Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! Hope everyone has a nice end of 2015 and wonderful 2016!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I've Got Half a Mind to....

I was at the weekend Georgetown flea market a week or so ago with my friend Charlie. We were visiting with an acquaintance there, who always brings a nice selection of old cameras, when I spotted one of interest - a Canon Demi EE17 half-frame camera. Here's what the camera looks like.
Image Source:
What's a half-frame camera, you ask? Well, it shoots normal 35mm film, but in 24x18mm frames, allowing you to get 72 exposures from a normally 36 exposure roll. This fact also makes the frame orientation to shift from the normal landscape arrangement to portrait, when the camera is held normally.
Needless to say, the Demi went home with me. I have not even tried to put a battery in it, happy to use an external light meter and set shutter speed and f-stop manually. The lens is a Canon 30mm f1.7 (fast!) model. Focus is accomplished through a manual distance scale on the outside of the camera, or selecting one of three distances (portrait, group of people, or mountain). At 30mm depth of field is pretty big, so that works.
Here are some shots from my first test roll through the camera, an expired roll of Agfa APX400 from my friend Dennis, exposed at 200 speed, and developed in straight D76 for 7.5 minutes. I scanned all of them in pairs, as they appear here. I'm definitely planning to shoot a lot of diptychs (picture pairs) with this little jewel.
Many people think that 35mm (full frame) is small, and pushes the limits of negative size to give decent image quality. I agree, to an extent, but as long as I'm not trying to make big prints, the half-frame works fine. The Canon optics seem to be quite sharp, and the little camera is a blast to shoot.
And, getting 72 exposures on one roll is pretty cool, too.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Best Way to Use the Final Stock of Fuji FP3000B? Party!

I have a beautiful old Polaroid 250 instant camera. This is a pack film camera, which uses FP3000B or FP100C pack film from Fuji. While the FP100C is still being produced (fingers crossed for the future!), FP3000B has been discontinued. That's really too bad. FP100C is 100 speed color instant film, while FP3000B is 3000 speed (!) black and white. Neither of these films can cover for the other.
Anyway, I'm not going to get down about the fact that no new FP3000B is being made. I have a few packs left, and plan to use them well.
Last night, I used two packs of FP3000B at my company's holiday party. Knowing that it would be pretty dark at the party, and understanding that Polaroid cameras have relatively slow lenses, it was clear that flash was going to be necessary. So, I put the Polaroid camera on a flash bracket, on which I mounted a modern Nikon SB600 flash. Using a cable that I cobbled together from an old Polaroid flash bulb mount and an accessory hot shoe, I got the whole contraption to work. Testing it out ahead of time, I found that full power manual flash from the SB600 works very well with FP3000B at about 5-10 feet distance. Perfect for the party.
Now, this is harsh, direct light. That's the look I decided to go for, since the theme of the party was "sock hop," reminiscent of the days when someone would have photographed it with instant film and a big, bright, direct flash bulb. I got exactly what I wanted. Here are the results.
I can't think of a better way to use up what's left of this awesome black and white instant film.
People loved posing for me, and especially seeing the results. My catch phrase was "by the time your eyesight recovers from the flash, the print will be ready."

Monday, November 30, 2015

Fun with Nikon Film SLR - the Venerable FM

My Nikon film SLR collection is nearly complete, I've had my eye out for one I didn't have - the original FM. I finally found one in essentially mint condition, used, on Amazon. I took the chance and was rewarded with this great little camera. One of the best things about the FM is that it can mount and use both AI and non-AI lenses, making it the perfect film companion to my digital Nikon Df.
Here are some shots from the test roll of Ilford HP5 that I put through the FM.
Saying that I'm pleased is an understatement.
By the way, I scanned these on a new dedicated film scanner, the Pacific Image XA. While all of the autoloading on this scanner is a bit oversold, the image quality is outstanding. I can actually see film grain in my scans, something that has been elusive on flatbed scanners, even the Epson V750. If you're serious about scanning 35mm films, I suggest you give the XA a try.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Digital Panorama with Nikon Df - Korean War Memorial, Washington, DC

