Sunday, July 21, 2019

Albuquerque Annotated

I picked up some 1.4 volt batteries on eBay recently to see if that would give a bit of a boost to my exposures from the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s.  The slight decrease in voltage did not seem to have any noticeable effect on the camera's performance.  Still, the full-auto exposure works pretty consistently, and setting the ASA to a lower value seems like it will improve results.  I shot a roll of Kodak ColorPlus 200 in the camera over period of a couple weeks.

This customized Honda at the back entrance to Old Town had an appealing rough-and-ready look.  Such sightings start me thinking about getting another bike.  My vision may be up to the challenge since I had the cataracts excised, but my reflexes probably don't support the idea.

I understand the appeal of the electric scooters which are all over Albuquerque, but I'm even less likely to get on one of these than I am on a motorcycle.  The city's transportation infrastructure is already in rather desperate shape, and the town clearly is not ready for an army of scooter riders.  An illustration of that was provided for me at the risky intersection near our house early yesterday.
    I heard a loud bang signaling a crash and looked out the window to see an SUV stopped in the middle of the street.  There was a scooter on its side about 30 feet north of the impact point, and the rider was crumpled against the curb and moaning.  No helmet.  No regard for road rules.  Predictable.

I have an odd connection to a photographer who shows his work on Flickr, Jorge Guadalupe Lizárraga.   He and I often post pictures taken at the same places in Old Town at the same time of day, but I've never seen him.  He has a good eye for architectural subjects, rather better than mine.

I often pick up a copy of the city's alternative newspaper, The Alibi, during my walks through Old Town.  The quality of writing the the free publication varies widely, but the staff gets to stories which you won't see in the lumbering Albuquerque Journal.  These two boxes look to me like cartoon characters that might scamper around the plaza in the early morning when no one is looking.

The Rio Grande has retreated to its bed after a season of heavy flooding.  There is quite a bit of debris left on the trails through the bosque, but the summer heat is rapidly drying the ground.

Albuquerque has a vast flood control system which includes this strange dam face on the city's east side, a favorite subject of 'burque photographers.  Between the flash flooding from the Sandias and the river's high waters, there would not be a city here without these kinds of structures.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

What makes a good photograph?

Our local film photography group is preparing to mount an exhibit at one of Albuquerque's branch libraries.  Participation in the event is quite a departure for me as I haven't made more than a few prints in the past fifteen years.  It turns out to be a useful exercise because it prompted me to look at my work and develop some ideas about how I wanted it to be represented publicly.

My criteria for selecting images for the exhibit are not fundamentally different from those I use to choose what I put on my blog.  A basic tenant of my photo philosophy has always been to show that virtually any camera - no matter how simple - is capable of making fine photos.  I like that first shot of the winter trees partly because it was made with my little Ansco Panda box camera.  In other instances I have been pleased when an image reflects the quality which derives from excellence of lens and camera design as in the case of the balloon captured by the Mamiya C330.  Beyond the instrumentation, of course, there are issues of composition, tonal range, emotional content, timing and many other aesthetic considerations.

I will probably select a couple images from that first group of six for the exhibit.  The second group of five images below was shared with group members to encourage them to include some pictures of people among their submissions.  That met with some success as two people promptly submitted a half dozen shots each, only of people.

Moving beyond the immediate goals of the New Mexico Film Photographers show to the broader question of what makes a good photograph, the answer is fundamentally simple.  The quality and value of photographic images can and should be evaluated as are any other art works in any other medium.  So, if confronted by the question of what makes a photograph good, the easy answer is probably to respond with a question:  What makes a good painting, drawing, sculpture, etc?  That is not to say that photography does not have unique qualities compared to other visual art forms, or that there is not room for individual taste or stylistic preferences.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Taos in Color

Loading color film in one of my cameras flips a switch in my brain which produces compositions that are quite different from what I see when I am using black and white film.  The process gets me looking at blocks of color and their interrelationships, and expectations come into play about how the colors will be rendered in the final image.

Ansel Adams did a Kodachrome of the San Francisco de Asis church in 1948.  He did quite a lot of color, but mostly under duress which was likely associated with commercial work.  Ansel said that the picture was only half done when the image was consigned to film; the other half came in the processing and printing.  The complexity of Kodachrome development simply was not amenable to someone with Adams' need to oversee the entire picture making process.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

The Church of Ansel

We spent a couple days in Taos.  I've been there several times over the years we have lived in New Mexico, but I've never taken the time before to explore the place with my cameras.  I decided on this occasion that I would devote a chunk of time to one subject, the San Francisco de Asis church south of town.  Ansel Adams and Paul Strand immortalized the place early in the last century.  It seemed a nice opportunity to see what they saw and to develop some appreciation of how they approached the subject and how they interpreted it.

