Archive for November, 2009

I shot two rolls of B&W film on Thanksgiving using two different cameras. One with bounce flash attached, the other with available light and high speed film. I prefer not to use flash, but it’s tolerable with a bounce head and reflector.

This shot is Maddy. The arm belongs to her uncle, my son-in-law. I was testing a film I hadn’t used before (Fuji Acros) and I blew the highlights in most of the shots on that roll. I think I had the flash output settings too high for close-ups. I learned something here.

Here’s Maddy again but this time I used one of my other cameras with my Pentax screw mount 50mm 1.4 lens wide open. The lighting is natural and the large aperture blurs the background nicely. The camera was loaded with Tri-X shot at an ISO of 1250. That’s pretty fast.

This one is my favorite and is the last photo I took that night. My wife and I think this is Livvy. Tracy can’t tell the difference between the twins sometimes and she’s with them all day, every day during the week. The pretty lady holding on to Livvy is her aunt Erin, my oldest daughter.

Livvy is intent on my sister’s little dog. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the dog. It was funny. I like the lighting in this photo. I like it a lot and I’ll be shooting more available light photos with Tri-X, especially with my 50mm 1.4 Takumar. It’s a great lens.

I think the Acros is too contrasty for the way I use bounce flash. I’ve had better luck with Ilford FP4+ (a great film) and flash. Flash is a pain because it’s one more piece of equipment to drag around and no matter how you slice it, even bouncing the flash, you can’t possibly match the natural look of available light.

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I found these two nice flower shots while rummaging through my files the other day. What they were doing in a file folder of photos from my granddaughter’s birthday from four years ago is a puzzle. Jeez, I really do need to do more housecleaning.

I do remember photographing this magnificent iris one summer day. I’ve never seen an iris this color before or since. Some nice warm colors are welcome this time of year.

The velvety reds and the deep greens of this photo are my way of welcoming the holiday season. I have no idea what kind of flower this is. I asked my wife and she couldn’t tell me either. I’m comfortable enjoying without naming. I forget names anyway so it’s much simpler if I don’t know the name in the first place.

I use names like red flower I, yellow-orange flower, big red flower as file names all the time. Better than nothing I suppose.

Someone will surely know the identity of our mystery guest. Then we’ll all know. Meanwhile, let’s just inhale the virtual fragrances and  have fun.

Be sure to visit Lisa’s Chaos for more Macro Monday photos. Thank you Lisa. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share.

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They stand patiently, underground in the 13th Street subway-surface station, waiting for their trolley. Four different surface trolley lines in West Philadelphia converge at 40th street and plunge into a subway tunnel on their way to center city. A fifth line enters the tunnel further on.

The system loops around city hall to 13th street for the return trip back to the surface in West Phila. Each route numbered car stops at their designated place along the platform. These folks all wait their turn, for their route number to come screeching around the final turn into the station while another trolley leaves, passing them in a blur.

I got on this route 34 trolley for the ride home, grabbed a good seat and one last shot of the interior before putting my camera away for the day.

Here’s a photo of a route 34 trolley in my old neighborhood, traveling along the 4500 block of Baltimore avenue. These photos were taken in the early 1970s (1970 or 1971 — I don’t remember which now). The PCC cars ran from the 1940s until 1981 when they were replaced by modern, air conditioned Kawasaki trolleys.

I rode those older cars on three different routes when I was growing up and living in Phila. I remember the heat in the summer and the lack of heat (sometimes) in the winter.

I took the underground photos while on a street shooting excursion. I shouldered my Pentax Spotmatic and stuffed a couple extra rolls of film into my pocket that day. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as street photography. I was simply continuing something I liked doing, something I began when I wandered about the streets of Saigon in 1966.

If I tried photographing in the Phila. subways today, I’d undoubtedly be stopped by the police. Times certainly have changed. I wonder if people have? People going about their daily lives make wonderful subjects. I never once had a problem capturing people on the streets back in the early 1970s.

Stop by The Monochrome Weekend for more great monochrome photography.

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Lockheed C-121 Constellation aka “Connie” on the rain soaked ramp at King Salmon Air Force Station, Alaska sometime in 1964.

