Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Ashford Power Station

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

A location I’ve wanted to visit for quite a long time is the location of the former Ashford Power Station. After doing some research online and speaking with friends who knew the area it sounded like an interesting place to check out. Power stations are rarely small and simple, and the fact that it had been decommissioned for quite a long time it sounded like a neat place to check out.

Sadly, out of all the people I spoke to none knew the current state of the plant, and when we found our way out there we were disappointed to find that a majority of the plant had since been demolished, with only a small substation and a water processing facility remaining.

Not to be disheartened by this development, we ended up exploring most of what was left of the plant, and it still turned out to be a pretty interesting place to check out. Within 5 minutes of arriving we nearly walked onto a red-belly black snake, that was fun, and the rest of the day was relatively uneventful. This was my first time shooting with some unusual film I picked up from another APUG user, who was selling dozens of rolls of the stuff: Agfa Cinerex IC1N. Originally used as an x-ray film by dentists, it turned out to be a lovely low-speed black-and-white film that I am now rationing until I can find somewhere to buy more of it.

The Travelling Camera

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

I spend a fair (unhealthy) amount of time on 4chan, in particular the photography board: /p/. Most of the time it’s just people harshly judging each other, making too many threads about gear and not spending enough time out actually shooting. It’s not a place you go to see well constructed posts filled with good information, or people who will jump at the chance to help a new photographer out. Despite this there have been, and still are, many talented and photographers on the site who make it worth wading through all the terrible crap to find.

Every now and then the community will rally around someone who organises some sort of interesting project that they can participate in, whether they be weekly photo challenges, Photobooks or the most recent that I participated in: A Travelling Camera.

The premise is simple: Take a cheap camera, a handful of film and send it around the world for members of the community to shoot with. With everyone shooting with the same camera means everyone is going to be more or less even in terms of gear and makes the differences in talent more apparent. It’s also kind of neat to be shooting with the same camera that everyone else is. There are a few things that can bring the project to a grinding halt, mostly involving the camera being either stolen or broken, but one of the benefits of using such a cheap camera is that (hopefully) the results of the project will be worth more to the participants than the camera itself.

The camera that was selected was an Olympus µ[mju:]-II, a neat little autofocus point and shoot that I was sad to see leave when I was done with it. In all of my wisdom, I decided that because it was only a simple point and shoot there was no need for me to read the manual. I worked out how to load the battery and the film easily, however the mju has a few quirks that caught me out. For example, when you open the lens door, turning the camera on, it will default to turning your flash on even in the middle of the day. The autofocus does not work through any sort of glass, as I found out several times.

Luckily, the time when I had the camera coincided with a monster truck show coming through Inverell, not something that has happened here as long as I remember. I managed to catch a few shots while there but I tried to get a decent spread of shots from all around Inverell that were a bit different from what I normally shoot, and I think I did OK with a couple of shots that I can’t wait to print.

All up I ended up shooting seven rolls of film for the project, from which I got about a dozen shots that worked out OK. I’m looking forward to what other people come up with.

Big Fat Phony

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I’m always on the lookout for deals on film, particularly with the recent troubles with Kodak. It’s amazing the deals you can find: I picked up a 100ft bulk roll of Portra 160 for $70 (around $3.50 per roll), a 100ft bulk roll of Ektachrome 64T for around $60 (around $3.00 per roll) and even a 400ft roll of Ektachrome slide duplication film which give some really neat results when cross-processed. Recently I came across some cheap Fujicolor Superia 200 rolls on eBay. I threw a minimum bid on them and forgot about it. A couple of weeks later I get an e-mail telling me I’d won the auction. Hooray!

I like my Superia just for walking around snapshooting or when I’m dicking around in development. It’s pretty forgiving, even in my old cameras that aren’t quite shooting at the right speeds and it’s cheap so I never feel too bad when things go bad. Fast forward about 3 weeks and I receive five of these:

Not in the best condition.

Fair enough, right? It was cheap (only $2.50 a roll!) so I can look past beat up boxes. I’ve seen worse things spat out of the postal network. And these came out of Hong Kong, so it’s only to be expected that the boxes will be covered in what I’m pretty sure is Chinese. However, on opening the boxes I was greeted with something peculiar:

The film recently arrived from eBay (left) alongside another Fujicolor Superia 200 roll I already had (right).

