Friday, June 24, 2011

Simplify, simplify, simplify . . .

Chicago Board of Trade Building (aka "Wayne Tower")
Agfa B-2 Cadet Box Camera, Kodak 120mm Tri-X 400
Developing and lo-res scan by
I picked up an old box camera awhile back on eBay.  It cost me less than $20.00, including shipping, and was in great shape, especially for something that is probably better than 70 years old and is basically just a cardboard box wrapped in thin leather.  I had seen some really interesting shots in the Box Camera Revolution Flickr group, and wanted another "toy" camera to go along with my Holga.

This is a shot from the first roll I put through the camera.  I haven't shot anything else with it yet, because I wanted to see what came back.  The image above is just a lo-res scan emailed to me from the service that I send out for developing (the negatives will be coming shortly by mail).  This is just the straight lo-res scan file. I didn't even correct the horizon tilt, which is probably going to be an ongoing problem with this camera since you frame the shot by looking down through a little offset mirror.

The light leaks are from the film roll not rolling up tight on the uptake spool (known as a "fat roll"), which allows light to get in from the side when taking it out of the camera.  I will have to see if I can increase the tension on the spools a little more to try and cure this.  It looks like almost all of the shots came out a bit underexposed as well.  Other than choosing a higher speed of film, there is not way to adjust exposure values on the camera.  It was designed to take pictures outside in bright sunlight on the slower films available at the time.  I used 400 speed film, but it was a grey, overcast day, and I took these near sundown as you can see from the streetlights being on.

I am looking forward to getting a look at the actual negatives from this roll.  Now that I know that the camera is functioning properly, I can take it out with some more film and do some more experimenting.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Holga Crane

Holga 120N, Kodak Portra 400VC

I think I am getting the new scanner that I got for Christmas figured out.  This is a new scan of a Holga 120mm film shot that I took at my in-laws' awesome backyard last November.  Scanned with an Epson v600 and using my new custom film holder from

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chicago Photography Assignments

I am starting to get back into the regular shooting swing, and I have a couple of "new" cameras to try out, including a neat Holga wide-angle pinhole that I received as a Christmas present and just haven't had the time to really learn how to use yet.

In addition, I find myself getting bored with the same old, same old places and things to shoot.  In an attempt to break out of my location rut, I sat down and brainstormed a handful of photography "assignments" for myself.  I'm hoping to check these off as the summer goes by, and hoping that by posting them here, I will be more inclined to actually follow through.  In no particular order:

Location/Subject Assignments:
  • Meadow Lake Wind Farm (Northern Indiana) - this is a huge (crosses three counties) wind farm in the northern part of Indiana.  K and I first saw this when we drove to Cincinnati earlier this year for K's spring marathon.  I took a few crappy pictures from the freeway rest stop, but they were nothing worth posting.  Would love to take a half-day to roam around some of the back-road highways to get some more interesting images.
  •  Chicago Botanic Garden (North Chicago) - this is often the turnaround point on my "go to" weekend bicycle ride, but I have never actually gone through the gardens as the bike route basically cuts through the back service access road.  Kind of cliche - oooh, pretty flowers (yawn) - but the landscaping of the gardens is actually very cool and this might be a good place to really put my "new" monster medium format camera (a used Mamiya RB67 Pro) though its paces.
  • Still Life/"Studio" - I want to try out some basic studio lighting techniques, and since the dog is wiggly, the cats uncooperative and K only allows herself to be photographed under duress, I figure I will adopt the time-honored tradition of all budding photographic geniuses: hang a sheet, stick some flowers in pot and snap away.  This also provides an excuse to visit a weekend farmer's market for "subjects."  Hmmm, still life with cupcakes . . . 
  • Architecture Tour - when K and I first visited Chicago, we took the Official Chicago Architecture Boat Tour.  It was October, and really cold, but some of the pictures that I took on the tour I still think of as some of my best Chicago architecture shots, and one hangs in my office and continues to get a ton of compliments.  The perspective you get on the buildings is awesome, and you just can't recreate it from the shore.
  • Night Shoot - I have been scoping out a few locations to try and do another night photography session.  I went out recently and took some hand-held night shots at a local carnival, but before that it has been over a year since I specifically shot at night.  That time was on the Lakefront for some fairly typical city skyline shots.  Now I have a few more interesting subjects in mind (hopefully) and just need to find the time.  This is another thing that I used to love to do, but have not done nearly as much of since I switched over to primarily digital.  I think that part of it is that I have just not been very happy with the results I'm getting from digital.  I want to go back and try again with some film (and my new medium format toys).
  • Street/PJ - one of my favorite things to do when I first started getting serious taking pictures was just wander around downtown Seattle and shoot the people and events of everyday urban street life.  Some of my favorite photographers specialized in street photography, and I still find myself walking around going - that would be a cool shot.  The problem is I'm only thinking about shooting and not actually shooting.  Why?  Well, usually when I'm downtown and out of the office, I'm on my way to court and in a suit.  Somehow, while no one looks twice at a 20-something guy in jeans and a t-shirt snapping away with a camera on the street, the same is really not true for a 40ish guy in a suit.  Prescription, bring a change of clothes for after work photography or just set some time aside on a weekend to head downtown or to one of the local festivals.
Process Assignments:
  • Shoot More Film! (especially medium format and 35mm slide for cross-processing) - I've still got a bunch of old, expired film stock, as well as some tasty new 35mm and 120mm rolls that are just languishing away in the bottom of the freezer.  Also, I think I found a good source for relatively cheap 120mm processing.  Time to start whittling down the supply.
  • Home Develop My Black & White - cheaper and faster than farming it out.  Besides, me and the dog need something to do while K goes running on Saturday mornings.
  • Open An Etsy Shop To Sell Prints - I have no allusions to ever making a living off of photography, but perhaps if I could just subsidize the habit a little bit my credit card bills would  be a lot less horrifying.
So that's the wish list.  Let's see how many I can get checked off before Labor Day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Science of Chocolate - The Hipster(matic) Edition

This was a really fun event that K and I went to put on by the Illinois Science Council. One of the development scientists from the Blommer Chocolate factory here in Chicago (I bike by this on my commute almost every day) gave a presentation on The Science of Chocolate.

It was great, even though it felt a little like high school chem lab all over again. We got to do a few "experiments" and even a chance to make our own chocolate (moral, best leave the chocolate making to the professionals). And, of course we got to eat a lot of chocolate.  This really made me want to take the factory tour.  Lots of nerdy enjoyment (and a location that also provided for beer), what's not to like?






Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Science of Chocolate - IL Science Council Event

It's science! Tasty, tasty science.

Some Hipstamatic shots from the event to come soon.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Polaroid Digital Conversions And Thoughts On Digital Editing

One of the things that I love about film is that by picking the right type of film, camera and processing you can get results "right out of the camera" that would take a lot of work to recreate in Photoshop. However, this feature of film gets a little fetishized on a lot of the analog photo blogs that I follow. For some, "straight scans" are the holy grail, including some where only unadjusted scans of wet-printed photographs are legit, and everything else is somehow "cheating."

My view is a lot more flexible. Even my "straight" scans usually include adjustments for color, contrast and some sharpening to adjust for the the loss of sharpness you get when you scan any image. I also like playing with my images, sometimes engaging in some heavy (perhaps even heavy-handed) digital processing. Really nothing I do isn't something that someone highly proficient in a wet darkroom couldn't reproduce, but since I have no desire to become a wet-darkroom guru (and certainly no time), I'll stick with my digital toys.

Below are a couple examples of some heavy-editing experiments that I did awhile back, using scans of some paper Polaroid 100 packfilm shots, which I had scanned with my regular flatbed scanner. K hates them, but I like the effect. I wouldn't want to use the effect on every photo I took, but I think it works for these.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Zipper

The Zipper: Memorial Day Neighborhood Carnival (Canon 40d, 17-40mm f4.0, handheld)
This was my favorite Carnival ride when I was a kid.  It's just such a gloriously evil, nausea-inducing blast.