Friday, April 23, 2021

A Week at the South Carolina Coast

Sunset at Murrells Inlet, SC

I hesitate to use the word vacation, because I am retired, but it was a vacation from the kitchen renovation that is ongoing. We went to Murrells Inlet, SC for a week in mid-April, and it really was nice to do some traveling after a year of not doing any travel, other than day trips around NC.  Of course, we took the necessary precautions - mask up, and all that, and Bev was vaccinated, I had my first COVID shot, and Adrienne got hers shortly after we returned from our trip.  It was great to see the Atlantic, as it's been 22 years since I have been to the Atlantic coast. We left Weaverville on the morning of April 10, and arrived in the afternoon at our cottage that we rented for the week. It was little like going from Spring to summer-like weather.  It was great to have a real kitchen, as we have been making do with an ersatz kitchenette in the basement while our real kitchen is being completely renovated.  Even so, we ate dinner out a lot over the course of a week, as we had all that fresh and local seafood at the local restaurants.

Morning on the porch

First of all, Murrells Inlet is along what is called the "Hammock Coast," inland by the width of salt marshes from the Strand, a series of barrier islands that protect the marshes from the waves of the Atlantic.  Funny though, is seeing all those beachfront properties as easy prey to the effects of climate change.  At least there is less of an onslaught along the shoreline that is surrounded by the estuaries.

Our small cottage was perfect for our needs, and I enjoyed the quiet mornings there.  We were only a few minutes walk from the busy area with all of the restaurants, bars, and tourist-oriented places, yet we felt like we were in a very quiet spot.  I enjoyed the mornings with the sun casting shadows on the porch. 

Our rented cottage

One of the places that we visited - three times, in fact, was Brookgreen Gardens.  Admission on one ticket is good for 6 consecutive days, and in light of how much there is to Brookgreen, it certainly makes sense.  For the history of Brookgreen Gardens, go to  Brookgreen Gardens has over 2000 pieces of figurative sculpture in a garden setting, and I have to say that I was wowed by what I saw. Aside from seeing several works by two sculptors well-known by Michiganders (Marshall Fredericks and Carl Milles), I was introduced to Anna Hyatt Huntington's amazing work and many others. Of course, all this is in addition to the fabulous gardens and plantings, the Low Country Museum and the zoo. I spent many hours just walking around and loving the Tillandsia (although it's often called Spanish Moss, it's not Spanish and it's not moss - it's an epiphytic Bromeliad) hanging from the Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana).  To me, those trees exemplify the deep South, and with those long, arching branches, they provide a mysterious and languorous scene.  They also support other epiphytic plants such as lichens, mosses, and ferns. I photographed the hell out of them, seeking ways to convey that sense of wonder and place that they provide.  I'll know if I succeeded when I develop the film.

Don Quixote sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington

Live Oaks at Brookgreen Gardens

On the other side of Route 17, across from Brookgreen gardens, lies Huntington Beach State park.  This parcel is where the Huntingtons built their winter retreat, which Archer Huntington called Atalaya. He had a passion for Spanish history and literature, and Atalaya was designed to look like the coastal forts of Spain. It's now called Atalaya Castle, and is a shell of its former residence. Although I enjoyed walking around and through it, it seems a melancholy place. However, it provided some great photographic subjects, which I also hope come out the way that I saw them.  The beach area is large, and the North end of the beach is the best place for photography and wildlife viewing.  The south end is more managed for typical beach and camping activities.  

Atalaya Castle (Lumix DMC-LX3)

The North end of Huntington Beach State Park

Seaside memories

We also spent an afternoon in Georgetown, the third-oldest city in SC, incorporated in 1729. The historic district is a nice walk, and there are lots of beautiful old houses on the National Historic Register.  Georgetown is the second-largest seaport in SC and has several large industries. I did enjoy seeing that there is an old theater there, the Strand, which hosts theater and no longer shows movies. 

