Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Mighty Nikon FE

A few weeks ago I purchased a lot of 5 cameras for $31, including postage.  All were advertised as being in as-is condition.  Well the only dog out of the bunch was a Mamyia 1000 DTL, which I wanted for its 135mm mamiya/Sekor lens (which turned out to have fungus.).  The other cameras in the lot were a Nikon EM, Nikon FE (black), Nikon F50 with the panorama mode, and a Nikon N2000.  All appear to work perfectly with new batteries in them. So, at $6 a camera, I made out very well.  In fact all but the Mamiya are also in very good cosmetic shape as well.

The 6-dollar Nikon FE body. The 28-85 AI lens is one I have had for quite a while -- it was a gift.
The Nikon FE was my first manual-focus Nikon, which I purchased used at a local camera store around 2001.  I think I paid about $90 for it at the time.  I used the heck out of it, and it was my go-to camera until I replaced it with a Nikon FM2N.  I don't want to think of how many Nikons of various models have passed through my hands over the years, but the FE remains dear to me.  The only problem with them is that they are now pretty old cameras (1978-82), and many have had a lot of rolls of film through them. Consequently, buying a used one unseen may not be worth it unless it's really, really cheap.  Of course, film cameras have been sinking in price, but an FE in really good condition still has value.  Most of the FEs you see will be the chrome version, and the black version is highly sought after. Not that they work any differently, mind you.  They just have that look of quality and ruggedness with the black body.

I was very pleased to see the meter work like it should after I put in a new 1/3N cell into the camera.  The mirror foam needs to be replaced -- it's not gooey, just old.  I think the foam in the back has long dried out, but I did not see any light leaks in the roll of film that I ran through it.The true test is shooting a roll of film, so I loaded some expired but fridge-stored Kodak Gold 100.    I shot outside on a cold and windy day -- the windchill was below zero F., so that was a good test, as far as I am concerned.   The camera worked flawlessly.  

All I  can say is that I am pleased as can be with the camera.  Finds like that don't come along every day.  However, I have so many Nikons that I use regularly, this camera probably won't see that much use. So, I am giving it to a friend of mine that was very interested in it.  I think she will have a blast with it.  Far better to  use a camera than just keep it in a drawer!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Small Plates Exhibit Opens Friday

I have been busy getting things together for a new photo exhibit from people in the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club.  Small Plates is all about the small image, and my explanation of the show follows:

Throughout the history of photography, the small image has usually had a personal connection. Examples would be a Daguerreotype photo in a locket, small tintypes made by street photographers, or cartes de visité made in a studio. When the Kodak Brownie and its descendants became popular and put a camera into the hands of nearly everyone, the resulting many millions of snapshots were the typical size of 4x6 inches or less. In fact, the bulk of photographs from the 1920s onward are likely to be snapshots in the form of contact prints or small enlargements. 
Today, people take and show digital photographs on hand-held devices, and often never look at images larger than their cell phone screen. Millions of digital images are shared online every minute, often viewed at about the size of snapshots stored in family photo albums. Small images are meant to be viewed no farther away than arm’s length. This is a much more personal experience than large gallery images.

It is in this spirit of the intimacy of the small print that Small Plates is being presented. The Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club (A3C3) is a film-based group of photographers, and all the images presented in this show were produced by film cameras of various types from a 110 Instamatic to 4x5 view cameras. Many are Polaroids, which are as unique as Daguerreotypes or tintypes. Some images are contact prints, and some are only slightly enlarged.  All are meant to be viewed close-up.  

Unlike their ephemeral digital counterparts, these images have solidity and are self-contained exhibits. Although the equipment and processes have changed greatly over the history of photography, it is interesting that our basic relationship to the image has not.  

Six examples of vintage photographs are included that demonstrate the different eras of photography and the different processes in vogue at the time.  

