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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A busy and scrambled week

No photos to share this week, unfortunately... I hope to get back on track with that by next week.

My schedule was scrambled up a bit, with meetings/school functions/games to attend every night this week, and a black cloud of deadline looming over my work desk during the day.  This cut into my project time at home, but I did make a couple of advancements.

I completed the landscape photography in Lightroom course that I've been watching in bits and pieces online.  I have many new notes in my notebook related to editing photos, and also shooting suggestions for complicated scenes in the field, and I look forward to applying my new knowledge.  I've backed up my most recent DSLR shots, and once I do the same for the other two cameras then I'll be in a position to begin editing my last trip to Kauai.

I'm also keeping track of the tulip bloom up in Skagit Valley (they have a handy website with regular updates!) The tulip festival has been on my photography bucket list for a while, so my fingers are crossed that I'll make it up to the valley this Spring.

During my "sit and wait for someone" time this week, I continued work on the embroidery project.  I'm now on the 4th and final American Goldfinch square, I'll take good photos once they are all complete and ironed.  I bought new embroidery hoops which do a much better job of holding the fabric firm than the old wooden hoops do.

I found some plastic containers that are just the right size to slide into the cube organizers in the art room, so I bought two packs and they are currently sitting on the floor waiting for me to have the time to reorganize my embellishments.  In the short term, this will delay my scrapbooking progress, but in the long run it'll make the rest of the ephemera albums go quickly.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Embroidery, sewing, and schedules

I signed up to attend an online photography seminar on Friday morning, which prevented me from my regular blog update.  It turned out to be more informative than I thought it would be, but I couldn't spend the entire day sitting at my desk for the live broadcast so I ended up buying the download so that I can watch it on my own schedule in bits and pieces.  So the study of photography continues, though my editing progress is still on hold.  Within this seminar, Art Wolfe talked about how he sometimes develops books over the course of years, gathering a large body of work and then finding a common thread throughout his work to turn into a book (as opposed to going out into the field specifically with one subject in mind until a book is done.)  This sounds like the "photograph everything and put it together later" philosophy that keeps me going out in the field with ALL the lenses so that I can take advantage of ALL the opportunities.  I realize this is the approach I take with my calendars, and that if I go back through my history of images I can apply that same approach to putting more books together in the future.  This would also give me the opportunity to re-edit past images using the new tools I have at my disposal without necessarily feeling the need to re-edit ALL the images from the past (just the ones I intend to print).

Once again this week, the photos I have to share are poor quality snaps from my phone.

We experienced one of those "emergency" sewing projects earlier this month when the original puppet created for G's school play turned out to be far too small.  G and her friend had hand-sewn the original, and were under a tight deadline to come up with a replacement, so I volunteered to take their pattern and sew it on my machine at home.  It took me less than an hour, and saved them several hours.  The puppet was top-heavy, so after the next rehearsal I helped to reinforce the head/front arms with a combination of a wire hanger and pipe cleaners (one tends to get inventive with little time and zero budget), G put it on a platform that matched the stage floor, and through the magic of theater lighting, made the puppet "crawl" on stage without revealing that it was basically on a giant spatula.

I managed to finish a decent amount of embroidery this week, with all the time I spent sitting and waiting for G during her drama and sports events at school.

Though they are the same birds, the patterns are unique in the feet and a little different in the wings.  I haven't looked to see if they are printed differently, or if the patterns just didn't transfer completely, but my philosophy is that each bird within a species is unique anyway, so the goldfinches do not need to match exactly.

In health news - as the weather warms I've been injecting walks on the days where I don't go to the gym.  I have a new pair of trail shoes for hiking, so I've been breaking them in with short (30-40 min) walks through the woods near my house.  Last week I encountered a couple of deer in the forest.
When it is pouring down rain, or trail conditions look too poor, I'm sticking with yoga indoors, which I've increased from just sun salutations to standing strength routines.

The weather was sloppy and wet over the weekend, which kept me indoors and gave me the opportunity to make headway on my ephemera albums.  I felt a great sense of satisfaction to finally pull out stickers that I'd purchased nearly 13 years ago to use for the scrapbook pages of a specific event.  I also discovered that the way I've sorted my embellishments is frustrating - the boxes are all solid and deep, so I end up opening up 7 different kinds of boxes and laying them out on the floor to dig through.  I don't even know all the things I have because most of this stuff came from Mom, and since I didn't choose to buy it I don't have a memory of picking it out.  To that end, I've purchased a bunch of clear containers that should fit inside the cubby system currently in the art room, so that I can re-sort things and label the containers as I did my stamps.  Having wider, shallow boxes should make it easier to paw through all the embellishments, and it will also get rid of a stack of shoe-size boxes that I've had to shove in a corner of the room.

