The Canals Of Lowell

Near Tsongas Arena, Nikon FE2, 50mm f/1.4 Ai, Ilford FP4

Near Tsongas Arena, Nikon FE2, 50mm f/1.4 Ai, Ilford FP4 Plus

The canal system in historic Lowell, MA is managed by the National Park Service, and is part of the Lowell National Historical Park. Its origins go back to about 1821 or so, when the canal system was technically part of East Chelmsford. Clearly the city of Lowell made a beautiful little purchase.

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Spectacular photographic subjects, and contrast.

Water moves through the canals at breathtaking speed and power.

Water moves through the canals at breathtaking speed and power.

This wedding party along the canal, en route to the banks of the canal, was too fun to resist. They were apparently running behind, as a photographer was already set and ready to go. Lucky the FE2 was choosing some fast shutter speeds while in Aperture Priority-

Wedding Party

Wedding Party

The remainder of the roll was shot using the 80-200mm Zoom Nikkor. But the 50 proved a great choice for these frames. Results from the zoom to come.

NOTE: Regretfully, I did not make it to this year’s Lowell Folk Festival, which is usually photography heaven. I hope to capture some of the spirit and flavor of this beautiful city, in this entry, and the ones to come.

UMass Lowell

I grew up near Lowell, MA. I love the city’s history, culture, and architecture. One place I have never really visited, aside from a brief visit while attending another college, was The University of Lowell, which is now known as UMass Lowell. It, like the city, is a wonderful mix of old and new. I shot this roll of Ilford FP4 Plus midday with the Nikon FE2, 50mm f/1.4 Ai, and a Hoya yellow filter, semi-stand developed in Rodinal. Here is some of the old-

House

Allen House

The entrance certainly has been remodeled, but the charm has been maintained-

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Entrance

This statue of French composer Claude Debussy stands in front of one of the libraries. What his relation was to the city, or the university, I have not a clue. Mathematical structuring, maybe?

Debussy

Debussy

On to the new-

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The Commonwealth spares little expense when it comes to college and university libraries. O’Leary Library seen here. Debussy stands guard over this one.

Believe it or not, Saturday summer construction was taking place on the other side of campus.

Construction was taking place on this Saturday, just beyond this science courtyard.

Construction was taking place on this Saturday, just beyond this science courtyard.

This abandoned cap was too good to resist photographing. It hangs at the entrance to the above courtyard.

Is this your hat?

Is this your hat?

Maybe not as charming of a classic New England campus as, say, Fitchburg State, UMass Lowell does have some of it’s engineering pedigree still visible. What college engineering student isn’t speeding through on a bicycle?

Parked right next to the tree.

Parked right next to the tree was this vintage Huffy 3-Speed.

A nice campus. But as fun as it was to photograph, not the same as photographing your alma mater. Of course, I am a bit biased here. Colleges and universities have some great visuals, for sure.

On The Road To Gardner

I recently took a road trip through Hubbardston, en route to a flea market, which, as it turns out, is only open on Sunday mornings. My plan was to drive through Hubbardston, hit the flea market, grab something to eat, and then shoot a couple of rolls in Gardner, the furniture capital of the U.S. As the flea market would have to wait another day, I decided to look for something, anything, on the way to Gardner, that was worthy of burning a few frames. I hit the mother lode.

Vintage rubber- old BF Goodrich tires, with lots of meat still on them.

Vintage rubber- old BF Goodrich tires, with lots of meat still on them.

These old, destroyed trucks, were parked in front of an old, seemingly abandoned shack. As the F2 was loaded up with a fresh roll of FP4 Plus, and mounted with the fast 50 and Hoya yellow filter, the timing and serendipity could not be any better. I almost left the house intending to shoot Portra 160 and 400.Beautiful emulsions, but the results just would not have turned out the same.

Industrial decay at its very best.

Industrial decay at its very best.

How these beautiful machines could be sitting here, seemingly untouched for decades, boggles the mind.

This is thick, thick glass.

This is thick, thick glass.

Looking closer through the cracked glass, what is left of a once beautiful interior starts to become visible.

Imagine what it must have been like to be behind this steering wheel.

Imagine what it must have been like to be behind this steering wheel.

I was a bit hesitant coming into such scenery to photograph, as the F2 meter is, well, decades old, It proved itself more than capable, and handled the high contrast infinitely better than expected.

