4 years ago today

Happy Anniversary to the Resurrected Camera.  Inspired by the Intro to Photography class at my university, I decided to start a photo blog, dedicated to shooting film on the cheap.  It all started on January 1, 2014 with a fake trailer I made using two 35mm cameras and three rolls of film.

Using still images is something that I’ve continued all the way to Overwhelming Majority very recently.  As far as this blog goes, I still don’t quite know what direction to take it in this year, but I do have a few things I’m looking forward to announcing when the time is right.

For the hell of it, I’m releasing another film I made using still cameras, way back in early 2015, just as an assignment for Film Scoring class.  Again, stylistically inspired by Chris Marker’s La Jetee.  It’ll only be available for a limited, unspecified time:

I budgeted 5 rolls of Tri-X, utilizing the Pentax ESII and Spotmatic SPII, and was my first time editing using Final Cut Pro.  Aside from all that, if anyone remembers this post at all, it’s a shot which I couldn’t find a use for in the film.  Until next time, keep finding those deals in the film photography world!

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Home: Project 1 – Intermediate Photography

What is home, what is family?  How do we define just what that means to us?  When thinking about the concept of family, I usually go back to a passage in the bible where Jesus describes a his concept of family: “A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers…’” (Mark 3:32-34). The concept of family (or home) seems to be in flux so much of the time, but I also remember the old saying, “Home is where the heart is.” We create home wherever we go and wherever we are most comfortable, and the people around us that we accept into our lives become our family—indeed, frequently better, because we don’t get to pick our biological family.

In this idea I was inspired by Larry Clark, from his book Tulsa to his film Kids, and his later work.  He seems to really have adapted well to niche societies in a way that I don’t think I could have.  I really admire the way he has become involved in the modern skateboarding culture and other groups of young people, as if after all his old family died around him, he was welcomed into new homes. As a man in his mid-60s, he’s become an adopted child, or at least a foster child.  In execution I was inspired by some good friends of mine whose kids’ rooms feature some great photo collages (the kids are my age and have since moved out, settled down, gotten married, but their rooms are still pretty much the way I remember them being when I was in my late teens).  I’ve known this family for nearly 20 years now.

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Being from central Ohio, I think the first phrase I ever learned to say was “Go Bucks!” and with my parents both graduating from Ohio State, it was only natural that I (and my brother) follow in their footsteps.  Sadly, I never graduated from there, but I keep the spirit alive out here.  One of the things that I am able to do more often now that I’m living in Colorado Springs is attend the Pike’s Peak region OSU alumni association get-togethers to watch the football games.  A lot of the rest of the images were taken in and around my church, or at related functions.  There are quite a lot of food pictures; nothing says family and home to me like breaking bread together.

I printed on Oriental cooltone fiber paper (glossy) for the black & white, and Ilford Gallerie Pearl for the digital prints.

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Week 1 – Intermediate Photography

I hope I’m doing this right…this next class proposes a new challenge for me: create new work weekly, whereas I’ve been going back to old habits.  I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a scary concept for me, as I’d like to think that I’m thrifty in how I shoot, but also, I just didn’t do a lot of shooting this summer.  I just developed Thursday a roll that has been in my camera since mid-June.  Can I shoot a roll of film a week, and, in being forced to present at least three new images weekly, how much will my quality suffer, especially if I’m pressed for time elsewhere?  I’m halfway through a roll of Provia, but I don’t want to waste that roll to the needs of expediency, plus it would take nearly a week just to get it processed.  I’ve thought about cutting 36-exposure rolls in half, I’ve thought about a 100ft bulk roll of Fomapan or Kentmere, I’ve been comparing prices back and forth.  A 100ft roll of Tri-X is $50 more than a roll of HP5.  Wow.  With Tri-X, it’s almost exactly the same price between a 100ft roll and the same number of feet in 24-exposure rolls, 36-exposure rolls are cheaper than a bulk roll; and you don’t have to load the cartridges yourself.  I eventually found some newly-expired T-Max 400 in 24-exposure rolls for not too bad a price, since it was there I decided to go with it; I don’t think I’ll feel as bad burning through rolls of T-Max.

