Friday, November 21, 2014

autumn leaves

"I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed."
Garry Winogrand


Taken out of context, Winogrand's statement may appear flip and cynical.  I think, however, that he meant it quite sincerely.  He actually made similar statements on many occasions which alluded to photography as a way of investigating the world and the mind's perception of it.  The fact that Winogrand worked primarily in black and white is particularly relevant because of the often unexpected transformations which the extraction of color produce in a photographed scene.


Photographing leaves as they change color in the Fall is illustrative of the nuances of translating from color to monochrome.  Much of the immediate visual impact we experience in viewing Autumn foliage is due to the interplay of colors in the leaves.  Monochrome translation reveals that distinct hues may appear undifferentiated depending on surface reflectivity in the subject and on the chromatic sensitivity of films and lenses.  The challenge then for the monochrome photographer is to look beyond the immediate impact of Autumn's colorful displays to explore some of the other visual components of the observed scenes including form, texture and contrast.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kodak Bantam RF

I recently acquired a Kodak Bantam for a ridiculously low price on ebay.


Mine looks pretty much like new, and everything works more or less as it should.  Aside from the Bantam name and the 828 film format the RF model had almost nothing in common with the  Bantam strut folders which first appeared in the mid-1930s.  Kodak continued producing the 828 folders for a few years after WWII; the name was then passed on to a new line of fixed lens, bakelite-bodied cameras designed by Arthur H. Crapsey.


The Bantam RF design and the supporting Kodak publicity reflected and helped define the '50s aesthetic.


As I had done with my Flash Bantam, I covered the ruby window on the back of the camera and taped a 24-exposure strip of 35mm film onto the 828 reels.  One nice innovation in the RF model is a roller-based frame spacing mechanism which eliminates the guess-work in advancing the film by counting turns.  The removable back presented a bit of a challenge in the process of film loading inside a dark bag, but I think it will be less of a problem with subsequent rolls.  I exposed the first roll of film through the camera at one of my regular test sites, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.

F-16 - new paint job and accessories

USS James K. Polk Submarine Sail - surfaced

B-52B Stratofortress

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

baseline

I recently acquired a couple more Kodak Bantam cameras which I hope to report on here soon.  They will be measured, subjectively to be sure, against the performance of the Kodak Flash Bantam, the little 828-format folder which to my eye delivers results disproportionate to its compact size.

Harleys

Ft. Mitchell Fire Dept.

Tingley Ponds

Monday, November 10, 2014

rehab

I've been hobbling around for the past week with a bit of a hip strain from chasing the Marigold Parade last weekend.  Seemed a good excuse to hang out at home and work on a project that didn't require any significant level of mobility.  I borrowed a home-built shutter tester from a friend and applied it to measuring the performance of a number of my old cameras.

Shutter tester and Kodak Retina IIc

There is a light-sensitive phototransistor out on the end of the boom which is maneuvered in close to the rear lens.  A flashlight is shone on the front of the lens and the shutter is tripped.  The result is captured through a connection to the microphone port by the freeware Audacity sound recording/editing program.

Audacity Sound Recording and Editing Program, Retina II results

The dark block encloses the opening and closing points of the shutter on my Retina II and the length block at the bottom center shows the duration of the exposure to be 0.012 seconds.  Divide 1 by that amount and you get a shutter speed of 1/83 with the shutter having been set to 1/100.  When I set the Compur-Rapid shutter to 1/250 I got a recorded speed of 1/200.  That is better performance than I get from my Retina IIa, and I was surprised and pleased because the Xenon lens on the II model is probably the best on any of my Retinas.

I tried out the tester on quite a few of my cameras.  The Compur shutters produced very smooth wave forms and the results repeated consistently.  The box camera results all showed speeds in the expected 1/30-1/40 range, but the wave forms were noisy and I didn't have a lot of confidence in the absolute numbers.  Still, the comparisons are interesting, and the relative values are useful.  I didn't try speeds above 1/250 as it seemed that would be stretching the device's capabilities beyond its potential accuracy.

Mid-way through my shutter testing, this mantis showed up on my front porch, so I snapped a few portraits with the digital:




Friday, November 07, 2014

wheels

I'm enjoying doing some color work with some of my old cameras which have not seen color before, at least since I have owned them.  The big 6x9 negatives from the Kodak Monitor 620 have a nice tonal solidity and resolution thanks in a large part to the camera's excellent 4-element Kodak Anastigmat Special lens.


I'm also happy with the performance of the cheap lomography color negative film and the Unicolor processing kit.  This is the twelfth roll in the same chemistry and I don't see any degradation at this point, so I'll try a couple more rolls to see what happens.


I've got three more rolls of 120 color which I'll likely devote to a couple of my favorite box cameras.  Also have three 35mm rolls of 100-speed lomography which I got mainly for use in my little p&s ultra-wide, but I may feed one roll to a Bantam RF which is in the mail.

The ELF 3-wheeler is a solar/pedal hybrid that came out of a successful Kickstarter project a year ago.  I'm looking forward to learning more about it.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Marigold Parade - 2014

We had our windshield wipers going all the way to the parade site, but I don't think a drop fell during the actual event.  In any case, nobody seemed at all concerned about the prospect of a little rain on the parade.


I wore my skull mask most of the time I was making pictures.  I added a few flowers to lighten the mood a bit. No one was shocked by my appearance, but I think it did give me a little more freedom of movement.



The theme of this year's event was "El Agua Es La Vida, No Se Vende Se Defiende".  So, the weather was appropriate, and it made the photography a little easier as well.


Quite a few causes and social issues were represented in the parade, but I didn't identify any actual politicians in spite of the nearness of the election.





Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Graciela Iturbide

The Art21 series on PBS last night featured three artists talking about art as investigation.  The second segment was about the Mexican photographer, Graciela Iturbide, initially an assistant and apprentice to Manuel Alvarez Bravo.  She is known mostly as an interpreter of indigenous Mexican culture, though she has traveled and photographed widely in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Here is a self-portrait made near the beginning of Iturbide's career as a photographer:


Forty years later Iturbide's enduring charm and intelligence has made her a favorite subject of videographers looking to explore the subject of photographic practice and inspiration.  In her Art21 appearance she was able to share many insights into her personal approach to photography without ever sinking into the artspeak which seems to plague artists in other media.

Another good video covering some of the same ground was made by Alejandro Gómez de Tuddo.  I liked the fact that Iturbide was allowed to speak for herself while the English interpretation was left to the sub-titles.



In both of the videos Iturbide is seen shooting black and white film in a big medium-format rangefinder.