This week has events I need to attend every night, which means my craft time will largely be distributed throughout my "waiting for G" times.  I'm looking forward to less overlapping and a more steady schedule beginning next week.

Friday, March 03, 2017

More sewing and studying

A quick update today... I have felted projects I am working on, however they are gifts so I won't be posting them until after they are completed and received by their recipients (in the off chance they happen past the blog)

My embroidery continues forward with the completion of my mom's towel set. 

My mom's towel is on the left, mine is on the right.

I determined that I don't want my mom's stitching to be monkeyed with, so I plan to frame that towel to hang in my art room.  Therefore, I picked my own color combos for my towel (since I don't have to match the other towel)  Mom didn't do any satin stitching on hers, I stuck somewhat with the instructions in that regard, though I used variegated thread for mine to give it a faded effect in the lettering, flower petals, and lower decorative detail.  This was the first time I ever stitched french knots, that I can remember, and my best example of satin stitching to date.  It was a great warm-up exercise for the bird quilt, and now I can use Mom's thread organizer for the quilt.

Sunday night I had the Oscar's on TV while I transferred the patterns to my fabric squares.

I stitched every time I sat in front of the TV this week and managed to finish one bird and begin a second before I paused.

I want all the states in the background to match, and I didn't want to do them in black and have them stand out too much... so I decided that since I'll be using a green fabric for the sashing, I should do the state outlines and names in a nice mellow green as well.  Then I realized... 50 states is a lot, and I need to make sure I have enough of the exact same green in order to have everything match. My grandma had sent me a huge stash of embroidery thread close to 20 years ago, but the greens in the stash were not quite the color I wanted, so I took my squares to the craft store and picked out the perfect green.  I bought 16 of them, which I hope will be more than enough.

I now understand why my grandma had upwards of 20 skeins of single colors.  She used to embroider quilt tops, and a project that large does require a large supply of a single color if you want to guarantee consistency.  

I've packed my squares in a little luggage organizer to keep them from fraying while they are stacked in my tote, and my big project is now perfectly portable!

In the photography realm, I've been watching a new Creative Live seminar on editing in Lightroom and I am picking up a large number of tips and tricks which will help with my next batch of editing as well as aid me in future shooting techniques.  As always, whenever I learn new skills in LR I'm tempted to go back and re-edit just about everything I've ever posted.  Though on the other hand, the data from my older images will be lower quality anyway, so might as well leave well enough alone.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ends and beginnings, and straightening things out

Last year I was introduced to a group of pinhole photographers who were very lively, enthusiastic, and inviting.  They have a meet-up group that gets together roughly once a month, they pick a location, meet for brunch, and then explore the area as a group.  A sort of "photo crawl".  I joined their group last year, however their group meetings were perpetually scheduled on days where I ended up being out of town (either for planned vacations or sudden family emergencies)  Today was to be the first time I could actually attend a meet-up, but alas I woke to sloppy snow/rain mix.  I'm not usually one to cancel due to weather, but my camera is an antique, and I'm reluctant to bring it out in weather that is this cold and sloppy.  My fingers are crossed for next month... perhaps they'll schedule a day for the tulip festival in April?  (I'll head up there myself, in any case, but it would be fun to do it as a group)

I've done very little with photography over the last week.  I did manage to narrow down my preferred way of converting color to black and white.  I realized that I started using digital copies and converting in Lightroom so that I could have a non-destructive conversion, and also so that I wouldn't take up space with more full-size copies of images.  The great irony is that once I had that all settled, I received my latest copy of Lightroom Magazine, which has a convenient article about converting to black and white.  *sigh*  The article has additional tips beyond my own workflow, which is useful, but I feel like I lost a couple hours watching unhelpful videos only to have the answer delivered to my inbox a couple weeks later.

A friend of mine is undergoing surgery this week, so I poked around Pinterest for card ideas and then pulled out my card making supplies.  I started out with a stamped image which I left sit on my work table for 2 days to dry.  Then I used the embossing gun to speed up the drying.  Once I thought it was dry, I began to add color with pencils, but the ink still smudged.  That's when I noticed it was labeled "slow drying" - I suppose that ink should only be used for embossing.  So I tossed the whole stamped idea, and went for paper punching instead (highlighted with fast-drying ink)

In the end, the art room was covered with supplies spread out all over the place... now I understand why my mom always punched about 50 things whenever she brought her punches out - why mess up the room to this degree to make just one thing?
I had forgotten how much I do enjoy paper punching, and this makes me eager to get my room back to a scrapbooking setup.

