Thursday, January 09, 2020


I dug around in my refrigerator film drawer and turned up a roll of 120 Arista.Edu Ultra 400.  I decided to use it in my Mamiyaflex II which last shot about nine months ago.   I drove to the National Hispanic Cultural Center.  None of the buildings were open, so I walked around the grounds and made a few exposures.  Then I took a long walk along the river.  These are the three pictures I liked best from the day.

The Arista film did not give me quite the contrast and tonal range that I expect from Tri-X or TMAX on this occasion, but I think it is still pretty good, and the price is right.  I think that a little experimentation with developers and dilutions would produce results very close to the higher priced films.

The Sekor f3.5/7.5cm lens gives quite nice results.  The viewfinder is a little dim compared to my contemporary Kodak Reflex II.  It is an interesting example of early post-war Japanese technology which preceded a big leap into Mamiya's revolutionary C-line of twin lens reflex cameras.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Chaco, 2005

Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico is an extraordinary place; it contains the distilled remains of an entire civilization which ceased to exist about 700 years ago. There are many obvious reasons and rewards for visiting Chaco.

One of the things I find interesting and enjoyable about Chaco is the opportunity it provides to play with the idea of Time. The pictures and words which follow this page are partly about that idea. My intent with them is, first, to show a small sample of what exisits on the ground at the canyon in regard to natural features and cultural remains. The other part is to convey a state of mind that the place creates for me and, I am sure, for many others as well.

My proposition is that our conceptualization of Time and Space is a cultural construct which has developed and evolved over time. We do not live our lives by the rules of physicists, astronomers or mathematicians, but rather by patterns of thought that have been instilled by tradition. Because of the time that has elapsed since Chaco flourished and the great differences in how we go about our daily lives compared to that time in the past, I think there can be little doubt that the Chacoan ideas of Time and Space and the place of those people in it were very different from our own.

In assembling the following text and images I have tried to put together pieces of the past and the present side by side to illuminate some of the differences between the distant past and the present. I do not pretend to understand the essence of the Chacoan concept of Time, but I hope that the contrasts between the magnificent cultural remains and the banalities of present-day life portrayed will at least hint at the possibilities.

* * *

We turned south just before Nageezi.  The pavement ran out five miles down the road.  Shortly afterward, I spotted a couple walking along through the afternoon haze.  I stopped to give them a ride.  She was Navajo, a weaver of rugs.  He was Pawnee, a teller of stories.  They had gone out to the highway to report the theft of the carburetor from their truck and were on their way back home - a dozen miles down the road toward Chaco.  Margaret climbed into the back of the RV to open the door for them, and told them to buckle their seatbelts.  He responded, somewhat disdainfully, that we were on Navajo land.  They lived, he said, in a home without TV or electricity, and they liked it that way.  We left them off at a fork in the road five miles from Chaco.

A battle scene of mounted warriors with lances, pitted against foot soldiers armed with bows.

The petroglyph was incised about 25 feet up on the canyon wall sometime after the early 16th Century when horses were introduced to the Southwest by the Spanish. By the time this battle was recorded, the Anasazi builders of Chaco had already been gone for centuries.
    The Navajo and Apache probably first reached the area of Chaco around the time when the first Spanish conquistadores were beginning to explore the area. All were equally war-like and unlikely to have been welcomed by the indigenous Pueblo peoples and other native groups. Later, the region would be subjected to raids by fierce, well-mounted Plains tribes such as the Commanche.

* * *

The sun announces

The longest day for each year

At Fajada Butte. 

Fajada Butte rises up out of the Chacra Mesa about a mile south of the Una Vida great house. 

Near the top of the butte is an archaeoastronomical feature known as the "Sun Dagger". The Anasazi carved a spiral there on a rock face on which shafts of sunlight appear at midday to mark the solstices and equinoxes.

* * *

Windows to windows,

Doorways to infinity :

A world of mirrors.

