Monday, January 25, 2021

Revisiting Themes

 Right now, I am in the midst of doing more scanning and editing of images that I made over a decade ago.  As I have said before, it's an ongoing project.  However, I have been working specifically to find appropriate images for my next issue of Monochrome Mania No. 4, which will deal with winter photography.  In 2011, I had a pretty good show at Matthaei Botanical gardens with my "Phase Change" exhibit.  

I had a pretty good selection of prints in 16x20 frames.  I didn't sell a single one.  That's not unusual for such shows that are in an atypical gallery space.  I still have a couple of them adorning my walls here in NC, as they are evidence of a winter that we don't typically see here.  Finding the old negatives was easy once I realized that I had put them in a binder devoted just to winter ice and snow images.  Scanning them in now and making adjustments brings back some memories, and also some observations:

  • Kodak's Technical Pan film is perfect for this subject
  • Photography on overcast days was the best, as the highlights didn't get blown out.
  • I used manual cameras, such as the Nikon FM2A, F2S, and Canon FTb QL, and A1.  In doing so, I compensated the exposure by watching where the needle or LED was in overexposing.  

Water and ice are fascinating subjects, and I think this next issue of Monochrome Mania will be worthy of the effort that I put in a decade ago.  I hope to have it ready by March.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

New York, April 2004

 As I have already mentioned on Random Camera Blog, I have been going back through my 20+ years of binders of negatives.  In looking for some specific rolls, I have been surprised at how few of the pre-2007 images have been seen.  Some of the scans will end up in future Monochrome Mania issues, but a lot will be sent up in Flickr and Instagram. 

Me, somewhere in Manhattan, April 2004. The photo
 vest was a back saver.

In April, 2004, Adrienne and I drove to her parent's house in Amenia, New York (about 2 hours N of NYC).  Our daughter Jorie was on a charter bus to New York City with her fellow Huron High School Orchestra members to play at Carnegie Hall.  Adrienne's Mom accompanied  the two of us on the Amtrak to the Big Apple and met up with Jorie and her classmates.  Aside from the musical part of the trip, I wanted to photograph around Manhattan, as I had not been there since I was in High School in in 1973.  

Gear-wise, I brought a Minolta X700 and three lenses (50mm, 28mm, and a 35-135 zoom), Contax G1 with the 45mm lens, Holga 120s, Lubitel 2, Zeiss Ikon 6x9 folder, and an Olympus XA.  I shot slide film and lots of Ilford b&w film - Kentmere 100, Pan-F, Delta 400, Delta 100, and HP-5.   It turns out that the X700's batteries had died, which i realized when we were in the Catskills on the way to Amenia.  I had to find a store that sold the button cells for my camera before i could use it, so that was a lesson learned.  Always bring extra batteries!  I certainly had plenty of film.

We stayed at a hotel not far from Times Square in the "Little Brazil" neighborhood, and were within easy walking distance of most places.  Since we were there during Easter break, the photo stores that I most wanted to visit - B&H and Adorama - were closed for Passover. I did however, manage to visit Olden Camera, which I knew from its ads in past years. I was surprised to find it open, and I can only describe the store as shabby.  There were Argus C-3 cameras in a glass case priced at well over $50, lots of movie equipment, and not much that immediately caught my interest.  It seemed like more of a museum than a store.  

Classic sign, but inside, it was past its prime

In April 2004, it was less than 3 years since the 9/11 attacks, and I recall how some security guard yelled at me for carrying a camera near the Federal Building, which was ringed with concrete barriers, creating an ugliness that was matched by the guard's attitude.  

On one of the days, we walked the length of Broadway, all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge, and took the subway back.  I can't imagine a more amazing walk than that one, as we passed through so many different areas of the city.  I think the one thing that I took away from that walk was the diversity of people and architecture.  New York has been a Mecca for many photographers, and for good reasons.  I did take photos of the International Center of Photography, and we went in and toured the exhibits.  The Aperture HQ was also photographed.  Kodak had a big presence on Times Square, sort of a last hurrah of a the once giant company.  There were still lots of places we passed by that did 1 hour film development, as digital had not yet slayed them.  I think you can't avoid being a street photographer in New York. It's practically impossible. Every block in the city has a story to tell, and it changes daily.  With cell phone photographers everywhere, I think the nature of street photography has changed, as have attitudes about photographers. 

We had NYC pocket guides that helped us find our way, whereas now everything can be found via my iPhone.  I think in some ways, that ambling along and finding unexpected gems is more rewarding.   When I was 16, and visiting Manhattan, I walked everywhere, and once I realized I had the map orientation wrong, I found things much easier!  Times Square in 1973 was a morass of adult vices, and quite the eyeful for a teenager.  In 2004, Times Square was (and still is) more like Disneyland. No longer grungy, but everything shiny, bright, and loud.    Another big difference from 1973 was all of the easily found fast-food and coffee chains.  No more tawdry diners, but the same food that you can order in suburbia.  That's not to say there aren't a huge number of restaurants of all kinds, but I suspect that a McDonald's in Times Square is a bit reassuring to some tourists, especially those with kids.  None of that was there in the 70s.

Jorie, at Central Park

Central Park is the crowning jewel, in my opinion. No other large city has anything to compare to it.  There is so much there, I can see someone photographing there and nowhere else, and never getting tired of what Central Park offers. So, you can just imagine my delight in being there on a cool and sunny April day, walking around with my Minolta.  Frederick Law Olmsted designed a masterpiece park, which gets about 38 MILLION visitors annually.   I know we only walked around for  an hour or two, but it was amazing. I could have spent two days there.

We were lucky to be there for the Easter Parade, and though it was a bit wet and chilly, the crowd outside St. Patricks' Cathedral was hatted up and the variety and extreme lengths people went for their "bonnets" was quite amusing.   One lady wore a large hat that one of her iguanas was hanging onto, with another one one her shoulder.  The New York Yankees Super-fan guy was impressive, as was the Queen of Hearts at 7 feet, or maybe it was the Heart of Queens.  Anyhow, it was a lot of fun to see people strutting their holiday headgear.

Flat Iron Bldg., Zeiss-Ikon 6x9
Ilford HP-5

NY Public Library, Zeiss-Ikon 6x9
Ilford HP-5

Brooklyn Bridge, Lubitel 2, Tmax 100

As I pore over the scans from those 3 days in New York, I realize that I did a pretty good job with composition, etc.  I used the 28mm quite a bit, which really is helpful when one has the tall buildings and street scenes of a large city.  The 50mm got quite a bit of use, as well.  Were I staying a few days now in the Big Apple, I'd most likely use my Nikon FM3a with a 24mm and the 50 mm f/1.8, and keep the 85mm f/2 in a pocket.  The second camera would probably be the Olympus Trip 35 or my Yashica 35CC with wacky color films.  If I were to be shooting medium format, I suppose I would choose the YashicaMat 124, since it has a built-in meter.

I'm glad that I spent a couple of days going through those 2004 negatives and scanning them in. Some of them are very good photographs, and I'm glad that they were captured on film, because in 2004 they would have been fairly crappy digital images that I would probably have lost track of.  

3 shots inside the Guggenheim. Minolta X700, Kentmere 100