Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An Unexpected Mystery Envelope 3

My third envelope arrived in the mail yesterday... photo and more information is after the jump :)




Sunday, April 09, 2017

New (old) Camera Review - Kodak Six-20

Last year, when I first met the folks in the local Pinhole Photography group, I heard about this massive classic camera show/swap that is held every year in Kent, WA.  Unfortunately I first heard about it roughly 2 weeks after it had already happened, so I had a long wait ahead of me for the next one.  The camera swap is put on by the Puget Sound Photographic Collectors Society, and is touted as the "Largest one day camera sale, swap, and show in the western US", so I had it on my calendar from the moment they set the 2017 date.  My original plan had been to get down to Kent for early entry, that was thwarted by a sinus infection/urgent care stop, but once I had taken care of my health, I grabbed G and we scooted down to the show, arriving roughly around 12:30 p.m.

By the time we arrived some tables had already begun packing up for the day, but there was plenty to look at.  There were a lot of old film cameras that brought back a lot of memories (Polaroids that I remember my mom having, a table of Pentax K-1000s lined up as if waiting for a high school photography class to begin)  G found some interesting new filters to use with her camera gear while I meandered the tables looking over the mix of vintage gear.  While poking at a table of mixed gear, I spotted a folding camera that looked to be in pretty nice shape.

The Kodak Six-20 - the name reminds me of Seven of 9 from Star Trek.

I didn't know the exact age of the camera just based off the name, but I guessed it to be around the age, or older, than my Graflex based on the style, and I immediately recognized the stellar shape that the bellows are in.  Either they were replaced by someone at some point, or this camera has rarely been used and hasn't been exposed to daylight.  The camera folds flat *very* smoothly, even better than my Graflex.  The seller pointed out that the shutter is "snappy" - I did see that the B and T settings seem to work properly, and the shutter snaps at 1/25 and 1/50, however it sticks at 1/100.  In any case, I thought the design was appealing and whether it shoots or not, it would look cool with my collection, so I picked it up.

On my initial search online, I found a PDF of an operating manual for models of the Kodak Six-20, however the instructions shows how to focus, and my camera has a fixed lens.  I wondered if someone along the way had swapped out lenses, however I found an identical camera to mine on eBay (going for more $ than I paid) which had the same lens as mine.  It took some time to find more details on this particular model, but after trying a variety of search criteria, and clicking about 4 pages deep in Google, I came across a list of Kodak cameras on a photography forum which was incredibly helpful.  My Kodak Six-20, with the Kodon shutter and Kodak Doublet lens, was manufactured sometime between 1932 and 1936.  (this is not to be confused with later versions of the Six-20, or the Vigilant Six-20, which were manufactured in the 40's and did not have the art deco design that mine has)  

The more I researched my camera, the happier I was with this find.  Not only are the bellows in fine shape, but the viewfinder still works, the folding mechanism is smooth and clean, and the aperture shifts smoothly.  Add to that, there are two small screws which seem like they would be easy to misplace - one covering the tripod mount, and another covering the spot to attach a shutter release cable.  Both of these screws are still attached to this camera.  The film advance knob is a bit squeaky but works, and there is still a take-up spool inside.  Outside of a couple of cosmetic scratches on the bottom, this camera could be brand new off the shelf.

Now that the age of the camera was settled, I was still unable to find a manual online, and thus I was unable to see if the recommended focal length might have been printed at some point.  This means that if I want to know what distance my fixed-focus is fixed to, I'd have to test it out.  The first obstacle was in loading the film.  The camera takes 620, which is the same size film as the 120 I have on hand, but the spools are smaller.  So, while I have plenty of film, I don't have the proper spool.  A little research online brought me to Film Photography Project , (home of a podcast that I have backlogged on my iTunes)  They not only sell 620 spooled film, but they also sell the spools for those DIYers who want to re-spool their own film and save a few bucks.  Prior to ordering myself some spools, I checked the camera to make sure the counter window would show the film advance properly - since the film is advanced manually.  I grabbed an old roll of film-backing paper from some film that I'd already developed, rolled it up as if it had film, and tested it out.


Putting the paper in the film side is easy, the film holders pop up

laying it flat as if to load film

When I close the back and pull the paper through, the number shows up in the window just in the right spot.

