Friday, January 31, 2014

Dreaming in Monochrom(e) - High ISO Analog!

I've been playing around, using my Leica M4-2 film camera as a test to see if I really want a Leica Monochrom digital rangefinder. (Click Here) to read more about it.
I said at the outset that I understand that shooting black and white film in a Leica M4-2 has its limits in terms of emulating the amazing new Leica Monochrom digital black and white rangefinder. For example, the Monochrom is noted for its great performance at high iso settings.
Well, I decided to "push" (quite literally) the high iso limits of the M4-2 by push processing Kodak TMax 400 film to iso 1600. It was quite simple. I just shot at exposure settings for iso 1600 instead of 400, then instructed my favorite processor (The Darkroom, to push the film two stops. This cost an extra $2 in processing costs. Pretty reasonable.
Here are some results from a concert I attended. I'll start with one of my favorite local performers, Melissa Wright and her band Mink:
Mink, by Reed A. George
Leica M4-2, Kodak TMax 400 pushed to 1600
And a few more, these of the band Dry Mill Road:
Dry Mill Road, by Reed A. George

Leica M4-2, Kodak TMax 400 pushed to 1600

All of these shots were made with my Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 and Leica Elmarit 90mm f2.8 lenses.
As you can see, the contrast is pretty high in these shots. They don't have the amazing dynamic range of the modern digital monochrome. But, the film grain is quite nicely controlled in my opinion. In fact, I think these look better than equivalent shots with my digital rangefinder Leica M9 would at iso 1600. I may have to do that comparison to further convince myself. Already this little project is teaching me something about how much I can do with film and the M4-2. I haven't pushed a roll of film in years, and I feel that it frees me up to take the M4-2 along for shooting musical events that I would have only really considered the Nikon D700 for in the past. I'm pleased with that.
I also want to continue to extend this, seeing how TMax 400 holds up at 3200 and maybe even 6400. I'm sure it will start to degrade significantly at 6400. But, I think I may be able to pull of 3200 with no real problem.
From what I understand, Kodak TMax 3200 is no longer being produced, but Ilford Delta 3200 is. I used the Ilford film in the past, but found the grain to be very high at 3200. I liked that film much better at 1600. Considering that the Ilford 3200 is more than twice the price of TMax 400, I'm not sure I have much motivation to give it another try, especially when I can get this type of performance from the TMax.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Function Button Focusing - A Minor Tweak That I Should Probably Revisit

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Funny how I sometimes forget the little features that my cameras have. I believe that all of my digital cameras that have autofocus (AF) give me the option of assigning a function button (other than the shutter release half-press) to activate AF. Most of us do leave it with the "default" shutter button half-press. In a post on Nikon Rumors, they explain how assigning AF to a separate function button can really help with capturing the moment.
(Click Here) to read the post on Nikon Rumors.
Probably the most important attribute of doing this, at least on Nikon cameras, is that you can easily switch from single AF to continuous, simply by holding the button down. This means that you don't have to move any other switches or go into any menus. And, to switch back, you simply lift your finger off of the AF button.
I have tried this before on my Nikon D700, but not long enough for it to become second nature. I didn't really like having to hit another button on the back of the camera before taking every shot. But, now that I see it here, I can appreciate that if I got used to it, it could really help, especially for nature photography.
If it helped me to capture one shot like the one above, it would be worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Polaroid in the Forest - Black and White

I've written about my Polaroid 103 instant camera before. (Click Here) to read about it.
I recently took the Polaroid and a new pack of FP3000B film out into the forest on a hike. I planned on using it just to quickly check out some compositions, which I would later shoot with the Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 camera I carried with me. I never ended up using the Speed Graphic, but did get a few images with the Polaroid before I ruined a $15 pack of film (more on that in a minute).
Here are three images I captured that I think are worth sharing:
This film is pretty interesting. At iso 3000, you get extremely deep depth of field when shooting outdoors. the prints are a little larger than 3" x 4" in size, and look quite sharp at that size. I scanned the prints, and at any size larger, they don't look so sharp. I'm not sure if that's because the originals aren't so sharp, or if my scanner's focus isn't exactly right for this type of scanning (reflective, as opposed to scanning negatives in transmission mode).
(Click Here) to read about how this film is being discontinued by Fujifilm. I sure hate to see it go.
Back to ruining a pack of this stuff, I have had this happen twice now. After you expose the film, you pull a small tab of paper from the side of the camera, which feeds a larger, stronger paper tab between the rollers in the camera. The rollers distribute the developer chemicals over the image as you pull it out. Well, that first small piece of paper tore, leaving no tab to pull. I simply stopped, put the camera away and decided to work on it in the dark at home. Unfortunately, that failed and I ended up exposing the rest of the pack. I'm not exactly sure how to avoid this in the future, but with the film going away (and up in price), I sure don't want it to happen again.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

