Darkroomist Photographic culture of the analog variety from the fresh coast.

25Apr/150

Book: Elmer Batters, From the tip of the toes to the top of the hose.

Elmer Batters, From the tip of the toes to the top of the hose.

Elmer Batters: from the tip of the toes to the top of the hose. When I first read the title of this book I thought "awesome, I love thigh highs!" A lot of my pinup work revolves around retro or vintage lingerie and thigh highs are an essential part of that. Heck I've seen pinups of a woman wearing a bathing suit with thigh highs, which is seriously pushing the idea that they go with everything, but if you can't do that with pinup where can you do it? Unfortunately I completely misread the subtext of the sub title. This book is foremost for folks into feet and that is really not my thing. Still there some solid classic pinup work buried amongst the foot fetish stuff. The book has a lot of nudity in it. I became familiar with Batters' work trough sifting through listing of vintage pinup negatives negatives on eBay. I was a little surprised by how much this tome leans on nekkidness. Nudity is represented more in this book than the overall picture I formed of Batters' imagery. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I still like it; not a total loss by any means. At the same time it's not entirely what I was expecting perhaps due in part to my own tunnel vision with respect to what I like in pinup and what I enjoyed about Batters' work.

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21Apr/150

The Vivitar Series 1 Solid Catadioptric (Solid Cat)

Vivitar Series 1 solid cat

Here we have the Vivitar Series 1 600mm/8 solid catadioptric lens. This was one heck of a find (and a steal) I made years ago. This is hands down *the best* mirror lens ever mass produced for the photography market and contends for the best camera lens made in the USA (With Kodak's Aero-Ektar IMHO). It was made by Perkin Elmer a sciences and telescope optics company for Vivitar. Most mirror lenses have significant space between the catadioptric elements. This one has none, it is one element. This also makes it very compact and very heavy. Like all mirror lenses this with give you pronounced donut bokeh on out of focus highlights which were a deadly sin just a couple years ago. Opinion might me coming around on that. With the eos adapter, hood, and lens cap it's still shorter than the long side of an iPhone. Great great great super tele lens. Amazing piece of optical engineering. Heres a couple shot's I've taken with it. It's a little difficult to work with as it truly requires a tripod and the closest it can focus is 53 feet.

Amie J bridal vivitar series 1 solid cat

Moon shot with the vivitar series 1 solid cat

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20Apr/150

An Urbex Poster is Born

There's lots to love about shooting medium format film. The tonality is great, the latitude is incredible, and the ability to capture and reproduce fine detail is astounding. One way to really appreciate all this is to print BIG. In my darkroom I can go up to 16x20 which is a pretty serious size print. Problem is big paper is expensive. I usually shoot on the reasonably price Arista RC VC which is a bit over $2/sheet plus shipping. Handling wet FB paper that size is challenging. Plus big prints are expensive. I usually get over $100 for one and I've been told that's too cheap. In wanting to make some of these wonderful images more accessible to people I thought I'd start designing some posters. This shot from Michigan Central Station is my first stab at it.

Back in 2008 myself and few other analog (and some digital) photographers made and urban exploration (urbex) trip to the huge, abandoned, Michigan Central Station train station in Detroit. This is a well known urbex destination and it is magnificent. It's a pre-WWII public structure build during Detroit's heyday. The craftsmanship and opulence of the the grand marble entrances is remarkable. It's also remarkable what time and neglect have done to the structure. Between the vandals and mother nature's wrecking ball, this wonder has slid far from the zenith it once held. I'm of the opinion that the fall from grace is itself a beautiful tragedy. Like an architectural parallel to MacBeth or Hamlet. With this building the story is not over. It's owner has taken renewed interest in the structure and has been removed some asbestos and making repairs.

Now available for the first time as a 23" X 35" poster:
Michigan Central Station Urbex Poster

A traditional darkroom 8x10 print is still available here.

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16Apr/150

How much is this Camera Worth?

If you're like me you're the family's camera guy, photographer, photo man and all things photography related. If so you probably get this question a lot: "I have this XYXYXYX film camera, is it worth anything?" Usually someone standing near by could actually hear your eyes rolling. Most times the answer is "No" and not because you want it. It's just that the film cameras with the highest production numbers were, with few exceptions, consumer oriented overly simplistic garbage. Like I said there are few exceptions. SLRs and TLRs and rangefinders can get some money, especially if they were made in Europe. Some lenses still have good values and some are increasing (like the Canon FL 55mm/1.2) because of new mirrorless digital cameras that can use them. I've also gotten phone calls about enlargers. Sadly most 35mm enlargers are not worth much but a medium format Beseler 23c might fetch $100 if it's complete with everything needed to use it (lens, negative carriers, grain focuser, bulb, etc). Large format cameras are a whole other game. Usually the bellows are a primary concern because replacing leaky bellows on an 8x10 camera can run you $300.

For most of the camera questions Silver Based put together a nice guide covering how much a camera is worth.