I’m finding reflections everywhere these days. Last week, I decided it was about time I sorted and scanned the slides I shot in Alaska during my 1963-1964 tour of duty. When I spotted this image I said “perfect.” I didn’t know I had these photos and was surprised at how much of the Connie was reflected in the puddles in this first shot.

Here’s a closer look at the front of the aircraft. Isn’t she an elegant creature?

And this close in shot shows the distinctive “Connie” tail.

President Eisenhower’s Air Force One was a Connie, the VIP version of course. This elegant aircraft was used by the military as a transport plane and for airborne electronic surveillance (Air Force and Navy). The Constellation was a mainstay long distance aircraft for commercial airlines worldwide from it’s introduction into commercial service in 1945 until pushed aside by the coming of the jets in the 1960s.

I got to ride in one of these beauties once — first class no less. I had just graduated from Air Police Tech School in San Antonio and was on my way home on leave before reporting for my tour in Alaska. When I changed planes at Washington National for the last leg to Phila., there were no more seats in the back of the plane so they bumped me to first class. When you flew military standby you took what you got and I hit the jackpot that day.

These photos, like all my surviving Alaska shots, are on 127 roll film “super slides.” The camera was a simple one but it got the job done. Super slide mounts are the same size as 35 mm slide mounts but the image area is square and much larger. Makes for interesting scans because all but the 35mm area gets cropped out by the slide carrier.

A few of these slides have fungus on them. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The fungus looks like spots to the naked eye, but when scanned and enlarged the fungus is quite obvious. Fortunately there aren’t many spots and the largest was in the sky area so I managed to get rid of it using the clone function.

I thought these vintage color photos would look better in B&W so I converted the scans. I’m pleased with the way they turned out. The photos look pretty good considering they are 45 years old.

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The leaves are gone now. The trees are bare and winter will be here soon. It’s another cloudy, gray “where has the sun gone?” day here in NJ. We could all use a bit of color, so…

I’d like to share this photo I took last month during the peak of the fall season. The view is from my “office” window in the back of the house.

In the mood for more color? How about some yellow to remind us of the warmth of summers past and the promise of summers to come.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite times of the year, filled with fond memories of family and friends. I invite you to share some of my memories: Thanksgiving: Fantasies Versus Realities in hopes that you might think back, smile and remember your own wonderful Thanksgiving holidays. Thanksgiving is all about sharing, remembering and thanking. Thanks to all of you who come to visit and share. I wish you all the happiest Thanksgiving.

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Although I’ve featured photos of each of my six granddaughters in my posts, I’d like you to meet all the ladies at the same time. I’m beginning with the youngest and working my way up. I’ve chosen shots that were taken when the older girls were younger to keep the ages as close together as possible for this series.

Livvy (Olivia) was born about an hour after her twin sister. I took this photo at the twins’ first birthday party the week before last. Livvy was playing peek a boo with me from behind one of her new toys. Her smile is perfection in this shot.

Maddy (Madeline) is the smaller of the two. I still can’t tell them apart. She was sitting on her new riding toy at the party. Julia and Emily were pushing her round and round from one room to another. Can you tell Maddy was having a ball?

Meet Julia, one of the twins’ older sisters. She’s eight now. This photo is and continues to be one of my favorites. Jules is such a bubbly, outgoing child. She’s always been a marvelous subject. Last you saw Julia (the other day), she was climbing onto that swing in my daughter’s yard.

Say Hello to Em (Emily). Em is nine. She’s one of the cousins. I like this softer image. She was leaning on the back of a chair in the family room one day and I managed to catch this spontaneous shot.

Here’s Sara. She celebrated her 10th birthday this month. You met Sara recently when she was reaching for her bubbles. Sara is the big sister to Julia, Maddy and Livvy.

Meg (Megan) just turned twelve in September. Meg and Em are sisters. I remember the day I took this photo. I had my tripod set up taking pictures of infant Emily. I couldn’t resist this photo of Meg surveying her domain and relaxing in her rocking chair.

Am I a lucky guy or what? Family is so important and we have six lovely granddaughters. I don’t have any pictures of Meg as a baby because I only got back into photography when she was about six months past her second birthday. No more excuses for me. I have all the equipment I need and my favorite photo subjects are always doing something interesting.

