Topslakr December 4th, 2013
It seems like every year or so I rethink my photography equipment and make some changes. I’ve gone through many variations of my day-to-day photography kit but I seem to keep reducing the amount of automation present in the system.
My plan for this coming year is to spend as much time with a manual focus, mechanical camera system as I can. I am keeping my Nikon F80s, Nikon F5 and Nikon D7000 but I’ve sold off my spare Nikon N80s, and Nikon FE bodies. When the situation requires digital or highly automated film shooting I will have those bodies available, but my day-to-day system will be based on the Nikon FM.
The Nikon FM is a fully mechanical camera that Nikon built and sold between 1977 and 1982. The camera does take a battery but it powers only the metering system and does not affect the shutter operation. If you have no batteries, the camera still works normally, you’ll just need to meter your scene in some other way. In use, the camera looks very similar to and functions similarly to the Nikon FE but the FE uses the batteries both for metering and for shutter operation; When your batteries start to get low, the camera stops working properly. Read more... (656 words, estimated 2:37 mins reading time)
Topslakr August 22nd, 2013
I was recently given an HP DL360 G4 server with two 36GB SCSI disks. At first blush the system is of little use in todays tech landscape due to it’s low storage capacity and limited processor feature set. My unit has two Intel Xeon processors at 3.0Ghz without Intel’s VT technology and 4GB of RAM. It would make a good single use server for many functions and would grow in usefulness as it’s storage capacity increased. SCSI hardware has fallen out of general use in recent years and has been superseded by SAS, or Serial Attached SCSI, in much the same way that for desktop machines SATA has replaced PATA. We’ve gotten to a point where moving one stream of data really fast is more efficient than moving several streams together but at lower speed. Read more... (1141 words, estimated 4:34 mins reading time)
Topslakr July 20th, 2012
In recent years I’ve been more and more drawn to being closer to the food I eat. I’ve been slowly building my own garden and starting to plan for my own animals to be raised for me. A few years ago I spent some time helping a friend get their garden setup and on the day captured below I had just finished rototilling a patch of ground. It has never been tilled before and had grassed planted on it for many years. It was rough going and with the elderly rototiller I had at my disposal I was completely exhausted by the whole event.
The image was shot with a Nikon N80 and Nikon 24-50MM zoom lens. I got as close to the tiller as I could while keeping it fully in the frame and had the lens as wide as it could go. I snapped this shot on a roll of Fuji Superia 400, shot and processed at box speed. I like the shot but if I were to shoot it again, I would over expose the film by one stop. The Fuji Superia film, as I’ve learned since then, really responds well to that.
Topslakr July 13th, 2012
My first chance to shoot with the Mamiya 645 on the road came a few weeks ago in the form of a local fair in the neighboring town of Kingston called ‘Kingston Days’. Quite a creative name, I know. I spent several hours there over two days with the Mamiya.
The first day there was truly the first time I shot with the Mamiya so I loaded up my photo backpack and set out. As a part of my ‘process’ for always trying to reduce the amount of gear I own, I constantly try to evaluate which items I use and which I don’t. Curiously though even before I left the house I traded my largest lens, the 210 F/4, for a second bottle of water in my photo backpack. That lens may not have a home in my kit for long. Considering I brought and never used the 150mm lens an even longer one may not prove useful to me.
Read more... (1126 words, 2 images, estimated 4:30 mins reading time)
Topslakr March 13th, 2012
I am constantly trying to evaluate what camera gear I need and what camera gear I don’t. I am in the process of selling off a considerable amount of equipment and cutting back to just the gear I like and use. I don’t consider myself a collector of camera gear so selling on unused equipment is just a matter of course for me. If I find myself leaving certain pieces of gear at home or just not taking it out of my bag when I’m out shooting, it goes. I don’t want to carry gear I don’t use and I don’t want my money tied up in gear collecting dust.
