Snow in Garden of the Gods

It’s been a hot week in Colorado, I hiked through the Garden just yesterday at about 80F; that reminded me of the last time I hiked through the Garden in February back when the weather was much colder.

I was scheduled for a tour that day but it got cancelled last minute due to weather.  As I was already on my way down to Colorado Springs, I took the opportunity to do something that I almost never do, take a hike through Garden of the Gods.  I usually see the park only from the road going around the outside.  Also while I was down there I took the opportunity to pick up a certain camera I’d had on layaway at Cameraworks.

As Colorado Springs has around 300 days of sunshine per year I like being able to see the park when it has something different to offer, like fog or snow.

These were taken on Ferrania P30 alpha shot at ASA50 developed in Sprint Standard for 7min at 70F (M) and I experimented with a single agitation every 15 seconds, though I don’t know what that accomplished.  I also shot a few still lifes (like cameras) and I am blown away with how little grain there is in this film, and how sharp it can be when used with my lovely Takumar lenses.  I suppose I could have used the Macro lens for these as well but shooting at ASA50 I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t need to keep the aperture open past f/4.

I also made sure to run a focus test with my Pakon scanner using this film as the template.  My theory is that it’s slightly thicker than other films and the scanner needs to be refocused or else the film won’t be sharp; that and I think the grain being so fine it’s hard to focus on it anyway.

Spotmatic shutter problems

This is where I start jumping around in time a little.  After shooting ~40 rolls of film summer 2019, I found out that on the last few rolls the camera shutter had developed a problem.  I had already decided that I would start using my Olympus point & shoot, which has the same focal length lens as I’d been using, plus weighing a heck of a lot less, so it wasn’t like I was obliviously using this camera and ruining so many images; it was only the last 2 rolls of Tri-X that I shot with the camera, thank God.  If you look at a lot of the exposures you can see that the right side of the frame is underexposed, to the point of being clear.

Still, it was annoying since I’ve had this exact camera serviced twice in the last couple years, but this time I think it’s my own fault.  I’m extrapolating from what Sover Wong says about the Nikon F2, but seems like it might be applicable, and I’m a guilty offender: I left my shutter cocked for hours, overnight, even several days in a row.  It’s a habit I have that as soon as I take a shot I’m winding for the next shot, I like to make sure I’m cocked and ready to shoot.  And I never thought about burning a frame at the end of the day to let the springs inside rest, so I did this to myself.  The slower shutter speeds are fine and I shot a roll of Tri-X at 1/60 back in the Fall but I’m hesitant to go above 1/125 which means outdoor shooting will be tricky.  I’m smarter now than I was earlier this summer, but this has put me at a bit of a crossroads.


This was a 1/1000sec exposure which should have been a good shot, alas!

I sent my Pentax ESII to Eric Hendrickson a few years back but he couldn’t bring the camera into spec.  My other ES has developed the same problem it had before which means I’d need to take it apart and give it a bit more valve oil.  And despite giving my beloved SPII two CLAs there were still other problems that came up this Summer (outside of the 6-month warranty), namely that the film spacing is starting to become a bit erratic and the film counter has stopped working. Is my local camera tech to blame for not checking everything thoroughly, or is this just the consequence of using a nearly 50 year-old camera?  Until this I’ve had no problem with the build quality of the Spotmatic and the lenses are top-notch of course.  While the shutter problem would require a CLA anyway and is totally my fault, what that means is that I’m looking at another $120-150 repair.  I’ve shot M42 (and this specific Spotmatic SPII) for a complete decade now and I’ve been so pleased with the Takumar lenses but with my current needs I’ve decided that it’s time to move on to a more capable camera system.

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.

What happened? Pt. III

My guess is he didn’t stay on his side of the road and had to overcompensate when he encountered oncoming traffic.  I could have held this a little bit steadier, and part of the problem was I didn’t want to risk having only one side of the frame exposed, so this was 1/60sec and taken really quickly.  It’s a shot I’ve been hoping to get for a while and hopefully I’ll get a better shot next time this happens.

This was my first experience with Rollei film (the last remnants of the once-great AGFA, manufactured in Belgium) and really it was a mistake to use it for anything work/project-related because the speed just isn’t what I need.  The rest of this roll was used for still-life work, a bit more controlled environment.  I’m not complaining, it’s a great film for what it is, but not what I need for my regular applications.  Like the name suggests, this is an old-fashioned-looking film, rather contrasty like Double-X or Ferrania P30.

This was a roll generously given to me by Mark Ewanchuk who’s a really great guy and a wonderful photographer.  I want to say that we had a conversation about Retro 80S not working with the Pakon scanners because the polyester base, and we talked about this a very long time ago.  Mark, sorry it took so long, this roll was in my mom’s freezer forever.  I had no problems whatever with scanning with the Pakon F335, as you can see.  I hope you aren’t having the same problems with your new(ish) Noritsu!

Project Part 4 – Advanced Photography (redux)

(…And it’s a big one!)

We had an online critique and then for the exhibition I had to decide which images to print from this series as well as the other three critiques.  This is 11 rolls of film here, I asked my instructor to look through what I had and pick out the strongest images, so these are all the ones that work best (she said my hit ratio’s getting better).  No particular order besides chronological, except that there are several images that go together as a sequence.

The first four rolls were developed at the same time as this roll, and as the darkroom tech left out paper developer instead of film developer, they’re extremely high-contrast and difficult to print or get right in Photoshop.  Once I was on a roll I kept going and by the time the semester was over I’d shot about 150ft of Tri-X, around 30 rolls of film.  Then I shot another 20-25 rolls of film over the Summer during the height of the tourist season, and about 75 sheets of 4×5 in the Fall ’19 semester through February in the semester that technically is still in session.  By the time I get everything compiled I hope to have enough for an exhibition and a book but current events have put that on hold a bit.

Project Part 3 Outtakes – Advanced Photography (redux)

This bunch fits into two categories:

Ones I printed that we decided didn’t fit into the main themes/categories of the project, or were not as strong/have technical issues, but are still nice.

Ones my instructor had liked but I decided not to print because I’d already printed 25 images and only needed 15.

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Project Part 3 – Advanced Photography (redux)

This is when things really started to come together.  After meeting with my instructor for a one-on-one critique we were able to separate most of the pictures into three categories:

Cast of Characters

Shots from the Road

Gawkers as Spectacle

What also helped is that by this time tours had picked up a lot.  I was working more and had more opportunities for great photos.  One of the suggestions from last student critique was that I needed to ride along on other drivers’ tours and that accounted for four of the shots, in all three categories.

Project part 2 – Advanced Photography (redux)

This is when I finally got some photos that I was proud of, and that the photo class liked.  In many cases they don’t have too much to do with my final conception but there are hints here and there, just in need of refining.

The other thing is that these were taken in February and March or thereabouts and really I didn’t have much going on work-wise but it ramps up quickly after that, as it’s about to now again.