Rolling With The Punches / A Vintage Themed Portrait Session with Sylvia Elizabeth

I travel quite a bit for my day job, which affords me the opportunity to work with models from all over and see the vast amount of talent out there. Last year in September, I attended an industry conference in the Tampa, FL area and took my camera along under the premise of an agreement with a model that proved to be a flake once I was there. After sending a series of messages of desperation to a number of models in the area for help, I was pleased to get a response from one of the most talented models I’ve had the pleasure of working with, Sylvia Elizabeth.

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When scheduling my trip to the same conference this year, there wasn’t a question about whether or not I’d reach out to shoot with her again, but only a matter of whether or not she’d be booked while I was there. Luckily, we set on a date and time, and her friend Nicki, who is a hair/makeup artist with equal talent, would be coming along. We decided on shooting a vintage themed shoot and couldn’t wait.

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The day of our shoot, I would have conference meetings to attend to, but I’d get things ready before I would leave in the morning. I would go down the checklist and make sure that I had enough batteries to power my flashes, had my main and backup memory cards handy and make sure I put my camera battery to charge. Ummm, I said put my battery to charge…. WHERE THE HELL WAS MY BATTERY CHARGER?!?!? Well, it appeared that my battery charger for my Canon 1D Mark IIN was sitting at home while I was in the Tampa, FL area. So much for a photo checklist while packing! Wait a minute, I don’t have a photo checklist while packing either!! Damn… and that’s why everyone needs a checklist, folks.

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What the heck would I do? I can’t cancel the day of the shoot. Not only is that really unprofessional, but a total douche move. So, I would take inventory and see what I could make of the situation. I had a dead digital camera with no chance of finding a local photo shop with a battery charger for that particular battery. Trust me; I called everyone in the surrounding Tampa-St. Petersburg area. BUT, I had brought along my Pentax 6X7 medium format film camera for casual shooting and plenty of film to shoot a few hours worth. My initial thought was, “I’ve been meaning to shoot an all film portrait session, so this is perfect!” Hardly!! I didn’t have a flash meter on me and didn’t have the available cash to go out and buy one at $300+.

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However, I could always use the meter built in my Pentax. That would mean that I would be dependent on ambient or available light and not use my flashes. I did bring along a couple of fluorescent clamp-on lights that I was planning on using for focusing aid, but it appeared that they would then now be my may light sources. No light modifiers, no flags and no white balance adjustment capabilities. I can do this, right?!?! Just rollin’ with the punches… and keeping my fingers crossed.

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She showed on time, I explained the situation and we got to work. She was ready to go in half an hour and we shot for about an hour and a half longer. In that amount of time, we had three wardrobe changes and I managed to shoot three rolls of film at 10 exposures per roll for my 6X7 format. In comparison with my digital format and the comfort level of shooting with my digital setup, that’s a huge difference. In that timeframe, I could have shot about 250-300 digital images versus the nearly 30 images I brought home on film.

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I developed the B&W film first and later the color film when I received my C-41 color home developing kit. I carefully inspected the images and was not impressed one bit. Why was that? I always love to look at my negatives with astonishment of reliving the moment of taking the image. Yet, I was disappointed. Not at all with Sylvia’s performance, but with my own. Imagine how wonderful it would have been had I remembered to bring the camera battery charger…

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It wasn’t until a few days later that I swung by Adolf Gasser’s in the city and was talking with one of my buddies at the video rental counter that he gave some very valuable advice. He said to give it a few days and go back. He assured me that there would be a few gems, and my response was “yeah, right!!”

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I waited a few days and came back to them as he said. I needed to get the images scanned and sent over to Sylvia, as per our agreement. I would brace for her to tell me that they were all crap and I would have to profusely apologize. As I sat there scanning away, the images would pop up on the screen and I would think “that’s not bad at all.” Then I started working on a few and I understood what I had been told.

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Here are a number of my favorite images. Because of the color of light from the fluorescent lights used, the daylight color balanced Ektar film I was using picked up a lot of yellow tones. I decided to leave the yellowish tones in tact since they gave the images a little more of a vintage vibe. The B&W images were shot on TMax 100. Not too bad for my unexpected film portrait shoot and rollin’ with the punches.

The takeaways here should be that Sylvia is awesome and always double-check your photo gear to ensure that you have everything you’;ll need before you head out the door.

First Impressions with Expired Kodak BW400CN Film at Princeton-By-The-Sea, CA

Hey, folks! I’m back with another non-technical review and this time I’m focusing on a particular type of Kodak film that never really found a true following and has since been discontinued as of their Aug 14, 2014 notice. I am referring to Kodak’s BW400CN, which stands for a B&W chromogenic 400 speed color negative. Black and white color negative, you ask? What kind of oxymoron is that?? Well, it was actually a very intelligent move on behalf of Kodak years ago as photo developing was taken over by fancy machines that could crank out color negatives in a matter of ten minutes.

Traditional black and white negatives were developed using a calculated method of temperature, developer and fixer to match each particular film for optimal results that a streamlined process was never made available. To date, most photo labs that process B&W films still do it by hand and is obviously more labor intensive. Yet, as color negative film was manufactured across all platforms and brand names to use the same developing process (C-41), a machine capable of streamlining the developing of the negatives was a godsend. So, what better way to satisfy a consumer market still in love with black and white images than by developing a black and white negative that can be developed in standard chemistry found in the available machinery that would allow for 1HR service for a quick turnaround even at a pharmacy developer? Bingo!

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BW400CN satisfied a market for photographers that wanted to shoot b&w but didn’t want to pay the price tag and potential human error factor of hand processing traditional b&w film OR didn’t want the hassle of developing their own traditional b&w film at home. And you would expect that this new fangled film would be mediocre at best, right?? Abso-freakin-lutely NOT!!!