I was trying to figure out just how I got a light leak across four out of the first five exposures, I think that it must have happened after I took that fifth picture, and it must have happened on the right (take-up) side of the camera: the light leak is in the same spot on each picture and the effect is lighter counting back from #5.  I’d be disappointed (and probably should find some gaffers’ tape anyway), except that it literally happened only on the pinhole shots, and I suppose that gives them just a bit more of that authentic lo-fi aesthetic.  As for the others, some friends of ours from Ohio were in town, and I like taking pictures of my friends, especially when I haven’t seen some of them for 6-7 years.

Someone else who likes making pictures of his friends is artist and photographer Chuck Close (at least according to this site), and so I give you his daguerreotype portrait of minimalist composer Philip Glass:
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Philip Glass, Stage II – Chuck Close

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass…

I remember seeing the documentary of Close working with the 20×24 Polaroid, but I’m not sure I’d seen his daguerreotypes before, that was a real treat for me looking at them in class.  I love to see the old photographic processes alive and well after 150+ years: it’s a ray of hope that the most tedious and expensive (and best-looking) photographic processes still survive in the modern blink-and-it’s-gone digital world.  I chose the Philip Glass portrait because being a composer myself, I like seeing the masters of my craft celebrated in a larger sense, by those outside the music world, and Philip Glass is one of the only living composers who is fairly well-known and recognizable to a lot of non-musicians.

Close’s work is meaningful to me also because it is transformative: here is a man who started out started out as a painter focusing on portraits, who has embraced the more modern world by using technology, yet he chose the most outdated process of them all.  As his paintings were gigantic, so too can these large format images be increased to truly tremendous size with almost infinite detail.  It’s also a redemptive concept how physical limitations and life circumstances don’t have to end who we are.

Close has been presenting portraits of Glass for some 35 years now, and it’s fascinating to see how he’s physically changed over the years.  Max Reger once said that pigs and composers only come into their own after they’re dead.  Glass is now nearly 80 years old, and while he’s not quite there yet, looking at this new portrait while remembering the old one makes me more conscious of the fact that no one is here forever.  Yet here is a composer whose style is instantly recognizable and oft-imitated, one of the most successful modern classical composers, and here is his image preserved for future generations, just as we have portraits of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and countless others.  May the music last in people’s memories even longer than his image.  In Close’s portrait, I see a man approaching immortality.

This post was written while listening to Songs from Liquid Days.

How much contrast is too much?

I went to 11-mile Reservoir for a class back in June, and while we were primarily recording nature sounds, the camera had its place in my explorations as well.  Looking at the pictures later with the other members of my group, one made the comment that they were too high contrast, something I didn’t even think about or notice myself.  I think he’s right, but it took me this long to actually correct them.  The thing is, the lower contrast didn’t necessarily improve things…

So what’s the deal, then?  I was alright with what I had before, but there was definitely more detail in the pictures that I wasn’t getting.  Maybe I’m too content, and I need to be more critical, train my eye better.  It’s interesting what the change in contrast does to the colors.  This is the first roll of color negative (and the only one I’ve shot all year) that I’ve put through the Pakon since getting it back in February, and really, just how different the look can be from so small a tweak makes me think of some of the complaints Ken Rockwell has against anything that isn’t Fuji Velvia: I don’t really have a baseline for how any particular image is supposed to look.

How much time are you all putting into your color images?  I’m kind of used to just taking what the photo lab has been given me (unless I’m wandering into dangerous color temperature territory, ahem, Cinestill).  Maybe it’s force of habit, maybe it’s that I don’t find my color work as critical/important as black and white, maybe it’s because there are too many variables I have to deal with now, and I can’t be bothered.  It’s not really a complaint, but more of an observation.  Color changes things.

Scoring Session: The Lady and the Phantom

The Lady and the Phantom is a short film made by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Communications dept and scored by my friend and classmate, composer Joshua Aldrich.  A live orchestra was contracted to perform the music, and I am told that this is the first full-scale scoring session of its kind in the Colorado Springs area, which is pretty damn cool if you ask me and I’m proud to have been a part of it.  All the players are local musicians and some are current UCCS students.  The orchestra was conducted by UCCS Prof. Sean Hennessy in a room that I’ve had several classes in myself over the last few semesters.

