I Quit. Really.

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I last posted to the blog. I must correct that. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but not all of it on the photography front. A workplace promotion, more responsibility, more work, and that’s been really refreshing. I like being busy; my ADD brain doesn’t do well with idleness. That’s why I always have something to do with me, whether it be my laptop, a camera, a book to read, or the tablet.

The thing is that I’d grown tired of the same old thing. My 7D is so comfortable in my hand, with the 70-200 2.8L and other lenses, that I was bored. Shooting a wedding is never boring, nor is shooting an event, or a portrait session, but there began to be a certain “sameness” to the images that didn’t float my boat much anymore. I was in a rut. A LARGE rut. Like the rut one of those Tonka-toy quarry trucks would make after a week’s rain. That big a rut.

So… I quit.

No, I didn’t quit photography. I hung up the digitals, and went back to film. I already had a bulk loader, and I bought another one. Filled one with 100 ASA black and white and the other with 400. Rolled a bunch of 35mm cassettes. To give myself a little bit of a push and to get my feet wet in a darkroom again, I signed up for a Photo I class at Estrella Mountain Community College. Even though the poor kid who was playing the part of instructor was so far out of his depth that I ended up doing most of the explaining to other students, it was cathartic to be doing something different to what I had been doing.

My film camera collection is growing, as people find out I collect cameras and offload Dad’s Olympus or Grandpa’s old Kodak onto my blue piano (the primary storage space for display of interesting cameras). I now have probably a hundred or more cameras, most of which can make some semblance of a clicky noise. I am currently shooting mostly black and white and in many different formats, both roll film and sheet film. My primary film of choice is Arista.edu Ultra 100 speed, though I do occasionally shoot 400. I like this stuff — which seems to be private-labelled Fomapan — for a couple reasons. First, it’s inexpensive. Second, the tonal range is beautiful. And last, I can get it in all the formats I shoot: 135, 120, 2.25×3.25, and 4×5. This means I can pretty well predict what the image will look like, and I can develop all formats at the same time in the same chemicals and not have to adjust much. That’s pretty convenient for a relative beginner.

So from here on out I will be writing about my successes and failures, frustrations and encouragements, loves and hates, experiments with different cameras… and sharing negative and print scans as I can. I’m not quite sure how this will end up being organized, but I’m sure as I go along, it’ll come together. So here goes:

The Cameras

As I’ve said, I have probably over a hundred cameras, most of which I have never used. Some of these cameras — the 616s and the 116s and the postcard camera — film is no longer manufactured for, so those cameras will mostly have to sit on the shelf and watch the others have all the fun. The logical place to start, though, was with what I know so well: my Canons. My digital gear is all Canon, so I have two film bodies that are also Canon so I can shoot film using my L-series lenses (the L apparently stands for “luxury,” and they live up to that) and Canon flashes and stuff. The Elan 7e bodies are SOOOOO much lighter than the digitals that it’s almost comical how unbalanced they feel at first, and the 7e is not a high-level body so their performance is somewhat less than the digitals. They do, however, sport one really nifty feature that i wish they had ported over to the megapixel line — the eye-controlled focus. Essentially there’s a small bit of magic in the eyepiece that wathces where your eye is pointing and focuses on that part of the viewfinder. Once it’s calibrated, it’s almost creepy how accurate it is, and I wonder why they didn’t keep that feature around.

So I found some batteries for the cameras and loaded them up and went somewhere to shoot with them. The 2014 Veteran’s Day Parade in downtown Phoenix seemed a pretty good place to start.

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I believe these were shot on Kentmere 100, which is made by Ilford and is a very nice film, and developed in probably Ilford DD-X developer. Good tonal range, good grain. I love the look of schoolmarm disapproval on the face of the woman on camera right.

So overall, it was a success as I now knew the Canons still worked, after many years of sitting idle. It was time to find something else to do with them. But that’ll be for the next installment, so you’ll have to come back and read more.

Mamiyaflex C2 Professional

The Mamiyaflex C2 was a groundbreaking twin lens reflex camera.  Unlike the Yashicamat, Graflex 22, and others, the C2 had interchangeable lenses and finders, and quite the list of accessories and lenses to go with it including flashes and pistol grips.  The C2 was made from about 1958-1962, so far as I can tell, and this one is in very good cosmetic condition for its age.  It came with its original leather case, has a standard waist-level finder and a normal 80mm f/2.8 Seikosha-shutter Mamiya-Sekor lens.  The body serial number is 78797and the lens serial number is 564675.  It has a really cool stamped metal lens cover, which I quite like.

