Oak trunk 1

Oak trunk
Kodak Retina Reflex IV, Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar 50mm f/2.8
Kodak Tri-X 400
2013

Lately I’ve lost touch with why I started shooting old film cameras in the first place: wondering what quality of images an old piece of gear could produce.

I’d never shot a Kodak Retina Reflex camera before and I got this one for a song. These leaf-shutter 35mm SLRs offered a limited set of interchangeable front lens elements to yield a few common focal lengths. It can be hard to find a Retina Reflex in good condition as the works are complex and, after 60+ years, failure prone. Mine wasn’t perfect, but it worked well enough.

I put a roll of Tri-X into it and blasted through it in an hour in my front yard. It was one of those charmed times with a camera, where I just got lost in the pleasure of shooting. None of my subjects was profound or memorable, but that 50mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens penetrated deep into the detail and made some wonderful images.

It doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes an old camera is just frustrating and returns crap images. This year I haven’t wanted to invest time and effort into a camera to get nothing usable back. That’s always the risk with an unknown old camera.

I have a handful of older cameras I haven’t shot yet. A few old boxes, an early Kodak Retinette, and an Argus Argoflex Forty are upstairs in a box under the bed, awaiting their turns. Here’s hoping I can make time for some of them yet this summer.

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Film Photography

single frame: Oak trunk

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Magnolias at the Smithsonian Castle

Among the Smithsonian’s magnolias
Canon PowerShot S95
2018

We approached the National Mall from behind the Smithsonian Castle, only to be surprised by the garden we found there. It’s a rooftop garden of sorts, inasmuch as there is a structure underground beneath it. Yet magnolia trees line it on either side, and they were in bloom this bright early-April day.

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Photography

single frame: Among the Smithsonian’s magnolias

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Photography, Road Trips

Checking out the cherry blossoms

Our Spring Break vacation took us to Washington, DC, and the Atlantic Ocean. During our DC days the cherry trees were in bloom, and looked to be at peak. Our first day in the city was overcast, but that seemed not to blunt the blooms’ color.

I have many more photos from our trip to share, but first I have several posts to write about an afternoon I spent with my older son and our film cameras. But since this is the right time for cherry blossoms, here they are as a preview of sorts of the Spring Break posts to come.

DC Cherry Blossoms

DC Cherry Blossoms

DC Cherry Blossoms

DC Cherry Blossoms

Canon PowerShot S95

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Cemetery

Cemetery trees
Pentax ME, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL
Eastman Double-X 5222
2018

I love how, in the winter, cemetery trees provide a counterpoint to the graves. Their littlest branches reach up into the sky as if just asking for a new day.

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Film Photography

single frame: Cemetery trees

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Jimmy

Jimmy
Pentax K10D, 35mm f/2 SMC Pentax-FA AL
2017

I photographed our family Christmas celebrations with my Pentax K10D and the 35/2 Pentax FA attached. And overall it didn’t work out. The autofocus chose the wrong thing to focus on about half the time. Given that I was shooting with the flash off, my in-focus patch was always pretty narrow. If the camera didn’t nail focus, my subject was blurry.

I switched to manual focus late in the celebration. My eyes did a much better job of judging focus than the camera did.

But when the camera got focus right, it nailed everything else. Exposure and color were spot on. I shot RAW+JPEG, but I didn’t need to — my edits to the RAW images made them no better than the in-camera JPEGs. That is the way I like it. My stalwart Canon S95 can’t do that.

I didn’t know until the celebrations were all over that auto-ISO mode limits the camera to ISO 100-400. The camera is of ISOs up to 1600 — but, north of ISO 400, only if you hand select them. Kind of frustrating, as higher ISOs would have increased the in-focus patch enough to make probably half of the botched shots work. It would, probably, have also increased the noise in the photographs, but you can’t have everything.

The K10D may not be cut out for everyday duty. My Canon S95 gets focus right every time. Even though most shots are much improved with little quick editing in the RAW editor, I can use its photos straight from the camera if I must. And so the S95 is a better choice for family work.

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Photography

single frame: Jimmy

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Randolph St. in December

Randolph Street at night in December
Canon PowerShot S95
2017

A couple weeks before Christmas, Margaret and I had another Chicago getaway weekend. These weekends away are good for our spirits. We stayed in a boutique hotel on Randolph Street, four blocks from the former Marshall Field’s department store and two from the annual Christkindlmarkt. It was a perfect location.

We saw the Nutcracker, put on by the Joffrey Ballet. Walking back to our hotel after the show, when we finally reached Randolph Street and Daley Plaza we were greeted by the trees all lit.

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Photography

single frame: Randolph Street at night in December

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