Most of my adventures in film have all revolved around the excitement and sense of satisfaction of developing my own film in my bathroom-turned-darkroom with the aid of 3 yards of thick, black felt purchased at the local fabric store that gets pinned to the bathroom door to help seal out the light coming in around the door frame. It’s a ventilated bathroom free of windows, so other than the door frame, I don’t have to contend with any other light leaks. In fact, I only require complete darkness for the process of loading the film into the reels that are then loaded into the developing tanks. Once in the light proof tanks, the lights turn back on and everything happens in the light. Given my enjoyment, I really had no desire to go after a color process b&w film.

One of the golden rules that I heard over and over again was that only b&w was able to be home processed. “You can’t possible process your own C-41 at home!!”, I heard many times. Yet, when I would jump on YouTube or read the photo forums on related topics, I would see people successfully developing their own C-41 at home. There had to be something to it, right? I took the leap of faith with Freestyle Photographic (a huge website for anything and everything for film fanatics and more) and ordered one of the C-41 developing kits.

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Prior to taking the leap, I had come across a few great deals on both the Kodak and Ilford versions of C-41 b&w films and figured I would have to try this stuff out myself. I found a singular auction that was cheap enough for me to use some Ebay rewards points I had accumulated and used them to purchase an expired roll of Kodak BW400CN to test out. The film was expired by just a little over a decade, so I figured I would have to make some adjustment to compensate for the aging of the film and however it may or may not have been kept. Since this film is a 400 speed, I figured I would go with the recommended adjustment of 1 f-stop per decade to compensate for age and shot this roll at 200 speed.

I used my Pentax 6X7 with a 90mm f/2.8 lens while visiting the neighboring town of Princeton-By-The-Sea, CA. Just a few minutes north of Half Moon Bay, Princeton is a tiny little town with the biggest working fishing community south of San Francisco. Home to one of my favorite seafood restaurants, Barbara’s Fishtrap, Princeton is a frequent hangout for us when we want to get away just a bit and have some great seafood.

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On the weekends, the locals can be found hovering around the boats returning from their rounds ready to sell the fresh catch just as it comes off the boats. We happened to head down there this April just as the Dungeness crab season was coming to a close. The fishing industry is all too interesting to me and always a great subject for testing out a new roll of film, so I had at it!!

It wasn’t until months later that I took the leap to purchase the C-41 developing kit, and to be perfectly honest, I had almost forgotten all about the roll of BW400CN. What a pleasant surprise to see the beautiful images come to life as the negatives were drying. Just like standard color negatives, the roll of film came out looking murky and with a film on the entire length. I had read that as the film dries, the clarity comes in, so I remained patient. Within a few hours, the images appeared to be popping and my adjustment of the 1-f/stop to shoot the roll at 200 speed was proven accurate.

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It wasn’t until I scanned the negatives that I truly appreciated the film for what it was. Although I tend to favor the high contrast films, I found that I rather enjoyed the neutral tones and found the images to be incredibly sharp, yet smooth. The film has very good shadow detail and a low propensity to blow out on highlights. Kodak advertises the film to be the finest grained b&w they offered until its announced discontinuation date, but I don’t know about all that. I do admit that it looks great, but there was still plenty of apparent “grain” to the image. Could this be a result from the grossly expired film? Quite possibly, but after the discontinuation notice, I doubt I’ll be able to readily find the film at my local photo shop.

So, what’s the verdict, you ask? I say grab some BW400CN and go to town!! I will be actively looking for auction lots on EBay for both expired and current offering to continue to play with until all stock runs out everywhere!!!

Another one bites the dust…

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A Big Thank You To The Kansas City Royals

As I sat looking at the bleak state of the San Francisco Giants’ standings about two months ago as I had to book a trip for a business conference where the World Series would have been playing, I had no qualms about booking the trip figuring that my interest in the games would have been casual at best. You could imagine my surprise when the Giants not only make it past the Pirates, but the Nationals and then the Cardinals as well to represent the National League after having clinched the NL Pennant for the 3rd time in the last five years. It was right about then that the “oh, shit!” moment hit regarding my travel…

I was fortunate to go to Charleston, SC for a few days and managed to bring the Pentax along for a few field trips around business (images forthcoming). We were able to schedule business and pleasure around the start times, and for once, being on the east coast with a start time of 8pm was a GREAT thing!!

With my last evening being that of Game 6, I must admit that I was a bit selfish in hoping the Giants would take game 6 and I could see the end of the World Series in the comfort of the hotel room. Unfortunately, fate would have a Game 7 and my travel plans would be in the way. My return flight had me connecting in Chicago and my flight to San Francisco would be departing an hour before the start time for the game. Luckily, my United flight offered DirectTV for purchase and it must have been the BEST $7.99 I’ve ever spent on an airplane.

By now, everyone knows the outcome of Game 7, and although I am still reeling in the excitement of another World Series win, that is not the message of this blog post. As a dedicated fan of the sport of baseball, I am dedicating this blog post to my fellow brethren in Kansas City in a salute to the amazing season they had in 2014.

Baseball fans are a special breed of sports fans. At times compared to the excitement found at a championship chess match for the slow pace, baseball is a game within a game within a mental game happening at the same time. It takes a special kind of sports fan to WANT to be that involved in the sport and especially the team they root for.

I have been fortunate to attend a number of stadiums and experience other team’s fan base. I’ll be the first to admit that throughout the years after the Giants’ first WS win in 2010, we had a fair number of fair-weather fans and “fans” that just want to be seen at the ballpark. I must say that some of the most intense fan bases have been experienced in Boston and St. Louis.

