All I want for Christmas is You

I hate Christmas music.  When I was a kid I had all of it I could ever want, with my mom putting on CD after CD of Christmas songs.  There were some pretty quality albums in there: Amy Grant, Sandy Patti, Roger Whittaker, Anne Murray, to name a few off the top of my head.  But being (eventually) forced to listen to them over and over again in an endless loop did me in long ago.  And the whole idea of a “Christmas Season” that gets longer and longer every year is incredibly frustrating and ultimately soul-sucking, when I’m constantly bombarded by not only the same “pop standards” over and over, but that there is absolutely no letup because every damn store in the country is playing them–the idiots would complain if they didn’t.  And again every year it starts earlier and earlier…

Wrong attribution, Laurence Harvey spoke that line, not Sinatra.

If only it were a mere 12 days…is that how it started?  But all the constant reminders of rampant consumerism are on full display usurping the True Meaning.  And anyone who doesn’t get with the program is immediately judged, labelled, and dismissed: for usually doing nothing but reacting against the constant barrage of advertising, songs, a whole zeitgeist based around a holiday that today means nothing to most people except as an excuse to spend a whole shitload of money.  But the whole thing is so ubiquitous that there is no escape but to hole up inside for at least 6 weeks, because even Thanksgiving isn’t safe anymore.  And I wouldn’t react as strongly as I do if I didn’t feel the weight of American culture demanding that I willingly accept such homogenized garbage.  I worked retail for a decade so believe me when I say that you guys out there are saints…especially with the added stress of the last few years!

That said, I can’t say that I hate what is probably the most polarizing Christmas song in recent times, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”  And that’s because I didn’t even know the song existed before I first watched Love Actually a bit over a decade ago, and also because I hate radio and try to avoid Christmas music as much as I possibly can.  Familiarity breeds contempt, especially when it comes to songs on heavy rotation.  And I suppose I don’t want to get tired of the song because honestly the sentiment behind the lyrics hits pretty close to home.  More on that in a second, but take a look at the music video, because it was shot on Super 8:

And you can mute it and just look if you need to, I won’t judge…

Super 8 was of course perfect to capture the feel of the home movies aesthetic, with the added benefit that more than 25 years later, it still looks beautiful, timeless, and carries all the benefits inherent with film over video.  According to Phil at Pro8mm who did all the processing and transfer, it was shot on Ektachrome 160 with a Beaulieu 7008, possibly by Annie Leibovitz, though I don’t know if it was confirmed.  The original transfer in 1994 was a projector captured with a video camera and transferred to BetaCam SP, and became the most-watched Super 8 film that has ever been made.  I guess the version above was from a 2K rescan that Pro8mm did just a couple years ago.  So now it gets shared every Christmas in the small format filmmaking groups I’m in on Facebook, with some weeping and gnashing of teeth.  And I get it, so here’s the other side of it which I really enjoy, which is all the wonderful memes that have arisen over the last couple years:

Because I love to keep it TV- and film-related…

Again, apologies to retail workers everywhere, I really do get you.  I just don’t have the same relationship with this song (yet) that you do.  Again the sentiment behind the lyrics is what hits me most because we have this cultural cache of Christmas being the time to take leaps of faith, ask out your crush, kiss under the mistletoe, and all that…but it’s also the time when so many people are lonely and driven to the point of suicide.  It’s certainly the time of the year when I am most cognizant of there being such an important part of my life being missing.  And that combined with the constant barrage of Christmastime Culture creates a feedback loop, which makes it hard to step back and get perspective.

I think the tendency to hook up during the most romantic holiday of the year is a hard one to withstand.  Probably a lot of bad relationships start because of people being uncomfortable without a partner, and I wonder how much the whole Christmastime Culture plays into that.  I understand the need for romance, Love, physical connection, and just needing to share things that are supposed to be shared–the older I get those are the things I most long for in my own life.  I’ve become accustomed to not getting what I want.  So while this song does represent that bittersweet longing for me, it also holds tinges of Hope: whether or not reality plays into that almost isn’t the case.  Because ultimately, all I really want for Christmas is You.

What the new Leica M6 re-release means for film photography

I’m sure you’ve heard the news.  If not, here it is: Leica is making the M6 again.

Now I’ve never owned a Leica.  I’ve barely even held a Leica.  I don’t even necessarily want a Leica (I only dabbled a bit with rangefinders and Leitz glass).  Leica now makes three film cameras simultaneously, the M-A, the M-P, and the M6. I think it’s great, and of course I want one, but also I don’t, for all the reasons listed above.  Maybe I could get into shooting rangefinders and Leica in general but there are some German quirks that they never got over, which has always scared me away.  But at least Leica is still doing it, and they’re having a hard time meeting demand.  And for that Leica needs to be commended!  Compare to Nikon these days…

The problem of course being that I’m so invested in the Nikon F ecosystem now that it would be hard to abandon just to buy a new film camera.  It’s just a shame that Nikon wanted to keep going more and more high-tech when the prevailing winds are going toward less electronics and all-mechanical.  I’ve articulated all this before; I would love to buy a brand-new FM3a (or anniversary F2) from Nikon if they didn’t decide to stop all film camera production two years ago, sadly.  And maybe Nikon stopped making the F6 because no one bought it…but the fact is that we’ve had 40+ years of seeing how electronic battery-dependent cameras just stop working and become expensive paperweights, with no hope of repair.  I will probably never fully trust them for that reason, even my F4.

