Monday, March 28, 2011

spring break flea deals

The moral of this post is this, simply put, in a nutshell: Some deals are just too good to pass up. Despite routinely hearing myself say [i.e., when entering a flea market, rummage sale, antique store], "I don't need another camera--Lord knows, the last thing I need is another camera," I often manage to leave with one more. Or two. Or three.

But like I said to start, some deals are just too good to pass up. Other times it just strikes me as really wrong to leave certain cameras in certain places where they won't be appreciated or even taken out for a test-drive. Case in point: We stopped into a really flea-bitten shop while in Delaware last week and I noticed immediately that the owner's prices on cameras were really (and I mean really) reasonable. Most of the cameras on display were still in decent condition but they were ones I already had. And since they weren't cameras that I loved so much that I felt the need to have spares or back-ups for (unlike, for instance, the Ultronic Panoramic, Diana 151 or anything made by the Herbert George Co), I decided to follow Chris around the crowded shop. As usual, there came the point in the visit when Chris asked about oddball film, other cameras and/or darkroom supplies. The shop owner said he had some darkroom stuff (if I recall, he described an old wooden enlarger. . .yum) but he said that it sold really quickly. He then added that he still had a Speed Graphic stored back in the closet. Bingo. And be still my heart. I had just gotten a Crown Graphic and I really wanted a Speed Graphic too, primarily because, well, as I reasoned, you just can't have too many of those.

A short while later, the owner brings out the case shown above. The case though in really, really shabby condition, was packed with stuff--mainly lightbulbs and misc projector bulbs. Both top compartments of the case were filled with Sylvania blue dot bulbs (I have to admit, I had hoped there would be film stuffed in these compartments), maybe 20 or so. The case also contained a Crown (not Speed) Graphic that was more or less in excellent condition save for a sticky-ish shutter and lens that was in need of cleaning. The bellows looked to be in mint condition. It came with the flash attachment as well the Kalart Rangefinder and Focuspot. I noted the original price on the case, but had a strong sense that this was not the best price. Sure enough. The seller was willing to let it all go for 80 bucks. Sold.

Another of my favorite spring break finds was this old 1897 No. 2 Bulls-eye Kodak box camera. The outside is in pretty rough shape but the shutter, bulb setting and aperture pull-up lever are all in working order. The camera takes 101 film, but I think I can achieve some kind of work-around using custom-cut photo paper or 120 film. The camera is missing the film wind/advance lever on top, so we'll have to find a work-around for that too. Needless to say, I'm really eager to take this one for a test-spin.

As I mentioned to start, there are certain cameras I just can't pass up--like anything made by Herbert George. We found (in the same shop we found the 1897 camera) an Imperial Six-Twenty (see image left). The price on this was reasonable (6 bucks), so this one came home with us as well.

Old expired b/w film (especially Kodak Verichrome Pan) is also almost always a "must-buy" for us, provided the prices aren't outrageous. Using old film can be a really crap shoot since you often have no way of knowing how it has been stored, where it's been, etc. We found the three rolls pictured above (with expiration dates of 1949, 1956 and 1957) in a shop in Cambridge, MD. I think we paid 8 bucks for the lot. It would have been great to pay 3, but what can you do? At least they weren't asking 10 bucks a roll, as is often the case when shopping/searching online.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bratzseline: Too much of a good thing?