And now a few technical details about these photos. The photos of the twins were shot with my Nikon N8008s. I used bounce flash with an index card rubber banded to the flash head to illuminate their faces. Great and cheap technique. The photos look so natural. I developed the FP4 film myself. I cropped the 4 x 6 35mm format down to 4 x5 and “fuzzed” the borders to minimize distractions.

I took the photo of Julia with a vintage Pentax Spotmatic I had just won on eBay. The lens is special. It’s a screw mount Super Multicoated Takumar 50mm 1.4. I’ll put this lens up against the best in the world. The Spottie’s built in meter doesn’t work. I got the exposure just right here — no flash and hand held. I used a chromogenic B&W film that I had processed at the local 1-hour lab.

The shot of Emily was taken with Fuji 1600 speed film. I used one of my Nikons but I don’t recall which lens I used. It was probably a 50 mm. Naturally, no flash at that speed. I had the film developed by a lab that could handle B&W film processing. This was before I got back into doing my own processing a few years ago.

The shot of Sara came from the same roll as the bubble shots. I’m sure I was using a portrait lens (probably the 100mm I used to have) with one of my Nikon SLRs. The film was ISO 400 chromogenic and processed by the 1-hour lab.

Chromogenic B&W film uses the same dye based system as color negative film so it can be processed by any lab that can do color. Not quite as sharp as “real” B&W, but it’s great stuff for portraits. I don’t use it any longer because I don’t trust the 1-hour lab techs with my precious negatives.

Megan’s photo was done with one of my Nikons with Chromogenic B&W film also. I dug the negative out and scanned it today (along with the negative for the shot of Emily). I learned a few new tricks that I’ll pass on in another tutorial.

Thanks for stopping by and helping me pay tribute to my favorite grandkids and photo subjects. You’ll be seeing lots more of them. Now that you’ve been properly introduced, it’ll be more fun.

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This rose captivated me as I searched through my slide collection on Sunday morning. I lost myself in the beauty, the color and the forms of this lovely pink rose. I had no choice in the matter.

Like Alice in Wonderland, I was drawn within and whirled round and round. I had no choice. And you won’t either.

Yes. That’s it. Step a little closer. You can’t resist the sheer magnetism of my beauty. You have no choice.

Come closer still and inhale my intoxicating aroma.

Fall within and explore the delicacy of my petals, grow drunk on the sheer pinkness of me. Now I have you — forever mine.

Much as I love black and white photography, I’m not immune to the wondrous colors of nature. This beauty, this pink rose, celebrates color, form, texture. I had no choice in the matter. The sheer emotion of this rose pulled me into her embrace. I hope you enjoy this epiphany of nature as much as I have.

Be sure to visit Lisa’s Chaos for more Macro Monday links and photos. Thank you Lisa. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share.

PS — This post marks a milestone for me. It’s number 100. Thanks to all who come to visit, share and comment.

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Say hello to Julia, one of my six granddaughters. I can’t imagine this photograph in color. I’ve been photographing the girls for almost nine years now — almost exclusively in black and white.

Julia Swinging

B&W cuts to the chase when it’s time to capture the moment, especially with kids. They tend to forget about you, the photographer and go about their business. Spontaneity works. Get down on their level, don’t get in their way and keep on shooting. As soon as I saw this negative on my light table I knew I had a good one.  I liked the way this photo came together (sometimes I get lucky too).

This shot comes from a roll of Ilford FP4+ and is one of my early experiments developing with Diafine. I’ve tried Tri-X and Ilford HP5, and they are OK, but I really like the tonality of the FP4/Diafine combo and this photo is a good example. FP4 processed in Diafine scans perfectly every time.

I love the expressive qualities inherent in B&W and the total control I have of the entire process. I’m shooting more B&W than I ever have and I’ve been in love with the medium for over 40 years.

Yes, I still use film, I prefer B&W, don’t like zoom lenses and my favorite 35mm lens is a 50mm prime (I have four of them). Guess this makes me a throwback, but I’m a happy and stubborn. I’m not quitting any time soon.

Visit the Monochrome Weekly Theme if you love monochrome photography.

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Often our dreams are bubbles dancing just out of reach, drifting, iridescent, tantalizing, fragile. Just as often our dreams compel us to reach out and touch them.