I was not fortunate to attend any of the WS games, but there was no doubt in my mind the level of intensity of the Royals fan base both away and at home. When the Giants played in Kansas City, the roar of the crowd for their team was deafening to the point of not hearing the commentators when listening in on the radio broadcast and had my heart pumping throughout every game.

The World Series could have gone either way. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Giants were still chasing their first World Series win since moving to San Francisco and I remember the feeling of wanting it so bad. My heart goes out to the Royals fan that could not see that happen in 2014.

I would like to congratulate the Kansas City Royals and their fan base for an incredible 2014 season and for being a great opponent in the 2014 World Series. The caliber of fan base, player performance and intensity for the game has brought your ball club to nationwide attention that is well deserved. I, for one, will definitely keep an eye on you guys next season and wish you all the very best for a winning 2015.

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No Pressure At All, But We Need You To Be The BEST Photographer You Can Be!!

Let’s face it, folks. The title of “photographer” carries a HUGE burden. Why? Because the moment you declare yourself a “photographer” you are held to the highest of degrees of performance and are usually shown very little pity when you crash and burn. So, why is that? This is a question I have asked myself many times before. Do I have the answer? Absolutely not! However, I have formed an opinion that I don’t mind sharing and would even welcome it challenged if someone felt differently. Let’s explore…

In today’s social media and technology scene, we must realize that we are all photographers. Every day, you walk around with a cell phone that has some capacity to record images in digital media to be uploaded to any number of social media sites. Whether it’s your daily selfie or the cutest video ever of your cat chasing its tail, you, my friends, are all photographers. So, where is the difference between the every day selfie queen and the professional photographer? It’s as simple as realizing that anyone can take a image, but a photographer MAKES the image.

Keep in mind that shelling out $6,000+ for the latest and greatest “full frame” camera that the big guys are throwing in your face as if saying “buy this and you too can be a photographer” does nothing to get you closer to becoming a photographer. I have had acquaintances that fit the profile and couldn’t figure out how to snap a picture, let alone make a beautiful image, if they took their camera off auto settings. The photographer’s gear is simply the tool that he/she uses to record the image, but the photographer him/herself MAKES the image using the tool in their hands. Medium is irrelevant, autofocusing is just an aid and Photoshop is just another tool in the arsenal of the trade. The photographer relies on NONE of his/her tools alone as the make or break in the creative process of this art form.IMG_20140304_0003As a photographer, it’s easy to start obsessing about your equipment. It’s in every magazine, every online article and every “unboxing” video on YouTube. There will always be someone out there with deeper pockets that has to have the very latest and show it off. It’s also easy to get caught up in the marketing hype and jump on the “I need better gear in order to become a better photographer” bandwagon. I’ve been there and have been lucky enough to not have the deep pockets to entertain such notions for a long enough period of time to do damage. And the best part is that unless you are another “photog”, no one really gives a CRAP about what kind of camera you have or what it can do. Well, maybe the guy across the room that’s been eyeing you and figuring how much he’s going to get online for it knows what camera you have… 🙂

Making my way back to the point of this blog entry, the question you should then be asking yourself is “why should I try to become the best photographer I can be?” As a photographer, you have your whole life to perfect your art (or until you walk away from it) as long as you understand that you will never get to the finish line. Practice makes perfect, and photographers practice their whole lives to only come close to perfection or are fortunate enough to be celebrated as one of a few contributors to the art form.

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If you never reach the finish line, why is it worth pursuing this hobby or career? Because people are depending on you. Perhaps it’s your friends and family that designate you as the official photographer for the day. Perhaps it’s the family that picked you out of a line up and are paying you to capture a family portrait to hang over their mantle. Maybe its the casual window shopper that walks by and is moved by the image you captured enough to pay their hard earned money for it. The reality is that as a visually dependent being, people are moved by images that trigger a memory, a feeling or a longing.

As a photographer you carry the responsibility to be the very best you can be at your art because others recognize that you have an “eye” for what makes a moving image and creates the desired emotion. Come to think of it, when a baseball player lays off a bad pitch, folks scream out “good eye, good eye!!” Why shouldn’t photographers receive the same??? “Hey, great image!! Good eye, good eye!!”

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What keeps me in the hamster wheel, you ask? Every so often, I have the opportunity to be part of someone’s life, someone’s memories and am honored to have been chosen to share that moment with them and record it for all time while praying to God and thinking “don’t fuck this up!! don’t fuck this up!!!” I owe it to them to be the best I can possibly be and always strive to become better.

The images I’m sharing today were taken back in Mar 2013 for a friend I happened to work with at the time. There was no doubt from the start that she and her then boyfriend would transcend the friend/coworker barrier. Today, I consider them family and would be honored to record all the special milestones in their lives for as long as they’ll continue to have me.

When she first came out that she was pregnant, I offered to do a “baby belly” shoot and was given a look of “are you crazy?” Months went by and I had forgotten about the offer when she came around and brought it back up. I jumped at the opportunity knowing that I was being asked to be part of something incredibly special while they awaited the arrival of their first born.

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We knocked out the shoot in about two hours and then had lunch. I brought along both a digital and film kit and tried to shoot both mediums. If you must know, I shot the 1st, 2nd and last images on a Pentax 67 with a 105mm f/2.4 on Ilford Delta 100 and the 3rd and 4th images were shot with my Canon 1D Mk IIN. The negatives were scanned with my Canoscan 9900F MKII and all images were tidied up in Photoshop.

The takeaway is simple: if you are going to call yourself a photographer, you have a duty to be the best photographer you can be for the people depending on you with their recorded lives. Whether it’s a little league game, a majestic shot of Yosemite or simply a group shot of friends holding up shot glasses after your 6th tequila, people are depending on your to be the best photographer you can be regardless of the equipment you have at your disposal.

