Photography

Learning portraiture

My first wife made brilliant portraits. Through wit and charm, and sometimes even a little flirting, she was very good at drawing spark and life out of her subjects as she worked the shutter. She made many portraits of our young sons with her Pentax K1000, several of which were framed around our home. Two black-and-white portraits of Garrett, aged about five, somehow found their way into my hands and are framed in my living room. His eyes are full of light and joy.

I shied away from photographing people for a long time. I didn’t think I could ever be as good as my ex, so I wouldn’t even try. What a logical fallacy. But I let it be for years.

I wanted annual portraits of the boys, so we’d go to the Target portrait studio. They did reasonable work for the money. But after several years the photographer moved on, and the new one wasn’t very good. I figured I could do at least that well. So I started trying.

Damion

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 100, 2013

I bested the new Target photographer right out of the gate.

Damion

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 100, 2013

I don’t own any lighting gear, so I photographed my sons outside. Broad daylight turns out to be challenging for good skin tones. I relied on my cameras’ meters; I see I should have underexposed by at least a half stop.

Garrett

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Portra 160NC, 2015

I used slower films for the finer grain, but found the in-focus patch could be mighty narrow even in blazing sunlight. I got lots of soft-focus photos, and even some that were clearly out of focus. I shoot handheld; perhaps portraiture calls for a tripod. Or faster film.

Garrett

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Portra 160NC, 2015

I even started dabbling with 135mm lenses, because portraits are supposed to be taken with long lenses, right?

Damion

Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

I could really fill the frame without having to put my lens right in my son’s face, which they liked. But I think a 100mm, or maybe even an 85mm, lens would be more useful.

Garrett

Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

And soon I busted out some medium-format equipment, and even started experimenting with poses, trying to do something artistic.

Damion

Yashica-D, Kodak Ektar 100, 2016

I still haven’t mastered the art of posed portraits. I just don’t have that ability to be engaging and charming with my subject as my ex did. She had a gift. I’m too buttoned down, too unsure of myself yet. My sons frequently look like they’re trying too hard to smile. Damion usually doesn’t bother.

Damion

Nikon F3HP, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fomapan 200, 2016

But now and then I do nail it, usually at a more candid moment. Garrett was just watching YouTube videos in my easy chair when I asked him to look up. He was relaxed and content, and it shows in his eyes.

Chillin'

Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8 AI Nikkor, Eastman Double-X 5222, 2016

Now that the boys are moving on into their own lives, they’ll be around less for portraits. Maybe now I need to put Margaret in my lens more!

© 2013-2017 Jim Grey. All rights reserved.

Like this post? Share it on social media with the buttons below! And subscribe to get more in your inbox or reader six days a week.    Click here to subscribe!
Advertisements
Standard
Photography

Spring flowers, courtesy my Yashica-D and a Spiratone close-up lens

After I figured out I had the close-up lenses on wrong on my Yashica-D, I knew I’d want to shoot with them right to see how the photos turned out. So I attached them correctly and loaded some Kodak Ektar, and waited for the flowers in my gardens to start blooming this spring. One by one, I photographed them as they emerged.

I shared the first of them with you yesterday — the best photo of them all, if you ask me. But here are some more, starting with my grape hyacinths.

Spring flowers from my garden

I forget what these are. I bought them at Walmart, of all places! I planted them in the middle of my big bed and they didn’t flourish. So a couple years ago I moved them to a largely shaded spot just outside my front door and they’ve been very happy ever since.

Spring flowers from my garden

And of course, there are daffodils. Verna, who built my house and lived in it first, planted these. My neighbor says she created the big front bed a few years before she passed. I’m happy to be the current steward of her garden, and to have added my own flowers to it.

Spring flowers from my garden

These are Grecian windflowers. A smattering of them come up every year, bloom for a few days, and then retreat.

Spring flowers from my garden

I forget where my Lily of the Valley come from. I remember planting them, I think. Did Mom give them to me after she and Dad moved out of my childhood home? Did I buy them at Lowe’s? It’s funny how such memories blur after a while.

Spring flowers from my garden

Purple is my favorite color, and I’ve favored purple flowers (like these irises) when I’ve chosen them.

Spring flowers from my garden

These purple and white irises were already here when I moved in. Since my parents retired and moved here, my mom, who misses her gardens, has worked hard in mine. A pine tree Verna planted had grown so large it shaded these irises from full sun. So Mom moved them, and they’re so happy in their new location that they now bloom in the spring and in the autumn.

Spring flowers from my garden

As you can see, I didn’t get the whole flower in focus. I wanted blurred backgrounds, so I chose widest apertures possible in the available light. I wish I had narrowed the aperture a stop or maybe two, which would have brought the whole flower into focus. I’ll bet I would still have gotten blurred backgrounds.

