Visions of Pike’s Peak

A visual ode to the mountain that dominates the landscape in the area around where I live.  Different angles and different seasons, but the Peak changes a lot slower than I do.

Don’t ask me which one it is, I’ll slap you.

Schoolroom Shenanigans, Pt.II

Part II of my school career at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.  You thought I wouldn’t have more?

I’ll miss this time of my life…

See Part I.

Schoolroom shenanigans

It took almost 7 years when I started going back to college, but I did finally graduate.  I have a lot of memories, and also a lot of degrees…because I ended up getting a double minor (in visual arts emphasis on photography, and film studies).  But through it all I had my camera, especially since the first class I took was Intro to Photography, all the way back in Fall of 2013.  So here is a rather large gallery of memories, with many classmates I’ve known over my time at UCCS; I forget the names of some of them!

I don’t expect anyone else to get anything out of this, it’s more a self-indulgent nostalgia trip for me than anything.  Some of these were never published, some have been posted to Facebook only.  Thanks for the memories…

After surviving 2020 we all deserve a drink…

…so here are most of the pics on my blog of people drinking/celebrating, or are otherwise alcohol-related.  No particular order, just whenever I happened to remember another shot I added it to the bottom.  It turned out to be quite a few posts over the last 7 years and I’m sure I still missed some!

Here’s hoping that 2021 is the year we can get back to drinking together.

(Another reason to celebrate…this is post #400 for me, and first since my 7th Anniversary!)

Why I love Takumar lenses

1. An image quality that is unsurpassed for the price point
2. A build quality that is second-to-none

Pentax made 4 series of lenses going back to the late-’50s.  There were:
Auto-Takumar
Super-Takumar
Super-Multi-Coated Takumar (S-M-C)
SMC Takumar (mostly cosmetic differences)
I try to get the S-M-C and later lenses for the better coating; evidently at the time Pentax had developed the best lens coating available and nearly every other lens maker was paying Pentax for the technology.  I’m not planning to write a detailed history of the brand here, so I’ll stop with what I’ve said.  A lot of my early information came from this site, very helpful.

Since it’s been 5.5 years since my last post professing my love of Pentax I thought I’d go back through the archives and compile some of my favorite pictures; they’re generally in order of when I shot them and it should be readily apparent how much Tri-X I’ve been shooting (a lot) compared to everything else (not much).

These lenses have a special character which I really like, they’re plenty sharp too, and extremely sturdy (also: damn heavy).  Hold one in your hands and turn the focus ring: if this doesn’t make you want to try a Spotmatic out at least once then I don’t think we can be friends.  I will however understand if it doesn’t become your main camera outfit after shooting one because there are other SLR systems that are much more advanced.  That’s ultimately what made me move on.  We had a good run together and I’m sorry to say goodbye to these wonderful lenses.  If only Pentax had made a body worthy of their greatness!

The Spotmatics are a great line of cameras but do have some inherent weaknesses which were never overcome.  Build quality is standard 1960s which is to say solid and sturdy, no complaints there.  I learned to live with stop-down metering, and screw-mount lenses.  Actually if both bodies are hanging around my neck I’m much more comfortable unscrewing a Takumar than a Nikkor, so far!  Though considering the modular (and advanced) features of the older Nikon F, Pentax did make some pretty strange choices in camera design at the time, for all that they did right.  The most complained-about features (screw mount and stop-down metering) were corrected by the mid-’70s but quality started dropping fast soon after, about the time they went to the M-series lenses.  I used to wonder why Pentax got such a bad wrap but can start to understand with some of the later stuff where they obviously had to introduce cost-cutting measures to keep going.  They still made some quality gear (including their first and only pro-level camera starting in 1980) but eventually were acquired by the closely-associated budget line, Ricoh.  Pentax was always playing catch-up to other brands and trying to recapture their former glory by then.

But it was just about 10 years ago that I first bought a Spotmatic  (an SPII) with my first Takumar, at a garage sale for $5.00.  It looked pretty much like my mom’s Minolta XG-A (chrome and black) and I didn’t know that the lens was made by the same company as the body; I almost didn’t buy the camera because I thought I was getting a cheap off-brand lens, but at $5.00 it was still a deal so I took it.  I asked the owner if there were other lenses that I couldn’t see but she said no.  Later I studied the lens and body closer and did find that they both had Asahi marked on them so I knew at least I wasn’t getting an off-brand lens thankfully.  Shooting a few rolls in 2010 convinced me that this lens was something special so even with acquiring a few more advanced cameras soon after I kept coming back to the Spotmatic, kept buying Takumar lenses.  I’m sure I’ll still pull out the system from time to time, I’m certainly not planning on getting rid of it.

