Green Machines

I photographed these two automobiles, once again, at the Block Party in Fitchburg. I’ve read a lot online about how Kodak Portra 400 renders the color green. Personally, I think it does a fantastic job. The Plymouth Road Runner appeared a few blog entries back, well, it’s hood did, anyways.

Wile E. Coyote, and The Road Runner.

Wile E. Coyote, and The Road Runner.

This custom hot rod, which you can see behind the Road Runner above, had a much more colorful, brighter green. Still rendered beautifully by Portra. The chrome of the engine just popped so nicely. The automobile looked just like a vintage Hot Wheels car from the 1960’s.

Hot Rod

Hot Rod

I don’t think either Portra, or FujiColor, are particularly accurate films. FujiColor would have likely exaggerated the greens either more than Portra. But, they are both gorgeous looking films. Really is hard to go wrong with either one. But Portra really worked out nicely here.

Symphonic

“The Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra is Worcester’s premiere resident orchestra and was founded in 1947. It regularly performs at its home, Tuckerman Hall, as well as at Worcester’s Mechanics  Hall and Hanover Theatre. During the summer, the Orchestra performs  a highly popular series of free, outdoor concerts in Worcester’s Institute and East Parks before tens of thousands of  concert-goers.  The Orchestra has accompanied world-class touring shows such as Mannheim Steamroller and such artists as Andrea Bocelli and the late Luciano Pavarotti  at Worcester’s DCU Center.” –WorcesterMass.org

As in previous years, I arrived early. This was the annual family concert performance at Institute Park, at WPI. I think the best time to photograph, and get close to the shell, is during sound check and rehearsal. This year’s family concert was moved back a day, due to weather concerns. A warm, humid evening, but otherwise, perfect conditions. As has long been my inspiration, the great Robert Capa, “if your photographs are not good enough, you’re not close enough.” I brought my QL17 G-III, and my Nikon D300, with the 70-200 f/2.8. I soon put the Nikon back into the trunk, as it really is brutal to carry. So, the Canonet came with me right up to the performance stage. Yes, a 40mm lens. Not quite wide, not quite normal. But it really proved to be a handy focal length up close, taking just enough in.

Conductor Myron Romanul gets sound checks with audio crew.

Conductor Myron Romanul gets sound checks with audio crew.

Warming up the strings.

Warming up the strings.

Sharing some laughs during rehearsal.

Sharing some laughs during rehearsal.

Vocal soloists were Jane Shivick and Richard Monroe.

Vocal soloists were Jane Shivick and Richard Monroe.

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Strings tuned, ready to go.

Some Technical Notes:

QL17 G-III mounted with the rare Canonet 5 street photography hood.

QL17 G-III mounted with the rare Canonet 5 street photography hood.

After a bit of a search online, I was able to locate an excellent condition Canonet Hood #5. This very nicely designed hood has a tension screw for mounting onto the front of the 40mm lens, and has a flat top and bottom. I find using it helps to focus the yellow target range of the rangefinder. It very discreetly obstructs the viewfinder, and was designed as such. If it really does cut down on flare or not is somewhat debatable, as the coating on the lens is great. It also supposedly does not influence exposure measured by the electric eye, when shooting in shutter priority mode. But it does look cool, and will be handy in street photography. This concert was my first time using the hood.

Captive Subjects

Sometimes, I will photograph mannequins in downtown boutique storefronts. They can be almost like photographing people, but, they won’t get uncomfortable, or feel awkward having their photo taken. More importantly, they can be great test subjects for exposure, contrast, color accuracy, and composition. And, the windows they are behind can add some great imagery through reflections. These were photographed late in the day, in downtown Fitchburg. Shack’s was the store. The Canonet QL17 G-III, and Portra 400.

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I think they were going for a late 60’s Mad Men era look here.

Sometimes, you never know what you’ll get in the reflections. As in the shot below.

That's a street sweeper being reflected on the glass.

That’s a street sweeper being reflected on the glass.

The following shot was taken with an almost wide open aperture.

Born To Be Wild

Born To Be Wild

The street curb showed up as a reflection here.

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Achieving shallow DOF is somewhat tricky on the Canonet. When it works, it really looks nice.

Yes, they are pale. But, they do keep their poses.

Bel Air Sedan, Nomad Wagon- 1955

Before finishing off the roll of Portra 400 at the Block Party that I had in the Canonet, I had to photograph these magnificent 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air’s, a sedan and a Nomad station wagon. Complete with tail fins, beautifully restored and buffed baby blue paint, and shiny chrome, they stood out in the later afternoon/early evening, as the sun started to go down. The 40mm focal length really worked out beautifully, and allowed me to get close, but still take a lot of the cars in. And the colors just seemed to pop. Photos can’t begin to do them justice.

