Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gear: Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm 1:2

 I love using my Exakta. It has a stunning design, sweet features (waist level finder!), and is compatible with a bunch of great Exakta-mount lenses. I own a few different Exakta lenses, but my favorite and most used is the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm. Yes, 58mm. It's definitely a unique focal length to be sure. Those extra 8 milimeters let you get just a tad closer to your subject, without making the lens too tight for general use.

It's a beautifully made lens, with an all metal build, and a nice silver finish that looks awesome with my Exakta VX body. This Biotar also features an auto diaphragm function. Most Exakta lenses have manual aperture diaphragms, which means you have to focus at the widest aperture, then manually stop the lens down to the aperture you want, and then fire the shutter. This is a total pain! The Biotar has a little button on it that fits over the shutter button on the Exakta body. After cocking the lever on the bottom of the Exakta (See below), you are free to focus at a wide open aperture, no matter what aperture is selected on the lens. Once you press the button on the lens, the aperture stops down to whatever it's set for, right before the shutter is fired. This was a very innovative feature for its time, and made shooting with Exaktas a lot less frustrating.

I love how this lens produces images at wide apertures. The background blur at f2 and f2.8 looks dreamlike. The blur almost seems to be moving in a circular motion that looks very painterly. I think short of medium format, this lens is my favorite to use for shallow depth-of-field shots. Here are a couple of shots I took today at wide apertures:

Our backyard

Growth along the Green Bay Trail

I took these with the 58mm Zeiss using the waist level finder, which turned out to be not such a good idea. It's extremely hard to focus at f2 with the wlf's plain matte screen. Most of my shots turned out slightly out of focus. I do like these two shots, however. Even though the photo of the yellow flowers is pretty cliche and gaudy, I think the distinctive background blur of the Zeiss Biotar makes it a bit unique.  I wish I had more to show from my time shooting today... maybe next time I'll be smart and bring the prism finder (with split prism focusing) along next time.

Anyway, thanks for looking!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Print: Glenview House

"Old", "Dilapidated", and "Abandoned" are not usually words anyone would associate with The Glen, a housing development in Glenview, Illinois. Most of the houses there have all been built within the last twenty years, and look near-identical. However, The Glen was a Naval Air Base from the mid 1940's until the early 1990's, and there are some structures that still remain from that period in time. This house is one of them. It had been boarded up for a while, and I always noticed it while on the way to The Glen.

Almost a month ago, a fence was erected around the house and a construction crew began to tear the old house down. The entire back wall was been ripped off, leaving the doors and windows open. I decided to seize the opportunity, and snuck around the fence and into the house on a Sunday afternoon when the construction crew was not present. Unfortunately, someone saw me and called the cops. But, before the police came, I had enough time to take this photo of a chair, the lone piece of furniture left in what I assume used to be a bedroom. Luckily, I was only given a warning about trespassing and was not arrested or fined.

I used my Mamiya C330 with an 80mm lens and Arista 400 film. Thanks for looking!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Project: Istari Album Cover

My future brother-in-law, Aaron, is a musician, and has a solo project called "Istari" (It's an obscure Lord of the Rings reference). For the past three summers, he's made an album, and I've done the cover art. "To Persist in Delusion" is the name of his latest album, and this idea popped into my head right away. I wanted to do convey a dream, or some sort of weird alternate dimension; a weird f***ed up reality someone "delusional" would imagine himself in.

To achieve this, Aaron and I bought the strangest mask we could find off of Etsy. It was created to be wall-mounted, and was ceramic, so I had to gorilla tape/glue a wire onto the back (which worked with limited success...). I used my Pentax 6x7 with a 105mm lens, and Ilford Delta 400 film. I hand-held the camera at the 105mm's widest aperture (f 2.4), which was not an easy task, seeing that the 6x7 weighs over 6 pounds, and the depth of field at f 2.4 is just about paper thin. Overall I'm happy with how the shot turned out. Doing creepy stuff in the woods is always fun.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Roll: The Renaissance Faire (Part 3)

This last weekend Katie and I made another trip out to the Renaissance Faire, this time with our friend, Drew. I brought along my Olympus Pen FT and a roll of Ilford Delta 400. I was a little scared, since there's no aperture priority mode on the FT, and the light meter isn't very accurate. I prefer aperture priority when shooting moving subjects, since you really don't have time to measure exposure with a meter. So, I guessed on most of these frames, and they actually came out pretty well exposed for the most part. Take a look...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Extra Frame(s): Alley Pan

I took this panorama I made of our back alley on the Olympus-Pen FT. It's made up of nine different photos. I used the self timer to get in a few of the shots, myself. I like leaving the imperfections untouched in panoramas, because then you can see all the individual shots. My tiny Pen FT did look pretty ridiculous on top of my gigantic Bogen 3051 tripod.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spotlight: Olympus-Pen FT

The Olympus-Pen FT is a half-frame 35mm camera that had a production run from 1966 to 1972. For those that don't know, "half-frame" means you get twice the number of shots on a roll of film (48 shots on a roll of 24, or 72 on a roll of 36), at the expense of image quality, since your negatives are half the size. Being a half-frame camera, the Pen FT is quite small, making it easy to bring with you wherever you go. It's also very non-threatening when taking photos out on the street.

The "Pen FT" is the successor to the original "Pen F", which came out three years prior. The "FT" added a self timer, a single-stroke film advance, and most importantly, a light meter. Shutter speeds range from 1-1/500th of a second, plus Bulb, which you adjust by twisting the knob on the front of the camera body. Speaking of the body, I love the design of this camera. It just screams "pure, simple elegance". 

I found in use, that even though the negatives are small and the images turned out grainy, they still look great, thanks to the razor sharp 38mm 1:1.8 Zuiko lens that came with the camera. Even at its widest aperture, images mostly came out looking nice and crisp.

Here are some photos I took with my Olympus Pen FT:

Overall, I absolutely loved shooting with the Olympus-Pen FT. Even at half-frame, I'm still pleased with the final images. That natural grain is a look only film can produce. Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Print: Zebra Rider

I found this spring rider while riding around taking photos with my 35mm Retina Reflex, and knew I had to come back to take a medium-format shot. Mr. Zebra rider hangs out in a park in Evanston on Emerson street.  I used my Mamiya C330 with an 80mm lens, and Arista 200 film.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Set: Hoops

If you've been reading this blog at all, you probably know that I like to photograph alleys. In these alleys hang a bunch of basketball hoops. They're kind of sad, really. To me, these hoops act as a reminder of childhood dreams long past. "Jimmy" gave up his childhood dream of being a basketball star long ago, but the hoop still remains.

I used my Olympus OM-2n with Ilford HP5+ 400 film. I used a Zuiko 35mm 1:2.8 lens that I picked up at an estate sale yesterday. Though I prefer a 50mm lens, it's really nice to have that wider focal length sometimes, especially in cramped alleys.

I'm considering going through the trouble and printing all nine of these in the darkroom as 4x6's... maybe.  Here some other shots I took today while riding my bike looking for basketball hoops:

Porky's Birdhouse

One of Wilmette's few abandoned houses


Thanks for looking!