Some film cameras, shot on film

Most of these are old pictures, but I wanted to put them all in one place. There might even be a Vol.2 someday.  So many people use a digital camera to take pictures of their cameras and I’m tired of seeing that so I decided a while ago that I would only shoot film to take pictures of my cameras.  So every few rolls if I think about it, I’ll burn a few exposures on this subject.

With the exception of the picture that features my SPII, these were all taken with my beloved Spotmatic and when I really got serious about it I started using a tripod, long exposures (in the range of 30-90sec), and shooting with my 4/50 S-M-C Macro-Takumar.  Before that it was all with either the 1.4/50 Yellow 50 or the 1.8/55 SMC, and got some good examples of Takumar bokeh.

Project final: gallery installation – Advanced Photography (redux)

We had a pop-up show for one night, this was what I had printed and installed.  It’s hard to sequence them exactly linearly but the last picture gives you an idea what I had in mind.  Final sequence can be glimpsed among my exhibition photos here.

Artist Statement:

Yee-haw State – Joseph Irvin

Coming from Ohio, all I originally knew about Colorado were the stereotypes: mountains, skiing, Coors, and cowboys (this was pre-marijuana).  I was initially forced to embrace the Western aesthetic when taking a job as a Jeep tour guide around Colorado Springs, but I’ve gotten into the spirit over time, to the point where it is now a lifestyle.  Every time I go to a thrift store I’m looking for more western shirts and cowboy hats to wear on tours.  I’m paid to present a certain aspect of Colorado culture/history to visitors and new arrivals, and the boss’s mantra is “Make it like Disneyland!”  While it might not have happened quite like that in real life, we live in a postmodern settler society, where the cowboys have traded in their horses for 4x4s.  We’re driving them on old wagon trails and railroads.  A lot of my time is spent in Garden of the Gods, now the #1 visited park in the country (and it’s being loved to death).  In a state that is experiencing massive population increase and a rapidly growing tourism industry, what is it that makes Colorado unique, and what about that are we selling?  A lot of people say that they hope I never take this landscape for granted, and I didn’t…back when I moved here.  But one does get used to it over time: now it has the familiarity of Home.

Everything was printed on Ilford fiber paper at a custom size of 15×10.  I’d got my usual box of Oriental 8×10 but my photo instructor insisted I go bigger which was frustrating because I’d bought this paper months ago in preparation and now had to find something last minute.  Thankfully Cameraworks came to my rescue cutting me a deal with some 16×20 Ilford they’d had for a while.  I had less than 2 weeks before the show and had to print like mad all day everyday and still didn’t get everything finished, but enough to display at least.  I suppose that printing on 11×14 paper would have been easier to frame (I just hung everything with putty) but I had to come up with a plan fast to print as much as possible and use the entire frame.  So I cut my 16×20 paper in half, trimmed an extra inch, and made a custom taped-off template.  I had a negative holder which showed the edges of the frame so I tried as much as possible to give every print a black border, a nice differentiation to the usual white.  I think I’ve ranted before about cropping the side of a 35mm film frame when printing to a 5:4 aspect ratio, something else my photo instructor insisted on was seeing my entire frame.  Thankfully everything worked out.

A decade spent shooting film

Yup, an entire decade.  And I never did digital photography much, this interest was sparked by picking up one of my Grandpa’s old cameras and using it.  Actually I started in the Fall of 2009 when I moved to Colorado, but it’s now been a full 10 years shooting film and nearly that since I bought my first real camera at a garage sale.  Of course, when I started out, I could only afford to shoot about a roll of film every month or so, and usually longer than that.  There was a lot of Fujicolor 200 and Superia 400 (and 800) that was bought expired at bargain prices (even from thrift stores occasionally), then getting it from Wal-Mart or local grocery stores back when it could be done for $3.00 per roll in bulk packs.  And I’d take it to Walgreens for developing and scanning back then, of course they don’t do it anymore.  I even managed to shoot film while living in my car for 9 months.

As film photographers we’ve experienced some lean years and have come through the worst of it.  So as for the whining about the Kodak price increase I’m inclined to believe that they really do need the added income to rework their factory.  One thing that really bothered me was that under Chapter 11 they started outsourcing the production of the acetate base; I’m not saying this is what they’re fixing but I think it would be if I were in charge.  For anyone that still feels the need to complain about something, I suggest the added tax to all internet purchases that seems to have slipped in sometime in the last year or so. It adds an extra 50% to Kodak’s price increase so buying online isn’t as affordable as it used to be that way either, though places like Freestyle, Adorama, and B&H still have the best prices I’ve seen.

