Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Flowers for the Happy Camper

I got my first pictures today from my KW Patent Etui plate camera.  

Finding a roll film back was easier than I had anticipated.  It is a Rollex Patent model which has the proper rim to fit the narrow rails of the camera.  

The photos I made indoors looked good.  The outdoor ones were less so, showing a lot of light leakage which I believe is coming through the slot for the dark slide at the top of the film back.  I think a bit of tape will cure that problem, but I may need to put new light seals on the camera body as well.

The Tessar lens and the Compur shutter seem to be working well.  It took some effort to find all of the half dozen pinholes in the bellows, but a little opaque fabric paint seems to have taken care of them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ricoh 500

The Ricoh 500 is a Japanese rangefinder camera from the late 1950's that has been greatly under-rated.  I wrote about that and posted some pictures about a year-and-a-half ago.  I just got around to adding a page about the Ricoh 500 to my vintage cameras web site about the camera -- can't believe it has taken me so long.

I originally bought into the idea that the Riken Ricomat lens was of poor quality and I neglected the camera for a long time.  Finally, I got around to properly adjusting the infinity focus and found that the lens is really a very fine performer.  There are a couple more pictures from it on the web site, and there is also a slide show of shots from the camera which I recently moved to my Picassa web albums.

The Camerapedia page on the Ricoh 500 has some good information about the model variations.

The Ricoh Five One Nine model was introduced a year after the 500.  The f1.9 lens is reputed to be superior to the f2.8, though I'm not convinced there is such a great difference as has been alleged.

Ricoh is one of the oldest camera manufacturers in Japan; it was originally known as the Riken research institute.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What did you shoot this weekend?

Here is another good book choice for the photographer on your holiday gift list.  This self-published Blurb book is edited by Filmwaster Calbisu and contains many of the best images from regular participants at the Filmwasters forum.  Click the image for a full preview of the contents.
The first version of this book was hardcover, and it contained a number of blank pages that drove up the price to over $60.  There is now a softcover version at $35, which makes it very competitive, particularly in view of the outstanding images.  As of this writing, there are a few more changes to the format that may be made, but it is promised that they will be finalized within five days.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Light Gatherer

I've been following the photographic artistry of Norman Montifar for quite a while at Flickr and on his blog.  Now he has produced his first book, self published through Blurb and entitled The Light Gatherer.

Most of Norman's pictures are made in and around New York City.  Quite a few might be classed as street photography, but his scope is really wider than that.  As he says in the book's introduction:  "...It's an exercise in observation, studies of the nuances of natural light and capturing the unexpected when subjects turn up in totally unpredictably interesting ways."

All of Norman's work shows a great eye for composition, whether his subject is a pattern of shadows on a city street, or people playing, working or just being themselves in their neighborhoods.  Throughout this urban tapestry, Norman always seems to find and portray a serenity that many other photographers of the City have missed. There is also a good deal of gentle humor to be found in his pictures of New Yorkers, but never of a kind that his subjects would find objectionable.

I am also particularly impressed with the level of craftsmanship which Norman brings to his work.  Meticulous attention to the details of the craft is present in every picture in the book; it is a work that can instruct and inspire anyone  regardless of experience and skill levels in photography.

Norman and I have exchanged a couple old cameras in the past, and I know from correspondence that the majority of the work in this book was done on film.  Pro that he is, though, if digital suits his purpose that is what he will use, but you will see none of the over-saturated digital gimmickry here that so clutters today's visual experience for all of us.  What you will find is classical technique attuned to the subtle rhythms of daily life in the City.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lot 308

Here's a classic Pentax that belonged to George Harrison being auctioned at Bonhams.  It could be yours for $8 or $9 (thousand).

If you don't have that kind of scratch on hand, you can go to the Guardian and read an appreciation of The Yellow Submarine by Josh Weinstein.  Or just turn up the volume real high and click below. Has it really been half a century?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Re-engineering Xmas

In the Southwest and much of the rest of the country, the formerly discreet late-year festive days have begun to merge into a combination of Halloween, Day of the Dead, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So, on November 17th it was time to set the mood with some decorative additions to Albuquerque's Plaza Vieja.  I decided to document the event with my No.1 Kodak Series III folding camera.

To get the job done, the City dispatched its anti-lumberjack crew to build a tree at the south end of the plaza.  A metal frame with tubular branches was hoisted into place with a crane.  

