Looking critically at myself

In the last year I’ve been going through a bit of a lifestyle change, and working on improving myself.  Here are a few photos of me that were taken with my cameras sometime around 2017-2019, this seems to be pretty much my average look.

Now this is a photo that a coworker took of me in late 2019:

Now I have usually bought my jeans at thrift stores and balked at paying more than $10-12 for them.  I have usually been around a size 36 waist, but the end of 2019 I was shopping for more jeans and couldn’t fit in 36 anymore, and had to go up to 38; I weighed probably 220lbs.  I was a bit disappointed in myself, but knew that I would only allow it to be a temporary thing; it’s happened before and I got my weight down.  It was already happening in 2020 but accelerated a year ago when I took a construction job and ended up walking for probably 8-10mi per day.  I was able to get down quite a lot, and hit a personal milestone:

I’ve since dropped at least another 5lbs, perhaps 10.  Intermittent fasting has played its part as well: I don’t do too much in the winter and have been eating less without knowing it, but whatever weight I lose I usually put right back on in the summer when I’m eating all day long and it still seems like I’m drained of energy.  Well last year I was able to keep the food intake down, eat higher quality and at the regular hours that I needed them to be.  I’m not someone that is weight-obsessed or that will get on the scale every day, so I don’t know what I currently weigh; really fat percentage is much more important and hopefully I’ve built up a bit of muscle which will of course weigh more than fat anyway. But most importantly for me, I’ve taken a lot of fat off my waist in the last two years which has allowed me to drop down to size 34 jeans and keep it off for more than 6 months, a feat I haven’t achieved since I was 12 or so.  Here is that same pair of size 38 jeans today:


And also the pair of 34 Slim – my Indigo Invitational competition pair.  As it stands now I wonder if 33 Straight might have been a better fit but that will have to wait til next year!
Here are the most recent pictures of myself that I have:

So now I look back at those old pictures and I say to myself…Was I really that fat?  And at the same time I’ll look at new pictures of myself and say…Am I really that thin?  Life’s a process of change and I wouldn’t say that I’m satisfied with myself but I am happier than I was.  I know the obesity rate in the USA is disgustingly high and without wishing to be judgemental I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there wishing they could turn around their life, weight, eating habits, etc.  If you’re reading this I hope you will be encouraged because it is possible to change if you really want to.

Film scanning and digital workflow

Hello film shooters!  I was reading a friend’s blog post recently and he was complaining that he wasn’t wowed by the images he was getting straight out of the scanner.  Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to be!  Actually with my scanner I go through extra steps to not be “wowed” by the images straight out of the scanner, and I probably should do more, at some point.  From what I remember the regular PSI software for the Pakon scanners outputs at 8Bit (even TIFFs) though my Pakon F335 is capable of 12Bit or 14Bit I believe; this takes special software which I have never bothered to set up.

I’m not sure how everyone else scans their film, but I decided to write this to show how I do it.  Of course a lot of the time the lab is doing it for me, and while I wouldn’t complain too much about how they do it, if you have the ability to scan yourself then there is greater control over your images and it costs less.  I had my Pakon  scanner out of storage for a few months while I was living in a place where there was room for it, so I had my local lab develop my film and return the negatives to me uncut, which was less work for them and easier for me to scan.

The standard way of scanning with PSI tends to render black & white film with far too much contrast, so I manually select everything and lower the contrast to at least -20, possibly -40 depending on the film (-40 is as flat as it gets).  In the past I exported raw negative images but found that my inversions were losing quite a bit of the image; it’s an extemporaneous step, plus you’re losing all the benefits of working with PSI and Kodak’s experience that was brought to the color science of getting proper scans.  If you own a Pakon F135 (non-plus) you’re using TLX Client Demo and the only way you can get the full 3000×2000 resolution is to output raw, I hear.  But I also hear plugins like Negative Lab Pro work amazingly well.