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Nuff said…

The Hasselblad X-Pan Is Pretty Cool – But I’m Not Running Out To Get One !!

Looking down Market St to the Ferry Bldg while crossing 2nd.

Looking down Market St to the Ferry Bldg while crossing 2nd.

What do you do if you’re Swedish camera manufacturer Hasselblad and want a panoramic 35mm camera? You go to Fuji and have them design and build it, of course!!!

The Hasselblad X-Pan is a fantastic 35mm film camera that can switch between standard 35mm frames  (24mm X 36mm) and panoramic frames equal to that of approximately two frames (24mm X 65mm) mid-roll. Yes, I said midroll. The film canister is loaded in the same manner as any 35mm camera, but the first thing you notice when working with this beast for the first time is an unusually long film winding process. What the camera is doing is winding the entire roll of film out into the take out spool. The idea is genius since the camera then continues to wind the film back into the spool as you shoot through the roll. Not only does this allow the camera to compensate mid-roll for the difference between standard and panoramic frames, but it has the added benefit of protecting any images already exposed within the film canister should the back door come open and the film be exposed to light. It would take quite a bit to make this mistake with this camera, but the redundancy gives you added comfort that the engineers really put some thought into this little baby.

The F streetcar line on Market St.

The F streetcar line on Market St.

Back in late Oct 2013, I found myself not knowing what I wanted to rent from my Friday afternoon go-to rental place, Adolf Gasser. I decided to try something different and the X-Pan happened to be there. Definitely a crowd favorite and rarely available for a weekend rental, I jumped on the opportunity and took it home with the 45mm f/4.0 lens option. The camera was manufactured with a removable lens and Hasselblad/Fiju manufactured three lenses for the system: a 30mm f/5.6, a 45mm f/4.0 and a 90mm f/4.0.

A row of old Victorian homes on Oak St in Oakland.

A row of old Victorian homes on Oak St in Oakland.

When previously researching this camera, I came across some information on the internet that basically said that the camera would have two different perspectives with any given lens choice because of the difference between the standard 35mm format and the panoramic format. Well, it must be true then because you can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true. Where did I read that, you ask? The internet, of course. Ha!

The walkway to Embarcardero from the Portobello Complex in Oakland.

The walkway to Embarcardero from the Portobello Complex in Oakland.

That’s not true, folks. The only thing that changes between standard frames and panoramic frames is the film format, but a 45mm lens remains a 45mm perspective regardless of the format. If not, the 45mm lens in a panoramic format would have all sorts of distortion and curvature to the image. I picked the 45mm lens simply because it’s the closest option to a human field of view perspective, but I’d be interested to see how the camera feels with the 30mm wide angle and the 90mm short zoom.

Hills behind the valley in Pacifica while on a hike.

Hills behind the valley in Pacifica while on a hike.

Speaking of feel, the camera is a freakin’ brick and heavy at that. It’s rather ridiculous, but at 720g, this thing easily weighs a little more than two mainstream 35mm cameras without the lens. The lens is no joke either and the whole kit weighs in at a little over 1,100 g. Built like a tank, the X-Pan is built for whatever task you want to throw at it.

Entrance to a horse ranch in the back of the valley in Pacifica.

Entrance to a horse ranch in the back of the valley in Pacifica.

Since I had a few other things going on that weekend, I only managed to put a single roll through the camera over the entire weekend. I had a roll of Ilford Pan F Plus 35mm b&w film handy so that’s what I went with. Pan F is one of the slower film offerings from Ilford with medium contrast and HUGE resolution capacity and an excellent choice for outdoor shooting. I do, however, develop a little longer than recommended to boost the contrast up a bit and love the look. It’s got bright whites, and very black blacks. Like buttah…

Horse ranch. Too bad the camera can't capture smells as well...

Horse ranch. Too bad the camera can’t capture smells as well…

After shooting SLR cameras for the majority of my photographic journey, shooting a rangefinder for the first time took some getting used to. And what you can’t imagine is how much this can affect your ability to properly focus. I found after developing this roll that a number of my images were out of focus and it left me thinking “WTF?!?!?!”

Hiking trail in Pacifica.

Hiking trail in Pacifica.

What does it mean to shoot a rangefinder? Rather than looking through the viewfinder and seeing the image as it comes through the lens and up the pentaprism, with a rangefinder, you are looking through a viewfinder that is off-center and focusing relies on a “ghosting” effect where duplicate images of what you’re looking at come together as you manually focus until the meet. Once the two ghost images meet as one, your focal point has been reached.

Trees...I think.

Trees…I think.

So, what don’t a like about this little magical image maker? For starters, the camera takes a bit to get used to working with the exposure settings compared to other SLRs. In AUTO, the photographer gets to set the aperture, since it’s located on the lens itself, while the camera’s meter adjusts the shutter speed to compensate for the center weighted average it’s set up for. The camera can completely work in full manual, but with no meter reading in the viewfinder due to it being a rangefinder, it makes it a bit more challenging. The camera has quite a number of modern camera features, but the lack of autofocus is really apparent as something that is missing. But, at the same time, it was done by design since the camera was rather expensive  when new and still remains a little out of my price range on the used side may years later. I can only imagine that the conversation was had during the design phase of the project and autofocus had to be left off for weight consideration and consumer cost.

So, do I really not like the X-Pan? Nah..it’s pretty awesome! I can work around the slight inconveniences mentioned above in order to obtain beautiful panoramic images, but I’m still not running out to get one! Boom!

Look, Ma'!! You can hold the X-Pan vertically as well...

Look, Ma’!! You can hold the X-Pan vertically as well…

Getting My Mind Blown By A Little Wonder Called The Agfa Isolette !!!

