Friday, September 28, 2018

Calendar Contemplations

It is that time of year... as the weather turns to autumn and my outdoor adventures wane, I direct my attention to my archive of images and narrow down my decision on next year's calendar theme.

Do I use digital images?  Film?  Images from several cameras?  Should the theme be a subject (landscapes, oceanscapes, waterfalls, birds, trees?) or images of a certain style (Tilt-shift focus, panoramics, macro?) or images all from one camera (Graflex, Holga, Pentax, Vintage Kodak, The other vintage Kodak, pinhole, the other pinhole, the other other pinhole?)  Alternative process?  Black and white, or color?

I actually begin to consider the options in the spring every year, right around the time that the weather clears up enough for me to go on regular outings.  I run through the list above (perpetually adding to it all the while) and keep them simmering on the back-burner of my brain while packing my gear and while out in the field.  This past year I had become enamored with my Kodak Six-20 and had somewhat set it in my mind that 2019 would be a set of Vintage Kodak images - all I needed to decide was should they be color or black and white.  I thought this would simplify my decisions on which cameras to pack, it would lighten my bag to shelve the Graflex for a bit.  I took it on a couple outings and determined I liked how the color images were coming out, though I was disappointed that the lab I took my color film to repeatedly burned the first images on my rolls of film, so in the end I determined that I didn't want to deal with the hassle of the lab, and I'd just stick with black and white.

Then I attended the annual camera swap in Kent, and came away with a lovely - and perfectly functional - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye.  The simplicity of use, the light weight body, the crisp images... all made it difficult to stick with my original plan.  But I thought... I've already started collecting images with the Six-20, the Brownie will have it's turn later.
The Hawkeye is in the center camera.

It also made it difficult to stick to my "scale down the camera bag" goal, because the camera is just so lightweight and easy to use, why not toss it in the bag... "just in case"?  I confess I brought it along on local outings, where I was reminded that having too many cameras on hand makes me feel too scattered in the field.  So when it came time to pick which cameras were going to come on the Big Vacation with me, I reluctantly placed the Brownie on the shelf and kept my gear down to the DSLR, the P.120 pinhole, and the Kodak Six-20
Ready for some vintage shooting!

Unfortunately, I encountered some unforeseen frustrations while using this camera on my trip.  The first outing in which I used the camera was in a crowded park on the coast of Maui.  The day was a humid 95 degrees and I repeatedly had to remove my camera bag as I kept forgetting to pull out all the gear that I needed.  Once my necessities were finally settled, and I could concentrate on composition, I noticed the shutter on the Six-20 was sticking.  It took several frames for me to figure out that my shutter release cable - which up until that moment had worked flawlessly - was failing to trip the shutter.  I lost several shots as I worked out the kinks of this dilemma, which also meant I was having to reload film more frequently to reshoot images I thought I'd lost.  The shutter itself still worked, so long as I manually tripped it with the lever instead of using the cable.  My goal had been to capture horizontal images, which meant attaching the camera on it's side, which was less stable than the normal upright position.  Triggering the shutter manually required me to squat at an odd angle, wrapped around my tripod legs, to reach the lever and keep the rest of myself out of the frame.

Between the heat, the weight of the camera bag, and the awkward positions, I grew frustrated with the process quickly.  Add to that, I was swapping my P.120 camera onto the tripod and repeating the process of composition, calculation, and exposure of several scenes.

I continued to shoot with the Six-20 throughout the trip, though I know I didn't make nearly as many images as I would have if the shutter cable worked.  I had suspected that the humidity was too much for the gears, however the cable hasn't worked properly since we returned home... so that camera is relegated to being hand-triggered.

Upon returning from vacation, I dropped my color films off at my local lab, and set to work developing my black and whites from the Six-20.  I am reasonably pleased with the images that I did create with it, however the volume I'd hoped for just wasn't there, and several shots showcase an annoying light leak.  I knew I'd need to go on several more outings to build up enough inventory for a good calendar.
Banyan Tree Park, Lahaina, Maui.  95 degrees in the shade.

The tables were turned, however, as my color film began to come back from the lab.  I shot Fuji Velvia in my P.120, and the vivid colors, the 120 degrees of landscapes, they captured my attention and imagination.  I had at one time considered doing a panoramic calendar, but decided against it because I could not find a cost effective way to print - or mail - that awkward size.  If I used the conventional format that I've been using, each image would be framed by wide white bars on the top and bottom, or cropped to the point where it was no longer a panoramic view. My latest panoramics, however, inspired me to try to find a way to make it work.

