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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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 Foggy Day at Muir Woods National Monument Near Mill Valley, CA

Yes, I know I made you wait a while for this next post, but believe me, it’s a good one. Well, the content is always subject to interpretation, but I think I came back with a few really good images from my latest outing that even left me asking myself “did I take that?”

Every once in a while I surprise myself, but it isn’t very often, folks. So, I’m excited to share today’s post with everyone in the hopes that I can break the monotony of my constant writing with only the spam commentary coming back telling me what a great site I have and don’t forget to visit my incredible sex-all-the-time website!! I mean, commentary from my readers is all I have, so when I get a notice that I have a comment, I jump for joy. When all I get is spam, it feels pretty lame, so go ahead and click the comment button and send me your thoughts. Stop by and say “hey, that was awesome” or “man, you suck!!” It doesn’t matter, as I’ll probably get excited to have someone’s feedback, although I probably won’t post the real bad ones. However, if you find a way to insult me while still making me smile, I’ll surely add it to the commentary for comic relief, just don’t mention your fabulous sex website, please…

So, back to the meat and potatoes of the post. We had some friends of the family that came out to the Bay Area to visit, so of course I want to play tour guide for them. Unfortunately for me, our friend lived in the Bay Area for many years before returning back home to the midwest. However, she was making the rounds with her niece that had never been out, so they had planned to hit a good number of the touristy spots in the area. On the list was our famed Muir Woods National Monument, so I offered to drive them over and come along for the ride. They took me up on the offer, so I made sure to make a pit stop by my friendly neighborhood Gasser’s photo rental spot and picked up a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens that was sitting there pretty for me to take home under the 40% discount program.

Now, I don’t know much about the history of Muir Woods, but I did take a quick gander at Wikipedia to have something to mention. Muir Woods is the result of major efforts of Congressman William Kent who took notice of the speed at which the logging community was cutting down the old growth redwood trees that had stood tall all along the northern California coastline all the way up to Oregon. Mainly due to its inaccessibility, a good portion of the land where Muir Woods now sits, was spared. President Roosevelt declared the area a national monument in 1908, making sure that future generations would have this incredibly beautiful place for all to enjoy.

Although Kent’s favorite tree was a douglas fir and not a redwood, it proceeded to lean at an alarming rate due to its height and weight. After a storm in 2003, the tree fell but still sits where it fell as a reminder of Kent’s love. Muir Woods is named after naturalist John Muir, who was instrumental in establishing the national park system. That’s all for the lesson today, so let’s get to the pictures.

The first one I’d like to share with you is just a testament to the fact that photography can be an accidental art form. In this image, which was one of the first I took as I was getting my settings down, was a result of not realizing that the previous renter of the lens I was using had left it in Manual Focus and my shutter button went off as I was waiting for the auto focus to kick in. You can barely make out the tree I had only two feet in front of me, but the soft haze on the entire image left me intrigued. Maybe you like it as I do, maybe you don’t. The point is that it spoke to me and this is my blog, so, damn it, I’m putting it in!!!

Turn on the auto focus, dummy!!

In this next one, I photographed the front entry signage, as I had a number of groups of people stand underneath the sign to get their picture taken. The one observation I made was that Americans as a group simply just don’t make use of the “peace sign” nearly enough as other nationalities do. Why is that? I don’t know. I have plenty of friends in Mexico that do that each and every time they have a camera pointed at them, yet when I ask them why they do it, all they can seem to say is that it’s almost a necessity when taking a picture. I vow to start a movement to get all Americans giving the peace sign in portrait shots along with bringing back most of the dance moves that the New Kids On The Block used in their videos. Awesome!!!

Winning!!!

For those visiting Muir Woods for the first time, here are a few pointers after having visited a few times. First pointer is to try to go during the week. Chances are that you’ll be able to find parking in one of their three parking lots that are at the entrance gate. If not, you won’t have trouble finding a spot on the road that leads to the Woods and parallel park there. If you must go on the weekends, be prepared to either arrive very early in order to get a parking spot, or use the website to find out which parking lot on the outskirts is most convenient for you and park there. The shuttle service is quick and easy, but will cost you $3 a person for adults and $1 for kids, and you must bring CASH AND EXACT CHANGE. They head out every twenty minutes and found it great getting in and out on Saturday.

