Sunday, October 29, 2017


This is always the best time of the year in the Southwest.  The tourists have gone back to their own reality, allowing the natural rhythms of the days and seasons to reemerge.

The Sandhill Cranes reappear in the open spaces around the city  as the harvest is underway. By the end of November they will congregate in the shorn fields by the hundreds.

Mornings in the city are cool and quiet, welcoming to walkers, cyclists and the small ceremonies and rituals of daily life.

Friday, October 27, 2017


I shot a roll of Rerapan in the Ihagee Auto-Ultrix hoping that the new (and pricey) film would help me sort out the capabilities of the little 127 camera.  That didn't quite work out as planned.  The camera developed some light leaks which showed up in about half the images. 

I cropped out the light leaks in the shot of doll.  I thought the combination of Rerapan and HC-110 was not very successful, but the lens does seem adequately sharp when the focus is accurate.  The shots I've made so far with the camera may actually represent the best I am going to get from it.  I'll take another stab at it when I've sorted out the light leak issue.
    I've seen som nice work done with Rerapan.  I think I'll try processing the remaining roll in Rodinal.  The film comes in a nice little black plastic tube which will be useful for protecting 127 cartridges.  I'll be able re-use the backing paper with my bulk Portra 160 and possibly with other film types if my film slitter works properly.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


I am always invaded by a sense of unreality when I get to Phoenix.  I was there for a few days recently to attend a wedding.  The disorientation was even greater on this occasion as on arrival we ran into a massive traffic jam occasioned by a an accident on I-17 which slowed our progress into town to a crawl.

After a day or so, and following some contact with our family there, I get a bit more comfortable with the place.  However, when I drive down the long streets and avenues, the thought creeps back into my mind that I am in some kind of alternate reality.
    It seems there is just one dominant idea of the good life in the great sprawl that comprises Phoenix and it is replicated every few miles in each community that you pass through.  Each place has a strip mall with the same collection of chain stores and fast food joints which serve as a facade for endless tracts of ranch-style homes punctuated by long-stemmed palms.

My observations and my imagination lead me to the idea that the residents of Phoenix  are uniformly detached from any connection to national and international political concerns, directing their attention instead to sporting events and the acquisition of large motorized toys.  That is likely an unfair judgment, but it is hard to shake the idea that Phoenicians conceive of the rest of the world as a kind of fairy tale to which they have only a remote connection.

I have to admit that ignoring the rest of the world is an understandable strategy if you feel that you have little or no real control over the course of world events.  And, of course, there are a lot of nice things to be found in Phoenix.  We rented a beautiful three-bedroom house for just a hundred bucks per day -- about what we would normally pay for a hotel room.
    There is also the fact that Phoenix is an island in a vast and amazing desert.  The saguaro  cactus lend a somewhat exotic look to the land, but the endless grass-covered rolling hills, dotted with junipers and cut by shallow arroyos and steep canyons make me feel at home.  It is a part of the landscape that stretches from the Snake River to the Rio Grande in which I chose to live out the better part of my life.

The camera I took to Phoenix and used to photograph the little carnival near where we stayed was a Zorki 2-C.  A friend gave me one about ten years ago; it had a mismatched bottom plate.  I bought another on line for parts for next to nothing that turned out after a little cleaning  to to be better than the first.  I have made a lot of pictures with the 2-C which has a very smooth film advance and an accurate shutter.  I have collapsible FED and Industar lenses for the Zorki that are very sharp and compact, and I also often use a Jupiter 12 wide-angle with an accessory finder.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ultrix Progress

My little Ihagee 127 folder is performing pretty well.  The lens and shutter seem to be working as they should.  Greater familiarity in using the camera has increased my confidence in it.  At this point, the main limitation I am facing is with the film.  The expired bulk Portra 160 always provides interesting results, but it would be nice to have a little more predictability in order to further assess the capabilities of the camera.  I had hoped to try out some new film using my diy film spitter, but I have yet to perfect its operation  I considered buying  a slitter that I have seen on line, but then saw a negative review of it.  I'm thinking now that I may just spring for some of the pricey 127 film that is available in order to give myself a better baseline for camera and film performance.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Shooting Balloons

My strategy for making pictures during the Balloon Fiesta is to have a couple cameras loaded and ready to go, and then to wait for a balloon to fly over my house.  That has actually worked out pretty well in the nine years we have lived in Albuquerque.

