I really think Verichrome Pan is the one film that I miss. However, it did offer a decent medium-speed solution and an "old-style" look. Tmax 100 is a "better" film, and uses less silver, so I can see why Kodak would drop Plus-X. If you want a good Plus-X replacement, try Ilford's FP-4+ (which I always liked better).

If you are interested in how Kodak produces its film -- this book is for you!

Digital Cinema is making inroads that will possibly eviscerate movie film sales in the coming few years. This article has some interesting information. That's on top of the fact that companies that make professional movie cameras are now stopping that... One can argue that there are likely to be a lot of used cameras available for quite a while, but the writing is on the wall for those people.

On a bright note, however, Lomography has introduced a new camera that allows you to produce short movies using conventional 35mm film - the Lomo Kino. I was at first a bit skeptical, but after seeing what some very creative people have done, I think it's a really cool, retro, and creative tool that will attract quite a bit of interest. I have to hand it to Lomography -- they do have the ability to think "different." Maybe they should buy the Kodak film business?

So, you want to try a different B&W film? ORWO sells in the USA: $40 for 100 feet of 35mm is pretty decent. I hope someone gets a roll to test it out and post their results.

Not sure if I care about this -
Kodak is ceasing production of KODAK PROFESSIONAL ELITE Chrome 100 Film by year end 2011. Kodak's dropping of Elitechrome doesn't matter to me. I so rarely have a reason to shoot transparency films anymore, since digital accomplishes tasks that I used to use transparency films for - macrophotography, dragonfly and other insect images, images for work, color landscape work, etc. (and obviously 90% of the former users of slide film have switched). I might use a roll from time to time in my medium-format cameras, or tungsten film to be cross-processed. Given that there are no reliable local E-6 labs, everything has to be mailed out, too. However, if you find yourself shooting transparency film, Kodak recommends suggested replacement is the E100G 135-36 or Elite Chrome 100 Extra Color / EBX 135-36.

Clarification from Kodak
Kodak isn't dropping these films -- they are just changing the packaging and how they are marketed.

T-Max 400 120, will now be sold in "propacks" of five rolls
Tri-X Pan 120 400 films will also be packaged in propacks of five rolls
Kodak's Max 400 rolls of 12 exposures will cease to be offered, with the firm choosing to only market rolls of 24 frames. These rolls will be available to purchase in packs of four in the US, and in singles and packs of three throughout the rest of the world.
BW400cn packs of three rolls will now only be sold in single packs.
Read more from the British Journal of Photography and Unique Photo.

Does any of this mean that you should be concerned with obtaining film for your cameras? No. If you have been buying your 35mm film at Walgreens or some other store, well, I have news for you. Stop that at once and purchase film from a local photography retailer (if you have one), or go online to Freestyle Camera, Adorama, B&H, Ultrafine Online, and a number of other places. Heck, go to Urban Outfitters and buy film repackaged by Lomo. You'll have many choices at these stores, and the opportunity to try some films you may never have even heard of before. What you find in the department or drug store has no bearing on what's really available out there.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Olympus Macro Stand + bellows

Back in early October I picked up an Olympus macro photography stand with the matching bellows for an Olympus OM-series camera. It's quite similar (but better-constructed) than the Minolta macro set-up that I used to own. I rarely use film for macro-photography anymore, but at a price of $25, I could not pass up the Olympus macro stand. As you can see in the photograph, I have it it set up with my OM-1 and a 50mm 3.5 Olympus macro lens. By itself, the lens does 1/2 size (1:2) maximum magnification. With a typical set of extension tubes, one can go a little larger than 1:1 (life size). With a bellows, you can go several times life size, if you want to shoot small objects, or magnify parts of larger subjects. The problem with a bellows and extension tubes, is that the working distance (the distance from the front of the lens to the subject) is very small -- from a few inches to fractions of an inch, depending on the extension. In addition, there is significant light falloff, shallow depth of field (DOF) and movement is magnified. So, the easy way to avoid some of the drawbacks is to use the camera like a microscope, by keeping the assembly locked down to a solid rail as you can see here. Typically, one would use a ringlight or a couple of small flashes near the subject for great DOF at f/16 or f/22 and to avoid camera shake. However, you can also use fiber-optic lights, and other high-intensity LED lights to get proper lighting at these close distances. The other thing to note is that there are two remote-release cables. One is for the lens (to activate the aperture prior to making the exposure, and the other operates the camera shutter. That is typical for bellows, as the lens is not linked to any actuating mechanism on the camera body.

