My Photographic Roots

My interest in photography came from watching my mother take photos. She had an old Rolleiflex that only she understood. It was square and boxy with two lenses on the front and some knobs on the sides. The magical thing about this camera is that you had to look down into a prism to take the photo – before an LCD screen even existed, many photographers had grown to love the experience of framing their shots in that lovely square box – it was like watching a TV screen.

This camera is substantial in your hands. That texture on the sides is actually leather.

This camera is substantial in your hands. That texture on the sides is actually leather.

Mom’s camera was just a bit newer than this one – it was probably from the 1950s. One day in my early teens we were on a trip with some other girls and their moms when she decided to show me how it worked. It wasn’t something she trusted me to take off with it, but that day I saw photography differently – somehow in my mind it shifted from capturing snapshots to making something look great on that screen. With the Rollei you had to move – there was no zoom or macro settings – you moved until the object you wanted to highlight was in focus. I think that early experience is why I love to shoot primes today. When I studied photography in college, mom entrusted me with not only her Rollei, but her new Pentax to use in my classes. I think it was at this time that I really understood photography as art – not just in the shooting of images, but in the processing and developing of film – the making of images.

Now my mom was a super-talented woman who never saw herself as an exceptional. She was a master pattern cutter, seamstress, and tailor. I would show her two dresses I liked – I would like the bodice on one and the skirt on the other – we would go home and she would make me a dress that was the perfect combination of the two. Her doodles on the phone book looked like the sketches you see designers make when developing fashion concepts. She was an amazing cook. She would try something new and then go home and figure out how to make it. She was exceptional in so many creative ways. If I were to call her a photographer she would probably cringe – but I look at her shots and I know that she had some skills. These aren’t etherial landscapes or anything like that – just shots of family and friends.

This Mother’s Day, like all days I miss her. She left us far too soon, but her mark on our lives was indelible.

She’s always with you. She’s the sound of bacon crackling in a skillet on Saturday morning. She’s the aroma of the lilacs and magnolias in the spring. She’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day. She’s the sound of the rain on the roof that lulls you to sleep, the colors of the rainbow; she is Christmas morning. She is the place where you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you – not time, not space, not even death. 

Shutterbug Notes:

You can learn a lot from looking at old photos. As your skill grows you can appreciate the skill it took to make them work. You can also learn a lot about shooting from the heart – to not so much try to capture what something looks like, but what it feels like. It’s more that skill that makes a great image – it needs heart.

June on Film Roll #5 – 1974 Olympus Om-1n

I am attempting to shoot a roll of film a month this year – I’m about a month behind, but I’m catching up. My niece, Laura, came for a visit at the end of June. She is an avid shutterbug and has been interested in learning to operate a film camera. She picked up a Pentax kit and brought it with her on her trip. Once we got the pieces out and looked them over I found that my mother’s Vivitar Cosina from the late 70s was also a Pentax mount. Score! I was able to add a doubler, a fast 50, and a telephoto to her kit. More importantly, I was able to hook her up with a very cool vintage strap…

Couple of shutterbugs – Jasper, Arkansas

In preparation for her visit I had purchased us each a roll of T-Max 400 and a roll of 100 speed film. We covered the basics and she was off and shooting in no time. I started with the 400 – that’s what this roll is. Having Laura here got me out and about, so most of these shots are taken away from the house and I shot very few still lives. I actually only had a couple of chances to shoot indoors at all. I shot exclusively with the 50mm 1.4. This gave me a very shallow DOF, but also allowed some areas of sky to blow out.

Shooting outdoors I had a chance to play with sunlight – sometimes with better results than others. I’m finding that instead of seeking out high contrast subjects, that I need to make sure a black and white image has lots of mid tones.

Backlit Sunflower - Historic District - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Backlit Sunflower – Historic District – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

While the shot above shot worked exactly as I imagined it – the next shot I’m not completely sold on – I like the bokeh and the light on the leaves – even the sunspots, but I wish I had more detail in the sky.

Soaking up the Sun - Historic DIstrict - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Soaking up the Sun – Historic District – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

There is a spot I love to shoot – I’ve never really mastered it but I know that someday I will get the shot I’m imagining there. It’s an underground grotto that surrounds a natural spring. I want to get a shot from inside the grotto in the fall capturing all the color in the distant hills – these are not those shots, but I kind of like them. The feel historic to me.

