Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Point and Shoot

Wordle: point and shoot

Followers of Jörg Colberg's weblog will probably have tried this already. If not, it is worth visiting the Wordle site.

Lewis Antique Toy and Auto Museum

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Albuquerque Volcanoes

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Zimmerman Library, UNM

These images were made today with my new hundred-year-old camera, an Ansco Folding Buster Brown, Model B. I'll be adding a page on it to the vintage cameras section of my web site shortly.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

walking and biking

Still shooting the plastic ultra wide. It's handy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Last post until the bombing stops.

(Ceasefire was announced Saturday.)
Albuquerque Outskirts

Cottonwood Bosque, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

Embudito Trail, Sandia Wilderness

Rinconada Canyon, National Petroglyph Monument

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I took a long walk yesterday in Embudito Canyon, carrying my old Pentax Spotmatic camera. On the way home I stopped at a thrift store on Menaul. I pawed through a jumbled bin of plastic cameras, and was delighted to turn up a Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim camera bearing a 99-cent price tag. I had paid a fellow on ebay $10 for the same camera about a year ago. Since then, the little wide-angle shooter has become something of a cult object, and it is presently commanding prices on ebay and elsewhere in the neighborhood of forty dollars. One may reasonably ask, Why?

The first answer would probably involve an examination of the way that ideas are born and propagated today on the web. However, looking at that is more than I feel like taking on here. More relevant to a photography blog, perhaps, is a look at what modern day photographers can gain from using a camera that offers little in the way of features that could not be found in simple cameras marketed by Kodak and others a century in the past. Basically, the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, often called the UWS, is a small 35mm box camera having one aperture of about f16 and one shutter speed of about 1/100 sec. There is a thumbwheel film advance and double-exposure prevention.

Beyond the fundamentals, though, there are some technological refinements that are important. The "Slim" portion of the name refers to the fact that the camera is extremely small compared to almost any other full-frame 35mm; and, being made almost entirely of thin, molded plastic it is also very light weight, probably under an ounce. Most important, however, is the "Ultra-Wide" part. The lens is a 22mm two-element molded plastic aspherical design that produces wide-angle images with great depth of field and no apparent distortion or aberration. So, the camera - though simple - is still a highly specialized photographic instrument, capable of delivering a style of imagery which would normally require a much more substantial investment.

To my mind, the UWS camera's limitations are as constructively important as its capabilities. Since there is no easy way to adjust the camera to prevailing conditions other than by film choice, the photographer is tasked with the job of seeking out those conditions of light and shadow which fit the camera's narrow, set range of possibilities for properly capturing an image. The result is that a lot of possibilities that might be considered with adjustable cameras are rejected immediately, and an uncommon degree of mental focus is achieved. The fact that the lens is a rather radical departure from what is considered photographically normal also imposes some discipline. One quickly learns to take into account that everything from about two feet to infinity will be equally in sharp focus. Perspective convergence will be become more prominant whereever parallel lines lead away from the camera, and tilting the camera from the vertical will cause buildings and phone poles to lean alamingly.

One doesn't need to minutely examine every aspect of a potential composition to shoot with the UWS camera, but it is helpful to keep a few rules of thumb in mind while using it. For instance, it is usually a good idea to get closer to the main subject than you might often first imagine. It is also helpful to try out points of view that are quite a bit lower or higher than one is used to taking. These ideas, it should be noted, apply equally well to other simple cameras, including the pinhole variety. I think the fact that the UWS is small, simple and cheap also helps to free up the photographer's style in approaching subjects and encourages excursions beyond the usual range of considered possibilities.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

De Colores

The folk-song, De Colores, dates back to at least 16th Century Spain; it became the anthem of the United Farm Workers. Joan Baez sings a nice version.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

it's all about me

I've been thinking lately again about the topic of self-portraits, and that got me looking for an some examples which I shot a couple years ago as I was getting into pinhole photography. I also started looking around on the web to see what was being done currently. On the Flickr photo sharing site, I went to the Groups section and did a search on the term, "self-portrait". The site's search engine reported that there were 1,352 groups with a focus on making self-portraits. The largest of those groups I found had nearly twelve thousand members. That seems like quite a social phenomenon to me, but I don't recall seeing any serious discussion of it before.