I took a few shots with the OM-1, and here is the side of the thorax of a Canada darner dragonfly. I would imagine that if you had an OM-series adapter for your DSLR or Olympus Pen (digital), it would be a great way to shoot small things. Macrophotography is one of the great things about shooting digital!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Camera Porn! - 500 Cameras by Todd Gustavson

I was at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore and picked up this book for $15.96 (hardcover!). 500 Cameras is a wonderful book for anyone that loves the history of photography, old cameras, or just likes looking at and reading about beautiful mechanical things. This is Mr. Gustavson's second book on the subject, a sort of pared-down version of his 2009 book "Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital." All of the cameras featured in 500 Cameras are from the George Eastman House Collection in Rochester, NY, where Mr. Gustavson is a Curator of Technology. While not an exhaustive guide such as McKeowns' Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras (2006), this book covers the evolution of cameras and all of the examples are beautifully photographed in color. Some of the cameras from the GEH Collection were formerly owned by famous photographers, are rare examples, or historically significant examples in the evolution and development of photography and technology. I can't think of a better gift for anyone that loves old cameras, and as I state at the top, this is pure camera porn.

If you don't live near a B&N, Amazon also sells this book, for just a bit more. It's a nice addition to my library, and while I don't have the camera collection I once had, this book makes me glad I didn't decide to collect wood view cameras, or Kodak folding cameras. That would be a never-ending quest, and believe me, this book takes up MUCH LESS space than 500 cameras. So, sit back with a copy of this book and enjoy some beautiful camera porn and interesting stories about 500 cameras.

500 Cameras, by Todd Gustavson. 2011. Sterling Signature Books. 480 pp., ISBN: 1402780869.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Yashica J-P -- a middle-aged SLR

Back in mid-September I purchased a bit ratty-looking Yashica J-P SLR when I was in Kenton, OH. I paid ten dollars, which I felt was a fair price, given it's condition. After I got it home, I cleaned it up, and ran it through some dry-firing. It seemed to work okay, although sometimes the mirror wanted to hang a bit after the shutter fired. Unlike the later Yashica SLRs, the early models such as the J-P had the "standard" M-42 screw thread lens mount. That mount was used in a variety of cameras in the 1960s and into the 1970s. Pentax, Praktica, Ricoh, Fuji, Cosina, Mamiya, Olympus (before the OM-series), Zenit, and a number of re-badged models, such as Argus, Vivitar, Sears, etc., all had the M-42 mount. While not exactly the swiftest mount for a lens-change, it was a stable mount that had a whole truckload of lenses and accessories that were pretty much interchangeable over a broad number of cameras. A number of manufacturers then changed to more proprietary bayonet lens mounts, and Yashica went to the Contax-Yashica mount (C-Y) in 1975 with the introduction of the FX-1. Yashica J-P
The J-P is a no-frills SLR with the maximum shutter speed at 1/500 second. It does not have TTL metering (that came out with the TL-Super in 1967), but it does have an attachment point for a clip-on external meter that couples to the shutter speed dial. The cloth horizontally-traveling shutter is pretty standard for its time. The lens is an AutoYashinon 5cm f/2. While there is no cold-shoe or hot shoe for the flash, there are two PC contacts for X-sync and FP flashbulbs. After I played with the camera a bit more, I realized that the frame indicator dial was stuck at 33, and the self-timer did not work. Oh well, I decided to run a roll of somewhat expired XP-2 film through it. It took a bit of getting used to having the shutter button on the front of the camera, but overall, the camera was fine after I got used to its few quirks. I took it to downtown Ann Arbor and also up to the UP in early October. Here are a few resulting shots:

Jorie at the shore near Christmas, MI.