The View from Inside the Grotto - Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The View from Inside the Grotto – Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The shot above is from the center of the grotto – on most days sunlight overwhelms this view, but the detail before you leave the stairs works fairly well. The blown out sky does give you the sense of sunlight pouring in.

Shooting into the Sunlight at Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Shooting into the Sunlight at Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Next I tried an angle – it lets the texture of the limestone stairwell come alive, this one feels more like the experience of being underground and looking up into the light.

While I was inside the grotto, a small circle on the ground caught my eye – it’s a perfectly round hole in the surface of the limestone step – a stair railing must have been here at some time…

Rail Base - Grotto Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Rail Base – Grotto Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The surface of the stone gave me some of those mid tones I have been searching for. The deep shadow and the highlight on the water give me the full tonal range I have been hoping to achieve with my black and whites.

I have been reading a lot about leading lines in hopes of improving my landscape skills – this historic bridge gave me some lines to work with…

The Beaver "Golden Gate" Bridge - Beaver, Arkansas

The Beaver “Golden Gate” Bridge – Beaver, Arkansas

This is the Ozarks very own “Golden Gate” bridge – the towers are actually painted yellow – it’s a one-lane bridge so you have to take turns crossing it. I have shot it many times in color and have a photo by a local artist in my home – I resisted the temptation to shoot it straight on and vertical – I see that done a lot here. For the second view I decided to make the diagonally striped sign the focal point – I have never known what that sign means…

Diagonal Stripes - Beaver Bridge - Beaver, Arkansas

Diagonal Stripes – Beaver Bridge – Beaver, Arkansas

The “fast fifty” lens lets me get sweet details in the foreground, like the bolts to the right of the signs – and lets the details in the distance soften.

Shooting the manual camera has been a challenge – you need longer exposures in many cases to capture detail, but it is very difficult to keep the camera still enough. In college I shot my moms Vivitar Cosina – the one I gave Laura. It has an Auto setting that is basically a primitive Aperture Mode. You set the aperture and the light meter tells you the shutter speed. I would adjust the aperture until the shutter speed was about 125. The Olympus is completely manual with a built-in light meter. You have to adjust both the shutter and the aperture until you get the needle centered on the light meter. In some cases there is just no room to shoot at 125 – there isn’t enough light.

Solar Lanterns - Sweet Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Solar Lanterns – Sweet Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

More good mid tones – I shot this with the aperture close mid way down – this let me capture details in the balloons and in the limestone behind them – it was bright enough to still get a decent shutter speed at about f/11.

Laura Focusing her Pentax - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Laura Focusing her Pentax – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This shot of Laura was taken with the aperture wide open – I focused on her camera. The DOF is very shallow. I love the bokeh created by the picket fence behind her.

Lavender flowers at Sweet Spring - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Lavender flowers at Sweet Spring – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I used the same setting to capture these flowers, Laura was actually shooting these when I was shooting her.

Log Cabin with Cedar Log Rails - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Log Cabin with Cedar Log Rails – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This log cabin is on Spring Street in Eureka Springs. It hangs out over a hollow in the middle of town. There are trees near the sidewalk, so you have to find a way to peek through them to get a shot of it with the hollow visible. My first instinct was to shoot it straight on from the street – but I thought about the leading lines and decided to get a view at an angle.

Crystal Spring Seen Through a Curved Window - Crystal Bridges - Bentonville, Arkansas

Crystal Spring Seen Through a Curved Window – Crystal Bridges – Bentonville, Arkansas

Now for something a bit more modern – this is a view of the Spring at Crystal Bridges Museum – through a curved glass window. I was curious to see how the curved reflections would play on the image. I close the aperture down to about f/11 in this shot – the DOF is pretty deep.

Brushes at the Norberta Filbert Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Brushes at the Norberta Philbert Gallery – Bentonville, Arkansas

When I had a chance to shoot still life, I tried to shoot with the aperture wide open – aiming for a very shallow DOF.

Steampunk Balloons by Tangled Metal - Norberta Philbrook Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Steampunk Balloons by Tangled Metal – Norberta Philbrook Gallery – Bentonville, Arkansas

I loved these – I also like the shallow DOF – but think I could have closed the aperture down a stop. A local artist creates these from repurposed lightbulbs and clock parts. I shot several of these shots at a great gallery in Bentonville Arkansas located very close to Crystal Bridges.

