Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A great piece on Dorothea Lange heard on NPR today

On the drive into work today I heard a piece on NPR about Dorothea Lange and a new book written about her by Linda Gordon.

The piece starts off talking about what is arguably Dorothea Lange's most recognizeable image, that of a California pea picker Florence Owens Thompson. The image was taken while Lange was employed by the Farm Security Administration in March, 1936.

One incredible piece of information I learned from the NPR piece was that all of the images that Dorothea Lange took during her work with the FSA became the proprety of the US Government. The original images were accompanied by captions that she wrote for each image, but they were not distributed with the images when the FSA would make them available to news outlets. Not even the titles of her images were preserved.

Listen to the NPR piece embedded below, or visit this link to read more about the new book by Linda Gordon.

5 questions from Etsy and a sweet pair of cuff links

The other day I was working on my Etsy shop and I ran into a gal who asked me if I'd be up for a quick interview on her blog. I couldn't say yes fast enough -  I mean, who doesn't like talking about themselves?

She is an Etsy artisan that makes some pretty cool jewelry so you should go swing by her shop to see her stuff - mother's day is right around the corner dontcha know (hint, hint).

She asked me five questions that you can read over on her blog, but one question totally caught me off guard. The final question was, if money were no object what item from Etsy would you buy. Since I have yet to see a Hasselblad for sale on Etsy I went with something I had come across only a couple days before - these sweet camera cuff links from Etsy seller CosmicFirefly. Check them out:

                                                                                  image courtesy of CosmicFirefly's Etsy shop

Check out the interview over at her blog by clicking on this link.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Week 16: Argus (or, "Go Thattaway")

So week 15 in the 52 Weeks project was a tad late (due mostly to my being wrapped up in the 4am project contest) and this week's photo was threatening to be delayed too, but for totally different reasons. 

I've had one roll of 120 Delta 3200 sitting to be developed from the 4am Project shoot earlier in the month, as well as a roll of  Tri-x 400 35mm, Efke 50 120 and today I just burned through a roll of Kodak 3200. I got through the Delta 3200 and the Tri-x 400, mostly because they were the oldest undeveloped rolls and also because the Tri-x 400 was what I shot this past week and I needed a photo for week 16.

This roll was the first roll I've run through my inherited Argus C3 camera. According to the wikipedia entry for the C3 it was the best selling 35mm camera in America for nearly three decades. That's insane. It's a rangefinder, with separate viewfinders: one for setting focus and the other for composition. The viewfinders are about the diameter of an eraser, so composing shots isn't the easiest thing in the world. 

Oh, and there's no meter.

I had no idea how much I relied on my other camera's built in meters to help me figure out exposure. Without the meter to tell me whether I had a scene properly exposed or not I had to wing it. I used a calculator I found on the web to give me a starting point, then adjusted as the scene dictated. It was tricky, but thankfully I was using negative film which gives you a little more wiggle room than slide film.

I got a few decent shots, but it's clear I still have a lot to learn about shooting with this camera. 

Here's the shot I chose for this week. Taken near the Union Oyster House in Boston, MA. 

And here are a few outtakes, mostly from last week, but some might be from weeks past.

I landed 2nd prize in the 2010 4am Project photo contest!

It was a very tight race, and after being selected as a finalist from almost 1500 photographs I ended up winning 2nd prize in the 4am Project photo contest!

You can read about it on the 4am Project blog here:

Congrats to Nandor Hargita of Budapest for taking first prize with his photo - you can check it out here: Nandor's winning photo.

Can't wait until next year's event - in the meantime, go out and shoot some pinhole shots for World Pinhole Photography day - it's today!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My growing camera collection

In the past year I've aquired 4 new (old) cameras. First it was a Yashica Mat 124g, then came the old Duaflex II, then I inherited an Argus C3 and most recently picked up a Praktica (see the last blog post for output from that one).

So far I have resisted the urge to dive into the instant photography craze. Mostly because I am very preoccupied with the small horde of film cameras I can play with. But with the recent announcment from the Impossible Project that they have begun to sell two varieties of monochrome 600 format instant film, and with their upcoming release of a new color film, I am tempted to plop down some money for an eBay special.

That is, I was tempted, until I saw that Rachel is giving away an instant camera to one lucky fan. You can check out her giveaway over here at her Rachel B. Blog site.

The entry fee is a comment, or a blog post, or a tweet - just head over and say hello and your name goes into the hat.

And while you're over there you really should check out her work - she does some beautiful things with light and a camera.

good luck!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Week 15: Praktica

I have a new (old) camera. It's a Praktica FX 35mm viewfinder. I'd never seen anything like it when I read the ad for it on Craigslist.

It's a waist level viewfinder, but in the body of a 35mm. The only other waist level camera I've used is my Yashica Mat, but surprisingly this little camera is just as easy to handle. It even has a small magnifying loupe built into the pop-up viewfinder for critical focusing, just like the Yashica Mat.

I am always amazed at the precision and mechanics of older cameras. They usually feel very solid, an in a lot of cases the simplicity by which they operate understates the complexity by which they operate. Something as simple as the frame counter will make me smile when I think about how it's working internally.