Now probably the most annoying thing about working with the Pakon is that it was designed to only be used with Windows XP machines (I have a couple) and while that was a damn good OS and I miss it, sadly I can’t just plug my scanner into any computer, I have to have a dedicated scanning machine and then export everything onto a flash drive (formatted for Fat32) and brought over to my laptop for finishing. I have everything saved by roll and drag all 38 or so files into Affinity Photo to start working on them:

This is how a scan will look before I start to work on it:

For some reason the Pakon’s black & white scans still have some color and have to be turned grayscale, so I do that and then adjust the curves to where I need them.  This image was exposed perfectly and required very little adjustment, not always the case.

Even shooting my modified Sunny-8 rule with a non-metered manual camera I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the light so I fluff very little…outdoors.  Indoors is another story, much more guesswork there.  PSI file names by default start with AA, AB, AC, etc, so I add my own prefix which tells me the year and season I shot them as well as where this roll fits in sequentially.  So I have everything saved by roll of film in the full res JPGs, but I do a little more work to get things ready for the internet, starting with making all the images smaller.

I still use a watermark though I’m getting away from that, for right now making it much less obtrusive.  Final export includes a bit more compression to keep the file size down.

And here is the final image:

Can’t resist taking photos with beautiful women!

On the subject of hats: an open letter to a coworker

Dear _____,

A few days ago you confronted me saying that my cowboy hat ain’t a cowboy hat or western enough because “it’s a fedora.”  And in the last 6 (almost 7) years of driving tours and fielding dumb questions by tourists, I have rarely encountered a statement so ignorant as to be downright idiotic, and certainly never one directed at me!  Just recently I’ve had several passengers at Garden of the Gods say they hoped they’d get me as their guide because they thought I really looked the part:

For point of reference, my hat is this one, a model made by Stetson, whose illustrious place in Western (and local) history you should know well: the original, the “Boss of the Plains,” was first sold in Central City, CO in 1865.  With all due respect, I regard their opinion of what constitutes a western hat higher than I do yours.  Also, absolutely every article of clothing you see me wearing in the above picture (and everything you can’t see) was made in the United States of America; I wonder if you could say the same on any given day.  There is nothing about my look that isn’t pure Americana.  Also it seems a strange time to bring it up, considering I’ve owned and worn this hat for nearly three years now.

(and this is how it looked brand new)

I don’t think I’d really care to have this argument if you weren’t over me and might have the power to make me stop wearing my favorite hat, so let’s do have this argument.  Now I suppose that when I think of the fedora and its famous wearers, topping the list would be Indiana Jones, and then perhaps Humphrey Bogart in any number of films.  Now I love a fedora because of these guys, they’re the epitome of mid-century cool.  My grandpa wore fedoras, one which I still have and wear.  I like the style, the look, and the ergonomics of it; it is familiar.  While not truly popular until the 1930s and ’40s the style itself can be found as far back as the 1880s if not earlier, and was worn by men since at least the 1890s along with similar hats like the homburg.  The fedora was worn (again by Bogart) in one of the best western films ever made, John Huston’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

On the right is Tim Holt wearing a pinched-front western hat.

Because of all the popular ways to crease a cowboy hat, one common style is called the pinched-front crease.  And I have numerous references to that effect:
https://horseyhooves.com/types-of-cowboy-hats/
https://www.langstons.com/resources-guide-cowboy-hats.html
https://www.rollingstone.com/product-recommendations/lifestyle/best-cowboy-hats-1196031/

It’s even a fact that cowboys back in the 1800s were wearing the pinched-front style, and there are several historical examples of this on display at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma:

For further angles on this display I would send you here, here, and here.

You can also see historical pinched-front styles celebrated here and here.  I especially liked this pic from the late ’30s and include it below:

(probably a Kodachrome slide if I had my guess)
These are historical cowboys as they were dressing before Jack Weill of Rockmount (another Colorado connection) had created western wear as its own unique clothing style; that wouldn’t happen for nearly another decade.  So the pinched-front crease is an even older cowboy institution than either the bolo tie or the western snap shirt!