As this potential complete-switch-of-gears simmered in my brain, I set to work to print some of my digital photos.  I had purchased coffee for some friends and family, and I thought it would be nice to add a few postcards from places I had visited, but rather than buy post cards I opted to print some from my own photos.  On each card I wrote a short blurb describing the location of the image and the circumstances of why or how I shot the image.  They were so well received that I had a flash inspiration... why not do that to my panoramic images for the calendar?  I can stick with the 1:2 format of the images and fill the white space with a similar blurb about the location and circumstances of each photo.  
To that end, I made a mock-up of what I thought it might look like:
I'm pretty sure I'll use this shot in the calendar, not sure if the blurb will be worded exactly this way, but it is an example of my vision.

Since creating the mock-up, I've been concentrating my photography-efforts on scanning, sorting, and editing my P.120 images.  While I technically have enough photos to fill a calendar, I'd like some more variety in the subjects, so my next task is to get in at least one - maybe two - more good landscape outings before the weather shuts me down entirely.

Going back to the Six-20, as sad as I am to shelve the camera, the benefit is that now I can bring along my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye guilt free.  It is light weight, takes the same hand-rolled 620 film that I already prepped for the Six-20, is easier to advance the film, takes no calculations to shoot with, and does not require a tripod.  This means I can have my DSLR around my neck, P.120 on the tripod, and Hawkeye in a side pouch - less setting-down of the camera bag means more time shooting. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

End of Summer Update

I know it is quite a leap from the beginning of spring to the end of summer.  Over the course of the last 5 months (and outside of the normal life school/work/household events) I have gone on two family vacations, joined an artist exchange group, and hosted a large multi-family gathering at our home.  Time for projects has been sporadic, and time to spend contemplating projects has been even shorter... hence the large lapse in posting.

Without further delay...


In April I completed a tote bag for my niece with the April birthday.  Unfortunately I failed to photograph it before sending it off.  In July I completed two more totes for my two nieces with August birthdays, and I did remember to grab a photo of those before wrapping them up.  The April tote was the same shape as these, done in a striped fabric with palm trees printed along the stripes.

Having less time where I needed to sit and wait for G, I spent less time working on the bird quilt... however just this past week I finally managed to finish up the last of the cardinals.  My next batch of bird squares shall be a set of three robins.

Once again I attended the big annual camera swap in April.  I picked up a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye which is in fantastic shape (center below) and G picked up a Brownie (on the left) and a half-frame 35mm camera (on the right)  I've tested all the cameras... G's Brownie has a slightly sticky shutter, but her 35mm is perfectly functional and quite fun to use.  My Brownie is in great condition (even the handle, which is astonishing considering the age)  The viewer is a little dusty on the inside, but I've resisted the temptation to take it apart and clean it only because I don't want to mess up an otherwise functional camera.  

We took a short family vacation during Spring Break in April, where I took advantage of the wide open PNW shorelines to take some photos with my P.120 panoramic pinhole and my Kodak Six-20.  I also brought along my DSLR, as usual, and this trip became somewhat of an experiment in how to carry my gear during an outing, and how to make the swapping of cameras on the tripod more convenient.  
Unfortunately, the shutter on my P.120 stuck open partway through the trip, so I had to shelve that camera anyway.  The maker fixed it promptly once we arrived home, however I missed some lovely potential landscapes on the Oregon coast.  
P.120 in action

Kodak Six-20

Last Spring, of my fellow pinhole photography friends arranged for a group visit to a salvage yard a bit south of where I live.  Having seen several images of his from his previous trips, I was inspired to pull out my Polaroid Land camera and packs of expired film.  The Polaroid peel-apart film is no longer manufactured, and I'd been holding onto my stock of expired film for years, waiting for just the right subject.  I felt the moss-laden landscape and rusty car bits was a match for outdated film and a camera built in the same era as the cars I was photographing.  The full project plan was to take several Polaroid images of the cars, then take the images home and do emulsion lifts (lifting the image off the original paper and transferring it to a piece of watercolor paper, where I could then stretch and manipulate the image)

Photographing with the Land camera proved to be a challenge, in that I had not anticipated the amount of garbage produced by the film.  My previous experience with the film had been indoors, with a slide printer, and a handy garbage can nearby.  Out in the field it was a different story.  I had slung my DSLR over one shoulder, Polaroid Land camera around my neck next to my light meter, placed my P.120 on the tripod, stuck my Kodak Six-20 in a pocket, and held my Brownie Hawkeye in my hand.  I took my first Polaroid image, counted out the developing time, then peeled it apart... and stood there, wondering where I was supposed to put the sticky paper backing that I'd just peeled off the image.

I ended up folding the papers over and stuffing them into my other pocket, until the pocket became too full... then I'd pause to remove my camera bag and empty my pockets into one of the spaces inside the bag.  So, as a note on future Polaroid outings: bring a bag for the garbage, and a safe flat folder for the images.