Despite being stripped of its vinyl and wood, paneling and seats, the interior truly was a breathtaking site.

Despite being stripped of its vinyl and wood, paneling and seats, the interior truly was a breathtaking site.

These two vehicles almost seemed like they were posing, begging to be photographed. Somehow, color C41 or E6 film would not have worked nearly as well. The scene was readily made for B&W film. Maybe Portra would have been nice to capture the reddish hues of the rust. But FP4 really brings the tonality of the scene to life.

Bed loaded with fenders and panels.

Bed loaded with fenders and panels.

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Hard to believe wiring of this thick gauge even existed back then.

Reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, before Caracticus  Potts did his magical restoration.

Reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, before Caracticus Potts did his magical restoration.

The grill metal almost looked like prison bars up close…

Decades of New England weather will do this. But these trucks will likely be out here, and continue to age beautifully, for decades to come.

Decades of New England weather will do this. But these trucks will likely be out here, and continue to age beautifully, for decades to come.

If I was not so hesitant to keep a camera, film, and a lens in the trunk, I’d keep a camera with me wherever I went. Just for moments like this. You never know what you can find along the road.

Wide Reflections

A popular photographic trend, similar in tone to the “Camera of the month”, or “365” projects, has been “one camera, one lens”. As my widest Nikkor lens for 35mm full frame is a 28mm, and I do not shoot with it that often, I decided to get it onto the F3 and walk around Clinton, MA for a day. I do a lot of urban landscape, so thought that this lens might make for an interesting tool. It certainly did. The lighting was contrasty, and there were a lot of fair weather clouds. I scored a batch of beautiful cold stored Kodak Plus X online. Yes, it has the characteristic Kodak film curl, making scanning a challenge. But the grain and tone of this film is so gorgeous. Well, it is still a favorite, even though it’s gone forever. Also put on a yellow filter.

For Sale

For Sale

Window displays, and reflections, can be a lot of fun to photograph, and can give the light meter a lot to do. The heavily center weighted F3 metering system was more than up to it.

Notice how the buildings on the other side of the street got metered so nicely in the reflection.

Notice how the buildings on the other side of the street got metered so nicely in the reflection.

I have never fully bought into these types of self governed photographic assignments. They can be somewhat rigid, or restrictive, in nature. But, I did find that it improved how I see with wide angle. And it shattered my misconception of a wide angle lens solely as a “get everything in” sweeping landscape lens. It is capable of doing so much more.

Love how even the reflected bright blue sky of the day got properly metered and exposed.

Love how even the reflected bright blue sky of the day got properly metered and exposed.

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This might be my favorite shot from the roll.

I am posting these to my Flickr feed, along with some great urban landscape of an old building where a consignment occupies part of the space. But these reflections shots, in wide angle? Can’t get enough of them. And yes, Kodak Plus X is not coming back. But so happy I have plenty more in cold storage. It’s great stuff.

80-200 Zoom Nikkor- The Lens That Changed How Photographers Looked At Zooms

80-200 on the FM

80-200 on the FM

I have never been a huge fan of zooms. The convenience of a bunch of focal lengths usually comes at a price, most notably, aperture speed. There are a lot of other compromises as well. Size, convenience of use, moving parts, more elements, and sometimes, inferior glass. These were some of the issues Nikon photographers wrestled well into the 60’s. in 1969, Nikon introduced the first version of their 80-200 f/4.5 Zoom Nikkor. It single handedly changed the 35mm world , and perception of zoom lenses, maybe forever.

This lens was scooped up at this Spring’s Photographica for a whopping $15.00. It has the original user’s name engraved on it, and like virtually all “push pull” Nikkor zooms of this vintage, it suffers from all out, full blown, lens creep. The same grip you use to zoom in and out is also used to focus, and there is an internal piece of felt that almost always broke down. If held upside down, the lens barrel will slide right down to 80mm, with virtually no resistance at all. I rectified that with a couple of pieces of gaffers tape. And, sorry Richard, I painted out your name. A little bit of cleaning of the front and rear element, and a yellow Hoya filter, and ready to fly. This version is the “C” version, indicating additional coatings of the glass. And, it was originally pre-Ai, but factory Ai converted, as evident by the second smaller aperture scale to accommodate ADR (Aperture Direct Readout), and the Ai coupling. Richard broke off the rabbit ears, so no metering on the F or F2. But F3, FE2, FM, and yes, D300? Meters and indexes perfectly.