And another, a 1937 Arthur Rothstein photograph for the FSA

Anticipating a deflection to an entirely different argument, that of what the *ahem* general public will accept and expect a cowboy to look like (doubtless with eventual allusions to Walt Disney), I started off with passengers’ feedback regarding my look.  The public at large has never vocally questioned whether or not I looked enough like a cowboy, so is this perhaps your own perception rather than anyone else’s?  By that same reasoning I would expect you to take exception to the look of this particular cowboy:

“That’s a terrible cowboy name!”
Actually I could give you an entire gallery here but a simple google image search for “John Wayne hat” will suffice.  Or look here, here, and here.  Hell, Stetson even has a line of hats now that they call the John Wayne collection, all with pinched-front creases, because I guess he really liked the style!  And if The Duke isn’t enough of a cowboy for you or the perceived public you hide behind, here are other movie cowboys wearing the same style in these articles from True West Magazine: Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Wayne (again), Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, the Lone Ranger, and Roy Rogers.  I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost researching this and putting it together; honestly I regret the necessity of it, but there it is.

I take it all back: Instagram is crap

It only took a few days from me announcing it here to being locked out of my Instagram account.

Every time I log in I get the page that says nothing except “Oops, an error occurred.”  And you can’t go to anything on Instagram after that, it gives you the same page.  I’ve tried resetting my password, my replacement 8 character password will have a bunch of things added onto it every time I try and nothing changes.  There’s no explanation, no way that I can see to remedy it.  Using alternate browsers makes no difference.  Deleting all my cookies makes no difference.  They don’t have a support email account, evidently they do it all through the app, but of course I can’t use the app.  I even started a new account to ask for help but they haven’t replied.  What a piece of shit.  I should have known better than to meddle with phone apps.  At least WordPress is still here for me.

Why not start an Instagram?

Well I mean I found reasons not to do it for a long time.  But going back to my Advanced Photo class that was one thing that my instructor Stacy suggested that we all do was to keep our professional Instagram account separate from our personal one.  Well I never had a smart phone and never had Instagram…back in those days I’m not sure I could even do anything from a computer, it all had to be on the phone.  I really don’t stay connected online very well and have a very ambivalent attitude towards most social media; I’ve had Facebook since about 2005 and that’s been it, and even that has really worried me in the last half decade or so.  I don’t even know what else is out there…Flickr?  That’s all I know.

But with so many people on Instagram and it being primarily for photo sharing, I think I had it in the back of my mind enough to start an account back in 2017 or so but just sat on it since then, nothing I could do with it until recently (I’d read about workarounds but never went through the trouble of trying one).  I decided that this year’s resolution would be to get my professional account set up so I could continue the Cowboys & Jeeps project there.  And then I discovered that Instagram announced back in the Summer 2021 that people were going to be able to upload photos from their computers, making it that much easier a decision for me.

So here it is, my own Instagram dedicated to this 4-year-long (and counting) photo project, named after my AOW cowboy handleInstagram: Thefamouspdog  It’s been running since 4 January, 2022.  That only puts it 8 years behind this WordPress site.  But the format I have decided to take is to post one photo a day and keep that up until I run out of pictures.  If you happen to be heading that way, please check it out, and if you have any helpful suggestions that will improve my new site, and help me get noticed/recognized, please contact me.  I’m new to this.

So why did I take that step?  Because Stacy our instructor told the class that having a dedicated professional Instagram account to share only your best work was very helpful in getting noticed in the art world.  Evidently there are a lot of curators, exhibitors, et. al. who will search for up & coming artists on Instagram.  There’s a story she told us about this this one website editor (or was it magazine?) who was following a guy who only posted pictures of meat (he evidently worked in the industry).  And after about two years, there was an article being written about meat processing plants and needed pictures and this woman thought of the meat guy and reached out to him, he ended up getting a paying photo gig because of it.  So who knows, it could be the start of something.

I’m hoping that I can start up a professional portrait photography business piggybacking off this, because I think if I’m going to be getting paid for work, why not something for which I spend a lot of time doing anyway?  Next up…revamping my professional website to be more balanced between photography and music.

The end of FujiFILM?

I used to love Fujifilm, and during my early years as a photographer I was shooting Fujicolor 200, Superia 400, and Velvia 100 if I shot color at all.  But if the rumor mill is correct, Fuji might not be making any more film, ever.  We’ve all known that Acros II was being manufactured by Ilford and I’ve read recent news that Fujicolor 200’s new data sheet is eerily similar to Kodak Gold 200’s, inviting speculation that it is now just rebranded Kodak film.  Fuji shut down their film production plant in 2020 during the start of COVID-19 and it’s anybody’s guess whether it will ever reopen.  Knowing how Fuji has continuously axed one film after another over the last decade I think that it’s entirely possible that Fuji’s brilliant colors have finally faded.