The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor - a place for teens to hang out and be creative.

Things go better with Coke.

Rocks and water.

I basically used the "sunny-16" exposure guide for shooting with the camera, as I often did not have an external meter with me. Based on my experience with this Yashica, I am tempted to try a TL-Electro if I ever see one at a cheap price. The lenses in these Yashicas are excellent, and despite the seeming awkwardness of the shutter button (note that there is a reason why they are usually on the top deck of the camera), the camera worked fine for its age and condition. For those with a penchant for M-42 lenses and cameras, the Pentax Spotmatics are not the only game in town. There are a number of good to great SLRs from others that can often be had for the price of a meal at a fast-food restaurant. Scary. They were not cheap when they were introduced, and if you get one in good working order, it'll take photos just as well as anything else you can find.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Everett W. Kuntz exhibit at the Argus Museum

I probably should have posted on this a bit earlier, as the show opening is this Friday, October 21, from 6 - 9 pm. The official press release follows: The Argus Museum proudly presents Sunday Afternoon on the Porch: Reflections of a Small Town in Iowa, 1939-1942, photographs by Everett W. Kuntz. The exhibition runs from October 21st through November 18th, 2011. As a teenage farm boy in Ridgeway Iowa, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Everett W. Kuntz, using the Argus AF camera he purchased for $12.50, captured images of everyday life near and around his hometown. He did not have the money to have the shots printed, and eventually, as he went off to college and later settled in Minneapolis, he forgot he even had them. Some 60 years later, as he lay dying of cancer, he remembered. "He went to the basement and opened a box," said his son, David Kuntz. "And there they were." In 2008, The University of Iowa Press published the photographs, which are accompanied by vignettes written by Jim Heynen. The book, as well as matted prints of Kuntz's images, may be purchased at the Museum for the duration of the exhibit. Argus Museum
The opening will be held on Friday, October 21st from 6 to 9pm at the Argus Museum. The museum is located on the second floor of the Argus l building, 525 West William, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. The event is free and refreshments will be served. The musical performance of the Julian Allen Trio will add to the festivities. (The previously-recorded Ann Arbor-based group consisting of Marcus Elliot, Ben Rolston, and Julian Allen, finds relevance and inspiration through many musical forms and origins.) Kuntz's photographs will be exhibited October 21 through November 18th, Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. For more information, please contact Cheryl Chidester at 734-759-0770 or email Cheryl at cchidester@onealconstruction.com. The event is supported by the family of Everett W. Kuntz, the Argus Collectors Group, Bill Martin, and O'Neal Construction.

In addition, there is more: Also on display will be artifacts from the Argus Museum collections. Products manufactured by the Argus Camera Company, including rare objects and prototypes, are featured, as well as military items and employees’ personal effects. Many of the artifacts on display were manufactured in the same building which now houses the Museum.

Former Argus employees and their families will be invited to the opening, giving those interested a chance to speak with them. Argus-related presentations are planned for Saturday, October 22nd, with an afternoon field trip to the Yankee Air Museum which will include a private tour and photography opportunities. (A $2.50 admission fee per person will be charged.) The Argus Museum Archives will open for research on Sunday, October 23rd. Reservations are required for Saturday and Sunday events. If you are interested in giving a presentation (it can be an informal one), please contact Cheryl Chidester.
yankee lady B-17

If you have any interest in vernacular photography, history, old cameras, and especially Argus, this will be a very fun event! I'll be there Friday night.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October Splendor in the U.P.