From the Broad Creativity File - X-Ray Pictures of Nature

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Dutch Physicist Arie Van't Riet makes these beautiful colored x-ray images of nature by shooting the x-ray (monochrome) and adding color in Photoshop.
I found this post (with several other x-ray images) at Lost at E Minor:
(Click Here) to see the original post.
And don't worry, most of the animals were reportedly already dead when he x-rayed them.
This kind of reminds me of some incredible images I've seen made with flatbed scanners, but seeing inside the animals adds another dimension.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Documenting CycloCross with Film - straightmp on Rangefinder Forum

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I read a post from forum member straightmp on Rangefinder Forum, about winter bicycle races called CycloCross (CX), where cyclist race across the winter landscape through mud and cold. Sounds pretty fun to watch.

What really caught my attention though was that straightmp used black and white film (Kodak TriX) to capture the event, using a Nikon F100 and "cheap" 28-80 Nikon zoom. I think the results are very expressive.

(Click Here) to see the post and several more excellent photos on Rangefinder Forum.

The Nikon F100 is an amazing deal these days. When it came out, it was the penultimate Nikon SLR, second only to the contemporary F5. I remember buying one used for $700. It was like the Corvette of film cameras to me, a real high tech machine. Now you can buy one for a song. I just looked and KEH ( has one in EX condition for $189. Amazing.

I ended up selling mine off, because I prefer more manual cameras, especially when I'm shooting film. But, it was a camera that always impressed. I

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Leica M4-2 (My Monochrom(e)) at the Lincoln Memorial

On the same rainy day that I shot the images of the Vietnam and Korean War memorials, I took a couple of images at the Lincoln Memorial. I like the rainy, somewhat dreary mood that I captured on that day. Both of these were shot with my Leica M4-2, Kodak TMax 400 film, and Leica Summicron 35mm f2 (version 3) lens.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

More "Dreaming in Monochrom(e)" - Warrenton, Virginia

Today's post includes more images taken with my Leica M4-2 film camera, in my exploration of how much I would use and enjoy a camera dedicated to black and white imaging like the extraordinary Leica Monochrom. I shot these images around Warrenton, Virginia, on a recent weekend walk.
For the shot above, I used a yellow filter, which helped to bring out some contrast in the sky and clouds.
I spent some time in the Warrenton Cemetery, which has a substantial number of Civil War graves, including that of the famous rebel vigilante, John Mosby.
So far, I'm enjoying this little project. I have not felt too constrained with black and white film only in this camera. So far, I've only shot Kodak TMax 400, which is incredibly versatile. I may expand to other films in the near future, but I've been able to do a lot with just this one film.

Friday, January 24, 2014

My First Results of "Dreaming in Monochrom(e)" - War Memorials in the Rain

I've decided to try and emulate a Leica Monochrom in analog form, using my Leica M4-2 and TMax films.
(Click Here) to see what I am planning. I understand the differences and limitations in this comparison.
Here is my first installment of images for the project. I don't normally go in for photographing the monuments in DC, but on this particular morning, I thought being out in the driving rain and seeing the few visitors hearty enough to be out in it was worthwhile. It turned out to be a good set of conditions for photographing the Korean and Vietnam War memorials, and led me to think carefully about war.
One theme that kept coming up in my mind is the notion that "Freedom isn't free." I must admit that I don't fully understand that notion. It's like saying "Happiness doesn't make you happy" to me. Let me be crystal clear: I come from a family with significant veteran experience and respect that service very highly. On the other hand, I basically despise war and all that it entails. How's that for conflicted? Anyway, here are my impressions from that rainy morning walk amongst the names on the wall, and the terribly expressive faces on the statues of Korean War soldiers.
Vietnam Memorial
Korean War Memorial
All images were made with the Leica M4-2, 35mm Summicron f2 v.3, and TMax 400 film. Processed in typical excellent fashion by The Darkroom (

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New DIY Camera by Kevin Kadooka - Open Source Plans Available

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Kevin Kadooka has published all of the plans, parts lists, and instructions to make your own 120 film camera with electronic shutter. He's also posted sample images, which look pretty darned good.

