Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kodachrome Surprise

While going through a box of old family pictures I happened on some Kodachrome slides which I made in 1976 on San Bruno Mountain south of San Francisco.

The Great Horned Owl nest was in a hole in the side of a gully near the mountain's east end.  I believe I found it during a walk with my dogs right about when the eggs were hatching.

The pictures were made with my Pentax Spotmatic, which I still have and use.

To get some pictures of the adults I made a small portable blind which I carried up near the nest before daylight.

Owls are sometimes aggressive around their nests.  They never came after me, but they would not tolerate my dogs in the vicinity.  After they gave one of my Salukis a good whack I left the dogs at home when I was going to visit the owls.

There was a good prey supply on the mountain and the owlettes flourished on a steady diet of rabbits,  mice and voles.

About the time they start growing real feathers the young owls learn to make threat displays which look pretty intimidating.

The young are ready to leave the nest about six weeks after hatching, though the parents will continue to bring them food for some time beyond that.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Margaret recently worked her way through a big box of old family pictures and turned up a couple tintypes.  The group portrait is about 4 in × 5 3⁄4 in, while the picture of the fellow in the truncated top hat is about 2 3⁄8 in × 3 1⁄2 in.

These were apparently the most popular sizes for tintypes from when they first became popular around the time of the U.S. Civil War.  Judging by the clothing styles, I'm guessing these portraits of Margaret's distant kin were made in the 1890s.

I have a smaller tintype of my grandfather made around the same time.  It looks like it was folded in half and carried around in someone's billfold for a long time.  Nearly all the old tintypes suffer some damage over the decades, but that really just adds a bit more character, and the images have great appeal still.  I'd like to try my hand at the process some time.

Someone who has produced a significant body of tintype work in modern times is Joni Sternbach.  Her marvelous large format portraits of surfers from around the world have been featured often in print and on line, and she now has a Kickstarter project to produce a book.  The project page provides some good  details about her equipment, materials and techniques along with some samples of the pictures that will be used.  A large selection of her work may also be viewed at her web site.

Sternbach achieved nearly twice her goal for her Kickstarter project.

Friday, June 06, 2014

ready for my close-up

I hiked along the river south of the Hispanic Cultural Center to a place I visit around this time each year to photograph a stand of yerba mansa.  It turned out that I was about a week early for the full show, and there were relatively few of the plants in bloom.  

No shortage of other subjects, however.

I haven't used my Pentax K1000 much since I found it in a local thrift shop, though it is in very good operational order.  The problem has been that I don't have any additional lenses beyond the standard 50mm f-2 lens that came on the camera.  I made some small progress toward fixing that issue recently when I found a 49mm +4 Hoya close-up lens at another thrift store.  I'd still like to find a good telephoto and wide-angle like the ones I have for the Spotmatic, but the additional flexibility provided by the close-up accessory lens will encourage me to get out more often with the K1000.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Festival Flamenco

The yearly Albuquerque Flamenco Festival is scheduled for June 8-14.  There are performances and workshops throughout the week, and a free History Symposium on June 8 and 9 at the Carlisle Gym Dance Space at UNM.

I stopped by the UNM Flamenco Program offices this morning and picked up a schedule of the presentations at the History Symposium:

Though I'm not a very musical person I've always enjoyed Flamenco performances on many levels.  I'm looking forward to dispelling some of my ignorance on the topic at the upcoming Symposium this weekend.

dieciséis de septiembre -- Mesilla, New Mexico
Pentax Spotmatic -- Mamiya f-3.5 135mm
The Bulerías is the emblematic palo of flamenco: today its 12-beat cycle is most often played with accents on the 3rd, 7th, 8th, 10th and 12th beats. The accompanying palmas are played in groups of 6 beats, giving rise to a multitude of counter rhythms and percussive voices within the 12 beat compás.[wikipedia]
Below is a nice example from youtube:

The Alibi has a good background article about the Festival, including the local involvement of the National Institute of Flamenco.
The conference was fun; certainly a lot better than any of the academic conferences I recall attending in the past.  It makes me wonder if other disciplines are making as good use of video and projection resources these days.  Of course, the impact of the presentations was greatly enhanced by the fact that all of the presenters were also performing artists and brought both knowledge and passion to the task.
    It would have been a good idea to schedule the round-table earlier in the event as presenters and audience were kind of worn down at the end of two days.  The round-table topic was The Role of Improvisation in Traditional and Contemporary Flamenco.  The moderator, Estela Zatania, made the good point that the trend toward large, theatrical performances decreases the opportunity for real improvisation.  Jazz was cited as an important model, but it seemed to me they all missed an opportunity to explore the ideas that improvisation is another name for originality and that improvisation is an important element in all art forms including painting and photography, for instance.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Welta Perle

I snagged this fine little Welta Perle with an f/3.5 Tessar on ebay for $20 as the only bidder.  Hard to believe that such fine examples are going for such trivial prices.  I attribute it mainly to the scarcity of film in retail outlets and the disappearance of local one-hour film processors.  In this specific case, the seller also inadvertently torpedoed his chances of a better price by scrupulously entering in the camera's description that the shutter was not working on the B and T settings.  He was evidently unfamiliar with the fact that one does not need to cock the shutter when using the time settings on the old Compurs.  In fact, there is nothing at all wrong with the camera.

I shot a roll of Tri-X and processed it in Rodinal.  That gave me some period authenticity for the images, though it didn't really show off the nice qualities of the Tessar.



side channel

The Welta Perle superficially resembles cameras from the same era made by Certo and Balda, though it is considerably more compact that the Dolly Super Sport as it is not dual format and shoots only in the 6x4.5 format, yielding 16 frames from a roll of 120.  The construction is very sturdy and innovative in the details.  I haven't found an on-line manual for the camera, so I'll share a few quick observations about it that are helpful in getting started with using it.  First, the operation of the back latch is not immediately apparent.  My first inclination was to try to swing out the little lever, but it actually just needs to be slid to the left to allow opening the back.

The Perle is unusually well-designed to avoid light leaks which are a problem in some similar cameras of the time.  On this model there is no need to tape over the ruby windows as the rotating light guard provides protection from light leaks between exposures.

Inside, the camera has shrouds which cover the film on both ends.

The supply side shroud can just be rotated to allow introduction of the film roll.  On the take-up side, the advance knob must first be lifted outward to allow rotation of the shroud to put the take-up spool in place.

There is not a lot of information on the web about the Perle.  The company may not have been as commercially successful as some of the other makers of the time, but this model seem just as well built to me as the Zeiss and Voigtlander offerings available.  Several key components are identical to those on competition machines including the Compur shutter, the Tessar lens, and the flip-up finder.