I was in Marquette from Oct. 6-9, in the midst of a heat wave. It was something having temperatures around 80, and for the first time, I wished I had brought shorts with me. I have been there in mid-summer when it was cooler. However, it was nice having such fine weather without biting insects, and the angle of the sun made for some awesome shooting. The leaves were almost at their peak coloration, but I think the prolonged dry spell muted the colors. I was able to get out and do a bit of shooting, and mostly used my recently-acquired Nikon F100 and my Hasselblad. The Canon G11 got a pretty good workout, too, as it is prefect for hikes in the woods when I don't want to be burdened with a lot of gear. I always like to visit Presque Isle Park in Marquette, and I am never disappointed with the potential for good shots there. The more I visit it, the more interesting angles and viewpoints I see.

The Black Rocks -- the oldest rock in Michigan.

The last time I was there in late August, I photographed a wonderful sunset, and that's one of the really attractive aspects of being on the shore of Lake Superior - the skies are often just plain awesome -- whether day or night. It's a real change being away from the city lights, and the plethora of jet trails that we have downstate. Sunsets can seemingly go on forever, when you have the lake as the horizon. This time though, I captured a sunset while walking the trail back to the place we own in Harvey. It was a delightful sight.

Adrienne and I explored a bit E of Harvey, on DNR land off Kawbawgam Trail -- there you'll find some pine plains with lots of blueberry, which was turning scarlet - making for some scenic roadsides. I shot that area with my F100, and will get negaatives scanned in this weekend from that trip. On Saturday, my daughter Jorie and I drove over to Christmas, which is just W of Munising. There, we met up with a bunch of APUG photographers, and explored the sandstone cliffs that are just off 5-mile Point Road. The drive in on the dirt road was a little wild, and when Jorie and I finally reached the parking area, we were stunned by the landscape along the shore.

Of course, just as I wanted to shoot more of the scene there, the G11 battery died, and I had forgotten to charge the second battery. Therefore, most of the shots taken there were with the Hasselblad and the F100. Good for film! The 'blad does not need batteries. I'll know what I got from the hassy this weekend when I develop the film. The rocks there often slope very subtly into the lake, and as a result, there are many really accessible places that let us get right down to the lake, and we saw some really neat little "pools" in the rocks that were filled with crystal-clear water.

clear as glass

It's definitely a place that I want to visit more than once.

On the way back home, Adrienne and I stopped at AuTrain Bay, which has a great sweep of sand between the outlet of the AuTrain River and Lake Superior. It's the first time that I have shot there, and the light was again, really nice. AuTrain River at Lake Superior

It's always a creative boost for me when I visit the UP. It's hard to leave for home.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A Little Nikon FM Love

Back in April I blogged about buying Jeff Lamb's Nikon FM and have been using it periodically since then. I have been pleased that it works smoothly, and meters as it should. Back in mid-August, I did some night shots with it, as well as a variety of shots with different lenses - all on expired Kodak Gold 400 film. I expected things to be a bit grainy, and they are. I might as well put some shots up here to give you a feel for the expired film, and some decent results from this camera, too.
This table scene was early evening at Mike and Sarah's place, and I was using the Series E 50mm 1.8 lens. Obviously it does not close-focus as much as I would like, but it does a pretty decent job, and was wide-open here. One of the things for you new digital to film converts is to remember that manual focus cameras like the Nikon FM are harder to focus in dim light, and that's where AF systems are often actually helpful.
This night scene was taken from the roof of a parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor. As I was also using my Nikon D90, I estimated the exposure based on the D90 readings. A bit grainy, but that's what to love about film being film, right? If I had used slide film, it would probably would have been "cleaner", but not as much dynamic range would be possible.

Inside my garage, 24-50mm AF-D lens, and of course, a tripod. That 24-50 lens is quickly becoming a favorite, as it covers the wide quite well, and ends at "normal." Shot here at the wide-end, of course. That older bike is a Canadian-made CCM bike from the 1970s that I picked up ath the Recycle/ReUse center in Ann Arbor for $40.