The Inlet Crab House

We ate one meal at a restaurant every day, usually dinner. My two favorite places were the Inlet Crab House - a small place that seemed to cater more to locals, and the Hot Fish Club - which is a big place that offered up some of the best meals I have ever had.  All of the places around Murrells Inlet feature seafood, and a lot of it is fried.  That's why the Hot Fish Club was so excellent - there are many non-fried options to choose from, and we ate there two nights. We ate lunch at Wicked Tuna one day, and I had the most amazing shrimp Po'Boy ever.  I was also introduced to She Crab soup, which I tried at two different places, and it's a luscious mouthful of buttery crab meat and roe. Graham's Landing had the best version. I also found that Grouper was my favorite local fish.

A shrimp po'boy at Wicked Tuna

Okay, this IS a photography blog, not a restaurant review, so I'll list what I brought along for this trip. I decided that my Pentax 6x7 wasn't giving me enough exercise, so I packed it and several lenses into a backpack. I also brought my YashicaMat 124, and Holga, to round out the medium-format section. Imagine my chagrin when I went to load the P67 and found that I had left the take-up spool at home.  I wasn't going to ruin a roll of film just to have a take-up spool, so I waited until I finished up a roll in the YashicaMat to transfer it to the P67. The Holga went along for many of the trips.  The 35mm camp was pretty straightforward - Nikon FM3a, with a spare Nikon FM body, in case I needed it. For lenses I brought the 50mm f/1.4, 28mm f/2.8, 85mm f/2, 105mm Micro-Nikkor, 35-105 Nikkor zoom, and the Lensbaby Pro Optic 35. I added the Horizon 202, and shot about half a roll of film with it. The Yashica Electro 35 CC was a constant companion,  and I also brought along two 35mm toy cameras to round things out.  The only digital camera aside from my iPhone was the Lumix DMC-LX3, which I did use a bit.  Overall, I shot 8 rolls of 120 and 16 rolls of 35mm over the course of a week. That's a lot of medium format for me to shoot, and I used the 55mm lens on the P67 quite a bit.  Most of the film was b&w, but there was enough color to keep things interesting.  

I'll start developing the film this weekend, and I am looking forward to sharing the results.  I'll be in Pittsburg at the end of the month, and look forward to photographing there again.

some work ahead

All of the images shown in this post were made with my iPhone XR.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

The KEKS 30mm f/10 body cap lens

 KEKS Camera is a Taiwan-based company that produces the KEKS light meter, an attractive shoe-mounted light meter that's been getting some attention online. I was checking out their website, and saw something else that I figured would be a neat little item - a body cap with a 30mm f/10 lens mounted in it for $30. So, I place my order on March 18, and the package (envelope) arrived yesterday, April 5.   I'm sure that you are now wondering what the heck I'm talking about.

What is the KEKS body cap lens?

Typically, I have seen body caps turned into pinhole lens mounts for SLR cameras. That's pretty easy as a DIY project, and of course, there are commercially-made ones available. There are also pancake lenses that are very thin, made for M 4/3 cameras in the digital realm. The KEKS body cap lens is neither of these. It's an actual body cap with a 30mm f/10 lens from a Kodak single-use camera at the center.  There is no adjustment of any sort  except the shutter speed of the camera. The lens focuses from about 3 feet to infinity, and as you should expect from a single-use camera, the center is fairly sharp, while the outer edges of the frame are out of focus.   The idea is pretty good -- and because the distance to the film plane is shorter than with an SLR, the body cap lens is sold in only 4 mounts - Leica L39 thread, Leica M bayonet, Fujifilm X (digital) and Sony E (digital).  I bought the Leica Thread Mount (LTM), as it would fit my Zorki and my Canon 7 rangefinders.