I've been working on my technique for shooting digital panoramas. Today I shot this one, at the Korean War Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC. I shot it with my Nikon Df, Nikkor 35-70mm f2.8 AF lens at 44mm, f/11. I found the approximate nodal point (ideal point of rotation for panoramic images) by using my gimbal head, usually reserved for the big telephotos. That worked quite well.
I am searching for a viewer to allow my blog readers to see it up close and scroll around - the detail in this huge image is amazing.
Just for fun, I printed it on my Epson P600 printer with roll paper. In order to get the height to 12 inches, the length of the print is nearly 10 feet! It is really cool to see on paper. I can't do that everyday. The cost of this one print was probably ridiculous. I think it was about $20 in paper, many times that in ink cost.
If you click on the image, it should take you to flicker, where you can see it bigger.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Just for Fun

I think it's pretty cool that my writing table at Peet's Coffee is an old bowling alley lane.
Shot with my Apple iPad Air.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Some Shots with the Pre-AI Nikkor 55mm f1.2

I took my old 55mm f1.2 Nikkor out, mated to my Nikon F2SB body, loaded with HP5, to Washington, DC. Here's what resulted:
Tough to focus (manually), lots of misses, but hey, what's a f1.2 lens for if not shooting in the dark? Fun stuff.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Upgrade of my Nikkor 85mm f1.8 Lens

I have had a Nikkor 85mm f1.8 AF-D lens for several years. Here's a shot I made with it some time ago.
Made with Nikkor 85mm f1.8 AF-D Lens][
Not bad, right? The sharpness is not to be argued with. However, this is one of the few times that I've been unpleased with the "bokeh," or out of focus rendering characteristics of a lens. I don't like how the bright spots in the background are so regular and repeatable.
I recently decided to upgrade this lens, sending the AF-D off to KEH for a reasonable purchase price, and buying the newer Nikkor 85mm f1.8 AF-S G lens, refurbished by Nikon, for about $150 total cost (after selling the AF-D). I was not sure about this trade, especially since I am not a fan of G lenses overall. Their lack of an aperture ring makes them useless on my Nikon film cameras. But, the AF-S lens just hums on my Nikon Df (and the D810 for that matter).
Here's a sample shot from the new lens:
Made with Nikkor 85mm f1.8 AF-S G Lens
As you can see, the new lens has no trouble with sharpness, either. And, at least in this example, the bokeh is lovely. I have to gain more experience with this new lens, but it looks very good at this point.

Friday, October 23, 2015


On October 16, 2015, there was a march and protest against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and more specifically, against Monsanto, in Washington, DC.
Disclaimer: My coverage of this event does not indicate that I do/do not identify with the protester's position on this issue.
The event began at the United States White House, in Lafayette Park. The protesters took to the street, and marched from the park to the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The welcome at the EPA (by Department of Homeland Security) was calm, yet firm. This officer informed the protesters that they were welcome to protest on the front lawn, but if they attempted to enter the EPA building, they would be arrested. No one attempted entry.
Many of the protesters dressed up as honey bees, a species they have identified as being affected by Monsanto's products.
The honey bees staged a "die in" on the EPA lawn.
There was a range of speakers at the event, ranging from the very young (10 years old?) to adult. Their logic ranged as well, and a lot of numbers and statistics were stated without much context, in my opinion.
Next, the group marched on to the DC offices of Monsanto. This gentleman was attempting to get into the building, presumably on some sort of official business, when one of the protesters offered him some "Monsanto Bucks," a printed fake currency meant to represent the money that changes hands between government and company officials. He did not accept it.
The Monsanto building had prepared well, and had security guards and tape at the doors. They would not let this gentleman in. Apparently disgusted, he seemed to have had no choice but to walk away.
Interestingly, his security badge lanyard says "Criminal Division." I'm not sure what to make of that.
This was the only instance of tension that I witnessed during the protest. The police were present, but as you can see, quite relaxed and friendly with the protesters.
At this point, the energy of the group started to wane, and I moved on with my evening.
This was an interesting shoot for me. I covered it entirely with my Leica M9, 35mm f2 Summicron v.3, and 90mm f4 Elmar C lenses. Great fun.