Sunday, April 28, 2013

World Wide Pinhole Photography Day

WWPPD has become quite a big thing. Each year, hundreds (thousands?) of photographers shoot pinhole cameras on the last Sunday of April. Each person uploads a single image to the WWPPD web site, and it is a blast to see what other folks have been shooting.  This year, I had plans to spend a good chunk of the day doing pinhole shots.  However, the weather turned out to be overcast and drizzly all day.  Not the best weather for doing any kind of shooting, unless you are under an umbrella.  However, I was determined to shoot something besides an indoor still-life.  I loaded up my Polaroid pinhole camera -- it uses pack film, and is a former Tektronix oscilliscope camera.  I think I made it about 8 years ago, and removed the front part of the camera and replaced it with a new front and a pinhole.  Simple.  I am on the third pinhole iteration, and the current size is about right.   The film I used this time around is the Fuji 3000B - the 3000 ISO black and white film.  For a day like today, it was at the edge of the usable range, being that my exposures were between 2 and 3 seconds.  I could not have used it in full sun.  Certainly a good choice for indoor pinholery, though.

I managed to do some test shots outside the house to gauge my exposure, and then headed over to Parker Mill, hoping for some images of the flowing water at Fleming Creek.  Between the time I did the test shots and got on the road, it had started raining as a fine mist.  I soldiered on, hoping for the best.  Fleming Creek was actually flowing quite well, and the small island I often shoot from was surrouned by the creek.  I was able to hop over the overflow, and set up on the island.  The ground beneath the trees had been scoured by the high water of the previous week, and looked pretty interesting.  I was able to finish off the pack of film, but with the rain, my prints got wet, and though I had them in a box, some emulsion still got scraped while being jostled on the way back to the car.  So, if you shoot in the rain with pack film, carry a dry box to keep the prints in.    Here are a few shots from the day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fujica DL-20 - Pocketful of 35mm Fujifun

Back in January, I picked up a used Fujica DL-20 point and shoot that had been languishing in the local camera shop.  Fuji cameras have been known to have excellent optics, and the little 35mm camera intrigued me as to its abilities.  It had been sitting in Huron Camera's bargain bin for quite a while, and I finally bit.
pop-up flash
As you can see in the first photo, the lens cover is also a viewfinder cover. It rotates to the left, revealing the lens and  allowing use of the camera.   It uses 2 AA batteries to power the auto-winder and pop-up flash.  Film is easy to load- simply release the back catch, and the back opens up from the bottom, and you simply slide the roll of film and leader into place.  Shut the back and the film loads to frame 1.  There are only two manually-set ISO settings - 100 and 400.  Not the best selection, but this isn't a camera for the picky.  The two film speeds are also ones most likely to be found at the drugstore back in 1983, when the camera was released.    There is a pop-up flash that is manually set.  The focus is zone, with icons for portrait, group, and landscape.  The default is group, which is also the flash setting. The shutter button is large and easily found, and next to it there is also a recessed connector for a standard remote release cable, as well as a tripod socket on the bottom of the camera.  This is a pretty basic, yet functional and sturdy camera.  It can fit easily into a big pocket.
top deck of camera

The camera specifications are:
38mm focal length, f/4 Fujinon lens
1/100 sec shutter speed at ISO 100
1/300 sec shutter speed at ISO 400.
dimensions - 121 x 72 x 55 mm; 300 g
Anticipating today's trends, the camera was available in black, white, and red! It has clean lines,  a brightline viewfinder, and a raised grip on the right side, providing good ergonomics for the user. Okay, enough of that, how did the camera perform?    First of all, the roll of film I tested it with was fresh Kodak Tri-X, not a C-41 film.  Here are a few photos from that roll, ranging from a snowstorm in January, to a bit of snow in mid-March.
Snowstorm in Dexter, second shot on the roll.

Jiffy in Chelsea

March reflection

not yet picnic time

cactus club
monstera leaves

The optics appear to be quite sharp. It's not a bad camera, and surely a sturdy camera to keep handy for any adventure!   Two things I recommend you do -- make sure that the zone focus is set properly before shooting, and make sure that you don't inadvertently change the ISO setting.  Other than that, the camera is quite easy to use.  Like many Fuji cameras from a few decades ago, they seem to be uncommon here in the US.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Onward To Findlay via US 127.

A week ago, my good friend Abby and I drove down to Findlay, Ohio to attend the Film Photography Project's (FPP) 2013 Photo walking workshop. We decided to go down via US 127 and hit some small towns along the way in NW Ohio.  This post is about the sights along the way, and a bit about FPP. I have yet to finish developing and scanning my film from the trip, so what you'll see here are some digi shots and Polaroids.
US 127 ends (or starts, depending on your point of view) just N of Higgins Lake in Michigan, where it merges with I-75, and terminates in Tennessee somewhere.  We took 127 S from US-12, and were able to visit Hudson, MI, which seems to have transformed itself.  I remember driving through there about 10 years ago, and the main street was filled with dilapidated old buildings with boarded up storefronts. This time, I saw that all of those places had been repainted, updated, and most had businesses of some sort in them.  That is a good thing to see.  With the prevalence of the internet, small towns can be attractive to artists and entrepreneurs, and those upstairs lofts can be used as apartments or art spaces, etc.  Anyhow, one thing in Hudson that captured my attention was the stone arch railroad bridge that crosses Bean Creek E of downtown.  That type of bridge is a rarity in Michigan, and it was used by the now long-defunct Lakeshore and Michigan Southern RR.  The tracks are long gone, but the stone arch remains. Built in 1871, it is a reminder of the amazing workmanship that built the rail infrastructure in this country.
After crossing into Ohio, our first stop  was the city of Bryan.  I am greatly impressed at how many of these small towns that are county seats feature beautiful late 1800s county courthouse, usually in a town square of some sort.  There is a very attractive downtown movie theater (the Bryan) that is still running, which I found pleasing. We didn't walk about a whole lot in Bryan, but the Four Seasons Diner caught our eyes, and we could not resist shooting their sign.  After a little discussion, we both realized we were ready for lunch, and the diner was calling to us.  The diner used to be called Lester's and it has a very photogenic sign with a coffee cup pouring coffee...with lights.  Unfortunately is was daylight, so it wasn't lit up.  That will have to wait for another trip in the dark, I suppose.  Lunch was more than I could eat, but it was very good.  I'm not calling out this particular restaurant, but it is a common theme -- portions are way too big.  I'd pay the same for half the amount of food.  