Speed Limit 25?

Speed Limit 25? Bel Air Sedan

No clue what was under this hood- guessing a small block V8. Yes, it was a two door station wagon!

Gorgeous, fully chromed front grille.

Gorgeous, fully chromed front grille.

The sedan had this amazing hood ornament, reminiscent of the jet age, foreshadowing the space era-

This hood ornament is true artwork. Try to even build something like this efficiently in 2013.

This hood ornament is true artwork. Try to even build something like this efficiently in 2013.

I’m not sure if station wagons might be the first choice for a car collector. Then again, this is no ordinary station wagon. Even the back tailgate is beautiful, right down to the “Nomad’ emblem.

Easy cargo access.

Easy cargo access.

Beautiful vintage cars really are a blast to photograph. They can show off your lens, and film quality, so nicely. I could have used a whole roll on these amazing pieces of Americana.

Classic Automobiles

I’ve attempted photographing vintage autos before, and featured them on the blog. These were in black and white, such as last year’s Summer Stroll. A gentleman at a camera show earlier this year told me that he found color film photography to be “flat, and uninteresting”. I recommended that he try, of course, Portra. The colors here really make me think that I gave him the perfect response. From last month’s Block Party, with the Canon AE-1, and the 50mm f/1.4 FD. I know very little about vintage automobiles, other than what I have read, and from collecting Matchbox’s and Hot Wheels as a kid. So, I really tried to photograph what caught my eye. Any caption corrections or clarifications are much appreciated.

Plymouth Road Runner hood and grill.

Plymouth Road Runner hood and grill.

American Motors AMX. Gorgeous paint, colors that no film could do any justice to.

American Motors AMX. Gorgeous paint, colors that no film could do any justice to.

Side view.

Side view.

How can one of these shows not have at least one Ford Thunderbird?

How can one of these shows not have at least one Ford Thunderbird?

This Galaxie 500 convertable had a meticulously restored and maintained interior.

This Galaxie 500 convertable had a meticulously restored and maintained interior.

Chrysler Indy 500 pace car, with Hemi engine.

Chrysler Indy 500 pace car, with Hemi engine.

Next time, should such subjects present themselves, I’d love to go wide, maybe with a 24mm, or 28mm. And, close. But the 50 really does give a nice perspective, and brings out the clean lines, and beautifully sculpted body panels, with little, if any, lens distortion.

Party Crasher- Street Photography With An SLR

The Block Party in Fitchburg that I blogged about a couple of days ago seemed custom-made for a rangefinder, such as the Canonet. As I am relatively new to calculation of hyperfocal distance, and rangefinder photography in general, I also brought the much larger Canon AE-1, also loaded up with Portra 400. While not by any means a stealthy street photography tool, the shutter priority feature really helped with some of the more fluid shots, such as this street juggler. Here, at an exposure of 1/30th of a second:

Go slow for these shots, and motion is easily conveyed.

Go slow for these shots, and motion is easily conveyed.

I think the next shot was at the same relatively slow speed. While many do not suggest hand holding an SLR with such a slow exposure, it really can work out nicely if you do not want to freeze the action, and want trails along with the moving objects, while keeping the more static ones sharp.

He also showed up in Monday's blog, with a crowd around him.

He also showed up in Monday’s blog, with a crowd around him.

A few “dignitaries” were at the party- such as Congresswoman Niki Tsongas-

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Rep. Tsongas speaking with reconfigured 3rd District residents.

Mayor Lisa Wong of Fitchburg is one of the youngest mayors in Massachusetts-

Mayor Lisa Wong watches kids make sand castles, with their moms.

Mayor Lisa Wong (center) watches kids make sand castles, with their moms.

Finally, while not likely qualifying as a dignitary, I saw this guy at last year’s Block Party. I am not sure if I got any photographs of him then, but was glad to see him again this year. He sings, and plays the accordion. And claims to be driving one of the longest driven Ford Model A’s in existence, and drives it every day-

Playing the accordion, on the bumper of his Model A.

Playing the accordion, on the bumper of his Model A.

I don’t know if he is over 100 years old, or his tire is (see the sign, lower left). His Model A can’t be, as this model was built by Ford from 1927-1931.

Block Party

Earlier this month, I took in a Block Party in Fitchburg, MA. As part of its Civic Days 4th of July celebration every year, the entire downtown of the city is closed off, and local vendors sell food, crafts, as well as participate in various activities. Of course, there are the standard vintage car exhibits, and fun for the kids.

