Monday, September 5, 2016

Kodak Brownie Six-20 – First Results!

Here is a great family photograph from the first roll of Kodak Portra 400 through my new (to me) Kodak Brownie Six-20 box camera. This is of course what these fine old box cameras were designed to do and I can remember my Mother taking shoeboxes and photo albums full of these kind of pictures, except in those day (1950’s & early 1960’s) they were all black and white.

The image is a little fuzzy but that is likely as much from my unsteady hand as anything else. This is actually one of the sharper images I took on this first roll. Sixty years ago my mother took great photos with a camera just like this one but I freely admit to feeling a little awkward holding and operating the shutter. With a likely shutter speed of 1/50 or less holding the camera absolutely still during the exposure is essential and takes a little practice.

Its also noteworthy that unlike modern photographs that are generally taken with the camera held at “eye level” these old box cameras require that you look down through the “waste level” viewer so that the camera is actually looking up at the subjects providing a different point of view for all photographs.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Moonstruck Again!

There are few things as faithful as the lunar phases. Every 28 days we can count on another full moon and unless my schedule or the weather ruins it I will take every opportunity to try to shoot some more beautiful moonlit portraits. Last month I experimented until I got things the way I wanted them and finally after two nights of shooting I got a great portrait of my son. This month I picked up where I left off in June and almost immediately got a couple more amazing images. The first one is my lovely wife Mary, and with her assistance I even got a selfie.
There is definitely something about the light of the full moon that greatly enhances these portraits. I may have to try shooting similar portraits during the day to prove it to myself but I do not believe that anything else I could do (other than shooting by the light of the full moon), even with studio lighting would produce images as unique and pleasing. This is especially true when you consider I am shooting at f-2.8, ISO 12,800 with a 1 to 1.5 second exposure.

Of course part of the credit must go to the excellent on-board processor of the Pentax K-S1 for the quality of the images. These are jpegs pretty much right out of the camera with very little post processing.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Cameras, cameras and more cameras!

You may have noticed that the last few blog posts have been all about new (to me) vintage cameras. I didn’t suddenly run out and buy a bunch of cameras to play with. The truth is I had gotten burned out on constantly trying out new cameras a year or so ago and just recently got over it.

I have actually had a couple of these cameras since last year but was not inspired to “play” with them until now.  When I am “testing” a new camera I am understandably more concerned with the camera than the photograph so the results of these shoots are interesting but not always inspiring. I tend to shoot the same subjects or images over and over again so I can compare the cameras capabilities to others I have shot with. If you have looked through my blog posts you will see that I have done a fair amount of that kind of thing but about a year ago I just got bored with shooting the same images all the time and decided to make the photograph, rather than the camera my focus. At that point I focused on just a couple cameras, mainly pinhole, and started trying to make photographs that made me feel like I had accomplished something of value.

I said all that to explain that after taking nearly a year to pursue my interest in photographs rather than cameras I can now enjoy playing with cameras again too and look forward to getting the film from these latest ones back so I can see the results and share them with you.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Brownie Super 27

What can I say about this little 1960’s jewel except it is “super!” This is a 60’s version of a Kodak box camera except like everything in the 1960’s it has a lot of extra “bells & whistles.”

This camera starts out with a clean sleek modern (in a vintage sort of way) design and a big bright (amazingly big & bright) viewfinder. The rotary shutter is working now just as crisply as it did nearly 60 years ago when it was new and has two speeds. 1/80th is the normal shutter speed but if you open the little door to expose the flash it changes to 1/30. 

Did I mention it has a built in flash? Yep, just open the little door that usually conceals it and pop in an AG-1 bulb (if you can find one). Oh, by the way you will have to also put in a couple AA batteries in the battery compartment on the bottom.

The aperture is also rather sophisticated for a box camera. The normal setting is f13.5 for bright sunny days but you can turn the little selector on the front to choose f8 when its cloudy. With the two apertures and two shutter speeds you have a total of four different exposure settings, and a flash! Not too shabby for a simple box camera.

The camera handled well and was a pleasure to shoot as I went through my first roll of 127 Rerapan black & white film. I haven’t found any AG-1 flash bulbs so everything was shot in daylight. The only complaint I had was that the shutter is pretty easy to press so that if you wind after each shot like I do the shutter is always cocked and it is a bit too easy to inadvertently press the shutter when you don’t intend to. I wasted one frame on the roll that way.

This 127 camera shoots in the square format yielding twelve shots. I can’t wait to see how they come out but if the way the camera looks and handles is any indication the pictures should be great!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

Thanks to my wonderful wife I now have a beautiful vintage box camera like the one my Mama shot all our family photos with back in the 1950’s when I was growing up. I have long wanted one and occasionally looked for one on line but my wife finally bought me one for an anniversary present.

The Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 shown above is about as simple a box camera as you could find but the utter simplicity combined with the super cool art deco face plate add up to one of the all-time classics. It of course shoots 620 film like so many of the old box cameras and the reliable rotary shutter has a single speed of about 1/30th of a second so keeping both camera and subject still during exposure is essential to good results.

There is a little tab next to the shutter that can be pulled out for “Bulb” setting which simply means that when this is done the shutter stays open as long as the shutter lever is depressed – not a great benefit for a camera without a tripod mount. Hand holding a camera for long exposures is generally not the way to get clear photographs.

The lens is a simple meniscus type with two apertures. The normal one is f11 but there is another pull out tab on top which slides a smaller f16 aperture in place for extra depth of field or for use with bright sunlit scenes.

The box is leatherette covered cardboard with a stamped sheet metal film frame and advance. There is the usual little red film counter window on the rear.

That’s it! In a sense it was the original Holga except with better optics and clearly much better build quality. I doubt we’ll be seeing too many Holgas still working 70 years from now. 

I shot a roll of Kodak Portra 400 with it already and should have the 8, 6x9 images back from The Darkroom soon. I will pick one or two of the best ones and post them here with a brief review of my experience with this lovely old camera.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


My friend recently gave me this beautiful old camera but I have been unable to find out much about it so far. "Rekkord" right under the lens is the only marking except on the lens itself where it says "Luminere Anastigmat Nacor 1.6.3  F:135" From that and the little I have been able to glean I believe it is a French, pre-World War II era,  9 x 12 (approx. 3.5” x 4.75”) large format camera. My friend said his Dad brought it back from France where he served in WWII and it had been sitting in his garage with several film holders for years. It is in surprisingly good condition.

Although even my “go to” film lab, The Darkroom, doesn’t develop this size film I was able to find out that Freestyle Photographic actually carries some Fomapan 9x12 black & white film so I may just have to figure out how to process it myself. I have been trying to avoid darkroom work since the 1970’s when I decided I much preferred shooting pictures rather than processing or even post processing images. Still, using a change bag to transfer the film into a Patterson tank and process using the Taco method should be pretty simple. That and scanning a few images should take no more than an hour – not an overwhelming investment in time and effort for the pleasure of seeing how a 70 year old camera still works after all these years.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Portraits by Moonlight

The moon has stood as a silent sentinel over the nocturnal affairs of man for thousands of years in its never ending dance around the sun with planet Earth. Every twenty-eight days it reaches opposition and reflects the full brunt of the sun’s light over the night. Although not nearly as bright as the sun, the light of the full moon has its own magic and is sufficiently brilliant to allow photographs to be made.

My first experience with photography and the moon came when I attempted to photograph the moon itself. Surprisingly, it did not require a long exposure at all. In fact (as I discovered) a good exposure of the moon can often be taken at f8 - f16 and shutter speeds of 1/30 to 1/100. It is only the night sky around the moon that is dark, not the moon itself.

When I decided to try to shoot portraits by the light of the moon, I was astounded to find almost nothing anywhere on the World Wide Web about it. Oh to be sure there were a few crazies out there like me who had dabbled in it and even someone with a few tips for capturing landscapes in moonlight, but I was shocked to find I might be the first to think portraits taken in the light of the moon might hold special allure. Try as I may I could find no information anywhere on the subject so I began as all pioneers do by heading out on my own.

After just a couple outings and maybe a dozen exposures I arrived at what I was looking for. The photograph above of my son Noah was shot with my Pentax K-S1 on “Auto” with a +4 overexposure set on the EV compensation wheel to end up with a 1 second exposure at f2.8 with the ISO @ 12,800 using the 40mm f2.8 Pancake lens. This lens is beautiful for portraits as well as other situations calling for a fast, short telephoto lens. The autofocus worked splendidly once I got the hang of “sighting-in” and focusing in the dark. I even tried “live view” to no avail but the focus assist light was just enough for me to compose and the camera’s AF to properly do its thing.

As you can see the image is not unlike a regular daylight photograph but there is “something different” and unique about the lighting that makes it easily distinguishable from similar daylight portraits that might be taken in the same spot. If you didn’t already know it was taken in the light of the full moon you probably would not identify it as such but you would immediately recognize that it was different and perhaps think it had been shot under some kind of special studio lighting.

This image was shot a couple days before the full moon. It is noteworthy that the amount of light varies greatly from day to day and increases 2% to 3% each day until it reaches full (100%) at the exact moment of the opposition or “full moon” so that this image was taken with only about 95% of the moon’s full lighting capacity. That may not seem to be a lot but over the course of a couple days it can easily mean a difference of a stop or more.

My immediate plans are to collect a gallery of these moonlight portraits to gain more experience and expertise and eventually to try to duplicate the work on film. That will of course be the ultimate challenge since there is no film available at ISO 12,800.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

On the Streets!

