Wednesday, February 25, 2009

swan rider

I've put another roll of film through my Kodak Recomar 18 and posted the images on my web site.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

a good sign

All the leaves but one fell off this kumquat. Lately, it has begun to come back. With 70-degree temperatures predicted for later in the week, we should see some flowers in the yard soon too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sorting out old cameras.

There are always a lot of variables in producing photographs. Shooting with very old film cameras introduces a lot more. One of the major issues is differentiating results attributable to the equipment from those that are a product of user technique. To help myself in evaluating the photos I am getting from my Kodak Recomar 18, I decided it would be useful to get some comparison shots of the same subjects with a proven performer, the Pentax Spotmatic. So, I took the Pentax to the Conservatory at the Botanic Garden and got some shots of the lilies and other plants I had made pictures of a few days ago with the old Kodak. It did prove a useful exercise, and I will have more to say about it shortly.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seven Cranes

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon

These ancient ruins in Chaco Canyon are the finest that North America has to offer north of the Rio Grande. What makes it such a special place will be largely destroyed if the 30-mile road into it is paved as has been proposed. Developers and tour buses just are not compatible with the Chaco experience.

There is a column in today's Albuquerque Journal by Leslie Linthicum on the status of the road paving proposal, and there will be a follow-up in Thursday's paper. It seems doubtful the county bureaucrats who have advanced the proposal can succeed without a massive infusion of aid. If that looks like it is going to happen, it seems to me an appropriate response would be to close access to the National Park from the north side. People really wanting to visit the place could still get in via the south road, and the blockage would effectively undercut the motives for development.

Friday, February 13, 2009

At the Botanic Garden

I went to the Albuquerque Botanic Garden today with my Kodak Recomar 18. It is a compact folding plate camera with an extended bellows. The Recomar was built to use sheet film, plates or film packs. I have some sheet film holders I've never used for it, but I also have a Rada rollfilm adapter which lets me use 120 roll film. I normally make 6x9 cm negatives, but it is also possible to use masks in the Rada to get either 6x6 or 6x4.5 images.

The Recomar never quite performs the way I expect, but it is an interesting camera to shoot. I'm going to try sorting out some of my issues with the camera, and maybe I'll write an article about it for my vintage camera site.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Back to the drawing board

Every few years I get disgusted with the lack of style and legibility of my handwriting. This is a cycle that has been repeated for well over half a century now. You would think I might have been able to avoid this, given that my early school years were in an era in which handwriting instruction was taken seriously. My teachers demonstrated proper letter forms on the (black) blackboard, and I tried to follow along after dipping my steel-nib pen in a bottle of ink on my wooden desk. It just never took.

The last time I tried to repair my handwriting performance was during one of those periodic appearances of interest in calligraphy. It was kind of fun, but my production never showed much style. I don't expect to achieve great artistry this time around, either, but I think I have a better chance of useful self-improvement because I've chosen to focus on the simple lettering style favored by modern draftsmen and architects.

What got me started was a posting at the Design Observer blog, which led to a great little instructional video at Doug Patt's How to Architect blog. Doug brings a lot of experience and sophistication to a simple lettering style, and his brief demo is really inspiring.

I decided I should really start with something more fundamental than Doug Patt's example, so I googled around until I found JoBeth Halpin's Architectural Drafting Fundamentals at the Triton College web site. That proved to be exactly what I was looking for. The step-by-step presentation and the interactive exercises are wonderfully designed for the beginning draftsman. The next morning, I went to two art materials stores and picked up the necessary tools including a drawing board, pencils and an Ames Lettering Guide. I have to confess those nifty little plastic gizmos are a big part of the attraction for me of this type of undertaking. At this point, I've invested less than an hour in the project, but I'm encouraged by hints of progress already.

This activity has also been a nice excuse for me to look more closely at the extraordinary learning opportunities available through the web. I've generally avoided on line video up to this point, but the power of the medium is really seductive, and I feel myself moving toward it quickly.

