Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Civic Plaza, Albuquerque

It's hard to beat the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim camera for cheap, dramatic fun. I got mine for $10, new in the box. The two-element plastic lens is amazing.

I like shooting 100-speed color in my simple cameras, but it is getting impossible to find locally. I've ordered some Kodak Gold 100 from B&H, but in the meantime decided to use a neutral density filter for the Plaza pictures on Fuji 200. The piece of film taped over the lens reduces the exposure by about one stop.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Zoo Cats

The snow leopards are the most active and playful of the big cats at Albuquerque's zoo. They have a monkey-like agility that allows them to bound around their enclosure as if they were weightless.

Bhutan, shown in the last two photos, was born at the Rio Grande Zoo on July 18, 2008.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Color These are the first color pinhole images I've made. The camera is a plastic 35mm Vivitar PN2011 with the lens replaced by a home-made pinhole following instructions provided by Ross Orr. I always feel getting any kind of image on the first roll in such an undertaking has to be counted as a success. I do have a few things to do yet, though. In most of the pictures, a large part of the frame was occupied by my right forefinger, so I need to figure out a better way of tripping the shutter. The uncropped version of these photos show quite a bit of vignetting due to the intrusion of the lens mount. On the plus side, the exposure was pretty good throughout. Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hebron, New York
August 7, 2004

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Forrester Avenue

The old houses in downtown residential areas of Albuquerque are a large part of what makes walking through the neighborhoods interesting. Each is different, either through design, or from the accretion over the years of additions.
    Another attraction for me are the old cars. Some of those are restored or heavily customized in the low-rider style, but most like the one in the picture don't seem to be going anywhere. They serve as more of a decorative accessory to an even older house, like a weathering lawn flamingo.
    To make this photograph, I put a Kodak yellow cloud filter over the lens of the Brownie Hawkeye box camera. When people shot a lot of black and white film that was a common practice, usually for the purpose of darkening skies. Quite a few simple cameras from that era had the yellow filters built into the lens mount in such a way that they could be swung into place when needed.
    I learned not long ago from a book by the Kodak lens designer, Kingslake, that there was also another purpose to the use of the yellow filter. While careful craftsmanship could get good image quality from a spherical lens design, the single-element lenses always suffered from a remaining aberration known as lateral color. That caused some loss of sharpness, and became an even bigger problem with the post-war use of color film because it introduced a blue fringe along contrasting edges in the images. At least for black and white images, the yellow filter eliminated the aberration.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

my ode to K

Hardly a trace of snow in our first Albuquerque winter, and not much so far in our second, either. When we visited our daughter here in February of '04, there was quite an accumulation. Our visit included a stop at the Krispy Kreme doughnut factory, where I photographed the action with my Kiev IIa, a Soviet-era 35mm range-finder camera.
    I was reminded of all this when I came on a charming essay on the letter K by Phil Patton at the AIGA blog. I got to that blog for the first time yesterday by way of another, Design Observer, which brightens the beginning of each day for me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Flipped Lens

Old Town Albuquerque

I have four Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash Cameras. One was a gift from Diwan Bhathal, who added a cable release socket and a tripod bushing, greatly enhancing the capabilities of the simple camera. The last one I acquired cost me five bucks at a garage sale; I was hoping the old roll of film it contained would have some ancient latent images, but it was blank. I decided to clean up the camera, and I flipped the single meniscus lens in its mount to produce the effects seen in the above photographs. The surprising sharpness normally delivered by the lens is retained in the center of the image, but the borders take on the blurred look demonstrated here. Some more conventional shots made earlier with the other cameras are on a page at my web site.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Selden Hills
Aug. 18, 2006

Saturday, December 20, 2008

the street gang

As my daughter observed, they aren't nearly as tough as this picture makes them look. Offered the choice of flight or fight, they'll always choose the former. However, they do carry sharp weapons, and if cornered they'll fight to the last.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SF Conservatory, Golden Gate Park

When we were in the Bay Area just two years ago I made quite a few pictures with my Zeiss Ikon Contaflex-I, a compact single lens reflex camera from the early 'Fifties. It is one of my great favorites from my collection, in spite of being a rather temperamental performer. I sent the camera away to be repaired on our return to NM; it worked fine for a bit, but then started giving me problems again. I fixed it myself a couple of times, and nearly gave up on it. Yesterday, I went at it again, and managed to fix a problem I had created myself by mismatching the shutter to the camera body. I've got some film in it now, and will get out to make some more pictures with it as soon as the winter wind stops howling.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

a bit of winter

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rainy Day

Thursday, December 11, 2008

restoration vs reclamation

rec•la•ma•tion: ...a reclaiming or being reclaimed; esp., the recovery of wasteland, desert, etc. by ditching, filling or irrigating...