I don't do a lot of street photography anymore but when I do this is what it looks like. This was shot on Kodak Tri-X with the Pentax ZX-7 (my favorite black & white film and my favorite 35mm SLR) one rainy day while waiting in the car in the parking lot while my ran in the store to pick up something.

I just couldn't resist as these lovely ladies all decked out in their finest shopping attire strolled by in the rain. No raincoats, no umbrellas, and they didn't even speed up their saundering selves but just slowly sashayed by in utter defiance of the weather.

Street photography is a bit risky these day with folks seemingly so agitated much of the time. I've had women accuse me of trying to take photographs of their children (I wasn't at the time) like that was some kind of crime in and of itself. I can remember when people were flattered if you wanted to take their picture.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Speaking of Fire Hydrants!

Here is the other Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) shot that I am really happy with even though it was not the one I submitted to the WPPD gallery. Of course I have taken this same (or similar) shot of the fire hydrant in front of the old state capitol before with various cameras and films and even have some digital images of it but I think this may end up being my favorite.

This image was shot with the Holga Pinhole Camera on Kodak Portra 400 processed and scanned by The Darkroom. The exposure was 1 second and I had to get down in the gutter (literally) with the tripod to line up and take the shot.

The only way this gets better - maybe - is if I shoot it again with the Holga WPC on Ektar. Ektar is my favorite film for pinhole. Its almost like Kodak had pinhole in mind when they came up with that emulsion but unfortunately I was out of it when WPPD snuck up on me this year. The WPC will shoot a 6x9 or 6x12 negative meaning the image would be either 1.5 or 2 times wider than the 6x6 negative produced by the Holga PC. This could be a much cooler image or just one with a bunch of distractions on the periphery. In any case that will have to await my next film order to stock up on Ektar again.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Truckload of Happiness

Anyone who has followed me for a while knows I have a thing for fire hydrants. Imagine my glee when I happened upon a whole truckload of them on the way to work the other day. Unfortunately all I had ready to shoot was my diminutive Nikon P-300 point & shoot. Well, I guess it really is a bit more than a point & shoot. It does have some serious manual override capabilities but all that's a bit difficult to manage while driving on an Interstate highway through morning traffic so I am grateful for the "Auto" setting.

My apologies for the quality of the image but driving with one hand and shooting pictures through a dirty windshield with the other does not contribute to image quality so it is what it is. I am grateful for it since it will serve as a reminder of a morning thrill for many years to come. Every time I see this photo I will smile - hope you will too.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2016

Wow! It seems its been a while since I posted anything here. I guess I've been so wrapped up with shooting events with digital I kind of lost track of my film projects. Not that I am any kind of professional photographer or anything. I do shoot happenings for friends, family and a couple organizations I am affiliated with including our local church. All that must be done on digital of course because no one wants to wait for film to be processed anymore. Most of the time they are all impatient if I take more than a day or two to do the post processing and as you already know (if you follow this blog) I don't do much in post at all - a little cropping here and there and some color correction and that about it. That's why I love my Pentax digitals. They consistently produce jpegs that have the kind of IQ I prefer without having to shoot RAW and spend hours in post processing.

Anyway, Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day has come and gone with no mention from me so I am here to correct that now - you didn't think I would ignore or miss that very special day did you?

The image above is the one I uploaded to the WPPD gallery this year. You can check it out here...

...and be sure to linger a while and view some of the other 2000 or so images uploaded so far. There are only a couple days left for folks to get their images up so there is likely to be a "mad rush" between now and May 31st for all the last minute entries so be sure to go back frequently until then to see all of them.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Digital Pinhole

A couple years ago I got a Holga HPL-P “pinhole lens” for my Pentax K mount cameras and I have been less than satisfied with it. First I discovered it was really set up for digital “crop frame” or APS-C cameras so that when I used it with a 35mm film (full frame body) it did not fill the frame but left the image in a little circle in the middle of the frame.

Then I tried it with my Pentax digital camera (I was using an istDL at the time) and was not impressed at all. The image quality was nothing to get excited about and unlike most true pinhole cameras the focal length was such that the field of view was essentially the same as a standard 50mm lens.

Fast forward to today – these days I am shooting with a Pentax KS-1 and I decided to try the HPL-P again. The focal length and field of view is still the same but the much more advanced sensor and processor in the KS-1 does a much better job so that with minimal tweaking in post processing I ended up with the amazingly sharp and clear and colorful image shown above.

I am still of the opinion that film is better for shooting pinhole and that the wide angle, infinite depth of field effect of traditional pinhole images is what it is all about but I have to admit the images resulting from my latest efforts with this “lens” and DSLR combination is very pleasing.

This makes me want to play with digital pinhole some more.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

35mm Rocks!

