Thought I’d make a quick post and share a photo I took of the Allegheny County Soldiers Memorial down in Pittsburgh near the University of Pittsburgh campus. Wonderful classic municipal architecture makes for a fairly impressive building when viewed in person. For this photo, I was wandering around a bit after one of my photo collective meetings nearby, so thought it’d make a fine picture as it was dusk and I liked the sky as well at the time.
Trying yet again to relieve the blogstipation that I’ve had over the last few months, I wanted to post a number of photos I took at last year’s Veteran’s Day parade in downtown New Castle, PA.
Myself, I love shooting these kind of events. It’s always fun to be a part of the event and get caught up in the flow of things, but more than that, they’re a great way to practice and stay on top of my photojournalism skills. Not only that, but often these kind of photos can generate revenue too if you follow-up with newspapers and such since sometimes they simply can’t or don’t have a photographer present, but they need photos. I like revenue, and I like events, so yeah, I go to whatever I can, whenever I can.
For this parade, my attendance was a bit of a fluke. I found out about it around thirty minutes prior and had to drop my son off at a class at the same time. Luckily, the class was nearby, so while I was waiting to pick him up, I popped over to the parade and took photos of the first half or so. It would have been nice to stay for the whole event, but I had to go, so I’m happy with what I was able to get, which I’ll share some of here.
L: Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo, R: State Representative Chris Sainato
Man, playing catch up on your blog can be depressing sometimes. Going back to my “to-do” folder over the last few days has given me new insight on just how lax I’ve been in posting new items here. I could blame that on a number of things, but the ultimate reason is that I simply don’t have the schedule that I’ve had in the past, which has made working on my photos and blog somewhat more difficult. Used to be that I worked in the evenings then came home after everyone was in bed, so I had a number of hours of alone time to wind down with and tend to things like my photos and blog. Not so for the last year or so, where I’ve been working early mornings, which has had the positive effect of letting me see more of my family, but the negative effect of losing all of that alone time. Now, I come home in the afternoon, spend time with the fam, and then am about ready to pass out in the evening. Some nights are no problem, and I can stay alert enough to do what I need to, like tonight, but others I’m pretty punchy and mopey and that makes editing photos a challenge at best, and blog entries nearly incoherent. Over time, this makes for a fat to-do folder, and a depressed Eric.
All of that’s no excuse, however, and I’ve decided to kick myself in the ass a bit and post all of the photos that I’ve wanted to share all this time. To that end, tonight’s fare is a number of images I took during a relatively recent trip to Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA. If you’ve never been there and are in the area, then get down there now. It’s a great place to spend the day and you’ll find plenty of beautiful subjects to shoot as well.
And that’s about it. Usually, I try to keep most posts to about ten photos and no more, so as not to swamp you guys, but tonight since I’ve had blogstipation for a while now, I’m going to let loose and break that rule for once. Hope you like them, and hope they also motivate you to take a trip to Phipps if you’ve never been there before.
I thought I would share two photos I made a few weeks back while killing time at work. I was waiting for my coworker to come down from the roof of our building after I had taken some snaps to document some construction we had going on. You know the old story – get bored, start to look around for something to do/shoot while waiting, see some things that have potential, and voila! – a couple of nice photos to add to the collection.
Just goes to show you that taking a bit of time to actually observe your environment, and then being willing to experiment a bit with it as well, is what ultimately makes for great photos, not more or newer gear. It’s all in how you visualize the world around you and the skill you possess to translate that vision into something others can view and relate to with ease. If you can’t share your voice through your photos, then you need to sit down with yourself and have an honest conversation about what you’re doing and why.
Went with the family a weekend or so back to visit Niagara Falls, which is about a three hour drive from here in good weather. It’s been a while since we’ve been there last – maybe 2 years, so we thought it’d be a good daytrip to take since I had the day off for my son’s birthday. Since I’ve taken photos with my D3, my A-1, and a few other cameras over the years, I decided this time to take the Pentax 645 and also a handy little waterproof film camera, the Canon WP-1.
The Canon was an especially good choice because we decided to go on the Cave of the Winds tour which runs right underneath the Bridal Falls, so while everyone else was hanging back with their cellphones, I was right up to the edge of the falls taking pics without a care in the world. Not bad for a $3 thrift store find.
Aside from that though, I used the Pentax and overall, it performed admirably. I only ran one roll through it, which is fifteen shots total, but that was enough and the bulk of the roll were keepers, so mission accomplished. And I have to say, while I saw a multitude of cameras – everything from cellphones to high-end DSLRs, I saw no film cameras whatsoever, so the 645 was a novelty in many ways, though likely only to myself. In any case, we had fun and I got some nice shots, so that made the whole day a worthwhile endeavor.