80 200 D300

Mounts, indexes, and meters on the D300.

The lens is insanely sharp, almost too much so. The maximum aperture of f/4.5 really turned out not at all to be as bad as I thought it would be. Even at f/4.5, it is crisp and punchy. And, 400 speed film almost seems made for it. It is built like a tank externally. All metal, decades before plastic invaded the consumer Nikon zooms, and photographers had to pay a hefty premium for successors, such as the 70-200 f/2.8 VR. This was certainly the lens that kicked the more professional zooms off, and back in the day, this was the one photographers lusted for. Easy to see why. A few samples from last month, in historic Concord, MA, with the F3. Semi-stand developed in Rodinal-

Minuteman Statue, Concord, MA The lens aperture was stopped down to a fairly small aperture here.

Minuteman Statue, Concord, MA The lens aperture was stopped down to a fairly small aperture here.

Beautiful tree in historic Concord graveyard downtown, wide open aperture.

Beautiful tree in historic Concord graveyard downtown, wide open aperture.

The sharpness and speed of Ilford HP5 is a real nice match for this lens.

The sharpness and speed of Ilford HP5 is a real nice match for this lens. Old North Bridge.

Get one of these lenses, get one that is cheap. Like all older lenses, check for fungus, element separation, scratches, rubbing and cleaning marks, and general condition. But I don’t think I’d pay more than $20-30 for one. And have a blast with it. Not all zooms are bad.

More From The Nikkormat

From Last November, Elm Park, Kodak 400 BW CN film (now extinct).

From Last November, Elm Park, Kodak 400 BW CN film (now extinct).

A couple of rolls into the Nikkormat FT3, and I truly believe there is some kind of magic to the way it exposes. Yes, it is a tried and true 60/40 (60% weighted to the center of the frame)  classic Nikon metering system. But what I shot, at midday, was metered with such accuracy and precision. Much more so than I expected. It was indeed a very pleasant surprise.

Leaves in water, starting to ice over, before this year's historic winter.

Leaves in water, starting to ice over, before this year’s historic winter.

I shot this roll with Kodak BW400 CN, their truly gorgeous C-41 chromogenic black and white film, which is no longer made. Not sure how missed this film is, but for sharpness, fineness of grain, contrast, and tonal range, I really loved this stuff.

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The humble beginnings of the 2014-2015 ice age.

As for the Nikkormat FT-3, it has a home, and a fondness in my collection, right up there with the very best of the manual focus Nikons. Even if the Nikon name is indeed in small print on the back.

FT3- The Last Of The Nikkormats

I have always been curious about owning a Nikkormat. Always, since I can remember. To me, they represented a great “entry point” into the line of Nikkor lenses, and like the professional F-series, built like tanks, and all metal. One can only assume that “Nikkor”, and “Automatic” were the inspiration for the line, even though there is little to nothing that is automatic about them. In the dawn of SLR photography, “Automatic” meant an automatic diaphragm, and/or automatic mirror return. Otherwise, the camera is completely mechanical, manual exposure, manual focus, manual everything.

The earlier models (FT, FTN, etc) used mercury batteries for the light meter. Yes, of course there are workarounds and options, but I wanted something “easier”, without having to become another science project. The FT3 takes easily purchased silver oxide cells. And, the last of the line, the FT3 offer Automatic Indexing (Ai) coupling to the light meter. Very cool!

The first FT3 I received from KEH, a chrome model, had a few issues with it. The camera looked gorgeous. But, the back would not stay closed. And, the protective eyepiece, which keeps dust out of the prism optics, and makes photographing with glasses or sunglasses easier, was missing. Back to KEH it went for exchange. They replaced it with the less common black model.

FT-3, with accompanying everready case.

FT-3, with accompanying everready case, and mounted with an Ai 50 f/4. No rabbit ears necessary! 

From what I have read, this body had a rather brief run, and while not “rare” by any means, is a lot less common than the beautiful FM which quickly replaced it. A few quirks. The highly accurate, and easy to use light meter, is “upside down”. When you think you are over exposing, you are under exposing. and vice versa. it takes getting used to. The frame counter is gorgeous, and encased in a glass window which magnifies it, and makes it very easy to read. My guess is that Nikon took some cues from companies such as Leica, and used smaller, lighter torque, and less expensive gears for the counter, and gave it this to add a touch of class, while keeping costs down. The camera is indeed a lot of fun. and may have one of the most accurate 35mm light meters I have used, behind maybe only the F3 and FE2.

