Category Archives: 35mm Cameras

Twilight Walkabout, Contax G2

A while ago a friend of mine asked me to shoot a roll of Tri-X through my Contax G2 so he could see how it performed in low-light situations, as he was thinking about getting one himself. I took a walk around my neighborhood one evening in the spring, put a roll through the camera, and these are some of the results.

One thing I notice about the shots I’ve been taking with the G2 is that my composition has been freer, less formal and less insistent on everything being nice, tidy, plumb and square. I’ve been shooting more off-angle shots and I don’t know if that’s because I’m shooting hand-held, eye-level, or because I’m trying out more ‘grab shots’ where the camera isn’t even really being brought to my eye, I’m just aiming and trusting the auto-focus. I know in the past I would have found a lot of these off-angle ‘grab shots’ objectionable and they’d have gone straight to the reject pile. But I’m reconsidering them now and I’m starting to like them. Well, maybe more appreciate them for what they are, and not reject them out of hand.

Etto Bistro
Etto Bistro

Cars at night are interesting. Depending on how you shoot them, they can be sharp, they can be blurred, or they can even disappear, leaving behind only the light trails of their head and tail lamps as proof they were once there.

The BMW was stopped fully at the traffic light when I started the exposure, but the SUV next to it was in the act of stopping, and the car turning onto 14th Street was in continuous motion.

BMW Convertible
BMW Convertible

Cars and people have to co-exist on city streets. Here a pedestrian follows a speeding car through the intersection, hoping to make the other side before the change of the light.

Le Diplomate, Twilight, Car
Le Diplomate, Twilight, Car

People in low light are a similar problem – they don’t ever really sit still. Combine that with needing to use large apertures with shallow depth of field in low light, and the requisite slow shutter speeds, and you have a recipe for blur. This was something else I used to always find objectionable; blurry people. Now, I think of it more as a sign of our humanity and our alive-ness.

Rice Restaurant, Interior
Rice Restaurant, Interior

This isn’t to say we always need to be in continuous motion – quiet contemplation in a sea of motion is often called for and a needed respite.

Sidewalk Patron, Rice
Sidewalk Patron, Rice

Architecture at twilight is in some ways easier to shoot because the subjects aren’t moving. But that still has challenges because the contrast range of dim exteriors and bright interiors, combined with hotspots from outside spot lights, can be just as difficult to balance.

Old Schoolhouse, 14th Street
Old Schoolhouse, 14th Street

The fun thing about these lighting situations, though, is that it sets up the viewer to make a psychological interrogation of the building- you are literally being pulled into the interior of the space to examine, investigate and interpret something illuminated from within that in daylight is muted if not hidden.

Bike Rack Store
Bike Rack Store

Contax G2, 35mm f2 Planar

Most of you know me as a medium format and/or large format photographer. But, every once in a while, I do like to break out my ‘toy’ format stuff and use my Contax G2. I was asked to take some photos for the office picnic as a second shooter, so I popped a roll of Tri-X in the G2, put on the 35mm f2 Planar lens, and shot a dozen or so shots. For whatever reason, they decided to have the picnic INSIDE the garage instead of on the top deck of the garage, and it was painfully dim, thus the lack of volume on the photos. I had two thirds of a roll left, so I went for a walk and burned some film. These are two shots that came from that quick walkabout by my office, and I think are very much in keeping with the general themes of my work, even if they’re shot on tiny film 🙂

Passing Cyclist
Passing Cyclist
Speed Limit 35
Speed Limit 35

The 35mm lens for the G2 has this odd reputation – by all standards, it is an outstanding lens. However, its siblings are so much better that when compared to the 45mm f2 Planar, or the 28mm f2.8 Biogon, it comes up a little lacking, and doesn’t get much love from the Contax aficionados. After shooting with it for the picnic/walkabout, I’m re-evaluating how I feel about it, and it might get more use from here on out.

Portraits

These two portraits are natural light portraits I took of my parents in their kitchen. These were play-around shots with my Contax RTS III and the 50mm f1.4 Planar lens for it. I wanted to see what the out-of-focus areas looked like when shot wide open. I think the shot of my mom with my dad in the background has an extremely painterly quality to it and really shows off the lens’ capability. Now it makes me want to use that lens more!

Joyce and Tom
Joyce and Tom
Tom
Tom

More Cars

Some more shots from the car show:

The grille of a 1947(I think – might have been a 46 or a 48) Lincoln Continental. The hood is raised in this shot to show off the engine.

Lincoln Continental Grille
Lincoln Continental Grille

a 1950 Ford hotrod. Note the modern steering wheel and stereo alongside the otherwise traditional dashboard.

50 Ford Hotrod Dash
50 Ford Hotrod Dash

The Lincoln Continental had it’s spare tire mounted on the rear instead of in the fenders, the “continental” style. I’m not sure if the name had anything specific to do with the choice of how to mount the spare tire or if that was coincidence. The downside is that mounting the spare that way makes access to the otherwise commodious trunk rather difficult, as you have to lift your bags and parcels over the spare to access the top-loading trunk. I drove a 1962 Nash Metropolitan in high school that had a similar spare tire mount, the only thing keeping it from being a royal pain was the fact that the car and the tire were small enough that it was easy to clear the tire. For awkward cargo, the seat-back folded down to allow easier entry to the trunk.

