Photography

History

I’ve been a hobby photographer since high school. My first camera was an ancient Argus C3 35 mm range finder camera back in the day when cameras were mechanics and photochemistry. The C3 was completely manual. No auto exposure and no motor drive. The photographer set the shutter speed, aperture, and focus. This camera served me well through college.

After college, I bought my first SLR, a Minolta SRT-101 at one of the large 47th Street camera shops in New York City. While at nuclear propulsion prototype training, a friend, also an avid photographer, and I made a trip to Willoughby Peerless. I found an f2 100 mm lens for the Minolta and Steve found a used Nikon SP rangefinder camera, an interchangable lens range finder camera. The 100 mm quickly became my favorite lens because it was soft and fast. I used it to good effect to take candids at family gatherings. I later purchased an f1.8 35 mm wide angle for the camera but it was the 100 mm that stayed on the camera.

Jessica and Katelyn candid
Jessica and Katelyn

During this period, I bought a new body, a Minolta MD5 which served until about 1990. In 2002, I made the move to digital with a Sony 4 MP rangefinder camera. This camera had an actual view finder which meant that it could be used as a learning camera. This Christmas, I gave it to my youngest niece so she could get started. Hopefully, she’ll break the phone camera habit and start using proper technique. A properly supported and stabilized camera makes for a much sharper image. And with the Sony’s optical viewfinder she can actually take composed outdoor pictures!

My next digital camera was a Panasonic LX2. This is a great day trip camera with a Leica designed lens and decent automation. It is good for day trips where a light compact camera is wanted. But iPhone cameras got better and the best camera is the one that is always with you. I’ve taken more pictures with the iPhone/iPad camera than the LX2 recently. One of those two is always nearby when the dogs are cute or you happen across a striking image.

My first real digital camera is a Sony Alpha 65 which should keep me amused during retirement. Ten years of digital photography left me wanting a real viewfinder again and fast shutter response. The Sony has both. I expect to be taking this camera out and about town. Tidewater is flat but we have a lot of interesting parkland and water and the usual urban opportunities in downtown and Ghent.

Latent Images

After the Navy, i bought a used enlarger and trays and did some printing. Rigging a temporary darkroom was always a challenge. Find a dark room or make one dark by rigging blackout curtains. Do the film in a drum. Expose the prints in a windowless bath. Develop in trays. A few years later, I moved the print development to an Ilford collor processing drum which meant I had to do the print development by time rather than by inspection under a safe light. Printing was always an adventure and was a source of holiday gifts for friends and family.

During the 80’s, I also gave away some nice color prints made by an outfit called Laser Color Laboratories. These folks would scan your 35mm transparency media using a laser scanner that wrote an inter-negative. They would then make a nice color print for you using the C5 process and nice Kodak color negative print papers. This produced a nicer result than printing on color transparency print paper.

Nick eye to ear
Nick close crop

With the advent of digital, I’ve been using Aperture, SnapSeed, and FX Photo to express latent images from camera raw data. Camera raw, standard media, and a Leica-designed lens were the gifts of the LX2. I’ve learned to crop and do basic image maintenance but I’m just beginning to explore latent image manipulation. From what I’ve seen on the web, the trick is to learn restraint. Too many images are tarted up to be way contrasty and saturated. Done well, you’re there beside the photographer seeing what he saw. Done badly, the result is shouty and the image becomes tiresome  once it has made its initial impression. The challenge is to get it right like Pat Lee does, effect that serves the subject.

Dunes and grass at 73rd street VB
73rd Street Beach on Christmas Day 2012

I’m beginning to fear that Photoshop excess is becoming the new normal. Most images you see have exaggerated contrast and saturation produced by non-linear editing. This strikes me as the sort of shouting for attention that we found at the hi-fi shop where loudspeakers were often voiced to stand out from the crowd. A speaker that made an initial impression on me was usually a bad one. If I had to think about what I heard, it meant nothing was missing or exaggerated. Is it the same with a good image? It shouldn’t have to shout for attention. In my initial exploration of editing, I’ve been careful about that with Aperture but not so much so with SnapSeed. The presets make it easy to make a shouty image out of a fairly flat latent image.

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The trials and tribulations of the retired moocher lifestyle

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