Rademacher Leaf Vase - Norberta Philbrook Gallery - Bentonville, Arkansas

Rademacher Leaf Vase – Norberta Philbrook Gallery – Bentonville, Arkansas

This vase is by a local artist – he fires pieces with leaves pressed into the clay – I have one of his bird feeders and love the look of it.

Rockwell's Rosie - Crystal Bridges - Bentonville, Arkansas

Rockwell’s Rosie – Crystal Bridges – Bentonville, Arkansas

I can’t go to Bentonville without checking in with Rosie – my goal with this shot was to capture a bit of the sheen of the paint on the canvas – it’s subtle but it’s there. It’s very interesting to look at something known for its color in black and white.

Newspaper Machines - Jasper, Arkansas

Newspaper Machines – Jasper, Arkansas

These old newspaper machines gave me another chance to play with leading lines – the diagonals draw you into the image. I like the surfaces on these – they were a vivid blue.

Kayaks Loaded - The Stone House - Oak Hill, Arkansas

Kayaks Loaded – The Stone House – Oak Hill, Arkansas

I shot this image of the jeep with the aperture fairly wide – the DOF is shallow enough to isolate the subject, but not so shallow that you lose the depth of the image.

So – my thoughts on this project 5 rolls in? Well, I’m getting more keepers per roll and I’m taking a lot fewer shots of each subject – on this roll I only shot a few subjects more than once. Showing Laura the area kept me moving so I shot lots of variety. I also took my film camera everywhere except kayaking. Having it with me gave me lots of opportunities. I stared the next roll at Crystal Bridges in the gardens – I am anxious to see how those worked out. I’m shooting 100 speed now, so maybe I’ll get some sharper images in the mix.

If you would like to catch up with my project, here are the links for the other posts in the series:

Roll #1

Roll #2

Roll #4

Where is Roll 3? Well, it’s in the trash because I didn’t pay attention to the light meter.

March on Film Roll #4 – 1974 Olympus OM-1n

If you are following my series on film photography you might wonder what happened to roll #3. Well, when I started this project I bought several rolls of film, all Kodak T-Max. The first two rolls were 100 speed, the last 2 were 400. I made the mistake of making adjustments to my shutter speed and aperture based on the results from Roll 2 and all of my outdoor shots were completely washed out. Seriously, I should have known better – it’s like ramping up the ISO on my digital and shooting towards the sun. The thing about film photography is that you need to slow down. I shoot almost intuitively when I see something that intrigues me. As I get reacquainted with film I have to plan more and shoot less. I knew I needed to make some changes.

Something I have learned is that when you have your negatives scanned, they are quite grainy – this is evident in Roll 2. For this and all future rolls I am having prints made and am scanning them myself – it gives a better sense of what a print looks like, the grain is smoother but still evident. Another change is that I acquired a new camera. I was able to get a whole Olympus OM-1 kit with several lenses and filters at a great price. The OM-1 is a professional grade camera. It has a locking mirror, interchangeable focus screens. It also has a lever on the lens that lets you see the effect of an aperture change – it shows you how the DOF will appear in print – while it’s certainly not Live View, it does give you a better sense of what you are shooting.

Small, efficient, and packed with features - the OM-1 was the coolest piece of camera tech you could buy in 1973.

Small, efficient, and packed with features – the OM-1 was the coolest piece of camera tech you could buy in 1973.

The OM-1 and the whole OM system were revolutionary in the 1970s. Full functioning SLRs in what seemed like impossibly small packages at the time. The OM is a fraction of the size of a modern Nikon or Canon DSLR – it is almost exactly the same size as my OM-D that I carry everyday. When you combine this with a dizzying array of high quality lens options – you get a system that stands up better than most over time. Most of the lenses us the same filter size, so you can carry one set in your bag and only need one lens hood – very smart. The lenses are surprisingly compact too – they were designed to sit a bit closer to the mirror than other systems so they needed less length to achieve the same focal distance. I started shooting Olympus Pen digital cameras when they were introduced a few years back because my OM system lenses were so adaptable – some of these lenses give amazing results still today. My post about luna moths features a few macro shots taken with my OM Macro Bellows set-up.

Having seen the disaster of Roll #3, I am glad that I chose to shoot the new camera in mostly indoor and low light situations. I paid closer attention to the light meter and made use of the DOF preview button – I had no idea what that button was until I acquired this camera kit complete with a users manual.