I took the first real steps in my new "big" project - the king sized hand embroidered state bird quilt.  Last weekend I did the math on the design and cut the squares that I'll need to embroider the birds onto.  They will eventually be 8.5 inches (8 after sewing the blocks) but I cut them 9.5 inches to give me some embroidery wiggle room.  Once they are embroidered, I'll cut them down to the proper size.  I'll be doing my "block by block" method of quilting, which means each square will be surrounded by sashing.  The original pattern was for a queen sized quilt with sashing about half the size of the rectangles.  I have changed this to be squares framed by 3  inch sashing, which should give it a more balanced look than the pattern's presentation.  It also makes it easier for me to construct the quilt once the individual squares are done.  

The squares are cut, and I tested the iron on pattern to make sure it would transfer, but I stopped short of ironing the images onto squares.  I'm finishing an embroidered towel that my mom had started, and I want to get that done first so that I can use her thread organizer for this project.  This is a nice, mobile project that I can work on while I'm out and about and find myself waiting for other people.

I did get my sea turtle quilt hung up as well.  I'm very happy with how this one turned out.

While I'm disappointed that my pinhole day has been snowed out, I find myself with a full Sunday of open time in which to apply to projects.  If I finish my towel, I can iron the birds onto the squares.  Then I can pack up the embroidery into my tote, clear my art room tables of fabric, and lay out my scrapbooking supplies.  I have travel plans for August which are sure to include ephemera for scrapbooking, and I'm now extremely anxious to make good progress on my companion albums.  

This morning I saw a meme online: The only problem with being a multi-crafter is deciding which craft to spend time on".  


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Needles and things

This past week saw the neighborhood craft club meeting at my house.  Some folks in the club had shown an interest in learning needle felting, and Easter is coming, so I thought I would break out the supplies for covering foam Easter eggs.  Since my past decorations are still up in the attic, I spent some craft time this week working on an example for the "class".  I pulled my supplies out of the art room, set out a few examples of the sculptures I've made, and put out way too many snacks.

I made little felted Yodas for Marsbarn and K2 a couple years ago, and still hadn't made one for myself, so I took the opportunity to make a wee Yoda last week as an example piece.  I also added flat panel needle felting to the mix, and picked up a stack of square wool felt sheets of various colors and made an example to show.
The owl and gnome home were completed in the past, I made the spotted egg and daisy during the craft club meeting.

Six people from our club were able to attend, and 5 made eggs.  They all seemed to enjoy it, and the creations they made were very cool and all very different, lots of swirls, one with large multi-colored polka dots, one with overlapping layers of thin color that gave it a very surreal swirly look.  I wish I'd thought to get a photo of everyone's work put together but I was too distracted with fun conversation to have thought about it at the time. 

I've finished putting the hanging sleeve on my sea turtle wall hanging, and that will be put up on the walls this weekend, as soon as everyone is awake enough for me to start hammering nails into walls.

I've found myself to be too scattered to remember what is going on with my photography, it seems that I have too many projects going at once and without a physical item to set down, I forget where I last left off.  I'd made a note to myself that I wanted to convert some images to black and white, but failed to update the note. Last week I spent some time going through my images to pick some to convert, only to find that some already had, however I converted some in Lightroom and others in Photoshop.  I cannot remember which method I preferred, nor why I would have stopped one and switched to another.  I watched a tutorial to see if yet a third method might be better than the other two, but that method seemed incredibly more complicated than it needed to be, and after having watched it I realized it was for an older version of the software, and at this point seems obsolete to me (since the tools offered in both PS and LR are superior now).  Then, after investing those hours into this, I was poking around on my portfolio and discovered that I'd already uploaded finished B&W images, and just hadn't completed publishing the albums yet.

I suppose that is the result of squeezing projects in when I have an extra half hour here and there, rather than working on anything steadily for a good amount of time?

I'll have to go back and try both methods of converting B&W to remind myself which method I really preferred, then I really need to write that down on my notes page.  The weather has turned back to rain, so that seems like a good thing to tackle this weekend. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Packing Christmas and more photography

I  missed last week's update due to my work schedule invading my normally quiet Friday morning.  Yesterday I had a migraine and napped through my blog time, so here I am... coffee in hand on Saturday.

