Monday, August 03, 2020

Get out of town!

I've been feeling the need for a change of scenery since access to my usual nearby sites has become limited.  So, I got in my pickup and drove over to the east side of the Sandia Mountains.  I turned up the road that leads to the summit of the Sandias and drove a few miles to one of the first stops in the Cibola National Forest, the Doc Long Picnic Site.

The site was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Core in 1935, and the facilities retain the rustic look that characterizes many such National Forest locations in the West.  From the parking lot it is just a short hike uphill to the first ridge, which I followed for about half a mile.

I was struck by the fact that every stable surface including tree trunks and rocks are covered thickly with lichens.

I'm always pleased to find an example of the Alligator Juniper.  They can sometimes be found in small groves, but often there are isolated examples like this one among the pines and oaks.  The thick-trunked ones can be centuries old.

The undergrowth in New Mexico evergreen forests often include many plants from the dry lower elevations such as cactus, rabbitbrush and desert wildflowers.

Low growing shrubs with oak-shaped leaves always make me a little apprehensive because of my experience with poison oak in California, but I think these are probably Gambel Oaks.

It was very pleasant to get away from the summer heat in the Rio Grande Valley, and I intend to get back to the Sandias again soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Long View

The Hektor 135/4.5 lens that came with my Leica IIIc looks new and is very smooth in operation.  It has a fifteen-blade aperture which ensures velvety backgrounds.  The lens has a reputation for good central sharpness with less sharp outer margins.  I shot a roll of Kentmere 400 with the lens on the IIIc to get an idea of how it would perform for me.  The shots that were properly focused and framed looked ok to me, but that represented only about a quarter of the pictures on the roll.

The problem that was immediately obvious when I took the camera and lens out into the real world was that the not-very-bright rangefinder was not up to the job of achieving the degree of precision focus which the 135mm lens demands.  The other issue which only became clear after scanning my images was that a lot more care needs to be given to adjusting the parallax correction on the accessory viewfinder than I had imagined.  I managed to cut the legs off quite a few of my subjects.  Also complicating the process of using the camera and lens was the fact that the diopter adjustment for the rangefinder magnified window has to adjusted for nearly every shot to provide a clear view of the subject.

A technique which is sometimes useful with any long lens is to prefocus on a spot and then wait for the subject to move into position.  I stationed myself at an intersection in the Old Town Plaza and focused on a spot on the road in anticipation of catching a motorcycle I saw circling the Plaza.  As it turned out, the driver turned right instead of left, so I waited for the next opportunity at that location which turned out to be this dismounted couple of Harley enthusiasts.

The beam splitter mirror on the IIIc is actually ok for using with my normal and wide-angle lenses, but it will have to be replaced to make using the Hektor with the IIIc worthwhile.  I may try the lens on my Leica IIIa or my two Barnack-style Soviet cameras which all have rangefinders with better contrast.

Getting the proper performance from the Tewe accessory viewfinder needed for the Hektor will require some concentrated, disciplined practice.  The focal distance selected in each instance has to be replicated very precisely in adjusting the parallax setting of the viewfinder.  That challenge is further complicated by the facts that the scale on the lens is in feet, while that of the accessory finder is in meters, and the scale on the finder is not finely graduated.

Given the unblemished condition of my Hector lens I think it likely the original owner did not spend a lot of time mastering the juggling act required to get well-focused and well-framed images from the Hektor on the IIIc.  I also don't see a lot of images on line with Hektor tags.

Leica did offer alternatives to the challenge of using long lenses on the screw-mount rangefinder cameras.  The PLOOT system of the 1930s and the Visoflex of the 1950s were accessory reflex housings which provided a through-the-lens view when matched with special lenses. In the mid-1950s the Leica M rangefinder cameras. along with bayonet style lens mounts, offered auto-parallax compensation and framelines in the viewfinder for 28-135mm focal lengths.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Testing the 3C

I shot a roll of Kentmere 400 in the newly arrived Leica IIIc.  My main objective was to determine if there were any pinholes in the shutter curtains that needed mending.  There were no streaks or blotches on the negatives, and the shutter seemed smooth and accurate in operation.

