Sunday, December 22, 2019

Film and Developer

I am pleased so far with the results I'm getting from LegacyPro L110 developer from Freestyle.  The components are said to be the same as Kodak HC-110, the price is about half that of the Kodak product, and the LC110 is much easier to mix because of the low viscosity.  I have read reports that Kodak has fixed some problems with HC-110, but I can't see a reason to go back to it at this point.

I always liked HC-110 because it takes full advantage of the fine grain structure of TMAX.  I'm looking forward now to trying LC110 at different dilutions and in stand development.

I shot this roll of TMAX on my Zeiss Ikon Contessa 35.  Like the little Ikonta 35, the Contessa folds up to fit in your pocket, and it adds the functionality of a coupled rangefinder and an onboard meter.  When I developed the roll I could see that there was some uneven frame spacing, so before I use the camera again I'll need to take off the bottom plate and clean up things.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Local Talent

Albuquerque has assembled an interesting cast of characters over its three hundred years.  Many have just passed through on the way to other places, while others have made the place a home.  One in the first category was Amelia Earhart who stopped over several times during cross-country flights.  I found a picture of her while browsing the Albuquerque Museum digital archive.  Amelia is the third from the left next to the pilot in this picture.

Albuquerque Museum  Photoarchives

Double Eagle II Airport - April 9, 2017
Albuquerque's Mayor Tingley is second from the right.  The fellow to the far right looks to be holding a crank-driven movie camera, possibly a 16mm Cine-Kodak.
    The group is assembled in front of a Ford TriMotor and this may have been the inaugural flight of Transcontinental Air Transport in 1929.  The story of that pioneer commercial air venture is well told in an article at Historynet.
     Albuquerque had two competing airports at the time; I think that shot may have been made at the one on the West Mesa which is now known as the Double Eagle II.  I made a picture of a restored TriMotor there a couple years ago with a Kodak Duo Six-20, the same model that Amelia had with her on her last flight in 1937.

Another aviator - who came and stayed - was Anne Noggle, quite an extraordinary person who flew in WWII and Korea and then became an author and a photographer after her retirement from the Air Force.  Noggle earned a master's degree in art at UNM and taught there from 1970 to 1984.  A book about her photography was recently published, Flight of Spirit: The Photographs of Anne Noggle.  She was an accomplished portraitist whose work focused mainly on the aging process of women.  I'm looking forward to getting to know her photography better through the new book and some of her previous ones about aviation.

Walter McDonald - Abq Journal

Tomorrow I will be attending the opening of an exhibit of yet another Albuquerque photographer, Walter McDonald, who was hired in 1969 by the Albuquerque Museum's first director to undertake a massive street photography project about the city.  McDonald's work for the project was all done over about eight months on 35mm color slide film.  Costs and a difficult relationship between the museum director and his board almost aborted the original plan for a big multi-projector show at the museum's first home at the Albuquerque Sunport.
    The most surprising part of the complicated story seemed to me to be the fact that at some point consideration was given to destroying the whole collection.  Fortunately, that idea was rejected by cooler heads at the museum and the slides were squirreled away in a box for two decades before being found again by an archivist who made digital copies of all of them.  About one hundred prints from the collection will be on display in the current show, Let The Sunshine In.  The whole story is nicely recounted in an Albuquerque Journal article.

Walter McDonald, Teenage Girls on Central Avenue, 1969, 35mm color slide, Albuquerque Museum, PA1996.029.192
McDonald still does some photography, but his main source of income these days seems to be building sand castles.  His autobiography is on Flickr.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Half way there


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I started this blog thirteen years ago.  I'm going to have to pick up the pace to make it to a million.

Friday, December 13, 2019

What's in your pocket?

If the year is 1948 and you are a G.I. in occupied Germany you might have a nice little Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 35 in your pocket which could have been purchased at your Base PX.

If that G.I. was a real photographer he might also have supplemented the camera purchase with some useful accessories such as a clip-on rangefinder and a light meter.