Pueblo Bonito is the largest of the Anasazi great houses. 

The multi-story complex was built in stages over a 300-year period beginning in about the year 850 A.D. Windows and doorways are frequently aligned in a way that emphasizes a receding perspective similar to what one sees in opposing mirror surfaces. 
    Without roofs and surface plastering, the buildings appear much different from when they were in use a thousand years ago. While the structure is revealed in a way that would not have been apparent to Chacoans, the effects of lighting and ceremonial associations can only be guessed at.

* * *

One path sets the choice :

Up to Pueblo Alto, or

Down to Kin Kletso ?

Agility and stamina are required to negotiate the trail between the great house of Kin Kletso in the canyon bottom to that of Pueblo Alto high on the mesa above. 

Topography is a preeminent shaper of world view for people who do all their traveling on foot. The Anasazi, however, did have an awareness of a world extending far from Chaco Canyon. 
    This trail starts in a crack in the canyon wall, then leads to a thirty-foot-wide roadway which extended many miles to the north. It was just one of many such roads radiating out of Chaco Canyon. Precious ceremonial objects and raw materials traveled to Chaco from deep in the interior of what is now Mexico, and from as far west as the Pacific coast. Religious and political traditions traveled over the same pathways.

* * *

Tlaloc, the Rain God,

Sometimes dons strange disguise

To walk among us.

This representation of the Rain God is distinctly ornate with its spiral eyes and lace-like decoration.

Square-headed, goggle-eyed figures are carved on rock surfaces all along the upper Rio Grande and near-by watersheds.  The origins of the figure can be traced to Central America, but little can be deduced from Anasazi-era representations other than the fact that it was of great importance.

* * *

Low doorways expose

The neck of the enemy

At Chetro Ketl.

No great house doorway permits upright entry other than to a single person with the stature of a small child. 

Was this enforced obeisance for the faithful, a defensive measure, or did it serve some other symbolic or ceremonial purpose?  There seems no way to be certain now.

* * *

We hiked out along the Peñasco Blanco trail.  The wash was full of fast-moving, muddy water.  Margaret tried a crossing near to where an arroyo ran into the wash, but she felt the ground move under her and she was sure it was quicksand.  I took off my boots and tried a narrow spot further downstream.  The bottom was firm, and I was across in a few steps.  I got my boots back on and took just a few steps before I saw a sherd of black and white pottery that had been uncovered by the rains of the past week.  There was another a few feet down the slope toward the wash, and beside that a small arrowhead of the type that would have been used for birds or rabbits.

* * *

Beneath an overhang,

A record of a supernova –

The swallows don't care.

The massive explosion of a star created the Crab Nebula in the year 1054.

This red painted pictograph may portray the cataclysmic stellar event in the Taurus constellation, but gives no hint as to how it was interpreted by Anasazi astronomers.

* * *

Tsé biyahnii’a’ah
The traditional Navajo name for Pueblo Bonito takes note of the ingenuity of Chacoan engineers in protecting the great house from the collapse of a large portion of the canyon wall for a millenium. 

The Navajo built no monumental structures like the great houses. However, they lived close to the earth, and perhaps that gave them the perspective to recognize the clever way the Chacoans were able to stabilize a thirty-thousand ton mass of rock that was a threat to the great house site from the beginning. Or, maybe the Navajo name is a translation of the name the Anasazi gave to the place in whatever language they spoke.
    While the great house at Pueblo Bonito ultimately had no defense against time and gravity, one has to wonder if the 1941 collapse of Threatening Rock onto the structure might not have been delayed another thousand years were it not for excavations and restoration efforts begun in the early Twentieth Century.

* * *

Our rented RV at the Chaco Canyon campground, 2005.