I haven't any real data on the apparent self-portrait boom. My guess is that it started to gain momentum in the 1980's when cheap fixed-focus cameras started showing up with relatively wide-angle lenses. Using one of those, people with reasonably long arms could snap an arms-length photo of themselves and get it processed in about an hour. Digital cameras enhanced the ease of making self-portraits by an order of magnitude; many, including the cell phone cameras had short focal length lenses with macro close-up capability, as well as auto focus and auto exposure.

Of course, a lot of photographers did snap pictures of themselves right from the beginning of photo history, I suppose for much the same reasons that painters looked to their own images for subject matter. The earliest workers used large, tripod-mounted cameras equipped with pneumatic tubing and squeeze-blub shutter releases to put themselves in family portraits. Many started using a mirror in the process so as to include the camera, and emphasize the role of photographer as the creator of the image. Many - perhaps most - of the photo greats of the last century turned the camera on themselves, and some did so with regularity. Man Ray and Imogen Cunningham, for instance, created visual biographies of themselves which spanned their entire professional lives.

While there are a great many books to be found on the subject of photographic portraiture, there seem to be very few specifically about self-portraits. One I am familar with is actually an extensive catalog for a self-portrait exhibit that briefly toured the U.S. in the 1980's, Self Portrait in the Age of Photography: Photographers Reflecting Their Own Image,by Erika Billeter and Roger Marcel Mayou. It is a fascinating compendium of the art of self-portraiture in photography's pre-digital era. Another is The Camera I: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collectionby Robert A. Sobieszek and Deborah Irmas.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bernalillo County Courthouse

This dramatically strange building dominates Albuquerque's downtown area. From the backside it looks to me a lot like one of those over-sized cruise ships that ferries hordes of tourists around the Mediterranean.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Future Revisited

Governor Bill Richardson and Lt. Governor Diane Denish came to Albuquerque in April to announce some State funding for the AT&SF 2926 locomotive restoration project. It was a highly choreographed event, with impressive performances delivered by all involved. The Restoration Director and the NM Cultural Affairs Secretary shared MC duties. Bill and Diane demonstrated hyper-alertness to the environment while maintaining well-rehearsed postures of command and control. At that point, Richardson was still a Presidential contender, though perhaps a long-shot. Denish could see the governorship just over the horizon.

Later, with Obama's big win and the Democratic Party sweep in New Mexico, the climate looked favorable for both politicians, though the details were still fuzzy. Now, the New Year looks like an economic train wreck. The chances for Richardson to appear again in an Obama photo op seem rather dim. Denish will be changing gears, though she might not be completely unhappy about not being in the driver's seat for the next two years.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

San Ignacio Church, Albuquerque

Saturday, January 03, 2009


The black and white image above is one of my favorites from a simple camera. I like it because of the surprising resolution of the image, but also because the unusual perspective facilitated by the camera's reflex finder reminds me of a the origins of photography's modern era.

With the appearance of very compact cameras in the late 'twenties, photographers like Rodchenko in the Soviet Union started making pictures with radical points of view that showed viewers something never before seen. The cameras were taken high and low, and the results provided a jolt to consciousness that still reverberates today.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Tortoise Wrangler

A very wide-angle lens is one that is not often chosen for making portraits. For informal street portraiture, however, the 22mm lens on the little Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim camera seems to work. Aside from delivering a surprisingly sharp image, the ultra-wide lens also enforces an appropriate level of engagement with the subject. A few more pictures from the same roll of film shot in March of 2008 are on the web site.

The Date Conundrum (read for extra credit)

Starting at the beginning of the present Century it seems most people got habituated to referring to the name of the period as "Two Thousand" as in "Two Thousand One". As the millennium grinds on, however, I'm reminded that back in the last Century the convention was to talk about years in the upcoming one as "Twenty" something -- it had kind of a futuristic ring to it, as in the hit song from 1969, In the Year 2525. The thing is that this alternate naming form doesn't really work until the end of the first decade when you can talk about the year, Twenty Ten. Before that you've got to insert an "Oh" to avoid confusion. Still, it may be wise to get in some practice, so I'm going to try Twenty-Oh-Nine for a while.