Why I loved Fuji Superia
Why I loved Fuji Velvia & Provia

Reading Jim Grey’s tribute to his favorite film made me want to do the same but the fact is that I haven’t shot it much since those two posts above.  And I don’t think I’m going to continue to support a company that stopped supporting me a long time ago.  Unless something radically changes at Fuji with regards to their attitude toward their photographic film business it will be Kodak for me, thank you.

What tourists see

This is a Kodak single-use camera that someone abandoned/lost back in 2017.  I totally forgot I had it for a long time but eventually had the thing developed and here are the results.  “Disposable” (actually recyclable) single-use cameras are becoming a thing of the past it seems.  When I moved to Colorado in 2009 and in the first few years of driving Jeep tours I could still find them at grocery stores and gift shops, but it’s been a few years since I noticed any.  I suppose that cameras on phones have become so ubiquitous that they really aren’t needed, and why this couple wouldn’t have had another way to take pictures I’ll never know.

I find the photos to be pretty standard.  There are the telltale signs that they’ve never seen a landscape like the Rocky Mountains and want a reminder; I was like that myself when I first came here in 2003, but you get over it.  I’m not sure where they were before Garden of the Gods but I know exactly where they stood while they were in Colorado Springs, because it’s where every other tourist stands.  They all stand so patiently one at a time waiting their turn to pretend like they’re the sole discoverers of a pristine landscape when the reality is that this 2-square-mile park gets 7 million visitors a year. It’s a conceit that I’m guilty of following in my own images that are for me, but I’m busy trying to tear it down in my photo project.

And I find these images to be as throwaway as the camera on which they were made: there is nothing really insightful to be found here, just the same insta-feed fodder that every other person spits out.  Kenneth Wajda’s words come to mind.  Except that I remember coming to Garden of the Gods (and Colorado) for the first time and I remember how I felt, and I’m sure these people are feeling the same thing.  But I also have no doubt that these images exist in other people’s feeds and camera rolls with little variation.  That said, they deserve to be seen, and although I’ve been a bit critical what I’m trying to say is that these images are nothing special without the addition of the people who made them.

No need for the Nikon Shuffle

Not that it necessarily matters, but it occurred to me that I’d made a few posts about the other cameras I’ve been using (here, and here) and this camera had been pretty much the middle child so I thought I’d write a post about it, as my other Nikon F2.  It was in the background of this post and I’ve been shooting the camera for a lot of the 2021 season, from the time I completed the construction job and went back to Jeep tours all the way until the Fall when I sent off both my F2 cameras to be serviced by the great Sover Wong.

So here is the camera in the basic setup that I’ve been shooting it since August 2021.

I acquired a chrome DE-1 finder from a generous guy on a Facebook group and have to say that I like the look as well as the lighter weight that comes from using a non-metered finder (I already linked to the earlier post regarding the non-metered finder on my F Apollo above).  Going back to a photomic finder just seems a bit clunky by and bulky by comparison and checking the meter slows me down sometimes.

I’ve even considered buying a black DE-1 to go with my black F2 though I do like having at least one camera with which to test my guesswork on exposure for difficult lighting situations or film that I don’t use too often.

But the thing is, I’m learning my light pretty well and there aren’t too many times when I miss a shot due to under/over-exposure.  I’ve modified the old Sunny-16 rule and when shooting outdoors try to keep the lens at f/8 the entire time, switching from 1/1000sec in direct sunlight to 1/125 under clouds or in the shade.  Indoor lighting will be f/2.8-f/1.4 at 1/60sec.  I’ve been shooting this way since at least the beginning of 2019 on Tri-X (and later Ilford XP2) and it just works; anything I’ve shot since then that’s black & white is a testament to that.  And it makes me want to tell everyone…you don’t need to get some latch-on meter for your unmetered camera, just try it out a couple times!  Nor do you need to pull out a handheld meter every time you want to take a shot.  It doesn’t matter if the built-in meter dies, your camera isn’t ruined or useless!  I always used to think that someone using a Leica from the ’50s with no meter was unusually ballsy but the reality is that it’s not that hard.  Learning how to properly expose ASA400 film has given me one less thing I need to worry about and allows me to work quicker and just get the shot.