As a fan of film music it was pretty awesome to be able to take pictures in the room while the orchestra was being recorded, and I definitely had the Scoring Sessions site in the back of my head when I was taking pictures.  It’s different from shooting a rock concert, as I can’t just take pictures whenever the hell I feel like: I was very conscious to make noise only when they were rehearsing a cue or other times when not actually recording, though I did get a few shots in right before they started the count.

If the exposure on these seems to vary wildly from one image to the other, it’s because my camera screwed up big-time, and it’s a miracle any of these images turned out at all.  I’d never used the ESII inside before, now I know not to do it again, there must be something seriously wrong with the meter.  I’m preparing to send the ESII to this guy because I’ve read lots of good reviews of his work and his prices seem to be pretty reasonable.

Though not strictly necessary with the light I had, I pushed these rolls of Tri-X 2 stops which allowed me to comfortably use my 135mm lens somewhere around f/4-5.6 and my other lenses at f/8 or so.  I experimented with a stand development this time, using D-76 1:1 for 13.5 minutes.  I don’t know if that hurt me or preserved what shadow detail was left, but it sure didn’t minimize the grain like I’d read, though I suppose getting correct exposures would help!

The F335 has really made this process speedy for me.  The recording session was 9AM-12, I had the film processed, dried, and in my bag by 2:00, and once I got back up the pass, I had everything scanned into my computer by 4:00.  If the exposures weren’t off so much I could have had them posted that day on Facebook, but as it was I wanted to get the most I possibly could out of improperly exposed negatives, which meant using Photoshop back down at school the next day.  Still, all in all, it took just a day to get everything corrected as much as possible and posted online, when before the Pakon it would have taken a week or more.

edit: To come full circle, I’ll plug the soundtrack as well.

Why I Love the Pentax Spotmatic

Back in Spring 2010 I didn’t have any notion of what the good camera brands were, I couldn’t even name but one or two.  I’d grown up using my mom’s Minolta XG-A, but it had been years since I’d used it, and I came out to Colorado with my grandfather’s TKC Kalimar which had seen better days, but since it was manual I ended up learning some things with it.  The first SLR I ever bought though was the Pentax Spotmatic SPII, at a garage sale for a whole $5.00.  What a deal.  It came with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens which, besides being a superb example of mechanical precision, takes more beautiful pictures than anything else I’ve ever seen on this Earth.  When I bought this camera, I knew nothing of Pentax or their pedigree of fine optics; I was just thrilled that it had a built-in light meter.  I used that camera exclusively from 2010 to 2012, and while I did have a brief affair with Minolta during my Intro to Photography class (and Canon as well), Pentax is still my first love.

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Since acquiring a taste for Pentax screw-mount glass, I decided I’d make this my main camera system.  To that effect, I picked up both an ESII and ES bodies, and have added the 135mm f/2.5 Super-Takumar, the 28mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar, the 50mm f/4 Super-Multi-Coated Macro-Takumar, and the 135mm f/2.8 Auto-Chinon lenses.  Just a couple days ago I picked up two more Super-Takumars, the 50mm f/1.4 and 200mm f/4, plus an original Spotmatic body.  Adding everything up, I’ve paid just a little over $150.00 for my system so far.  Not bad.

01AA020aAn outdated family portrait

The novelty for me when I bought the Spotmatic was the light meter.  It was fun to learn how to use it; Pentax was actually the first company to put a through-the-lens light meter on an SLR camera if I recall.  A manual camera with a light meter is probably the best tool for learning how to expose film properly, and is probably why just about every photography course recommends just this type of camera.  The Spotmatic line was exceptionally well-engineered in this area (not that it wasn’t in others!) because the meter has a bridge circuit that takes only the needed power from the battery, which means that voltage isn’t an issue.  It was designed originally for 1.33v mercury batteries, but works perfectly with the new 1.55v silver-oxide S400PX battery that is available for it today.  Other cameras (like Minolta) didn’t have this bridge circuit, and the different voltage causes their light meters to give faulty readings, which Wein Cell was able to address with their zinc air batteries.  I love that they do what they do and their battery has saved me before, but it’s very short-lived, only 3-4 months.  I’ve had this same Exell silver-oxide battery in my Spotmatic for 4 years now and it still works perfectly.  Score one for Pentax.

