Pencil cup

Pencil cup
Pentax ME
50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M
Arista EDU 200
L110 Dilution E

My son Garrett made this when he was 4 or 5. It’s a pencil cup made out of a tin can with a piece of thick paper glued around it. He wrote his name on it and painted it. I love the way he shaped the g to start his name: a circle and a J-like curve, not connected. You can’t tell because this is a black-and-white photo, but he painted it in watercolors, peach and pink and green.

Garrett also made the fake flower, in the third grade. It’s a pen, actually; his class made them by the score and sold them to raise funds for something I can’t remember anymore.

I used to have a drawer full of keepsakes my kids made. I let a lot of them go a few years ago when I moved out of my last house. It was a little painful to see them go. It was very nice to get that drawer space back.

I will keep a few things, like this. They will stand in for everything else.

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Photography

single frame: Pencil cup

A pencil cup my son made for me when he was small.

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Vegetables

Vegetables
Canon PowerShot S95
2020

I couldn’t find my Canon PowerShot S95 after Christmas. I took it to my mom’s for the Grey family Christmas celebration but couldn’t find it after that.

It bothered me a lot that I couldn’t find this camera! I thought perhaps I’d left it among Christmas detritus and it had gone into the bin and thus to the landfill. I was forced to think about what camera would replace it. My wife has a Sony RX100 Mark I and it’s brilliant. I supposed I’d just get one of those. But daggone it, I didn’t want to buy a new camera! I like my S95 very much. I know I make a big fuss here about film cameras and film photography. But the truth is, my favorite camera is this ten-year-old compact. It’s very good but not perfect, and many newer cameras outclass it. But I know how to get good results from it. I know this camera.

It rained all through Christmas. When I needed my dress raincoat again in late January, the S95 was in a pocket.

Delighted to have found it, I’ve been shooting it more lately. Margaret had just come from the market with these vegetables, which were on the counter. I put the camera in black-and-white mode just to see how it would render them. (If you’d like to see them in color, click here.)

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Photography

single frame: Vegetables

Vegetables, from my Canon S95.

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Film Photography

Living room still lifes

Not long ago I had an unexpected day off, so I shot, developed, scanned, and uploaded a roll of Kodak Tri-X. I shot stuff I found around the house, on my coffee table. My Yashica-12 was on my tripod, and I attached my Spiratone close-up lens kit. The available light led me to slow shutter speeds, around 1/4 sec. at f/5.6, so I screwed a cable release into the socket to prevent shake.

I wanted a pleasant day of photography more than I cared about making images for the ages, and I succeeded. I’d been thinking about doing some available-light still lifes for a while, I suppose to channel my inner Edward Weston. I found no gnarled green peppers in the fridge, so I worked with whatever I found lying around. That included my favorite coffee mug, the little pot we keep paper clips in, and a geode given to me by a dear old friend.

Random stuff I found in the living room

I used the Yashica-12 because it was out and because it has an accurate onboard light meter. When you use that meter, the 12 limits you to films of up to ISO 400. This was fine, because Tri-X 400 was the fastest film I had on hand anyway.

Lidded bowl

The Spiratone kit comes with two lenses, one for each of the TLR’s lenses. The viewing lens promises that it corrects for parallax, but it also magnifies the scene more than the taking lens does. I made every one of these subjects fill the frame, but had to crop them all in post. In this photo of the lidded bowl I wish I had managed to get the entire lid in focus.

Belleek pitcher

The photo above of a Belleek china pitcher came out a little dim, and I couldn’t fix it in Photoshop without overcooking. The photo below of a duck decoy did too. The duck is painted in dark and muted colors, which might have led to muddy middle grays. My mom’s grandfather made the decoy by hand, by the way.

Decoy

I had greater luck photographing a couple bottles of whiskey Margaret and I brought back from our tour of the Old Forester Distillery. We sampled both of these whiskeys at the end of the tour and they’re delicious. The 1920 whiskey is a whopping 115 proof! We’re saving the bottles for a special occasion.

Old Forester

Conventional wisdom is that Tri-X in Rodinal results in pronounced grain. Yet I don’t mind the grain in these. Perhaps that’s in part because I didn’t have any particular look in mind as I shot these. I just wanted to have some fun and see what turned out. But as I think about doing more still-life work, I feel sure that T-Max 400 or Ilford Delta 400 would yield sharper, smoother results with richer blacks. I think that would be a nicer look for subjects such as these, so I’ll use T-Max or Delta next time.

Old Forester

I’ll also dig through my stuff for a much longer shutter-release cable, as the one I found was too short for me to stand out of the way. Look closely, and you’ll see me (and the Yashica-12) reflected in the bottles.

Of the 12 exposures I shot, only nine were scannable. Something I did wrong in developing partially fogged my first three shots. My scanner’s bundled scanning software thought there was nothing on those frames and threw an error. I wish it would simply scan whatever it finds, as I might have been able to do something with the partial images that are clearly visible on those frames.

Also, the Tri-X curled enough during drying that I struggled at first to lay it flat into the scanner mask. My scanner came with a little card the width of 120 film that you lay onto the end of the film to hold it flat in the mask, and then pull out after you close the mask. It worked brilliantly.

Despite all these challenges, I had a lovely morning of photography. It was wonderful to go from concept to uploaded scans in just a few hours!

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