Friday, November 29, 2013

New Found Respect

I photographed a wedding recently. I was torn over which camera(s) to bring with me. Of course the Nikon D7000 with a variety of lenses and flash were the base that most of the photos would be taken with. It is just foolish to not bring digital to a wedding these days. I will tell you though that the inevitable happened and I only kept about 30% of the images I took. It is the digital demon that causes people to just snap away without enough thought that inhabited me. I am not ashamed because I ended up with a few hundred shots that I am proud to give the happy couple whereas if I had been shooting only film, they would have had a fraction of that. I took two film cameras to the wedding. First was my '39 Voigtländer Bessa 6x9. The other was my Graflex Speed Graphic with the Graflex Optar 135mm f/4,7 lens and six sheets each of Portra 400 and Kodak CSG x-ray film. This is commonly called a "press camera" because back in the day, it was a camera used by many newspaper photographers. These guys would carry these cameras around with the flash unit attached and pockets full of film holders and flashbulbs. The flashbulbs are somewhat prone to igniting from a little static discharge, so caution must be taken when carrying them in the pocket of wool pants, especially in the winter. Many photographers suffered burns on their thighs from accidental ignitions. I didn't put any bulbs in my pockets, but I did attach the flash unit and brought along some clear GE #5 and blue #5B flashbulbs. The camera weighs in at about 6.6lb with the flash adding another 2.4lb. Add a film holder and you are getting close to 10 pounds. That is not bad to lift up and take one or two shots, but those old timers lugged that rig around for hours maybe, depending on the event they were covering. So respect to those guys who were beat reporters in the 30's, 40's and 50's. It may not have been high art, but it was hard work and low pay.

Here is one of the shots I took with the Speed Graphic using Portra 400 and a #5B blue flashbulb. The color balance came out perfect, which I didn't really expect. The scanner may have contributed, but it looks just like Portra should look. I might have missed the focus just a little, but since they are dancing, a little blur is non-fatal to the photo. I like the way the flashbulb and accompanying 7-inch reflector light the scene. It is definitely 'hotter' in the center and less so at the edges, causing a sort of natural vignetting.

I am happy that I could bring the old technology into service again. I am also happy that Kodak and others are still making film with the newest emulsions (yes, I miss some of the old ones). The photos we are able to create with this pairing are 'classic' in their own rights and have a look to them that is unmistakably film. Drop me some feedback if you like shooting film in old cameras.Wedding Dancing

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pushing Through XI

When this tree was planted, they installed a steel grating around it. The idea being that the steel, being stronger than wood, would contain the tree within its provided circle. The tree didn't get the memo and had different ideas for its future. It has grown up and over the steel grate and will continue this growth until it consumes the steel. I'm sure that at some point the city workers will come along and cut down this tree and replace it with one they hope will be better behaved.

Pushing Through XI

Monday, November 18, 2013

Orange and Blue

Orange and Blue 1

Orange and Blue 2

Orange and Blue 3The first thing I ever learned about color theory was that orange and blue are "complimentary" colors. That is if you make a circle with a rainbow going around it, orange and blue will be opposite each other. That is an extreme oversimplification, because it matters what color space or color model you are using. In this case, it is standard RGB. For a long time, I thought that meant that the colors 'clashed' and should not be used together in any pleasing artistic composition. This is obviously a foolishly amature conclusion to anyone who has ever enjoyed a sunset. The truth is that orange and blue create great contrast and can really enhance your subject's visibility and thereby improve your composition. Here are a few photos I took recently with my '67 Nikkormat FTn on a roll of Kodak Ektar 100. I love this camera. It is the camera I learned on 30 years ago and I still learn from it even to this day.

The subject is an old beat up maintenance vehicle I came across at my son's school. The sun was setting just right so that the orange vehicle was lit up but the background was in shadow, making it look blue on film. I think these came out kind of nice, especially when viewed together as a triptych.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Long Live Film

100 Strangers 2&3/100

A couple of weekends ago I was at the big weekly swap meet, what my UK counterparts might call a 'car boot sale'. I took my Graflex Speed Graphic just in case there was something to photograph while there. I figured with that many bargain hunters walking around, there would be some good opportunities for my 100 Strangers Project. Most of my time was spent looking for bargain basement prices on cameras in good condition. Well, I didn't really find any of those, but carrying around a Speed Graphic did make for some easy introductions to strangers.

