Along The Train Tracks

An Irresistible Subject - Train Tracks

An Irresistible Subject - Train Tracks

These tracks have proven to be a subject I keep coming back to. The geometry, the texture, the power of this iconic American subject is just too good not to capture.

Worcester And Providence Railroad Iowa Coop Car

Worcester And Providence Railroad Iowa Coop Car

These shots were all taken with the Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash. A glass Kodet lens, shutter button, and advance wheel. Proof that it truly is not all about the gear. And, a true challenge to anyone shooting digital, to try to replicate these kinds of looks.

What The......

What The......

I was asking myself this same question, after seeing this Phillips 66 gas station, while climbing over the fence, away from the tracks….

Is There Any End In Sight? Prices Have Already Gone Up 20 Cents/Gallon, In One Week

Is There Any End In Sight? Prices Have Already Gone Up 20 Cents/Gallon, In One Week

Snooze, you lose. Prices have already gone up 20 cents/gallon since this was taken, a little over a week ago. In a few months, this price may look like a bargain. The world shuts down to watch a royal wedding, yet people just accept these prices, and could care less that oil companies are enjoying record profitability. Jumping off the soapbox.

Found Film

Recently, a diversion from Polaroid has been the beautiful little Kodak Brownie cameras. What these little cameras lack in features and high performance, they more than make up for in beautiful industrial design, pictures with depth and tonality, and decade after decade reliability. The little Great American Cameras just go, and go, and go. The legendary bakelite bodied Baby Brownie Special, which was introduced in 1939, caught my eye a few weeks back at a consignment shop. It has a very cool Art Deco look. Think Empire State Building meets Rochester, NY industrial design. A simple “box camera”, it replaced the original Baby Brownie, adding an optical viewfinder, and a slightly improved Kodet glass meniscus lens. The camera had a 15 year run, which ended in 1954.

The most interesting selling feature of this camera came when I opened it up, and much to my amazement, found a roll of Ansco All-Weather 127 film, which had been exposed by the previous owner. Knowing that Ansco 127 film was likely rather old film, curiousity kicked in. I had to see what was on this roll of film. After consulting with several “in the know” film photographers, including Michael Raso, host of The Film Photography Podcast (http://filmphotographypodcast.com/) , the general consensus was that Blue Moon Camera and Machine, in Portland, Oregon, ( http://bluemooncamera.com/) would be able to pull any images off the roll.

Less than  week after sending the film in, I got an e-mail from Blue Moon:

We’ve developed your black-and-white film; there’s a rather heavy level
of base fog, but there are 5 images on the film that should be
printable.

Now excitement sets in. Who, or what, is on the film? How old are these images, which have not been seen, ever? Where were they taken? The folks at Blue Moon called me last Friday, to finalize development and printing charges. The processed images were mailed from Oregon on Saturday, and I had them on Monday. What showed up in my mailbox was nothing less than spectacular. The images displayed above have not been seen by anyone in decades.

After making extra prints, I set out to bring them to the consignment shop. The owner had records and contact information of the owner of the little Brownie that I had bought. She called the woman up. Were these her images? Was she one of the little girls?

It turns out, the answer is most likely, yes, to both. Not only are they her images, but she believes that she is the little girl with the cat’s eye glasses on the beach. Our timing in contacting her was a bit off, as she was packing for vacation. But the prints are at the consignment shop, waiting confirmation and verification. I hope to know in about a week to 10 days, and to chat with this woman, once it is confirmed these images are hers.

Film, found.

Panchromatic: Rethinking Fuji FP-100B

The Now Discontinued Fuji Professional FP-100B Panchromatic B&W Instant Film

The Now Discontinued Fuji Professional FP-100B Panchromatic B&W Instant Film

The 1st pack of Fuji FP-100B film I had shot several months back, in a Polaroid ColorPack 2 camera, the rigid bodied camera with the somewhat problematic development spreaders. As flashcubes had already been secured from an eBay dealer, I thought this would be smooth sailing. Instead, I wasted almost the entire pack on jamming, and the shots were hopelessly washed out and overexposed.