The next tip I can offer is to dress in layers. That seems to be the recurring theme in all my suggestions in visiting sites in the Bay Area, but it’s true. You can never plan when the fog will decide to come in and lay a thick, cold blanket over everything and when the sun will come out. You can always point out the tourists since they usually show up freezing their asses off in shorts and a t-shirt.

The last tip I will offer is to remember that you’ll be doing some hiking when visiting Muir Woods. The main trail is a wooden boardwalk that will let you see just about everything the woods has to offer while never having to get your pretty little Prada shoes dirty. But, if you are a little more adventuresome and don’t have the babystroller with you, there are a number of very long trails that can be quite challenging. These are not boardwalks, but occasionally have wooden rails or stairs in the tedious areas. By no means is this a crack at folks that want to bring their babies or don’t plan on doing much walking. Heaven knows that my fat ass doesn’t do a lot of hiking, but I rather enjoyed the long walk we went on when taking the ocean side trail. The boardwalk takes about 45 minutes to walk all the way around. The ocean side trail would have taken a good part of about two and a half hours to make the roundtrip. That’s some good walking, folks!!!

A walk on the boardwalk

When I wasn’t getting my camera and lens setup checked out by every photo junkie that was walking by, I was trying to find the artistic view on things. One of my favorite things to try is to lay on my back on the floor to get an interesting perspective. If anything, I do this for the passerby that has the interesting perspective of looking at my ass crack as I’m trying to get back up from off the floor!!!

I think I farted trying to get back up from this shot…

At some point in time, there was a fire in Muir Woods. Some of the trees got burnt, but managed to survive because they are badass. There were a few that still had their burn marks like a tattoo or scar, so I took a few pictures. The texture of the burnt bark next to the living tree captured my attention. This one I took fairly up close and personal to get all that detail in the image and used a shallow depth of field to have the rest of the tree fall out of focus as it rose. Although I like the image, I probably think I should have gotten a little closer now that I think about it. Oh well, I’ll have to go back…

Look, mom, that’s a badass tree!!!

This next image worked for me because of the pattern in the image. Mating this with a shallow depth of field that goes out of focus off to your right gives the eye the illusion that it continues on forever. Sure, this behemoth went on for a good ten to twenty feet on the ground, but the person looking at the image can’t tell that. This kind of shot works well for me, but it’s real easy to go overboard and try this technique out on everything. So, give it a shot and maybe include it in with other types of shots without turning yourself into a one-trick pony.

Ribbed for her pleasure…

Not all the images I took when on manual mode came out properly exposed. I did my best, but I’m still trying to get all that stuff figured out on my own as well. This next image in particular came out a little on the dark side and trying to lighten in Photoshop netted a gross image. So, do I discard? Nope, go black and white!! I went B/W and punched up the structure and intensity of the image to give it a high impact look. I like it!!

Black and white badassery!!

Here is another using the same type of high impact black and white styling…

Whoa, I did it again!!

In this next image, my back was killing me and I was ready to toss the Tokina 100-300mm that I was lugging around off to the creek side, but I hung in there. I bumped up the shallow depth of field in order to get this singular tree amongst the woods surrounding it in a blur. I had to move around to compose the image just right, but it ended up working out in the end. Just like a portrait shot of a model, the tree is sitting pretty in the center of the frame with all the focus on itself. But, unlike a model, the tree won’t be asking you for any money for posing.

Sitting pretty

This next image almost gives the impression that I was using a fish eye lens of sorts, but this was taken at 24mm with the Canon 24-70mm I had on the whole time. Where I think this perspective is giving is in the fact that I am on the trail with the hillside to my right and it’s pretty steep.