I hear so many gripes about stop-down metering, but honestly I don’t find it as annoying as others have.  Perhaps it was just that I didn’t have any other choice or anything to compare it to back in the day, but it hasn’t been much of a problem for me.  Things started getting complicated when all the camera makers went for open-aperture metering, because the M42 mount went from being the Universal Mount to being proprietary for each manufacturer.  All the last-generation lenses from Mamiya, Pentax, Yashica, Ricoh, etc. only work with their own cameras, and God help you if you try to mix and match your brands, you’re likely to have trouble removing a lens.  They require some permanent modifications to be able to fit, with the effect that they no longer allow open-aperture metering afterwards.  I suppose for those that really want open-aperture metering, they pick one brand and stick with that for all their bodies and lenses.  I’d rather be able to pick up just about any M42 lens and use it, which is why the stop-down metering Spotmatic and SPII come in handy.

The ES/ESII bodies offer this capability as well but are just a bit annoying in that way because I have to remember to flip this switch on the side to use stop-down metering or it won’t give the correct shutter speed, and it’s so easy to forget sometimes.

135mm lens taken at 1/60 or below (forgot to stop down the lens on the ESII, and when you don't it doesn't give you the right shutter speed as well as shooting at full aperture)

which is where things like this happen

I’d like to stick with the SMC lenses as much as possible when it comes to those bodies, but I keep finding more non-SMC lenses.  The ES/ESII is quite usable in manual mode as well, for which no stopping down is required to shoot, but metering is a bit more complicated.

One thing I would really have liked to see on one of the Spotmatics is a mirror-lock-up function, but sadly it was never added.  Supposedly there is a way on the ES/ESII which involves pushing the shutter release halfway, but I’ve never gotten it to work on mine.  Something like that might make it just that much better for landscape and macro work, but sadly it was never to be.  I know there are M42-to-Pentax-K adapters, but it would have been nice if Pentax had offered their LX professional camera in M42-mount as well, let us have just one more camera with open-aperture metering and aperture priority…hmmm, I wonder how hard it would be to modify one…

All those little gripes aside, what it really comes down to is that the lenses are nothing short of spectacular, and that’s the reason to use a Spotmatic.  It’s a look I love more than any other, and I’ve had quite a bit of good luck using these lenses and cameras over the years:

Most of my favorite work (and the majority of the above) has been done on one lens: the SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8.  If I had to shoot with just one lens (and many times I did back in the old days) it would be that one.  I talked in an earlier post about the alchemy between the Takumar and Fuji Superia.  I’m happy to say it also works just as well with Tri-X.  There’s just something magical about those kind of combinations.

Prices on Takumar lenses aren’t exactly cheap at the moment, in fact a lot of manual-focus lenses are being snatched up by people who shoot digital video, so I understand.  On one hand, it’s nice that people are appreciating the quality of old lenses, especially those made by Pentax, but what it really gets down to is that all these people are trying to reconcile themselves to shooting digital any way they can, doing everything except the one thing that will improve their work the most: going back to film.  Not only that, but the prices on these lenses are stupidly overinflated now.  The saddest part for me is going on the Bay and seeing all these wonderful screw-mount camera bodies being sold without lenses; those cameras should be taking pictures, not separated from their lenses and sold as scrap.  I look, but I don’t compete in the rat race myself, I just practice patience, and as the saying goes, “Good things come to he who waits.”  Thankfully, fair prices are still out there, for the moment, if one knows where to look.

While I do prefer the look of the screw-mount Takumars, I’m also a fan of Pentax’s later K-mount lenses, especially the SMC Pentax-A series and so even though they’re not Spotmatics, here’s a recap of pictures I’ve taken with Pentax’s later K-mount cameras and lenses:

Anytime in the 1970s was an awesome time to own a Pentax.

More like odds and ends than anything else

Fuji Superia does it for me again.  I started this roll right after finishing another one, and sort of used this as the backup body just to have around, so there are a few outtakes thrown in.  I started this roll on Oct 17 and finished on Nov 30, so I kind of shot this roll the way I used to do it back in the day, taking my time and not using a whole lot of film.  I don’t feel like there’s anything all too wonderful here but I just love the color.  Fuji Superia really is like an old friend that I can always count on.