Sunday, July 28, 2013

Some new 8x10 photos with Wista (Tachihara) camera

I went for almost 10 months without touching my 8x10 camera. The reason? I never quite got along with my Kodak Century Universal. Sometimes I just don't click with a camera. When I really enjoy a camera, I always get better images because I am more at ease using it. For example, I owned a Hasselblad 500c/m for about a month before reselling it because I really did not like it. To each his own.

Anyway, I am rekindling my interest in 8x10 as I picked up a Wista 8x10 field camera (made by Tachihara) on a lark. I really like this camera - it is much more intuitive for me than the Kodak. It also has better movement control, though it unfortunately does not have any shift, which is slightly disappointing (though you can "force" it to shift slightly by using both front and rear swing).

It also came with a Technika adapter, so it works right out of the box with all my lens boards.

Anyway, I shot a few sheets of my typical Fuji HR-T x-ray film to test out the camera and try developing with Pyrocat HD. Here's a few images:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Strickland Mill Documentary Update

I've been exceedingly busy with various things and sadly a death in my girlfriend's family, so I haven't had time to update in a while. But I thought I'd take a moment to mention that a little while ago my friend and partner in documenting the Strickland Mill Sally and I got word that the show highlighting our work is officially going to happen. It is scheduled for November 2014, which gives us plenty of time to make more images of both the mill and hopefully some of the people who worked there.

Here is a photo taken only a couple of days ago as the sun set. 47mm XL, T-max 100, Pyrocat HD, cropped to a panoramic view:

Monday, July 15, 2013

A couple of Portraits with the Schneider 150mm f/2.8 Xenotar

The legendary Schneider 150mm f/2.8 Xenotar, especially the "Linhof Select" variant, has been a cult-classic lens, boasting the widest aperture of almost any lens in shutter that has 4x5 coverage. This massive piece of glass is fairly rare.

I was lucky enough to find one at a relative "bargain" price. It needed a good CLA but that ended up not costing terribly much. Finally had a chance to use it this evening to take two quick snapshots of my girlfriend's niece, who is staying with us this week.

The first image was taken at about f/3.5, 1/5 of a second shutter speed, on T-Max 100 rated at 80 and developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 12 minutes:

I knew in the waning light that her dress would really pop against the dark leaves under the trellis. Next I did a more low-contrast portrait. This time at f/5.6 with a bit of fill-flash bounced off of the ceiling of our deck:

I'm sure there will be more this week!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

4x5 Images from the Boneyard

Here's some 4x5 images from Big Talbot. I definitely learned a lot from these and the 35mm ones. These aren't the best photos - despite some nice clouds and good locations the light just wasn't quite right. That's the trouble with driving 2.5 hours to a location - to get the BEST light of the day, I need to leave at 4am to get there at 6:30 or so. It was also rough dodging tourists, being a holiday weekend.

Anyway, here are some of the better photos. All were taken on either T-Max 100, developed in Rodinal, or T-Max 400, developed in Pyrocat HD.


90mm, 47mm:
210mm, 150mm:


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nonchalant Deer at Grand Bay

Over the weekend I was hiking a little bit at Grand Bay. Every so often I'll see a deer there, but only briefly before getting spooked and running away. This time though, I was able to watch and photograph a yearling for the better part of an hour as he nonchalantly ate some leaves barely 20 feet from the boardwalk.

I had nothing but my 4x5 camera, but luckily brought my 300mm f/9 Nikkor-M. But f/9 is pretty slow and it was getting dark as the sun was setting. I was persistent though and nailed two shots of him! I was pretty lucky, as I more or less guessed where to focus as he was constantly on the move:

The second shot was even better, and luckier. He was very close, and not staying still at all. But then another hiker showed up with a dog, which he reacted to and stood stock-still long enough for me to shoot this:

I shot both of these wide-open on the 300mm. Even that wasn't really fast enough, but instead of attempting a 1/8 of a second exposure, I just shot it at 1/30. I then developed it in Acufine, stock, for 4:30 at 70F. This developer gave me a bit of a speed boost - just enough to get really nice shadow detail at an effective ISO of 800. Normally for T-Max 400 I rate it at about 200 for development in Pyrocat HD. But it worked out, and I also now know how to get some extreme speed from my TMY if I need it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Boneyard - Part 2 of my Bessa R2S review

Meagan and I spent the better part of July 4th at "The Boneyard," the beach full of driftwood at Big Talbot State Park in Florida. In the morning I shot some 4x5, but in the evening I shot my new Bessa R2S rangefinder. I ended up shooting quite a bit in a short period of time - 4 rolls actually. The light changed while we were out in the late afternoon and for about 15-30 minutes it was really quite nice.

The best shots so far were from a roll of T-Max 100 I exposed at an ASA of 64 and developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 8:30. Despite not being large-format, the 35mm negatives really captured the texture of the sand superbly. The meter was really spot-on for pretty much the entire roll, but like I mentioned in Part 1 I erred a bit on over-exposure if anything.

