Thursday, December 27, 2007

assorted sunrises & sunsets

Yet another batch of photos from my ongoing geek-out over old cameras. It's kind of an inconvenient time of year to take up a new hobby, since you can only take so many photos of dark-n-gloomy winter stuff before it gets prohibitively depressing. At least the sun still rises and sets, and occasionally it's even visible.

Not a big fan of winter, I have to say.

So more than anything these photos are test shots, just to see what my various bits and pieces and widgets can do. But I figured, hey, they turned out ok, so I might as well share a few of them. I mention this mostly in case you're wondering why I took so many photos of the same thing. Ok, I was also trying to use up various rolls of film so I could get them processed. Once you're in digital-land, you forget what a pain film can be. And that's before we get to the cost of film, developing, and scanning. In the long run it's probably cheaper to just shell out and get a DSLR and use the lenses on it instead. I'm sure I'll do that eventually, but right now I'm waiting until the end of January to see what goodies arrive at the big PMA 2008 trade show.

Updated: This isn't my first batch of sunrise photos, by any means. It just occurred to me to go rifle through the archives, and -- surprise, surprise -- I was stuck doing sunrise photos last December, just like I am now. Earlier, in October '06, I posted some photos from the preceding January. More recently, here are sunrises from March and October of this year. I never seem to end up with any during the summer, mostly because I'd have to get up too damn early, and in the summer there are lots of other things to take photos of that don't require you to be awake at such an unnatural hour.

So first, here's a recent sunrise, taken with a Pentax Spotmatic SP + Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 135/3.5. Mostly Mt. Scott, with bits of Mt. Talbert and the South Waterfront district.






A couple of Sears TLS photos, the first with the standard 55/1.4 lens, and the second with a monstrous Vivitar 75-260mm zoom lens I found at Goodwill. I'd be exaggerating if I said it weighs a ton, but I wouldn't be exaggerating by all that much.

I'm actually pleasantly surprised by the construction crane photo. Everybody badmouths old zoom lenses all the time. I'm sure technology's improved and so forth, and a present-day equivalent would certainly be a lot lighter and smaller. But this particular lens, or at least this particular photo, seems reasonably sharp. Sharp enough to use on the interwebs, at any rate.

After buying the lens, I was surprised to discover it's a T4-mount lens. I was playing with it and twisted a ring at the base, and the M42 bits at the end came off in my hand. WTF!? Turns out that was actually a good thing, since the lens's aperture mechanism wasn't working correctly, which might be why I got such a good deal on it. Turns out flaky aperture stuff is a congenital defect among T4 lenses, but the problem area is inside the body-to-T4 adapter, not in the lens itself. So buying a new adapter makes everything peachy keen again.



A batch of sunrise photos, this time with a Mamiya 1000 DTL + Vivitar 135/2.8 telephoto lens. These are from a few minutes later than the Spotmatic+Takumar pics, so already the sky's a bit different. Note to self: If you want to compare & contrast two similar lenses, try taking photos of something that generally stays the same. Sunrises and clouds don't count.





More pics from the Mamiya, this time with the stock Auto Sekor 55/1.8 lens.



And last but not least, a couple of Argus C3 photos.



Wednesday, December 26, 2007

happy holiday(s)


I'm a little late with this, as usual. Umm, Boxing Day's still a holiday, right? Technically?

This humblest of humble blogs is a bit over two years old now. One of the very few things I've learned over the last two years is the importance of lightening up a little. I think I've learned that. Either that or I've merely gotten two years older and lazier and I just can't be bothered to care quite as much anymore. I'm not entirely sure.

To illustrate, briefly, here are two posts from Christmas(ish) 2005, and another from Christmas(esque) 2006. Two things strike me immediately. First, I seemed to be rather grumpy and peevish much of the time, especially in the early days. I like to think I've gotten that out of my system, for the most part. Being outraged all the time rapidly gets freakin' exhausting. Second thing, I was quite wordy. Where did I get the free time to write so much? I don't remember having copious stretches of free time then, and I certainly don't now, so I don't see how I managed it. Did I write faster and more coherently two years ago? Are my mental faculties in decline? Or am I just wringing my hands because I have a birthday coming up? That might have something to do with it. At least it's not the big four-zero mark quite yet... although I think I can smell it from here. The thought did occur to me recently that my newfound fascination with old cameras seems a touch... middle-aged, somehow. I mean, it's not like I'm filling a garage with Harleys or Corvettes or anything, and I only buy gadgets I plan to use, but still... I don't want to wake up in a few years or a decade or a month or so and realize I've become just another pathetic and tragically unhip middle-aged white guy. That would be deeply unpleasant. Oh, and did I mention I found a gray eyebrow hair a couple of months back? Did I mention I found it attached to me? Eeek!