The strategy is helped out by a neighborhood early warning system consisting of all the local dogs who start a chorus of barking as soon as the balloons come in sight.  If the windows are open, you can also hear overhead what sounds like loud, heavy breathing as the pilots pulse their burners to stay airborne.

Most of my pictures so far during this year's Fiesta have been made with my Yashinon f4.5 zoom lens which has a range of 75-230mm.  It it an old lens, so pretty long and heavy, but it is sharp and handy for lots of public events where you cannot always control your positioning and perspective.

Afternoon entertainment is scheduled daily in Old Town throughout the nine days of the Balloon Fiesta.  Students from the International Institute of Flamenco performed in the gazebo at the Plaza Vieja on Tuesday.  I got there late and found myself about 50 feet from the action, so was glad to have the zoom mounted on my Spotmatic SP.  The light filtering into the gazebo through the trees was impossible to meter, so I just set the lens to f8 and shot until I got to the end of the roll.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Day One

Albuquerque's 2017 Balloon Fiesta got off to a great start with clear skies and gentle breezes.

I spotted this balloon from my front yard as it drifted south, about eight miles from the takeoff field.  I grabbed two cameras and walked a couple blocks to where it was making its descent on the street beside the Natural History Museum.

The pilot maneuvered with surprising precision to where the ground crew could grab the trailing lines and guide the balloon into a parking lot.

With the gondola firmly planted on the pavement, a vent was opened to collapse the envelope.  In a few minutes, the crew had everything folded up and stowed in the chase truck.

These pictures were made with my Olympus Infinity Stylus.  I shot an additional half roll of film in my Spotmatic of this balloon in flight, so I'll likely post those pictures in a day or two when I should have a few more pictures of the event.  The balloons will be launched at daybreak for the next week, weather permitting.  There is also quite a lot of collateral action connected to the Fiesta in nearby Old Town.  I'm looking forward to a Flamenco dance performance in the Plaza Vieja tomorrow.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Ihagee Auto-Ultrix 127

I found a small folder on ebay recently which produces 4x6 cm images. That is the size of images on 127 film which Kodak first produced in 1912 and called the Vestpocket format.  The camera, a Ihagee Auto-Ultrix, is smaller than most of my 35mm cameras, but the negative from it is twice the size.  The Auto-Ultrix is extremely well made and features helical focusing, a three-element anastigmat lens and a good range of shutter and aperture settings.

The Auto-Ultrix, in addition to exquisite European craftsmanship, also features several other important design enhancements over earlier folding cameras including a self-erecting lens and a bright pop-up viewfinder which is a big improvement over the tiny reflex finders on many Kodak folders.  While some Auto-Ultrix folders were equipped with top-notch Tessars and Compur shutters, mine has a three-element anastigmat lens in a dial-set Pronto shutter which is self-cocking, with a top speed of 1/100.  The shutter and lens are actually quite good, but the placement of the shutter release lever makes the camera rather awkward to operate without a cable release.

The ebay listing for my camera did not specify the film format and there was no easy way to judge the camera's size.  The happy result for me was that only a couple other people bid on the camera and I was able to obtain it for just $24 plus shipping, about a quarter of the typical price for this type of camera.  Here is an image of the camera paired with my Kodak No.1 Special which illustrates the diminutive dimensions of the Auto-Ultrix:

The first pictures I got from the Auto-Ultrix were disappointingly unsharp.  I thought the problem might be a misadjusted lens, but careful examination and cleaning revealed no problem of that sort.  The next roll showed a few better images, but still left much to be desired. I decided the problem was most likely a combination of unfamiliarity with the camera and some poor technique related to slitting and re-rolling film for the 127 format.  For my third roll of film in the camera I chose to use some of my expired bulk Portra 160 and that resulted in some images that got me closer to my original expectations for the camera.

Still some work to do to get the quality I think this camera will produce, but I'm optimistic at this point.  This is my first example of a Ihagee  camera.  The company produced the Auto-Ultrix in several sizes, as well as a number of other innovative designs including the first single lens reflex, the Exakta, in 127 and 35mm formats.  A thorough history of the company, The Ihagee Story, is available on line.