In this next image, I purposefully underexposed the image to expose for the softbox being created by the thick fog over head and the bright sunlight coming through in a diffused fashion. This gave the image a black and white feel without being that way. As if they were silhouettes, I left them that way in post-processing.

silhouettes of the trees

These next two images were the main two that left me amazed that I had actually exposed them properly. Don’t give me too much praise, or it will go to my head…

Love that fog

Although we were only ten minutes from reaching the ocean side view, we decided as a group to cut down the Lost Trail back towards Muir Woods and the entrance. We were all pretty exhausted, as none of us had really planned properly on being out that long or going for that long of a walk. But, on the way back, I stumbled on this tree that re-affirmed the fact that Mother Nature is a female.

So, Mother Nature IS a female!!

Here are a few last images that I wanted to share and worked up. I greatly enjoyed my time at Muir Woods and is definitely a spot worth checking out with some frequency. With the annual pass only being $20 a person, you can pay for the pass with only your third trip to the woods. If you are a Bay Area local and haven’t been to Muir Woods yet, you are truly missing out on a great treasure. If you happen to not be a local, but will be visiting us sometime soon, don’t forget to add Muir Woods to the list of MUST DOs.

Thanks everyone!!

La Grange, IL At Night With A Sigma 50mm f/1.4

Last week, I found myself in the Chicago area for a series of meetings with potential and existing customers. I was pretty excited about taking this trip to the Chicago area since it would give me the opportunity to finally meet in person a few good friends that I’ve come to have after years of relationship building over the phone. I had a series of very productive meetings, loved the time I spent with my friends and can’t wait to get back to the Windy City. Since I figured that I would get the opportunity at some point in time to get out on my own and sight see, I took the camera bag along for the ride. Coming along with me would be my trusty Tokina 100-300mm f/4.0 along with two rental lenses that I picked up at Borrowlenses.com the previous Saturday. I decided on the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lenses.

Why did I choose third-party manufactures this time around? Simple. I have been doing a lot of research on the internet over the last few months trying to find favorable reviews of third-party lens manufacturers as potential options to the usually more expensive Canon models. Obviously, Canon manufactured lenses will usually have the advantage since the manufacturer fabricates the lenses to work with their camera systems optimally. The third-party manufacturers then have to fabricate their own design on competitive models that don’t usually fit the bill as completely as the name brand manufacturers. The same concept goes for Nikon and others.

Tamron makes a great deal of lenses that use the Canon mount. They have a consumer grade line along with a pro line that usually has a few more bells and whistles to compete with the L series lineup of Canon’s while still coming in at a much reduced cost. I was fortunate to purchase an e-book a few months back on lighting and portraiture on a budget written by a working professional photographer. Besides being a great read with many pointers that I was able to walk away from and employ almost immediately, he went into detail on the gear he uses and his recommendations. The one thing that remained clear in his message was not to discard the third-party manufacturers and find yourself with brand name manufacturer blinders on when choosing your lenses.

Shooting with a Canon 5D, the author highly recommended the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 as a viable competitor to the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens that sells for three to four times the retail price. Armed with this information, I Googled the Tamron quite a bit to only keep stumbling on very favorable reviews by many reputable users. So, can that many people be wrong? I would have to check it out…

The other lens that I wanted to bring along was a fast prime lens, so I chose the 50mm range. Looking up reviews of the 50mm options in the third-party manufacturers, the Tamron 50mm lineup was given a thumbs up, but without resounding excitement. The Sigma, however, was highly praised as being as good if not better than the Canon alternative. I was able to rent the Canon 50mm f/1.4 from Gasser a few nights earlier, and although I was happy with the results, I noticed that the Canon produced a vignette effect wide open through f/1.8. The reviews of the Sigma all said that this problem didn’t exist with the f/1.4 model, so I took the leap of faith to rent it.

With this being my first prime lens experience, I found myself wishing that I could zoom in or out. Fortunately, prime lenses are the poor man’s zoom lens, since you just take a few steps forward or backward to “zoom” to the correct composition desired. I wouldn’t say that it’s as primitive as rubberbanding your cell phone to your head and calling it a hands-free device, but in the ballpark. I found the 50mm focal range to be just right as I walked around town trying it out. The focal range could let you come up real close on things if you walked close enough, while still giving you a tight wide-angle frame if you had something far enough away from you.

