Film Photography

Kodak Portra 400 at the zoo

Where I work now, I have budget to take my team somewhere fun every few months. This isn’t uncommon in the software industry. It’s supposed to be a time for team bonding. After 30 years I could live without any more outings. But the young people who report to me are still enthusiastic about it. Fortunately, I have a delightful team and we know how to have fun together.

The weather was good, so we went to the zoo. I brought my Pentax ME with my big 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M zoom lens attached. Kodak Portra 400 was inside. This lens was made for trips to the zoo.

The ME isn’t enough body for this long, heavy lens. My fingers had to grip it hard. My larger Pentax KM would have been a better choice from a handling perspective. But it can’t do aperture priority, as my ME can, which would have slowed me down and perhaps made me miss some photos. But also, I still haven’t had the KM repaired after I dropped it on its Operation Thin the Herd outing. The ME is my only working K-mount body right now.

This is only my second experience with Kodak Portra 400 (first here). I like it a lot better this time than last. These colors are terrific. I’m leading with some birds because they’re so colorful, but the Portra beautifully handled the muted, neutral colors that are so prevalent there, too.


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Film Photography

At the zoo

As I’ve updated my camera reviews this year, on my oldest reviews I sometimes find myself returning to my original negative scans. I have better tools and skills now that frequently let me breathe deeper life into the images. Also, I find that in my early days of reviewing I didn’t always upload every usable photo from those rolls to Flickr, as I always do now. It’s been fun to revisit those photographs and share some of them for the first time.

I’m working on an update to my 2011 review of the Olympus OM-1. That camera came to me in a big kit with several lenses, some Olympus and some not. One of them was a hulking Vivitar 70-150 mm f/3.8 Close Focusing Auto Zoom, pictured below.

Olympus OM-1

My dear friend Debbie had come to visit. We’ve known each other since the fifth grade; she’s my oldest friend. We both love the zoo, so we went. The OM-1 had only recently joined my collection and I figured this big, ugly zoom lens would be useful there. I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and off we went.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

Eight years is a long time ago but I remember the big Vivitar making the OM-1 heavy and unwieldy. But as these photos attest, it did the job for which it was made.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

I’m happy with this lens’s resolving power, but feel that it muted the saturated colors for which Fujicolor 200 is known.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

The overcast day could have played into these muted colors, too. Also, in these days I was sending my film off to Snapfish for processing and scanning. Looking back, I think there were better lab choices even then.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

You never know what you’re going to get with some third-party lens you get with an old camera. But this Vivitar did a decent job. You can almost count the hairs at the tip of this tiger’s tail.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

That said, I’m not sure I’d shoot that lens again. I have a very good long Pentax-branded zoom for my Pentax K-mount bodies that I’d turn to first.

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The Thinker (crop)

Thinking primate
Olympus OM-1, zoom lens (I forget which)
Fujicolor 200

It was when I took my first Olympus OM-1 to the zoo that I came to see why the 35mm SLR had become so popular. I was still pretty new to the whole SLR game and up to that point I wasn’t in love, as I found their operation to be far more complicated than the all-manual viewfinder and rangefinder cameras I normally shot. But the light bulb went on at the zoo when I was able to compose and check depth of field, and be sure of the photo I was going to get.

I still have this OM-1 but I haven’t shot it in a few years. It’s a lovely camera except for the shutter-speed selector being on the lens barrel. I’m sure that if I used it all the time I’d get used to it. I need to try, because it’s just that great of a camera otherwise.

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single frame: Thinking primate



A visit to the Cincinnati Zoo

On our last spring break trip of the public school years, Garrett and I visited the Cincinnati Zoo. I love zoos, and I hadn’t been to this one in 30 years. Perhaps it was the time of year — it was quite chilly this early April day — but lots of animals weren’t out and the visit wasn’t everything we hoped for.

I made some photos with my Pentax ME and my 80-200mm Pentax zoom lens, but as of this writing the lab hasn’t sent my negatives back yet. But my Canon S95 and my iPhone 6s were in my pocket, too. So here’s some photos from those cameras.

At least the giant murder lizards were out.

Never smile

As was this monitor lizard, clinging to this zookeeper who graciously consented to a portrait in double profile. He let us touch the lizard’s skin, which felt thick and somewhat like metal scales.

Dude with monitor lizard

I adore tigers, and was disappointed, frankly, that this was the only one we saw. I remember the white tigers here from my last visit and hoped we’d see some this time.


I can’t recall whether I’d ever seen a peacock in person before.


As we sought a place to sit down for a snack, this one walked right up to us.


As much as I enjoy zoos and seeing the animals, I do feel sorry for them being all cooped up and wonder if such captivity is any good for them. This poor polar bear did nothing but pace back and forth along this ridge. Poor bored guy.

Pacing polar bear

The giraffes were the highlight of the visit. They were out, and they were active. This one came right up to us to eat from a trough strategically placed on the observation deck.


I was lucky to capture a series of photos that show an interaction between this youngster and presumably its mother.


Canon PowerShot S95 and iPhone 6s.

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Captured: Thinking about what you’d taste like

Thinking about what you'd taste likeThinking about what you'd taste likeThinking about what you'd taste like

On a visit to Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend a few years ago, my Kodak EasyShare Z730 in my hands, I shot this series of this white tiger yawning. I like the middle shot the best, as it looks like the tiger is licking his chops, thinking about something he’d like to eat. Could it be you?

I love to go to the zoo and Potawatomi Zoo is my favorite. Sure, bigger zoos in bigger cities have stunningly elaborate habitats with animals you can’t find in smaller zoos like Potawatomi. But Potawatomi has plenty of great animals and you can see it all in a couple of hours. I’m also really partial to Potawatomi’s little petting zoo. It’s mostly young goats but it’s still a lot of fun. It’s the second place I visit – after the tigers.