Um... so anyway, happy holiday(s) from me to whoever. Or not. Or whatever. Like I care, or not.

Oh, and in case anyone's curious, this photo was taken with my old late-60's Mamiya 1000 DTL using the stock Auto Sekor 55/1.8 lens. I'd include the aperture & shutter info too, except that I didn't write it down, and now I've forgotten. Oh, well. Whatever. Or not.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

riding the tram with an old camera

Portland Aerial Tram

So I rode the tram again the other day. The thing's about a year old now, and the novelty's worn off. Normally I wouldn't have bothered to ride it, much less post photos of it, but I was taking another old vintage camera for a spin, and the real point of this is to show off the results. So let's just agree we've all done the obligatory collective eye roll about the tram, and another eye roll about the whole South Waterfront thing.

Portland Aerial Tram

The camera I used is an old Argus C3 Matchmatic, which was made between 1958 and 1966. If you've never seen one, you'll want to go look at the photo. There really isn't anything else quite like it. Two-tone leatherette and a bunch of shiny gears, and shaped almost exactly like a brick. Some people call it ugly, but I can't agree. As soon as I saw one on the antique store shelf, I went "ooh, cool" and decided I had to have it. I basically got it because it looked cool, and because it's a bit of vintage Americana. I'm no chest-thumping flag-waving patriot type, of course, but in the camera world, buying American is a form of rooting for the underdog. As is buying anything that isn't Japanese, German, or Russian, come to think of it. In addition, Arguses are cheap and plentiful, and (supposedly) relatively easy to fix if they break, and they don't break all that often. That's a desirable trait in a 40-50 year old camera.

Portland Aerial Tram

I didn't get it thinking it would actually take decent photos. It doesn't exactly look like it would, does it? I figured I'd run a roll through it out of curiosity, and I suppose also on the principle that I'm a camera user, not a collector, and I don't buy things just to put in a display case or whatever. But surprisingly, I actually like the results. A while back I saw an interesting comment about this, to the effect that it's a rather inconvenient camera to use, so there must be some other reason Argus sold millions of them, and kept making them from 1939 all the way to 1966.

Portland Aerial Tram

The standard lens on a C3 is the Coated Cintar, 50mm, f/3.5, which is what I've got. Not everyone realizes the C3 is an interchangeable lens camera. Despite its popularity, only a handful of lenses were ever marketed for it. Possibly this is because changing lenses is a bit of a chore. First you have to unscrew and remove the gear that couples the rangefinder to the lens. Then you unscrew the lens itself, and put the new lens on in its place. When putting the coupling gear back on, you have to take care that the rangefinder and lens are in sync, so that infinity on one means infinity on the other. Otherwise your focus will be all wrong, and you won't know it until you get your photos back. There's a short but apparently complete list of Argus lenses here, and photos of a couple of the more common ones here.

South Waterfront from upper tram station.

There's surprisingly little info on the net about the C3 lens mount, and I've never seen anyone selling an adapter to use Argus lenses on other cameras, despite the vast availability of cheap Arguses with perfectly decent lenses. So here's what I've been able to figure out. The screw thread is quite narrow -- I measured it at 34-35mm, although as a pre-WWII American design it might not be metric at all. 1 3/8" is just shy of 35mm, so that might be it. I didn't get a good read on the thread pitch, but it looked like it was greater than the usual 1mm. I've seen the lens registration distance (i.e. from the back of the lens mount to the film plane) given at 40mm, which is big for a rangefinder, but on the small side for an SLR. If 40mm is right, the only digital cameras you could use lens on and get infinity focus (assuming an adaptor existed) would be Four Thirds SLRs from Olympus, Panasonic, & friends. Oh, and a Leica M8 would probably work too, if you're made of money and actually plan to use the M8 instead of squirreling it away in a vacuum-sealed display case or something. So that might be a problem, but I noticed that the Cintar, at least, is so narrow that you can actually slide the whole back end of the lens into an M42 screw mount. So with a bit of mechanical skill (which I lack), one might be able to cook up a recessed lens adapter, hopefully without requiring mirror lock-up.

I also haven't seen adapters to put other lenses on Arguses. You'd lose rangefinder coupling, naturally, but it'd still be fun to stick a long telephoto or zoom or fisheye (for example) on the front of an Argus and see what you can do with it.

