Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer by the River

We enjoy walking the trails beside the Rio Grande throughout the year.  The real highlight though comes in mid-June with the blooming of the Yerba Mansa.

There is a very dense stand of Yerba Mansa close to the river about a mile south of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.  The densely packed plants extend about a quarter mile along the river-side trail in boggy ground.  The conical upper portion of the plant head develops many small seeds; it is very light and buoyant when dry and likely helps the plant to spread downstream when the river floods.

The Wolfberry likes the same environment as the Yerba Mansa and the sweet red berries reach maturity at the same time the Yerba Mansa flowers.   Like the Russian Olive and the invasive Tamarisk, the Wolfberry was probably brought to the Southwest from Asia. 

Saturday, May 07, 2016


I received this nice catalog of upcoming exhibits and workshops  today in the mail.  Seems like it offers something for everyone with an interest in the photographic arts  Information about the scheduled events is available on line at

  This year, PhotoSummer is organized by The University of New Mexico Art Museum and 516 ARTS in Albuquerque and CENTER in Santa Fe.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Versatile Dolly

The Certo Dolly Super Sport
is one of my favorite old folding cameras.  I did not realize that until I had traded away my first one, and I ended up buying four more.  Some of my other medium format cameras are more compact and have somewhat more sophisticated lenses and shutters.  The Dolly, however, can do a variety of things the others can't.

For starters, the Dolly originally came equipped with two frame masks which allowed putting 12 6x6 frames on a roll of 120 film, or by clipping in the 6x4.5 mask, getting 16 shots on a roll.  Certo also offered a amazing array of accessories for that time for the Dolly, including interchangeable lenses, and camera backs which allowed the use of sheet film and plates.  As it turns out, it is also easily possible to use 35mm film in the Dolly.

The Dolly film compartment, unlike those in most medium format cameras, will actually allow dropping in a standard 35mm cartridge with no modifications needed.  Then, you thread the film leader into the take-up spool, give it a few turns and close the back.  Since there is no paper backing on the 35mm film, it is a good idea to tape over the three windows on the camera back to insure that no light leaks in to ruin your film.  If you have the 6x6 cm mask in place, the exposures you make in the Dolly using 35mm film will give you panoramic frames nearly twice the width of a normal 35mm shot, as well as showing an interesting line of sprocket holes along the top and bottom borders.

The final thing to bear in mind about using 35mm film with no paper backing in the Dolly is that you must come up with some way to advance the film for each frame by turning the film advance knob just the right amount to ensure proper frame spacing.  I've done this with a number of other medium format cameras by experimenting with a roll of film with the back open to determine the right amount to turn the advance knob as I work through the roll.  The amount of turns does vary slightly due to the increase in diameter of the film roll as it goes onto the take-up reel.

The clever Dolly as it turns out has a built-in solution to the film advance problem.  There is a circular index dial on the face of the take-up knob which allows advancing the film without reference to the numerals imprinted on the paper backing of the 120 film normally used in the camera.

After you load the 35mm cartridge into the Dolly, you will want to give the advance knob several full turns to bring an unexposed section of film into position.  As you are coming to that point, just be sure that you end the last turn with the numeral "1"  at the index mark on the post beside the knob.  After making the first exposure, you will then turn the advance knob a full 360 degrees plus a little more to get to the numeral "2" on the dial.  And so on up to the twelfth exposure.  Examining the dial closely, you wil see that the amount indicated to turn decreases slightly on each exposure so that by frame 10 you will actually be turning the advance knob less than a full turn.

Well, so that has gotten you to the twelfth frame with very precise spacing.  After that you're on your own, assuming you have loaded a 24 or 36-exposure roll of 35mm. If you still have some unexposed film left I guess you could engage in some higher mathematics to calculate the advance routine for any remaining length of the roll, but I think I'd just go with around three-quarters of a turn for any remaining frames and accept the fact that the spacing is going to get a bit wider as you go. 

I only tried 35mm in my Dolly on one occasion a few years ago.  I shot with the 6x4.5 mask, so I did not get the nice panoramic effect, but I thought having the image overlap the full width of the fillm and show the sprocket holes was pretty neat.  I also just took a best guess on the film advance.  It was a lot of fun and gave me a series of images I liked.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

a sweet goodbye

My Pentax K1000 is going to a new home in Arizona.  I decided to run one last roll of film through the camera, the cheap but colorful Lomography 100 which has always given me good results with the Unicolor C-41 color negative chemistry kit.

The 36-exposure roll includes two trips to the Rio Grande bosque, a walk in the Sandia Mountain foothills, and a brief visit to Santa Fe.

I haven't made a lot of pictures in the past year.  The outings with the K1000 were a good reminder of what I like about photography.  While making pictures is the goal of the effort, the bigger reward is the opportunity which photography provides to become totally immersed in the moment; I am able to focus my attention completely on the details of my surroundings with no other concerns of life crowding my consciousness.  Photography allows me to partake in a small way in the Navajo aspiration to walk in beauty.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

New Book

My book, Pinhole Narratives, is now available at the Blurb bookstore.
People who have followed my blog will recognize many of the pictures from my pinhole work which I have posted here over the years.  My intention with this book is to provide some context about how and why the images were made.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Rock Art Morning

I enjoyed a morning outing to the Piedras Marcadas rock art site on the west side of Albuquerque thanks to being able to participate in a free photo workshop there conducted by Mark Bohrer.  I reaffirmed the fact that I am constitutionally unable to walk around taking pictures with a group of other photographers.  I did, however, appreciate Mark's fine introduction to the subject.  I was also inspired to look at the familiar site in a somewhat different way than I have in the past, and I explored some new ideas using color and filters that I hadn't got around to trying before.  Splendid weather and a fine experience.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Voigtländer Vitomatic II

A friend recently passed along this nice Voigtländer Vitomatic II to me.  The camera shows little signs of use since it was made in 1959.  The rangefinder patch is a little dim and the vertical alignment is off, but it still works pretty well. All the normal shutter speeds look close to accurate.  The most impressive feature of the camera is the very fine F2.8/50mm Color Skopar lens.  I was pleased to get the Vitomatic as the precursor Vito II with the Color Skopar is probably my favorite camera and I did not have a representative of this crucial develpment period in camera history.

All the other major German camera manufacturers including Zeiss Ikon, Agfa, and Braun made similar cameras for the upscale amateur market with coupled rangefinders and selenium light meters.  There was also quite a race underway between German and Japanese companies at the time to see who could come up with the most advanced features.  Subsequent models of the Vitomatic, for instance, would add exposure read-outs to the viewfinder and faster shutters.  However, in spite of the advancements in feature additions, 1959 would turn out to be a watershed year in the camera industry as the Japanese surged ahead from there in terms of both design and price competitiveness.

I tend to prefer the more compact design of the earlier Vito folding cameras, but that compactness probably was not sustainable for adding the coupling for the rangefinders and light meters.  Even with much of the focusing, shutter and aperture mechanism moved out to the protruding lens mount of the Vitomatic, the additional mechanism under the top deck became very dense.  As a result, present day restorers and users of the camera will encounter some difficulties in making repairs and adjustments.  The weight to size ratio also took an upward leap; the Vitomatic feels at first heft like it might be crafted from depleted uranium.

I loaded a roll of Kodak Tri-X into the Vitomatic and took it to Albuquerque's Rio Grande Zoo.

The smiles on the faces of the kids riding the zoo's new carousel brought back happy memories of the extraordinary exhilaration of that experience.