I enjoy curating an exhibit, and though I did not produce any new work specifically for the show, it did prod others into doing so, and as a result, I think it will be quite enjoyable for the viewers.  If you miss the opening, the Argus Museum is open M-F from 9-5.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Following the Raisin River

On the last day of 2012, my buddy Marc Akemann and I went for a short photo trip.  My aim was to photograph some stretches of the Raisin River and the towns that we stopped at along the way.  We started sort of in the upper stretches in Manchester (Michigan), traveled SW towards the headwaters at Onsted State Game Area, and then to Dundee, where one of the mills that Henry Ford built still stands.  The Raisin River watershed is roughly the size of Rhode Island (with nowhere near the population density!), and the river is about 150 miles in length, meandering N from its source into Washtenaw Co., and then E and S again, finally emptying into Lake Erie at Monroe.
Raisin River watershed, courtesy of  River Raisin Watershed Council

Since it was December 31, we didn't have a lot of daylight, and it was largely an overcast day, which was good because of the snow and ice.  I decided to try out some 30+ year old Panatomic-X that I recently spooled up from a bulk roll, as well as some oddball film called Varicath II, which is a cine film for medical imaging.  Its ISO is rated from 6-25, and I shot it at 25.  The old Panatomic X was shot at ISO 25, but because the negatives were thin, I'll probably shoot the next roll at 15, just to see if there is a big difference.  Finally, I also shot Arista 100 Premium, which I think is actually Kodak's last run of Plus-X.  
Working from close to the source (but not chronologically) to Dundee, here are some images from our little foray.
skim of ice
Raisin River
Not too far from the sources of the Raisin in Onsted State Game Area.  This is across the road from Michigan International Speedway on US-12.  Arista 100, Nikon N90s with 24-120mm Nikkor.

Raisin 3
Downtown Manchester, viewing from the bridge. The impoundement is largely iced over. 
Raisin 4
Raisin 1
The Raisin has many impoundments along its route.  Most of the mills have been deactivated or removed. This is the spillway in downtown Manchester. Shot on Panatomic-X, Nikon FM2N with 35-105mm Nikkor.
Frostbite Falls
River Raisin at Dundee, MI
The dam in Dundee, MI.  Both images were shot on the VaricathII  film.  The close-up was shot with my 180mm ED Nikkor lens, the wide view was taken with my 24mm 2.8 Nikkor.

By the time we finished up at Dundee, we were running out of light.  We'll have to hit Sharon Mill and also Monroe to wrap up the set.  There is a lot to be discovered along this river, ranging from the natural habitats to the interactions of humans and industry and agriculture.   

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Goodbye to 2012 and hello 2013!

The past year was certainly filled with photography for me.  I managed to try some new equipment, find some old, and along the way, traveled many miles and shot thousands of digital and film images.   I won't say that I shoot every day, but I come pretty close to it.

Black-bodied cameras seemed to be big for me in 2012:
New "toy"
The Mighty TL Electro-X 

Canon F-1 outfit
The venerable Canon F-1

Nikon F2S
The superb last hand made-made SLR - Nikon F2

Nikon FM - classic companion
A still limping-along FM

latest acquisition N90S
The N90s - my go-to AF camera. 

I went on quite a few photo trips in Michigan and Ohio, and a couple to Ontario, Canada.  It's been said however, that some of the best photographs are taken within a few miles of your house.  I can agree with that.

Back yard:

Front yard:
hosta lines

frosty sunrise 3


Blue reflections

Canadian Shield

For many of my adventures, I have been very lucky to have my wife Adrienne, and my good friends Abby, Marc, or Mike along.  A few times I have been blessed to have my daughter Marjorie accompany me.  In fact, when Marjorie was a teenager, we traveled thousands of miles across Michigan in search of theaters for her to photograph.  I will always treasure those trips together.

Remember, as you go out and shoot in 2013... the best software is the gray matter behind the camera.  It will allow you to use a plastic camera, a box with a pinhole, a Rolleiflex, a Nikon FM, a 4x5 Graflex, or a 36 MP DSLR.  What you get depends on you.