Roughly 17 years ago I got it in my head that I would have an expansive Christmas village for the holidays, and I would - of course - paint all the individual pieces myself.  The original "plan" had been to pick up one new building a year, paint it over Thanksgiving weekend, and add it to the village.  A couple years into the project, the company making my brand of houses went out of business, so I bought up all that I could at the craft store.  Then I found leftover inventory online, so I bought that too.  Some years I manage to paint a new whole piece, some years I can only sneak in a small villager to add... most years I start the pieces prior to Thanksgiving with the intention of adding them for the season, but they end up sitting to the side until New Years due to travel or gift projects taking up time... or both.  This year was both, plus we traveled for New Years, so my partly-done village pieces were not completed until the end of January.  Upon confirming the final coat of gloss was dry on the pieces last weekend, I set to work to pack them up... failing to get a photo of the 5 villager pieces that I painted this year.  For what it's worth, here is my 17 year old village as of this season (minus the 5 new additions, which I'll have to photograph next year)

The train is a new addition this year.  It is not to scale, and it is made of plastic instead of plaster, but they were on sale at the local craft store and I couldn't resist.  We haven't set up the big train set in years, and I enjoy a bit of choo-choo whimsy over the holidays.

In sewing, I'm nearing the end of my sea-turtle wall hanging which I'd started last spring, just stitching the sleeve to the back now and it will be ready to hang (once I buy a dowel for it)  I have not made it to a neighborhood craft club meeting in nearly a year, December's was scheduled on a band concert night, and January was cancelled due to the hostess getting a stomach flu.  I am hosting this month, and a fellow crafter has asked to learn needle felting so I'm currently working on a couple of examples for that night.  This - and the Christmas village delay - has helped me to procrastinate on the epic bird quilt plan of mine, however just this morning I'm thinking I might pull out the fabric for the embroidered squares and begin cutting those down to size.

I have managed to make good progress in photography.  I've caught up on editing/uploading the random "in between long vacation" DSLR photos that I've collected over the past couple of years.  I was a harsher critic on myself this time, which is especially difficult when it comes to the bird photos.  I have many "snaps" of birds which I enjoy only because of the species of bird in the shot, but in terms of a piece of art on the wall, they are not that great.  Cutting out the shots that I was emotionally attached to in that way, and only posting what I thought were also good compositions, greatly reduced the volume I had to upload.  I've also meandered through my growing backlog of uploaded images and reduced or removed many images that I now look back on and have decided are not up to par.  Perhaps someday I'll scale back a larger portion of the site - things I shot on the older lower MP camera - but for now I see little harm in leaving the older stuff up.

We had snow last week, and as I had some film to burn in my Graflex pinhole, I decided to set it up near my bird feeders and take some long exposures.  Calculating the exposure for snow was tricky, I took several meter reads off of surrounding mid-tone objects, made my calculations, and took 30-45 second exposures.  The best image out of the lot was this:
This is heavily cropped in, though I set the camera up at the edge of the porch it captured quite a lot more landscape than I wanted.  There are 3 birds which stood still long enough to show up on the film, although there were about 8 birds fluttering through this image throughout the exposure.

The first half of the roll of film were the shots I'd exposed in January during our visit to Fort Worden.  I'm very happy with this shot for several reasons:
I'm happy with the composition of this shot.  I knew I needed to get closer to my subject with this camera, and I managed to do just that, the camera was wedged between the boulders right at the water's edge.
I aimed the camera down and put the sky's horizon line right along the top of the view finder, figuring the film plane would end up capturing more than I could see, and I was correct.  
I timed the exposure to capture one good wave coming up over the rocks, which gave me the white ghostly mist over the dark boulders, but smoothed out the otherwise rough water.
I calculated the exposure correctly - always a challenge!

And lastly... when I loaded the film I turned the dial an extra half turn before setting the film counter - this did give the lab enough film to load without fogging my first frame, but I still had plenty of space at the end of the roll for the last frame.

I am itching to get out and get more shots with this camera, but the weather lately is working against me.  I'm not opposed to heading out in misty/soggy conditions myself, but given the age of this camera I don't want to risk damage to it.  So for now, I have to be patient.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Getting Low

This week's project post is about my tripod, and my ability to (finally!) get down to ground level.

I have a lovely Gitzo series 1 traveler tripod - (GT1544T) I bought this for the light weight and low profile.  It is expensive, but worth it.  Also, the center post is removable and the legs can spread out to get to ground level.  With the center post, this is about as low as it can go.