I have been thinking about Chaco lately.  I have a several books lined up to read including a couple by Stephen Lekson.  I'm hoping to visit the site in the Spring.  The words and pictures in this post originally appeared on my website in 2005.  I decided to see if I could repost the material in a form that would work on the blogger platform.  I think it does work ok, and it preserves something of value to me.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Konica C35 Automatic

A friend gave me this nice little Konica C35 rangefinder.  She said she used it for about fifteen years and then put it aside for the next  fifteen or twenty.  The lens is a Hexanon 2.8/38mm.  The camera closely resembles the contemporary Olympus 35RC, but the C35 has total auto-exposure; it picks the aperture and shutter speed and shows you its choice in the viewfinder.  I put a 1.4v battery in the camera and it seemed to be working fine.

I loaded some Fuji 200 color in the camera and took a quick stroll through Old Town Albuquerque to test the idea that the compact and quiet Konica would be a good candidate for doing street photography.  I mostly just set the focus to 3 meters and counted on the depth of focus in good light and the auto-exposure capability to get things right.  That worked pretty well, though a faster film would have been a better choice for making quick hip shots.

The Konica C35 turned in a pretty good performance.  My processing was considerably less satisfying.  This was the thirteenth roll through a batch of Cinestill C-41 and it looks like I should have stopped at the suggested eight roll limit.  The negatives showed a lot of reddish staining between frames which I am guessing was caused by depleted blix.  So, I'm likely to return to using Unicolor C-41 if I can find some.

I'm not sure how much more use I'll get from the Konica.  I like the greater manual control provided by the similar Olympus 35RC.  The Minolta seems like it would be an excellent choice for someone just starting out with film photography.  For a better view of the capabilities of the little C35 Automatic take a look at what Jim Grey did with his.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Film and Developer

I am pleased so far with the results I'm getting from LegacyPro L110 developer from Freestyle.  The components are said to be the same as Kodak HC-110, the price is about half that of the Kodak product, and the LC110 is much easier to mix because of the low viscosity.  I have read reports that Kodak has fixed some problems with HC-110, but I can't see a reason to go back to it at this point.

I always liked HC-110 because it takes full advantage of the fine grain structure of TMAX.  I'm looking forward now to trying LC110 at different dilutions and in stand development.

I shot this roll of TMAX on my Zeiss Ikon Contessa 35.  Like the little Ikonta 35, the Contessa folds up to fit in your pocket, and it adds the functionality of a coupled rangefinder and an onboard meter.  When I developed the roll I could see that there was some uneven frame spacing, so before I use the camera again I'll need to take off the bottom plate and clean up things.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Local Talent

Albuquerque has assembled an interesting cast of characters over its three hundred years.  Many have just passed through on the way to other places, while others have made the place a home.  One in the first category was Amelia Earhart who stopped over several times during cross-country flights.  I found a picture of her while browsing the Albuquerque Museum digital archive.  Amelia is the third from the left next to the pilot in this picture.

Albuquerque Museum  Photoarchives

Double Eagle II Airport - April 9, 2017
Albuquerque's Mayor Tingley is second from the right.  The fellow to the far right looks to be holding a crank-driven movie camera, possibly a 16mm Cine-Kodak.
    The group is assembled in front of a Ford TriMotor and this may have been the inaugural flight of Transcontinental Air Transport in 1929.  The story of that pioneer commercial air venture is well told in an article at Historynet.
     Albuquerque had two competing airports at the time; I think that shot may have been made at the one on the West Mesa which is now known as the Double Eagle II.  I made a picture of a restored TriMotor there a couple years ago with a Kodak Duo Six-20, the same model that Amelia had with her on her last flight in 1937.

Another aviator - who came and stayed - was Anne Noggle, quite an extraordinary person who flew in WWII and Korea and then became an author and a photographer after her retirement from the Air Force.  Noggle earned a master's degree in art at UNM and taught there from 1970 to 1984.  A book about her photography was recently published, Flight of Spirit: The Photographs of Anne Noggle.  She was an accomplished portraitist whose work focused mainly on the aging process of women.  I'm looking forward to getting to know her photography better through the new book and some of her previous ones about aviation.