Sushi Roll

Sushi Roll – my first shot with the OM-1

It’s funny that I don’t think about focusing at the mid-point of an image very often on my digital camera – shooting film and seeing those focus screens has made me more aware of this option. This is one of the many things I have taken away from my film project.

Petals, Veins, Water, and Bokeh

Daffodil Opening – Petals, Veins, Water, and Bokeh

I took to a shady spot and watched the light meter closely, hoping that I could capture some water drops after the rain. Shooting in black and white is making me think a lot more about contrast. Color is what motivates me to shoot many things and stepping back has made me look more for tonality even in color images.

Grass, Furr, and Sunshine

A Timeless Kirby – Grass, Fur, and Sunshine

Understanding how the pieces – aperture, shutter speed, film speed – all work together made me look for lower light opportunities to shoot. This shot of Kirby was made with the aperture closed down in a shady spot. He rarely lets me get this close with a camera, especially one that takes time to get right. I like the tonality of his white fur in the sun against the darker greys of the tree bark.

Wooden Croquet Balls

Wooden Croquet Balls

The OM-1 kit I bought came with a “fast fifty” – a 50mm 1.4 lens. Sometimes I forget how shallow DOF can be when shooting a 35mm camera. My area of focus here is about 2 inches deep. I love the ability to focus on just the front of the croquet ball. In my digital world DOF is more isolating – there is less ability to make something just trail off into the bokeh. I also thought that a shot of something with such distinctive colors was fun to explore in black and white.

Mason Jars Full of Bird Nests

Mason Jars Full of Bird Nests

This last shot is my favorite – I shot it 5 times, each time placing my focus in a slightly different spot – risky when you have so few shots to work with. On this roll I did that with most of these subjects – working on getting one good shot rather than a wide variety of subjects. I think this will help me dial in my technique. This shot is taken on my kitchen counter – I have a skylight above that creates the light reflections on the upper right side of the jar. This is a row of different sized mason jars containing bird nests. In the foreground there are stone artifacts and arrowheads that I have picked up in my lawn over the years. The rubber ducky soap dish is the only element that pulls me back into this century when I look at it. I am pleased at how the reflections in the jars behind the first one become spheres of light. I like the detail in the nest and all the tones of grey in the whole thing. It’s not perfect, but it was the shot closest to what I imagined when I shot it.

I think I will continue with the OM-1 for my next couple of rolls. I like this camera and I want to hone my skills rather than switch around. I’m a couple of months behind – I need to start ordering film online – it’s just not available locally, but I am going to get some 100 speed and really get the hang of shooting in brighter light with it this summer.

February on Film – Roll #2 – 1983 Olympus OM-G

So it’s almost April and I am just getting around to posting my February roll of film. If you want to know more about my roll-a-month project you can check out the first post in this series January on Film. My delay isn’t laziness, it’s the difficulty I am having getting film processed. I have been shooting B&W and to get it developed I need to go to a camera store in a Fayetteville, Arkansas – about 45 miles away. They mail it out to Little Rock where they have a store that still processes B&W. Then they mail the roll back to the store and I have to make the drive to pick it up. It’s not expensive if you don’t count the 180 miles of driving it takes to get a roll in and back.

In February I shot my Olympus OM-G – or OM-20 as it is known outside of the US. It was one of the earlier consumer grade OM cameras. The sound of the mirror flopping was a bit disconcerting at first, I turn the sounds off on my modern camera. I came to like it – the mechanical feel of it. I have a motor drive for this camera – I haven’t used it yet but I can only imagine the sound and fury of that mirror flopping in hyper-drive. For this first roll on the OM-G I shot almost all of these shots with the kit lens – a 50mm 1.8 – a pretty fast piece of glass. On my digital camera I like to shoot with the aperture wide open so that the subject is isolated and the background is either blurred or filled with colored disks – bokeh to us shutterbugs. I love bokeh, creamy bokeh, sparkly bokeh – I never shoot a closed down aperture unless I am shooting the moon. On aperture priority on a modern camera this is pretty easy to pull off. On a 30 manual camera with just a simple light meter, it’s not as cut and dry. You have to set the shutter speed too. I did not know it when I shot this roll, but there is a remedial “preview” button that lets you see what the image through the lens looks like with the aperture held open to the setting you select – it does nothing to give you an idea of what will happen if you change the shutter speed.