Share in Sara’s delight and reach out to your dreams. I took these photos back in the summer of 2001 when Sara was coming up on her second birthday. She’ll be ten next week.

Look at Sara’s joy. There’s nothing on her mind except her wonderful, dancing bubbles. Can you imagine feeling this way as you go after your own dreams. But if you want to chase your bubbles you must make some first.

“My Dragon Blows Bubbles. Whenever I ask.” We (my dragon and I) decided to put our bubble song to the tune of On Top of Old Smokey. We don’t have all the lyrics yet, but we have fun singing the first two lines and blowing bubbles.

All dragons like to blow bubbles — just ask your dragon if you doubt me. Can you picture you and your dragon singing a “My Dragon Blows Bubbles” duet, bubbles jetting out of both nostrils? Your dragon’s nostrils of course. You need to fill your bubble pipe with “bubble stuff” and blow along with your dragon.

Of course our dragons are metaphors for our inner creative being. Invite your dragon to play and blow dream bubbles, creative bubbles, idea bubbles, big bubbles, little bubbles, iridescent bubbles that dance on the wind of imagination and  reflect your innermost dreams.

True, bubbles are fragile and don’t last long, but you and your dragon can always make more. Life is a creative journey, a constant stream of the bubbles of discovery. Destination? Doesn’t matter because you’ll never get there. And if you did what then? No. Life is a dynamic, joyous seeking and playing along the way. The journey matters.

Next time you feel blocked or a little cranky, close your eyes and picture your dragon (and you) dancing and blowing bubbles. Now that’s a sight. Bet you’ll be smiling and feeling creative then.

PS — Sara is one of my six lovely granddaughters. In time, you’ll meet them all because I can’t stop photographing them. And that’s a good thing.

PPS — Be sure to drop by James’ Weekend Reflections blog. Lot’s of links and tons of fun.

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He feared the asking, she the telling. No rider in memory had ever dared the boulevard on this the night of the low moon. At least no rider had ever returned to tell the tale. Would they be the first? Legend be damned, they were the best. Still, they rode — hard and fast. Neither were fools and neither were eager to temp fate.

Sentinel trees lined the road, waiting for moonrise. Soon — too soon. If the wind parted the clouds? If the stark white light of the low moon etched the shadows across the road before they reached the end of the forest?

Best not to discover what happened to the foolhardy who dared barcode boulevard on the night of the low moon. Less than a klick and safety. Quickly before it’s too late and…

Barcode Boulevard

I rode barcode boulevard today on my bicycle. Can you see the end in the distance? It’s safe in the daylight — mostly. I got the idea for a story one day a few years ago while driving along Breakneck Road (honest, it’s the real name). I’ve only ridden that road twice on my bike and only for a short distance each time. It’s too dangerous and the hills are killers.

The sun was bright and low. It cast sharp shadows across the road. The idea of Barcode Boulevard just jumped into my mind and it’s been stewing ever since. I had my camera with me today so I took some photos when I stopped for a drink on Heritage Road (no Breakneck Road for this boy). All the way home I thought about this story and wrote a quick and dirty draft of one possible beginning.

I’ve some ideas percolating about how photography and writing are related. When my brew is ready I’ll pour a few cups so we can sip together.

I had some fun today. Besides getting out of the house on a nice November day, I rekindled my Barcode Boulevard idea, took a couple photos with my little Canon digicam and wrote a rough draft for the beginnings of my story.

I’m happy with the photo. I think it turned out nicely in B&W. I used the Gimp BW photo simulation to transform the color shot to B&W. My story beginning? It’s rough and the first go at one way of beginning this story. I need to explore, especially the two unnamed characters. It’s another fun project.

Another project. I have a roll of B&W film hanging up to dry in the bathroom. I’ll scan the negs tonight or tomorrow. Fingers crossed. More shots of my youngest granddaughters, the twins. Hope I get a few decent photos out of the roll. I’ll feature them in one of my posts. I have another roll of film I’ll probably develop tomorrow and I got my slides back the other day. Lots of new photos to play with and share. Stay tuned. But stay off  Barcode Boulevard on the night of the low moon.

Barcode Boulevard, the photo and story are copyright 2009 John McDevitt.

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