Cameras, Photography

Taking photographs in the cold

Do you take many photographs during the cold of winter? I don’t. I hate cold weather.

Cary Quadrangle

Pentax H3, 55mm f/2 Super Takumar, Kodak Gold 200, 2016

So do some of my old cameras. Last winter when I shot my sexagenarian Pentax H3, I foolishly took it out on a near-zero day. It was out of my warm car for two minutes when I made the first shot, above. The shutter sounded odd, so I wound and shot one more time. That time, the shutter sounded quite sick. It made an exposure, below — a hot mess but I like it anyway. Those colors are so Kodak.

Too cold for the camera

Pentax H3, 55mm f/2 Super Takumar, Kodak Gold 200, 2016

The mirror wouldn’t come back down after this shot. Worried, I tucked the H3 into my coat and then, shortly, back into my warm car. Thankfully, when the H3 warmed back up it worked fine.

If your camera is fussy about cold at all, then keep it warm right up until you need to shoot it. My oversized wool coat is great for this — it’s super warm and can hold even my bulkiest SLR. I make my shot and then let the camera warm back up before I make another.

Most of my wintertime shots are around the house, which gives the camera little time to get cold in the first place. In Gracie’s last year I shot her in the driveway with my Pentax ME, right after I knocked snow off the gutter and onto her head and back.

Snow-covered dog

Pentax ME, 50 mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M, Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, 2013

It was wintertime when I got around to testing a Kodak 35. I shot about half the roll around the yard in the cold. It did all right.

Front door

Kodak 35, Kodak Plus-X, 2015

I took my 1980s-vintage Canon EOS 630 out for a long walk along the Michigan Road a couple winters ago. I let it hang off my neck the whole time, exposed to the elements, and it performed great.

Barber Shop

Canon EOS 630, Canon EF 35-80mm f/4-5.6, Arista Premium 400, 2015

The camera I’ve shot most outside on cold days is my digital Canon PowerShot S95. I made this photograph on a day when temperatures hovered around -12. A foot of snow had fallen, making the tree branches beautiful. I tried to capture the beauty. I largely failed, but this shot of my next-door neighbor’s house worked out all right.

Snowy day

Canon PowerShot S95, 2014

My S95 performed fine shot after shot in that extreme cold, but I did stow it in my warm coat between shots. But my friend Alice also has an S95, and she finds hers to be fussy in weather below about 40 degrees. Who knows.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

Greetings and welcome to my weekly roundup of blog posts I enjoyed reading.

Suzanne Lucas normally writes about corporate HR issues. But she also is an expat living in Switzerland, and from time to time she writes about Swiss culture. This week she wrote a cultural perspective on some recent Swiss news stories. Read Swiss Saturday: Handshakes, Swimming Pools, and Annoying Foreigners

The Nikon Series E lenses are often looked down upon. Mark O’Brien challenges the naysayers to take another look. He reviews several of the lenses in this post. Read Nikon Series E Lenses

“Perhaps contentment may be found anytime and anyplace you deliberately open your eyes to find it. ” This is Joseph Dennis‘s meditation on a 1972 Buick Skylark, for Curbside Classic. He reflects on his childhood in Flint, Michigan, where Buicks were made, and how shaking the dust off his shabby hometown didn’t transform his life. Read Curbside Classic: 1972 Buick Skylark Custom Hardtop — Orange You Glad

Seth Godin takes a long view of American history and notices that, bit by bit, we trend toward higher morals. Given the baboon who was just inaugurated President, I hope he’s right. Read …and it bends toward justice

Joe Biden’s tenure as Vice President ended yesterday. Jennifer Bowman wrote a lovely meditation on his character as it was forged from crippling loss. While I wish that kind of loss on nobody, I wish more politicians had the character such loss brings. Read Amtrak and the national grief counselor

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Cameras, Photography

Certo Super Sport Dolly, Model A

What I like about old folding cameras is how elemental they are. You get a lens and a shutter, but everything else is up to you. Plus, even the most straightforwardly styled of them look elegant.

It’s like having a beautiful but difficult girlfriend. Especially when something’s wrong in the relationship and she leaves it entirely up to you to fix it. That’s how it has gone for me with this Certo Super Sport Dolly.

Certo Super Sport Dolly

Certo was a German company, headquartered in Dresden. It produced a wide range of Super Sport Dollys (Dollies?) from about 1934 to about 1942. Mine is a Model A, the most common version by far. It takes 120 film. SSDs could be had with a dizzying array of lenses and shutters, but mine happens to feature the most common lens, the capable 75mm f/2.9 Meyer Görlitz Trioplan, set in the most comon shutter, a Compur, which operates from 1 to 1/250 second.

Certo also offered the Model B, which adds the ability to use plate film, and the Model C, which adds to the Model B the ability to rewind rollfilm. Most SSDs have a pop-up viewfinder, but the Models A and C could be had with rangefinders. And some SSDs focus by twisting the front lens element, and others focus by moving the entire lens board.

Certo Super Sport DollyCerto Super Sport Dolly

But back to my Model A. Notice the three frame-counter windows on the back, behind a door that covers them. Masks that clip on inside the camera let the SSD create either portrait 4.5×6-cm or square 6×6-cm negatives. The top and bottom windows count 4.5×6 frames and the center window counts 6×6 frames. My SSD came with only the 6×6 mask. New SSDs shipped with an exposure calculator card inside the door. As you can see, my SSD’s original owner replaced that card with some personal exposure notes.