Strangely, the label on these new rolls are almost completely different to the rolls I already had, right down to the font on the label, the colour, everything. It’s a completely different design. This has never happened to me before, so I looked the eBay film a bit more and found that the labels on the eBay film were a different shape and appeared to have been stuck on pretty haphazardly. Then I noticed what appears to be a strip of yellow peeking out at the bottom:

eBay film (left) with a hint of yellow at the bottom of the cassette.

Well that sure was odd, as the labels are almost always a perfect fit on the cannister. I sat down and peeled the label back and found a little surprise:

Wait just a minute..

At this point I was quite confused. Were these guys just buying expired rolls of Kodak Gold, whacking a Superia sticker over the top and then selling them again at a higher price, or were they loading random cannisters with the cheapest colour film they could find and selling it as Superia or was it actually Fujicolor Superia wearing a Kodak Gold jumper? I loaded up one of my cameras and headed out to shoot on of them to see what came out.

Opening the cannisters in the darkroom to load them for development showed that, instead of being either taped to the film spool or hooked through the centre of the spool like Kodak and Fuji normally do, the film was taped to the protuding piece of film left hanging from a cannister when it is loaded for processing by a film house, and then wound back into the cannister.

This blows my mind.

Someone, somewhere, is somehow getting unexposed strips of Superia 200 without canisters; they’re getting discarded canisters from film developers; they are going into the darkroom and taping their Superia strips to the protruding film from these canisters and winding the film in, then they are printing their own labels and sticking them onto these Kodak Gold Superia canisters and then they’re boxing the lot up and flogging it on eBay for peanuts. I can’t see why they would go to all the trouble, especially with such a cheap film. Why not Velvia, Provia, Pro 400H or Reala?

After developing, the edge markings identified the film as Fujicolor Superia 200 (FUJI S-200 CA23). Instead of 36 exposures advertised I got only 33, and the frame numbers were severely misaligned in relation to the frames themselves. The film is also covered in light scratches, likely from excessive handling during it’s strange journey. But hey, if nothing else this film gave me a few laughs, and for the price I’m not behind at all.

This film was purchased from Delight Digital Silk Road, and as of writing I see two more auctions at the same price I paid that are currently active.

Finally, some shots from the roll I developed:

Canon EOS 1000F - Canon EF 50mm f1.4

Motivation

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Well it’s been a long time without a post, and I finally feel motivated enough to write.. something.

I haven’t really been that busy, I just haven’t had anything interesting to write about. things have been happening though: I’ve been out taking photos, I’ve got a model shoot coming up in the next week along with a sunrise/sunset shoot if the rain clears off just enough to let the sunlight through. I am also getting into gear ordering equipment for my ride across the country in April, which I will probably write a while post about the organising, packing and gear we’re using.

Some big news I’ve been following intently over the last few weeks is the financial troubles of Eastman Kodak. It’s not really a big deal and won’t affect me a great deal, but as time goes on I become more and more worried about the future of their film business. Only yesterday I read about their sale of the Eastman Gelatine arm, and that along with all of the other businesses they’ve put to the chopping block I’m starting to get worried about the future of their film business. On one hand they could sell it off to new owners who will continue production, or they may sell it off only to have the business liquidated by new owners: the end of an era. So I find myself in a predicament, whether to hope for the best and buy the film I need as I need it, or play it safe and stock up on as much film as I can buy just in case. It’s a tough choice.

A Comparison Of Replacement Camera Covers

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I have recently had the opportunity to use a new camera cover manufacturing service: Aki-Asahi Camera Coverings. Based in Nagoya, Japan and operating for the last 12 months I was lured in by their cheap prices and decided to give their Spotmatic kit a go. I originally ordered a Spotmatic kit from cameraleather.com, but after 2 months of waiting it hadn’t arrived. I e-mailed them several times and recieved no response and eventually got a refund through Paypal as I thought they had done a runner. As I found out just recently there was flooding in the area at the time that apparently caused the breakdown in communication, and eventually did recieve the Cameraleather kit. This gave me a good excuse to compare the two services.

One of the major issues I had with my Pentax Spotmatic after cleaning and repairing it was the condition of the leatherette. Rather than being the clean, rich and textured black it was supposed to be, it was dull and worn with corners lifting from degraded adhesive and it was incredibly stiff and wouldn’t stick back down onto the body. I am the first to admit that as a restoration of my Spotmatic effort isn’t a perfect effort. The aluminium housing was in poor condition to start with, the curtain tension isn’t right, and the light meter is in desperate need of calibration. My aim with this camera wasn’t to restore it to perfect condition, but rather to bring it back to life to use alongside my digital slr. And for that, I want something eye-catching to give it a bit of character. If I’m going to the trouble of recovering it then I may as well go the rest of the way and recover it with something exciting and relatively unique.

