Saturday, January 31, 2015

Catching Up With My Past

Gray treefrog, Nikkormat FT2, 2001
When I first got really, really serious about photography in 2000, I wanted to become more proficient at macro photography to be able to take photographs of insects and flowers, as well as other scenes from nature that appealed to me.  I had been using cameras since I was in high school, and while I learned a few things over the years, I never really delved into the mechanics, aesthetics, and possibilities of photography.  My first year, from 2000-2001, I immersed myself in reading all I could about nature  and macro photography, and nobody wrote better books about it than John Shaw.  His books and videos inspired me a great deal, and like many beginners, I also fell into the trap of trying to emulate what he was doing.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to doing macro work.  You must learn the techniques for best results.  However, in the days of shooting slide film, I shot a LOT of slides to get sort of where I needed to be.  I am glad that I did, though, because those slides are reminders that before the age of digital dominance, I could get quite a few good shots on a roll of 36 exposures of whatever slide film I was using.  They were not ALL good, however.  Lots of learning went into those, and I am glad that at that time, getting a roll processed was pretty cheap.  
Tent caterpillars, Nikon FE, 2002

So, the title of this post comes from me literally catching up with my past accumulation of 35mm slides.  Boxes and boxes of them.  laying them out on the light table and pitching the awful ones, the ones that have no real use, and keeping the good exposures, the ones that show a clear idea of subject, and of course, the ones that have photos of people and places.  Things that change over time, are frozen in time when you photograph them.  I am not the man now that I was in 1986 or 2001.  Some of the slides featured shots of volunteers that worked with my wife, and the ones she photographed in 1991 are all dead now.   Some of the slides are from the 1980s, when I was active in model rocketry.  Most of those will get pitched except for the ones with people I knew, and the ones that were shot at places where we did launches for the public.So, yes, I am catching up to my past by going through these slides -- some of them I have not looked at in 10 years or more.  When I am done, they will all be properly labeled as much as needed, and stored in archival slide pages in 3-ring binders or hanging files.  Want to see what's there?  Hold it up to the light.
Prickly ash, 2002. Nikon FE.

Imagine if these were all digital files... Nobody would see them.  They would just be file names on a disk somewhere (if it still existed).  The past could easily be erased, which is a sad thought.

me, 1986 near Rantoul, IL.

Bob Rau, with his thrust stand setup run via a Tandy Color
Computer. 1986
Adrienne and Jorie, near Carlsbad, NM 2003.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cheap Shots III - Call for Entries

This should be fun!
A call for entries for the A3C3’s   latest exhibition –
Cheap Shots III -- Blurred, Not Shaken
The idea for this show is to show the breadth of creativity using basic photographic tools that have minimal controls.  Pretty much about as far as you can get from digital.
Open to members of the A3C3* 
Images must be taken with a “toy” camera or pinhole camera
(Diana, Holga, Brownie box cameras, disposable cameras, etc.)
Please submit no more than 4 images at a resolution of no more than 1200 pixels at the longest dimension to  Please include: what type of camera took the image, the final process that produced the print, the title of the image and year it was taken. Your name, address, and phone number will also be needed.
Images must be received by April 1, 2015. 
You will be notified of which entries are accepted for the show by April 8.
The show opening is May 1. 
Final Image requirements: image may be a silver print, alt-process, chromogenic, or pigment print (ink-jet).  Final matted size should fit within an 11x14” mat.  Prints are not to be framed.
The exhibit will be hung at the Argus Museum, 525 West William St., Ann Arbor.