Here’s some of my other 645 faves from the day. I’ll post the WP-1 pics in a later post once I’m done scanning and editing them:
Cleaning out your closet can be really dangerous at times. Apart from the risk of getting bonked by falling objects, there’s the bigger risk of simply cleaning out the old to move in the new – with the end result being only a newer glut of clutter, and nothing more. The flipside, however, is that you often can turn something useless into something useful, and for me, that’s always been my main reason for going on a rummaging expedition in the wilds of my closets.
This time through, I took a load of miscellaneous stuff I hadn’t touched in years, eBay’ed the hell out of it, and generated a fine little cache of cash that allowed me to have some extra fun money that was mine and mine alone. Thus, cash in hand, I decided to turn it into something that I had been wanting for a while, but never got around to pursuing too hard until now – a medium format film camera, and specifically a Pentax 645.
Why a Pentax 645? To put it bluntly, I like how they’re a single integrated package as opposed to the more typical modular construction of other medium format cameras. In some respects that makes me an oddball because the whole modular concept is what most folks really get excited over with these cameras, but not that odd apparently because many, many Pentax 645’s have been – and are still being, sold to this date. For me, the idea of an integrated package to work with means simplicity and a design that was made fit for purpose with no extra BS to deal with. I like that, and true to form the Pentax 645 is a very simple camera that is very direct to use and manage, especially the first-gen model, like the one I bought.
Control-wise the 645 is very minimal, with only the basics available, and not much more. You have direct controls for ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, plus mode select and exposure compensation as well. There’s also a multiple exposure feature, a DOF preview lever, a power switch/shutter lock, and finally the shutter button itself. That’s it. Later models added settings for AF, metering, and some other features, but the amount of fluff even on those is still nearly non-existent, so they’ve never strayed too far from the camera’s roots. I will say though, that the digital models – the 645D and 645Z – look to have broken the trend and gone the route of contemporary DSLRs, but they’re no worse than those cameras either, so maybe not such a great departure in the end.
As for the shooting experience, it is very similar to a standard 35mm film SLR, with the main difference being that it’s a somewhat different shape and noticeably heavier (though it’s actually almost identical in weight to my Nikon D3, so still quite manageable). In fact, it’s very, very close in many ways to the Pentax Program Plus I have that was contemporary to it at the time. As such, it makes for a very natural and quick shooting camera, despite its size and format, and that translates into I think one of the greatest advantages of the 645 over other medium format cameras like the Hasselblads and Rollei-Flexes, which is that you can carry and shoot it very easily. No hunching over, no awkward holds, no slow fiddly controls – nothing, just raise it to your eye, frame and focus like any 35mm manual SLR, press the shutter, and move on. It even has a power winder, so you don’t have to worry about that either. It’s fast and positive, thus you can use it exactly the same as a 35mm camera and in the same situations, but with all of the image quality benefits medium format brings to the table. It even has Program, Shutter, and Aperture Priority modes, as well as full Manual too. Anyone who’s ever shot a manual SLR will feel right at home in no time at all.
All of that’s great, of course, but in the end image quality is what’s really important, and in that area the 645’s no slouch. 645 negatives are just over 2.5 times larger in size than 35mm, so that means they capture much more detail and that they are cleaner looking than 35mm because the grain is proportionally smaller in comparison to the whole frame size. Since I scan my negatives in order to process them digitally, at 3200 dpi I get a nominal file size of about 32 megapixels, which is more than enough for most uses I feel. Quality wise, I’d say it feels very close to my Nikon D3, though the film grain is a bit more pronounced (this is based on scaling the images down to 12 MP for comparison purposes).
Now, you may asking, “Well, why bother with all this if the images are only about as good as a 7 year old DSLR? Shoot a modern DSLR and you would hand the film camera its ass on a plate, so again – why bother?”. My answer would be, “Who cares?”. Film is not digital, and it has a very specific look to it that you cannot, despite what some folks say, mimic with post processing. You can come kinda close, but it’s just not there in the end. This has a lot to do with factors like film’s handling of highlights, color palette, tonality (for B&W), and the effects of the camera/lens combination itself. No matter how digital is processed, it still looks digital because it is digital. Which is fine – each medium has its place and suits some types of work better than the other, and the smart, open-minded photographer uses both – applying either to whatever project it fits best. Many people will argue this point, however, but I feel they simply have a close-minded way of looking at things and are missing the bigger picture.