(Click Here) to read more about the project on DIYPhotography.
Kevin's goal in this project is to provide everything necessary for a hacker to make their own camera from all-new parts (no need to steal from old junker cameras). The main structure is to be made on a 3D printer, and the circuit is controlled by the hobbyist microprocessors sold by Arduino (both normal tools for gadget hackers).
The assembly instructions look pretty thin to me. For example, I don't see how to either assemble or purchase the electronic shutter; maybe I simply need to look closer. Kevin also indicates that he already has some improvements to make, like allowing access to the battery without disassembling the camera.
I think it's really cool that Kevin has put in the work to not only make the prototype, but effectively share how to make one for yourself.
I'm tempted to give this a try.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Few Shots From the Rolleicord/Rolleikin Portrait Machine

About a week ago, I posted about how I installed a Rolleikin kit (converting it from 2 1/4 X 2 1/4 square medium format images to 35mm portrait orientation) in my Rolleicord TLR camera.
(Click Here) to read about my Rolleicord and Rolleikin.
Dying to test it out, I loaded up a roll of drugstore 200 speed color print film and made my daughter sit through a few portraits by our kitchen window. It turns out that I should have shot 400, as the light was rather low that day, and so every image was taken at the same exposure settings - f4 and 1/30 second. That's a pretty low shutter speed for handheld images, and several of my shots showed motion blur. However, I think you'll see that this is a promising start for the newly-converted camera.
It is also pretty challenging to focus in low light, looking down into the Rolleicord hood. But, I think most of my focus problems were related to motion, not simply missing the focus point.
As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the really fun things about the Rollei (and other) TLRs is adding a closeup lens (filter-style, to the front of the fixed taking lens) for closer portraits. Here are a few I got after adding the Rolleinar 1 (closeup lens) to my Rolleicord/Rolleikin.
Portraits - Rolleicord/Rolleikin/Rolleinar, by Reed A. George
So, clearly I have more work to do to perfect my own shooting with this camera. But, I'm pretty pleased with the results from ten minutes shooting at marginal exposure settings. I am convinced the camera's up to the challenge.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday, Leica Camera!

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Tyson Robichaud on the Panasonic DMC-GM1 as a Pocket Camera

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Tyson Robichaud runs a very nice blog. I've referred to his posts in the past. Tyson has purchased the miniscule Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1, the smallest Micro 4/3 camera available. He's planning to use it as his carry everywhere camera.
The camera is so small that it looks almost cartoonish with some of the larger Micro 4/3 lenses attached.
(Click Here) to read Tyson's post on his blog, and see the GM1 mounted on some bigger lenses like the awesome 100-300mm. That's right, the camera's mounted on the lens, not the other way around, as the lens makes up the vast majority of the package when it's mounted.
The small size has to and does come at some cost as compared to other Micro 4/3 cameras. It has a single programmable function button, but at least it has one. It has not flash shoe, which not only means no external flash, but also no external electronic viewfinder (EVF). It also does not has image stabilization built into the body, which is a major positive feature of the GM1's contemporary GX7. It does have wifi, which is a plus.
My main question here is whether the GM1 makes a better pocketable camera than my DMC-LX7. Of course, the GM1 has a much larger sensor, so will do better at high iso levels. But, the LX7 has a very fast, wide range zoom lens (maximum aperture f1.4), which equates to a much larger lens on a Micro 4/3 body. So, we're not comparing apples to apples here. Another plus of the LX7 is the accessory shoe and attachable EVF.
In any case, the GM1 represents an interesting new twist in the Micro 4/3 lineup. It would be a killer backup body for someone wanting to pack very light. And, I'm sure that with one of the pancake lenses (14mm f2.5 or 20mm f1.7), it's a wonderful little package.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Basics of Photography in a World of Technology

