Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

This photograph is perhaps an appropriate offering on this night. One evening last week on the way home I felt compelled to stop and take a picture of this vintage funeral wagon on prominent display. More than a bit odd, it sits just outside a local funeral parlor in a glassed in architectural canopy clearly built just for that purpose.  I assume that this wagon was used for transporting the casket of the departed from funeral parlor to cemetery until it was replaced by a Cadillac hearse. The most recent version of that hearse sits not far from this exhibit.

This is more evidence (if you need any more) that as much as I enjoy “playing” with all the vintage cameras sometimes it just comes down to the image. This is such a case. Although there is no doubt in my mind that the Holga would have given this photo a little something extra, the Nikon P-300 did an admirable job of allowing me to share this unusual image with you.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fast Food & Slow Photography

Being from South Louisiana where good cooking and eating well is a way of life and occasionally an Olympic sport it's hard for me to admit that I love fast food (not exclusively of course). There is something really great about being able to go into a restaurant (or drive thru) anywhere in the country and be eating consistently acceptable and sometimes good food in just a couple minutes. These meals are not especially memorable but they do fulfill the immediate need for nourishment and generally please the palate quickly and cheaply.

Gourmet dining is a completely different experience. It takes time. You enter the restaurant, are seated and spend some time enjoying a beverage and reviewing the menu. The waiter tells you about the specials. You ask questions and you make your decision. Then you enjoy an appetizer or a salad while the kitchen prepares your meal.

In South Louisiana, especially New Orleans, a fine dining experience can take two or three hours. By the time you leave having enjoyed your appetizer, salad, dinner, and dessert and coffee. You have a memory to savor and share with others.

I consider photography to be similar to dining in many respects. 

First there is the "fast food" kind of photography that fulfills your immediate need and generally provides a pleasing and acceptable result quickly and cheaply. The main requirement for this kind of photography is to quickly and easily take a great many snap shots with little or no concern for painstaking set up or composition.  One approach is to take a bunch of pictures knowing that at least some of them will be keepers and if nothing else you will have adequately recorded the event or situation for posterity.

Digital cameras, especially point & shoots are ideally suited for this although there are many film cameras that can do much the same thing. You can see these "fast food" photographers wherever you go. Whether they're playing tourist capturing the sights on a vacation trip or watching their kid's ball game or birthday party they take several quick shots and then review their captures on the camera's (or their phone's) little LCD viewing screen.

Sometimes these folks seem to spend more time looking at their LCD screens than watching what is actually going on in front of them. It's almost as if they are experiencing life through those little screens.

"Gourmet dining" photography or "Slow Photography" as some have called it takes a completely different approach. Instead of bringing a camera (or phone camera) along for the “ride” some folks actually go out with the single minded intention of making one or more photographs. They carefully and thoughtfully select the subject, camera and lens and frequently use a tripod. If shooting film they will often spend as much time selecting the appropriate film as one might in selecting a fine wine to go with a gourmet meal. 

Instead of firing off many shots hoping for one or two keepers they will carefully plot and plan waiting for the perfect moment when everything comes together and the light is just right and then they will take one or maybe two shots knowing as they trip the shutter that they have exactly what they wanted “in the box.”

“Slow Photography” is not about equipment. It is about a philosophy and a way of doing things.  Film photography lends itself to “Slow Photography” just because so many decisions have to be made up front with film and there is no immediately available image. Digital photographers can however, choose to slow themselves down and take full control of their photography just easily as film photographers.

“Slow photographers” make a picture much like a painter creates a painting.

I encourage you to try it. You might discover a whole new world of photography.

While it is certainly not my best photograph the photo above epitomizes exactly what I’m talking about – fast food and slow photography! Once I found this location I literally had to crawl through the bushes to get to the right spot to set up and capture the image I had in my mind from the beginning. If you look closely you will see four different fast food restaurants and a Daiquiri joint forming the background for my all-time favorite photo-subject, a fire hydrant. 

Bon appetit!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Color Experimentation

Color Experimentation by wizowel
Color Experimentation, a photo by wizowel on Flickr.

I don't usually do this kind of thing but I became infatuated with the look of some images made with Rollei Crossbird slide film recently and started experimenting to seem if I could emulate the look with digital.

Yeah, I know, why not just get some Crossbird and shoot it? Well, I did get some and I will be shooting it shortly but here's what I did in my spare time while waiting for the film.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Yashica LM Twin Lens Reflex Camera

This is actually my son’s camera. He always wanted one of these twin lens beauties and I finally ran across one at auction and was able to snag it for him for less than half of what they usually sell for these days. The LM model was one of the first to have a built in light meter. I suppose that is what the LM stands for, and surprise, surprise, the meter actually still works along with everything else.

The Yashica yields clear and sharp images on a big 2 ¼” X 2 ¼” (6 X 6 cm) negative that can easily produce beautiful prints up to poster size if you so desire. 

Using the Yashica is simple joy. The f3.5 lens is fast enough for most situations and the big bright viewer makes it relatively easy to compose and focus. Beyond that you simply read the EV number on the light meter display on top of the camera next to the waist level view finder, use the mechanical computer on the side of the camera to determine the best combination of shutter speed and aperture for the preselected ISO setting and then set them with the two knurled knobs on either side of the lens.

I checked the Yashica’s light meter readings with my Android meter app and with the meter in another camera and they were right on. Not bad for a camera that is nearly 60 years old.

The photo above of my son and his FiancĂ©e was taken with the first roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 we put in the camera. I cropped it a little to center it better and added the sepia tone in Picasa to soften the Tri-X’s contrasty look a bit. Here’s another…

…and the ergonomics of this camera makes it so very easy to use.  Even the big film advance crank on the side also cocks the shutter for you on the back stroke. This whole experience almost makes me want one too!