Here are a few results, Kodak Tri-X, developed in Rodinal 1:35. I love the exposures this camera can produce. Getting the needle to center, at what the camera calculates or guesses to be an accurate exposure, uses the tried and true center-weighted system. It still works, quite nicely. Amazingly, the Nikkormat line was designed for advanced amateurs who could not spring for the large upfront premium to purchase an F, or F2, and as a “backup” body to those two cameras. It was considered a “less expensive” entry to use Nikkor glass. Trust me, there is nothing “cheap” to this camera.

Taken last November in Melrose, MA, across from Hunt's Photo.

Taken last November in Melrose, MA, across from Hunt’s Photo.


Park

Ensign Thomas Lynde plaque, at the entrance to the park. 


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Old Water Fountain

I recently had surgery on my right hand, so left handed typing and working the mouse is indeed a challenge. But really want to start blogging again, and sharing more of what I love to do. I will.

Baklava

Some more shots from last month’s Grecian Festival. Yes, the Hasselblad is heavy, but well worth the workout. Lesson learned- next time, come with just the body, one lens, and magazines and film in cargo shorts pockets, or a vest, as opposed to a kittled out Hasselblad bag. The lighter the better when walking through large crowds.

Little Greek Tavern

Little Greek Tavern

 

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Placing an order.

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Greek and American flags, flying high.

100 speed film under the tents of the festival did indeed prove to be a challenge. with a little patience, and some good metering thanks to the Gossen Luna Pro F, I was able to pull it off. Really happy that the semi-stand development captured the light streaks bouncing off the tent ceiling as I remember it.  But I did also notice faint streaks from the stand development (lower left). I may try a longer presoak, and see if that serves as a remedy.

Leaving Lowell- Last Frames

Potted Flora

Potted Flora

Ironically, these last three frames from the roll do not have much in common thematically, other than having been taken in Lowell, with the Hasselblad. As I begin to (slowly) move back towards Nikon 35mm photography, in hindsight, I might have really tried to physically push the Hasselblad towards its limit. It really is not a street photography camera at all, although I have seen outstanding examples online of Hasselblad urban frames. As much as I love 35mm, though, this really was a fun afternoon, with a workout as a bonus.

Walking the cobblestone.

Walking the cobblestone.

Nothing like closing out the roll of Pan F Plus with a little “art”….

Art Crime

Art Crime

How can art be thought of as a crime in this beautiful city? I must return here, soon. After the next projects. Soon, exploring a new developer for the first time, and refurbishing an old friend.

Some Of The Architecture Of Lowell

Coming to the completion of my photowalk in Lowell, the buildings and architecture are just about irresistible. The 80mm Planar was a great choice, as its virtually distortion-free optics made for some nice straight lineage.

Historic St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Kirk Street

Historic St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Kirk Street

The inconvenience of going to the Merrimack Company’s school house twice a Sunday led to the building of “the big Sunday School” in 1830 on the property where the French house now stands. The cost was $568.84 raised mostly by subscription. By 1837 the number of pupils increased to 335 and the was enlarged. Two years later the number had risen to 556 and a second school house was built on the Church property between the Church and the Rectory approximately where the Chapel now stands. By 1842 there were 694 pupils and then over the following years as other denominations organized and established their own places of worship, the number of pupils at St. Anne’s Sunday School declined to 250.-St Anne’s Website

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Parrish House of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church

The Parrish House of St. Anne’s might be one of Lowell’s most beautiful structures. One venue of the Lowell Folk Festival takes place on these grounds. Moving downtown…

Bon Marché

Bon Marché

For generations, the Bon Marché offered six floors of wares to Downtown Lowell.  Below ground, on its basement level, the store sold kitchenware, groceries, and electrical household equipment.  Walk in from the street and you would find  hosiery, gloves, and shoes on its first floor.  One floor up, dresses, coats, and corsets were sold.  The third floor featured the gift shop, mirrors, and dinnerware.  Music was the theme on the fourth floor, where radios, Victrolas, and records could be found.  The top floor included the beauty shop, barber shop, and the store’s executive offices.  The Bon Marché offered it all. -ForgottenNewEngland.com

To say that walking these streets with the Hasselblad is fun might be a serious understatement. It is medium format photography nirvana.