My first day in the Chicago area took me all the way up to Rosendale, WI to visit a good friend that I’ve been working with for almost 6 years. Although I am now in a different role at work, I will still be able to work closely with this gentleman and it was a great pleasure to finally meet him in person and share a meal. That area of Wisconsin was beautiful country and I wish I had brought the camera along. I figured it was only going to be business, so the camera stayed back at the hotel resting while I went on the crazy road trip free of any rest on the red-eye flight from San Francisco to Chicago. There sure are plenty of cows in Rosendale…

Once I got back to Chicago, I was able to get a few hours of rest before meeting up with the girls from one of our suppliers for dinner at the local Cheesecake Factory. Not only did I get to meet my favorite to girls in all the sugar industry in person for the first time, but they also invited two coworkers that made the evening completely awesome!! I had a great time that night with all four of them, even though I’m sure that they figured that I was “too quiet.” Truth be told, I wasn’t going to be able to get a word in edgewise, but I enjoyed all the commentary flying back and forth as conversations jumped from one topic to another.

Being on West Coast time, I was still rearing to go after dinner, even though most of them had to get back home. One of them did stay back and offered to take me into the quaint town of La Grange, IL that has a trendy shopping area. It was well past dusk, so I thought it would be the perfect time to break out the Sigma 50mm and see what it could do with such poor lighting. Not only was I impressed with its capability under low light, but I was amazed at the fast autofocus.

My Tokina is not the fastest focusing lens, so I automatically had associated third-party lens manufacturers with all having slow focusing motors. Boy, was I wrong…

The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is priced slightly higher than their competing Canon and Tamron models. The Sigma looks to retail slightly above the $500 mark, while the Canon 50mm f/1.4 is at about $400 and the Tamron equivalent is closer to the $300 range. Do you get much more for the added money on the Sigma? Compared to the Canon 50 f/1.4, I believe so. I didn’t experience the vignette effect on the Sigma while using it wide open. Not only that, I found that the lens shot wide open while still retaining very good sharpness through the image. Once you backed off to about f/1.8, the lens was so sharp that you’d probably cut yourself on an image of a razor!!

Most of the images that I am sharing tonight were all taken wide open. If I did stop down, I never went past f/2.8 due to the lack of lighting. One of the images featured below was of an alleyway that was almost pitch black that had paintings hung down the alley in a pattern. I was NOT expecting for that image to come out at all, especially since I was hand holding the camera. I opened the lens wide and shot hand-held to come up with a great image. Very impressive stuff!!

The strip had a nice assortment of boutique shops with restaurants that gave a quaint hometown feel. Although I found the area fairly light on foot traffic, I did take into consideration that it was a Monday night. I am sure that on weekends, that entire area is buzzing. They also had a series of handmade wooden clocks of wooden design that would be completely decorated in a different decor every half block or so. After passing a few, I decided to start photographing the few that I found interesting. Some of them had been vandalized, which was a real shame, but the majority of them remained untouched and still in working order.

So, I hope you enjoy a few images taken from La Grange, IL with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. Have a good night, all!!

The Solar Eclipse On The Fly and Hector Sanchez Is A Badass!!

While I was writing my post yesterday, the solar eclipse was about to take place and I found myself completely unprepared. Not only had I forgotten that it was going to take place, but I was also unprepared with battery options. The Canon 1D Mark II N takes these HUGE proprietary batteries that are rechargeable using a massive charger that looks like it should be recharging a car battery and not a camera battery. When I purchased the camera, it came with the original Canon battery and charger. Knowing that I would need a few backups, I went ahead and jumped on eBay and found some relatively inexpensive aftermarket batteries. When I still had my 40D, I had great luck with aftermarket batteries and they never failed me. These particular aftermarket batteries for the 1D Mark II N are CRAP!! Not only do they hold a minimal charge when just charged, but they won’t hold a charge for more than a few days when storing them in your bag. They are total crap and now I have to find myself some Canon branded ones to keep in my bag. Oh well…

So, here is the eclipse about to happen, and the aftermarket battery that was fully charged yesterday in my camera was dead. Not only that, but the charger that had my Canon branded battery and the other aftermarket had been unplugged from the wall. When this happens, the charger drains the fully charged batteries into submission. I had a tiny amount of power on the Canon branded battery and I would have to make due. Why go through the angst all over again on the blog? Well, I’m hoping that I can convey the lesson to be learned, which is ALWAYS KEEP A CHARGED BATTERY HANDY. You never know when the perfect photo opportunity may come up.