South Waterfront from upper tram station.

It's worth noting that next year marks the 70th birthday of the Argus C and C2, the C3's predecessors, and 2009 is the 70th birthday of the C3 itself. That'd be a great opportunity for the nice folks at Cosina Voigtlander to do one of those historical reproductions like they do. In recent years they've issued Bessa cameras in Leica screw mount, Contax & Nikon rangefinder mounts, M42 SLR mount, and most recently Leica M bayonet mount. Doing an Argus C3-mount Bessa could be a logical extension of that idea. Well, if you could convince enough people to pay a couple of hundred dollars for a new and rather more convenient camera (with a warranty) instead of an old $15 Argus. I'm not holding my breath, I just think it'd be kind of cool, that's all I'm saying.

Downtown from upper tram station

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

tanner springs, winter 07

tanner springs

If you're a longtime reader of this humble blog (yeah, either of you), you might've noticed I post a lot of photos of Tanner Springs Park, in the Pearl District. It's not that I'm a big fan of the place -- far from it, in fact -- but it's a.) weird, and b.) conveniently located, so I tend to end up there a lot. If I've just gotten a new camera and want to take it for a spin, Tanner Springs is on the short list, along with Mt. Tabor and Leland One / "Rusting Chunks No. 5".

When I say "new", I usually mean "old". All of these pics except the next one were taken with an old 1960's Sears TLS (a.k.a. Ricoh Singlex) I've had for a couple of months now. The next one was taken with a Pentax Spotmatic SP, which I picked up just last week. I have a cabinet at home that's rapidly filling up with old cameras and lenses and whatnot. Hey, hobbies will do that sometimes.

tanner springs

My new hobby is entirely the fault of this humble blog, believe it or not. I never took an interest in cameras or photography until I started this thing, and began posting pics on the interwebs. Suddenly I had a reason to do it, and started to think maybe I ought to get a little better at it, and learn a little about what I was doing. It turns out there's no such thing as just wanting to learn a little or improve a little, not with me at any rate. I've learned a lot, and I occasionally convince myself I've improved somewhat too. The big downside is that much of what you learn is about what you "need" to buy next. There's just no end to it. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

tanner springs

tanner springs

tanner springs

winter trees

winter trees, northwest portland

More winter trees, for your grim, gothic, wintry 'enjoyment'. Ok, technically they're the same trees as last time around, but I used different cameras, so it's not precisely the same thing. Or not.

winter trees, northwest portland

The trees are next to one of the streetcar stops on Lovejoy up in NW Portland. I don't remember which one, but it's whichever one is closest to the Lucky Lab brewpub. After a couple of beers, taking lots of photos of bare trees seems like a fantastic idea.

winter trees, northwest portland

The even-numbered pix were taken with a Pentax Spotmatic SP, circa 1964-66, with a Super Takumar 50/1.4. The odd ones were taken with a Mamiya 1000 DTL, circa 1967, with an Auto Sekor 55/1.8. They're both nice cameras, picked up at local antique stores for a pittance. Any failings you see in the photos are my fault. Or the fault of the el-cheapo drug store ASA 200 film. Or the one-hour-photo hut....

winter trees, northwest portland

Or the weather itself, for that matter. I'd like to take this opportunity to register a formal complaint about the weather. I'd much rather post photos of flowers, or waterfalls, or colorful ethnic festivals, or basically anything besides grim winter weather. But that's what we've got at the moment, so here we are. I suppose I could still do, I dunno, food, or something, but the weather's giving me a creative block. All I see right now is bare trees and rain, everywhere, as far as the eye can see. It's not depressing, exactly, merely frustrating. I mean, these pics were taken with color film, believe it or not. The curving limbs and branches are cool and all, but the lack of color is seriously cramping my style.

winter trees, northwest portland

winter trees, northwest portland

assorted accidents & experiments

argus multiple exposure

An accidental multiple-exposure photo, taken with an old Argus C3 Matchmatic I picked up a while back. This wasn't on purpose (and is quite easy to do by accident on a C3), but I rather like it. I have a bunch of 'normal' Argus pics too, which turned out better than I expected. I'll try to post some in the next day or two, or so.

pomegranate & xmas lights

A while back I read something about using out-of-focus Christmas lights to create a nice blobby background. I thought I'd give it a try, and although it came out on the underdone side, I still rather like the effect. The foreground is just a pomegranate I had handy. It's the background I really cared about. In the end it's just an experiment, after all.

macro candy

A sorta-macro shot using an EL-Nikkor 75/4 enlarging lens. I picked the thing up really cheap, as it came attached to some sort of old industrial line-scan camera I can't make heads or tails of. I really ought to get an adapter ring to convert the EL-Nikkor's 39mm thread (the standard enlarger lens mount) to 42mm, so I can use it on macro bellows. And/or get a helicoid & extension tube setup so I can use it like a normal M42 lens. And/or get some additional adapter rings so I can mount it reversed, either on the bellows or the helicoid.