Back in late Feb of this year, I happened to stumble across another awesome camera store, this time down in San Mateo, CA, that also had a full range of film and digital camera offerings and accessories for me to lust over. This Shangri-La of camera collectibles is none other than Kaufmann’s Camera on 25th Ave just off of El Camino Real. Although the part of me that remains loyal to Adolf Gasser’s screams all bloody hell every time I set foot in Kaufmann’s, I’ve found ways to appease my tendencies and have been favoring both equally. Sometimes its just as easy as whether or not I want to drive into the city or take the easy route into the Peninsula.

It’s at this treasure trove that I have come to find refuge in the vast knowledge of Ron Kaufmann, the original owner’s son, and where I cross paths with today’s blog topic. While perusing in the extensive used film camera display cases that contain many consignment and store owned pieces, I came across a very unassuming folding camera tucked off to the corner and amongst other cameras that called out for much more attention. I asked to see the camera and was quickly attended by the staff.

Although I won’t bore you with the gist of the conversation with the salesperson about the camera that almost certainly has become exaggerated in my mind and ends in my getting a complete steal for a camera that I undoubtedly knew would be an incredible hit, I’ll just say that I was shown how to work it and was offered a deal I couldn’t turn down. If I remember correctly, I paid no more than $40 dollars for it.

I brought it home and instantly jumped on Google to find out as much as I could on it. What the hell did we do before the internet??? That doggone, fandangled Google!!  Anyway, I found an online manual, figured out how to take it apart, clean everything, put it back together CORRECTLY (ha!) and adjust the focus ring to correctly match up with the markings. I won’t go into the process since a simple Google search will undoubtedly lead you to the same tutorial that I followed, but perhaps I’ll make comments in a future post.

The Agfa Isolette was an inexpensive camera made by the German film company, Agfa, who was trying to capitalize on market share away from Kodak by offering a cheaply made camera with decent optics to promote their film and keep customers coming back for more. This particular model was manufactured between 1952 and 1960 and sold for approximately $65 dollars in the early fifties according to a Popular Photography magazine I happened to come across. At the time, most medium format camera were being sold for nearly two to three times that amount, which is why the Isolette was such a bargain. The camera takes 120 and 220 spool medium format film, shooting a 6 cm X 6 cm image frame size with an Agfa Agnar 85mm f/4.5 lens with 3 coated elements. The camera also feature a Pronto shutter capable of 1/25 to 1/200 of a second with no double exposure prevention, for all you artistic double exposure types. The flash sync was at 1/25 and no flash option was available, although a provision atop the camera was made to allow the mounting of a few accessories. The camera measures 143 x 96 x 39mm (closed) 143 x 96 x 99 ( open) and weights approximately 520g.

So, I now have what I presume to be a fully operational medium format camera that shoots 6X6 frames for a total of 12 images per roll of 120 film. What am I going to do next? Test it out, of course!! The following images are the results of the first roll of film I put through the Agfa Isolette I. Keep in mind that these images are a result of a completely manual camera that required the use of a light meter app on my iPhone for correct exposure settings and my best guess on focusing using the estimated distance gauge found on the rotating lens. All images were shot on Delta Pro 100 b&w film, scanned using my Canoscan 9900f mk II and passed through PS for auto everything just to clean up the images. Not bad for my first time shooting a camera at least 64 years old!!

There will be plenty more to come from this little treasure. Enjoy!!!

While not the exact model I have, the Agfa Isolette II had all the same features and options as the original Agfa Isolette with the added right side knob in case the operator wanted to reverse the film once shot back into the original spool.

While not the exact model I have, the Agfa Isolette II had all the same features and options as the original Agfa Isolette with the added right side knob in case the operator wanted to reverse the film once shot back into the original spool.

Backside of building on the corner of Oak and Embarcadero in Oakland.

Backside of building on the corner of Oak and Embarcadero in Oakland.

Railroad tracks

Railroad tracks

2nd and Oak St in Oakland

2nd and Oak St in Oakland

Peerless Coffee storefront on Oak St.

Peerless Coffee storefront on Oak St.

Parking lot view from my former office in the Portobello complex.

Parking lot view from my former office in the Portobello complex.

Front courtyard in Portobello complex.

Front courtyard in Portobello complex.

Walkway to Embarcadero West lined in maple trees.

Walkway to Embarcadero West lined in maple trees.

View from driver's side through Pacifica while pulled over...

View from driver’s side through Pacifica while pulled over…

View from driver's side on I-280 N without looking through viewfinder.

View from driver’s side on I-280 N without looking through viewfinder.

Waiting for a truck driver that couldn't back into the receiving bay to save his life!!

Waiting for a truck driver that couldn’t back into the receiving bay to save his life!!

A Previous Excursion with the Mamiya 645 AF at the Ferry Bldg and Justin Herman Plaza

Hi folks! I’m back from the Chicagoland area where I was fortunate enough to listen to our San Francisco Giants clench our third trip to the World Series in the last five years. Yes, listen and not watch, to my dismay. Not only did my hotel not have a sufficient cable package to offer Fox 1, but the hotel bar’s TV sets were fixed on Thursday Night Football. I tried the MLB at Bat app, but the Wi-Fi service was crap and only had one bar of service on 3G that didn’t get me any closer. So, I had to go all MacGuyer and use the hotel alarm clock radio. Luckily, I was able to track down the ESPN radio station and rode the ups and downs of the game until victory.