This is Denny. He was selling some very cool barware. Mostly he had martini shaker/glass sets that were printed with various themes. I don't like martinis, so I didn't pay much attention to his wares, but from watching him work you would have thought he was selling used cars. I mean this guy could talk you out of your shirt and sell it right back to you. So when I walked by, he immediately commented on the camera. He wanted to know all about it and I was happy to talk with him. At the end of the conversation, I asked if I could take his photo. He agreed, but while I was metering and focusing, another mark entered his line of sight and he was off to close another sale.

Denny This guy also asked about my camera, but was really just interested in what I paid for it. I got a few questions like that from various people. I assume that this was a piece of information they wanted to tuck away in case they ever came across one to buy or sell. Anyway, this guy was sitting in this big old wicker chair talking about the good ol' days in the clubs when you would sit in a chair like this and have the ladies come sit on your lap. The funny part came when he would try to convince some young (or not so young) lady to come sit on his lap. The looks they gave him were priceless. And I think he was truly surprised and disappointed that they would not come and sit with him. I had to get a photo of this guy. The other guy was I think just a passer-by who wanted in the photo.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dia de los Muertos

I was carrying my speed graphic around the BIG swap meet here in San Diego, looking for interesting things and people. I came across this boot selling decor for Dia de los Muertos. I snapped a shot on the Kodak x-ray film I had loaded, but I forgot to focus. I think it turns this photo from and interesting image of some small statuary into something a little creepier.


Here is another pic I took a little farther along at a flower vendor. The guy selling the flowers came out of his booth at me and said, "Five dollars a picture!" I laughed and walked away. The people selling at this swap meet are ferocious hagglers and want to gouge every last cent out of you. I thought I would find some nice little film cameras for good prices, but pretty much everything was double its market value. I don't like bickering over money, so I took a pass on buying anything there, but it was fun to walk around and take some "free" photos. I got a couple more for my 100 strangers project which I will post soon.


Monday, November 11, 2013


James Waston (co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA) came to the company where I work to give a talk about this great scientific discovery. I never read The Double Helix, nor did I really know much about the discovery aside from the names Watson and Crick. He talked for a while about the science and the personalities involved, which was kind of interesting. Then he started sprinkling in personal remarks about some of the other scientists. Not nice or complimentary things, but derogatory things, insulting things, downright mean things. In fact the only scientist he didn't have some disdain for was himself, to whom he directed many very complimentary remarks. At one point or another, he must have insulted everyone in the room of about 150 people. Now I am enough of a realist to know that not everyone is 'personable', especially among the smart sectors of humanity, and he was mostly insulting dead people. But here is when things turned the corner for me. He just finished an attack directed against Republicans and finished by saying rhetorically , "Why should you bother with such hateful people?" Okay, fine. He doesn't like hateful people and is making a wild generalization about Republicans. Whatever. But then in the next 10 minutes he went on to name two or three groups of people he "hates". Yes, he used that word, "hate". So opinions about women, conservatives, vegans, biologists and 'dumb' people aside, he is just logically inconsistent. According to him, we should pay no attention to him because he is a hateful person. I expected more from James Watson.

After the partly shocking, partly disappointing talk he gave, people were lined up out the door and down the hallway to have him sign a book or a paper and get a picture with this bigoted elder statesman. Needless to say, I passed on the signature and the photo-op. I did snap a couple of photos of him just with this blog entry in mind.

I am sorry for James Watson. He obviously has (or had) a brilliant scientific mind. It is sad that it was not coupled with a more kind, compassionate and forgiving spirit.

James Watson

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Dad's Stuff

I was looking around the house for things to photograph. I had my still life platform all set, now I just needed something 'still' to put on it. I saw my dad's old Sovereign Harmony sitting in the corner, but that's too big. So I walked around a while and noticed his old "Beer" cup. That would do. But it was lonely just sitting there by itself, so I grabbed the guitar and leaned it up against the stage so at least the head could get in on the act. My dad told me once that he used to actually drink out of that cup until he figured out that it was painted with lead paint. Then he stopped and it became a pencil holder in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. The guitar was also a fixture and I can still hear him singing sad songs and strumming away. Dad's been gone almost 11 years now, so memories will have to do.

"Hear that lonesome whippoorwill,
He sounds too blue to fly.
The midnight train is whining low.
I'm so lonesome I could cry."

Dads stuff