Jun 29 2010

Minolta Super-A in the grass

It was a sunny day with intermittent gusts of  warm air breathing life into  the long grass of the meadow.  Elongated stems laden with blooms swayed and swirled in the midst of this flowing sea.  A rabbit crossed the worn path, heard but unseen, as small birds filtered and crows fought.

It’s an equal struggle to portray my experience in words as it is in pictures.  I cannot convey how  at times like these the wonderful memories of a childhood seemingly spent entirely enveloped in long grass surge.  I’m unable to show how the grass moves moments after the leaves rustle.  So I can only do my best even if it doesn’t’ meet my own expectations.

As for the camera it’s muted leaf shutter seemed well suited to the quite sounds of nature.  There is a severe limitation with a 1/200 second shutter on such a bright day but the inaccuracy of the aged meter led me to over expose anyway.  The lens appears to have some sort of coating but it is likely a single coating and doesn’t do a great deal for the lack of contrast when used with colour film.  Focusing with the range finder patch was difficult when so much of the scene appeared so similar so I resorted to focusing by using the scale on the camera.  As I stated in an earlier post the Super-A has framing lines for the 50mm lens within it’s larger 35mm accommodating viewfinder.  This is a nice way to see outside the frame for items to include or exclude from the image.  It’s an interesting camera and one I enjoy looking at but it’s heft and other limitations will likely force it to remain largely a display item.

Jun 26 2010

Minolta Super-A

After several years in my possession I finally took my Minolta Super-A off the shelf and ran a roll of film through it.  It is an aesthetically and operationally pleasing camera to use.  The viewfinder is designed to accommodate both a 35mm and 50mm lens  so it has bright lines for the 50mm yet provides a good wide overall view for framing a subject.  It has a leaf shutter behind the lens that provides from 1sec to 1/200 second.  Additionally it has a bulb setting which also releases the add on light meter when selected.  While the meter is coupled to the shutter speed through a mechanical gear the aperture is only suggested by the meter and it is up to the photographer to actually adjust the exposure.  The meter adds an additional 135 grams to the already hefty camera but eliminated the need to carry a separate meter.

I haven’t been able to get much information about the camera off the Internet other than that it was released in 1957 as well as the usual info that is obvious when one is holding the camera.  The 10 aperture blades form an interesting pattern that differs from the usual octagon, I would describe it as a 10 point star at f5.6 which gives unique out of focus highlights.  The focus rack is built into the body and not the lens and allows focus down to 3.5feet.  There is a small indicator on the front of the camera just bellow the shutter release that turns red when the shutter is cocked but there is no lock for the release itself.

In my next post I will provide some photo’s taken with this gratifying example of late 1950′s design.

Jun 23 2010

When a subject is just too big.

There was a tree that I wanted to take a picture of and I knew it was going to be just too big to capture in one image at the sort of resolution that I wanted.  So I took multiple high resolution images with the intent of stitching them together in the computer.  This leaves me with a new dilemma though, how to convey the size of the tree to a viewer on the Internet.  I could have attempted to include something in the frame to give scale “Here Bessy, here Bessy…” but cows are notoriously bad at taking directions and even then I’m not sure the impact could still be carried through with a small image.  So I’ve essentially taken control of the viewing experience and am presenting the picture in the form of a video.

And just to prove my point about impact here is a small web friendly version of the image.

Jun 20 2010

It’s only 2 dimensions after all

Photography is an illusion of reality,  we largely accept that what we see is a truthful representation of what was seen be the person taking the picture.  In reality though it is a flat two dimensional facsimile.  Even if the photographer doesn’t manipulate the image after the act of capturing it, the image is influenced by the choices that were made in it’s creation.  The photographer may have made camera settings or a lens selection in order to  effect your perception.  This image is an obvious reminder of the artifice but all images are tinged by this reality.

