Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Winter Walking

Most of New Mexico has experienced an unusually mild winter this year.  I took a walk yesterday through the Botanical Gardens.  The Mediterranean Conservatory is always a nice refuge on winter days, but the temperature difference on cold days can fog glasses and camera lenses.  No fog problem this time for the Pentax ME.

Most of the shrubbery has been pruned back to prepare for the coming Sping.  There are a few daffodils and crocus starting to pop up through the leaf litter, and leaf buds are already showing up on tree branches.

This morning I walked the trail through the Rinconada rock art site on the west side of the Rio Grande.  Only a handful of the thousands of petroglyphs are currently accessible as fencing has been put in place to allow recovery of the terrain and vegetation on the rocky slopes.

When we came to Albuquerque ten years ago there were no restrictions on movement at the site and I was able to thoroughly explore the place from top to bottom.  I doubt that kind of access will be available again.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Wild Blue Yonder

Things  come together in strange ways at times.  A few nights ago a woman arrived at our place a little early for a neighborhood meeting.  We talked for a bit about her recent trip to England which included a visit to one of the Brit air museums accompanied by her 94-year-old uncle who had been a WWII Spitfire pilot.  She said the weather was disagreeable, and it was disappointing to her that no one at the museum acknowledged her uncle's presence or his contribution.   So, not a great success.

The next day I dropped by a local thrift store and  found in a box marked "Free" a 58 page book about the history of the Spitfire.  It was full of  marvelous vintage pictures of the iconic fighter along with a thorough description of each of the many variants of the aircraft produced from 1936 to 1952.

In addition to the photos, there is a wealth of illustrations detailing distinguishing features of the evolving design, along with front, top, bottom and side view plans as well as many of the unit insignias of interest to modelers.  The book was copyrighted 1980 and was produced by Squadron/Signal Publications.  It turns out that the company produced a large number of similar books about historic aircraft, and many can be found on line, often at a price of about $10 each.  Certainly one of my better thrift store acquisitions.

Well, on the next day the sun made an appearance after several days of clouds and even a few snow flakes.  So, I headed across town to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History with its outdoor exhibit space which has a nice little collection of Cold War aircraft.  I took along the Leica IIIa mounted with the Summitar lens and loaded with Kentmere 100 film.  All of my old cameras eventually make at least a few pictures of vintage aircraft, and it seemed like a good opportunity to use the Summitar for that purpose before I send it back to its owner.

What caught my eye as I pulled into the Museum parking lot was a new addition to the aircraft collection, an early model of the MiG-21, a Mach 2.0 Soviet fighter first produced in the 1950s.

The fuselage of the MiG had been positioned next to a recently restored F-16.  I think it will not be long before the plane is fully reassembled, so I'll look forward to returning soon for some more pictures.  I was not particularly pleased with the combination of Kentmere film and Rodinal on this occasion, so I'm thinking I'll try the same subject with Pyro developer next time.  Of course, I had no complaints about the Summitar which turned in its usual stellar performance.

All of the planes on display and most of the other equipment in the outdoor area of the museum have new coats of paint and look marvelous.  The museum has also made some impressive additions and improvements to the indoor exhibits including a mock-up of a war-time Los Alamos lab, and there is currently a really nice exhibit of engineering technology from classic Greek and Roman times.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Cate goes for the win

Chess at the elementary school level tends to be a game of attrition rather than strategy.  This game went for nearly an hour before any pieces were taken.  Cate's opponent seemed distracted and took a long time to make each move.  What was impressive in Cate's performance was the way she maintained her focus throughout.  She had established good control of the center early on, and eventually wore down her opponent piece by piece until check was accomplished at near the two hour mark.
     I was glad I brought the Leica with the Summitar to the game.  With 100-speed Kentmere in the camera and dim light, I had to make the shots wide open at f2 and 1/30.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lens Choices

I've enjoyed using the Leica and the Summitar in part because it has encouraged me to look more closely at the era in which the camera and lens were produced in response to the challenges met by the camera and lens designers in those days.  The issue which came to the fore in the late 1930s was lens speed.  The good quality lenses up to then such as the Tessar with its four elements in three groups were typically capable of being stopped down to f3.5.  In the post-war years Tessar designs became available which enabled an aperture of f2.8, but that was the ultimate limit permitted with just four elements.