I decided on a nice crimson colour for my camera as it will also make the camera stand out quite a bit compared to the blacks and greys that people are accustomed to seeing on a camera. It should also mean that this cover will last longer than the original leatherette and will be less susceptible to degradation from sunlight and the elements. The adhesive is an important factor, in particular the longevity and whether or not it will hold up to any potential removals and reapplications of the cover for maintainence, adjustment or cleaning of the internal mechanisms and how well it will last over time with normal use.

I chose a goat kid leather kit from cameraleather.com as it’s soft to the touch and will really make the camera unique. Aki Asahi do not offer a Spotmatic SP kit in red kid leather, so I had to settle for cowhide which is harder wearing but not as pleasant to the touch and does not feel as grippy. I would have liked to see more kid leather colour choices from Aki Asahi. They also offer synthetic leathers for people aiming for a more original cover or who don’t want to use animal leather on their camera.

Both kits are well made, come attached to a backing sheet and are self-adhesive which saves a lot of time and mess when compared to gluing them yourself. The cameraleather.com kit has a natural texture that is very nice to the touch, as well as being very soft and a rich, deep red with a matte finish. The Aki Asahi kit is much glossier red, like polished leather and when I ordered it (and as of writing this post) is only available in lizard or crocodile embossing. Neither of these textures really appeal to me, I would have liked a more classic pebbled texture in the red leather. One really cool thing that Aki-Asahi included was an identical leather kit with a little stamp identifying it as a “Free Practice Kit”. A cursory inspection shows some minor imperfections in one corner of this extra kit, so it may simply be a way to offload a reject that they don’t want to sell as it is not up to their standards. I am not sure if they do this for all of their kits, but if they do then it is definitely a cheap way to cover multiple cameras. I can even see some enthusiasts swapping or selling their practice kits to other members of the restoration community, very cool.

Thickness is an important attribute that is mentioned only in passing on both cameraleather.com and Aki-Asahi on one or two pages. Depending on personal preference one might want a thicker leather to give a slightly more substantial grip or a thinner leather to fit under low controls or for another reason. I found that the Aki-Asahi kit gives you a nice and meaty 0.7mm thick kit, while the cameraleather.com kit was around 0.5mm. Now these don’t sound terribly far apart but combined with the differences in hardness of the kits you can certainly feel a difference.

Then there is the price. This was where the two kits diverge the most. When I ordered my kit from cameraleather.com, I paid $US44.00 with an additional $US3.60 postage for a total cost of $US47.60. The Aki-Asahi kit? A mere $US13.00, plus $US4.00 shipping. Sure, the Aki-Asahi kit was only cowhide leather, but they charge the same price for a Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII kit regardless of whether you order cowhide, kid leather, lizard embossing, snake embossing, leica embossing or whatever. That is a huge price difference for a kit that is of comparable quality to one that costs almost thrice the price.

Living in Australia it takes forever for anything to get here from outside Asia, particularly from the US and Europe, while those places in Asia tend to be fairly quick, so it wouldn’t be fair of me to compare just how fast my kits took to arrive. Aki-Asahi had my kit out the door within two days, and for $US4.00 they register it as well which is excellent. A large portion of people ordering these kits will be based out of the US, so naturally cameraleather.com will be the much faster option. My first kit from cameraleather.com was posted within a week, still a very reasonable time frame.

Ultimately it all boils down to personal choice. Aki-Asahi are faster, much cheaper and their instructions are well documented with lots of pictures walking you through your first recovering. Cameraleather.com have a much wider range of choices in terms of colours and leather kits and will be significantly faster getting their kits to people living in or near the United States. In the end they both make excellent kits, and I would be happy having either on my camera. Larger images of all three kits are available by following the links below to the gallery. I will post again later with some photos of my camera with its new cover.

CameraLeather.com – Fine Leathers For Classic Cameras
Aki-Asahi Custom Camera Coverings

Cameraleather.com Pentax Spotmatic SP Kit

Aki-Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII Kit

Aki-Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII Free Practice Kit