So you may have noticed it’s been a bit quiet around here for a while. There’s no one cause, just a bunch of little things compounding to keep me otherwise occupied. It may be another couple of weeks before I get back to more regular posting, but it will happen. I have been taking photos when time permits, so there’s plenty of fodder for posts; it’s just a matter of sitting down to edit and compose. For now, here’s a relatively recent shot to prove I’m not dead yet.
Everyone has had those conversations where the participants start exchanging increasingly absurd ideas and exclaiming how good they are. Usually these end when everyone acknowledges the silliness of the discussion and moves on, or when they run out of beer. But once in a while the obvious stupidity of the idea in question is not sufficient to dissuade those involved from actually carrying it out. This is one of those times.
With spring coming, we were discussing the arrival of this year’s crop of insects and how to most effectively exterminate them. Flashback to last summer, when we came upon handheld bug zappers in the shape of tennis rackets, which are both quite good at killing bugs and being utterly ridiculous. We found them while up in Maine at a local department store for the princely sum of $3. Unfortunately, buying them through various internet sources more than triples the asking price. Rather than shell out an extra $7 per racket, we thought it would make far more sense to drive up to Maine and buy more. All well and good, but the Maine state line is about five hours one way. We’d have to stay overnight, but then first thing in the morning, Tennis Rackets of Death, and home.
This still seemed like a good idea after we ran out of beer, so we found a hotel, booked it for Friday night, and we were off to Maine.
We left at 0530 and were up to Maine by 1100, having stopped for breakfast at a local spot in Massachusetts (I think – maybe it was New Hampshire. I had French toast.) along the way. We couldn’t check in for several hours, so we wandered along the coast and stopped at a few spots for photos. After a long day of driving, we dropped the car at the hotel in the late afternoon and walked into town for dinner and beer, both of which were quite necessary by this time. We finished off with a nice long walk along the cliffs and past the local lobster boat anchorage.
Next morning I got up early (how I’m not exactly sure) and did the same walk as the night before, knowing that I’d have the low angle morning light of the rising sun to play with. The light was good, but I was dragging by the time I hauled myself back to the hotel. Off to breakfast and then to the bug zappers. We bought six, saving ourselves $42. Take that, internet price gougers! We then stopped in several antiques stores and spent all of our savings and then some. Our mission accomplished, we cruised south along the coast into New Hampshire and Massachusetts, stopping several times for more photos and walking, followed by a late lunch in Portsmouth, NH.
Finally, we hit the highway for the blast back home, pulling in around 2030. After some 39 hours and 700 miles, we got our Tennis Rackets of Death. Sometimes you just have to go through with a plan to see if it’s as stupid as is sounds. It was, but it was also a hell of a good time.
So, the photos. I had two Canon LTM rangefinders – L1 and P – with two lenses – 35/2.8 and 50/3.5 (the latter a new acquisition and as such a lens I have not yet formally introduced here) respectively – and two different films – FP4+ and Ektar, again respectively. I only shot three rolls – two of color and one of B&W – but I still got some shots I was happy with. Enjoy.
Your Humble Filmosaur managed to make quite a large number of photos this past year, which seems a bit of an accomplishment in itself, and knowing that no good deed goes unpunished, it seemed only fitting to do a little wrapping up before 2016 plunges into bitter disappointment and abject failure.
Looking back at my photos from the year just ending, I noticed a few trends, so I’ll organize this post around them.
I expanded my collection of medium format cameras considerably in the past year, adding 6×9 to the repertoire as well as collecting a few more options for the ubiquitous 6×6. I’m only just beginning to explore the 6×9 format, but it does have real potential, I think. The negative is enormous, and the longer focal length of the lenses (105mm in both my Super Ikonta and Bessa II) can create an almost-large-format look in certain circumstances.
The square remains a favorite, however, and I ran a fair number of rolls through my various 6×6 cameras. I find it a very flexible format, which seems perhaps a bit counter-intuitive, as with a rectangular format you can use either portrait or landscape, but with a square you’re stuck with 1:1. Nonetheless, I find the square fairly easy to use, and this past year confirmed that it is my first choice medium format, um, format.
I began exploring more graphical composition in the past year, sometimes to the point of abstraction. The compositions are simple and direct, and generally head-on. While I’m fairly pleased with these initial efforts, there’s a lot more work to be done in seeing how these can be made more interesting by changing the perspective and adding depth to the composition while preserving the clarity of the subject and without cluttering it up.
To a significant degree, I find it easier to construct this sort of photo in B&W. Color adds a fair bit of complexity to the equation, partially by the nature of it and partially because I still tend to see better in monochrome. Finding subjects that lend themselves to color photos of this sort is not always easy, and there is always the temptation (for me, anyway) of allowing the color to dominate the photo to the detriment of other aspects.
My conversion to Ilford for my B&W film needs is essentially complete. I shot Tri-X when I went to Arizona at the beginning of last year, but after that I started moving to HP5+, which gave me similar results with a little more tonality in the middle (easily controlled with development) and slightly less grain. It also dries completely flat and costs half of what Tri-X does in bulk. It is a perfectly acceptable substitute that has a few advantages to boot.
For slower films, I tried a few rolls of Pan F+, but I haven’t really been able to wrap my head around it. The results can be good, but it’s slow enough that it really requires specific conditions or a tripod to work well. I just haven’t shot enough to get to know it. Out of curiosity, in the spring I got a bulk roll of FP4+, and I was in love. It’s buttery smooth in every way. Within a few rolls I knew I had my new everyday film. It’s not really fast enough for flexibility in the winter months, or for street photography generally, but when I can get away with the slower speed, I will have FP4+ in my camera. I need to buy more.
Regular readers will not be at all surprised that I chased old cars around. Still, there was a slight shift in my approach this past year. While I did take some photos of them on the track, I concentrated my efforts on photographing them while static, and especially on photographing the details. I tried some different angles and compositions; this was encouraged by using my Rolleiflex fairly extensively, which allowed a lot of low-angle work, the results of which were generally positive.
B&W was not neglected, and the results I got with FP4+ in particular only served to further my adoption of it as my standard three-season film.
The Year of the Leica
When 2015 began, I did not own a Leica. Through good fortune, happenstance, and lack of willpower, I now own more than one. While I may have been initially drawn to them because of the history and the mystique, I quickly found that they fit my photographic needs and wants remarkably well. I ended up using them more than any other cameras this past year, and I see no reason to think that this trend will change in 2016 or beyond.
The body is only half of the camera equation, of course, and the accumulation of Leica bodies leads inevitably to the accumulation of lenses for those bodies. The Summitar that came with one of my IIIcs is really a spectacular lens. I finally found a good example of the Canon 100/3.5, which matches the signature of the Summitar pretty well and makes a nice companion. At the wide end, I picked up a Voigtländer Snapshot Skopar 25/4, which is of course a much more modern lens; the results are very good, and the ergonomics are nearly perfect, but I’m still slightly torn over the modern high-contrast rendering. I also hacked together a couple of lenses in LTM, the Nikon L35AF 35/2.8 in a chopped-down Industar-50 body, which I consider a near-total success, and just for fun the Praktica M60 26/5.6 fixed-focus, fixed-aperture body cap pancake.
So there we are. 2015 is on its way to the door, and 2016 is lying in wait behind the shrubbery. I need more film.