Scorpion Cowboy: selected headshots

This is the guy (along with his wife, a good friend of my mom’s), that got me into driving jeep tours.  I’ve developed a reputation within the company as the resident photographer.  A few of our drivers are actors or would like to be, and I suppose headshots would be a good first step.

 

Some taken using the legendary Nikkor-PC 105mm f/2.5, and then I went a bit wider with the AI-Nikkor 85mm f/2.  They’re not all technically perfect as I did often refocus and sometimes didn’t quite hit it, but I’m still pretty proud of how they turned out.  Of course I used movie film to give these a certain cinematic look, and I have to say that Eastman Double-X is just stunning.  I took less formal portraits using Tri-X and it’s fun to compare the different characteristics; honestly I think Double-X will have to be my go-to black & white film for portraits.  Whether it’s the differing amount of silver in the emulsion, the fact that it’s remained virtually unchanged since Kodak introduced it in 1959, or just that it’s formulated for motion pictures instead of stills I’m not sure, but whatever it is this film just has that look and I love it.

Alternate author photos – Kathy

Back around 2015-16 my friend Kathy wanted me to take pictures of her for use as her official author photo…so far the book(s) she was writing have yet to materialize (I’d love to read them) but when they do hopefully the back photo will feature the photos I took of her using Cinestill 800T.  She liked the portrait I’d done of our mutual friend Duncan and wanted something similar but in color and I did my best I could back then; I think I could probably do better now.  But one thing that I did insist on trying more just for myself, was to put a couple shots through my Canon 7 rangefinder because I wanted to try that Summarit lens out with some Double-X.  And here are those results:

There’s just something about Double-X that just works for me: the tonality, the contrast, whatever it is, it’s one of my favorite films for portraits.  I don’t even think she saw these shots, the roll took a lot longer to use up and even though I posted some of the shots a long time ago I lost the digital files before I uploaded anything on here.  I recently had my scanner out of storage and took the opportunity to rescan a few rolls I seemed to have misplaced, this was among them.

Mother/Tri-X

Yesterday was the first Mother’s Day that my brother and I didn’t have our mother.  Looking back on it, even though we butted heads a lot, I was able to spend a lot of time with her in the last few years and I’m grateful for that now.  This would be the companion piece to my other tribute which was posted back in December.  Honestly I completely forgot about Mother’s Day but I’ve never been a big fan of holidays that promote obligatory consumerism and people punish you for forgetting; I suppose I’ll never have to feel bad for not remembering from now on.

While developing all the rolls I shot in 2020 I came across a few that I’d taken of my mom, usually holding her first grandson.  Thanks to my old photo instructor Stacy for letting me get all that done in the school darkroom, or I don’t know when I would have gotten around to seeing these.  The entire Summer I was shooting nothing but Kodak Tri-X.

Medium format Kodak Gold? Yes please!

It was in my Facebook feed about half an hour ago, and I’m happy it’s finally here!  I heard rumors of this either last year or in 2020, but it took longer than expected.   With all the crap regarding Fujifilm recently, I’m glad that Kodak just keeps bringing back wonderful film emulsions that if aren’t necessarily new, then at least are ones I never got to shoot before.

Kodak Gold 200 released in 120 medium format

Now I’ve been using the Gold 200 for landscape shots for years now in 35mm, and have been trying to get a medium format Mamiya off my coworker for a few years now…time to make it finally happen!

All the Kodak Gold

My mother’s camera: the Minolta XG-A

This is the camera that I grew up using, for as far back as I can remember…considering that it’s older than I am and my dad got it for my mom before they were even married, I suppose that makes sense.  Now, she didn’t use it much, really after 2004 when she got her digital camera; I got her to use it once about 5 years ago and that was it as far as I know.  Just like most people of the earlier generation, they were mystified by the high technology as well as the convenience of DSLRs and never went back to film.  Most of the cameras I use are much older and less complicated/electronic than this one.  Minolta had an entire series of X cameras of which this was the simplified model with aperture priority only; with a full range of manual speeds as well (as the X-700 has) I would find this camera more useful but did bring it out occasionally back when I was shooting the MD mount system back in my early college days.

If you follow my blog regularly you might know that my mother died recently.  For her memorial service and as a tribute to her, I wanted to take pictures and of course take them with her camera.  Also included are some valuable time spent with friends/family before/after the service.

Three rolls of film, in order: Cinestill 800T, Kodak T-Max P3200 (both expired), and Kodak Tri-X pushed to 1600.  There are a lot of photos here that have some technical problems and I don’t know exactly what the problem is because there are too many variables.  I used a 3v lithium battery when I think before it was always alkaline.  Two of the three rolls I shot were expired high speed film that had been in my mom’s freezer for years.  I dropped off the film and expected it to be ready in a week but I guess they ran into staffing problems or something, and had to rush process the film for me, a mistake could have been made there.  And of course it could be that the shutter speeds are off, though usually they tend to get slower with age; of course it could be that the electronics are failing.

What it comes to is that the film all looks underexposed and shadow detail is often lacking, even with overexposing the expired film by one stop.  The better-exposed shots were ones that I took outside or near an open door, which brings up another possibility: that it just doesn’t read dim light correctly.  And of course I’m not sure how much having light sources in the frame might have affected exposure as well. When there is too much light the shutter won’t fire, so there were times I missed shots because of this, going from one part of the church to the other where the light changed too drastically.  After having used shutter priority with the Canon AE-1 I find it much more freeing setting at 1/60 and having the lens stop down as much as needed, it made it easy to set and forget whereas with the aperture priority I was forever worrying about whether the aperture I had it on would make the shutter speed too slow.  It was more an unfounded fear as nearly everything doesn’t show motion blur but I also wanted to give myself as much depth of field as possible because the lens would be focusing in the opposite direction from what I’m used to.  What it boils down to is that I was using a camera that is now unfamiliar to me after having shot Pentax and Nikon for most of the last decade and more.  I don’t know that I will use it much or ever again for that matter but being a family heirloom like my grandfather’s cameras I of course can’t let it go.

A photographic time capsule

This was the single-use camera that someone found and gave to me.  I used up the last few exposures and then I just never got around to developing the film.  It turned out to be from 2017, I know because in the first image on the left is a cowboy named Twister who has since gone on to bigger and better things.  It was also nice to see a pic of myself in action, this is a shot I’ve gotten of a couple drivers in the past.

I’d say that this roll of film aged a bit better than the last one I found, but it is quite a lot newer.  I wouldn’t call these stunning images at all but it was a nice surprise to see what was on this roll of film because at this point I didn’t even remember taking these.

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.

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.