I have recently started testing approaches for a new project. This one will really take me back to the very basics of photography. My test shots so far have been with a 4x5 pinhole camera, and with my Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5. This is slow photography. Real slow. Maybe 1-2 hours per exposure in some cases.
I've posted some of Evan Leavitt's photography before. Evan made the image below with an 8x10 portrait camera, on a paper negative. Again, very slow photography. Evan produces some beautiful work, and this one feels along the lines of what I'm pursuing.
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(Click Here) to go to Evan's website; there's lots to see.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Final Whole Lotta Leica Results From 2013 - December's Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM

I have to admit that while the WLL series was a lot of fun in 2013, I kind of lost steam toward the end of the year. Maybe that's because I achieved what I'd hoped to with the series already, and in the last few months it was more a matter of completing a personal challenge I'd assigned myself, and finishing up the full year.
In December, I matched the tiny little (almost comically little) Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM lens and LTM-M adapter with my Leica M9.
(Click Here) to see and read about the lens, manufactured in 1937.
I really only got out with it a little over one weekend in NYC. Here are some results, first from a very early morning walk to Grand Central Station. Keep in mind I was shooting with a maximum aperture of f3.5 in very low light, handheld.
Grand Central at the Holidays, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 800, f4, 1/15 sec.
Overnighting at Grand Central, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 800, f4, 1/15 sec.

Waiting on the First Morning Train, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 800, f4, 1/45 sec.

Zaro's Bakery, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 800, f4, 1/45 sec.

Preparing the Deliveries, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 800, f4, 1/45 sec.
Harlem Departures, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 800, f5.7, 1/25 sec.

Pershing Square at Daylight, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 800, f4, 1/25 sec.

135, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 800, f4, 1/25 sec.

The remaining images were made on our various escapades around the city.
'Tis the Season, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 640, f4, 1/500 sec.
Trying on Hats, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 400, f4, 1/90 sec.
Come Here Little Pigeon!, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 640, f4, 1/500 sec.
Elvis With His Backpack, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 640, f4.8, 1/350 sec.
Inside the NYC Public Library, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 640, f4.8, 1/30 sec.
And here's my favorite of this set:
The Reading Room, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 LTM Lens
iso 640, f4, 1/45 sec.
One of my observations about using this lens, and all of my Elmars, is that because the f-stop is adjusted by a tiny little tab at the front of the lens, and the f-stop numbers are printed very small there, and in this case are not even the modern standard f-stop numbers (e.g. no f5.6, you have to kind of guess between 4.5 and 6.3), I usually don't adjust my f-stop while shooting. For me, it means putting on my glasses, guessing where to set it, and that all takes too long. So, as you can see, I took a lot of images at f4. That's not really a problem, just an observation.
Another observation is that this lens is so small, it feels quite strange on an M style body. I would much prefer to use it on a little Barnack body, as was intended when it was designed.
I mentioned above that by this point in the year-long monthly WLL series, I had kind of already met my own goals with the project. What did I mean by that? Well, I'd drawn a few conclusions about using a wide range of "normal" focal length lenses, from a wide range of dates (1937-modern) on the M9 body:
  1. Each and every lens has a strength, somewhere.
  2. No lens has it all.
  3. I tend to use fast lenses on my M9, but need to keep in mind that some of the slower lenses, like this month's f3.5 Elmar, can make their own unique, nice images.
  4. Uncoated lenses can make very special images
  5. I have a subjective feeling that the older lenses are more pleasing to me when shooting film, and perhaps even more when shooting black and white film.
So, I didn't really end up with a list of favorites (though there were a few highlights), and I'm certainly not getting rid of any of the lenses I used in the WLL series this year. But, I am more likely to put an old Elmar on a matching Barnack body and shoot film with it than to pair it up with the digital M9.
In terms of highlights, the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 definitely meets that definition. A modern lens with a classic Sonnar design, this fast lens is really amazing. Also, both of my 1970s era Summicrons (35mm and 50mm f2) did a wonderful job for me. The Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM lens is also a standout from the crowd.
I hope you've enjoyed seeing what each of these lovely lenses can do on the Leica M9. I had a blast exploring them.