For today’s post, I thought I would continue in the theme of the shots taken with the Mamiya 645 AF w/ 80mm f/2.8 lens. A few months earlier than our dinner party, I headed down to the Ferry Bldg area on a weekend. I was able to figure out that it was on January 24-25 of this year since the ice-skating rink was still out, which tells me I need to start keeping better track of my equipment rental dates. The only reason I was able to determine those dates were thanks to the record keeping habits of Gasser’s. After placing a quick call to my friends in the still rentals department, I was able to determine the rental dates. I have to say that having a date imbedded in digital file is extremely convenient…and the point goes to digital on that front.

I do recall having a bit of trouble figuring out the selector button on the body of the 645 AF that would allow the change between manual focus, single autofocus and continuous autofocus. The previous renter of the camera had placed the body in continuous focus, so as I focused and composed my shot, I noticed that the focus point would always shift to the center of the image. I only recall all of this because I had reached a stand in the artisan marketplace just in Justin Herman Plaza that sold handmade coffee mugs with very interesting and funny catch phrases. I managed to snap a picture of one of the mugs, that I included below, before I started playing with the buttons to figure out the focus issue. I happened to continue to pick his mugs as my focus test spot to his displeasure since he figured that I was taking “too many” pictures of his mugs. He was rather rude about it, so I was happy to hand the rudeness right back and mention that I would have bought one of his mugs, but his lousy attitude got in the way. He tried to take his foot out of his mouth when he realized that I had a film camera and had no intention to copy his mugs for profit, but we walked away.

The optics available on the autofocus lenses for the Mamiya 645 AF system are top notch. Although the body is more than happy to take the manual focus lenses as well, the autofocus lenses transmit data about the image to the camera that allow it to meter and expose the image properly, such as focal distance and aperture settings. Although I did find with this particular shoot that the small hood available on the 80mm f/2.8 is rather shallow, it did the job on most every shot. There was one shot that I put the hood to the test, and as you can see below, it appears as if it manages to block out the direct sunlight in only part of the image, while the rest of the image is blown out quite a bit.

Other than that, the camera is rather brilliant. It is very intuitive, quick to respond on the autofocus and appears to have its meter tender spot on exposure settings for awesome images time after time. The biggest perk of the camera is that the film back used with the cartridges is replaceable with the Mamiya and Leaf line of digital backs that make the camera completely digital with one simple (yet extremely expensive) accessory. The camera even with the film setup is on the pricey side, but photographers understand that most of the time you have to pay for quality.

Will I run out and spend nearly $1,000 for a body alone anytime soon? I seriously doubt it when I have the convenience factor of being able to rent it from Adolf Gasser’s nearly anytime I desire. But would it be a welcome part in my photographic arsenal? Oh, hell yeah!! For now, I’ll stick to my photographic guerilla tactics of taking the cheap route until someone chooses to start paying my ass for my imagery!! Ha!

Justin Herman Plaza Ice Rink

Justin Herman Plaza Ice Rink

Inside of the Ferry Bldg

Inside of the Ferry Bldg

Mexico City F-Line Street Car

Mexico City F-Line Street Car

Ferry Bldg clock tower

Ferry Bldg clock tower

F-line Street Car

F-line Street Car

Handmade clay coffee mugs. I do LOVE killin' me some zombies...

Handmade clay coffee mugs. I do LOVE killin’ me some zombies…

Ferry Bldg clock tower

Ferry Bldg clock tower

Justin Herman Plaza ice skating rink

Justin Herman Plaza ice skating rink

The 80mm lens hood could be a little longer...

The 80mm lens hood could be a little longer…

How about we stop in the middle of the street and take a picture...

How about we stop in the middle of the street and take a picture…

Buns of steel!! Or maybe just bronze...

Buns of steel!! Or maybe just bronze…

Clock tower

Clock tower

Justin Herman Plaza artisan kiosks.

Justin Herman Plaza artisan kiosks.

More kiosks...

More kiosks…

Dinner Party with Friends, Family and a Mamiya 645AF w/ 80mm f/2.8 Lens

On more than one occasion, I have been told that my camera is a black abyss which no image ever surfaces or sees the light of day to anyone other than myself. I am happy to report that I dare brave the trek to the bottom of said abyss and have returned with images!!

Back in Feb (yes, Feb, so it was only in the abyss for about 8 months), we were invited to head up to Marin County to have dinner with friends and family. I happened to have rented a Mamiya 645AF medium format camera that came with an 80mm f2.8 autofocus lens for testing and decided to bring it along. I had just started to get into the film thing and wasn’t feeling quite comfortable with exposure settings and manual operations, so the auto features of the Mamiya was a good compromise in taking a dip in the medium format film realm. One of my favorite features of the 645AF is the settings impression that can be turned on and will imprint on the side of the image all the camera settings and will develop along with the image for future reference. Obviously, every digital camera provides this in the EXIF data imbedded in the image, but to have this information with film was high-end stuff! If I really wanted to go “old school”, I could always bring along a small notepad to write down my settings as I shoot…nah!

Although a beast compared to most digital and 35mm film cameras, the Mamiya 645 is rather manageable and feels great in your hands. Made almost exclusively of plastics, it is quite light compared to other medium format cameras with steel frames. All the settings are within fingertip reach and the layout is pretty self-explanatory. Other than getting used to how to properly load the film inserts (which the insert does a great job with visual markings), the shooting experience with the 645 is a pleasurable one. It may have been the first time I rented the camera, but it surely has not been the last.

Speaking of film, the following images were all captured on Ilford Delta 100 medium format b&w film self developed with Kodak D-76, scanned using a Canoscan 9900F Mark II and lightly tweaked in PS to get rid of dust, scratches and nuisances on scanned negatives.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Adolf Gasser’s has a great deal in their rental department that allows for a 40% off the rental list price of anything on the shelf on Fridays after 3pm for a weekend rental, which is equal to one day as long as the items are back by noon on Monday.The Mamiya setup I took home typically rents for $45 for the weekend, but at 40% off, it’s a steal!! Although the deal is good for both digital and film cameras and accessories in stock, chances are that you’re going to want to make a reservation at the list price for items that you simply must have

Without further ado, here are some images…

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1 year, 10 months and 11 days later…

I’M BACK FOLKS!!!