My own Ikonta 35 turned up in a Las Cruces pawn shop a half century after it was built.  It was one of the first cameras I acquired when I finally got back to film photography.  That was a particularly fortuitous find because of the Opton Tessar lens which showed me what that historic lens design could accomplish when attached to even a relatively simple camera.
    I subsequently acquired a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex with exactly the same lens, and shortly thereafter a Kodak No.1 Autographic Special folder with a Bausch & Lomb Tessar dating back to 1917.  The early Tessar on the Kodak was uncoated, but still made great pictures as they all do.
    The exposure meter and the rangefinder atop my Ikonta 35 turned up recently in a box of photo gear that was given to me by a friend.  It seemed a good excuse to get out with the camera and the accessories to test the kit.

The fifty-year-old light meter worked perfectly.  Meter designers of that era still had not come up with the idea of match-needle readings, so the user had to turn the dial so that the ASA setting coincides with the displayed light value.  Then, an f-stop and shutter combination could be selected from the other side of the dial, and those settings would be transferred to the camera.
    A label on the meter's back says "DeJur-Amsco Corporation, New York, NY, Made in U.S.A."  The meter design, except for the black bakelite case, is identical to an early Zeiss Ikophot.

My usual routine with cameras like the Ikonta 35 or the Vito II is to set the focus to around ten feet and the aperture to f16 which gives me enough depth of focus in good light to yield a sharp picture at anywhere from six feet to infinity.  For a low light close-up you must fall back on your ability to accurately judge distances, and successes become a bit hit-or-miss.  So, for pictures like that low-light shot of the door with the holiday wreath, the little AKAMETER accessory rangefinder comes in very handy.

The view through the little eyeport of the AKAMETER is a bit dim after half a century, but the rangefinder is still highly accurate.  That said, there is still some judgment required to transfer the distance setting shown by the rangefinder dial to the camera as the numeric distance scales on both are not finely graduated.  So, the easiest way to get a good close-up is probably to just set the rangefinder and the camera focus to the same setting -- say 4 feet -- and to then move back and forth slightly to bring the split images into alignment as you might with a coupled rangefinder or even with an slr.
    I'm thinking all of the above probably seems awkwardly archaic to anyone who has come of age in the digital era, but it really doesn't require much time to develop the necessary skills to bring the old cameras and their accessories back to a useful life.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

VLA Color

The day before our arrival at the Very Large Array saw some heavy rain, but when we got to the site in the early afternoon the temperature was up in the 50s and the sky partly cloudy.

Most of the huge dishes were arrayed close to the visitor viewing area and they were all initially pointing obliquely to the east.  Then, over the course of just a few minutes, all of the dishes moved together to a full vertical attitude.  It was a marvelously choreographed display which seemed curiously life-like.

The light and shadows were in a constant state of flux because of the passing clouds, and I was glad to have a camera with good auto exposure.  On my next visit I'll try to give more thought to the gear to take along.  I'm fine with 35mm for color, but I would also like to try some medium format for the black and white, along with a couple filters.

The village of Magdalena is 25 miles east of the VLA.  I stopped the car at the edge of town on the way home to snap a couple pictures.  The place  has a lot more to it than these pictures show of course.  There are several motels and an number of small cafes.  There are few blocks of shops along the main street and houses are generously spaced for about a mile around the town.  Women in traditional Navajo attire are often seen on the street.

There are marvelous scenic views all along the stretch of Highway 60 going from the VLA back to Socorro.  I'm hopeful of spending a good deal more time exploring the area with my cameras in the coming year.

Monday, December 09, 2019


We drove an hour south to Socorro to attend a robotics competition in which our granddaughter was a participant.  It seemed a logical extension of the trip to go an hour further west to the Very Large Array radio telescope site.  There are 27 dish antennas; each is 82 feet in diameter and weighs 230 tons.  A rail system allows dispersal of the antennas in a Y-shaped configuration with a span of 22 miles.

I shot three rolls of film in about two hours.  These were on TMAX 100 in a Canon F-1 with a Canon FD f/1.4-50mm lens.  The film was processed in Freestyle's L110 film developer at 1:31 dilution.  I also shot a roll of Fuji 200 color in the same camera which I'll get to in a day or so.  A roll of Arista Edu Ultra 200 shot in my Zorki 2C was a total loss due to a defect in the film (Scratches running the full length on the non-emulsion side).  I'm looking forward to returning to the site soon with more and better film and a variety of cameras and lenses.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

You, my pal, Stone!