As you can see, there isn't much to this lens, but I thought it would be something fun to play with.  The shallow profile makes the camera seem quite svelte.  I mounted the lens on my Zorki 2c, and loaded a roll of Fomapan 100.   Since the aperture is fixed at f/10, I shot at 1/250 sec in full sun, and adjusted accordingly in other conditions.   I just estimated the exposures and didn't bother with a light meter, as I strolled around in Montreat, NC, which is near Black Mountain.  As this lens makes the camera basically a point-and-shoot, I didn't worry too much about the framing on the Zorki.  I probably could have put a wide-angle optical viewfinder on the cold-shoe, since the tiny Zorki viewfinder isn't much help.

The KEKS lens in the Zorki 2c

I developed the roll of Fomapan 100 in D76 for 7 minutes last night, and scanned the negs this morning on my Epson V700.  Once I looked at the scans, I could easily see that the lens performed pretty much as I expected - relatively sharp and contrasty in the center, with the image becoming progressively softer towards the edges.  Not a bad look for the way I shoot, but if one is expecting sharpness all around, this $30 gadget is not for you. 

Here are some results from yesterday's shooting. 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Widening My Horizon Part II

Using 35mm film in a Pentax 6x7

Back in mid-February, I wrote a post about some ways to get panoramic images with a 35mm film camera.  At the time, I had not yet shot anything with a panorama mask and 35mm adapter in my Pentax 6x7.  I ordered my panoramic 35mm adapter from Clever3dPrints on Etsy, and it arrived soon after. The adapters to fit a 35mm cassette into the 120 roll film spot work very well.  The panorama viewfinder mask fit over the ground glass, but I think it's a 1/2mm too thick, as the prism doesn't snug in tightly with it in place.  Second, the 35mm adaptor to go over the film gate doesn't really fit well, and wanted to rub against the shutter curtain so I decided not to use it, and expose the entire width of the film. 

The back of the Pentax 67 opened up, showing the supply
and take-up cassettes, and the taped-on leader.

You need to set the film to 220 on the Pentax 6x7 pressure plate as well as the 120/220 selector button on the right side of the body.  To make sure that I got as much out of the 36 exposure roll, I taped a length of exposed 35mm film to the end of the fresh roll that was connected to the take-up cassette.  The take-up spool is an empty cassette (obviously oriented upside down. As it turns out, I need to make the leader a bit longer, as there was a length of unexposed film at the beginning of my roll.  The 220 setting is necessary if you are using a 36 exposure roll, and you should get close to 19 shots, unless you respool your own film and make it a 40-exposure roll.  

The beauty of using this without the panoramic mask in the film gate is that I get 24x70mm negatives, excluding the sprockets.  If you are sprocket freak, then you'll appreciate the exposed sprocket area. Compared with my Horizon 202 (more about that in another post), it's a bit wider - 12mm. I used the Pentax 55mm lens on the 6x7, which is about equal to 28mm in 35mm. The Horizon 202's lens is also 28mm, but the crop with 6x7 55mm lens  results in an image without any distortion that one sees with the Horizon camera.  

The obvious drawback with this setup is that the film still has some exposed frames that will be ruined if you open the back in daylight, unless you forgo shooting to the end of the roll.  I brought my camera back home and opened it up in my bathroom/darkroom and rewound the film into the original cassette.  I shot a roll of Ultrafine Extreme 100 and developed in D-96.  To say that I was happy with the images is an understatement.  All of my shots were handheld. The D-96 came from the FPP store.  All of my frames were scanned on my Epson V700 scanner.

Some results.

Dillsboro, NC

Dillsboro, NC

Rt. 197 up Ivy Knob to Cockscomb Mtn.

The French Broad River at Ledges Whitewater Park

After I scanned in the negatives, I was pleased at how big those images could be viewed. Zooming in revealed a lot of detail, and a print from them would be quite striking.  You may ask why not just crop any 6x7 negative post scan to be a 24x70mm negative, and my answer is:

  • You can no longer buy 220 film that is fresh
  • There are so many more emulsions in 35mm
  • The viewfinder mask defines your image area
  • It's part of the process

In part III of this series, I will discuss my experiences with my Horizon cameras.