Here is how the film-backing paper is labeled for the various types of camera models


I ordered my 620 spools, but I didn't want to have to wait for them to run a test on the camera, so I also looked up how to modify a roll of 120 to fit the 620 holder.  More on that later...
First... the optic needed some attention.

While the front lens had been recently cleaned (and not a scratch on it!)  the interior glass showcased a lot of debris.  The back of the glass was easy to access when the camera was closed 

(this is an example of the closed camera interior, I shot this after I cleaned the lens.  Prior to the cleaning this lens looked filthy)

However I couldn't easily remove the glass to clean the other side of it, so I moved to plan B.  I set the f/stop to the widest setting available, and set the shutter to T to hold it open so that I could get to the interior glass, and removed the front lens.


My cleaning tools - I started with the bulb blower, which did nothing.  The brush wouldn't fit through the tiny aperture, so I went with q-tip/lens cleaner/lint-free lens cloth to dry.  Thanks to all those years of playing "Operation", I was able to maneuver the q-tip around the inside glass without touching the sides of the shutter.

With the glass clean, the next step was film roll adjustment.

the 120 spool doesn't fit in the film holding side

Too long and too big of diameter.


A tutorial online suggested filing down the thickness of the spool with a nail file, I found 120 grit sandpaper to work quickly, I just grabbed the roll and ran it across the sandpaper like I was coloring with a giant crayon.  It did make quite a mess, and I'm looking forward to just respooling my film in the future.

Once the sides were sanded flatter, I used my big craft scissors to trip the edges down to the width of the film.
120 spool, 620 spool, re-tooled 120-to-fit-620 film


It fits!



I loaded the film and set up my shot.  I was crunched for time and failed to get cell phone photos of the camera in the set up, but here is how I shot my test:

Objects at intervals along a tape measure on the back patio.  I set the camera on the ground at the head of the tape... I'd wanted to use my tripod but it was being fussy with the odd angle of this camera, and as I said... I was running short on time, so I set it straight on the ground.  I also taped over the counter window to avoid potential light leaks from that spot.

I set the rock at 1 foot, the gnome at 5 feet, the plant at 10, and the larger pot at 15.   While the film advanced fine enough during shooting, it became stuck as I attempted to roll it to the end.  I was able to resolve this in the darkroom, and I assume this won't be an issue with proper proportioned spools. 

I processed the film a few hours later... just a bit of fogging on the edges, but all together not bad in terms of light leaks on a bright cloudy day.

My film is Ilford 400 speed B&W. This is the contact sheet of the images - I did not clean them or process, just straight scan.   There is some grit in the first couple frames, I blame the shaving down of the spool.  Towards the end the negs are remarkably free of black spots, which tells me I did a good job getting that glass clean.

I used my DSLR and metered on the gnome, which came out to f/16 at 1/50.  Since I have 8 shots on a roll, and 8 combinations of shutter speed/f/stop, I decided to just do one of each combo and see what I ended up with.  

The first thing that strikes me about this is that the 1/50 shots are darker than 1/25... 1/50 is a faster shutter speed and they *should* be lighter.  I've gone back to the camera and it does seem as though the shutter is slower at 1/50, and as I said it sticks completely at 1/100, so I think 1/25 will end up being my only reliable shutter speed outside of B or T. 

As I suspected, while I can't focus the lens, I can control the depth of field by having a smaller aperture.  Infinity looks about the same in all the shots, but F/64 will certainly bring more foreground in focus. I just don't have an f/64 on my DSLR, so I'll need to do some calculations to determine the proper exposure in any given situation.   

I will continue to take some notes on this camera.  I noticed in my first shot I caught a bit of the covered table to my left, which seems to be rather sharp to spite being so close to the camera.  It might be that the focus is better from a higher vantage point than sitting right on the ground.  In any case, it'll probably not ever be a good close-up camera, but landscapes are a given.  With my next test I will figure out how to get it properly attached to my tripod and perhaps do another measuring tape test from up off the ground.  I'm going to wait for my new spools, though... I did not enjoy the mess that sanding plastic spools brings.