The Dept. of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation was founded on the idea that natural ecosystems are synonymous with wasteland. The result of that approach was that most of the Rio Grande was turned into a sterile ditch fringed by dense stands of exotic saltcedar and Russian olive.
     Over the last decade a philosophy of ecological awareness has gained ground in the area of the Middle Rio Grande and allowed considerable progress in undoing the damage of previous years to the riparian environment. Hundreds of flood-control structures known as jetty jacks have been removed from the river banks, exotic species have been cleared away and the cottonwood forest is making a comeback.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Urban Wildlife

A recent post at Duke City Fix celebrated the many opportunities to observe wildlife within the confines of Albuquerque's city limits. We were happily surprised soon after arriving here to find that to be true. Our most unsual wildlife sighting to date has been the five-foot gopher snake we saw crawling along the narrow space between our house and our neighbor's. The mantis sightings are pretty common throughout the summer. Raccoons are not an unusual sight in many urban areas, but finding one during the morning rush hour a couple blocks from the city center was a surprise for me. I seldom go to the riverbank bosque without seeing sharpshin and Coopers hawks, and of course there are always some spectacular water birds around as well. We've seen just one porcupine there so far, but heard of many other encounters. Margaret also recently spotted a coyote near the bike path that runs beside I-40 near Rio Grande Blvd.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Graphic Warming

El Morro National Monument

At The Guardian, George Monbiot, dealt with the issue of climate change denial in his Dec. 9 column. He did a nice job of debunking some of the prominent deniers. Monbiot's column and the predicted responses also provided a good illustration of how reciting facts such as those illustrated in the following graphs have little practical impact on the political process. His suggestion is that changing the way we talk about the issue and shifting the focus to broader community concerns will be a more effective strategy. That seems a line of thought that is consistent with the U.S. election outcome.

Global Warming

The Rate of Change

CO2 Emissions

Arctic Sea Ice Loss

Species Extinction

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This morning in the bosque

Saturday, December 06, 2008

You can't get there from here...

We visited the Portland Art Museum recently to take in a photography exhibit, Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867-1957. Too many pictures in too many rooms on two floors, but I did finally realize the importance of Carleton Watkins whose work I had only previously given a passing glance. I had lumped Watkins in with a lot of other early scenic photographers that churned out postcard material in the 19th Century. That was quite an error, as it turns out that Watkins is one of the all-time greats in photography.

Watkins produced his most important work on either side of the Civil War in Western locales, including Yosemite and along the Columbia River. In spite of the fact that he seems not to have had any formal art training, Watkins' compositions are masterful. Understanding that is impossible, however, if you only can view the photos on line, or even in good reproductions. The problem is that the detail and tonal nuances captured on his negatives simply must be viewed close-up with actual prints to be appreciated. Watkins made some great stereo images, but his real masterpieces were produced with a mamouth, custom-made view camera yielding 18 x 22-inch glass plate negatives from which contact prints were made.

The visit to the museum was for me a good reminder of how much superlative work was done so very early in the history of photography, as well as the fact that all the ingenious technological innovation of the following century has not produced photographic art that surpasses those early efforts. Vision, determination - and big negatives - still trump everything else.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Over the years I got progressively disenchanted with Christmas: the commercialization, the crowds, the agonizing over what would be appropriate as a gift. The last time I bought Christmas presents was about fifteen Christmases ago; I picked up a hand-full of cheap plastic ballpoints and put name tags on them for the people that would be showing up for the celebration.

Of course, that doesn't rule out buying presents for myself. This year, I treated myself to the Mini Microlite Mylar Kite - $1.99 from Hobby Lobby. I'm a sucker for airplanes, kites, and miniaturization, so there was no way I was going to get by that display. Also, I do fit into the recommended age range of "5 to Adult", though I'm probably closer to the beginning than the end of that spectrum, appearances notwithstanding.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Zeiss Ikon Ikonta A 520