Digital cameras provide the potential for including almost any image modification that are, currently or conceived, of being done on a computer.   As the ability to manipulate the image at the time of capture is expanded we may need to remind ourselves about what is real from time to time.

Jun 17 2010

Dance, capturing an instant.

One of the great things about taking pictures of dance is that there is always a lot going on.  This is especially true behind the scenes where there are dancers waiting to go on and stage directors helping coordinate the entire process.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to document some of this and it has provided me with a tremendous opportunity to create images.

While I would never compare myself to Cartier-Bresson he has certainly influenced this image, this is such a brief instant where each of the elements came together.  It’s only by being in a state of constant observation that it is possible to see and capture these moments.  Beyond that I should probably let the image speak for itself.

Jun 15 2010

Cell phone camera part two, colour

Here are some more shots taken with the Nokia N95.  I’m just starting out with the phone as a camera and am still in the process of deciding how it should be used and what it can and can’t do.

Jun 12 2010

Cell phone as camera, Nokia N95

It’s been said numerous times that the best camera is the one you have with you.  The one electronic item that I carry more than any camera is my cell phone, so it stands to reason that I should have a phone that I can use as a camera “two birds one stone”.  While not the latest phone, I replaced mine recently with a Nokia N95 which has a 5Mp sensor and a f2.8 lens.  When compared to a dedicated camera the focus is slow and the controls are limited but working around these limitations is part of the appeal.

Because the sensor is so small separating subject and background with shallow depth of field is a challenge and you really need to select material that lays on different planes or has good contrast.  The photo’s I took were either taken with the phone set to capture black and white or with an eye to converting them to B&W later.  I will do some more with colour in a later post.

Jun 5 2010

Pentax D FA 100mm Macro WR with K-7

Pentax SMC D FA 100 Macro WR from Wallace Ross on Vimeo.

I only wish every lens I have was weather proof.  The SMC D FA 100mm Macro WR is though and it is an amazing lens with great build that suites the K-7 very well.  Manual focus is very smooth with this lens making it ideal for shooting video.  As a prime lens and a macro you get an optically brilliant performer and with the curved aperture blades the out of focus areas are rendered in a beautiful creamy softness even at apertures that on other lenses would give an harsher geometric bokeh.  So what if anything are the drawbacks to this lens?  One fact of life for a macro like this is that in auto focus it can take longer to focus from it’s minimum to infinity and if you miss it can end up doing a bit of hunting.  This prevents it from being an ideal all around lens at this focal length but if you take this limitation into consideration the results can be stunning.

As an aside I continue to be amazed at the accuracy of the Auto White balance of the K-7.  it just gets it right and there is little or no adjustment required.  This is great for video where RAW is obviously not an option.

This still image at the beginning was taken with a mid 1950′s Braun Paxette II which I hope to post about separately after I get another roll of film through it.

Jun 2 2010

Wide angle point and shoot, Pentax Espio 24EW

As far as I’m aware there were very few wide angle capable point and shoot cameras ever made.  Ricoh made several including the R1s that I own, but most point and shoots started around 35mm at the wide end.  And then there is the Pentax Espio 24Ew.  The EW stands for ‘extra wide’, it’s lens goes from 24mm to 105mm.  This camera was released in 2003 right in the middle of the digital camera explosion.  I have to admit I only paid about 1% of it’s original cost making the film inside it more expensive than it is.  When you first start this camera up the lens is at a position somewhere greater than it’s widest so in order to get it where I want it I have to hit the zoom out button.  The lens does some amazing contortions to fit within the cameras 1 1/2 inch depth which then expands to a ridiculous 4 1/2 inches at 105mm.  So how was it?  It does an admiral job,  There is definitely softness at the edges at 24mm, which is really the only focal length of this camera I’m interested in and also vignetting depending on the aperture which it selects and you have no way of knowing what it is.  These limitations aside and considering the difficulty and finding anything this wide in a film point and shoot it does a pretty good job.