Facebook No More

March 26th, 2012

Recently I’ve done what seems to many to be unthinkable: I have deactivated my Facebook account.

This will be the third time I’ve done it and the third time I’ve vowed to walk away, and instead spend my time doing something more productive. I don’t know how successful I will be, but time will tell. So far I’ve been away from it for two weeks and everything is going well.

I’ve been on the Facebook bandwagon since 2005 or so, and up until recently I’ve never taken it very seriously. It was a convenient way to keep in touch with my friends when we left school and scattered across the east coast to attend university or pursue careers, and it was very good at doing that. I can confidently say it’s one of the main reasons I’ve kept in touch with many of the people I went to school with, as they infrequently come back to our home town and I rarely leave to visit them thanks to work and family obligations.

Sadly though, in the last few months I find myself getting obsessed, browsing through profiles of people I’ve known, people I’ve met and people I don’t even like. Tonight I had the realisation that in the end I am getting nothing out of Facebook anymore: I can contact my close friends by phone or by e-mail which is more private and much more personal. For the rest of the people I networked with on Facebook, I rarely actually contributed anything beyond interesting youtube videos and the occasional photo. Both of which I can continue to serve up here, and hopefully generate more regular posts.

So what to do with all of my spare time I have now? My intention is to get out there and start taking more photos. I recently bought a Yashica-C TLR fairly cheap on eBay, and beyond shooting a roll of film to make sure it worked I haven’t taken it out too much despite having 14 rolls of Kodak Tmax 100 to put through it. I also bought a Canon EOS 3 recently that I’ve only run a few rolls of Fomapan 100 through that I plan on shooting some portraits and landscapes with, a Yashica Electro 35 that I want to take into a larger town nearby and shoot some street with and my trusty Spotmatic, that I’ve recently adjusted and need to test to see that it is working OK.

I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time recently hanging out at the used bookshop here in town, so I will hopefully have a few new old books to read.

Finally, today marks the first day of my leave from work. Six weeks of it. I applied for this leave about 12 months ago, as a friend and I were planning to do an epic motorcycle ride across Australia from East to West coast and back again over 4-5 weeks. Sadly, he had some things come up and had to pull out of the trip. I considered my options for a week or so before deciding not to do the trip without him, partly because we each have some of the essential gear for the trip that I would have trouble carrying by myself, partly beause the Nullarbor is not a stretch of road I feel comfortable riding by myself with a heavily loaded motorcycle, and partly because this whole trip has been his idea and I wouldn’t feel right going myself while he could not. I do have another ride in mind, that I will go on either by myself or with my mate depending on his availability, planned for a week or two towards the end of my leave.

So there it is, some past, some current and some future news. Depending on my availability tomorrow I hope to shoot a few rolls in the Yashica C and have them developed tomorrow night, fingers crossed.

Finally, here’s a shot from the test roll I ran through my Yashica C:

Yashica C - Yashikor 80mm f3.5 - Kodak Tmax 100 in Ilfosol-3

First Film Scans – Happy Days

February 3rd, 2012

For quite a while now, almost since I first took up photography, I have been shooting film along side my digital. None of my cameras are particularly amazing, nor are any of the old manual lenses on my film cameras any better than the modern lenses I have paired with my EOS 500D. But the whole process of loading a roll of film and knowing that every single shot has a cost associated with it, the cost of the film, the cost of chemicals to develop it and the significant investment of time at every stage of the process from blank film to processed negative gives film a sort of romance that can be intoxicating.

For two years I’ve been shooting black and white, and more recently colour film, saving those rolls up and storing them in my freezer thinking I’d find somewhere that does bulk discounts on film processing. After weighing up the costs and having a lot of gear donated to me I ended up buying the chemicals to develop my own. This does involve an initial investment in some equipment, but in the long term means I can process my colour film for as little as $2.50 per roll, and my black and white film for even less than that compared to $5 per roll for colour film at a “local” minilab.

Optex Digiscan 1

So over the last month I have been working my way through a freezer full of film that has been waiting for development for quite some time but in all my wisdom I neglected to seriously consider what I would do with those negatives. I have an enlarger, but without a dedicated darkroom I have nowhere to process paper prints, so I had to look at digitising my film.

My first choice was also the cheapest, and in retrospect not the best choice at all: An Optex Digiscan 1 negative and slide scanner. Boasting a 5 megapixel CMOS sensor and a $20 pricetag I was almost giddy when I took it home at the opportunity of finally blowing up my negatives to a decent size and seeing what I had taken. Sadly when I got it home I found out that support for the scanner under Windows 7 was not the best, and spent several hours fiddling before the scanner would appear in my imaging software. But driver issues I can look past. It’s not fair to judge older peripherals based solely on driver support 3 or 4 years after they were released, particularly if they are a small market item as this was.