The solution devised by Leitz and the other major lens designers in the 1930s was to add more glass lens elements.  The Summitar has seven elements in four groups, allowing a maximum aperture of f2.  The Zeiss Sonnar used six elements in four groups to produce f1.5.  In the post-war years those designs were enhanced with anti-reflective coatings which helped overcome the contrast problems which came along with more glass surfaces and air spaces between lens elements.

The Jupiter 8 lens on my Kiev IIa is a copy of the Zeiss Sonnar design; it is coated and has a maximum aperture of f2.  I have not made a lot of pictures to date with this Soviet camera and lens combination, but I hope to make better use of this resource as it can produce really excellent results.  The Jupiter 8 was also made with an M39 screw mount, so I may have to find one of those to use with my Zorkis and the Leica as well.

One reason I have not made more use of the Jupiter 8 is that I also have an excellent Jupiter 12 for the Kiev IIa; it is a copy of the Zeiss Biogon 35/2.8 which often seems a better fit with my way of seeing the world.

I recognize that my frequent preference for the wide-angle 35mm lenses is likely due in part to habit rather than any innate superiority, so I am going to make a determined effort to give the 50mm normal lenses a better chance to show their capabilities.  That goes not only for the Jupiter 8, but also for the extraordinary six-element Schneider-Kreuznach Xenons on my Kodak Retinas.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Kentmere 100

In shooting the last roll of Kentmere 100 I put through the Leica I looked for subjects and lighting that I thought would challenge the film's capacities.  Exposures were one stop below box speed.  I processed the roll in PMK Pyro for ten minutes at 71 degrees, with two tank inversions each fifteen seconds.  The negatives were scanned on my old Epson 2450 flatbed using SilverFast SE with the Ilford Pan-F Plus 50 film profile.

Monday, February 05, 2018

At the Drone Races

On Sunday there was a exhibition of drone technology and drone racing at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum.

The crowd in attendance was enthusiastic but not large.  I suspect that adding wagering to the mix might one day create overflow crowds on the Museum's field.

The small racing drones ran noisily over a hilly course at about a hundred yards distance from the viewing area.  They were only intermittently visible as they were maneuvered at close to 100 mph through a series of arched wickets.  The pilots and a few spectators were equipped with VR headsets to follow the action with a cockpit view.

The participants were oddly sedentary and seemed detached from their physical surroundings.  The experience appeared to resemble that of a video game, except that mistakes had real-world consequences.

The event suggested to me a re-enactment of scenes from William Gibson's prophetic 1984 sci-fi novel, Neuromancer.

I don't think anyone noticed that the action was being recorded by a time-traveling Leica.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Pentax ME, Part 2

I shot off a roll of Fuji 200 to verify that my small repairs to the nice little Pentax ME had met with success.  The worn mirror bumper had been replaced with a small strip from a sheet of foam from Walmart; it was a bit thicker than the original, but seems to work fine.
    The ASA dial I found on ebay looked identical at first glance, but it did not quite fit due to a difference in a small toothed bracket on the underside.  Luckily, the screw holes on the brackets were in the same locations and I was able to swap the parts successfully.
     The nice surprise in the process was the ease of fixing the misaligned latch which caused the back of the camera to pop open.  It seems that the ME back gets a bit dished in with use and pressing on the back near the hinge end was what was causing the problem.  I found a note on the net which indicated I just needed to open the back, grasp it at either end and apply a tiny bit of pressure as if to bend it.  Problem solved.
    The only thing remaining is a missing cover for the motor drive connection; however, that is a cosmetic issue which has a low priority for me.  The camera seems to work perfectly at this point and is a real pleasure to use.

I shot the whole roll after a visit to my dentist whose office is in Albuquerque's Huning Highlands Historic District.  Many of the homes there date back to the early Twentieth Century.  A lot of the houses are Victorian in style, but there is quite an eclectic mix of wooden construction, brick and and stucco.

In addition to the interesting homes there are also quite a few larger historic buildings in the neighborhood including a Greek Church, the 1925 Pueblo/Spanish Revival-style Special Collections Library and the repurposed Albuquerque High School which has been turned into apartments.

I've made pictures of all those buildings in the past with other cameras.  The most interesting structure in the neighborhood, though, is something of a stylistic outlier.  The Albuquerque Press Club was built in a rustic log cabin style in 1903 and it sits on top of a hill in a park overlooking the historic district; it is said to be designed after a Norwegian villa.  I noticed when I visited the site today that the cottage next door is occupied, perhaps by a caretaker.  The dog that met me at the gate there was very friendly.  It could be the most charming place to live in the whole city.