One of the things I continued to notice was that the camera is definitely light. I had only the camera and 35/1.8, 50/1.4, and 85/2 Nikkor lenses, and some film of course, and I was extremely free to hike for quite a bit and not feel encumbered with a heavy backpack or even a light pack. One lens in each side pocket of my cargo pants and I was off! It was nice to note that despite the old design and compromises of a super-speed lens, the 50mm f/1.4 still performed really well (I didn't want to use the Heliar this time, to compare).

Not everything is good though. With the 85mm, I noticed some poor rangefinder calibration to that lens. As I have heard from several people, the calibration of a rangefinder and lens is a bit of an individual process. Obviously the 85mm isn't quite matched to the Bessa. I can't help feeling though that the short base-length and higher mechanical tolerances on the Bessa might be to blame really for this. Despite being about 50 years old, my Nikon SP couples perfectly with every lens I have, even having purchased them second-hand over the years from disparate places. That said, the close-up shots at the minimum focus distance, like the shot above, were perfect with the Nikkor 50mm, so it's not all bad. I will have to be careful with longer lenses (or just use the SP for those).

Other than that though, the camera is great. Having the built-in meter, and being so light-weight, it really opens up the possibilities for everyday use for me. If I wanted a small 35mm for family trips and such I had been using a Nikon F2 or my Nikkormat, but compared to a rangefinder even a small SLR is positively huge, especially the lenses. Plus, with the mirror-slap, I usually never could shoot lower than 1/30, and only on wider lenses. The Bessa's smooth shutter release and curtain allowed me to shoot at 1/15 on every lens no problem. And if I want to go do some classic photojournalism, I'll likely grab the Bessa with 35mm f/1.8 and the Nikon SP with 85mm or 105mm and shoot away.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and my write-up on the Bessa. I will post the 4x5 shots from this place another day.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Snapshots from the Atlanta Suburbs

Last month I was up in Atlanta working, and stayed with my parents for a couple of days. I took some photos for fun out and about at some local parks. Here's a roll from my Century Graphic 2x3 on some Fuji NPH400:


The highlight of the trip though was some late-afternoon fog present at Buford Dam, where the Chattahoochee River begins. I took these on PanF+ rated at 25, developed in Rodinal semi-stand:


Sadly, I shot two rolls of 35mm film the next day, but they somehow got lost between then and going home that evening. Maybe they'll show up sometime, because I can't fathom how they could've hopped out of my pockets. I've never lost film like that before. Oh well.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bessa R2S Review Part 1 - Nikon S-mount rangefinder with meter!

Finally got my hands on a Bessa R2S. I've been looking for one for about a year at a good price. Lots of eBay sellers are trying to scalp them, as they were a very limited production (about 1000 units for the Nikon Historical Society, with included 50mm f/3.5 Heliar lens). For reference to my readers - I got the camera and Heliar for $650.

I love the camera. I've read a lot of bad reviews of the Bessa series feeling cheap and chintzy. Well, the Bessa IS for sure light and plasticky, compared to my Nikon SP. But that's both a plus and minus - it's a joy to carry around for a long period of time, unlike the brick of a camera Nikon. However, I wouldn't want to drop it!

I took the camera out to Reed Bingham on a dark and overcast day, with rain on the horizon. I shot some good ol' Provia 100F, as a stress-test for the meter. I rated it right at 100, and did no other spot-checking using my other meters. The meter proved to be consistent - it seems to default to slightly underexposed. To be fair, several of these were tough situations, like really dark paths with bright spots coming through the trees. That said, I will probably default to slight overexposure, especially if I were to shoot negatives.

Handling is nice. The framelines selector is easier to switch than the Nikon one, but the caveat is there are much less options on the Bessa. The Nikon's viewfinder is a 1:1 frame with the 50mm framelines. I greatly prefer this to the 0.7x viewfinder that the Bessa has, designed for the 35mm frameline. On the other hand, it will be a nice bright viewfinder with parallax correction, unlike the secondary view on the Nikon SP (or, on the other Nikon rangefinders, no 35mm framelines at all!). There is also no 105mm or 135mm framelines, and Voigtlander mentions the RF isn't good enough to use with long lenses (!). The rangefinder patch is bright and contrasty, more-so than my SP, but for some odd reason dims to almost nothing at the far ranges of focus. I assume that is to deter using it for close-focusing, considering the rangefinder calibration. So, big plus for the Nikon if  you want to use a big set of lenses.

Film loading, winding action, and shutter release all feel good. I would highly recommend the camera to those using the S-mount system. There is certainly no other option for using S-mount lenses and having a built-in meter! While spot-metering everything is great, it certainly can be limiting. To me, this camera is for small and light one or two lens shooting. An extra meter is just more gear to carry, and then I might as well shoot medium format.

That's it for images. To sum up - it's a great camera! As an aside, the 50mm Heliar is a FANTASTIC lens. Sharp, contrasty, and excellent out-of-focus area! It's just slow, which may be an issue depending on usage. I used a tripod for most of these photos, by the way, which is kind of defeating the purpose, but I just wanted to shoot and it was too dark even for 400 speed film in the woods that day. Oh, and as for lenses, on this day I used my 21mm f/4 CV, 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor, 50mm Heliar, or 85mm f/2 Nikkor lenses.

Part 2 coming soon, as I shot 4 (!) rolls yesterday in late afternoon light down at Big Talbot State Park with this camera, so stay tuned.