This film, I have been told, has been discontinued, leaving only the FP-100C 100 speed color film, and the “Super Speedy” FB-3000B B&W, a 3200 ASA high contrast fast film, which can take images in virtual darkness.

Last week, while stocking up on film, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that my dealer had received packs of FP-100B. Assuming I was picking up a box of 3000, I grabbed it. This Easter weekend, while taking a box out of the fridge, one of those “oops” moments took place, as based on that 1st box, I thought the film sucked.

Much to my amazement, in an Automatic Land Camera, the film is nothing less than spectacular. A medium speed film, it needs good light, either outdoors, or inside with flashbulbs. At room temperature, development time is about 30 seconds. It is sharp, with incredible tonality and contrast. The blacks are something right out of Life Magazine of the 50’s or 60’s. If I was to guess, this is a direct replacement of Polaroid’s 664, or Polapan Pro 100. My dealer tells me that there is still some in distribution. Picked up two more packs today, with an expiration of October, 2011. Try some- it’s out there, and it is fresh. And, does it look good.

Polaroid Hiatus – Ended

Stairs, Leading To The Gazebo

Stairs, Leading To The Gazebo

The stone stairs were built as a way to walk up to the view of Mirror Lake. A perfect spot to watch the return of the swans, every Spring.

Woods, Leading To The Main Trail
Woods, Leading To The Main Trail

The wooded area is well marked, and there are many trails to hike and explore. The wooded area is the view as seen from the main trail, near the lake.

Tree, Coggshall Park
Tree, Coggshall Park

Last Thursday, I was in the Fitchburg, MA area, and as I usually do, returned to scenic Coggshall Park. It is an oasis in a struggling city. A little stone house there was rurned down by arsonists, which were never caught, in 2009. The stone foundation survived, and students of Monty Tech are rebuilding the structure, using original blueprints. The park is 300 acres large, and includes bird sanctuaries, and dedicated conservation land. In the fall, it is a favorite spot for photographers, but year round, some great spots to photograph can be found. The tree above, undamaged by the ice storm of a couple of years ago, thrives, right down to the roots.

Trains

The new “addiction” with these beautiful vintage Kodak Brownie cameras is really getting bad. The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye I have been shooting with is 55 years old, yet looks brand new. Of course, the camera is so simple, with a minimum of moving parts, that it is very easy to get one up and running, and looking beautiful and showroom new.

Walker Evans, the great American photographer, who documented the impact of the Great Depression, really has served as my inspiration here. Particularly relevant, given how challenging today’s economic times are. I believe someone lives, or has lived here, along the train tracks of the Providence-Worcester Railroad-

A Home Along The Tracks

A Home Along The Tracks

Moving down the tracks a bit…..the 6×6 square negatives these cameras yield, like the Hasselblad, forces a different aesthetic, and thankfully forces one out of the ‘rule of thirds’, which is somewhat of a silly, outdated rule, which assumes a 4×6 ratio. If you take a look on Flickr, you can usually tell someone new to the square format when the photographer places the main subject in the far right third of the frame. Not really applicable here. It’s hip to be square.

Switching

Switching

The Pan Am freight trains are very tempting to photograph. The retro logo really makes for some great shots, as do the classic blue tones-

Pan Am - Providence Worcester RR

Pan Am - Providence Worcester RR

Just after photographing this car, it was raided by a couple of young graffiti “artists” spouting obscenities.

Not very colorful, but still a great subject, this Iowa Grain car really tests the exposure latitude of Portra 160VC. Maybe the new Portra 400 would have been a better choice, if LB Wheaton’s Camera And Supply, my local shop, ever gets some in stock. Can’t really figure out why they carry Ektar 100 in 35mm, yet won’t stock it in 120, as the owner says “we won’t sell enough”. With regards to 400 speed, I am sure he wants to sell through the existing VC and NC’s, before stocking it. Anyways, too much of a digression and a soapbox. here is the Iowa Grain car, with fading available light-

