February 25, 2011

sand dunes

It looked like a sunny spring day...
...but the sunshine can be deceptive.
It was definitely chilly, yet as beautiful as always.

February 24, 2011

windy day

Sand dunes: Fort Story, Virginia Beach.

Taken with my Holga.
Long live plastic!

February 23, 2011

Canon AE-1: First Results

Drumroll... the first images from the Canon AE-1 are in! I didn't run a dedicated test roll through it but simply started taking it along on certain photo trips. So far, the camera has accompanied me to Washington DC, to the beach, to one of my favorite lighthouses, and even on a quick walk through the snow... familiarly chilly surroundings for this solid, sturdy camera that has withstood the tests of time and extreme temperatures.

It was a beautiful morning in DC, sunny but cold, so armed with a hat, gloves, and a few cameras, I set out to go exploring for the day. The destination at the top of my list was Washington National Cathedral.

It wasn't easy to get the entire facade into one frame, but I'm happy with how this photo turned out. I was glad to be there in winter, with the bare trees allowing the rose window to show through a little bit.

My favorite part of the cathedral was the labyrinth of chapels, corridors, and art exhibits in the space below the main basilica. Above: the Chapel of Joseph of Arimathea, photographed with a Polaroid Spectra camera and Impossible Project Silver Shade film.

From Washington National Cathedral, I walked up Wisconsin Avenue. In the above photo, I'm looking down Wisconsin Avenue back toward the National Cathedral, whose bell towers are visible in the distance.

Next Stop: Arlington National Cemetery. I had never been there before and planned to spend some time walking around. And I was prepared for the bone-chilling wind: I had slipped toe warmers into my shoes and hand warmers in my coat pockets to warm my fingers between photos.

I walked around the cemetery for a while, then escaped the cold by ducking into Arlington House. Arlington House and its plantation were associated with the Washington, Custis, and Lee families, and it is now a memorial to Robert E. Lee, whose family lived here for 30 years. The history of Arlington National Cemetery begins in this very spot, as part of the plantation property was used for Civil War military burials.

Back in Hampton Roads, the Canon AE-1 and I went to one of my favorite local spots: New Cape Henry Light...

...and the nearby sand dunes.

Washington DC's cold weather isn't the only cold air the Canon has faced lately. When it snowed earlier this season, I couldn't wait to head outside and take a few snowy photos. The camera did great!

A normal neighborhood, transformed into a winter wonderland.

But not to worry, the camera didn't always have to work outdoors. I also used it to take some through-the-viewfinder photos in the comfort of my home:

For this set of photos, I used black and white film, which I then scanned in color for just a hint of cream tone. I had a great time with the camera, and I can't wait for round two!

February 11, 2011

The Photo Master Mystery

A little while ago, I received a fun little present... and a challenge. Two identical plastic Photo Master cameras. Thank you, Genevieve!

The adorable Photo Master in all its tiny, lovable plastic glory.

I took the two cameras home, took them apart the very same evening, and found that in the pile of plastic and metal camera pieces, I had exactly one working part of each. A few minutes later, I had one (presumably) functional camera and one pile of... let's call them spare parts.

The aftermath.

The Photo Master camera is designed to be used with 127 film, which is hard to find nowadays. So I improvised. In a dark room, I pulled a 35mm film completely out of its canister and cut it free, wound it around a film spool, and attached the end to a second film spool (since I had an extra from the second camera). In the dark, I somehow managed to arrange it all inside the camera, close it, and tape up the sides with electrical tape to protect against light leaks. I was ready to go.

I carried the camera with me to several places, taking a photo or two in each place over the period of several weeks. I had no way of knowing how far to advance the film, so that was a bit of a guessing game.

So... the results from the first roll of film are in, and they are both exciting and mystifying. Exciting because I did manage to capture a few images... which is a victory in itself. But I am mystified by the fact that only a few images showed up on the film, separated by alternating areas of light and shadow. And the photos are all of the same place, even though I shot in several different locations. Hm...

Also interesting is the fact that the shape of one end of the film, which I had cut to a point to help me attach it to the film spool, showed up in a photo (see above). I'm wondering if the film didn't neatly travel from one side of the camera body to the other but somehow ended up in the main compartment. I may have to come up with another way to run film through this camera. I love projects like this: the more nontraditional the setup, the more interesting the photos may turn out. If I'm lucky, hehe. We'll see how the next round goes. I'm loving this!

February 08, 2011

First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park is one of my favorite places in Virginia Beach. But I usually enter from Shore Drive, continue to the parking lot, and explore one of the trails through the woods from there. But the other day I discovered another entrance, from Atlantic Ave. at 64th Street. From there, the road leads to a dock and boat launch with this view. So tranquil! I photographed the scene a couple of different ways.

Above: a pieced-together Fuji Instax Mini collage.
Below: iPhone photos combined into a panorama with AutoStitch. Border added with Adobe Photoshop Mobile.

February 07, 2011

Rollei 35T

Last Christmas, I received an unexpected treasure: a Rollei 35T. It was a surprise gift from someone very special, and I've had a lot of fun learning how to use it.