After getting it working I loaded my film into the provided negative carrier and slotted them into the scanner, fired up Irfanview and started scanning. The first thing that hit me was the speed, or rather the lack of it. The scanner would sit there, and you could slowly watch your image resolve on the screen at a low resolution and eventually stabilising, at which point you can save your image. Basically, it’s a webcam in a little tower with a backlight shining through your film. Imagine my dismay then when my results were this amazing:

Optex Scan Example

Note the giant black dot towards the right of the frame. That is a relatively large chunk of dust stuck to the sensor, in a scanner that had never been used before. I was not impressed.

It was at this point I decided I wasn’t going to beat around the bush, and order a decent scanner. After some research (that is googling photo scanners and then looking at scanned photos from those scanners on Flickr) I decided on an Epson V330. Sadly, where I order all of my computer parts had the V330 on backorder, and it stayed like that for almost a month so after waiting and waiting I canceled my backorder and ordered a Canon CanoScan CS9000F. There are no other words to describe it: It’s bloody amazing. Not only does it have a questionable resolution of 9600dpi and film carriers for both 35mm and 120 size film, it’s only $350-$399. I couldn’t be happier. My only complaint is the amount of time it takes to scan film at 4800dpi: about 25 minutes for 12 images. That’s an hour and a half per 36 exposure roll of film. But the results are leaps and bounds ahead of the cheap ebay scanner:

CanoScan 9000F Scan Example

So that’s it, I’m now slowly working my way through the pile of negatives I’ve had sitting here and it’s pretty much like christmas at the moment seeing all of these photos properly for the first time, some going right back to the first first photos I took with my first camera, a Canon EOS 1000F.

Praktica LTL - Pentacon 50mm f1.8 - Fomapan 100 in Ilfosol-3

Monster Of The Week

January 30th, 2012

When I was young, I was introduced to a television show dealing with the supernatural, science fiction and the unknown. That late night introduction, sitting inches from the television, on the edge of my seat, keeping the volume as low as I could to avoid waking my parents, and being quite terrified; the whole experience shaped my taste in entertainment from that point on in my life. Even now I have a soft spot for that series despite growing up and becoming much more demanding when it comes to realism. That show was The X-Files, my first experience with the Unknown Monster-of-the-week formula.

Since then, many series have come by and I’ve been sucked into them for various reasons: Stargate SG-1 with its Egyptian science-fiction themes and great stories, Supernatural with the fantasy creatures in a modern setting, Fringe a great series closely following The X-Files example, Doctor Who with its wacky stories and general fun along with many others. You get my drift. I love these series where each week I tune in to watch the protagonists grapple with a creature or situation for one, maybe two episodes before defeating/resolving it and moving on. This is what I and many other people watch these series for.

Why is it then that the creators of these series feel the need to shoe-horn a half-baked, confusing and overall stupid ongoing storyline into these series. Looking back at the X-Files everything was excellent most of the time, but every now and then Mulders backstory would rear its ugly head and waste several perfectly good episodes of the series only to never go anywhere and never have any consistency. Mulder was a great character, the eccentric but brilliant agent with an open mind, frequently mocked but confident in himself enough to push through the ridicule and prove the haters wrong. It was great! We don’t need to find out what happened when his sister was abducted by aliens when he was a child. It’s NOT IMPORTANT. It’s nothing more than a plot device to give Mulder his motivation for the series.

In Doctor Who, each series has an ongoing story always culminating in the final two episodes, and as the series goes on these climaxes get more and more ridiculous. I mean, look at this crap:

Fringe is what set this whole post off in my mind. Previous series have centered around the conflict between Earth in this dimension and Earth in a parallel dimension. This was fine, up until now the writers have kept things classy with lots of little bits of plot development mixed in with the Monster Of The Week stories. In the latest series however, apparently having two dimensions isn’t enough, because now we have two dimensions in a seperate timeline.

Why? Why can’t you guys just give us our monsters? If I want to watch a series with excellent storytelling I’ll watch Dexter or Breaking Bad. I watch these shows each week for the monsters, not for the overall story. If you want to write an epic then please, find somewhere else to let off your creative steam, because these series just aren’t suited to big stories.

Anyway, this has been bouncing around in my head for a few days and driving me crazy so I had to write it down.

Motivation

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

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