The Forgotten, Part One

Like many of you, I have more cameras than I could possibly need. Between purchases and gifts, they have piled up to the point of absurdity. I can’t use them all, and of course the ones that see the most use are those that fit my needs best. The others languish, collecting a delicate layer of dust like Victorian antiques and somehow managing to look vaguely forlorn.

I decided to start off the year by putting some of them to use. It’s hard to say why some of these don’t see more activity, while others have some clear flaw or limitation that makes the reason for their presence on the shelf all too obvious. Regardless, I determined to overlook these and pull them back into useful service, if only briefly.

Defying all alphabetical logic (you’re not the boss of me, alphabet!), I started in the Ks with the oddball German/Yugoslav hybrid King Regula IIb and the 1950s sci-fi styled Konica III. Both are remarkably solid cameras, and both worked flawlessly in spite of their lack of recent use (in fairness, I had overhauled both when I got them, and I did exercise the shutters before loading film).

The Regula is easy to use, has a very nice viewfinder, and seems to have the strongest advance lever return spring ever fitted to a camera. You could use the lever as a miniature catapult if so inclined. It has limitations – the lens is slowish (maximum aperture f/3.5) and the Pronto shutter only offers four speed plus Bulb – but within those it’s perfectly competent. The triplet lens isn’t going to win any sharpness or contrast prizes, but it produces some interesting images. I shot it with a slip-on yellow filter to build a little more contrast, as the day I had it out was overcast and dull, plus the fact that I like to shoot it wide open (why make scale focusing easy?) also lowers overall contrast.

King Regula IIb (w/ Getaldus Ghenar 45/3.5), Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)

You can see the glowy, soft look the lens gives. Bear in mind that is under very diffused light; get a bright light source in there and veiling flare is omnipresent. Using a hood a tricky too, as there are no threads on the lens, and I don’t trust slip-on hoods to stay on very far at all. Nonetheless, it’s interesting rendering and quite different from most of my cameras.

By contrast to the relative simplicity of the King, the Konica is full-featured by 1950s standards. The lens is a fast 48/2, and the shutter provides the full range of typical leaf shutter speeds (1/500 to 1 sec, plus Bulb), flash sync, and a self-timer. And what a lens it is: nicely sharp even wide open and with a lovely fall-off into the out of focus areas. Between this camera and my Hexar AF I’ve come to have high regard for Konica’s lenses. The camera is a brick, and an angular one at that. The viewfinder is decidedly smaller than the one on the Regula, and probably the weakest point in the camera’s design (the later IIIA and IIIM improved it considerably).

Konica III, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)

Moderate contrast, sharp across the frame, and oh-so-creamy. Every time I use this camera I wonder why I don’t use it more often. The answer, of course, is that it’s less flexible than my interchangeable lens cameras, it weighs a ton, and the ergonomics aren’t exactly ideal for me (the double-stroke vertical advance lever is different, but to what end?). It’s really a shame it doesn’t see more action, because the lens is just spectacular.

What’s the purpose of this exercise? Well, aside from giving myself an excuse to maintain an unreasonably large camera collection (tenuous though that excuse may be), there’s something to be said for breaking up the routine.. It’s all too easy to keep using the same exact equipment day in and day out, and while this has its obvious advantages, mixing it up does too. Neither of these cameras is a radical departure from my usual stuff, but still offer a bit of a change, the Regula forcing me to practice scale focusing, for example. I’ve grown so accustomed to the look of my regularly-used Leica lenses than it was nice to be reminded of the quality of the Konica’s.

There is value in disruption.


The Vemödalen Project: On Lens Selection, Film Processing, and Happy Accidents

As noted in the introductory post to this little undertaking, I expect that seeing things differently will include a range of factors, including camera and lens choices, as well as non-standard film processing. These factors are key to this next group of photos. Unlike the Washington, D.C. pictures, I really had little idea of what I was trying to create with these, other than (for reasons that will become clear in a paragraph or two) that they would be grainy and not terribly sharp.

I have a fair few cameras that don’t see a lot of use for one reason or another. Some produce results that are pretty typical, while others are quite distinct. Falling into the latter category is my King Regula IIb with Ghetaldus Ghenar lens, a 45/3.5 triplet. The lens is far from technically perfect, and on top of the pronounced triplet signature, my example also has some damage to the front element that lowers contrast and causes direct light sources in the frame to glow. A lens hood can help, but it’s awkward to use on this camera, and besides, isn’t the point of this exercise to make photos that don’t look generic?

On top of that, and completely unnecessarily, as I was shooting in daylight, I decided to push the roll of HP5+ I loaded up two stops to 1600. Then to further change things up, I figured I’d try full stand development in Caffenol C-L, something I hadn’t done before. What’s the worst that could happen?

My chosen stomping ground was a state park that used to be an estate, and which still has the remains of some of the old buildings scattered about. Decrepit buildings in the woods seemed an appropriate subject for my intended look. The sky was covered by a thin overcast, making for fairly diffuse light, so contrast would be a bit low and there would be no deep shadows; pushing brought up the contrast, of course.

I shot the roll and processed it as I planned. When I pulled the film from the tank, I saw immediately that the negatives were quite dense; apparently the recommended times were well above what I really needed to get a two-stop push. If I had to guess I’d say the film ended up more like a 3.5-4-stop push. Into the scanner and the preview showed very bright pictures. I cranked the settings much further than I normally would to get somewhere close to where I wanted them, which as expected just accentuated the already prominent grain. Ordinarily, I would have been quite annoyed by this turn of events, but given my plan for this roll it really didn’t bother me at all. Quite liberating, actually.

King Regula IIb, Ghetaldus Ghenar 45/3.5, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-L
King Regula IIb, Ghetaldus Ghenar 45/3.5, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-L
King Regula IIb, Ghetaldus Ghenar 45/3.5, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-L
King Regula IIb, Ghetaldus Ghenar 45/3.5, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-L
King Regula IIb, Ghetaldus Ghenar 45/3.5, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-L
King Regula IIb, Ghetaldus Ghenar 45/3.5, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-L
King Regula IIb, Ghetaldus Ghenar 45/3.5, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-L
King Regula IIb, Ghetaldus Ghenar 45/3.5, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-L

There they are in all their grainy, vignetted, glowing goodness. They fulfilled my intent of producing photos that looked different; I’ve shot some of these buildings before, and these are definitely very different. There aren’t really the opportunities for unconventional composition that I exploited in my Washington, D.C. photos, but that’s not the point. Overcoming vemödalen is about trying to achieve something that is distinct (to say unique would be pushing it, but you’ve got to have goals) – I think these photos manage that, and frankly that’s all that counts.