I shot this roll on a sunny cold Saturday morning – there was frost everywhere. I specifically shot things that had a strong color to see what was left when you take the color away. I also shot some things that had surfaces that light rested on. I did take a couple of shot with my long zoom – 90-230mm. The film was Kodak T-Max 100 speed.

The fun of shooting film is that you don’t really know what you have until after you drive that 180 miles and fork over 6 bucks to see the finished product. I wouldn’t say these were the best shots I’ve taken. Overall everything is a bit softer than I usually like, but there were a couple of shots I really liked.

50mm f1.8

There was actually frost on this pumpkin. I do love the way the greys in black and white film print. So many shades of grey. It's tough to pull this off in photoshop.

There was actually frost on this pumpkin. I do love the way the greys in black and white film print. So many shades of grey. It’s tough to pull this off in Photoshop.

A close up of the frosty pumpkin - I love how it disappears into the darkness of the shadows.

A close up of the frosty pumpkin – I love how it disappears into the darkness of the shadows.

These dried leaves were still hanging on in mid February. Again shot at f1.8.

These dried leaves were still hanging on in mid February. Again shot at f1.8.

Shot with the 50mm wide open. I love the way that lens creates those circles outside of the area in focus, I hadn't imagined that the effect would be so interesting in B&W.

Shot with the 50mm wide open. I love the way that lens creates those circles outside of the area in focus, I hadn’t imagined that the effect would be so interesting in B&W.

Another shot of icicles on frozen branches. The sunlight almost illuminates the icicles. The smoother bokeh isolates them, making it easier to see what the image actually is.

Another shot of icicles on frozen branches. The sunlight almost illuminates the icicles. The smoother bokeh isolates them, making it easier to see what the image actually is.

Pine needles in the cold sunshine. Very shallow DOF

Pine needles in the cold sunshine. Very shallow DOF

Judy let me take this snap - her smile is so bright in B&W. The dappled light on her face is the result of the sunlight through the leaves above us.

Judy let me take this snap – her smile is so bright in B&W. The dappled light on her face is the result of the sunlight through the leaves above us.

Vivitar 90-230mm f4.5

I mostly shot this to see how much the contrast of the white platter and the dark old wood would play off each other. One thing I love about B&W is that in the absence of color, the sunlight seems so strong on surfaces.

I mostly shot this to see how much the contrast of the white platter and the dark old wood would play off each other. One thing I love about B&W is that in the absence of color, the sunlight seems so strong on surfaces.

Ceramic bird feeders in the sunshine - I had the aperture wide open and enjoyed playing with the DOF

Ceramic bird feeders in the sunshine – I had the aperture wide open and enjoyed playing with the DOF.

Of course – I had to try to get a bird shot in.

I had to try to get one bird shot - I used an old zoom. It was tough to focus a something that moved so fast in the old-school focussing screen. I like the soft look of it.

It was tough to focus a something that moved so fast in the old-school focussing screen. I think I like the soft look of it.

I’ve actually shot 2 rolls in March – I need to get them over to Fayetteville to see what I’ve got. I shot the first roll before I picked these up and shot mostly with the zoom. The second roll was shot with an OM-1 with some new glass I recently acquired so I’m anxious to see what I can do with it. Honestly, I think I am starting to regain the feel for using these old cameras, it’s like muscle memory. It’s been almost 30 years since I shot one so I was more than rusty. More importantly, focusing on the fundamentals makes me more aware of what I am doing on my modern camera – I am refining some of the settings I use, I am taking more care in focusing, I am shooting more like film.

Something Funny in my Brownie

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my family’s history with cameras. Paula from Stuff I Tell My Sister, commented and told me she wanted to send me an old Brownie camera for my collection. A few days later this baby arrived – it was a bit dusty, but in great shape.

Something funny about this Brownie

Something funny about this Brownie

As I turned the knobs I heard the distinctive sound of film advancing inside the camera! I have been shooting some film this year so I carefully removed it from the camera. I emailed Paula and told her there was film, thinking this could be an old family camera – she told me that it was a flea market find and had no idea of what could be on the roll.

The label said Verachrome 620 – it was wider than my 120 Rollei film.  I dropped it off that weekend with a roll of 35mm at the camera store. Ironically they had to ship the roll to Oklahoma – Paula’s neck of the woods – to the only lab in this part of the country that could process it.

