Saturday, February 26, 2011

Old School Film Cameras

A few weeks ago I wrote about my old Canon AE1 and the Nikon F3 that Rob Boyer is giving away. I missed the Canon SLR and wanted a chance to win a Nikon replacement so I entered Rob’s contest.

I had a month to wait for the giveaway so I started browsing the cameras on eBay. I watched the F3’s at first but soon started watching the YashicaMat’s too. I already owned one - the 1958 LM pictured above. I love that old camera. I use it from time to time to shoot B&W film which I then develop myself.

What I was looking for though is a slightly newer EM model - circa 1965. The EM uses a similar selenium powered light meter and a faster method for matching the needle to the f-stop / shutter speed scale.

Most of these cameras are selling for about $150. Occasionally one would go for $100 and sometimes well over $200. My maximum bids stayed around $80. Well, as luck would have it nobody outbid me on this particular camera and I became the new owner of a decent YashicaMat EM. It’s in the picture above and to the left of the LM. I can’t wait to put some film in it and see how well it works (or not).

The camera front and center is a 1956 Agfa Silette-L 35mm viewfinder camera. It’s the hardest of the cameras to use. You have to turn a dial to match a needle. Then read off the resulting number (between 2 and 18) and rotate a dial behind the lens to match the number. This locks into place giving you a range of f-stops with matching shutter speeds. With those values set we can now focus on our subject. Got a tape measure? Are you good at guessing distances? Think your subject is 10ft away? Then turn the lens until 10ft is top dead center. There’s no way to know if you’re right unless you pull out a tape measure - or, better yet a laser distance meter.

So, back around to the Nikon F3. While waiting for Rob’s contest I came across a gently used one on eBay. It was a reasonable price, came with the MD-4 motor drive and four rolls of film. The camera was built in September 1998 so it’s in good shape. The motor has taken most of the beatings and I can see why - this thing’s a beast! It uses 8 AA batteries and feels like it weighs 10 lbs. Take the motor off though and F3 is small and light.

I’m working through my first roll of film and still getting used to the controls but I already like this camera a lot. It uses the same lenses as my D90 - okay, check that - it uses the same LENS as my D90. I only own one lens. I have two bodies and one lens. Hmmm, sounds like I need to spend more time on eBay.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2010 Achievements

A few days ago I was listening to Alain and Natalie Briot’s photography podcast #55, ‘Celebrating Your Achievements’ and they suggested we should make a list of our achievements from last year. It's a way of patting ourselves on the back and shows that, yes, we did accomplish something in the past 12 months even if it feels like we were standing still.

That was my case. I didn't feel like I did anything worth while with my photography last year. However, once I downloaded Alain's list and started answering some questions, I had to be impressed. I did more than I thought! So, with that in mind, here’s my list of last year’s achievements:

What did you try that was completely new?
  • Photographing waterfalls which taught be a great deal about using Neutral Density filters and Manual camera settings.
What new equipment (camera, lenses, computer, software, etc.) did you get?
  • My first off-camera flash - an SB600 - for more lighting creativity.
  • A proper bag for my gear - the Think Tank Streetwalker.
  • A sturdy Gitzo tripod
  • BlackRapid RS-7 camera strap replacing my UP Strap.
  • A hotshoe level to help keep the camera straight
  • Holux M-241 Wireless GPS Logger - a far better way to record GPS coordinates than trying to use Google Earth, especially after long day hikes.
What resources did you discover or master?
  • Reeder iphone and ipad app for reading my favorite blogs
How did you improve your studio habits?
  • Improved my digital workflow
    • Import to Aperture
    • Record metadata (headline, caption, keywords, gps data)
    • Rank photos on a scale of 1-3 stars
    • At the end of the month write metadata back to the master files
  • Began proper backups to an external hard drive and to the cloud. Right now I’m using Apple’s Time Machine to back up to the hard drive and CrashPlan to back up to the cloud but, CrashPlan is designed to do both.
What books did you read to learn new skills?
  • Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography (Updated Edition) by Bryan Peterson (Paperback)
  • The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes [Kindle Edition] by Joe McNally
  • Seeing the Light, Making the Most of Available Light and Minimal Equipment, an eBook by Mitchell Kanashkevich
What videos or films did you watch and found useful?
  • Digital Photography: Available Light and Flash with Ibarionex Perello
What seminars, workshops or lectures did you attend?
  • Waterfalls of Western NC with Juan Pons
Which projects did you complete?
  • Project 365 - Taking at least one photo a day for 365 days. This was far tougher than I ever expected but, I learned so much.
Overall, what was the single best thing that happened to your photography career in 2010?
  • Taking time away from work to go to a workshop for a few days. It’s so rewarding to spend time with people that have the same interest as yourself. Family is always supporting but, so easily bored when I spend too much time staring at a silly rock through my camera view finder.
Ideas for 2011
  • Try something uncomfortable such as street photography
  • Visit art events, galleries or museums. Soak up the work of other artists for inspiration.

Monday, February 7, 2011

BlogPress iPad app

I'm looking for some productivity tools and so I'm trying out an iPad app called BlogPress.

I've selected a photo of my son Brian from the iPad photo library and now I'm adding just a bit of text to see how it all looks once I choose save and upload.

Nice and easy for photos and text. Now let's try adding a hyperlink or two.

Hyperlinking works well too. I can already see the need for a wireless keyboard!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stone Mountain and The Lump

It's been a long cold winter this year so we didn't hesitate to head for the mountains for a day hike the first chance we got. The photo below is of my wife Trina and son Philip taking a nap atop Stone Mountain, located between Elkin and Sparta, NC.

From Stone Mountain State Park we drove up to and along the Blue Ridge Parkway looking for a nice place to watch the sun set. The photo below was taken at a place called "The Lump" and can be found at Mile Post 264. It offers a great view of the surrounding hills and valleys.

Friday, January 21, 2011

No More Point & Shoot

Brianna, 2009, Lake Norman.

This is the photo that helped me realize what I was missing using Point & Shoot cameras rather than DSLR's.

No matter how I tried I couldn't get a blurry background.

Sounds like a simple thing but, important enough to me that two months later I had traded in my PowerShot S2IS for a Nikon D90. I couldn't be happier!