And here is the sign in front of the ReUse center... a place where I love to shop, and have picked up a few camera bargains, many books and things for the house there. They have a frequent buyer program, but I never joined it, as I figure that I am already getting a bargain when I buy things there.

Last -- here is a shot of an umbrella sedge in a planter in front of the UM Museum of Art. I finally found an angle to show the plant structure without any extraneous background clutter. Again, this is the 24-50mm lens. The thing to remember in these shots is that I did use expired 400 ISO film, which will give less than optimal results. I try and stick with Kodak Gold 100 if I am shooting color, or if doing something special, Ektar 100. I have some Fuji Reala and Superia for a trip up N next week, so expect some good fall color shots from those. The thing I like about the Nikon FM is it's simplicity and durability. It really does not get in the way of making a photograph.

Friday, September 30, 2011

NW Ohio Trip Part 3.

I had thought that I'd covered my trip pretty well, but realized that I hadn't included any FILM images. In addition to the D90, I shot XP-2 film in my Nikon N8008 and Holga 135BC, and Tri-X in my Hasselblad. I haven't finished the roll in the Holga yet, but here are a few images from the Nikon N8008 (by the way, it's a highly capable AF SLR that easily uses and meters with manual lenses, unlike the other "non-Pro" AF bodies from Nikon -- and they are about $30 at KEH, run off 4 AA batteries for a long time, and a great bargain...) We encountered this unusual cantilever-style parking structure -- the full frontal view at 24mm shows how wacky it looks.
Parking Structure, Findlay, OH

There are lots of alleyways and sides of buildings with some really vintage iron stairs- most of which are the same style, suggesting that there was some preferred vendor back in the late 1800s-early 1900s when these buildings were built.
Karate Kid

In one instance you can see where the lower part was removed and replaced with a cheaper, utilitarian style. This is a good example of how tastes and expectations change in a city, as well as how much money an owner is willing to put into a property. It would probably be nearly impossible to duplicate the older style without spending a fortune.

I like it when a city decides it is worthwhile to invest in creating gathering spots downtown. Having some tables and benches to encourage eating a lunch outside, meeting up with friends, or just watching the cars pass by is important to keeping a place lively. Of course, nobody was sitting there when I made the shot, but there were people there later during the noon-hour. It's nice to see a small city like Findlay with a growing arts community. For one thing, loft space is likely to be cheaper there than some other places, and if you can't go up, you can always go downstairs...
That concludes images from Findlay, and that makes 6 blog posts for the month of September -- am unusually large number for me. Next up will be an essay about Walker Evans and my homage project, as well as more vintage camera reviews. See you in October.

Monday, September 26, 2011

NW Ohio Road Trip -- Part 2

After we left Findlay, we took route 68 towards Kenton. I had heard that there was a major haul of photographic gear and images, books etc. there, and that the place might be open. But first, I decided we would go S to Mt. Victory, and check that town out, as I had photographed the mill there in 2005. We eventually got there, as I had forgotten that route 68 went to the SW, and we had to cross over to 31 from another road, bringing us into Mt. Victory from the South-- which was actually a good way to go, as the countryside there is quite scenic. Like I said, I last shot there in 2005, and got some great shots of the grain elevators there, as the light was perfect (June vs September!):
echoes of Walker Evans

This time, the light was not there for good shots of the elevators, but there was more to see than that. It's a great place to go antique shopping, as there are many antique stores there with some pretty cool stuff. On the way N on 31 to Kenton, we stopped at a restored Gulf service station, owned by Mike Trout. He gave us a tour of the inside, and it was fantastic -- he has collected Gulf memorabilia for years, and he bought the dilapidated service station and fixed it up to store and exhibit his collections. It's based on a late 1930s station, and it is worth a stop.
postcard from 1938 (2011)