My grandfather’s camera: the Kodak Bantam f/4.5

Back in 2009 I picked up a few of my grandfather’s cameras from his house, right before I moved out to Colorado.  I finally got around to shooting a roll in June when I was staying at a vacation rental in Fountain for a few months (I wrote about that here and here; this could be considered Old Cars, Pt.II).

The top-of-the-line model of 828 film cameras back in the late ’30s, I’ve always liked the look and feel of this camera.  It’s sleek and compact, with things that snap into place at the press of the button or just a flick of the thumb.  Everything about this camera cries “Quality!” with every ounce of its rather hefty weight.  This was one of three cameras I brought from my grandparents’ house when I left Ohio in 2009 and whereas the Kalimar A was a camera that I used out of necessity, this was the one I really wanted to use.  The trouble being that it took 828 film which is fucking expensive.  I bought a roll ages ago from B&H Photo because they’re nice enough to roll some Tri-X down to 828 size but it costs $20 (now $24) and you’re only getting 8 exposures.  127 film is looking pretty good now, at only $13 per roll.  I did find this which has inspired me to at least try to load some 35mm film to give this a shot.



Back in the day Kodak had an annoying history of introducing proprietary film formats for use with Kodak cameras ensuring that they could only be used with Kodak film.  Then when the film stopped selling well Kodak would discontinue the film size rendering these cameras, if not completely useless, then very expensive.  And this was a camera that cost the equivalent of $500 in 2021 dollars.  While I might champion their cause today, Big Yellow did have some rather questionable practices back in their heyday.

The roll of 828 film only gives you 8 exposures, with quite a lot of space in between; I have no idea why.  But here are a few of the cars and Jeeps that Regan my landlord has lying around his property waiting for restoration:

Here’s frame No. 1:

It has a better composition than its duplicate, but the rudimentary flip-up sights don’t really lend themselves to precise framing.  This film was spooled using 35mm film and unfortunately several of the perforations were torn; this one in particular was a very large flap that hung over the film and blocked the light from the top of the frame.  There was enough film left for me to get a bit more in:

I haven’t seen it for years, but my grandpa kept a war diary all the way through World War II where he served under General Patton.  From what I remember the pictures he pasted inside were small and square so I don’t think they were taken with this camera, but it is of the right vintage and I wonder if I’ve seen everything.  It’s a credit to the manufacturing standards in Depression-era America that this 80-year-old camera still functions as it should when its last servicing was before the birth of my parents (see header pic).  I wouldn’t vouch strongly for the accuracy of its fast shutter speeds, but besides that I can’t complain.  I can imagine some pretty good things might have come along in the 1960s if Kodak and others had tried to compete with Germany and Japan in the manufacture of fine cameras.  Instead we got shit like the Instamatic.

Now the actual size of the pictures is larger than a standard frame from 35mm film, and went into the sprocket holes on each side, but my Pakon scanner can’t deal with that, so I worked with what I had and ended up with images that were 1.7:1 (cropped very slightly on the sides) as opposed to 1.5:1. I had to use TLX Client Demo to alter the frame width and then recropped using Affinity Photo.  This flexibility is one of the great advantages of the Pakon over other scanners, and makes it if not easy, at least workable to scan frames that are a non-standard size like this, or panoramic, etc.  I’m glad I have this camera that belonged to Grandpa, it’s a family heirloom to me, though the camera is a bit more dated than those I usually shoot.  It has all the handling of other medium format cameras of that era but with the disadvantage of a smaller frame size, plus the film is very expensive.  At $24 (now) per roll and only 8 frames, you’re looking at $3 per image, so you’d better really make them count.  I didn’t, I just wanted to use that roll up so I could put the camera back into storage for the rest of its life.  I’ll probably never use this camera again.