Less than 20 years ago Nikon was making cameras like the FM3a and the SP 2005, and sadly those cameras weren’t in demand as much at that time, but it seems times have changed.  I could really wish that Nikon would come around but with them offshoring all their production to Malaysia they’re unlikely to make an all-mechanical film camera again, and that really the only kind I’d be willing to buy.  How much would I spend on one?  For the right camera I’m sure I would save even if it was $3000 or more.  I just spent $900 on a fully-restored F2, so why not?  Sadly Nikon was hell-bent on making cameras no one wanted to buy like the F6 instead of bringing back mechanical masterpieces of their past like Leica has done.  People are willing to pay for a brand-new Leica mechanical film camera but they’re the last man standing, sadly, and unlikely to have competition again.

Splashes of color/I miss you, Fuji Velvia 100

Post #500, I suppose that should be a milestone!

It’s been all black & white film for a while, time to throw a splash of color into the mix.  These pictures date back to Fall 2020 but I didn’t get them developed until nearly a year later and then forgot about them til recently, as the aspen trees are changing color once again.  I mostly was using the Nikon F shooting Tri-X but brought out the F2A for whatever color film I was using since it was almost always going to be a different ASA and I wanted the meter to do more of my thinking for me.  As it turns out I don’t ever trust the meter and ended up overexposing quite a few of my shots.  These were the most usable.

I miss Fuji Velvia 100, while I do have a propack or two in my freezer but I may never use them.  It’s sad that Fujifilm makes so little film these days though honestly I’m surprised they have any left to sell considering some of my previous predictions.  Considering how the price has kept going up (upwards of $30 for one roll of Velvia 50) it’s likely that they’re just wringing as much as they can from their existing stock.  It’s possible every roll of Fuji that I shoot from here on out will just bemoan Fuji and their treatment of their film customer base over the last decade or so, but really it all was summed up by the last paragraph of this post.  Velvia 100, I miss you.

One last time with the Minolta SRT-MCII

Back in 2012 I was hitting my local Goodwill like I was wont to do, looking for deals you used to be able to find back then, and in the display case was a new camera that I hadn’t seen yet, and evidently it had been there for a few weeks because it was already marked down too…maybe I hadn’t been in in a while.  I was familiar with my mom’s Minolta so it thrilled me that I had finally found a camera that was her brand and I might be able to use her lenses!  The best part was the price, I think tax included I spent less than $7.50 for this all-mechanical marvel.  It came with a little case, a Quantaray zoom lens, a flash, the camera body, and a 50mm f/2 Minolta MD lens.  When in the checkout line the music playing over the store speakers was some awful song by Nickelback and the stupid cunt in front of me was singing along which completely soured the whole experience.  But that’s the story of how I acquired this particular camera, as much as I can remember considering it was a decade ago.  This Minolta was my constant companion through my Intro to Photography class by virtue of being the only camera that had completely accurate shutter speeds, though after that I pretty much went to my Pentax Spotmatic and never looked back.

It and a lot of other cameras I never used much ended up being stored in a box in my mom’s garage, she made me put them out there because she wanted more storage space for her own stuff; I suppose I was a bit upset at the time but figured those boxes were going to be things I’d never end up using, and I was almost right.  I’d brought those boxes down to sell at the local used camera store, and then one day I had a massive brain fart and forgot to bring my camera with me, something I almost never do, but thankfully they were willing to let me grab a camera for a few days just to have on hand…I’d feel naked without one!  Not that I actually ended up needing it but it did give me the opportunity to use the old girl one last time before passing it on.

In fact I shot two partial rolls of film through this camera, partial because I got frustrated with it not being the Nikon F2 and eventually rewound the film and loaded it into one of my F2s.  It’s not the Minolta’s fault, I mean what camera comes close to the Nikon F2?  The SRT’s shutter advance has a quite longer throw and the lens focuses the other direction, those were my biggest gripes, but they’re the only bad things I have to say about the camera.  And even if I was about to let it go, the camera was there for me when I needed it, and I’m in the point experience-wise where I can pick up just about any manual camera with a roll of ASA400 film and just shoot it without ever having to worry about not having batteries, getting proper exposure, etc, even if the ergonomics aren’t quite familiar to me anymore.

I don’t know the state of thrift stores these days and don’t know if the deals still exist that did 10 years back, but for a time Minolta cameras were the bargain if you could find one, nearly always cheaper than other brands, and with no real sense behind it besides not being as well known.  An all-manual (battery only for light meter) camera like this is exactly the kind that is recommended to photography students across the country (the world?) and it’s telling that even though it’s 50 years old it just works, and probably will long after all the fancy battery-dependent electronic cameras have bit the dust.  I can’t turn my nose up at this camera; it’s just that in the end I knew it needed to belong to someone else.

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:

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.