The first thing that struck me was that the church is a lot smaller than it appears in the pictures made by Adams and Strand.  They both used large format cameras that allowed them a lot of control over surface textures, depth of focus and perspective.  Their results may seem deceptive today, but it is also possible to argue that emphasizing a kind of monumentality in their portrayals was true to the impression people would have had of the structure when it was built two centuries ago.  My own pictures of the place were made with a relatively simple box camera with few controls, and partly for that reason they reflect a more contemporary and ephemeral view of the site.

I started taking pictures of the church at 6:00 AM when the sun was low and not yet too bright.  That favored the estimated focus, the two apertures, and the shutter that is limited to 1/25 or 1/50 sec. in the Vredeborch Felica box camera.

After I exposed the twelve frames available on the roll of 120 Fuji Acros rollfilm in the Felica I switched to shooting Arista Ultra Edu 100 in my Pentax ME, mostly using the 28mm f2.8 SMC Pentax M.  The final portion of the two hours I spent at the church were given over to shooting Kodak ColorPlus 200 in my Olympus Infinity Stylus.  It will be interesting to compare the results from those two cameras to what came from the Felica box.  Of course, the light later in the morning was very different, and there were some additional characters on the set including several cats and one devout parishioner.

Coincidentally, the day after we got home, the Albuquerque Art Museum offered a morning screening of the PBS biography of Ansel Adams made some years ago, I think.  It was worth watching, mostly because of the brilliant commentary by John Szarkowski.  Photographers watching the film will grit their teeth during the constant zooming and panning of Ansel's images by the cinematographers.

Thursday, June 27, 2019


I finally got around to shooting the C330 twin lens reflex with the 180mm lens.  That focal length on a 35mm camera would be a substantial telephoto, but on the 6x6 C330 it is still just in the portrait lens category.

     While the big 180 lens set adds to the already hefty size and weight of the camera I found that taking the time to get used to handling the camera was an effort well spent.  The accessory grip helps free up the right hand for adjusting focus and tripping the shutter.  The eye-level finder also makes the outfit more responsive to fluid photo scenes.

I probably won't make a lot more use of the 180mm lens set on the C330, but I am getting more comfortable with using the camera, and I'm looking forward to using it more often.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Nine O'Clock

I took a morning walk on the grounds of the Rio Grande Nature Center.  The sun was already high in the sky by nine, so I was glad I had loaded some TMAX 400 film which copes well with contrasty lighting.  The big Mamiya C330 would have performed better for me if I had brought along a tripod, but the Porroflex finder let me make some shots that that would have required some athletic contortions with the waist-level finder.

The C330 is unique in its capacity to focus and frame the image as close as 7 inches due to the bellows focusing and a moving bar in the viewfinder which shows the user how to vertically adjust the camera to compensate for the difference in views between the viewing and taking lenses.  At the same time, it is also necessary to pay attention to a scale in the viewfinder which indicates exposure compensation associated with the extension of the bellows.  For instance, with the bellows extended to focus on a subject about a foot from the camera, it is necessary to increase the aperture two stops to get proper exposure.

People in the Southwest have been keeping track of the sun's movements for a long time.  See teofilo's annual solstice blog post today about The Mesoamerican Context for Chaco Astronomy.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Stand Development

Stand development doesn't necessarily produce better results than many other techniques, but it is certainly simpler and less costly.  These images on Kentmere 100 were stand developed with 5ml of Rodinal in 500ml of distilled water, a 1:100 dilution.  That yields a developer cost of about sixteen cents per roll.  To that you have to add in the cost of fixer, distilled water and shipping charges, but the total per roll is still nearly negligible.

Time and temperature requirements for most processing procedures usually require quite precise control.  Those variables in stand development however are not critical.  In this case, I just used the developing solution at room temperature without recourse to a thermometer.  The developer was poured into the plastic film tank and the timer was set for thirty minutes after thirty seconds of initial agitation.  After that, I did not touch the tank until the buzzer sounded, at which point I agitated the tank for a few seconds and then left everything to sit for another thirty minutes.

Another nice feature of the stand development process is that no allowance need be made for different films or film speeds. It doesn't matter if you are using a slow, fine grained film like Kentmere 100 or something faster like Tri-X.

I have gotten similarly nice results from stand development using HC-110, and the cost is even slightly less as I have been able to use just 4ml of developer in 640ml of water for a dilution of 1:160.

There are a lot of recipes for stand development available on the web which advise small differences in total time and dilutions, but it seems the results are little different.  A good overview of the process is given at the hjlphotos site.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

black and white

I'm liking my initial results from Arista.Edu Ultra 100, though I think can do better with some adjustments in exposure and processing.