Wednesday, April 05, 2017

An Unexpected Mystery Envelope 2

Just when I had given up on leaping out the door at the sight of the mail truck, my Second Unexpected Mystery envelope arrived in today's mail. This envelope contained fewer documents, but does include an intriguing artifact.  My photos are included after the jump, so as to protect googlers from accidentally coming across the images and potentially spoiling their stories.

(If you would like to catch up, envelope#1 is opened and analyzed here.)

Once again I received a large manila envelope from an international trading company in New York.  Here were the contents...


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

April arrived quickly

There have been no new developments of the anonymous package, outside of crossing names off the list of who might have sent it.  

In photography news, I've taken some time to begin editing images from my last trip.  I'm applying the lessons I learned from the landscape editing class and the difference is amazing.  I'm also replaying the class in the background while I edit these, because the instructor used some interesting selection techniques that I can't quite remember, so I'm listening for those while I edit.  

Here is a shot from the field in Kipu Ranch where scenes from the Jurassic Park movies were filmed.

Additional photo news, I'm scheduled to attend the next pinhole photography meetup.  Fingers are crossed that the weather cooperates and that I don't end up with another migraine.  The meetup includes some hiking, so my plan is to load up my hiking camera bag with gear and wear it with me on my semi-daily walks through the woods.

I set my bird quilt aside a couple weeks ago to do a quick embroidery side project...
I turned 42 this year, so I made myself a Douglas Adams towel in honor of the year.

... with the towel complete, I went back to the birds. I'm nearly done with the last American Goldfinch, and I'll post a shot of the 4 of them when completed.

With spring comes gardening.  I've started tomato seeds indoors again this year, 9 each of 8 varieties.  Last year we started them a few weeks late and didn't transplant them on time.  This year I'm using a "gardening week by week" book, which bases the weeks on the last frost date for the area.  According to that book I'm only about 6 days late with the seed starting, and I also chose some 'early girl' plants, so fingers are crossed I'll get ripe tomatoes before August.

The first seedling emerged 6 days after planting - this was March 25th

By the end of day 6, several more plants crept out.

They have now all sprouted and most have their first set of "true" leaves, so I'll be pruning the extras back within the next couple days.

In other crafting news, another brief side project came about this past weekend.  G's band is off to Disneyland for some music workshops and park fun, so I had the idea that she and her friends should make custom mouse ears.  Saturday night I made a prototype:

I was going for Moana, but I didn't have a hibiscus flower on hand so it looks more Lion King.  Either way, it is fun to wear :)

The girls had a blast tearing apart branches of silk flowers and going to town with the hot-glue gun.  I made the pink ears for my friend who is a chaperone on the trip.

I had hoped to get back to scrapbooking on Sunday while the girls made the ears, but I ended up spending the entire crafting time helping with cutting out ears and covering them with fabrics.  I am impressed, however, that even after the 4 hour crafting extravaganza, I cleaned up the ENTIRE mess - including all the strewn fabrics - and got my craft room back in order before going to bed. I now have bags of leaves leftover from the flower branches which can be used for future projects... I'm already thinking of using them to decopage Easter eggs this year.

We are currently on spring break, which means no school schedule for me to deal with, and fewer dinner worries since G is off at Disney, so I'm hoping to return to Scrapbooking the ephemera albums in the evenings this week.





Monday, March 20, 2017

An Unexpected Mystery - part 1

I received an unusual envelope in the mail today.

It actually arrived on Saturday, however I didn't check the mail over the weekend.  The outer envelope was post-marked March 15th and came from New York. Inside was a sealed enveloped that appears to have originally been sent to this company in Norway.


The contents were... strange.  A half page hand-written note, a comic book page, a newspaper clipping, two pages which appear to have been torn out of a diary, and an article printed from the internet.

I was baffled.  I thought someone sent this to me by mistake.  There is no name on the handwritten note, the internal envelope went to a company, not a person.  I checked the tracking number on the outer envelope and that only confirmed that it came from New York.  I googled the company, and with a few clicks I discovered that this is some kind of mystery to solve or story to follow... I'm still not entirely sure what I've been sent.  But it seems as though it was meant for me.

And I'm completely impressed and delighted by this!  It is like I'm being sent an X-File for Indiana Jones!
In order to protect the mystery from accidental spoilers, I'm inserting a jump break - click to see the entire post if you don't mind being spoiled.