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15Apr/150

The Koni-Omega Rapid

Koni-Omega Rapid 200

A friend of mine, John Mickevich, posted a picture of a new-to-him Koni-Omega he just received and it made me think I should write up mine. The basics of the camera system is that it's a 6x7, medium format rangefinder. It has a somewhat unusual dial focusing system, and an extremely unusual film advance and cocking mechanism that's been likened to a pump action shotgun. This is by no means a subtle camera and it weighs enough you could defend yourself with it. There's a couple downsides to the system I want to get out of the way before we get on to the good stuff. First off is the system itself. There are four rapid models: Rapid, M, 100, and 200. Lenses are compatible across the entire model line but that's about it. The M and the 200 are almost the same camera with the exception of the face plate and the 200 has framing markings in the rangefinder for the 135mm portrait lens (which you will probably never find). The plain old Rapid is the odd duck out, it's back don't interchange with the rest of the system. The 100 is like the M and the 200 in that the backs interchange, but the backs have two pieces on the M and 200 allowing mid-roll changes. The 100 does not have the second piece so no mid roll changing with the 100. The Rapid also doesn't do mid roll changes. That's the weirdness with the system. Next is the matter of close focusing. The Koni-Omega's don't close focus, even with the 180mm best you'll get is a half portrait. There is a macro set available but it is so labor intensive to use (ground glass focusing insert!) you might as well just bust out a large format camera. Like with all rangefinders you're not looking through the taking lens so remember filters, throw away lens caps, etc. Finally it is possible to not have the back tightly pressed against the camera when you turn the locking mechanism and everything will function fine only light will leak all over your film so mind that as well.

On to the good stuff! Did I mention it's sharp? I originally got this setup because it's supposed to rival Hasselblads! Granted it has a slight advantage in film size and it's a rangefinder so there's no need for pesky lens tricks like retro focus which increases resolution. Using the camera is a ton of fun too. It's name is Rapid and it was meant to focus fast and advace/recock fast. There's even a sports finder for it! Don't forget price. There's a system on eBay at the moment, two cameras, all three lenses, backs, dark slides, instructions, etc for $350 which Is about what I paid for mine a decade ago. The lens lineup is nice too. There's a 60mm wide, 90mm normal, 135mm portrait, and a 180mm tele. The 135mm portrait lens is super rare and very expensive when they do surface. They're all very sharp but not super fast topping out at F3.5. Have you ever seen a camera with three accessory (cold) shoes? Well, here you go! Why would anyone want three accessory shoes? One for your wide angle view finder, one for a shoe mount light meter, and another for flash. Flash brackets are available for this system too. If you're Koni-Omega or lens tries to die on you, send it to Greg Weber. He CLA'd one of mine and a couple backs. He did a fantastic job though it wasn't cheap. He's the only only repair person I know of who has the jig to make sure the camera is shimmed correctly for precise focus.

All in all it's a great camera. Compact of it's format, great line of lenses, affordable. I stopped using mine when I got a Fuji GW690 and a Bronica SQa. Generally I like the SLR more for people work or using filters and it's necessary for my next adventure into montaging. The GW690 is just awe inspiringly sharp and it's 6x9. I think I'll take the Koni out for some shooting this year. I've been meaning to for a while and she's a great little camera. This one pictured is actually a M with a 200 faceplate because the 200 is black (M is silver) and that's more professional.

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10Apr/150

Bearskin Beauty

Beaskin Beauty Pinup

Here's the "shot on film" version of the bearskin, hunting pinup I did with Hannah Noel. Shot this in my garage studio with Balcar strobes. I put together the set, wardrobe, and props excepting the bearskin which Hannah brought. I was inspired by a Gil Elvgren pinup along a similar theme and I hope we did it justice. Shot with my Bronica 6x6 camera on Fuji Neopan Acros. Printed 8x10 and scanned.

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9Apr/150

Notting Hill Sound Systems

Notting Hill Sound Systems

I ❤️ this little photo book or photo zine, Notting Hill Sound Systems, by Brian David Stevens and published by Cafe Royal Books. It's all double trucks of PA systems set up for the 2004 Notting Hill Carnival. Brian David Stevens tweeted ti me that these shots were done with a "leica m3 voigtlander 25mm (and maybe my 40mm) trix-x!" I must say, the medium incorporates with the subject exceedingly well. I love how this shows some down and dirty systems that forgo things like symmetry or matching enclosures and favors mass over style. Hugely lo-fi and loud. It's a thing of beauty and wonder. Wish Saginaw had an event like this as I have a similar sound system!

If you like this type of small photo zine on niche interesting subjects, head over to Cafe Royal Books, they specialize in them!

Just for fun, here's my Notting Hill Style Soundsystem:

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8Apr/150

The Canon AE-1 Turns 39

Canon AE-1

The venerable #Canon AE-1 turns 39 this month. It was released in April of 1976. This is my first actual real camera given to me by my Father sometime in the 1990's. While it may not be feature packed by today's standards it took the camera world by storm when it came out and reigned for the better part of a decade. It's center weighted averaging light meter is impressively accurate and was "microprocessor controlled." The first mass market camera with a "computer" in it! They're shutter priority and have a manual mode. The Fd lenses are exceptional, especially Canon's professional "L" series. Love this camera. Haven't used it in a bit but it's very special to me.

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7Apr/150

Collapsing City

Collapsing City, Packard Plant, Detroit, Michigan

The abandoned Packard Plant is 40 acres of industrial ruins. From certain points it looks almost like a city. The Packard Plant hasn't made cars since the 50's. I think this image looks like a scene that could have been captured at the end of World War II in Europe, but it's present day America.

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6Apr/150

Fashion Photography Now

Fashion Photography Now

Fashion Photography Now by Catherine Chermayeff. Great photo book of 50 different fashion photographers from film's apex. The images are from 1997-1999 and are largely analog with a couple rather obvious and dismal-by-today's-standards forays into digital. A really great book with creative and interesting images. Amazon has them for two cents plus shipping and it's well worth it to add this gem to your library. Word of parental warning this book does contain some nudity.

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