This year, I decided to take two Canon cameras, the Canonet, and the AE-1.  Both loaded up with Portra 400. For candid street photography, I chose the zone focusing approach on the Canonet, f/11, at a range of 10 feet. I think I used exposures of 1/250th of a second. It was a heck of a lot of fun to try. Here are a few of the shots from that roll:

Taking in the various vendors and sites.

Taking in the various vendors and sites.

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Chatting amidst the crowd.

Shooting from the hip with a rangefinder is indeed a very different experience from that of SLR photography. You are not “limited” by the physical constraints of the viewfinder. And, of course, it is a much quieter experience, without that traditional mirror slap.

Family stroll.

Family stroll.

The use of color for street photography does seem odd. But as I have yet to shoot B&W with the Canonet, and the local CVS has been doing a great job scanning my Portra film. And, at less than $5/roll with scans, it is pretty hard to go wrong. There are rumors out there that CVS is going to eliminate many film machines from their stores. So, maybe I’m shooting color like a maniac for a reason.

Watching a juggler.

Watching a juggler.

This could be a very addictive genre. Once you get some cool shots, you want to keep getting more and more keepers. At the preset aperture distance, and focal length I’ve chosen here, chances are pretty good that I will get something in focus. The challenge is getting a good composition, while not using the viewfinder. But when you do, it can be very rewarding indeed.

Finding Range- More Thoughts On The Canonet QL17 G-III

Shooting with a small rangefinder can be liberating, as the photographer is not bogged down with bags and bags of camera bodies, lenses, accessories. After shooting several rolls of film with the Canonet QL17 G-III, I’ve realized that most of the time I have spent out in the field has been limited creatively, and physically, carrying gear. Add a D-SLR to the mix, and well, you’ve got a workout regimen.

The camera has some really neat “hidden” features. It has, in the “A” mode, an exposure lock. You can half press the shutter button, and the meter will lock in the aperture it thinks will result in the best exposure for a given scene. You could maybe meter off of a gray card, or, in a high contrast scene, maybe meter for the sky, lock the value, recompose, and then shoot.

This is not really a “feature” as such, but as seen by the below exposure, double exposures are indeed possible. after getting to the last frame, I was able to somehow wind the film. Thinking the shutter might not fire, I gave it a go, and it did. This last frame of the roll resulted in a very cool double exposure-

Double exposure, Canonet QL17 G-III, Portra 400.

Double exposure, Canonet QL17 G-III, Portra 400.

I see lots and lots of reviews online, from people stating that the outstanding 40mm f/1.7 Canon Lens is not “sharp” wide open at f/1.7. Of course, very few lenses are sharp wide open. But this one certainly can yield some great results. No flash, here at f/1.7-

Shot with only available light, wide open at f/1.7.

Shot with only available light, wide open at f/1.7.

Sharp enough to even see the rivets on the door trim, and the labels on the pipes. Yes, Portra is sharp film. But, you can’t have sharp results without sharp glass. There is indeed some corner vignetting, as seen below in the upper left hand corner of the shot-

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Maybe a shadow, but based on the location, and compared to the previous shot, I think it is a vignette.

This art deco elevator is a great way to show off the spectacular results the Canonet is capable of. Like the others, this had very low available light.

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This Car Up

Color C-41 processing can be fast, convenient, and yes, relatively inexpensive. If you find a lab that does a good job, stay with them. In about four years of C-41 processing, I have really only had one roll completely ruined, and the other, well, the colors shifted through some bad chemistry or temperature. I think I am going to have to try some B&W in this camera, and get into the darkroom. Just to mix it up. Portra 400 itself, unfortunately, is getting quite expensive. Might be a good time to dig into the fridge, and pull out some Tri-X. And, hunt down some 48mm filters. Yes, the Canonet is different, in many ways.

The Canon Canonet QL17 G-III – Not “The Poor Man’s Leica”- It’s Better Than That

My Canon Canonet QL17 G-III

My Canon Canonet QL17 G-III

Sitting down to write this blog, after a few weeks off, I thought I was suffering from “Writer’s Block”. I am now realizing that what has been keeping me from updating the blog has been the fact that I’ve been shooting Kodak Portra like a maniac. With what? My second rangefinder, the Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, 1972 vintage. I’ve shot with, and blogged about, rangefinders in the past- 35mm Argus, and yes, the Polaroid Land Cameras do indeed use rangefinder focusing. Maybe the most refined in a series of Canon Canonet’s, and the most compact, this seems to be the most sought after model. The original Canonets are surprisingly large, almost SLR size. yet, were the rage when introduced in the early 60’s. It has a sharp, fast, bright 40mm f/1.7 fixed lens, perfect for street photography. It has, like the Canon Ftb, Canon’s proprietary Quick Load (QL) feature, which was the precursor to  automatic DX coding loading on 35mm cartridges. Simply pull the leader across the film plane, line it up over the sprocket advance, and to the red tab. Close the back, advance and shoot a couple of blanks, and the camera is ready to rock.