I love Bratz cameras. I love them so much, I own three of them. The first one came bundled with a Bratz doll--as I understand it, the 35mm trashcam came with some Bratz dolls as a promo for the Bratz movie. Problem was, I had to buy and then find something to do with the Bratz doll. I didn't want that. Just the camera. I got lucky with the other two cameras as I found them in the toy aisle at a local thrift store and paid 80 cents each for them. Two of my Bratz are unmodified (and imho take fantastic photos--see image above). The other one I modified by flipping the lens. Depending on the subject matter, the flipped lens version can also make some pretty cool images. [As an aside: The wind-on process with the Bratz is kinda funky and if I don't use them for some time, it takes me awhile to remember how to do it correctly. In contrast to a traditional 35mm loading process (where the film is inserted in the left/supply chamber and is brought to the right/take-up side of the camera and wound on, this particular camera requires you to place the film cartridge in the right side of the camera and then, using the film rewind, you must wind all the film into the left side of the camera. --You do this with the camera closed, of course. What this means that that when you advance each shot, you are pulling the film back into the cartridge. With the last shot, well, there's no need to rewind the film as you'd need to with a traditional load.]

Anyhoot. Having established how much I love this camera, my thought is that I could only love the Bratz more if I could make it do something it's not necessarily designed to do--like taking Lensbaby-esque shots. Vaseline smeared on the fake plastic lens mounted in front of the camera's "real" plastic lens seemed to me the best way of achieving this effect. Problem was, I didn't think to research this and/or to experiment with different amounts, distributions or thicknesses of Vaseline. What I got was, well, kind of a mess.

Case in point: Here is one of the better shots. And by this I mean that I could figure out where it was taken and what it was an image of. For the sake of comparison I've placed the color "Bratzseline" version of The Grace & Hope Mission sign next to a b/w version of it. Hmmm. No bueno.

A sampling of other recognizable shots (i.e., I only took pictures of one red thing that day--a boat) appear below:

Dupont Superior 2: Take 2

I decided to load up the Asahi Pentax K1000 (one of my fav 35mm cameras) with some Dupont Superior 2 film and give it another go-round this weekend. And I have to say, once I lost the fisheye lens, changed cameras and made better metering decisions (i.e., metering at 64 as opposed to 100), I'm left with the impression that this film, despite having expired in 1966 and not (I suspect) being stored all these years under optimal conditions is more than capable of taking pretty neato images.

Chris and I headed to the Inner Harbor yesterday but on Saturday, I took a few test shots around the house. Pretty grainy and a tad underexposed, but still much better than my first attempt.

The results were better and a bit more consistent with the Inner Harbor shots. It was a beautiful sunny day. I still had problems with what appears to be uneven development (or light leaks?) That is to say, the Inner Harbor images tended to be lighter toward the right side of the frame and I also had some sprocket ghosting (see above), but was much, much happier with the results. In fact, there is something Diana-y about these shots. I'd love, in fact, to run some of this through the Diana 151 but am afraid that unless I shoot the roll on the bulb setting, they will all end up terrifically underexposed. A sampling of some of the other shots taken during this second test round appear below:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dupont Superior 2 test

Chris spotted this canister of film--Dupont Superior 2--online last week and since the price was right, I had to try it. It's been hard to find much online about this film. What intrigued us from the get-go was the military expiration date on the film--June, 1966. That and the fact that it was made by Dupont--not a name I've been accustomed to associating with film.

The canister arrived Wednesday. Since the film is packaged on a motion picture reel, I couldn't just put the whole thing in the bulk loader as I normally would. Rather, I cut off a portion of film--enough for 30 exposures or so--and loaded that into the film loader and spooled up one test cartridge.

The film has an asa of 125, but since it was long expired, I decided to meter the first test roll at 100. Turns out, I might have gone 64 or so instead. As luck would have it, the weather on Thursday and Friday was pretty drab and rainy, so I had to do most of the test roll indoors which meant I had to contend with pretty low-light conditions. Not a good choice for this film. The good news, however, is that the film can still take/make an image.

Besides having to contend with low-light conditions, I made the less-than-brilliant choice to couple the Holga fisheye lens with the regular wide-angle lens I had on the Canon AE-1 Program. I'm guessing this messed up the metering while making the job of focusing a real challenge. Most of the shots on the test roll were out of focus and unexposed and the negatives were very thick or dense--lacking in contrast.
The best shots on the test roll were those that I didn't use the extra fisheye lens with and/or those that I took outdoors. This office shot, for example, and the one below of my brand new (to me) bun steamer!