All but one of my exposures were with the Elmar 3.5/50.  The lens has a blue tint, so it is likely that it is a post-war model that came along with the camera in 1946 or 1947.  Besides being a competent performer, the collapsible Elmar contributes significantly to the compactness of the camera.  The camera with the lens pushed in fits easily into a small zippered belt bag which makes it easy to carry when I'm out on the bicycle.

The last picture on the roll was made with the Soviet-era f2/50 Jupiter 8.  At f4 and 1/60 there seems to be no practical difference between the Jupiter and the Elmar and I am pretty sure the same will be true with my other Soviet normal lenses.  Nevertheless, it will be nice to be able to shoot the Leica IIIa and IIIc cameras with the proper German glass.  I am also looking forward to trying the 135mm Hector, for which I have no Soviet counterpart.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Colores de Quarai

The Quarai site is close up to the south end of the Manzano Mountains, so it catches a little more rain than the other two Salinas Pueblo Missions as the clouds pile up against the mountains.  In mid-July there is a large amount of coyote gourd starting to produce gourds, and the groves of cottonwood and other trees provide a lot of welcome shade.  I suspect the trees were not a prominent feature of the landscape when the pueblo was still populated back in the 17th Century.  People who rely on wood for cooking and warmth cannot usually afford the luxury of ornamental shade trees.

Roxie enjoyed making a couple new friends, and she was especially well-behaved on the leash during our walk through the Quarai site.

This model of the Quarai Mission church and convent was constructed and restored quite a long time ago.  The architectural studies of the Salinas Pueblo Mission sites are also mostly quite old.  Given the present day availability of 3D drawing software it seems like it would be pretty easy to create much more interesting re-creations of the site.  Archaeologists have begun to use drones and 3D software to document sites and their excavation, but not so much for constructing 3D models of the complete structures.

ClipPix ETC

This interesting little cemetery chapel is in Punta de Agua just before the turnoff to Quarai.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Colores de Abó

I shot part of a roll of Fuji 200 in my Pentax Spotmatic at the Abó ruins in the morning and finished it off at Quarai in the afternoon.  Knowing that my C-41 kit was pretty anemic at this point I decided to drop off the film for processing on the way home at the one place in town that still develops color film.

I was a little surprised to find the the local lab's results had all the same deficits as I have been seeing in my own C-41 results at home.  The negatives looked to be one or two stops under-done, and there were quite a few white spots to be stamped out in Photoshop, along with some red stains bleeding in from the spaces between frames.

The Unicolor and Cinestill C-41 kits I use are out of stock at all the on-line sites I have looked at, and that seems to be expected to persist until the Fall.  I have poked around on the net to get some insight on the shortages and quality issues, but have not come up with any explanations.

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Two more from the Abó site.  The little Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim does a nice job of blending the subject and its environment.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Leica III C

I picked up this nice Leica IIIC kit yesterday.  The price was a bit more than I usually pay for my old cameras, but still very reasonable.  The camera came in its original case; on it was mounted the Leitz Elmar f5cm 1:3.5.  The telephoto is a Hektor f=135cm 1:4.5.  The Tewe universal finder works with lenses from 35mm to 135mm.  I already had one of the old Weston bakelite meters, but this one works.

The seller was a very pleasant young woman.  She said the camera had been given to her many years ago by her great grandfather who was a doctor and an African big game hunter.  She never used it because it seemed too complicated, so she decided to pass it on to someone who would appreciate it.

In the camera bag in addition to the original manual were a couple pages of handwritten instructions on the operation of the camera and the telephoto lens.  An import certificate was tucked into a narrow pocket on the back of the camera case.  Everything seems to work properly, so we'll see what kind of pictures it can make for me.

Monday, July 20, 2020


The Abó pueblo and mission ruins are part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument about an hour south of Albuquerque.  The Spanish invaders took control of the Tanoan pueblo in the 17th Century and built the church.  The site was abandoned after about fifty years due to drought and  Apache raids.

These pictures were made on my last roll of Acros which I processed in Rodinal 1:50.  The camera was my Kodak Reflex II.

The challenge in photographing these ruins is to get something that looks different from the many thousands of pictures which have been made of the sites in the past.  There was also a large crew at Abó working on stabilizing the ruins.

The photographer pictured making a shot with a fine 4x5 is Joe Van Cleave.