The legs can spread out further, but with the center post it'll only go about another 2 inches down.

At the time of purchase, I didn't realize I'd need a "ground level kit" to get it down to ground level. The center post is easy to remove, just unscrew the bolt/hook from the bottom of the post, and pull the post out.  But then you are left with an empty center pole and no bolt on the top to mount a head. Once I realized this, I started poking around for the kit online and found it to be priced around $100 - reviews complained that you don't get much for the money... (this is it)

Take out the center post, replace it with this bolt/disc combination.
... so I thought I'd wait for a coupon, or to see if the price would come down.

By the time I had a sale coupon to use, the ground level kit was difficult, if not impossible, to find.

I checked back around the internet every few months with no further luck, the price came down but it was perpetually "out of stock, check back".  Last week I found it on Adorama "In stock online, may take 1-2 days to process" and the price was down to about $55, so I ordered it.

Almost immediately my order went to "backordered" status, even though the website still showed it to be in stock.  

In the meantime, I was researching my tripod online to see if there might be an alternative way to get lower.  I researched spare parts and discussions pertaining to the Series 1 traveler. The center post can actually be reversed - once you take the bottom bold and center post out, simply put it back in upside down... then your hook/bolt is on the top and the camera mount disc is on the bottom.  But shooting this way is impractical and not as stable as being on a platform. Still, I thought I would try to set it up that way, and in removing the bolt/hook, I realized that it looked awfully familiar...

Huh... that hook/bolt part looks a lot like the "ground level kit", just without the disc on top.

I wondered if I could remove the top disc from the center post and just connect it directly, but alas the top disc does not have a threaded bolt underneath it to connect directly to the hook/bolt.

Back to the internet, to seek out a replacement disc.  B&H photo had this:
Gitzo GS1320D Series 1 Aluminum Adapter Disc for Center Column
The Gitzo GS1320D Series 1 Aluminum Adapter Disc for Center Column is used to attach a head to the bottom of Gitzo series 1 tripods with threaded center columns. It features a reversible 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 stud for camera mounting, and is an ideal solution for upgrading to the latest version of aluminum discs and bolts.

The description does NOT indicate that this can be used to make the tripod work at ground level.  In fact, I think the description means to say that you can use it to attach a camera to the bottom of the center post - as in... instead of the hook that is already there.  Or maybe I am supposed to remove the current disc from the top of the center post and replace it with this one so that the center bolt can be reversed?  It is unclear to me.  However at a glance it looked like this could work with the hook/gasket part that I already had.  And at about $35, it was worth it to order it just to check it out.

This is how it comes, the center bolt can flip over depending upon which size you need.  The smaller side is actually two sizes of thread, 

By flipping the bolt so that the smaller side was down, I was able to put the hook/bolt part underneath the center and screw it into the disc on top

Leaving the larger threaded side on the top to connect my ball head to

and now the tripod goes all the way to the ground, and the ball head can tilt to any angle necessary to get the shot.  Also, this disc is larger than the original or the "ground level kit", which makes it even more stable.

In my review of the product on B&H, I suggested that they include this capability in their description of the disc, as I'm sure I can't be the only one out there with a Series 1 Tripod trying to remove the center post.  Had this been in the description a few months ago I would have bought it immediately!

My Adorama order, by the way, was till on Backorder so I had to email them to cancel it.  When I checked back this morning, the "ground level kit" part was labeled as "temporary backorder" instead of "in stock".  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Graflex Pinhole Lessons

Last August I took a Girl's Weekend road trip with my daughter while my husband entertained some buddies of his at our house.  G and I picked a few new spots on the Olympic Peninsula to visit, and while I had intended to do an entire post just on that trip, my family events overwhelmed my time.  Suffice it to say here, we found a few lovely spots - Cape Flattery, the Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest, and the Tree of Life in Kalaloch - which we intend to go back and visit again in the future.  Maybe I'll find time to do a trip report later, but for the time being let me just insert a piece of advice: Port Angeles is an excellent "home base" in which to explore this region, however it is very difficult to find a decent meal west of Port Angeles, so pack picnic food in your car accordingly.

I bring this trip up because it was my first real outing with Clunky, the converted Graflex pinhole, and I'm starting this post with a shot from that trip.

This is the Cave Tree, also called the Tree of Life, in Kalaloch Washington.