Quite satiated with lunch (I didn't even bother eating dinner that night), we drove S, and found the small town of Paulding.  There is a decaying old movie theater there, but no name could be seen.  Paulding had a nice mural on the side of an old building, which seems to be a common thing in Ohio.  It's certainly one way to add some color. The main street wasn't too bad, but there was some grunge to be seen (and photographed) on the side streets.
Brumback Library
Our next stop was in Van Wert, which has a beautiful Romanesque-style public library, the Brumback Library.  The interior is as wonderful as the exterior, and I could see how spending a few hours reading the paper and and so forth in there would be a nice weekly activity if I lived there.  The downtown has a lot of nice old buildings, we saw an excellent old coffee shop sign.  A classy old hotel downtown was also quite attractive. The weather was getting colder and nasty, so we continued onward to Celina, OH.  Apparently named after Salina, NY, Celina OH is another county seat, with a lovely courthouse with large columns -- unlike the other courthouses I have seen.
A Van Wert institution
Celina seems to have a strange conglomeration of architectural styles on the same block -- perhaps it was someone's idea to recreate an old-world look in a small amount of space?  Anyhow, they also have an extant movie theater (the Celina) which is a good sign.  The town also has a fire house with a rather phallic tower out front.  I didn't look inside to see if it has 3-story fire-pole to go with it.
By the time we were done in Celina, it was time to head to Findlay, so we got onto the highway and drove up I-75 to join our fellow photographers at the Film Photography Podcast workshop.  That will be the next post, so stay tuned.  I have many more shots of the towns, and of the FPP goings-on in my Flickr account, so take a peek there.
one of the many odd Celina buidings.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Photographers Love Bookstores, and Welcome Literati!

A few years ago, Borders Books went out of business for good.  What was once the best single bookstore in the world, morphed into a mega-chain of mega-bookstores with coffee shops, kids' toys, dumb trinkets, and even dumber CEOs running the company.  In the end, they forgot the very essence of what a book store is -- selling books, and being able to connect with your clientele. When there was just that single Borders on State Street, that was, the best bookstore ever. There were no toys, there was no coffee, no music, no movies-- just really knowledgeable staff, and excellent selections of books and magazines.  Yes, that was pre-internet, pre-web, pre-Amazon, and pre-ebooks.  Really prehistoric, right?  But as a photographer, and a bibliophile, nothing beats a real bookstore.  Being able to browse a shelf of books is somewhat like going out with a camera.  I never know what I'll see, but if I don't go. I won't see anything.
Since Borders closed, we have not had a downtown general bookstore selling new titles.  Yes, we have five downtown stores selling used books, and I appreciate that, but until the past week or so we did not have one selling NEW books.  Fortunately, a couple of book-lovers stepped in and launched a new independent bookstore, called Literati Bookstore.  I went there on Friday, and was pleasantly surprised.  The owners seem to have a good feel for books that will interest the Ann Arbor shoppers, and are not duplicating titles that one might better find at Barnes & Noble.  You won't find a "fill in the blank" for Dummies there, nor a lot of trade paperbacks.

Literati is a small store with two floors, and I am sure that they will be responsive to customer suggestions.  The store invites browsing, and is very attractive.  I really hope that the owners succeed, because book-selling these days is a tough business.  However, given Ann Arbor's hunger for books, and the downtown location, I expect that Literati could hang in there and even thrive.  They also showcase manual typewriters!

Okay, back to photographers and books.  As an avid photographer, I also like books on photography.  No, I don't need yet another technique book, and there are plenty of those on my my shelves that I should probably get rid of.  I do like books of photography, since that is the best way to see a body of work without waiting for an exhibit somewhere. It is hard to judge such books online, and seeing them in person -- as in a bookstore -- is my preferred way.  Sometimes serendipitous finds will reveal some gem I had never considered, and without having the book in hand, I probably would never have bought it.  It also works the other way, too. A title that looks interesting may reveal that it's not buy-worthy, once I have looked through it.  The book I purchased Friday at Literati is John Maloof's  "Vivian Maier Street Photographer."  It's an excellent book of Maier's photography with really nice reproductions.    If you are not familiar with Vivian Maier, just Google her and be amazed.  Better yet, take a half hour to watch this excellent video from the Chicago PBS station.

I hope that Literati Bookstore succeeds.  Ann Arbor needs a downtown bookstore, and I intend to support them.  My book budget isn't huge, but I am willing to support a local bookstore when they carry books that I want to read.  Browsing is the best way to find a new book, so get down there and have a look.

I'll be sending them a list of titles that they may want to consider carrying, and maybe we can get the Crappy Camera Club to have a reading list and do some event that will also generate a crowd there.  
Welcome Literati Bookstore!!