Crew members in cherry pickers started at the top of the tree structure, inserting actual tree branches into the metal branch tubes.

The crew had the tree about half done by the time I came to the end of my roll of 120 TMAX film in my old folder.  When I drove by the next day, the structure was complete, looking quite a lot like an actual tree.

Have a happy HalloweenDayoftheDeadThanksgivingChristmas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Delco 828

I picked up this Delco 828 at a yard sale recently.  It is another of those cameras that is in need of some parts to work properly for picture making.  Mine is missing the rear viewfinder lens and I have only one 828 film spool for it.  If I find another spool, I'll try rerolling some 35mm film into some backing paper cut to the right size.  The 828 roll film format was introduced by Kodak in 1935; it is the same width as 35mm, but without the perforations.  I'll be curious to see what kind of images can be had.  The 828 produces the same size image as 35mm, and the mid-'Forties Delco sports a two-element lens.

The Delco 828 was made from dies originally manufactured by Argus in the pre-war years and marketed as the Argus Model M.  In its original Argus configuration, the camera was more stylish and rather sophisticated compared to similar small cameras of the time.  The Model M lens was housed in a collapsible mount yielding good compactness, and the three-element f6.3 anastigmat design was capable of producing quite good images.  The lens mount was altered later by Argus to a fixed f9.7 design which gave up the nice compactness of the original, and the camera was renamed the Argus Minca 28 before being turned over to a Philadelphia company which would market the post-war models.  The later models also lacked the internal shutter mask that permitted a choice of full-frame or half-frame images.


The original Argus Model M was the brainchild of the Belgian-American design engineer, Gustave Fassin, who was the inventor behind the wildly successful Argus A and Argus C3 cameras.  In many ways, the elegant little Model M was even a better showcase for Fassin's innovative design talents.  Had WWII not put a temporary halt to 828 film production, it is possible that the designer might be as well known for the Model M as he was for the ubiquitous C3.  Kodak did resume 828 film production after the war, but by that time Fassin had left Argus to move to California and his design work never again reached the heights of his earlier efforts on behalf of the Argus company.

Monday, November 12, 2012

color vs black and white

The color shot below is from my Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim.
The b&w was made with my Mamiya C330.

I am prompted to write a little about the subject by the appearance today of an article by Joel Meyerowitz in the Lens section of the New York Times.  Here is part of what Meyerowitz has to say on the matter:
What I saw was that the color image had more information in it — simple as that! There was much more to see and consider, whereas black-and-white reduced the world to shades of gray...[color] was much more elegant in the way it described things. The sharpness and cohesive quality of the image compelled me to “read” everything in the frame more carefully, as if that small “ping” of color in the distance actually added something to the meaning of the whole frame, and it did.
The passages above and the whole article seem rather nonsensical to me.  I'll grant that a color photograph contains "more information in it".    Meyerowitz, however, fails to delineate the nature of the additional information in any meaningful way.  He might have pointed out, for instance that two colors can appear identical in a black and white representation of a scene if the surface textures and reflectivity are the same.  Instead, he talks about "sharpness and cohesive quality" and "that small ping".

Here's the thing, Joel:  Information is made up of observable and measurable facts.  There is an important  difference between Information and Opinion and confounding the two can have unfortunate consequences as we saw in some recent election analysis.  It is also important that in arriving at judgments we do not make unsupported assertions or conveniently ignore facts that don't support conclusions.

The assumption underlying Meyerowitz's argument is that more information makes a better photograph.  In my opinion the examples with which he illustrates his article are not at all convincing in regard to his thesis.  Some of the color pictures are very nearly monochrome, and I thought them all pretty forgetable regardless of chromatic considerations.  In any case, the idea that packing more information into a picture increases its communicative or aesthetic value is simply not defensible.  Meaning in art surely is mostly a product of being selective -- of leaving things out of the picture to emphasize what is important.  That end can come about by a variety of means including framing, selective focus, use of color or not, contrast control, filtering and many other useful techniques.

It is probably true, as the editor's introduction to the Meyerowitz article asserts, that collectors and curators were unwilling for a long time to to admit that photographic art might be rendered in color.  However, that is an argument long since buried.  To attempt a resurrection of the idea turned head to tail is about as productive as a zombie hunt.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Portrait of K

Got another roll through my Yashica-Mat.  I liked the indoor window-lit shots.  The outdoor pictures were a bit washed out even with an overcast sky.  Time for some spelunking in the parts boxes to find my lens hood.

