A Year in Photos

Photography, fiction, and personal essays form my three primary creative outlets. For this blog's first 18 months, I used it primarily for photography. As I've returned to creative writing, I'll use this blog for fiction, too. Sometimes, when reality needs to be discussed more than truth, I write personal essays.

This blog will continue to showcase as many above-average photos as I can muster. Hopefully my written work will be as good or better than the visual. Whichever drew you here -- photographs or fiction, I hope you enjoy both.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Year in Photos -- Week Forty

Well, it's been an exhausting year so far, and I haven't cleaned my apartment since February, so this week I'm taking a blog vacation and doing chores. In the interim, check out my new YouTube videos (there's a QR code link on the right panel).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How to: Bulk Load Film

A while back I made a couple of videos about bulk loading film. They've become my two most popular videos, I believe, and a number of blogs and other website link to them. In my mind, that's great. I'm glad people are learning from my how-to videos. Here, in order, for the first time (that I know of) are my three videos about bulk loading 35mm film.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One Cruddy and One Broken Camera

Today's post has bunches of photos of my dogs. These were test shots I took with a Welmy 6X6 and a Pickwick (toy) bakelite camera. The Welmy needs work as the focusing ring is stuck and the shutter only fires at 1/200th. The Pickwick Camera is an old toy camera that had some odd properties, the number one being the property of suckyness.

The Welmy uses 120 film, but I didn't want to use a roll of 120 on a camera I knew to have issues. The Pickwick uses 127 and I don't have any of that. So I took an empty spool and backing paper from each camera and used 35mm film inside the spools. I'm somewhat torn on the whole full-bleed images thing for cameras. It can yield nice results, or it can be distracting. In both of these cases, though, the film isn't nearly as distracting as the low-quality images (particularly from the Pickwick.) The Welmy will take fine images one it can be focused again.

One frustrating thing about the Welmy, it says it's stuck at four feet for the focus. I was at least four feet from my dogs for each shot, using f16 for maximal depth of field. You'll see in these images that this camera's focus is decided deeper than four feet.

The lens takes great and sharp images, as seen by the high-tension towers and cars in the background. However, the focus is pretty far off of four feet.

The Pickwick presented a much more difficult challenge: the focus. I knew from a review I had read online that the focus was off-center. However, I was surprised by how out of focus the images are. That said, I suspect the issue is not with the lens but with the film back. The film, as the first image will show, seems to have fallen out of flatness.

Were it not for the film's perforations being aligned so well, this first image would look like a fun house mirror  reflection.

There are no words to describe how bad this is.

Look at the ring of focus around this image. Blurry center, focused ring around the image. Odd. I'll try this again with more 35mm film and see if I can obtain better results.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How-to Videos

So, I'm not a very good videographer. But, I used to teach college and I have for a long time trained junior staff at my company. Mostly that's because I've got some skill at conveying knowledge in a simple, understandable manner. For a while I've been making and posting videos on YouTube about photography. This post will be a link to my channel and one of my how-to videos. In addition, I'll periodically post a video in lieu of photographs. Sine going back to work in the suburbs, there is less to photograph outside. So the nature of this blog will be changing somewhat. Including how-to videos will be part of that.

This first video shows how to flip the meniscus lens in a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. In addition, it will show you how to load the camera (with 120 film) and date the camera based on the CAMEROSITY cipher within the camera's body.

To check out all 122 of my videos (not all are camera-related), here is a link to my YouTube channel.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Microfilm, Motion Picture Film, and the Pentax H3V

About six months ago I won a 2,000-foot spool of Kodak 2383 on eBay. The film, however,  lacks any edge information, so I can't verify that it is 2383. It matches Kodak's description of the film's physical appearance quite well, though. The ISO is 1.6., which means that at f16 on a sunny day it needs a 1.6-second exposure. In bright light at f1.8, the shutter speed is around 1/30th of a second. At f2.8, 1/8th. That makes hand-holding the camera pretty difficult with this film.

But it yields a vintage look with nice grain. One limitation of this film, it has light damage, so the film HAS to be used in bright light or the images are unusable. Here is what an image taken in low light looks like:

What you're seeing along the edge is light damage caused by a pinhole leak in the film tin. The light has leaked in between the film's perforations. However, in bright light the new image wipes out the existing damage. Here's an example:

Fortunately, I lucked out and wound the film so that the light damage is along the top in the final images.

In addition to this microfilm, I also took some Kodak 250D with with me. 250D is a motion picture film that lends itself particularly well to monochrome work. The gray tones, when exposed correctly, are quite nice. Now, let me be clear that the images from the 250D roll were not exposed correctly. In fact, I only know how to expose the microfilm correctly because I accidentally screwed up the camera's settings. I thought the shutter speed indicator aligned with the cocked indicator, causing all my microfilm images to be perfectly exposed and all my 250D images to be MASSIVELY overexposed. It's complicated, just trust me. So here are some images from the microfilm roll.

You can see the vintage, high-contrast look. It's a nice film for selected uses, but not for action photography.

The 250 D results were less evenly toned and tended to all be high-key. In fact, only two of the 250D shots turned out at all.

A Year in Photos -- Week Thirty-nine

This week has some exciting photos in store -- high-key, microfilm for the first time, full-bleed 35mm, images, and a whole boatload of plants. A boatload. So, without delay, let's see what you can expect from this week's blog:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Few Takes on the Golden Gate Bridge

We'll keep this week-closing post simple and stick just to photos. After the winery tour, my girlfriend and I headed to the Golden Gate Bridge for sunset. Here are some of the shots.

The first shot is from my Samsung Galaxy S3. Yes, it's a camera phone shot. The editing is thanks to the Aviary app. No, I'm not an Instagrammer.