I know I have been extolling the virtues of 110 film lately and even posted a couple things about digital but 35mm has been and continues to be the King of film formats. So here’s a shot from a couple months ago that I really like. It was taken with my Pentax ZX-7 on Kodak Portra 400 color negative film.

Now if I am being honest, the ZX-7 is probably my favorite 35mm SLR. I also have a ZX-L that I like the “feel” of and it is a great camera, probably a little better build than the ZX-7 but the ZX-7 just works for me. I can shoot on full auto, programed auto, aperture preferred, shutter preferred or fully manual. Coupled with a 28-80 zoom (I’ve been wanting to get a 28 -90 but just haven’t found one at a reasonable price yet) it is about as close to an all-purpose 35mm SLR as you could want. It even has a decent pop up flash.

As for film, Portra 400 has a beautiful color balance, just enough speed to cover the gamut of shooting scenarios and just does almost everything I want a film to do. Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying. There are other great films out there. I love Ektar for shooting pinhole. Velvia is a beautiful film to experiment with, and of course my all-time favorite black & white film – Tri-X. But for color negative film to cover any contingency I find myself coming back again and again to Portra.

All that to address the all important question, “if you had to be stuck somewhere/anywhere” (you fill in that blank)  with only one film camera and only one film – what would it be?

For me, it would most likely be the Pentax ZX-7 loaded with Kodak Portra 400. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pentax K-S1

One of the best surprises so far with the new Pentax K-S1 I got for Christmas is the way is does “in-camera” black & white jpegs! Being a film guy and a lover of Kodak Tri-X film I have intentionally avoided black & white with digital because it always looks, well, bland.

I know you can do all kinds of things with post processing but I like taking pictures, not sitting in front of a computer. I already do enough of that. My photography is intended to give me a break from that so I always shoot color jpeg images with digital and if I want black & white I use one of my film cameras loaded with Tri-X.

That said, I was delighted to find that there is at least one of the three black & white settings on the K-S1 that results in amazing black & white images.  To find it go to “MENU 1”   “Custom Image” and select “BW.”

There is a “Bold Monochrome” setting available in another place in the menu and another on the control ring under “Effects” but those have too much contrast and not enough gray tones for my taste.

I don’t want to take away anything from this little (and I do mean little) camera’s ability to produce fantastic color images. Like most Pentax DSLR’s it excels there too, but I am delighted to finally find a digital that can produce the kind of black & white images I like.

What I like is totally black blacks, white whites and an abundant assortment of grays in between. In the film world Kodak Tri-X delivers this faithfully but in my experience the Pentax K-S1 is the first DSLR to achieve this.

No doubt I will have much more to say about this camera in future posts but this is what caught my attention the first couple times I used the camera.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

More 110

Here’s another shot taken with the Minolta 460Tx on Lomo Tiger color negative film. The image quality is excellent for such a small negative and the color from the Lomo Tiger film is great. I really don’t know why the shots from this camera seem so much better than the supposedly higher quality 110 cameras I have tried previously but this little camera could easily become one of my favorites if my tests continue to result in these kind of photos.

Next roll I will shoot some with the flash and see how that works out. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

110 Film Rocks Again!

I always thought that 110 film resulted in pretty crappy pictures going all the way back to my early experiences in the 1970’s but I have been dabbling with it again off and on for the last couple years hoping for better results.

My first try was with the smallest SLR ever produced, the Pentax Auto 110. Unfortunately the first roll of film through this little jewel broke the film advance and so ended my experimenting with 110. The partial roll I tried to take pictures with was developed and while the images were better than I remembered 110 being they were not nearly as good as 35mm.

My second attempt was with a Rollei A110. This robust little camera has thus far has refused to break even when a pesky roll of film got stuck and threatened to do the same thing to it that happened to the Pentax.  Again the images were much better than what I remembered from the 1970’s but still not up to par with 35mm or even current digital point & shoot cameras. My biggest complaint about the Rollei however, is that it is just too small to hold, carry and operate comfortably. I always feel awkward using it for some reason.

Still, I have to confess there is something more than nostalgia that kept me thinking that there was a 110 film camera that could produce reasonably good quality images while maintaining the 110 film mystique that captured a generation of photo enthusiasts and be comfortable and reliable to use.

Enter the Minolta 460Tx! This is a diminutive slab of a camera I stumbled across at Goodwill and picked up for less than $10. Looking like so many of the 1970’s vintage 110’s the Minolta 460Tx has two lenses (one normal and one telephoto), three apertures, one shutter speed, zone focusing and of course a built in flash. The image quality is excellent while still having whatever it is that makes 110, 110.

The image above was shot on Lomo Tiger which, as it turns out, is an excellent color negative film for these little cameras producing sharp and very colorful photos. Maybe I have finally found “MY” 110 camera!  Only time and more rolls of film will tell for sure.