Friday 5: Into the Lens

Look, I know this is a day late but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about it after seeing a fellow blogger do it. The topic is relevant to me so it’ll be a good fit. Now just keep in mind that I’ve also worked in photo labs and have been shooting for years so the answers could be much longer than you bargained for.

The topic is Into the Lens, in which we answer photography-related questions. Let’s get to it!

What was your first camera like?
I didn’t own a camera of my own until high school when I took my first photography class. Until then, I had only used my brother’s Canon Snappy a few times. In 1985 I believe, I got my first SLR for Christmas: a Minolta X370 which I still have (even if it isn’t working at the moment). I shot with it for many, many years and captured some cool stuff, including George Brett’s 3,000th hit. Yes, I was a part of baseball history!

What kinds of accessories have you purchased for a camera?
What didn’t I buy for this camera? While the set I got for Christmas came with two lenses, a flash, cleaning accessories and one of those ugly camera bags that nobody but a hipster might be seen with in public today, I bought my share of goodies for my camera and mostly on the cheap. I had different colored lens filters for black-and-white photography, back when you had to imagine the image before you shot it.

“Hmm. The sky is a nice blue and I want to bring out those clouds. I need my red filter for that. Wait, this is the 52 mm diameter filter. Where’s my 55 mm one? NOOOO!”

I also had a cable release and tripod for long-exposure shots. Ann and I actually drove to the middle of nowhere in 1997 to capture the Hale-Bopp comet on film. True story.

I once picked up a zoom lens at the local thrift shop for around $10 and years later found a motor drive for the same price. What’s a motor drive, you might ask? See, old camera didn’t advance the film on their own and if you wanted to take a sequence of shots (known as Burst Mode today), you needed an autowinder. A motor drive took the idea of an autowinder to the next level by giving you the luxury of a shutter button on the side so when you were shooting portrait-style images, the button would be on the top — no twisting your wrist to release the shutter. And, even better, this mode allowed me to shoot up to 3.5 FPS (frames per second, not first-person shooter). Can you imagine how much film I went through when I used that feature?

When did you last shoot photos on film, and how many rolls of unshot film do you have in your house?
Strangely, I shot a roll of film just a few weeks ago because I was feeling retro. I haven’t developed it yet because I don’t even know if any local stores still do it. As far as unused rolls, I have two blank ones for the next time I’m in the mood.

Digital photography has all kinds of advantages over film photography, but what’s better about shooting on film and having to get it developed and printed?
The beauty of using film was that it was pure alchemy. You shot your film based on what your vision was at the time and you most likely only got one chance at getting things right due to the restrictions of available frames (24 or 36, since nobody used 12-exposure rolls). You had no idea what the results would be until you got them back in an hour or week or whatever time-frame you chose. As the filter example above clearly indicates, getting a good shot on film required a lot of work and quick thinking. It’s nothing like it is today, where you can just take another shot if the first one wasn’t any good.

How do you manage your digital photos?
I have a few backup methods for my digital photos. For ones I shoot with my DSLR, I back them up to my external drive and burn them to DVD so that I have at least two copies. I name the folder with the date I transferred them plus the event/location: “2015-04-02 Knott’s Berry Farm” or whatever. This method, of course, does no good if the house should burn down and both copies went with it. (I really should hand over the DVDs to the in-laws to be safe.)

As for those taken with my phone, since they seem to be more personal and require more attention, I wait until I reach a certain threshold then back them up the same way but also put them on my private Google Photos account so that I can access them whenever I need to. For DSLR shots that I want to share online, I drag a copy into Dropbox then download it to my phone. Dropbox is great for sharing data but horrible for managing photos. Google Photos is pretty amazing and does an excellent job organizing them, plus unlimited storage. Can’t beat it.

Okay. That should do it. While shooting digital is fun, most people today don’t even know what they are missing with film cameras. Use one for a day to understand and appreciate what us old[er] folk lived through — and how much we liked it.

Living in the 80s: Cars

Okay peeps, the first set of my 80s pictures is up and running. There aren’t too many there just yet but keep checking back as I will start to upload them when I can. Believe me, more are coming!

First topic: cars. These are pictures I took at car shows, at home, in general. And although it’s not included yet, but you’re gonna dig my Chevy Chevette when you see it. Can you say “CHICK MAGNET”?

Also note that I will be adding sets by category: people, places, etc. Many more are on the way.

Here’s the link, or you can subscribe to the RSS feed by going here.

Enjoy!

Living in the 80s

Sounds cliché but hey, why not?

For a good portion of my life, I worked in photo labs. In fact, my first job back in 1987 was at a photo lab in Long Beach, CA inside Ralphs “The Giant” store on South Street. The next one was also in Long Beach and because she lived right around the block from the place, I could have quite possibly had my (future) wife as a customer. Of course back then she was a teenager and I probably wouldn’t have given her the time of day, but anyway…

If you work in a photo lab and are even remotely interested in photography, naturally you take tons of photos. It costs you nothing provided the boss/owner isn’t around and isn’t anal about print counts matching the day’s take.

Since I was just out of high school and my Minolta X-370 still had that opened-on-Christmas-Day freshness, you bet I took lots of photos. The content didn’t matter; I was doing it because I loved to shoot pictures.

Flash-forward to a dusty storage shed in 2008. I was cleaning out said shed and came across a box of photos I took between 1986 when I first got my Minolta X-370 (which I still own), and 1989 when I started to work at Knott’s Berry Farm (and my free film-processing ride ended). I found it hard to believe how many pictures I took between those years but then again, my camera was my constant companion no matter where I went: Disneyland, baseball games, car shows, Las Vegas, etc.

As I looked through them, I realized how lucky I was to take so many damned pictures of so many stupid things. Back then they were just ordinary snapshots but today they are a slice of Americana from a crazy time to be alive.

That said, I thought it would be fun to share some of the best with everybody. I started to scan them last night and will begin to upload them to my Flickr account when they are all done, which could take a while after I crop, adjust, rename, save, upload and then tag, add descriptions, etc.

Either way, I’m sure they will be a hoot when finished and when they are, I will post a link to the album for all to enjoy.

Let’s just say this: my 1982 Chevy Chevette was awesome! Okay, not really.

Oh, and about the banner, aka Noritsu Nora (courtesy astropix.com) That is a print from a Noritsu control negative, which was used to color-balance Noritsu printers. Each different film type had its own channel which had to be set manually by the person printing: Kodak was 1, Fuji was 2, Agfa was 3, etc. Then they had to set the ASA: 100 was 1, 200 was 2, 400 was 3, etc. So the Fuji 400 film channel setting was 2-3.

Pain in the ass? Oh yeah, but every film type–35mm, 110 and even 126–and manufacturer had to be calibrated. Thank [insert appropriate deity here] Fuji came along with their Frontier system and pretty much eliminated that whole mess.

And I always thought a mannequin a perfect gauge for measuring human skin tones. Thanks, Aperion, Inc., for using a real person on your control negs!

Hi, I'm Trudy TruColor!

See? You kids have no idea what you missed out on!

Stay tuned…!

UPDATE: I scanned a few pictures of friends/relatives last night and e-mailed them. Their reactions were as follows, along with the image sent.

From one friend (jokingly):

"Good GOD! Can't you find anything better to do with your time?"

From another:

"Shit, dude! I had to look at that for a few minutes before I realized who it was and where it was taken!"

Either way, they have brought smiles to their faces. Cool.