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 - 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 :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pinholery! A New DIY Book on Pinhole Cameras.

I was at the local Barnes and Noble boostore last weekend, and found a new book on pinhole photography that might just be the most useful one that I have seen. Chris Keeney's "Pinhole Cameras - A Do-It-Yourself Guide" is a well-presented guide to making your own pinhole cameras from a variety of containers. He does not leave anything to chance, and provides all the steps necessary for the un-schooled and un-skilled to make their own pinhole cameras. It's easy for some of us to forget that not everyone is mechanically inclined, and the author provides a great cookbook-style guide for pinhole camera making. In fact, like some cookbooks, the book is wire-bound inside the hard cover, meaning it lays flat, making it far more useable on the workshop table while attempting to make a camera.

The author also covers the basics of film and paper negatives, how to develop your own exposures, and includes a glossary of terms for the newcomers. He even shows all that one needs for a simple "darkroom." I think this book will be great for anyone who hasn't yet attempted to make a pinhole camera but feels daunted by the whole process -- as simple as it may seem -- there are still some things that one needs to know to be successful. For those not into using film, Keeney provides information on using a body cap with a pinhole for your DSLR. In short, an enjoyable book that will be quite useful for anyone that is considering playing with pinhole cameras.

Book info: Keeney, Chris. 2011. Pinhole Cameras: A Do-It-Yourself Guide. Princeton Architectural Press, 37 east Seventh Street, Ny, NY. 10003. 191 pp., ISBN #978-1-56898-989-1. Price: $18.95 (US).

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Ricoh SLX-500

A recent eBay purchase, the Ricoh SLX 500 is a solid 35mm SLR with limited choice of shutter speeds, featuring an all-black metal body, a hot-shoe, PC flash connector, stop-down metering, and an M-42 lens mount. It was introduced in the mid-1970s as a cheap beginner SLR, and also takes a Mercury battery. The camera I bought is in excellent cosmetic shape, and the Ricoh 50mm f/2 lens seems plenty sharp. Unfortunately, the meter is wonky, as the needle really jumps around so much as to be unreliable, so I used the camera with an external light meter. I had to replace the mirror bumper foam and the light seals on the back, or risk black gooeyness. As a note - before using any older SLR camera, check the mirror foam and back light seals before using. Chances are, the camera will need things replaced about 90% of the time. The hardest part is removing the old stuff, but it should take anyone less than an hour to do this.

The M-42 mount gives one the opportunity to use a slew of various old lenses from Pentax, Cosina, Ricoh, Fuji, Meyer-Optik, Carl-Zeiss Jena, and others. The shutter speed choices are limited to B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 sec. , which isn't bad, as compared to something like an Argus C-4. From what I could find out, the original cost in 1976 was about $250 with the standard lens. The SLX-500 doesn't seem to have had the production run of cameras like the Singlex and Singlex II -both of which I owned at one time, nor does it have as meany features. It appeared at about the time the M-42 mount was being phased out in favor of the K-mount, and within a few years, a plethora of 35mm SLRs at competitive prices would be flooding the market. However, it IS a basic SLR, and despite the limited range of shutter speeds, it should be adequate for a lot of photography. I loaded mine with the old standby - Kodak Gold 100, and sunny-16 for exposure guide. For most of the shots I used the Rikenon 50mm 2.0 lens.

Like a lot of cameras from the 1970s, it's well-built, can be used as a weapon, and a battery is needed only for the meter.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Great Wall PF-1 SLR

Back in early July I won an auction on eBay for a new Great Wall PF-1, paying $59 for it. I was actually surprised that I got it at the starting bid, as they routinely sell for about $100 new. Considering that Dianas and such go for about $60, it's a pretty good deal. One might wonder why I would bother buying this camera which features:
-One shutter speed (I think)
-Non-interchangeable lens
-Cheesy pop-up flash
-Suspect manufacturing quality
-Optics by who knows
In short, a crappy SLR! Right up my alley! Since receiving it from Ultrafine Online (and yes, they are still selling them on their website) in July, I have been shooting with it, getting to know it better, and figuring out its little quirks. The camera is actually a copy of a Fujica ST-F from the mid-1970s, though I suspect the Fujica actually has a metal chassis, not all-plastic like the Chinese copy.

I did some searching online to see who's been shooting with the PF-1, and found a few galleries on the Lomography site and some on Flickr. Not a whole lot, but the results didn't seem too bad. The PF-1 features a thumb wheel to advance the film, like a cheap P&S, not an SLR. Actually, it works quite whell as the operation is pretty smooth and not noisy. The camera requires 2 AA batteries for operation, for the meter and the flash. The metering appears to be a CdS cell on the front of the lens bezel, much like rangefinders from the 1970s. There are three adjustable ISO settings - 100, 200, 400. The lens is a 40mm 2.8, with a min. aperture of f/16. There is a green/red LED for the metering, which seems to be accurate enough. With a fixed shutter speed of 1/60th second (which seems pretty slow, as I would think that 1/100 would have been a better option), the PF-1 probably works best with ISO 100 film. I recommend a neutral-density filter for ISO 400 film in bright sunlight. The front of the lens takes 49mm filters, offering up possibilities for close-up, diffusion, polarizing, red, and any other filter that can be used, depending on film and what you want to do.

old school
My only real peeve about the PF-1 is that one really has to be careful when loading the film -- make sure that the film is pushed into the slot on the takeup spool as far as possible and that the film winds around before you close the back door. It's possible for it to simply slip off and slide around inside if there isn't a positive capture. It could also be a a manufacturing defect, with not all cameras being as quirky. Once I realized how the film leader has to be "properly" inserted, my winding problems went away. The camera has a split-image center circle which greatly aids in focusing. To use the meter, there is a silver button on the front that must be pressed while adjusting the aperture. To use the flash, push the front of the flash up, and engage a lock on the side of the lens that changes the aperture according to the distance focused on. This is much like the GN-Nikkor for the Nikon and the Canon QL-17, when using the matching flash unit. There is a tripod socket, too.

Kevin and Alex, and OM-1
The camera comes in a box with an "ever-ready" case, neck strap, lens cap, and instructions in Chinese and "English." You can go to the Dot-Line website and download a pdf of their manual for the rebadged Aviva PF-1. It's quite good.

I loaded the camera with Tri-X for the first go-round, and many of the images were overexposed to some degree. My next roll was Gold 100, but I goofed on the film loading and had numerous double exposures, and a half-blank roll. Roll number 3 was respooled b&w, and the film pulled off the end of the roll when I wound one last time, and I opened the back... uh oh. I have not developed that roll yet. Roll 3 was Konica SRG 160 that was LONG expired. I shot it as ISO 100, and got some nice grainy, muted images (see below).

retro wheels
The last roll was Gold 100, and it fits very well with this camera when outdoors. Sure, it's a cheap SLR with a fixed lens. It's fun to use, unassuming, and I like most of the results that I have gotten with it. I wish it had a "B" setting and a hot-shoe, and all would be okay. It does have a cable release socket, plus a locking tab, so the shutter won't fire accidentally. Is it worth $60? Sure is. Considering what a really plastic camera is going from the Lomography folks, this camera is a steal. A pretty simple SLR that would be perfect for experimenting with, and adding various odd lens filters to see what happens. There is a photographer on the Lomography site that shot a bunch of nudes with his PF-1. Sort of strange, but if the models didn't laugh at his camera, then all is okay.

Camera kitsch at Van Boven
Should you buy this camera? Sure. It's a lot of fun. I even created a group on Flickr for it.