Saturday, November 30, 2013


The Nuclear Museum in Albuquerque has recently added a B-47 to its outdoor exhibit space.  The aircraft was the first U.S. operational jet bomber.  It was very close in length and wingspan to the WWII B-29, but the performance capabilities provided by the jet engines were truly revolutionary.

Specifications (B-29)
First flight: 21 Sept. 1942
Crew: 11
Length: 99 ft
Wingspan: 141 ft 3 in
Maximum speed: 357 mph
Rate of climb: 900 ft/min
Specifications (B-47E)
First flight: 7 Dec. 1947
Crew: 3
Length: 107 ft
Wingspan: 116
Maximum speed: 607 mph
Rate of climb: 4,660 ft/min

Wikipedia has very thorough articles on both the B-29 and the B-47.

Friday, November 29, 2013


If you tell someone in the course of a conversation that you are a photographer, there are a couple of questions that are likely to follow.  The most common is probably "What do you like to take pictures of?".  Not very good English, perhaps, but that is usually the way it is phrased.

My answer to that question is usually "Anything at all"; sometimes I also specify that I never make family snapshots.  Those responses are clearly never satisfying for the questioner, but I'll guess they would be preferred to what I am really thinking about as a response, which is something like giving the person a wake-up kick to the shins.

 Another question I have faced -- of a more philosophical nature -- is "What makes a good photo?".

That question is asking for guidance as to how one might judge a photograph to be  "good" or "bad".  My response to that is usually something like a shrug of a shoulder.  I know that people are just mostly trying to make polite conversation around the topic.  Still, it is tempting to point out that the question of whether photography is an art has long been settled, and there are whole libraries devoted to what constitutes good art.

I suppose I should come up with some standard answers to these questions that are a little less bellicose and a little more representative of my actual feelings about the issues.  I have actually advocated more than a few times for the idea that critical thinking and communication about art is a skill that can be learned.  In that regard, I always cite the fine little book by Terry Barrett, Criticizing Photographs.

Speaking as a photographer rather than as a critic, however, I do not think it is really incumbent on me to provide explanations.  My role, as I see it, is to offer up the images.  The creation of those images is not, for the most part, the result of an analytic process.  Rather, the images flow out of a lifetime of visual engagement and expression.

A goal I set for my photographic efforts about ten years ago was to make the best pictures possible with each of the old cameras in my collection.  Many of the pictures that appear in my blog postings are illustrations of technical issues.  The pictures that I feel somehow transcend technical competence are posted to to the Flickr photo-sharing site.  So, people who might want to know what subjects interest me or what I think constitutes a good photograph are best advised to visit my photo stream at Flickr.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

End to End

Albuquerque's BioPark is anchored on the north end by the Botanical Garden and the Aquarium, and on the south end by the Zoo.  I got to both with my Ikonta 520.  The fishing boat is moored permanently in an artificial lagoon at the Aquarium.

The Zoo's new star is little Jazmine.  According to the keeper, she weighs about 350 pounds at present.  I snapped her picture with the last frame of a roll of Tri-X in my Ikonta 520.  I shot a few more with the digital and put the pictures on my other blog.

I was pleased to see that my bottle of Adonal developer is still working well.  I've had it in the refrigerator for about a year, and I wasn't sure how well it was holding up.  Everything I have read says the Adox Adonal is an exact replica of Rodinal which had a near infinite shelf life, and that seems to be true.

Monday, November 18, 2013

museum pieces

I liked my Kodak Flash Bantam so much that I decided to get the earlier model Bantam without the flash capability so I could compare the two closely related cameras.

Aside from the flash capability the differences between the two cameras are mostly cosmetic.  Production of the f4.5 Bantam started up in 1938, but the post-war f4.5 Bantam overlapped the production of the Flash model for a year in 1947, and it had essentially the same coated four-element lens.

My Bantam came with an intriguingly inked inscription on the inside of the back: CUBA -- 1940.  Cuba could be the Caribbean island, or the little town of that name in northern New Mexico.  The 1940 date seems too early given the camera's coated Anastigmat Special lens.  A mystery.

The front lens of the viewfinder had a crack in it.  The shutter was very sluggish.  I swapped the finder with that from my Flash Bantam.  The shutter took quite a lot of work to get it going.  I was unable to screw out the inner lens group, and ended up just squirting some electrical parts cleaner into the openings of the shutter.  I was able to remove the rear lens, which let me clean the rear of the shutter blades, and that got it working at all speeds including T and B.

The images I got from my first two roll through this Bantam were lacking in contrast and had some hot spots.  Not what I was expecting from one of Kodak's fine Special lenses.  At first I was ready to blame my developer, but the more logical explanation was a light leak.  Sure enough, holding the camera up to the sun with the back open revealed one small pinhole that was likely the source of the problem.  A little black fabric paint took care of that, so I'm ready to roll again.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Marigold Special

The little Kodak Flash Bantam represents one of the all-time high points in camera design.  The designers took the best aspects of 50 years of small camera experience and combined them with the 828 roll film format to produce a camera of unparalleled compactness and full-featured quality.

To shoot the Day of the Dead Marigold Parade in Albuquerque, I loaded a strip of 35mm Tri-X into the Bantam by taping the film ends onto the little 828 reels.  The frame-counting window was covered with black tape, and some black paper behind the pressure plate also helped to keep the window light-tight.  I rated the film at 200 ASA for development in Ilfosol 3.  The Tri-X is not as forgiving of exposure errors as TMAX, but it can produce very nice sharpness and tonalities when you get it right.