Finally, we got into Kenton around 3:30 or so, and quite by accident, found the building where the camera stuff was located. Abby asked two teens on the stoop of a building if they were from the area, and if they knew anything about a lot of camera gear.. it so turned out the the boy's father was the person with all the stuff, and he just happened to be behind the door in front of us! Serendipity rears its head once again. The story is that Dan Hausman and Tim Carrig bought out a large photographic collection from an estate in Pennsylvania. It filled an 18 ft truck and a van, which they, and others have been picking through in this building in Kenton. It's all in various states of condition, and of course, like many such "finds" - much of it is in untold boxes of stuff that could be nothing more than cheap plastic premium cameras, or maybe something quite desirable, such as a Leica. So, it's hard to look at anything without having to look through an entire box. Tim and Dan have been through most of it, and despite the apparent disarray of things, seemed to know what was there to some degree, and have probably already weeded out the real gems already. This reminded me somewhat of the John Naslanic estate that I helped with back in 2007, but even then, the Kenton stuff was small compared to Naslanic's hoard of photographica. I didn't go with any intent of buying anything -- I was just curious to see what was there. I did end up buying a Yashica J-P SLR (made in 1964) for $10, thus having something to show for the trip down there. A few shots of some of the stuff there...

If you are interested in having a look, contact Tim via email at tim@golden-graphics.com - you'll need to let him know in advance, because he is not at the place every day, and it's not exactly a store. Well, that's all for now. I'll have a separate article on the Yashica J-P.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Short Ohio Road Trip - Part 1.

On Saturday, my friend Abby Alvarez and I went for a drive into NW Ohio, driving first to Findlay, and then to Mt. Victory, and back to Kenton, with many small towns in between. I think of such trips as fishing expeditions, one never knows what the catch will be. First of all, Findlay grew a lot during the late 1800s when petroleum was found in the area. It's the seat of Hancock County, and Marathon Petroleum still has a commanding building on Main street. However, there is a manufacturing industry in the area, and unlike many Michigan towns, it seems to be diversified in its economy. There are many really nice homes on the main streets -- some very beautiful Victorian painted ladies, and those alone call for another visit. We arrived in late morning, and parked on a side street after driving around a bit, to see where we should start out with our cameras. We walked across the street, and Abby spied some cameras in a shop window, and I noted some collectible-type things inside, as well, and then I recalled that Matt Marrash of the Film Photography Project had interviewed a woman in Findlay. I had no sooner had that thought when a woman came out of a shop next door, and started talking to us, and opened the door of the place we were looking into - it was her! Leslie Hunsberger, herself. We had a good laugh about that and that we have both been interviewed on the Film Photography Project's Podcast. It was fun discussing photography with Leslie, and how young people are taking up film photography. Leslie consented to being photographed while holding her favorite Polaroid camera (which she did use on the street that day).
After that, Abby and I walked the back alleys, and streets in search of subjects, which were abundant. I mostly shot with my Nikon D90, but also used my Nikon N8008 with XP-2, and my Holga 35BC with XP-2. There were lots of interesting details, some odd buildings, signs, and in general, many new things to shoot and add to our respective collections of images. As the day wore on, we sought lunch, and had a good one at Logan's Irish Pub. As we traveled about, I kept seeing murals on brick walls in every town that we explored. Some are very complex, and I photographed every one I saw. That could obviously be a theme for a show all by itself.

The Veteran's memorial in downtown Findlay.

The back of a bank in downtown Findlay. It's almost hard to tell where reality begins.

Mt. Victory, OH

Kenton, OH - Apparently the Gene Autry cap gun saved Kenton during the Great Depression. Quite the mural!

Late in the day, and almost sunset - we were driving back and saw this in Oakwood, OH -- a bar called the Landing Strip (not to be confused with the strip club near Detroit of the same name!).

There is a lot more to show from this trip to NW Ohio, and that will have to wait for part 2. Be ready for some hardware images :)