Lincoln Continental Tire
Lincoln Continental Tire

Not your neighbor’s BMW – this is the hood of an Isetta, a post-war compact BMW that is very much a spiritual ancestor to the Smart car, except it was made by BMW, and had a front-opening door to which the steering wheel and speedometer were attached and swung out of the way to grant access. Not exactly a 5-star crash safety rating. Isettas are climbing in value now, but I can remember when they were not much more expensive than my Met.

Isetta Hood
Isetta Hood

The fuel cap to a replica AC Cobra. The original AC Cobras are now so valuable (a vintage 427 Cobra is well north of $500K, and with racing history or other special qualifications, they sell for over $1M!) that probably 99% of the ones you will see on the road and 90% of the ones at car shows are replicas. This one happened to be an exceptionally well made replica with highly accurate details, like the fuel filler cap.

Cobra Fuel Cap
Cobra Fuel Cap

Cars

Sometimes, I do actually break out the 35mm and shoot. These were all taken at a local car show, playing around with my Contax RTS III and the 50mm f1.4 Planar lens. I think you really can tell a difference between shots taken with the RTS III and other 35mm cameras because of the vacuum film pressure plate – sucking the film perfectly flat at the time of exposure does lead to a sharper negative overall, or at least takes the film’s flexibility out of the equation and lets the lens shine through. These were taken with my favorite color negative film, Kodak Ektar 100.

I just love the simplicity of the Corvette rear end design in this composition – the field of cream yellow, offset by the curve of chrome and the two red taillights reflected in the bumper. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Corvette Bumper
Corvette Bumper

Aah, classic design. The Art Deco glory that is the Cord 810 convertible. Considering how rare and expensive these are, the owner/driver gets a lot of credit for driving it to and from the show. I saw him later that afternoon, pulled over with the hood up, so that dashed my fantasies of having one as a daily driver. But it’s still a glorious car to see on the road today.

Dashboard, Cord 810
Dashboard, Cord 810

Another vintage dashboard, from a Porsche 356. Very clean, very simple, no clutter to distract from the driving experience.

Porsche Steering Wheel
Porsche Steering Wheel

I was racking my brain to remember what car this was exactly. It’s British, 1950s, with a big (for the time and place) engine. I was thinking Jensen, or BRM, but I think Jensen was 60s and 70s, and BRM mostly did racing cars. Then it struck me – it’s a 1950s Bristol four-place coupe. They were fast, luxurious GTs in their day, and somewhat rare, especially on this side of the pond.

Bristol Dash
Bristol Dash

Here is the engine compartment of the Bristol. A big inline 6-cylinder topped by three magnificent carburetors. It’s almost sculptural.

Bristol Engine
Bristol Engine

The modern contingent – a Ford GT, the modern recreation of the 1960s GT40 race car, but this one is street legal, and fully civilized on the inside with working A/C, radio, and leather seating.

Ford GT40
Ford GT40

And last but not least, what car show would be complete without a Ferrari or two? This is the dashboard of a Ferrari 250 Berlinetta, as seen through the window glass.

Ferrari Dash
Ferrari Dash

From the vaults – Infrared Figures in the Landscape

These are some from my vaults. I was doing some clean-up in my library and went through my catalog of negatives, and came across these. I shot these on the old Kodak HIE infrared film. Alas, not only is HIE no more, but virtually all IR-sensitive films are gone now too, other than Ilford’s SFX and Rollei IR. Kodak HIE was the king of the crop, having far greater infrared sensitivity than the others (it topped out over 900nm, whereas most of the other films were 820nm, or even 750 with the Konica). It produces a beautiful pictorial effect, and made for some very interesting figure studies. I only ever got to shoot a few rolls of it before it was gone, and the few I had stashed didn’t keep well, even in cold storage. Lots of people have asked about bringing Kodak HIE back as a product – I would love to see it happen, but it isn’t going to. Here’s why – the infrared sensitivity is effected by a specialized dye. The dye requires chemicals that are A: rare, B: very expensive, and C: don’t age well. To meet the minimum manufacturing requirements, very large quantities of the dye would have to be made. At the end of the products’ commercial life, Kodak was not selling enough of the film to cover the cost of the dye, and it was generating tremendous waste as the dye was going bad before the current stock would be sold, so they were not only throwing away dye, they were throwing away finished product.

Dat, #5
Dat, #5
Dat, #4
Dat, #4
Dat, #3
Dat, #3
Dat, #6
Dat, #6
Dat, #2
Dat, #2
Dat, #1
Dat, #1

Chihuly Glass and Abstracts, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond

Abstract, Wall Reflections, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Abstract, Wall Reflections, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Abstract, Wall Reflections, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Abstract, Wall Reflections, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Ceiling, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Ceiling, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA

This was taken over the Thanksgiving weekend at my visit to Richmond, Virginia and the Dale Chihuly glass exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. There was a passageway between rooms where the ceiling had been filled with all these marine-inspired glass forms and then lit from above. The glass forms (seen in the last image) then projected these really abstract color and light patterns on the walls. These were interesting enough that I tried to capture some of the effect of it.

Shot with my Contax G2, 21mm lens, and Kodak Ektar 100 film – hand-held.