Friday, November 09, 2012

KW Patent Etui

The Patent Etui was manufactured in Dresden between 1920 and 1938.  This one makes 6.5x9cm images on plates or film.  It has an f4.5 12cm Tessar lens and a Compur shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/250 plus T and B.  I don't normally talk about cameras here without having some sample images to show.  I'm making an exception this time because the Patent Etui is quite an extraordinary camera, and because I won't be able to get images from it unless I can turn up a roll film back.

Besides being very well made, the Patent Etui is exceptionally small.  When folded, the camera can easily be slipped into a pocket.  My similar Kodak Recomar and Zeiss Ikon Maximar cameras are small too, but the Patent Etui is in another league.

My Patent Etui is in nice shape for its age.  The lens is clean and the shutter is only a little slow at 1 sec.  The bellows had just a couple pinholes which I was able to paint out easily.  Most impressively, the bubble level on the viewfinder still has fluid and a bubble.  The camera arrived along with a case in pretty good condition, and there is a nice little packet of film holders as well as a ground-glass back for critical focusing.  The bellows does not extend quite as far as the Recomar or the Maximar, but it still gets pretty close to 1:1 on the ground glass.

So, I'm ready to go except for a way to use available 120 roll film.  I have a good Rada film back which I have used successfully with both the Recomar and the Maximar.  Unfortunately, the Rada has a rim that is just too thick at 1.5mm to fit into the back of the Patent Etui which appears to need a back with the edges measuring between 0.5 and 1mm in thickness.  I have seen illustrations of  Rollex backs on the Patent Etui, but the ones I've seen for sale have been for the larger 9x12 cameras or for 127 format rather than the 120 roll film size I need.

Leads to the needed roll film back will be greatly appreciated.  I'm willing to pay a reasonable price, and I'm also open to  trades from my collection. ( I found the roll film back I needed.)

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Early Morning Walk

We went to the Los Poblanos Open Space this morning to see the Sandhill Cranes.

There is a cold front moving into New Mexico this weekend, so I expect it will bring along more birds.  I may try a 2x and 3x telextender with the Zoom to see if I can pick up a bit more detail that way.  Focusing is a challenge, though, as the Pentax has a rather dull screen and the depth of field is very narrow.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

más muertos

20th Annual South Valley Día De Los Muertos Marigold Parade

Photographing events like this parade is always something of an emotional rollercoaster for me.  When I first come on the scene, everything seems chaotic and unphotographable.  I wander around in somewhat of a panic state until I manage to get a picture of the first thing which catches my eye.  That seems enough to connect my eyes to my brain, and I am able to start finding subjects and themes to explore.  I get a bit manic at that point and tend to make a pest of myself, poking my camera in people's faces.

Back home with whatever pictures I've harvested, I often get obsessed in thinking about all the pictures I missed.  Depending on the quality of the results I've gotten, that obsession might last through the night.  Usually, by the next day I've found some images I like well enough to show.

As always with the Ansco Panda box camera, I like these pictures.  I think it is partly that the Panda always surprises me by making pictures better than I expect.  I often miss a few shots due to camera or subject movement, but most of the images have a sweet spot that can be enlarged to surprising size for a picture made by a simple meniscus lens.

My obsessive phase was lengthened a bit when I was processing the pictures.  About half-way through the Panda shots, my ten-year-old scanner stopped working.  On lifting the lid I could clearly see through the window that the drive band had come off the capstan.  Luckily, if improbably, there is a Yahoo group for the Epson 2450 photo scanner, and I was able to figure out from that how to open up the thing for repairs.  Took me a couple of tries, but it was also a good excuse to get the underside of the glass clean, and the scanner seems to be working for now.  Hard to say how much longer, though.

Well, to top it off, my barber who doubles as my wife informs me that the hair on the back of my head is getting thin.  Also, I find myself at times carrying around three pair of glasses.  So there you have it.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

artful disguise

Mesozoic New Mexico

A hundred million years ago New Mexico was tropical and wet and full of dinosaurs.  Quite a lot of them have been dug up and hauled to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History just a couple of blocks from my house.

The fossilized remains arrive encased in thick plaster which is broken open at these work tables.  Chipping away the rock in which the bones are embedded is a process that can take years to reveal a single specimen.