Saturday, April 27, 2019

Moving up to a ten dollar camera

I haven't used my yard sale Nikon EM much since acquiring it about four years ago.  The main reason for that is that I have a couple of other very good Nikons including an FE and an F2.  The EM does have some nice features, though, and I'm going to try to use it more.  The camera is compact and light weight.  With the Series E 1.8/50mm lens mounted it is easy to carry and even shoot one-handed.

With the nice Spring weather we've been having I was pretty sure I would find a Friday morning car show in progress in the Old Town Plaza.  

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Hikari + Takumar

As expected, the Hikari and the Pentax K-mount lenses work fine together.  Any deficiencies in the images is due solely to the operator.

The only thing I can find to complain about so far with the Hikari is the split-image viewfinder.  I don't like the canted split-image or the little crinkly doughnut around it.  That's just a personal issue, though; others may find those features advantageous.

I think my next step with the Hikari will be to give the Hikari zoom another round to see if a little more familiarity will produce a firmer opinion on its capabilities.  As with any zoom, getting used to the handling of the focus, zoom and aperture rings requires a bit of practice.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Dumpster Diving for Cameras

Figuratively speaking.  Actually, I found this Hikari 2002 in a thrift store with a five-dollar price tag.
The top and bottom covers were plastic, but the camera had a solid feel, and it was compact and relatively light weight.  The protruding grip makes one-hand shooting easy.  The film advance and the zoom lens were smooth in operation.  The shutter worked at all speeds.  The Hikari is a great camera.
Let me explain.

At home with the camera I inserted some new batteries and the meter came to life and seemed to be working properly; exposure is set manually, and a green LED glows when you've got it right.  I was pleased to discover when I looked up the camera on line that it accepts Pentax K-mount lenses.  It also features a shutter speed range from 1 sec. to 1/2000, a self timer, a double-exposure selector and a depth of focus preview button (which was lacking in the Pentax K-1000).  The Hikari was marketed under several names including the Vivitar  V3800N, the Promaster 2500PK Super and the Phoenix DC303N.  I shot a quick roll of Kentmere 100 to test the camera, and it performed flawlessly.

I'm withholding judgment on the Hikari macro-zoom lens.  Most of the shots made with it looked ok, but a few were not sharp.  That may just have been some focusing error by me; the max f3.5 aperture does not provide a very bright view.  I' m looking forward now to using some of my excellent K-mount Pentax lenses with the camera.  Perhaps due to my long experience with the Pentax Spotmatic I am most comfortable with cameras that let me have the final say about aperture and speed settings.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


We spent a couple days in Tucson.  It seems to have a dynamic economy and it makes Albuquerque look rather shabby by comparison.  Margaret commented that Tucson seemed like another country.  The highpoint for me, as is often true, was the nearby wilderness areas.  We enjoyed a sunny morning visit to the west portion of the Saguaro National Park.

I have always enjoyed the drive into Phoenix from the north because of the views of the saguaros there.  The saguaro forest just west of Tucson is something else again because of the density of the huge cacti which cover whole mountainsides.

"An adult saguaro is generally considered to be about 125 years of age. It may weigh 6 tons or more and be as tall as 50 feet. The average life span of a saguaro is probably 150 - 175 years of age. However, biologists believe that some plants may live over 200 years."
- from the NPS Web Site

There were a lot of blooming ocotillo cactus and a few wildflowers, but we were a bit too early to see the blossoming of the saguaro.  A day's visit was certainly too brief to explore the park with my camera.



Saguaro Carcass
My original plan for the trip was to carry two cameras, the meterless H3v mounting my 24mm Takumar and the Spotmatic SP with the 135mm Mamiya-Sekor.  On the fourth frame through the H3v, the mirror jammed up against the rear lens group of the 24mm.  I should have known that would happen as the early H3v has the same problem with the Takumar 1.4.  Luckily, a bit of fiddling with the focus unjammed the camera and I was able to finish off that roll and another in the SP.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

On Dorothea Lange

That is the opening paragraph from an essay on Lange by George P. Elliott published in1966 in the Museum of Modern Art book, Dorothea Lange, which accompanied an exhibit of the photographer's work shortly after her death.  Elliott's observations seem ever more relevant today when "mass journalism" has been replaced by mass social networking.

Elliott's brief essay is one of the best things I have ever read, both about Lange and about photography in general.  It gave me new insight about the photographer and her work that Linda Gordon did not quite get to in her big biography of Lange.  The essay and the book are also revealing of the process of mounting a major museum exhibit and how then Department of Photography Director, John Szarkowski, pulled it off.

How Elliott came to write such an excellent essay about photography is somewhat mysterious.  His work as a novelist had mixed critical reviews and he was best known in literary circles for his short stories and essays. Elliot does not appear to have any connection to photography other than this essay and one other in The Hudson Review.  He was a contemporary of Lange and of Weston who he also admired.  The author went to school in Berkeley and lived in San Francisco, so perhaps he actually knew Lange.

The MOMA book is out of print and examples are often pricey.  I picked up mine for fifty cents at my favorite local thrift store.  For those without my good bit of luck, the complete book is available on line as a pdf file.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Cesar Chavez Day

I rode my bike over to the Hispanic Cultural Center on Saturday.  Albuquerque has been celebrating Cesar Chavez Day for about twenty-six years.  This year's event was well attended, honoring the farm worker organizer and also the rise of many women to positions of leadership at all levels of government.

I tried shots of the Chavez poster from several angles, deciding finally on this image reflected in the windows of the Cultural Center.  The day's speeches were interspersed with dancers and singers.

No event in Old Town or Barelas is complete without this fellow officiating en dos idiomas.

Of course, at least one mariachi group is also mandatory.

The star performer was this little girl who danced for her mother and Cesar Chavez.

Our new mayor, Tim Keller, made a brief appearance at the beginning of the celebration, but the ladies owned the stage.  Michelle Lujan Grisham, the newly elected Governor of New Mexico, is always the shortest person in any assembly of politicians, but she has a personality at least seven feet tall.  The woman under the fedora to the right is Dolores Huerta, native New Mexican, co-founder of the United Farm Workers and keynote speaker for the Cesar Chavez Day celebration.

Next to the Governor in this shot is Deb Haaland, one of two Native American women who made it into the U.S. House of Representatives this year.

Quite a day for New Mexico.

I shot two rolls of Tri-X at the celebration, but brought home fewer pictures than I had hoped for due to some apparent malfunction of the Minolta X-700.  Most of the photos were under-exposed and some in full sun were grossly so.  Not sure if the problem is electrical, mechanical or the the result of creeping senility -- possibly a combination of all three.  The manual says that in aperture-priority mode the camera should work properly with about any Minolta lens, but I'm wondering if using the old MC 135 lens may be a source of problems.  I'll work with the issues as I really like the camera and the set of lenses I have for it.
    My plan was to develop one roll in the usual HC110b and the other using semi-stand development.  When I saw the results of the first roll, however, I decided to forego the stand dev as the complications left no room for meaningful comparison.  I still feel I'm making some progress at sorting out variables in the results of my photo efforts, but it is slow going.
I shot a test roll with the camera to systematically compare results from the three lenses I have for the Minolta X-700.  The camera works fine in all three shooting modes with the normal and wide-angle lenses.  The shots from the 135mm lens degraded in quality as I moved through the roll.  On closer examination I see that the aperture stop-down mechanism is sluggish, probably due to dirt on the aperture blades and other moving parts.  I'm not sure I have the energy available to tackle the dismantling of the lens a second time.  I have gotten some satisfaction from figuring out the problem and verifying that the camera and two of the lenses are working properly.