In any case, first I just wanted to see whether the EL-Nikkor takes decent photos or not. It seems to do OK, at least OK enough for me to spring for some of the gadgetry I just mentioned.

The candy, meanwhile, is a raspberry-filled chocolate from Denmark, which we bought at the annual Scandinavian festival at PSU a couple of weeks ago. The company's website is here. I highly recommend the Creamy Raspberry. Actually I highly recommend everything that contains raspberries, come to think of it.

UV landscape

I've posted a few UV photos here before, but they were all taken with my compact digital camera, not with film. So I thought I'd try it with film for comparison, since there was still a big question mark about whether I was really seeing UV or not. Digital sensors are bad at UV, we're told, and UV is incompatible with modern zoom lenses, with their 21st century optical coatings and all those glass elements, some with their surfaces cemented together with rather uv-opaque substances. My little digicam seemed to do it anyway, so I figured I ought to take a film photo or two for comparison. This definitely came out brighter than the usual digital image, but I didn't test both with all other conditions equal, so this is at best an unscientific comparison. I can at least say it looks pretty similar to what the digicam takes, which gives me a bit more confidence that it's seeing what I think it's seeing.

This was a ~1 second exposure, at f/1.4, handheld, because I was too lazy to go across the room and dig out the tripod and cable release. So I'm actually surprised it's as clear as it is. Did I mention this was just an experiment?

pinhole experiment m42

I also got the notion to try making a pinhole "lens" for one of my old SLR, which involved a few seconds of work with a piece of tinfoil and a needle. You can also buy the things premade, with precision laser-bored pinholes, and the results are no doubt a bit less fuzzy. And maybe I'll buy one at some point. But homemade is kind of fun too.

The moon.  Honest.

Now here's one that just failed completely. I bought a T-mount adapter to hook an M42 camera up to a telescope, but I haven't figured out how to get things in focus yet, try as I might. This is supposed to be the moon. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

a building vanishes

a building vanishes

There was a bit of a commotion last night near this old building, located on Stark between 5th & 6th in downtown Portland.

a building vanishes

They've been tinkering with it for the last month or two. For a while there was a big DANGER sign warning passersby that some sort of "remediation" was in progress. They didn't explain exactly what sort of remediation it was, but the place gave off an awful, gag-inducing musty smell for weeks on end. So I figure it was black mold, maybe with a side of asbestos.

a building vanishes

So those were the 'before' photos, and these are the 'after' ones.

a building vanishes

Yep. The whole thing's gone, torn out in the course of one night. They're also renovating the notorious (and nearly as musty) 1960s aggregate-coated building down the block, and I gather this is part of the same project. I think they're turning the whole complex into a new upscale hotel or something.

a building vanishes

I usually don't cheer the arrival of new lifestyle amenities for the idle rich, but I'm pleased to bid this building a hearty "good riddance". It was empty for as long as I can remember. Decades, possibly. The covered entrance was a popular home -- and restroom -- for the homeless, so walking past often made you gag even before the "remediation" began. So instead we'll probably get the usual doggie day spa / martini bar combo, but even that would be an improvement. Well, an improvement for everyone except the poor homeless people who used to use the place. The city and the Powers That Be keep offering vague promises to provide an unknown number of public restrooms for the homeless at some unspecified future date. So maybe that'll happen and maybe it won't. What usually happens with these things is that a proposal muddles along in process limbo for a few years, with endless public meetings and steering committees and such, and eventually they announce it'll cost far more than originally estimated, there's no money in the budget, and that's the end of it. Unless you're building an aerial tram, of course.

a building vanishes

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

utter, abject greyness

utter greyness

Sure, I could try explaining why December isn't my favorite month. Conveying the point with pseudo-artsy photos instead makes it seem less like I'm whining, though. So I think I'll do that instead.

Enjoy. Or whatever. Or not.

utter greyness

utter greyness

utter greyness

utter greyness

utter greyness

utter greyness

utter greyness