DON’T BE LAME LIKE ME!!!

So, I run outside with my weak-ass battery in the camera with my trusty Tokina 100-300mm (it’s the only lens I own, so I really didn’t have a choice) to photograph the eclipse. But, wait!! You can’t look up at the eclipse!! You can really screw up your retina by looking directly into the sun!! So, I’m standing outside my door with my camera in hand asking myself “WTF AM I GONNA DO?!?!?” Well, I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again. Photography is all about improvisation, so you always have to be willing to try new and uncomfortable things to get the image you want or any image at all in certain circumstances. Well, maybe I didn’t say it yesterday, but I’m saying it now. So, when I say tomorrow that I said it yesterday, you’ll know that I was for real.

That’s when it hit me like the Hector Sanchez home run in the top of the 14th a few minutes ago to win the game 4-3 against the Brewers in Milwaukee. I had taken a welding course at the local community college a few years back that required that I purchase eye protection that I was certain would be sufficient for staring right into the sun. I tracked the welding goggles down and made sure to install the gold coated lens for TIG welding, which is almost as intense as direct sunlight. I ran back outside and tested it out to be relieved that it would be enough protection. But, what the hell was I going to do in protecting my eyes if the camera’s sensor would be susceptible to the intense light and probably wouldn’t register more than a bright white image???? A little more improvisation, and I was able to fashion the welding goggle in front of the lens while I was viewing very carefully from behind the camera with one eye and the second closed.

Did it work? I would say yes. You might say that it looks like crap. But, that’s the great part of photography. Would I have rather had a better thought out plan along with a fully charged battery with a tripod setup? Sure, but again, this is a lesson in improvisation to make the best out of the situation. I’d always opt for a pre-set configuration with well thought out plans for a photo session, but sometimes life hands you lemons. I take the lemons, throw them away and pour myself a glass of root beer!!! You heard it here, folks!!

On top of having this beautiful celestial event, Pacifica was fortunate enough to have our typical blanket of thick fog that was rolling in and out throughout the entire show. It helped out a lot, since at times it appeared that the fog was enough to be able to look directly into the sun while having an effect of softening the potent light. Of course, I wasn’t looking directly at it, but it was tame enough that I could have. Oh, and before I forget, I had to manually focus on these, since the lens was having trouble autofocusing due to the additional element I was holding in front of it. I just went with it and so should you!!

In the photos below, I employed the technique stated above where I placed the welding goggles in front of the Tokina lens and framed the image while looking through the viewfinder. I tried out a few camera settings before firing away, while keeping in mind that I had barely enough charge to snap off a hundred images. These images were taken between ISO 400-800 and shot between 1/20th and 1/100th of a second at apertures of f/4.0. Two of the images show a gold aura around the eclipsed sun in its various stages and is very evident in the rolling fog. This was not an effect added in Photoshop, but the result of looking through the gold-plated lens. The green tinged photo was when I opted to photograph the sun through a gas welding lens that I also had handy. As you can see, the sun is way more intense and there is a bit of detail missing when compared to the others. Gas welding doesn’t happen at the temperature range that TIG welding happens, which is why a lighter shade of protection is required.

Post processing of these images in Photoshop only included a little contrast adjustment to correct the welding goggle lens flare that was filtering in from the sides that didn’t completely cover the front of the Tokina lens hood. Also, a bit of structure adjustment was performed in Photoshop to bring out the texture of the rolling fog and add to the dramatic image. I hope you enjoy these, and I welcome your commentary as always.

Tomorrow we’ll return to my New York City trip photos and I think I’ll share my Brooklyn Bridge images, but I’m sure you’ll agree that this small departure from the NYC photos was worth while…