I picked up the camera from someone local who had taken incredible care of it. Everything seems to be working just as it did when it was being heavily used. The leather case is well worn, but still holding up, which tells me that it saw a lot of use. The shutter works flawlessly, and the film loads, advances and unloads with ease. The only thing that seems to be a tad off is the aperture ring on the lens, but it still functions and opens the iris without any issue.

The camera doesn't have a meter, and I didn't want to bracket, so I was pretty much judging exposure as I went. I had Ilford HP5+ 400 speed film loaded. I brought it out at lunch a few days in Boston, then shot a bit at home too. Before each outing I looked up what some exposure guidelines were - trying to offset from the sunny 16 rule when I forgot the actual values.

Here's my first go at a self portrait, taken with the Praktica:

And here are four outtakes:

Friday, April 16, 2010

4am Project Finalist!

One of the photos I shot for the 4amproject has been selected as finalist in this year's contest, and I need your help and votes to win!

I would appreciate it if you could head on over to the voting page and vote for my image to win. My image is #14, and the voting form is at the bottom of the page. Voting ends on Monday, April 19th.

the 4am Project Voting Page

Thanks for voting!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

a 4am outtake, or late night laundromat

Driving toward Marty's at around 3:55am on Sunday morning I passed this laundromat. This is the place my mom used to bring our comforters and big blankets that couldn't be washed in our washing machine at home. I had no idea it was a 24 hour spot.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Week 14: 4am at Marty's

On Sunday, April 4th at 4am if you were awake and listened very carefully you could hear the sound of shutters releasing all around the world.

The 4am Project ( ) celebrated its second year in 2010 by inspiring over 1100 photographers and counting to wake up at 4am and take a photo of the world around them. A lot of the folks taking shots this year had participated in last year's shoot, but quite a few were brand new explorers.

Leading up to Sunday's early morning shoot I found that I had a really hard time explaining to people what it was I was doing, and an even harder time explaining why. I couldn't really come up with a great reason, other than I wanted to take part in a project that brought people together from around the world to share their love of photography and capturing everyday life.

Last year I took the easy way out and just woke up, stuck my lens out the window, and took a shot of the streetlight outside of my house that was wrapped in fog. You can see last year's shot here: 4am 2009

This year I knew I needed to step out of the house and find an interesting location to take photos, but the problem I had was finding a place nearby that would have some activity going on at 4am so that it wasn't just a static scene I was shooting. After thinking it over for a few days I decided I'd ask if I could take photos at Marty's Donut Land - a fixture in downtown Ipswich, MA that usually does the bulk of its baking between midnight and around 5am.

I called up, and after some back and forth (and explaining again why I was getting up at 4am) I finally got permission to take some photos. I packed my gear the night before, including 4 rolls of Ilford 3200 speed film, and set my alarm for 3:20am. It felt like I had just fallen asleep before the alarm went off.

I tossed on my clothes, grabbed my gear and hopped in the car. When I rolled up to Marty's there was a tow truck parked out front and a pair of guys smoking and drinking coffee. I had no idea there would be anyone but the bakers there at 4am. I said hello and then went inside, dropping my stuff off on a stool near the window.

I went around back to the kitchen and said hello to Walter and Ellie - the two bakers there for the night preparing the next days donuts. They were expecting me, and told me I could shoot wherever and whatever I wanted, so I immediately dove in.

I ended up with 19 images that I really liked, so far anyway; I still have a roll of 120 to develop. It's a mix of stuff from my digital camera and the Canon 35mm I have which was loaded with the other rolls of Delta 3200. The remaining roll was shot on the Yashica Mat.

So, here you have it - Marty's at 4am, and this weeks photos for the 52 weeks project. Killing two birds with one donut:

                                                          image made with bighugelabs mosaic maker

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Week 13: Spring has sprung

In the month of March we had over 15 inches of rain, the majority of it falling in the last two weeks of the month. It was insane. I've never seen that much rain in my life, nor do I ever want to see that much again. At least four nights this month I spend waking up 4 or 5 times to make sure the pump was working to keep the water out of the basement, and that was AFTER having to deal with 6 inches of water filling it up during the first storm, before we cut a hole in the basement floor and installed a sump pump.

Needless to say I'm pretty much done with Spring rain, and we're only into the 1st day of April.

Today was the first sunny day we've had in a while. By mid day the sun had popped out and the clouds were starting to thin. I decided to swing through Boston Common to hunt for some Spring growth for the current monthly theme my photo club at work is shooting for.

Even with all that rain there wasn't much new growth to be found. I'm guessing once we hit the warmer weather this weekend things will start to pop. I did manage to find a few trees that already had blossoms on them. And since I am not at all a horticulturalist I am going to go ahead and say this is a dogwood tree (it's my go-to tree whenever I have no idea what kind of tree it is).

This week the photo is three images, not just one. I couldn't decide which of the three I liked best and which two would be relegated to the outtakes, so I just pushed them together and that's that.