Film 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.

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Film 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!

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Spring flowers from my garden

Narcissus
Yashica-D (with Spiratone Close-Up Kit)
Kodak Ektar 100
2017

This is the last year I’ll get to enjoy the gardens on my property, as by this time next year I expect to have finally moved in with my wife in her home. I attached the Spiratone close-up lenses to my Yashica-D and loaded some Ektar, and as the spring flowers began to bloom I recorded them all. More tomorrow!

Film Photography

single frame: Narcissus

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Matrix

Matrix, Parked
Yashica-D
Kodak Ektar 100
2016

I photograph my cars a lot. They’re easy subjects. While the composition here could be a lot more interesting, I love the jewel-like color the Yashica-D returned on Ektar. It makes my beater car’s flank look better than it does in real life. And I love how the camera captured plenty of detail, whether in light or in shadow.

Film Photography

Photo: An evening shot of my car parked on the street in front of my house.

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Pleasant View Cemetery

Pleasant View Cemetery
Yashica-D
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
2016

Dating to no later than 1845, this cemetery is tucked quietly into a far northwestern, rural corner of Indianapolis.

Photography
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Moore Road

Moore Road
Yashica-D
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
2016

Film Photography
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