Walter McDonald - Abq Journal

Tomorrow I will be attending the opening of an exhibit of yet another Albuquerque photographer, Walter McDonald, who was hired in 1969 by the Albuquerque Museum's first director to undertake a massive street photography project about the city.  McDonald's work for the project was all done over about eight months on 35mm color slide film.  Costs and a difficult relationship between the museum director and his board almost aborted the original plan for a big multi-projector show at the museum's first home at the Albuquerque Sunport.
    The most surprising part of the complicated story seemed to me to be the fact that at some point consideration was given to destroying the whole collection.  Fortunately, that idea was rejected by cooler heads at the museum and the slides were squirreled away in a box for two decades before being found again by an archivist who made digital copies of all of them.  About one hundred prints from the collection will be on display in the current show, Let The Sunshine In.  The whole story is nicely recounted in an Albuquerque Journal article.

Walter McDonald, Teenage Girls on Central Avenue, 1969, 35mm color slide, Albuquerque Museum, PA1996.029.192
McDonald still does some photography, but his main source of income these days seems to be building sand castles.  His autobiography is on Flickr.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Half way there


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I started this blog thirteen years ago.  I'm going to have to pick up the pace to make it to a million.

Friday, December 13, 2019

What's in your pocket?

If the year is 1948 and you are a G.I. in occupied Germany you might have a nice little Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 35 in your pocket which could have been purchased at your Base PX.

If that G.I. was a real photographer he might also have supplemented the camera purchase with some useful accessories such as a clip-on rangefinder and a light meter.

My own Ikonta 35 turned up in a Las Cruces pawn shop a half century after it was built.  It was one of the first cameras I acquired when I finally got back to film photography.  That was a particularly fortuitous find because of the Opton Tessar lens which showed me what that historic lens design could accomplish when attached to even a relatively simple camera.
    I subsequently acquired a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex with exactly the same lens, and shortly thereafter a Kodak No.1 Autographic Special folder with a Bausch & Lomb Tessar dating back to 1917.  The early Tessar on the Kodak was uncoated, but still made great pictures as they all do.
    The exposure meter and the rangefinder atop my Ikonta 35 turned up recently in a box of photo gear that was given to me by a friend.  It seemed a good excuse to get out with the camera and the accessories to test the kit.

The fifty-year-old light meter worked perfectly.  Meter designers of that era still had not come up with the idea of match-needle readings, so the user had to turn the dial so that the ASA setting coincides with the displayed light value.  Then, an f-stop and shutter combination could be selected from the other side of the dial, and those settings would be transferred to the camera.
    A label on the meter's back says "DeJur-Amsco Corporation, New York, NY, Made in U.S.A."  The meter design, except for the black bakelite case, is identical to an early Zeiss Ikophot.

My usual routine with cameras like the Ikonta 35 or the Vito II is to set the focus to around ten feet and the aperture to f16 which gives me enough depth of focus in good light to yield a sharp picture at anywhere from six feet to infinity.  For a low light close-up you must fall back on your ability to accurately judge distances, and successes become a bit hit-or-miss.  So, for pictures like that low-light shot of the door with the holiday wreath, the little AKAMETER accessory rangefinder comes in very handy.

The view through the little eyeport of the AKAMETER is a bit dim after half a century, but the rangefinder is still highly accurate.  That said, there is still some judgment required to transfer the distance setting shown by the rangefinder dial to the camera as the numeric distance scales on both are not finely graduated.  So, the easiest way to get a good close-up is probably to just set the rangefinder and the camera focus to the same setting -- say 4 feet -- and to then move back and forth slightly to bring the split images into alignment as you might with a coupled rangefinder or even with an slr.
    I'm thinking all of the above probably seems awkwardly archaic to anyone who has come of age in the digital era, but it really doesn't require much time to develop the necessary skills to bring the old cameras and their accessories back to a useful life.