One of the pleasures of running a blog is being able to delete spam posts which frequently make their appearance as comments on blog articles.  I have chosen to review any comments that are posted more than a week past an article's appearance.  Mostly, I routinely delete any comments that are signed "Anonymous".  Once in a great while, though, the English is so charmingly fractured that I feel compelled to share the message:
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In what world is there a market for such nonsensical content?  It seems like the value per word would be infinitesimally small.  Good luck to you, anonymous spammer.  I hope you find some more rewarding endeavor, and a perfect web situation.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Adventures in Photography

I found myself with some free time late in the morning, so I decided to walk over to Old Town with my Leica IIIa to which I had attached the Industar 22 lens, a Soviet copy of the collapsible Elmar.  I finished up the roll of TMAX 100 that was in the camera, making some pictures on the street, at the park and at the Art Museum.  New Mexico's mid-day light is often too harsh for photography, but on this day some scattered clouds softened the light enough to get some shots.

The photographs I made were not very exciting, but it still turned out to be a great photo walk.  I ran into Marco Wikstrom who is a member of our New Mexico Film Photographers group as well as a participant in the co-op which runs a photography gallery in Old Town.  I walked with him to the gallery which he was going to open for the day.  We looked at his photos which he has on exhibit now, and we talked about a couple of his current projects which include an upcoming trip to New Zealand.

On the way home I cut through Tiguex Park and came upon our friend Lana who was a neighbor and the first friend we made when we move to Albuquerque over ten years ago.  Lana and a friend were walking their dogs.  She recalled that I had made a picture of her and her dog, Buddy, some time ago and asked if I would make some more to bring things up to date.  So I did.

When I got home I rewound the film back into the cassette in preparation for development; the film strip got caught at the end and broke, and the shutter by its sound was clearly not working right.  I removed the lens, set the shutter to Bulb and when I released the shutter I could see that there was a folded over piece of film stuck under the shutter curtain.  I managed to fish that out with some pliers, and everything seemed to be working properly after that.

I have been getting some thin negatives from my home development, so I decided to process semi-stand in 5ml of HC-110 in 650ml of distilled water.  It is hard to mess up with that combination and the negatives looked ok, but I may abandon HC-110 even though it has been a long-time favorite.  

In looking around on the web I have found that a lot of people are reporting problems with a number of Kodak developers including TMAX, HC-110 and Xtol.  Kodak has apparently had to make changes in the chemical components of the developers which has degraded both longevity and effectiveness.  Fortunately, there are alternatives.  I have Rodinal and PMK Pyro for black and white, and I am happy enough at present with Cinestill C-41 for color work.  I may also try LegacyPro LMAX from Freestyle which is said to be identical to TMAX developer before it was altered.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The mju cameras

I recently came across a couple Olympus Stylus cameras at a local thrift shop, an Olympus Infinity Stylus (mju) and an Olympus Stylus Epic (mju2).  The prices were $5 for the mju and $3 for the mju2.

The mju showed a lot of use, but it had a battery and it lit up when I opened the sliding front door -- which I suppose accounted for its higher price.  The mju2 looked nice; a new battery started it up too.  

I loaded a roll in the Stylus Epic the next morning and managed to get through all 36 exposures on a roll of Fuji 200.  The camera seemed to be working nearly perfectly, though the shutter button was a little over-sensitive.  When I scanned the negatives the pictures looked good except for small light leaks in some of the images.  A bit of black tape near the viewfinder will likely solve the leak problem.

The mju2 commands ridiculous prices these days, so I was pleased to have found one that only needed a little attention to work.  On closely examining the pictures, though, I am not convinced that the camera makes pictures that are significantly superior to what I get from the mju that I have been shooting for the past ten years.  To test that idea, I finished up another roll of Fuji 200 in the older mju on a walk in the neighborhood.  I shot several of the same scenes as the day before and the light was quite similar.

The f/2.8, 35mm lens on the Stylus Epic is clearly a more sophisticated design than that of the f/3.5 lens on the older Inifity Stylus.  However, a search on the web about the newer camera turned up some support for my judgment based on my informal test.  What I found was that complaints about light leaks in the newer model are very common.  It appears that the rubber ring light seal in the Stylus Epic is not as robust as the seals in the older camera.  Additionally, I found a couple references to the idea that the auto-focusing algorithm for the Stylus Epic leaned toward wide open exposures.  So, even though the Stylus Epic has a lot of present day enthusiasts, I think there is good reason to be skeptical of any real superiority to the older Infinity Stylus.