With this roll of film I feel that I managed to get the exposure correct.  It was a difficult shot to meter due to the rolling fog and misty conditions, but I concentrated on the bark of the roots.  The framing needs work, though.  I use the viewer on the top of the camera (it's a little rectangular optic that is supposed to let you aim without using the glass plate on the camera) however it seems to  show more of the ground than what I recall framing with the viewer.

Fast forward to my New Years trip to Kauai... which also happens to be the next time I used Clunky.  Having had 4 full months between usage, I lost a lot of my mental process notes.  Thankfully I had decided to pack some Kodak Ektar 100 speed film for it.  Originally I decided this because I thought the sunshine would be so bright that I would need a lower speed film than my Ilford 400.  

My first outing with Clunky was during our walking tour of the McBryde gardens on the south end of Kauai.  The day was overcast and parts of the gardens were thick with trees, so I loaded Ilford 400 first.

This is the straw hut in the McBryde gardens, which is admittedly my main inspiration for wanting to go to these particular gardens.

This session started in a frustrating way.  I hadn't gone over my process notes prior to the trip, or even prior to the drive to the gardens, and once I was on location I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the circumstances.  I expected most of the garden to have paved paths, but it was mostly dirt paths which were muddy from recent rains.  The day was mostly lovely, but had passing rain showers which made me anxious about my equipment.  I forgot the thin hiking towel I normally bring to set my gear down on, so I could only put my bag down in red mud.  It was hot and muggy once the rain showers passed.  The mud and the rain made me feel clumsy, and I felt D and G were ready to move on before I could even properly set up my tripod.  
They were very patient with me, but as I lined up my shot I couldn't help but feel I was forgetting something.  That "something" (I later realized) was that I wasn't lining up the shot with the viewer on the top of my camera.  It is difficult to miss it, but somehow I just looked past it.  I did have a vague recollection that the camera tended to aim low, but even so I didn't seem to correct it as much as I thought I was.  This is the only shot I got of the hut where I didn't cut the roof off.

Oh, and also, I didn't compensate for reciprocity failure.  For the whole trip.  I only remembered that part of the process when I was on the flight home.  *facepalm*  

First lesson:  I need to write down my process for each camera, laminate the card, and carry it with me.  This camera shoots lower than what I am aiming at, and I need to keep that in mind when I frame my shot.

A few days later we headed to a sunny beach, so I used the last of the B&W roll then loaded some Kodak Ektar 100.

Lesson 2 - color film goes to the lab.  The lab processes on a C-41 machine, which means they need to pull a bit of the film out to attach it to the card that pulls it through the machine.
Every color roll has the first frame partially exposed like this.

This is something I possibly *could* have anticipated if I had thought back to my years at the photography studio, however that was a long time ago, and those camera backs gave us enough space on the end of the roll to load the film.  My Graflex back lines up the first shot practically on the edge of the roll of film, and leaves about an inch of space on the other end.
The simple fix is roll the film a little further when loading, prior to setting the film exposure counter dial on the top.  This is a step to add to my process notes.  I've decided I will also expose my first shots twice, just in case they get a little crazy with pulling the film out to load it into the C-41.

This is a shot that had been badly exposed on the edge.  I can still get a square format out of it, and sadly I only took one shot of this view so this is all I have, but I would have loved a full size image of this scene.

Lesson 3: I think I prefer color out of this camera more than black and white.

As convenient as it is for my impatience to get the (relatively) instant gratification of developing my own B&W film at home immediately after shooting... the effects of the long exposure in color are so much more enjoyable to me.  I have some wave photos I shot in black and white, but they just end up looking sort of blurry.  The color in this shot shows the undertone of blue beneath the white foam from the water lapping over the rocks, and the hint of warm sand in the thinnest parts of the waves.  It gives it almost an impressionist feel.

I've scanned all my film from the trip and edited down my favorite shots.  Towards the end of the trip I started feeling like I was doing more deliberate composing, but in retrospect I feel like the timing of my shots was still a little poke-and-hope.  I was calculating the exposure time, but I wasn't thinking about what the exposure length was going to do to the shot.  This last beach scene makes me realize that I really love the effect of the 5 second exposure, the waves are smoothed but still show motion.  And in hindsight I realize... this doesn't have to be poke-and-hope... I have the capability with my DSLR to set up the shot, calculate the exposure, then change my DSLR settings to the same exposure length and take a digital shot so that I can get an idea of how the movement might play on film.

So: I need to make notes on loading and exposure process.  Shoot the first scene twice, just to be safe.  Color film is preferable to show motion.  Test shot on the DSLR to get an idea of movement.