A lot has happened in the last 680 days, and with enough posts, I’ll get to go over the highlights on all the new stuff. If I had to rate all the new stuff and put something at the very top of the list it would be FILM. Yes, film…

In this digital age, why in the world would I take up film? There are too many reasons why every photographer that started in the digital age should try film and learn from it. For me it represents the following:

  • Film makes you slow down and really think about what you are shooting, why you are shooting it and how you are shooting it.
  • Film doesn’t give you the instant gratification that digital does, so you get the added plus of reliving the excitement once you get your film developed. This is, of course, assuming that you like your results and not absolutely hate them.
  • Film gives you the opportunity to be hands on with the developing of your film regardless if it is 35mm, medium format or larger and regardless if it is b&w, color negative or positive film.
  • Film gives you the opportunity to match and exceed the quality currently available with digital cameras when properly scanned with a reputable scanner. Anyone up for 70MB 35mm files??
  • Film gives you the opportunity to record an analogue image that will be able to be converted to digital many times over in the 100+ years that the image will be preserved giving you plenty of opportunity to make the image bigger and better as scanner technology continues to develop. With digital, sadly, you are limited to the technology available in the camera you used to record the image with and whatever limitations that camera may have had.
  • Film cameras are damn cheap and plentiful!!
  • Film gives you instant street cred.
  • Pick up a film camera at the local Goodwill, a patterned fedora at the Target nearest you and you too can be a hipster!!
  • Chicks love film, therefore, they will automatically all love you…

Ok, so the last few are just for shits and giggles, but there are many other advantages to shooting film that I’m skipping over as I try to crank out this first post in over 16,320 hours since my last post.

Does this mean I’ve abandoned digital? Hell no!!! There are plenty of instances that digital would still take precedence with me and I don’t even get paid to make images. But what I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt is that shooting film has made my photography better all around and this gets translated to my digital work as well.

When you get to the point that you understand composition, timing, exposure and all the other aspects that go into making a valuable image happen, the medium that you choose to record the image in is irrelevant. Am I there? I wish…but I’m working on it every day.

All I know is that when I get ready to head out, I decide whether to grab digital or film and almost always reach for my film cameras. Even with that decision made, then there’s the decision of b&w, color negative, positive slide and which brand do I want to shoot with. All things fun!!!

What I can tell you for sure is that I’m back in to continue the ride and share my experiences. I plan to continue offering my opinion on gear as I come across it (digital and film), but promise to get off the lengthy posts.

Keep it simple and share a bunch of images!!!

Good to be back, everyone…

Part 3 of 4 of The 2012 San Francisco Giants World Series Championship Parade!! Coaches, Lou Seal, the Trophy and some weird shit that did not have anything to do with the parade!!

Hey folks!! I’m back yet again to share a few more images that I took from my vantage point along Market Street during the San Francisco Giant’s World Series Championship Parade. Last time I shared with you, I got through Muelens and Wotus. So, I will start off with the next guys up in the parade route, Roberto Kelly and Tim Flannery.

Tim Flannery is one hell of a third base coach! He is always animated, intense and knows this game of baseball like only the best of them do. Whether he’s just relaying signs or waving the Panda home on a tight call, Tim is hanging right there with the players and even runs alongside them all the way home. If you are lucky enough to get close enough seats, you can even hear Flannery scream out “DOWN!! DOWN!! DOWN!!!” as he’s running alongside the players when he needs them to slide home. Although Tim played almost all of his baseball career with the San Diego Padres, we are very pleased that Bochy was able to steal him away from the Padres when he was named Manager in 2007.

In 2008, when he joined the team, Roberto Kelly told all the starting pitchers that they would have no excuse for not being as good a base runner as any of the other position players. I’m sure that raised an eyebrow or two, but our pitchers have become some of the best base runners in the entire league. Roberto played a good deal of his baseball career here in the US after getting his start in his home country of Panama. Although he never played for the Giants, we are very happy to have him over as our first base coach. Earlier this year, Roberto was hospitalized for appendicitis and missed a number of games. The fans missed him and let him know with a huge round of applause when he was announced in the lineup for his first game back.

Hats off to you, gentlemen!!

Next up on the parade route brought us Billy Hayes and Joe Lefebvre. If you are ever fortunate enough to get good seats over by the home bullpen section, you’ll get to know and see Billy Hayes in action up close and personal. You may not recognize him as an every day coach or assistant, but he’s always there behind the mask and protective gear warming up the bullpen that has become such a phenom in the last few years. Joe is a different story since he is more behind the scenes and isn’t so prominent in front of the fans as the other guys are. Does that make his role as assistant hitting coach any less? Hell no!!

As the 2012 season was shaping up leading up and through the All-Star break, the Giants were almost resting their fate solely on one doping fool that shall remain nameless. The majority of the commentators and speculators wrote us off for any significant push into the post season, let alone remain as the sole standing team at the end of a World Series sweep. Did the team and coaching staff lower their heads and call it quits? Nope!! The entire coaching staff of the 2012 San Francisco Giants collectively stood up and told the doubters and haters “FUCK YOU!!”

You guys are tops in the game!!!

Next up were some of the special assistant coaches that were instrumental during the season. Most of these guys are past players for the Giants that are still very loved and prominent in the Giants community. Not only are most of these guys doing good in the clubhouse as mentors to some of the younger guys that could use the guidance of a true and tested veteran, but they are also in the community with very worthwhile causes.