So there you go. Hopefully, after reading this you might become curious yourself about trying medium format film. If so, I say go for it. If you shoot 35mm film, the image quality boost is quite noticeable and very satisfying, and if you shoot digital, then the image quality will be closer to what you’re used to, but with all of that filmy goodness that real film naturally has. Not only that, but medium format cameras are dirt cheap these days. My 645 I picked up in mint/near new condition for $490 shipped from a seller in Japan, where a lot of these cameras seem to be coming from. That’s stupid cheap – especially when you consider that, new, the 645 went for around $2500 for the body/lens set (I have the original price tags for mine). Plus, lenses are about $150-160 on average I’m finding for clean minty samples. Other systems are similar – though the more popular ones like Hasselblad and Rollei hit the high end of the scale, but still far less than they were when new. The situation being what it is, you really have no excuse not to try one out, so go for it!
Here’s a handful of photos from the first few rolls I put through my 645. Most were just test shots and worthless otherwise, but there were some definite keepers and here they are:
Fuji Neopan 100 Acros in D76 1:1
Arista EDU Ultra 200 in D76 1:1
Arista EDU Ultra 100 in D76 1:1
[Update] My friend Mandy’s campaign ended just a short while ago, and I’m very pleased to say that she reached her goal, and with a little bit extra too, so she will receive the money and go to Japan. If you opted to help fund her, then a big thanks from me because it’s a very worthwhile project and Mandy’s a good person who deserves to be able to pursue her art to the best of her ability.
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This is a first for me. I’m never one to post links to funding campaigns and the like because, well, it’s just not my thing. Tonight, however, I’d like to break that rule once and ask that you consider funding my friend and fellow photographer Mandy Kendall’s campaign to bring her work to Japan this July in order to help begin a dialog there regarding the issues surrounding fracking and its impact on the environment.
As a resident of PA and being surrounded by active fracking wells, and also as having a direct connection to Japan via my own family, this is an issue I feel strongly about and one that needs to be brought to the attention of the Japanese public so that they can begin to learn about fracking and thus make reasonable and educated decisions about it in their own country. Mandy’s work is unique and will be one of the first steps towards that goal, so I feel she should be given the chance to facilitate that discussion in person.
And that’s that. I always hate the hard sell, so I will say no more. You can follow the link to Mandy’s Kickstarter page where you can find more info on the project. If you find it meritous, please help and contribute towards her goal (which is very reasonable), or at the very least spread the word so that this very important project can become a reality. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and also for your help and consideration! Here’s the link: Sacrificial Fire: Fracking Impacts in the US and Japan
Wanted to post a quick vanity shot I took of my new A-Power Pinhole 100 Polaroid pinhole camera that showed up today. Basically, it’s a modded Polaroid film back done by A-Power (www.doctor-and.com) in Japan and sold over the internet. With the current currency conversion for Yen to USD, the camera ran about $140 which includes the camera, strap, instructions, a pack of Fuji FP-100c film, and international shipping. Time from order to doorstep was about five days, so it doesn’t get much better than that.
Build quality is quite nice and clean, and fairly straightforward. That said, it’s still something that feels like you have to handle it somewhat lightly, so assuming you can do that, it should last for quite a while. What I like is that it’s a pretty unique bit of kit, and the sample photos I’ve seen look promising and interesting. Once the weather warms up somewhat, I’ll find out for myself – and of course I’ll post the pics here to share and give a final opinion of it. In the meantime, a little gear porn never hurts.
Trying to play catch-up due to my database crash, this is about one of the posts that was lost.
Back in January, I had the pleasure of participating in the 2015 January Group Show put on by Most Wanted Fine Arts in the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The image that I showed is displayed above, and when I attended the opening I was pleased that it got a fair bit of attention from the viewers that came to the gallery. The opening coincided with the monthly Unblurred gallery crawl, so the turnout was pretty decent considering that it was January. Probably didn’t hurt that it was unseasonably warm that weekend as well, so there really was no reason for people not to go out that evening. In any case, it was a good time, with good people, and I am very thankful that I was asked to participate in the show.
Here are some snaps I took mostly while the gallery was still empty, with a few later ones as well once the crowd showed up.
A quick note to share with you. You may have noticed that recently a number of posts have disappeared in to the ether never to be seen again. This, unfortunately, was due to a database corruption that came about from an unwanted automatic WordPress update about a month or so back. Worse part of it is that even the backups had the corruption propagate to them, so after a lot of searching and scrabbling the end result is that I’m back to July 2014 as my latest post. Needless to say, I’m rather annoyed.
That said, I’m going to recreate the lost posts as best as I can so that they’re not completely lost. I’ll also be updating my resume and such again as well, so there’ll be at least some recovery back to the norm. Anyway, I apologize if you weren’t able to find one of the lost posts or not able to have a current version of my information in hand and ready to go.