That being said, I try to have enough equipment to handle more than one situation. I am targeting three separate styles of shooting but there is a lot of overlap. Read more... (807 words, estimated 3:14 mins reading time)
Topslakr December 23rd, 2011
One of the benefits to shooting digitally is that you have a record of the settings and equipment combinations embedded into each image you make. Every time you click the shutter on your camera, be it a high end DSLR or a cheap point and shoot, the image file has what’s called EXIF data baked into it. You can look at the image and then reference the settings you used to make it, which is very helpful in learning the interactions between shutter speed, aperture and ISO. When I was learning to use my DSLR I used this information all the time and as I’ve moved over to film I have used my experience in digital shooting to help me set the camera for the image I want to make. Going forward though, I’ve begun to miss that information and as I keep trying new film types, having access to that information would be very handy. Read more... (991 words, estimated 3:58 mins reading time)
Topslakr March 7th, 2011
I’ve never been excited about photography in a studio setting. A lot of people enjoy working in a studio but I’d much rather be shooting landscapes, hiking through the woods or wandering through a local fair. When I started considering a medium format camera it was always in the context of taking it with me to interesting places. Since hiking with the camera was my plan from the start I was careful to seek out a medium format camera known for it’s relative portability.
The Mamiya 645 Pro, the medium format camera I’ve chosen, is on the smaller side of things in the medium format world. Unlike the 35mm camera world, medium format cameras shoot in a variety of standard sizes. A 35mm camera (almost) always shoots a frame that is 24mm x 36mm. Medium format cameras though are built to shoot one of several standard sizes usually measured in centimeters, such as 6cm x 9cm, or 6cm x 6cm. The Mamiya 645 shoots a frame that is 6cm x 4.5cm, hence it’s name (It’s not uncommon for a medium format camera name to also contain it’s frame size). With my camera shooting the smallest standard size on medium format film, the camera can be a lot smaller and lighter than something designed to shoot a much larger frame. Obviously I lose out on the really massive negatives, but the 645 still produces a frame 3x the size of a 35mm camera and it’s more than 7x larger than the sensor on my Nikon D7000. Read more... (1583 words, estimated 6:20 mins reading time)
Topslakr July 13th, 2010
*** What follows is a post which, as usual, is written more for me then anyone else. It has taken more than 1300 words to help wrap my mind around medium format, the Mamiya 645 Pro, and how it compares to my past knowledge of 35mm cameras. I only hope you are sitting if you choose to read this, as you will be asleep before it’s end ***
I’ve been thinking for some time about picking up a medium format film camera. It’s been nagging at me for a few years and when I was recently helping my parents dig out some old slides from their honeymoon, we ran across a few medium format slides from when my dad was a child. I was immediately blown away by the quality of the frames and it was the final push I needed to really start looking for a camera in earnest.
After digging around on the web comparing various cameras, each with unique pros and cons, I had figured out that I was interested in a camera that could accept a waist level finder as well and be able to swap film backs, mid roll. Read more... (1358 words, estimated 5:26 mins reading time)
Topslakr May 18th, 2010
To my mind, I see three ‘goals’ in photography: Documentation, Journalism, and Art. You may have other goals in mind but for me I’m usually shooting with one of those goals in mind.
The art goal is easy to define. Any picture that you have taken simply for the sake of taking it. Maybe you’ve spotted an interesting texture, a unique geometric pattern or just a vibrant flower and taken a picture.
Defining journalism photography, especially in contrast to documentation photography, can be a little more difficult to put into words. I see the types both being about gathering information, be it about a local disaster or celebration. The difference, for me, is that when I’m documenting something I’m doing it for my benefit and when I’m in journalism mode, I’m doing it for others. Allow me to elaborate.
When I’m shooting in the journalistic sense, I’m trying to capture an accurate representation of what is happening. I’m trying to put my opinion of a situation aside and gather all available information around me through the eye of my camera. When I’m shooting to document something I’m simply gathering information that I care about. Read more... (542 words, estimated 2:10 mins reading time)
Topslakr March 4th, 2010
First, as always, the story. Scroll down for my ‘review’.
As a film shooter I’ve been struggling a lot lately with getting my images converted to digital. I have tried two scanners, the Epson Perfection V500 and the Plustek 7500i and while both get reasonably good reviews online, I was not having any luck getting quality scans from them. I’m sure it’s operator error but even at low resolutions the scans were not even half as sharp as the source film and once scanned it took me a long time to process each image to have good color and contrast (let alone getting the scanner to help clean up dust and scratches). I was getting pretty discouraged and wondering if I should really still be shooting film at all. I was looking around online and people with the same scanners as I have were getting great results that looked nothing like mine. They were all talking about curves used and a series of tweaks performed in Photoshop or other software and frankly, I’m not that kind of photographer. I want to be shooting, not processing. Lots of people love the digital end of photography but I am not one of them. I want scanning to be easy. I want to be able to press a few buttons and have scans that look.. you know.. like the film I shot. Read more... (1762 words, 5 images, estimated 7:03 mins reading time)