may 2017—rolls 3 & 4

These photos are from two separate cameras using two different kinds of film. The first five are from the Leica and were shot using Lomography film. The second five are from an Olympus XA2 (that I have since sold) using long-expired Kodak Ektachrome film that was cross-processed (i.e. processed in chemicals for a different kind of film). Most of the photos are from D.C, as usual, but the car was seen in Tacoma, Washington and the windmills and wildflowers were in Chino Hills, California.

fun with a vintage camera

For some time now, I've wanted a "folding camera." These are vintage cameras, produced from the 1920s until the 1950s, that literally fold and unfold, with the lens attached to a leather bellows that retracts inside of the camera when not in use. They were the compact of the era, a camera small enough to fit into a bag or a large pocket, or wear around your neck. Most such cameras are medium format, taking 120 roll film.

Not long ago, after lots of eBay hunting, I found the camera for me: a Mamiya Six KII, first produced in 1956. It's a 6x6 format camera with a coupled rangefinder (rare!) and the ability to shoot in 6x4.5, if you want more frames per roll. 

Now, these cameras—or specifically the lenses on these cameras—were made when color photography was still new. They are built for black and white, and lack the coatings that capture the full vibrancy of color film. They still render color, they just do so with a bit of character. Which brings us to these photos. This is the first roll I shot with the Mamiya. You'll notice that things are very sharp and clear—that's the lens, which is in good shape for its age. You'll notice that the colors are vibrant—that's the film, Kodak Ektar. And you might also notice a certain character to the photos. They are sharp and saturated, but they don't quite look modern. That is whatever magic happens when you use modern film with a 60-year-old lens. I'm a fan, and I can already see that this camera will get a lot of use.

As for details re: these photos: I took the first four while observing a public art installation in D.C. I took the other eight while walking through Chino Hills State Park in Chino Hills, California.

new mexico—part 5

These last photos are a bit of hodgepodge. They are shots taken at various points during our week in the Santa Fe area, although a good chunk were shot on our last day in town. Most of these are of structures—churches, missions, etc.—or the city's scenery. The first photo in this slideshow, fittingly, is of the last sunset we saw before we came home. It was a lovely sight, and a nice way to end a pretty wonderful time out west.

new mexico—part 4

On our penultimate day in Santa Fe, we drove out to Bandelier National Monument to see the cave wall dwellings and take a nice hike. (The weather out there was amazing.) It was also a great opportunity for me to get my inner Ansel Adams on. The contrast of the sky and those geological structures made for a few pretty strong photos. The one I want to highlight is up front, a shot that emphasizes the size and scale of the cliffside. I haven't received my negatives yet—I sent these photos off to be developed by my lab—but when I do, that is the first one I'm taking to the darkroom.

new mexico—part 3

Okay, so these photos are from that aforementioned drive, and specifically Taos, where we took a visit to the Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest continuous settlements in North America. I'm not even going to feign humility here: I love these photos. And I think this first one, in particular, is one of the best photos I've taken since I've been in this photography game. I like the composition, I like how it show cases the geometry, and I love the tonality. We get bright white from the clouds, black from the deep shadows on the pueblo, and everything in-between. I give myself a solid A. (Which, I know, is a bit conceited.)

new mexico—part 2

We spent one of our days in New Mexico just driving, taking the road from Santa Fe to Abiquiu—home to Georgia O'Keefe's Ghost Ranch—from Abiquiu up through Carson National Forest, across the Rio Grande, on to Taos, and then back to Santa Fe. It took the entire day, and while I'm not a huge fan of long drives, this was worth it. At every point, the scenery was beautiful. These photos are from that drive. My favorite, as always, is the first. The scenery is nice, but what I like here is the composition, and the sense that the subject—my wife—is walking into the distance, but not quite the unknown. It works.

new mexico—part 1

We went to New Mexico last month! 

My wife is a teacher, and her spring break was at the beginning of April. We used that as an excuse/opportunity to travel to Santa Fe, which we were both interested in visiting. Our plan was straightforward; we would hike and we would eat, taking plenty of pictures along the way. I have a particular camera for vacations: An autofocus 6x4.5 medium-format rangefinder, made by Fuji. With 15 exposures per roll of film and fairly large negatives, it's perfect for sightseeing. I brought it along to New Mexico, where it got a lot of use.

These photos are from my first two rolls of film in the Santa Fe area. They were taken during a three hour hike of the tent rocks, a well-worn but still fantastic sight about 45 minutes from the city. For the color shots, I used Fuji Provia, for the black and white, I used Kodak T-MAX 400 and a a yellow-orange filter to darken the skies. There's also one photo from the 35mm point and shoot I brought with me. My favorite shot is the first one in the slideshow. It's of one of the narrow passage ways you have to walk through to get to the main climb. The light kind of creeps in, illuminating the formation and revealing the many layers of rock. By the time you reach the foreground, the shadows are dark, but there's still detail. Nothing quite goes to black. I like it quite a bit.

march 2017—roll 10

Ah, my last roll of March was in color and shot on medium format. My wife and I had taken the metro down to the National Mall to catch the annual kite festival, an ideal subject for color film, especially Kodak Ektar, which gives great saturation to primary colors like blue, red, and yellow. You see this in the first shot in this batch, of the Washington Monument with surrounded by kites and flags.

That is my favorite photo from this roll. The best photo, I think, is of the MLK Memorial. It's a different perspective than the black and white shot from earlier. This one captures the scale of the memorial as it compares to its surroundings. And the cherry blossoms that border and frame it are a nice touch. Obviously I'm a fan. What do you think?

march 2017—roll 9

Hey, we're back to 35mm! I hardly ever shoot color negatives on small formats, but this was a special occasion. Lomography released a new color film—allegedly aged in for some time—and I was eager to give it a shot. I was traveling when I loaded this into my camera (a Leica M5, equipped with a medium wide lens), so some of these shots are of airports or other places in the country (like Iowa City).

My favorite shot is one of the last ones on the roll (but the first one in this set). I took it while walking along the tidal basin in D.C. There were some fraternity guys posing for photos, and being me, I offered to take a photo for them, then asked if I could take their photo. I didn't ask them to pose or smile—my only direction was a simple "be natural." I liked how it turned out.