*If you have a paid membership anytime since last year, you are considered a member of the A3C3.  If you have not paid for a membership, then the entry fee for the show is $15, which will also get you a year’s membership into the A3C3.  Please make your check payable to the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

More K-Mount Madness - The Pentax ZX-M

The other day, another package appeared with a K-mount camera, but this time it was actually a Pentax.  A ZX-M, to be precise, with a 50mm f/2 Pentax KA lens.  It was a Goodwill auction item, for $11.03 and with shipping, cost me about $25, which is less than what the lens goes for, which is why I bought it in the first place.   I have had other iterations of the plastic-bodied Pentax SLRS, but not this model.  I previously reviewed the Pentax ZX-5, which is an AF version, whereas the ZX-M is totally manual focus, but does have Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual modes. It must be the lightest SLR I have picked up thus far.  Unlike the comparable Nikon N65, the ZX-M meters with non-AF lenses, and should be thought of as a replacement for the venerable Pentax K1000.   It has exposure compensation settings of +/- 3 in half -stop increments, and an ISO range of 6 to 6400 if you set it manually.  There is an exposure lock button that lasts for 10 seconds after you push it.  Shutter speeds of B, and 2 sec to 1/2000 sec, and in aperture-priority mode you can get times exposures as long as 30 seconds.  The electronic shutter is stepless in A mode, so, shoot away!  The camera has single shot mode, continuous (2 fps) and self-timer.  There is also a depth of field preview button... something that is often missing on inexpensive cameras.

The camera is incredibly light, and with the 50mm lens, batteries (2 CR-2) and a roll of film, weighs just a bit over a pound. The penta-mirror keeps the weight down, and the relatively low-profile of the camera makes it easy to tuck into a bag.  I have a roll of the FPP 200 b&w film in it now, and will post my results later.

While many people give the advice to start with a 35mm SLR camera like the Pentax K1000,  Canon AE-1, or Nikon FM, there is no reason not to use a camera like the ZX-M.  The features are more advanced than the K1000, which is now getting on in years, and it's also a fraction of the price.   It's certainly cheaper than a 4-pack of Fuji Superia film at Walgreens.  It uses every K-mount lens, and can certainly be used to take wonderful photographs.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Noteworthy News Regarding Street Photography

Union Station, Chicago, 2012.
Usually, my blog posts are all about me.  Today, I'd like to share a couple links to some other sites and both of them happen to involve street photography.
 From Toronto -- the Stephen Bulger Gallery has acquired the Vivian Maier negatives from the Jeffrey Goldstein collection.  This effectively protects them from the clutches of anyone in the Cook Co. IL government that had silly ideas of claiming copyright on them, and also facilitates their protection and continued showing via a legitimate gallery.  The interview on CBC radio is excellent, and it is quite interesting to hear from a gallery owner.  I have hope that the legal challenges will be tossed out or resolved soon so that we can all see more of Maier's work.

The Lomo LCA 120 camera is making the news. The Phloblographer has a review of it.  I like what I see so far, except for the price.  However, consider this -- the 38mm on 6x6 equals about 21mm in 35mm format.  The only 6x6 medium format camera with a 38mm lens is the Hasselblad SuperWide, a camera which I have actually used.  The Lomo LCA 120 is a pocket camera, has a glass lens, auto-exposure, and zone focus.  The Hasselblad SWC will set you back over $1500 for a used model, and it has nothing auto about it and does not fit into a pocket.  As street photography goes, I see the Lomo LCA 120 as a winner, and I sure wish I could get one to test out.  I was not enamored with my Lomo Belair, and frankly, was very disappointed with it.  The Lomo LCA 120 is a different beast.
Lomography's LCA 120 (image from

Based upon the images I have seen and some other online comments, I believe Lomography has found a niche with this camera.  Anyone that loves shooting 120 film for street photography ought to rejoice.  It's not supposed to be a crappy  toy camera, and it fits in a pocket. It shoots very wide.  It has auto-exposure.  What's not to like? Just the price.  HOWEVER... it's actually in line, given the paucity of new film cameras.

The third thing I want to mention is that I found out last night that Camera Shopper is still being published.  For years, I picked up copies at camera shows in the Detroit area.  For those of you that have never seen an issue, Camera Shopper was a small publication that catered to collectors and always featured fun articles on classic and collectible cameras and accessories.  The buy/sell/trade ads were there, of course, but I really enjoyed the articles.  Then, with most of the shows gone, I had assumed that the magazine went under, a casualty of ebay and the web.  Not so!  It is still being published and a yearly online-only subscription is only $15/10 issues.  A bargain.