Here’s the camera in question:

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Using one of these cameras takes some getting used to.  Everything is backwards, so composing the image initially takes some time.  I naturally tend towards a left tilt on my horizons, and there’s a nice little line across the viewfinder to help me level the shot. And since the shutter and the winder are not connected in any way, it’s REALLY easy to make a double exposure.  I have not yet done this but I expect as I use the camera more, it’ll eventually happen.

Image quality itself is what I would expect from an old Mamiya TLR: sharp throughout, good detail, and a nice square negative.   Here is a contact sheet of the first roll I ran through this camera.  I think there may be a strip from the second int here as well, but I can’t remember.  These were shot in September heading up towards Greer, Arizona.

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The weird thing about the C2 is its film transport and winder system.  There’s a little lever under the film winding knob that has to be moved in order to advance the film to the next frame.  I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong, but the first roll I ran though this camera came out beautifully but subsequent rolls are only half-exposed, and the images that are on the exposed half of the film are either overlapped by about 1/5 of the frame, or are so close to one another that there is no space between the images to cut the film. I just need to figure out the winding thing. I’m thinking if I wind twice for each shot, maybe it’ll work better.  I’m currently on the road with this camera and so I’ll try it and report.

In this pair of scans you can clearly see the film overlap problem.  I can still use the middle of the image, though, which is nice, I guess.

Mamiyaflex C2 overlap

Here are a couple of larger images — basic film scans with little touchup, only some spotting — that show the overall image quality.  The first is in a field north of Greer, AZ, and the other is a derelict Aeronca Chief at Glendale, AZ. Note that the Aeronca photo is only the middle of the lower image in the filmstrip scan.

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I think that once I get this film transport thing figured out, this will be a great addition to my arsenal of photography equipment.

Fun with Film

I’ve been a camera collector for years. I love the feel of an old camera: the weight and precision of its metal body and lens barrel, the satisfying CHUNK of a mechanical shutter moving, the buzzing of a mechanical self-timer… they just feel right.

People keep giving me cameras because they will never use the old film ones again (if they ever did in the first place).  They multiply like rabbits in my living room, garage, photo equipment closet…  There are cameras everywhere. Most of them work, as far as I know, and so I decided to start actually using them.  I signed up for a film photography class so I could get used to a wet darkroom again, bought some film, and cleaned some very dusty lenses.

So here goes.  I’ll try to give as much information about the individual camera, film, processing, and so on as I can as I go through this.

First to the film.  Since this is more of an experiment than anything, I dug out my old bulk loaders and purchased some Kentmere 35mm bulk film.  For those who do not know Kentmere, it’s produced by Ilford, I believe, and it’s really quite inexpensive. This is perfect for me right now, because I do not want to be worrying about the dollars when running film through a camera that may or may not work.  For the medium format stuff (the 120/220) cameras, I use Kodak Tmax 100.  Tmax has been around forever and it’s always reliable.  Large format, well, I got some Ilford Delta 100 sheet film.

Chemistry is more than a little bewildering, and so initially I went with what we are using in the classroom darkroom: Sprint.  The Sprint stuff seems to work well enough, but I ended up getting a bottle of Ilford fixer (for reasons I’ll explain later) and I just last week got a packet of Ilford Microphen developer, which I’ve used before and I believe will give a little finer grain in the images during processing. If I think about it later, maybe I’ll run a side-by-side test of the two developers using films shot in the same conditions and developed with the different developers. We’ll see.

So, without further ado, on to the cameras!

Beautiful Images Printed on Aluminum Sheet!

I am excited to announce a couple of new products to my product line offerings. I’ll break this into two postings. First, this is an image that it actually printed on aluminum sheet — the print quality is amazing, and you really need to see it to appreciate how beautiful it really is. This image will go up on my wall as soon as I am finished writing about it!

Beautiful Aluminum Prints Now Offered!

Trashing the Dress

I am always looking for beautiful ways to make art and have fun at the same time, so when Alexandra contacted me to do a Trash the Dress session, I was all over it. Not only is she extremely beautiful, but we had the perfect location in mind and everything — weather, light, temperatures, and location — came together in a perfection that is truly rare. There are so many shots I love from this session that it’s almost impossible to choose which I love the best. So here is a small sampling.

The thing about Trash the Dress sessions is that it’s not actually necessary to destroy the dress; most times, and soiling that happens to the dress will come right out with a quick brushing or a cleaning, and in this case that’s exactly what happened. Alexandra’s dress, even though it was in the river, cleaned up just fine afterwards. So if you’re planning on keeping your dress, we can always find a way to do a unique, fun shoot in it and not do irreversible damage to it.

Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session

I LOVE Maternity Sessions — and This One ROCKS.

I love shooting maternity sessions; I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than a new mother. She has a glow around her that can’t be found anywhere else, and that happiness is contagious. Please contact me for information about my Maternity sessions and products available.