This video above came along recently, which really makes me feel validated in what I’ve done since 2014, almost like my work here is finished.

I guess I could quit the blog and just get on with the work, or at least quit with the preaching.  I suppose that 10 years ago was the worst time for film photography when companies were discontinuing truly iconic emulsions left and right.  I never got the chance to try Kodachrome or the old Ektachrome, Aerochrome, Tech Pan, Provia 400X, Astia, Sensia, Fortia, and barely shot any Reala, Acros or Plus-X.  I only got my hands on T-Max P3200 once it was reintroduced.  I hope the trend continues and that we will see more films come back from the dead, just like Acros, Ektachrome, and P3200.  But the future looks bright, and 2020 is a year for celebration of all things film photography.  Here is my celebration:

Here are pictures on film stocks either discontinued or recently reintroduced with which I have shot in the last 10 years.  Superia 200, Superia 800, Plus-X 125, Reala 100 (very expired), Acros 100, T-Max P3200, P30 Alpha, Ektachrome E100.  Don’t sweat the little stuff, keep shooting any which way you can.

Why I love the Olympus Trip 35

RIP 1968-2018.  Unfortunately after shooting this camera for 3 years the shutter is now stuck halfway open and I haven’t gotten around to fixing it yet.

It will happen though, because it’s small, light, easy to use, gives me spot-on exposure, and has an absurdly sharp lens.  The Olympus Trip 35 and it’s my favorite mirrorless camera.  Reading about some of my photo friends’ experiences with the Trip and also finding this fantastic store made me want to sing again the praises of this mechanical wonder that I found at the thrift store for all of $8.00.

It needs no battery: it has a selenium meter which gives perfect exposure, something I tested by shooting slide film in it.  After reading about “night tripping” (which basically means using high-speed film in the Trip manually set to f/2.8 and its slower speed of 1/40sec), I’ve felt comfortable using the Trip in all kinds of situations indoors and outdoors.  One thing that I’ve talked about a lot (though never tried yet) is putting a few rolls of Cinestill 800T through it; or now that T-Max P3200 is back that might have to happen.  Either way I’ve yet to test the extremes of film latitude yet, but it will happen.

And the Trip 35 does indeed live up to its name: it travels so well!  I took it to Wales where it was my camera for color film, and threw it into my bag for a last-minute trip to Ohio.  Though the lens sticks out a bit it still easily fits in a jacket pocket without getting in the way.  Speaking of the lens and its zone focusing, you do have to be careful when shooting inside, but made it perfect for shooting my William Klein masters’ study.  Since then focus doesn’t mean as much to me as it used to, though most of the time I’ll get it right.

When looking through all the shots I’ve taken with this camera I couldn’t believe just how much I’ve used it in the last few years!  It’s a large gallery–in order we have: Tri-X (6), Velvia 100 (3), Double-X (4), Provia 100F (3), T-Max 400 (4), Fomapan 100 (2), Kodak Gold 200 (2), Fuji Neopan Acros 100 (2), and Ferrania P30 (2).  There will be other films shot in this camera one day, but for a while now I’ve been concentrating on the Spotmatic for my photo project that’s been going on since January (and long before).

I would definitely recommend this camera for people who don’t want the bulkiness of an SLR, don’t like relying on batteries, but still want an AE camera.  My camera’s shutter still had accurate speeds after nearly half a century.  Zone focusing can take practice but is doable, so don’t let that dissuade you!

Why I love Double-X

Because for some reason Tri-X just isn’t enough for me.  When I want something a bit different I go for the 5222, Eastman Double-X.  Reasons to use Double-X?  Though grainier, it’s sharper, and it gives a different look, lovely tonality.  And cost, if you’re willing to invest in a 400ft roll of the stuff!

Tri-X is an everyday film, Double-X is for special occasions, and I used it for a few specific projects including my 2-semester-long (and just wrapping up) document of making Overwhelming Majority.

This current iteration was developed by Kodak in the late 1950s and then left alone, so it will give you a classic, mid-century look, especially if you use older lenses/cameras. And that is something I recommend!  It requires fairly precise exposure and development can be tricky since it’s designed to be used with Kodak D-96, and anything else will boost the contrast quite a bit.  Using older, low-contrast lenses will tame that somewhat.  I tend to shoot it inside if the light is good enough, or outside on overcast days.  I’ve seen some pretty good results from pushing, etc, though I’ve never had much luck myself.

Here are some great resources if you’re going to shoot Double-X:
Project Double-X (sadly defunct due to the death of its owner)
Through the Viewfinder’s 400ft Roll Project

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