I’ve been applying what I learned from Berenice Abbott’s New York photography (which I wrote about here). This shot shows it, a little: you can see some of Zionsville Village’s context even though I focused on this store’s entryway as my subject.
It’s great fun to try to recreate some of what I see in other photographers’ works, and then see what I think and feel about the results. What I think about this particular photo is that I didn’t get enough intersecting planes in it to add interest.
I’m supposed to like this camera, right? Everybody else seems to. I expected to — I committed to a 36-exposure roll of Tri-X in it. No 24-exposure bet-hedging for me, not this time. But then I didn’t find pleasure in using my Yashica Electro 35 GSN.
I liked it the last time I shot it. See my review here; see a sample photo from that shoot below. It is among my very favorite works ever. But that was a solid six years ago, and in that time I’ve discovered that I’m just happiest behind the eyepiece of a mechanical SLR. Using this classic (large, heavy) rangefinder camera seemed awkward to me.
Its size and heft weren’t the problem, as I happily shoot beasts like the Nikon F2 SLR. It was the controls. I fumbled with them through the roll and never reached that nirvana-like state of being one with this camera.
My number one challenge was my inability to find the focusing ring on the lens barrel without removing the camera from my eye. A lever on that focusing ring would go a long way to making the Electro 35 more pleasant to use.
Obviously I got usable images from this Electro 35, all in focus and properly exposed. I shot most of this roll on a late-winter walk through downtown Zionsville.
Unfortunately, since I last shot this camera the light seals started to fail. Or maybe it’s just lens flare, but my gut says no, it’s those seals. Half the shots on the roll show leaked light along the top edge. You can see it pretty well as a light haziness at the top of this photo.
Yet when you look past that, the 45mm f/1.7 Color-Yashinon lens returned good sharpness and detail. So it’s no wonder that this camera is so honored and costs so much on the used market. It’s too bad that it and I just didn’t bond on this outing.
I finished the roll in Fishers. Here’s the room in which I work. My workstation is right up front and the monitor on a pole is part of my brother’s standing workstation. It’s still great to work with my brother every day.
Somebody taped this paper plate to a torchiere lamp last Halloween and it’s never gone away. It is right behind my head as I work, always watching.
I own a handful of large 35mm rangefinder cameras: this one, a Minolta Hi-Matic 7, a Konica Auto S2, and a Yashica Lynx 14e. I do want to keep one of them, and I think it’s going to be my Lynx 14e for its sublime f/1.4 lens. But as for this Electro 35 — I already sold it.
The Wellington Yashica Electro 35 GSN Kodak Tri-X 400 2018
I was there the night The Wellington closed for good. It was just a couple weeks ago. And it was packed, just packed.
This was assuredly the smallest bar in Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood, and perhaps in all of Indianapolis. I never measured, of course, but I bet it was no larger than my home’s kitchen and family room, combined.
A group of co-workers from three companies ago have met there the first Wednesday of the month for something like ten years. I’ve always been invited, but I usually had my sons on those Wednesdays and couldn’t go. Now that the parenting-time years are over I was starting to make it most Welly Wednesdays. And now it’s closed.
The gang will find some other Broad Ripple bar. But it won’t be the same.
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Yashica introduced its Electro 35 line of leaf shutter, aperture priority, coupled rangefinder 35 mm cameras in 1966. The Electro 35 entered a crowded field, as rangefinder cameras were all the rage in those days. Two features distinguished the line: its big, bright 45 mm, f/1.7 Yashinon (and later, Color Yashinon) lens and its steplessshutter. Most shutters operate at defined steps – 1/500, 1/250, 1/100 second, and so on. But the Electro 35’s shutter is controlled by an electromagnet (hence the camera’s name) that allows any shutter speed between 30 seconds and 1/500 second – 1/78 or 1/459 or even 12 1/19 seconds, whatever gets the right exposure.
I bought the related Yashica MG-1 a couple years ago – check it out here – but still wanted a genuine Electro 35. These cameras often go for more than my usual $50 limit, so I quietly loitered around eBay’s dusty corners for several years before finally finding the right bargain on this Electro 35 GSN. Its dented filter ring may be why I got it for so little. No matter; I seldom use filters.
Yashica evolved the camera over its 14-year run, adding letters to the camera’s name with every set of improvements. The Electro 35 G came out in 1968, the GS in 1970, and finally the GSN in 1973. You can also find GT and GTN versions of the latter two cameras, which differ from their counterparts only in that their top plates are black.
Looking at this camera from the top, you can see most of what you need to know about using it. You can focus it down to 2.6 feet, set the aperture from f/1.7 to f/16, and set film speed from ISO 25 to 1000. When you press the shutter button halfway, the red and yellow lights tell you about your exposure. The red light glows when the shot is overexposed. The yellow light glows when the shutter speed will be less than 1/30 second, making camera shake a problem when you shoot handheld. (Solve that by either increasing the aperture or mounting the camera on a tripod.) When neither light glows, exposure is right and the shutter speed is fast enough to avoid camera shake. Red and yellow arrows inside the viewfinder perform the same function, so you can set exposure on the fly. Finally, you can attach a flash to the hot shoe, but be sure to rotate the lens barrel’s outer ring to the flash symbol, and remember that the shutter operates only at 1/30 sec.
The one thing you can’t see from here is that the camera takes a banned 5.6v PX32 mercury battery. The camera works without a battery, but the shutter fires only at 1/500 sec, limiting the camera’s usefulness. My MG-1 takes the same battery, and I had bought a custom battery adapter for it that lets me use a readily available alkaline battery, so I dropped it and a roll of Fujicolor 200 into my GSN and got busy.
So many of my old cameras are quirky to use. It’s part of their charm, actually. In contrast, the Electro 35 GSN worked so smoothly that it almost disappeared in my hands. The viewfinder is big and bright; while peering through it I moved the lens barrel’s focusing ring with my left hand’s index finger. The shutter button slides easily and has a good amount of travel – just long enough that you won’t fire it by accident, but no longer. The button sometimes stuck down after the shutter fired, but pulling the winding lever always made it pop right back up, so it was no worry. I had a great time shooting with my Electro 35.
It was Christmastime, and I drove up to my hometown, South Bend, to spend the holiday with family there. I stopped at a McDonald’s in Logansport on the way. It was an unusually warm, bright day, and lurking behind Mickey D’s was an old building with this great wall.
The building houses Linback Garage – or perhaps housed, as it wasn’t clear whether this was a going concern. Their sign and door made for another nice composition.
I spent a gray afternoon in downtown South Bend. I love to shoot the Jefferson Blvd. Bridge. A riverside trail takes you right under it.
South Bend was very fortunate to have George Kessler, a principal of the City Beautiful movement, be involved with the design of its park system and many of its bridges. You don’t have to build bridges that look this good. Kessler left a legacy of beauty in South Bend.
Standing on the Jefferson Blvd. bridge, I took this shot looking north along the St. Joseph River into downtown. The orange di Suvero sculpture is at left. The plain Colfax St. bridge is at center; it obscures the lovely La Salle St. bridge.
Signs of Christmas were everywhere downtown.
As usual, I burned off the last couple shots on the roll in the parking lot at work. (I worked quickly to avoid having someone call the cops on me – read that story.) The anonymous office building in which I work is a frequent subject. After all the muted shots I got in South Bend, I was glad to see bold colors here. I wasn’t so glad to see lens flare, though, on the right.