Well – the photos arrived this week. I was hoping for vacation shots from Paris in the 50’s or something exotic – what I got was not quite so fancy, but it was pretty interesting – what follows is pictures in the order they were on the roll – the film looks like it had some water damage, but there were images. The meaning of these images I leave to you…

On second thought I think I will make up a story – a story about a boy named Billy. His mom is a Dolly Parton look-alike – his nana is a waitress at Mel’s Diner named Flo. There is a special party guest who bears a striking resemblance to Sam Donaldson.

Happy 4th Birthday! Enjoy the spotlight - hey, isn't it past your bedtime?

Happy 4th Birthday, Billy ! Enjoy the spotlight – hey, isn’t it past your bedtime?

Look at those cute chubby cheeks – I count 4 candles. Noting the poinsettia on the left, either Billy’s mom has neglected to take down the Christmas decorations – or he is one of those poor unfortunates with a birthday at Christmas time. Either way, it looks like party time is about over for you, Billy. Night night.

The kid's birthday is clearly an event that calls for a visit to the hairdresser for Flo and Dolly. Aquanet, polyester and some drinks - time to get our party on!

The kid’s birthday is clearly an event that calls for a visit to the hairdresser for Flo and Dolly. Aqua Net, polyester and some drinks – time to get our party on!

Mother and daughter clearly share the same hairdresser. Flo wears her hair in an updo, while Dolly keeps those youthful ringlets at her collar – both women are clearly familiar with a ratting comb and Aqua Net. Pop Culture Note – In the 1960’s women believed that helmet hair was a good look.

Oh Sweetie - that is one serious comb-over! Is that your hand in my armpit?

Oh Sweetie – that is one serious comb-over! Is that your hand in my armpit?

Now that Billy has finished his cake and gone off to bed – it seems a visitor has stopped by – a visitor with and impressive comb-over. Sam seems to take a shine to Flo as he drinks a Big Gulp sized drink. A 2 drink minimum at this party could be scary.

While Flo's away Dolly will Play...

While Flo’s away Dolly will Play…

Here’s an even better shot of Sam’s comb-over. Interestingly enough, Flo is no longer on his lap – that honor now belongs to Dolly. Sam’s drink looks like it’s in need of a refill.

If I'm not mistaken, I believe that Sam is relieving himself on the outside of the house, unless Flo has a bathroom lined in brick with shrubs...

If I’m not mistaken, I believe that Sam is relieving himself on the outside of the house, unless Flo has a bathroom lined in brick with shrubs…

Apparently Sam has had enough to drink and steps outside to relive himself. Note his stylish white belt and bell-bottom cords.

Flo is back on the lap and admiring that combover. The highballs are apparently served in tumblers at this 4-year-old's birthday party.

Flo is back on the lap and admiring that comb-over. The highballs are apparently served in tumblers at this 4-year-old’s birthday party.

This shot shows the nuance of the wall decor – looks like a fine painting of a spinning wheel over some velvet brocade wallpaper. Sam comes back inside and Flo takes her place in his lap, drinks are refilled, Billy is forgotten. The party continues – was it someone’s birthday?

I suppose we could turn this last frame into the FBI to see if we can learn more about Flo, Dolly, and Sam - someone was too tipsy to reload the film...

I suppose we could turn this last frame into the FBI to see if we can learn more about Flo, Dolly, and Sam – someone was too tipsy to reload the film…

The last shot isn’t really a shot at all. It’s a mass of smudged fingerprints. No clue of who they belong to – Flo? Dolly? Sam? Billy?

So many questions remain –

Did Sam bring Billy a present?

Did Flo know that Sam was two-timing her with Dolly?

Did Dolly know that Sam took a leak in her shrubs?

Who took the photos? Who knows?

If you are interested in a bit of whimsy – take a look at this video by The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players – they are an indie-vaudeville band who buys old family slides at estate sales and flea markets and makes up songs about the people in the photos –

An Arty Old Bird Shows Me Carters in Colour

I love old family photos – I use them a lot on my memoir blog, The King of Isabelle Avenue. I think they are fun to look at and they give me a chance to add some ridiculous captions. Recently Val from The Arty Old Bird contacted me about colorizing (or should I say colourizing) a few of my vintage shots.