First up with J.T. Snow and Shawon Dunston. J.T. Snow, as many of you know, was one of the best first basemen that has ever worn the Giants uniform. He will eternally be known to Giants fans as the saviour to little Darren Baker, son of coach Dusty Baker, with a grab and run play at home plate as Darren was making his way over to the play to pick up the bat lying there. As he round third base, JT knew of the danger that little Darren faced and was able to scoop him up as he crossed home plate and avoided a potential collision that might have cause serious injury to the then 3-year-old bat boy. MLB changed the rules for batboys requiring a 14-year-old minimum because of that instance.

Although I’m not too sure what JT was all excited about when I snapped this image, I can almost guarantee you that it had nothing to do with me or my beast of a camera. Regardless, I found it fitting to use this image of JT simply because of how much fun he was having during the moment and the fact that he is one of the most loved Giants figures still around.

Next to JT is Shawon Dunston. During his illustrious baseball career, Shawon jumped all around the league, landing with the Giants a few times here and there, but ending his career in 2002 wearing the orange and black. Shawon has been instrumental in working with our infield players throughout his tenure and imparting his knowledge on the young guys.

I can’t believe you’re so happy to see me, JT!!!

Last up on the special assistant coaches is none other that the GREAT Will “The Thrill” Clark. Working with the Giants front office staff, Will still makes time to visit with the players and impart the knowledge about the game that he accumulated throughout a spectacular career. How much more spectacular can you get than hitting a home run off of Nolan Ryan at your first major league at bat?!?!? Will always seems very enthusiastic and appreciative for all the love that Giants fans continue to show him to this day. Will is on the forefront of a great number of charities and community service fronts with the Giants, most notably his Autism Awareness campaign.

He was very animated as his car rolled by, which made him difficult to photograph, but I managed to sneak off a few pictures. The first is just of him clapping up and acknowledging all the fans hanging from out of their building windows that lined Market St. The second image I wanted to include just cause it has a comical side to Will that fits with the persona that he is known for. I can’t imagine what had him all worked up, but I will gladly accept the credit for being such an awesome photographer that he felt he had to single me out in the crowd. 🙂 Love you too, Will!!

Will The Thrill giving love to the cheap seats!!

No!!! You are the greatest, Will!!

Next up on the parade route was none other than our fabulous Lou Seal. I was happy to hear that the person behind our beloved mascot received recognition during the 2010 season and received a WS ring. I hope they acknowledge the work that this person does yet again to add to the collection. As a photographer, I am always focused in on Lou and all his shenanigans. Anytime I can get both Lou and Pablo Sandoval in the same frame together, it is guaranteed to make for good images as they are both very playful with each other. Lou Seal is all about fun and getting the crowd into the game and keeping the kids entertained. I can’t imagine a ballgame without Lou present, so I think that the moment is very well deserved, Lou!!

Soak it all in, Lou!! Get yourself an extra few salmon for dinner on me!!

Next up on the parade route was some shit that I could have done without, but nonetheless made for some colorful images, so I shot off a few. First up was a Chinese dragon and lion in a Chinese New Year style of parade regalia with music and dancing. What this had to do with the Giants winning the World Series is beyond me, but here are a few images to share.

Then came a Carnaval parade thing that REALLY had nothing to do with the Giants in the World Series. Yes, I know that the Giants sponsor certain nights during the season for heritage nights, but keep it out of my parade, please. Anyway, here is a very attractive and relatively naked dancer for you to look at.

When the confetti started to rain down, it could only mean one thing. THE GOODS ARE ON THE WAY!! Sure enough, the next person down the route was our famed manager Bruce Bochy holding the World Series trophy up over his head for all to see. Everyone knows what an awesome coach Bruce is, so I don’t need to go into all the detail as to how he has managed to take a group of “misfits” yet again and come up with a winning team. The man lost his closer early on in the season, never got back the 2nd baseman that he thought he would have in Freddie Sanchez, had key players going in and out of the DL and had to close every game of the season by committee. And with all the calm and patience of Job from the Bible, he did it in such a fashion that never let out any signs of emotion until that final out was recorded in Detroit. Bruce, you are the man and you have brought to this city what countless other managers have tried to do and haven’t been able to: 2 FREAKIN’ WORLD SERIES TROPHIES!!!

So, now let’s talk about the bobo that decided to put Bruce in a Rolls Royce convertible and how horrible of a decision that was. If you haven’t noticed from my images or the parade footage that was aired in the days following, Lexus shelled out almost all the cars featured with the coaches and players in order to showcase their new 2012 Lexus IS C convertible coupe. There were a number of vintage cars early on in the parade throughout the staff, ownership and supporting roles and their families. But, the creme de la creme of the ball players, coaches and the like was saved for Lexus. As many of you notice, the figures were seated above and behind the rear passenger seating area where they were essentially sitting on where the retractable roof hides in the chassis. Someone decided to give Bochy something special, but must not have taken into consideration the fact that on a Rolls, the top doesn’t tuck down into the chassis, but rests on the body of the car. This made it impossible for Bruce and his wife to sit where he could prominently be seen, which looks ridiculous. Why would you stick the most important man on the team in a car that he has to sit in the back seat and prop the trophy waaaay over his head just to be seen?? Not only that, but why wouldn’t someone bother to check that the gas tank was full before the start of the parade route?? Luckily, I was early on in the route, so I didn’t have to see Bruce getting pushed along by staff after his Rolls run out of gas….Stupid!!!

Hold it high, Captain!!!!

I will leave everyone today on that note. Tomorrow I will be sharing the images from the starting lineup. I trust everyone had a delicious and safe Thanksgiving Day Holiday. So, what was I thankful for, you ask??? How about having the best team in all of baseball for two out of the last three years!!