You can shoot completely manual (unmetered), or, in shutter priority, with an amazingly accurate internal couples light meter, with a CDS cell located right on the filter ring. One might not think that light meters of this vintage are accurate. It really is. Limitation? The fastest film you can load is ASA/ISO 800. And, the leaf shutter’s fastest shutter speed is 1/500th/sec. Portra 160, or 400, are great choices. I haven’t even shot any black and white with it, but am looking forward to shooting some Tri-X. I have the Canolite D electronic flash with it. I’ve tested it, it works, but have not shot with it. It is fully automatic, coupled to the rangefinder distancing. Ingenious.

The camera takes the “dreaded” 625 Mercury cells. Really, this is not that big of a deal. Wein Cells work great. They were designed as a direct replacement, and deliver a constant, correct voltage. Keep a couple of spares handy. I am thinking they would last a few months with regular use. But, remember, this is a mechanical leaf shutter. No batteries needed, unless that is, you choose “A”. Even that mode is smart- it locks the shutter in the event of under, or over exposure, into pre designated red zones, smaller than f/16, or larger than f/1.7.  Don’t lose the Canonet lens cap- it essentially shuts off the light meter sensor in “A” when you cap the lens.

I’ve read a lot of reports online from folks complaining that the lens is “not sharp” at f/1.7. It is. And, to them, well, be happy that you can shoot the camera at all at such a wide open aperture. Not too many lenses are “tack sharp” at f/1.7. Not even some Leica’s. it maybe has the form factor of the Leica CL, but remember, this is a fixed lens rangefinder. There were many similar models from Yashica, Minolta, Olympus, Konica. I know I am leaving a few out. But, you get the idea. It is a different class.

Speaking of which, this camera is often referred to, incorrectly, as “the poor man’s Leica”. Not a fair generalization. The camera is better than that. Not better than a Leica, no, I am not saying that at all. But better than a poor man’s Leica. It is a camera in its own class. What to look out for? The usual stuff. But, most notoriously? The light seals will, no question, be complete goo. If you are buying from someone online, and they say the seals are in great shape, do not believe them. I replaced mine with a kit, available online for about 9 dollars. It is a very easy job.

OK, how are the results? I love this camera. A few samples here, from the first roll, Portra 400:

Vintage mailbox, in an office building lobby.

Vintage mailbox, in an office building lobby.

Lobby columns.

Lobby columns.

Street performer, at a road race, performing for the runners at the finish line.

Street performer, at a road race, performing for the runners at the finish line.

Heading for the home stretch.

Heading for the home stretch.

Strike a pose...

Strike a pose…

I’ve said it before- I love this camera.

Found Along The Tracks

A few weeks ago, I took these shots along the railroad tracks near the office. There are always interesting things to photograph near the tracks, aside the trains and railways themselves. I also wanted to “test out” the higher shutter speeds of the F3. Of course, this was a moot experiment, as I ended up sending the camera back to California, for a brand new shutter. Portra 400, at box speed, and the 50 f/1.4 Ai.

What is a Charlie Card?

What is a Charlie Card?

You ask, what is a Charlie Card? The Massachusetts public transportation system is known as the MBTA. A song that came out years ago by The Kingston Trio was “M.T.A.”, as the system was called in the 1950’s. It told the story of Charlie, who was stuck on the system. It is a much improved system, but yes, the prepaid subway/bus/train card is now known amusingly as a Charlie Card.

Graffiti

Graffiti

Thinking this might be some kind of gang symbol or communication. Then again, this is in Concord, Mass, hardly the hotbed of gangland crime.

Pipe

Pipe

Years of corrosion and rust can make for a great subject. This pipe, I am guessing, has been exposed to the elements since The Kingston Trio sang about Charlie. The sharpness of Portra really does work out wonderfully for these types of shots. Of course, sharp glass always helps. But a subject like this would look maybe too sharp digitally. I’m going to be shooting some Fuji 400 soon, a whole new color palette and characteristics. Portra does really bring out warm oranges and reds. Not like Ektar, of course, but still warm and reddish. Thinking Fuji emulsions are more towards the green.