The Yashica-D remains a total joy to shoot. Despite being shaped like a brick, it’s comfortable to hold. Its controls move with silky heft. But it’s the big, bright viewfinder that charms the most, elevating even the most mundane scene with jewel-like color. And now that I know how to properly attach the Spiratone close-up lenses to it, I’m getting good results. Look at this color, this sharpness, this bokeh! The Yahinon lenses are not diminished at all by these inexpensive aftermarket accessories. They let me move to within inches of my subjects while carrying through all of the Yashinon lenses’ great characteristics. Win!

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.
Standard
Camera Reviews

Yashica-D

Hi and welcome to my film-photography blog! If you like this post, subscribe to read more in your inbox or reader six days a week.    Click here to subscribe!

Yashica-DI’ve lusted after medium-format twin-lens reflex cameras for many years, but I’ve always rebuffed them for their high prices. The Rolleicords and Rolleiflexes are the most respected members of the genre and go for hundreds of dollars on the used market. Lots of companies made TLRs in the Rollei idiom, but even the clones can be mighty expensive.

Nobody cloned Rollei TLRs as prolifically as Yashica, which produced them from 1953 to 1986. Collectors broadly group Yashica’s many TLRs by the film advance mechanism: knob or crank. The crank-advance Yashica TLRs, which tend to have been produced later and offer the best lenses and shutters, go for the most money on the used market. The crank-advance Yashica-Mat tends to be the most expensive today because it includes a coupled CdS light meter. Except for a model here and there that flirted with selenium light meters, other Yashica TLRs are meterless.

Of the meterless knob-advance Yashica TLRs, the Yashica-D is the best specified. Its Copal MXV leaf shutter operates from 1/500 to 1 second. Early Yashica-Ds featured three-element, f/3.5 80mm Yashikor viewing and taking lenses. Later Ds came with twin four-element Yashinon lenses, also f/3.5 at 80mm. Even though the Yashikor is a fine lens, collectors favor the Yashinon. That’s probably why I got quite a bargain on my Yashikor-equipped Yashica-D – about $50, shipped.

Yashica-D

When I held my Yashica-D in my hands for the first time, it felt incredibly right. I wanted to shoot with it right now. It was much as how the scent of a delicious meal can make you hungry, or the sight of a beautiful woman can make you …well, you know. I’ve never been so affected by a camera before. I heeded its call, moving it to the front of the line ahead of several other cameras awaiting their test rolls.

All-manual cameras like the Yashica-D slow you way down as you deliberately focus and set exposure. I’m so used to my auto-everything digital cameras that I sometimes forget to set exposure on my manual film cameras! On the least enjoyable of my manual cameras I even resent having to mess with it. But using the Yashica-D is such a pleasure that I looked forward to it, and enjoyed the process. Not only do all the knobs move smoothly and precisely, but there’s also a sensually pleasing heft to them. I was delighted to find that focusing the camera moves the entire lens assembly in and out, as the photos below show. You have to cock the shutter manually, but the lever slides like it’s on silk with a tiny, sure click at the end. Winding the film is even a pleasure, as the winder stops at each frame – there’s no infernal red window and no accidentally winding too far.

Yashica-D Yashica-D

To focus, look down into the viewfinder and twist the big knob on the right side until the image is sharp. You can pop a magnifying glass from the lid to help you, or you can pop the center of the lid out and use that square hole as a sports finder. To set aperture and shutter speed, turn the two small dials between the lenses until the values you want appear in the window atop the viewing lens.

It seemed right to shoot black-and-white film in this camera, so I loaded some Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros and took it along when my sons and I drove up to Terre Haute one cloudy afternoon. This jet has sat on the lawn of the Clay County Courthouse in Brazil, Indiana, for as long as I can remember.

Jet

We also stopped by Iron’s Cemetery, which is hidden from view along US 40 west of Plainfield. Check out that delicious bokeh.

Iron's Cemetery

This photo isn’t compositionally interesting, but I like the silvery tips on the branches and the great detail this Yashikor lens delivered.

Iron's Cemetery

The roll’s 12 shots went by too fast. So I went to the fridge for my last roll of now-discontinued Kodak E100G slide film and kept shooting. My D beautifully rendered the evening sunlight as it fell across my car’s tail.

Matrix Hindquarter

It also beautifully captured the evening light and shadow across my shed.

Barn

I used these two rolls to test Fotometer Pro, a 99-cent light-meter application I downloaded for my iPhone. It did a great job in lower light but, at least with this camera and this film, seemed to overexpose a tiny tad in bright sunlight. I also found that on all of my color shots, clicking automatic contrast correction in Photoshop really made them pop.

Deck Chairs

Here’s a little more of that delicious bokeh, this time in color.

Grape Hyacinth

I’m really going to miss E100G; I love the color it returns. I really need to buy more while stock is still available. My back yard is an embarrassing wreck, but E100G makes it look good.

Blooms on the Edge of the Deck

To see the rest of the photos I took with my Yashica-D, check out my gallery.

My Yashica-D has zoomed right up to the top of my favorite-camera list, with my Pentax ME, my Olympus XA, and my Canonet QL17 G-III. I’m confident that I will reach for it time and again.

readmore2

Do you like old cameras?
Then check out my entire collection!

Standard