When this little 35mm camera is not in use, it's wonderfully sleek and compact. In fact, it's not much larger than modern digital point-and shoot cameras from just a few years ago.

But this Rollei has a trick up its sleeve: its collapsible lens must be pulled out from the body and clicked into place before the aperture can be set and photos taken. In the photo above, the lens is extended toward me. It's a unique system: pull the lens from the body, click it into place, set the aperture, shutter speed, and focus, and press the shutter. Then, in order to return the lens to the storage position, advance the film, press a release button, turn the lens just a tad to release it, and push the lens back into the camera body. Fascinating... I love it.

And there's one more trick: the camera has a built-in, battery-powered light meter. But the type of battery it requires is practically impossible to find nowadays, and the nearest match has a slightly different voltage. It works, but the light meter gives slightly incorrect readings... but some educated guesswork will compensate for that. It's all part of the fun.

One day in January, I had some time to myself in San Diego, and I took the opportunity to try out the Rollei at the Mission San Diego de AlcalĂ . This was my first shot: the reconstructed facade of the southernmost California mission.

The camera and I then proceeded to the basilica. I set the camera (which I had mounted on a small tripod) on a little table near the front, then took a few exposures. Since it was a low-light indoor shot, I wasn't able to use the exposure meter at all -- I used the bulb setting, held the camera steady on the table with one hand, and opened and closed the shutter with the other. The exposure time was a guess... several seconds. And I got this result! Yess!

I took the same shot a few more times, increasing the exposure time just a little bit each time. I also gave each photo a slightly different monochrome effect in Lightroom.

I then took the camera to the back of the church, where I set it on the floor and tried a few more shots. Since there was no table back there, the floor was the only place I could set the camera down. I like the low angle... so it was a win-win.

Low angle, from the back of the basilica.

My next outing with the Rollei was back in Virginia Beach, where I took it to one of my favorite spots: Fort Story.

New Cape Henry Light

I then took the wooden walkway over the sand dunes and to the beach. I like this spot on the coast!

I snapped a few more shots, and I again experimented with different monochrome effects using Lightroom software.

I enjoyed photographing the sand dunes and grasses... they make for a beautiful and peaceful beach scene.

Two faux half frames. They're two adjacent photos on the negative, and I framed the crop so that half of each photo would be included. I then added the black lines on the left and right to make it look like the images end there.

I was pleased with the results of the first roll of film from the Rollei. The photos came out better-exposed than I expected (considering I had to guess a little bit with the light meter), but I realized that I need to work more on the manual focus. If you look closely at the images, you can see that a number of them aren't quite sharp. But I like having something specific to work on and improve, so I can't wait to run another roll through the camera.

Vielen Dank, Otto!

February 05, 2011

Winter ♥

Wintry tree branches, just the kind I love. Just for fun.
Taken with my Holga.

February 02, 2011

Canon AE-1


Meet one of the newest and most interesting additions to my growing family of cameras: the Canon AE-1, which came with a 35mm-85mm Vivitar Series 1 push-pull zoom lens.

Manufactured in Japan in the 1970's, this rugged camera spent a considerable amount of time north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. The temperatures it has faced here in Virginia have been much milder... and I don't plan on taking it anywhere near the Arctic. :)

Hundreds and thousands of black and white images have been taken through its horizontal cloth focal plane shutter... and I plan on letting it project plenty more images onto black and white film (which I may soon develop on my own!). I'm proud and honored to have had this camera passed on into my hands. I look forward to many good years with it.

The shutter, the film advance lever, and the shutter speed select dial, just itching to be used on a photo excursion.

Zoooooom lens. It has seen barren tundra terrain and Inuit villages. I wish I could give it that exciting of a life! But it will certainly be appreciated.

Welcome to the family.

February 01, 2011

Wintry Botanical Garden

I enjoyed visiting the Norfolk Botanical Garden last summer. And this winter, I've been having a great time photographing the trees in all their leafless glory. I've been curious about what the gardens are like at this time of year, so armed with several cameras, I headed over there on a beautifully gray and cloudy morning.

Just like I had hoped, the mostly leafless trees stretched high above me in contorted shapes.
(Photo assembled with AutoStitch.)

I was also hoping to photograph statues in front of a sparser background than the full summer foliage would offer.

Different season, different look... no blooming flowers, no butterflies or dragonflies, and the fountain is turned off. But it's beautiful nonetheless. I think I almost prefer it like this.

And then there are the statues in the Renaissance Garden. Although these figures representing the seasons had caught my eye last summer, I found them more photogenic now. The statue above may symbolize autumn, with what looks like grape leaves on her shoulders.

Twigs, berries, downcast gaze.... winter, perhaps?

I think the grains on this girl's dress represent summer.

And then there were these tiny little blossoms.

I couldn't get enough of them...

...and happily photographed them, looking straight up, until my arms were tired from holding the camera above my head.


...and more!

The dead of winter may be an unusual time to visit a botanical garden... but I was happy with my trip!