Iowa Grain

Iowa Grain

Sun begins to set. The train starts up, after a brief stop. One last exposure-

Moving On Down The Tracks

Moving On Down The Tracks

Light Leaks

The Holga/Diana/Lomography toy camera movement has introduced many to film, in some cases, for the first time. These basic cameras, usually with simple construction and less than perfect lenses can create some very nice looking images. The cameras usually do not have a light tight film chamber. The little ruby-red exposure counter, coupled with the increased sensitivity to the color red of today’s modern color roll films, and you have, at times, crazy and unpredictable results. The Brownie Hawkeye has one of these windows. I usually keep it taped up with a small piece of Fuji instant film dark slide paper, and some black electrical tape. But, peel a bit away, and anything can happen. On this roll, the paper got a bit jammed on the take up spool. The take up is a 120 spool that I cut and sanded, to refit to 620 size. So, when I opened up the chamber, the fear was that the exposed film was lost. Instead, these wonky shots resulted. There once was a day where light leaks were something to panic about. Lomography welcomes them. These were taken on 4/11-

Providence Worcester Railroad Sign, Covered With Graffiti

Providence Worcester Railroad Sign, Covered With Graffiti

Railroad Tracks

Railroad Tracks

Elm Park Fire Alarm & Telegraph Building Window, Worcester Massachusetts

Elm Park Fire Alarm & Telegraph Building Window, Worcester Massachusetts

Elm Park Fire Alarm & Telegraph, Worcester Massachusetts

Elm Park Fire Alarm & Telegraph, Worcester Massachusetts

Lo-Fi Photography is very cool.

Brownies

Sometimes, you just have to “mix it up” once in a while. Polaroid’s arch nemesis, and industry giant, Kodak, really should receive the credit it richly deserves. For putting cameras into the hands of the “average’ photographer, making them inexpensive, and easy to use. And for the wonderful vernacular American snapshot. A fantastic read is “The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978″. Which has, in part, inspired some “lo-fi” Brownie photography. Having recently acquired a Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash, and a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash, I carefully tore both apart, and cleaned the optics and sprayed them down with WD-40. The brilliant Kodak industrial designer, Arthur Crapsey, engineered cameras that are the epitome of timeless Americana and functional design. As evident in how the bakelite finishes clean up so nicely. They both now look brand new. The Holiday takes 127 film, which I bought online from The Frugal Photographer. Based on the colors and grain structure, there is little question that Bluefire Murano 160 is respooled Kodak Portra 160 VC. The Hawkeye can take 120 film in the supply side, and uses 620 spools on the supply side. All of the “warnings” on the inside of the film chamber by Kodak, that the camera will not accept 120 film, make one chuckle. Oh, yet it will….
Sharp, Yet Soft- Through The Lens Of The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

Sharp, Yet Soft- Through The Lens Of The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

An Abandoned Alleyway, Captured With The Holiday.

An Abandoned Alleyway, Captured With The Holiday.

Bancroft Tower, Worcester, Massachusetts - Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash, With Bluefire Murano 160 Speed 127 Film

Bancroft Tower, Worcester, Massachusetts - Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash, With Bluefire Murano 160 Speed 127 Film

Polaroid has even come to the rescue here with the Kodak Brownies here. I managed to pull off a blue flash guard off a “parts only” Polaroid 268 Flashgun, and mount it onto the front of the Kodalite flashgun, which fit perfectly. To diffuse the flash, the Polaroid Close Up Kit diffuser now snaps on. Polaroid won 100’s of millions of dollars from Kodak over their ill-advised instant film camera disaster. Now, Polaroid helps Kodak out nicely. The blue is necessary to color balance the flash exposure with the color films. No, flash was not used here.
A couple of photographic takeaways. Because today’s modern color film is very sensitive to reds, masking the ruby-red film counters in the back of the Brownies with black electrical tape, or gaffer’s tape, is a must. You can then peel it away temporarily after exposure, and then advance the frame. Additionally, when you have the film processed, make sure to ask the lab to return the 127 or 620 spools.
Finally, just have fun with these cameras. Afterall, it is all about fun, unlike the cold, flat, pristine nature of digital. These little cameras have charm, heart, and soul. My Hawkeye was made in March of 1956, and the Holiday in January of 1954. Yet, look at what they can do. What is old, is somehow, new.