Since the weather is looking much better for this weekend, I've decided to run another test roll--this time using one of my Pentax Spotmatics, and taking shots outdoors. I've lost the fisheye lens and will meter the next roll at 64 and just hope for the best--or at least hope for better results than I had the first go-round. Speaking of which, I did a Diafine dev with the first test roll, but might try something else--HC-110 or a Rodinal stand.

A sampling of some of the other test shots appears below:

something I just can't resist. . .

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The End not yet

My love-hate relationship with the digital (i.e., using a digital camera to take photos) has intensified. Case in point: A couple of months ago, I noticed that my favorite infrared film [Efke IR820] suddenly increased $2.00 a roll. [For this, and for everything analog photo-related that increases in price, becomes harder to find and buy, gets discontinued, etc. I, of course, hold digital cameras responsible.]

What stunned me most was that the film didn't even inch up month-by-month but BAM! One day it was $9.99 and the next time I looked it was $11.99. . . .Although truth be told, even if I had seen this coming, I'm guessing I wouldn't have stocked up when it was $9.99. Even for a 36 exposure roll of 35mm, 10 bucks a roll is just too steep for me. That said, I did place a fairly large order for the Rollei IR, just in case that film shoots up in price as well.

And now this most recent development: Last week I was looking at B & H's website, trying to remember what my favorite C41 kit cost. I didn't need another 5 liter box right then and there, but I knew I'd need one soon and wanted to plan that into the budget. Yipes! Discontinued? Yep. Not "out of stock" or "back-ordered," just gone. In this case, I know Freestyle's got my back with their Arista, Unicolor and Rollei/Compard Digibase kits but I gotta wonder: for how long?

One of my favorite Quackenbos subjects is #283 The End not yet. This is how I feel about analog photography. How I've felt about it for some time. No, it's not the end. . .not yet. But likely soon. And by this I'm not suggesting that nothing will be around to be had, only that things will become more and more scarce and more and more costly. At what point, I wonder, will costs and/or the scarcity of product ensure that I won't be able to work with film--whether at all or as much as I'd like to, as I currently do?

At times like these it can be useful to play the "well, what if I only had digital as an option?" game. Some days I think, "screw it--I'll get another hobby." Other times I think that if that were my only option, I'd likely get a real DSLR (Pentax, for sure), hone my Photoshop skills and spend increasing amounts of time post-processing my images.

In digital's defense, I can say that when working with my Canon Powershot, I spend more time (i.e., then I do when shooting analog) messing with exposure and I'm probably a little more mindful of the composition as a whole, particularly the role light plays in the composition, since I have a kind of instant visual [i.e., on-screen] feedback that is lacking with my other cameras. And I can make 50 (or even 400) exposures of the same [more or less] scene given the size of the memory cards and how easy it is to delete the images I don't want.

But I have to say, comparatively speaking, and as much as I love my Canon Powershot S5, working with digital cameras bores me to no end. Most often, I'm only using the Canon as a light meter or to fill the function Polaroids used to: As a way of testing a shot. With the image above, for instance, this was one of several test shots I made while deciding what kind of image I wanted to make with the Crown Graphic 4x5. And then there's this: If digital were my only option, I would miss terrifically, the spooling of film on reels, the chemical processing and all that's involved with making prints in the darkroom. I don't want to say that working with digital cameras feels like cheating, or that it necessarily need be easier or quicker than working with film. Rather, for me, it just feels incomplete--like it forces the elimination of many of the materials, processes and strategies that I mostly closely associate with, and love about, photography are missing.

And I do stand behind my contention that anyone with a digital camera [and a little and a decent-enough sense of composition, light, contrast, etc.] can take a decent photo. In this way, working with film cameras and processing strikes me as the more compelling, challenging option.