...and the last thing... A wonderful overview on the history of the Eastman Kodak Brownie, and how it democratized photography is up on the BBC website.  Check it out!  I have owned a number of Brownies at any given time, and although the name kept being applied to more than cardboard box cameras, simplicity and utility was the hallmark of the cameras that bore the Brownie label.  I think they reached their apex with the Brownie Hawkeye Flash, a wonderful Bakelite-bodied camera from the fifties.
Brownies at George Eastman House

Saturday, January 03, 2015

My Fantasy Camera Store

Over the years, as the local camera  stores dwindled down to one, and then none (see my previous post), I and my photography friends would amuse ourselves with what we would do if we won the lotto and wanted to open a camera store, etc.   Obviously, it would require something like that, because nobody expects to make any money at it.  However, here are some main points to consider:
1. It should be a gathering place for people in the arts, and especially photographic arts.
2. Film and alt-process materials would be available.
3. C-41 Film lab with scanning services for 35mm and 120.
4. Used equipment for sale.
5. Coffee shop and gallery space included.
6. Darkroom/studio space.
some cleaning needed...

That's the short list, of course.  It doesn't have all the details in how the place would be operated.  It would have to find a niche and be a place that adds value to its customer base.  For one, such a place would offer a series of workshops from basic photography to specific techniques and methodology.

A library of sorts is a useful thing to have.  Especially when sipping a coffee.   The gallery space would rotate on a 60-day basis.   A coffee shop/photo store isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. Bookstores have been doing it for years.
Exhibit openings are a great place to be.
 Film is and will forever be a niche market.  Leave the digital thingamajigery to the online world.  We have great online resources, too for film, and one of those is well-known -- Free Style in California.  Another is the Film Photography Project store --  the other place to go for film, and in my opinion, a very cool place for film lovers.  However, if you want to  serve the local community, my fantasy store would be something like Leslie Lazenby's store in Findlay, OH.    Her store, Imagine That! serves the local college students in their photography class needs, and while requiring some extra work in assembling student kits, provides a real service and value for them.  It can be done in the Ann Arbor area, too, with WCC, EMU, UM, and various high schools.  Guess what?  There IS a demand to have film-based classes, and such a store could more readily enable that.
Cameras and coffee!

The darkroom and studio space could be rented, of course.   Studio space is especially necessary, as it frees people to try some projects and be creative without having to actually have to own a space and all the lighting that is necessary.

Beginner SLR
Used equipment would of course, be fairly priced somewhere in line between ebay and KEH prices.  Sometimes a $5 camera is just a $5 camera.  I suppose consignment sales would be an option, too. It's pretty tough for beginners to buy a film camera without some guidance.  There is no reason that a Nikon N65 and similar cheap Canon EOS cameras can't be used by beginners. Put them in Manual mode, and you are good.  The idea that they should use a Pentax K1000 is a myth.  Have them use a camera that is similar to the DSLRs that are out there.  Of course, having older cameras is also a good thing, but they are not always the best choice for a beginner.
Partnering with LOMO not a bad idea.

This fantasy store obviously can't be in a town with high rents like Ann Arbor. It would have to be in a place where the rent is cheaper and lots of unused downtown spaces.  Since this IS a fantasy store bought with Lotto winnings, I guess owning the building is a better choice.  Adrian, MI would be one such place, but closer to Ann Arbor would be better. Ypsilanti, perhaps.  It would have to be run by people that love photography, and are willing to do the outreach and build the customer base.  So, yes, it would require one to win the lottery to be able to finance this imaginary store.  Or else, it could be a co-operative venture, but that still takes money.

Anyhow, that's the bare bones of my fantasy photo store.  It's always fun to dream.  It takes hard work to make dreams a reality, and sometimes a bit of luck, too.

What would your fantasy store look like?