The juggling of 5 cameras ended up feeling far too chaotic, especially with one of the cameras being as cumbersome as the Polaroid, but it was a great outing nonetheless, and I was very happy with the results of the Polaroid images.
Back home I pulled out my long-stored gear for doing emulsion lifts.  It only took one sample try to remember the technique and set to work.

Over the past few years I've not done a lot of printing, however joining the APEX artist exchange group has inspired me to do more with my work than just shoot it and store it away.  This is the grouping of images I put together for one of our meetings - examples of the same subject shot with a variety of cameras: Top image - P.120, lower left is Kodak Brownie, lower right is Kodak Six-20, and center is the Polaroid emulsion lift.

Incidentally... throughout the last spring and summer I had something of a battle with my local film developer.  My color film from the P.120 was coming back from the lab with the first image being burned due to the way they were loading it into their machines.  After several conversations, attempts on my part to push the film frames forward (which resulted in, to my great disappointment, several overlapped images) and many additional test rolls (accompanied by "promises" that the film would be loaded the way I'd requested) I sadly had to completely give up on the company.  It was a difficult decision, because I always enjoyed long conversations with all of the other employees in the place, but the one guy that works in the lab stubbornly refused to load my film from the tail end of the roll, and I just don't want to lose any more of my work.

The Junk yard outing showcased the importance of scaling back my gear for each outing to a practical amount.  Of course I'll always take my DSLR, but when it comes to film cameras I really needed to have a better system for camera swapping, and also it was necessary to scale back on the number of cameras on any given outing.  Because the plain truth is, once a camera is set on my tripod, I'm reluctant to take the time to swap it out, even when I'm out shooting on my own and don't feel the pressure of fellow travelers waiting on me.

I'd considered sewing a side pouch to clip onto the belt of my camera case, as a quick "side pocket" for swapping, however when digging through my gear closet I came out with this old little green camera bag, which had originally been designed to fit our first digital point-and-shoot.
The P.120 fit perfectly!

On to our big family vacation: Hawaii!  We spent two weeks in the islands, staying on both Maui and Kauai.  After much deliberation I had determined that I should leave the Kodak Brownie at home, and just bring the DSLR, P.120 (for the anticipated amazing volcanic landscapes) and the Six-20 (intended to be the images for my 2019 calendar)

I learned that I am wise to always bring my DSLR, as some of the amazing landscapes we visited were far too windy to set up any kind of tripod.  
On the cliff at 10,000 feet, trying to stay upright for the photo.

Although I had a good camera swapping option with my side pouch, I did run into a bit of a struggle with the Kodak Six-20.  The shutter stuck when I used the shutter release cable, so just a few days into the trip I had to change my strategy with shooting and hold the trigger manually.  The camera still worked, but this did make it more difficult to work with, and my patience with it waned as I stood in 95 degree weather, dripping sweat, trying to hold still while holding the shutter open.  
Meanwhile, given the subjects I'd be photographing, I opted for Velvia slide film for my P.120, which was developed by a lab in Seattle and (as they load the film correctly) I had zero burned images.  Upon arriving home from the trip and retrieving all my developed film, I found myself to be far happier with my P.120 images than those of the Six-20.  The film advance on the Six-20 is also rather difficult to manage when my arthritis is acting up, so I'm now leaning towards shelving the Six-20.  The good news is, this opens the door to popping my Brownie into my camera bag, and also leaves the P.120 to be the only camera I'd need to have on the tripod (unless I want to put the DSLR up for a panoramic digital shot)

As this post has gone on quite a bit more than I anticipated, I'll save my 2019 Calendar debate and photography site updates for another time.


I was given a lovely brush pen as part of a Christmas gift last year, then a local art studio held a class on travel sketching.  Inspired by both, I decided to try my hand at quick sketching with the brush pen.  The original idea had been to sketch while my camera is taking long exposures, therefore doing sketches that can be completed within about a minute, however I enjoyed it so much I began carrying the book around with me and sketching during all my travels.  Here are a couple of examples.

Also on the drawing front, I've picked back up my Zentangle gear.  The inspiration came from a combination of the quick travel sketches, my mention of Zentangle at the APEX meetings, and also the lack of photography outings during the summer (which was mostly due to the horrible smokey conditions we had throughout the wildfire season of August)  As I haven't managed time to print more photography to share, I thought I'd pull together some examples of Zentangle art to share at my next APEX meeting.

Summer's End

We really crammed a lot into the summer, ending with a long weekend visit hosting two families (total of 10 people in our house at once!)  It was a spectacularly lovely visit filled with games and food and family and fun.  Now as we settle into our new autumn schedule, I am wrapping up the summer adventures as I lay out my project plans for autumn and winter, with the hopes to be back here with updates a little more regularly.