At the same time, I'm also pleased to get back to working on some purely manual skills. Computers are great, but they can create a false sense of competency; it becomes difficult to distinguish your own real skills from what the computer is mostly doing behind the scenes. This also applies to the field of photography, and partly explains why I prefer to work with film and old, manual cameras.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


An out-of-town visitor provided an excuse to ride to the top of the Sandias on the world's longest aerial tram.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

cottonwood leaf, direct scan

I found this brittle leaf on the sidewalk during a mid-morning walk from our house to Old Town. I had gone out to get away from the usual distractions so I might think more clearly about some possible photo projects. One of those is a botanical series, inspired in part by my recent find of Taschen's Karl Blossfeldt book, along with some possibilities I have been mulling over about alternative photo printing techniques. It seems a nice idea to have an ongoing project which can be worked on at any time.

We've had an unusually warm winter this year in Albuquerque, and I really didn't need the winter coat I was wearing on the walk. By the time I got to the Old Town Plaza, I was feeling a little light-headed, and decided on an early lunch. I went into the Church Street Cafe and ordered a bowl of posole, made with garbanzos, pork and red chile. I sat at an outside table, and the waiter brought me a basket of warm tortilla chips and some salsa, along with the bottle of Dos Equis I had asked for. The posole, not very picante, arrived with a couple warm sopapillas. I took my time over the bowl of stew, and ate most of the salty tortilla chips as well. I don't know how far I'll get with the botanical project, but it was a great lunch and a very fine winter day in New Mexico.

Friday, February 06, 2009

another go

I've been shooting my little Russian Leica-copy again, the Fed-1g.

I had put the camera aside because of some poor results. Thinking it over, I decided there were a lot of variables beyond the camera in making images. In fact, it turned out that my results were mostly from poor film processing technique and a bad 35mm film scanner. I put a new roll of TMAX 100 film in the camera, then changed to tried-and-true chemistry: Rodinal at 1:50 dilution. The Scan-Dual IV scanner went in the trash. The resultant images look pretty good to my eye; of course, much of that is due to the extraordinary Elmar-copy Fed lens.

There is one remaining issue with the camera. It looks like the tension on one of the shutter curtains is not quite right. The negatives show about a millimeter-wide stripe at one end of the negative. I think I'm going to ignore that for now. The camera is a joy to use.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

I stumbled on a couple great book deals at the Borders store in Albuquerque. I thought the $14 I paid for the Taschen edition of Karl Blossfeldt; the Compete Published Work was an excellent price, but it turns out that Amazon has it for ten bucks. Images in Stone by David Muench really seemed like a steal at $5 for a large format photobook with scores of luscious photos of rock art. Price aside, the books show the work of a couple long time favorites of mine who are dealing with subject matter I have often grappled with myself.

Aside from the excellent quality illustrations in the Blossfeldt book, the text with its detail on the photographer's life and experience was also very enlightening. The pictures are deceptively simple in appearance. The plants are all photographed with macro techniques and the prints show them at ten or twelve times magnification. There is very little variation in the lighting of the specimens and all focus on the plants' fundamental structural characteristics. Underneath that apparent simplicity in composition, though, is a great amount of sophistication. Blossfeldt had extensive training as an artist and a craftsman in his youth, and he brought that experience to bear full-force on his botanicals. It is a good reminder that in-depth understanding can illuminate seemingly simple subjects in unexpected ways.

David Muench's handling of his subject matter is similar in a way to Blossfeldt in that he is able to get a great deal more than most of us who like to snap pictures of ancient rock art. Although the subject matter is static in a way, the light that illuminates it is constantly changing through the day and the seasons. Rock surfaces can be extremely hard to photograph well because of small, strong spectral highlights, and the scratched, chiselled and painted designs seem to just fall apart in front of the camera if approached too closely. Muench overcomes these obstacles with cumbersome large-format photo equipment and a variety of choices and techniques that really convey the experience of an actual viewing of the ancient art works.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Getting around

The little Vivitar point-and-shoot camera is handy to carry as I travel Albuquerque's bike paths or walk in the town's outskirts, including the National Petroglyph Monument. Recently, I shot a roll of black and white film in the camera, and I experimented a bit with filters that I attached over the camera's lens with rubber bands.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

claret cup

East of Hatch, a couple summers back.