Certo Super Sport Dolly

My SSD shows signs of heavy use and rough service. But the lens is clear and focuses smoothly. And the shutter snaps with square-jawed, steely-eyed authority. It sounds like it means business. It’s the Charles Bronson of shutters.

But before I could use this SSD, I had to repair it. The focusing mechanism was broken. I outlined the repair here. Once fixed, it behaved beautifully.

Ektar 100 is probably my favorite film for testing medium-format cameras because its exposure latitude leaves plenty of margin for error. I used a light-meter app on my iPhone as I shot my SSD, but Ektar would have let me confidently go commando with Sunny 16.

I shot this roll at Crown Hill Cemetery on an overcast day late last autumn. Just look at the great sharpness that Trioplan lens delivered. The bokeh is middling, though.

Test

I found it hard to frame in the tiny viewfinder. I worried that close shots would be misframed, and I was right. My framing of landscape shots turned out fine, though.

Autumn tree in Crown Hill

I shot a lot of landscapes to check the SSD’s infinity focus. A complete repair of the focusing system would have included properly collimating the lens. That sounded like a hassle so I set infinity focus quickly and dirtily. It turned out okay.

Autumn tree in Crown Hill

Oh bother, a light leak. See it there, on the right, about 4/5 of the way down? There really isn’t much to go wrong with a simple camera like this, but bellows pinholes is one of the most common problems. My cursory initial check of the camera didn’t find any pinholes, but I suppose that’s the problem with cursory checks.

Lane in Crown Hill

This throwaway shot of cars in my driveway shows the leak at its leakiest.

Cars

If you’d like to see more, check out my Certo Super Sport Dolly gallery.

I really liked using the SSD, and so here soon I’ll take it into a dark room and shine a bright flashlight into the bellows to look for pinholes. And then I’ll seal them with dabs of black fabric paint. And then I’ll spool in another roll of Ektar take this beautiful old girl out. Because beautiful old girls do love to be taken out.

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The bar at Bruxelles

The bar at Bruxelles, Dublin
Canon PowerShot S95
2016

I mentioned yesterday that Margaret got to pour a pint of Guinness at a bar. It was this bar. I still don’t have access to the photos I took with Margaret’s camera of her pouring that pint!

Photography
Image
Photography, Road trips

Dublin in black and white

We wrapped our time in Ireland in Dublin.

A river runs through Dublin

You might think we’d start there. After all, our flight in did land at the Dublin airport. Yet we immediately boarded a train and hightailed it to Galway. It’s how Margaret wanted it, as after all that’s where her family is from! And as we looked over all the places we could visit across Ireland, places within driving distance of Galway kept edging out places in Dublin.

But we knew that at the end of our trip we knew we wouldn’t want to rush back to Dublin just to board a plane. We would want to regroup for a day or two first. So we booked a hotel in Dublin.

We had been having a truly amazing trip, with outstanding experience after outstanding experience. Our astounding luck had to run out sometime, and it did in Dublin. Nothing truly bad happened. It was merely an average time. After the fabulous experiences we’d been having, average was quite a comedown.

What’s a trip to Dublin without visiting the Guinness mother ship at St James’s Gate? It was the first thing we did. For 20 euros you can take a tour. But they don’t actually brew Guinness here anymore; the place is more like a museum now. A very noisy and crowded museum, from which you can exit only through an enormous gift shop. At least we got to pour our own Guinness as part of the tour, though it was nearly impossible to find a quiet corner to sit down and drink it. If you’re going to Dublin, pass on this.

Guinness

On our way back to the hotel we had dinner at the oldest pub in all of Ireland (or so it promoted itself). The food was great but the service was criminally slow. After 45 minutes of waiting to pay our bill, both of us seriously considering simply stiffing the joint, our waiter finally passed by. He obviously and deliberately ignored me. I had to block his way and almost force him to take my credit card.

Inside the oldest pub in Ireland

The next morning we thought we’d go see the Book of Kells at nearby Trinity College. It cost 20 euros to get in — and the mile-long line moved glacially. Worse, photography was prohibited inside. Unwilling to spend our whole morning in a queue to see something we couldn’t photograph, we walked around campus for a minute to process our disappointment and then moved on.

Trinity University

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Unsure what to do with our day, we looked at Google Maps on our phones and saw that a large park wasn’t too far away. We decided to walk over and rest for a while. We passed through a shopping district on our way.

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Dublin street scene

Dublin street scene

The park is called St. Stephen’s Green, and it is lovely and quiet, a sharp contrast to how we’d experienced Dublin so far. We spent hours here, walking and holding hands, talking and taking photographs. We left feeling refreshed. I’ll share some color photos I took here in an upcoming post.

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St. Stephen's Green

St. Stephen's Green

St. Stephen's Green

St. Stephen's Green

It was midafternoon and our stomachs were insistently reminding us it had been too long since our last meal. We reluctantly left the park and found a pub. It had a long row of Guinness taps, and Margaret asked the bartender if she could photograph them. “Sure,” he said, “but would you rather I photographed you pouring a pint at one?” Whaaaat? Absolutely! Unfortunately, those photos are in Margaret’s camera. But it was another highlight of our Dublin stay.

The Spire in Dublin

So Dublin wasn’t a washout. We have some good memories. I’ll share a couple more in upcoming posts.

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Bridge in Dublin

Pedestrian bridge in Dublin
Canon PowerShot S95
2016

A river bisects Dublin. It’s bridged at regular intervals, including this (probably cast iron) pedestrian bridge.

Photography
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