Kenmore Square and the Citgo Sign

After last weekend’s wonderful visit to the Panopticon Gallery’s “Instant Connections” Polaroid exhibit, the mad race out of Kenmore Square was on. Usually pandemonium on wheels, because of Fenway Park, and just the plain “I’m a Bostonian, get out of my way” general attitude, it was surprisingly not busy. The Red Sox were in Texas, getting pounded and swept by the Rangers.  Got a couple of shots before the raindrops. Oh, the New England weather is so wonderful….not.
The Famous Citgo Sign, Kenmore Square, Boston, MA

The Famous Citgo Sign, Kenmore Square, Boston, MA

The Citgo Sign is somewhat of a Boston landmark, believe it or not. Visible from Fenway Park, home of The Boston Red Sox, it can also be used as a way to get your bearings, if you are going to the park by foot, maybe from a “T” station, or were actually brave enough to drive in. If going on a game day, public transportation is highly encouraged.
Boston- "The New Seattle"- Horrible Weather, Year Round

Boston- "The New Seattle"- Horrible Weather, Year Round

Spring is here? A great day to shoot in black and white.

Big Yellow

This will be a very brief post. Today, another vintage Kodak Brownie arrived today, this one being the Hawkeye Flash. Gorgeous “art deco’ camera, which came with the original 620 spool, so I can load 120 film in it. The 1st roll, Kodak Portra 160 VC from the fridge. Worked perfectly, although I wound past “1”, which I understand is a common challenge. Next roll will get it! Add this to the Holiday Flash, which I loaded up with some Bluefire Murano 127, and the Brownies are now fully operational. The Kodalite flash finally worked, after a couple of misfires. Re-seated the batteries, and cleaned the socket contacts out with vinegar. It is now firing away on both units, which have built in flash sync terminals.

The heyday of Kodak Brownies benefited from the brilliant industrial design of Arthur Crapsey, and employed the amazingly durable bakelite finish. Clean these up with 50% ammonia and hydrogen peroxide for the optics, and a light coat of WD-40 on the bakelite, and spray a little on the machine screws while they are out. The cameras look like new afterwards.

Wait, you ask, this is a Polaroid blog, I thought? Kodak? I think that every camera collection needs at least one Brownie. Make it 2. The Hawkeye also came with the #13 close up lens, for portraits.

Anyways, going to play with it this weekend, and hope to post a few results next week. The Kodalite flash unit was color balanced with the blue flashguard from a parts-only Polaroid #268 flashgun, which fits the reflector perfectly. So, there is some Polaroid.

Until then, thanks Arthur Crapsey, and George Eastman. Some great things take longer than an instant.

Instant Connections – Panopticon Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, MA- One of the oldest fine art photography galleries in the U.S, The Panopticon Gallery, this month is hosting an exhibit, curated by Jim Fitts, entitled “Instant Connections”. Original Polaroids by William Wegman (the dogs dressed as people), Elsa Dorfman and John Reuter (masters of the 20×24 Polaroid Land Cameras), and yes, Andy Warhol, are all on display. These masterworks are on display, and for sale. The Warhols, taken with the Polaroid Big Shot, are selling for $10,000 each. The portraits are of Joan Collins, Maria Shriver, Pia Zadora (huh?), and Gale Smith. They were taken from 1977 through 1986.

Glorious Warhol Big Shot Portraits

Glorious Warhol Big Shot Portraits

Warhol, For $10,000 US A Piece.

Warhol, For $10,000 US A Piece.

I didn’t manage to get a shot of my favorite, a 20×24 taken of a vintage Barbie Doll, by the great David Levinthal. The colors absolutely pop. And a sense of irony, given the popularity of the Barbie Polaroid 600 camera. Remember that one?

My other favorite was taken by Marie Cosindas, former Polaroid Corporation consultant and a great Polaroid large format photographer in her own right. It is of Warhol himself, with two Factory Girls, made in The Factory in 1966. Given the subject matter and location, and the perfect exposure and composition, maybe one of the best “bargains” on the show, at $3000-

Andy Warhol And The Factory Girls, Marie Cosindas, The Factory, 1966

Andy Warhol And The Factory Girls, Marie Cosindas, The Factory, 1966

In Boston, or visiting? This exhibit, on through May 2nd, is truly a must see for all Polaroid admirers. Truly awe-inspiring.