As someone who has worked professionally in photoshop since 1992, I’m beyond impressed. Being a “get it in camera” kind of photographer, I take a “light touch” approach to editing. I see people take it too far all the time, sacrificing detail or tone for a perceived improvement that blasts out the color or borders on looking fake. Val uses color richly but shows great restraint, and that’s the true artistry, knowing when to stop. It’s pretty amazing to see these images with color – I hadn’t really imagined that they would be so profoundly different. I feel like I’m getting a window into the world long since past.

The first shot is my great great grandpa Pyeatte, he’s holding my grandmother as a toddler. I think it’s pretty interesting to see snapshots from this era, shots that are less formal than the family lined up in their Sunday best. I have always loved this shot, Grandma was very close to her grandfather, he was someone who told her she was special. I’m quite certain that I have him to thank for the amazing grandmother I had. The Ozark cabin in the background looks just like the ones I see on hillsides around my home.20130306-193752.jpg
The colour in this version is more of a tinting, it warms and defines the image. I like how Val respects the original image and takes the colour far enough to improve it, but not so far that it loses authenticity.

20130306-193829.jpg

This is a shot of me and my brothers, I’m guessing it’s very early in 1967. It was taken at my grandparent’s home and I was apparently not very happy with the situation. I’m certain it is because I worried that Ronnie would be taking “my room” since this was a constant worry for me at Grandma’s house. It could also be that Ronnie was a bit fussier than Max and that made me less comfortable around him at first.

20130306-194807.jpgMax was the baby that all the neighborhood girls like to play house with because he was so laid back. I had imagined a baby doll to play with and Ronnie was just not that baby. He was an adorable baby, but oh so loud when he was not happy.

20130306-194938.jpgVal made all the color decisions on this and came remarkably close to the actual colors of our outfits. This was a simple Polaroid and Val’s touch has made it so much more than it was.

I love this photo – it’s my Grandma in her Helldorado Emblem Club drill team costume. She was playing giddy-up with the local constable who had just locked Grandpa away in the city jail for shaving his beard – Circa 1948. Helldorado Days is an old Las Vegas celebration that began in 1934 – by 1946 it was so popular that Roy Rogers made a movie about it. I actually rode in the Helldorado parade many times as a kid – it’s a multigenerational tradition.

20130306-194343.jpgWhat Val has done to this image is nothing short of amazing. The buckskin outfit, the skintones, the color deep in the shadows – it’s so much more than I expected. Seeing my grandmother in all her youthful, exuberant glory makes me smile – I can’t stop smiling when I look at this photo.

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Seeing some of my favorite photos colourized in this way is a pretty special thing. Seeing them done so expertly is beyond amazing. Val’s got skills, mad skills – check out her blog! She’s funny, creative, and poetic – plus she knows a ton of WordPress secrets.

Click here to see what I’m talking about. She’s a good read even if she can’t spell colour.

Sunny Day and an Old Lens

I’m patiently awaiting for the return of my beloved long zoom. There is never really a good time to be without a favorite lens, but I’ve been making due with an old Vivitar manual lens from 1978. I wrote about taking out this old piece of kit in desperation here.

Today I had a chance to take the relic out in almost perfect conditions. It was a sunny 50 degrees and the birds were dropping in and out of range – on my last post the images had a softness that is not typical of modern glass, they looked almost “film-like”. Today, that old bit of kit was singing. I started shooting some black and white film with it and late in the day I managed to make a few captures.

Today my favorite northern cardinal was not even considering stopping by the feeders. I spotted him in the crepe myrtle bush…

20130224-185418.jpgOf course he thew me that Johnny Bravo stare – snob…

20130224-185530.jpgI experimented with aperture settings and he looked away…

20130224-185546.jpgOne thing about focussing manually, I can focus on the bird in spite of the limbs in the way.

Back at the feeders, I got a clear shot of a pine warbler in the late afternoon sun…

20130224-185634.jpgOne key to using old glass is finding a subject that is going to stick around, and this guy was serious about feeding, not flitting…

20130224-185653.jpgLive view does give you the ability to see what the changes in aperture and shutter speed will do, so it’s not exactly like shooting a film camera from the era…

20130224-185713.jpgI love how the sun rests on the shoulders of this warbler, he has become a regular visitor and he has even brought his girlfriend to check things out too. I hope they decide to stay.

After shooting this lens on a sunny day, I have decided its a keeper! I wouldn’t choose it over my modern lens in most situations, but shooting it on my modern camera gave me to confidence to try to capture birds with it on a film camera this weekend. It’s a good bit of kit.