I was blessed last Saturday to be invited to shoot a maternity session for Trina and her little girl Brynlee, who is doomed to be the most girly-girl little baby on the planet! Trina’s adorable and can’t take a bad picture, and we just laughed and laughed and laughed during the shoot. She wanted to shoot with all the food she’s been craving during her pregnancy, and also with the (seemingly) MILLIONS of pairs of shoes Brynlee already owns.

Trina's Maternity Session<br?
Trina's Maternity Session
Trina's Maternity Session
Trina's Maternity Session
Trina's Maternity Session

Equipment Review: Yongnuo YN-560-II flash unit

I have been playing with off-camera flash for a while now, because I find that it’s far more versatile than on-camera flash. I already have Canon 580EX-series flashes, and wanted two more for almost exclusively off-camera work. So I did some research, and settled on the Yongnuo YN-560-II flash. I ordered two from Amazon, and eagerly awaited their arrival.

Yongnuo YN-560-II
(image hotlinked from Yongnuo’s website)

My initial impression of the YN-560-II is of a good solid build quality, a little larger than the 580EX flash. The Omnibounce-style flash diffusers fit just fine over the flash head, and it’s not so much bigger as to be noticeable when mounted on a camera. As with the 580EX, there is a bounce card and a fresnel diffusion screen built into the flash head, which swivels through 360 degrees (one way).

The YN-560-II is a manual-only flash, meaning that it is NOT TTL. All adjustments are done through the flash, and it does not talk to the camera; it has a single pin on the hot shoe, making it compatible with (almost) any camera. More on that later. The buttons on the back of the flash have a good feel and the adjustments are really easy, at 1/3-stop increments from 1/1 to 1/128 power. The zoom head can be controlled with simple pushbuttons from 24mm coverage to 105mm coverage.

The LCD screen on the back is large and easy to read when viewed from behind the flash, but not so good when viewed from an angle such as from below when it’s mounted on a lightstand. Then again, neither is the 580EX, so I’m used to constantly dropping the stand to adjust the flash.

The hot foot is metal, which may or may not be good; I’ve not dropped a camera in a long time, but I have a couple of extra feet for my 580EX in case, and I don’t know what a metal hot foot will to do a hot shoe if it’s dropped. It’s nice to slide onto the camera or onto a radio trigger, though. It feels sturdy.

It also has a PC jack, which is very nice, and a power socket that an external power pack can be plugged into (such as a Quantum Turbo). These features are VERY nice and desirable for me, as I occasionally do use PC cords and a Turbo Compact.

There is a clear red lens on the front of the flash as on the Canon flashes for the focus-assist beam, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to get it to emit a focus-assist beam. In the Quickstart Guide, it is shown as “Optical Control Sensor,” whatever that means.

Apparently the flash can also be controlled as a slave via radio, but I have not experimented with that function, being somewhat of a troglodyte and used to my radio triggers. I’ll play with those functions later.

After a few months of fairly regular use, reliability seems good, and power output approximates that of the 580EX. Recycle time is a little slower with rechargeable AA batteries, but I don’t shoot machine-gun style anyway with them so that’s not relevant. Battery life appears to be a little less than the 580EX, though, so you’ll want to carry more batteries with you than you would normally, until you work out how it works with your shooting style.

CONCERNS

My primary concern with this flash is that it’s off-brand Chinese, and support for cheap Chinese stuff tends to be spotty. I shoot a lot, and I have blown up flash tubes, broken feet off flashes, and so on, and I am not confident that I would get anywhere NEAR the level of support from Yongnuo that I get from Canon. Yes, this unit is cheap, so it would cost nearly as much to simply replace it as to have extensive repairs on a Canon flash, but I feel that it would be wasteful to just trash a flash that might need only a minor repair. So I would never consider this unit as a primary flash until I find out whether support is even offered.

Also, I was out shoot with a Canon Elan 7E film body yesterday and put the YN-560-II on the camera and it COMPLETELY locked up the camera. As in the camera would not fire at all — the mirror would click open, and that’s where it would stay until the camera was turned off. Turning the camera back on would reset it, but it would do exactly the same thing each time, not advancing the film. I had just replaced the batteries in the camera grip and thought it was the camera, but when I took the flash off the camera the camera resumed normal operation.

I put the second YN-560-II on the camera and the symptoms were repeated. Putting a 580EX on the camera resulted in perfectly normal operation. Repeating the above with a second Elan 7E body resulted in exactly the same results, so I know for a fact that this flash does NOT like to put on that model of Canon film camera.

Overall I’m quite impressed with this flash unit, and I recommend it to those who want to get a second flash unit or one for off-camera use. However, if you’re a film shooter, PLEASE make sure it works on your camera before you shell out the money.