Sterling Winery, Pretty Good Photos

About a month ago I visited Sterling Winery in Calistoga Springs, California, for the second time. It's a very well designed winery with great architecture and lighting. Specifically, the way the outside light interacts with the buildings is very appealing. Sometimes a structure feels like it was designed to be photographed. This is one of those structures.

All of these shots were with my Pentax K-7. For lenses, I used my Samyang 18-28, Sigma 35-80, and Quntaray (Tamron) 70-300. Post processing included minor unsharp masking (15% with a 20-pixel radius) and some color or shadow enhancements.

This winery building awaits after a brief tram ride. The tram ride is part of the attraction and great fun. This building, however, is the end of the tour.

Behind that wall the first greeter and taste presetner waits. The tour includes four wines for tasting and a free glass.

After the first wine, here is one of the glasses on a bench.

Here you can see how shadows work with the building structure to create an additional dimension. Without the shadow-wall interplay, the building would be little more than a nice mission-style building with great views.

Additional shadows on an adjoining outside walkway.

This image shows an open area. I'm not sure what it's for as it's been roped off, like a footballer's private club party, both times I've visited the winery.

A hallway and a junction. Up to now, all the images had been taken with wide-angle or standard lenses. This was a telephoto (the Tamron) shot. Telephotos tend to make images look flat due to their increased depth of field and the ratio of magnification versus object distances. Were it not for the tree in the middle of the shot, the building would look flatter than a wall. As for why it's in black and white? I forgot to take my camera off tungsten after we went inside so the original was blue.

More shadows working on the walls.

N.B. the vignetting and chandelier's shadows on the wall. This was the fifth iteration of this image and the intended look I had when I took this shot. To arrive at this image from an original that somewhat washed out the wall and had only faint shadows required multiple layers, blending, mashing, and opacity as well and opacity type changes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Flip it. Flip it Good.

I picked up a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash off eBay for $10 specifically to try this experiment. The camera arrived so filthy that I couldn't see through the viewfinder. The lens -- forget it. Almost no light was coming through that or the protective glass.

So I field-stripped the camera, which took some doing as one of the screws was rusted, stripped, and needed some serious coaxing. With the whole camera, except the shutter mechanism disassembled, I used a LOT of cotton swabs and lens cleaning tissue to clear many, many decades worth of grime off this thing.

The Hawkeye typically focuses from about 3 feet to infinity and has a simple shutter with a single speed that's around 1/50th (total guess on my part, but seems to be in the ballpark.) With the lens flipped, this one focuses from about two feet to nine feet and the edges go all gooey. It's great.

The Hawkeye's lens is a simple meniscus lens is pretty easy to flip. If you've done it a few times, it's about a three-minute job. So, nothing major. Here are some of the photos I took my first time out with this.

The beauty of old cameras is that people don't recognize them as cameras, often, and so they have no idea their picture is being taken.


Those margins are like butter. BUTTER, I say.

THe blurring effect makes this quite the unique portrait camera, even if the subject is standing a bit too close..

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ultimately, This Will Happen.

One of my girlfriend's college buddies got married a few weeks back, and after the service I snuck off to the Placerville Union Cemetery to photograph some headstones. I've never done this before, so I did my best to ensure the results did the memorialized justice.

Somehow, hopefully age and not vandalism, this Virgin Mary statue lost its head. Someone had a great idea to place a flower there, instead. I dig it.

SO MUCH DYNAMIC RANGE! Actually, neither this nor the next shot (the color version of this monochrome conversion) resulted from HDR photography. The shot below was the first I made and through layers, exposure adjustment, and selective layer erasing, I arrived at this result (and subsequently the monochrome conversion above.)

This is a very masonic obelisk.

This is the other side of the very masonic obelisk.

This cemetery has some extremely old headstones, but this isn't one of them. Only 1949. Some of the headstones were in this cemetery before this marker's person was born.

Unfortunately, though, some of the headstones have broken. Like this one which, judging by the moss growth on the fracture, broke some time ago.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stag Night at the Bluet Damselfly Singles Bar

During a hike in the Castle Rock Open Space in Walnut Creek, California, I strolled down to a favorite place for my dogs to cool off, drink some water, and lie in the shade. As a sidebar, I don't recommend this any more because my Rhodesian Ridgeback got a very bad case of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis brought on by some bug in the water. Anyway, while one of my dogs was getting herself sick, I took some photos of some bluet damselflies -- all male -- handing around the water and reeds.

Complicating the shots, because this was in shade, I had to use 400 ISO, high by my standards. The lens is my Tamron-made Quantary 70-300. The lens is prone to purple fringing, exaggerated at high ISOs.

Purple fringing, however, isn't an issue in monochrome photography. So I converted one of the images to black and white in Photoshop. Here's the original:

You can see some purple fringing around some of the highlights, especially highlights that touch dark spots.

But I called this post "Stag Night at the Bluet Damselfly Singles Bar." Why? Because there were about eight or ten male bluets hanging around. Here I was able to catch a few of them in one shot.

Nature is pretty great. As much fun as buildings, bridges, and statues are to photography, not much tops randomly encountered nature. For me, Castle Rock is about the best place to hike in Walnut Creek. My dogs can go around off-leash, the hills have a nice array of flora and fauna, and with a keen eye there are nearly unlimited photographic opportunities. Plant leaves, for instance:

An adjacent hill in Brooktree. A red tail hawk or golden eagle circling above an old tree makes for a decent image.

Downed trees and myriad other natural objects provide great latitude for black and white photography.

And, if you're luckier than me, you can catch a spider or other, larger predators.

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