Tag Archives: Washington DC

New Toy, On The Road

As many of you who have been following my blog for any period of time are now aware, I’m a camera-toy junkie. My latest foray in camera toy land has been into the world of “toy” cameras. I’ve been working for several years on my Sinister Idyll series using my Lomo Belair X-6/12. Many would call it a “toy” camera because it is a plastic fantastic body, with aperture-preferred automatic exposure only, only two aperture choices, and manual guesstimate focusing only. It’s upgradeable (as I have done) with two Russian-made glass lenses (which are absolutely superb), but beyond that, it’s a glorified point-n-shoot that takes panoramic images on 120 roll film.

Well, I just acquired its spiritual cousin, the Lomo LC-A 120. The LC-A has a super-wide lens, also a Russian glass lens, and a fully automatic shutter and aperture (you have no say whatever in the exposure other than if you game the system by changing the ISO, and no idea which aperture it’s using because there is no indicator in the viewfinder, just a slow-shutter warning light). Focusing is achieved by selecting one of four focus zones via a lever on the side of the body. I’ve been plinking around with it here around Washington DC, and just gave it its first serious workout on the road when I took it with me to London.

DiscoGrecian
“Disco Grecian”, British Museum

One of the most obvious characteristics of the lens is a noticeable vignette in the corners. Applied properly, this is a very effective tool. Thanks to the automatic aperture, it’s not always predictable how much you’re going to get (see comment above about the aperture – with wider apertures and infinity focus, you get more vignetting. With smaller apertures and closer focus, you get little or no vignetting).

GreekTempleBritishMuseum
Greek Temple, British Museum

As you can see from the people moving around in this scene, the camera is quite sharp even at a larger aperture, and the extreme wide-angle (the same field of view as a Hasselblad Superwide) lets you hand-hold at speeds that would be very difficult with a normal lens on a reflex camera. I’m guessing this was somewhere between 1/8th and 1/2 second.

PennyfarthingMuseumStreet
Pennyfarthing Bike, outside Thomas Farthing’s, Museum Street, London

Even with the lens being so wide, you can achieve selective focus effects with it if you get in close. I highly recommend getting in close!

RussellSquareTubeStairs
Exit, Russell Square Tube Station, London

An extreme example of hand-holding (yes, I know – I have supernaturally steady hands). This was at least a one-second exposure.

UndergroundStationOldStreet
Approaching Train, Waiting Passenger, Kings Cross Tube Station

The LC-A is a great travel camera because it’s so wide, it allows you to include a near-human-eye field of view, and the extreme light-weight and compact form factor make it very easy to take anywhere and carry all day. Ditto for the minimalist operation technique – you really just point, set focus range, and shoot.

OFOBikeLCA
No Smoking

Back here in DC, you can see another example of the vignette effect. I did tweak this a little to amplify it, but this is not a significant manipulation beyond what the camera did.

BarSinkRenovations
Under Construction

I like getting multi-layered images with partial reflections in glass. And it’s a bit of a self-portrait too, with my shadow falling in the image. I love how the construction workers have the microwave set up and working in the middle of a kitchen remodel – you have to have your priorities straight and keep the coffee warm!

ColumbiaPlazaClouds

A demonstration of not only the extreme field of view, but the color rendering of the lens. The camera has a reputation for deep, saturated colors. This was taken with 10+ years out-of-date Fuji Pro 400 H.

ConcretePineconeDupontAgain, you can never really get too close. This was a test of the close-focus/selective focus capability (the minimum focus setting is 1.5 feet).

FiveHousesDupont

Nice saturated colors even on decade-old film.

One of the things I’ve been enjoying about these “toy” cameras that give you very little control over your photograph is the way that they in many ways demonstrate the lack of need for that level of control to make good images. The extreme wide-angle of not only the LC-A but also the Belair force you to think very seriously about your composition, use of perspective, and manipulation of forced perspective to emphasize/de-emphasize compositional elements. With the Belair, I do have a “B” setting for the shutter to do long exposures and intentionally play with time, something I don’t have on the LC-A (but wish I did). Time is the one other critical component to a photograph that we do and simultaneously do not have control over – I can control when I open the shutter, and to some extent when I close the shutter (if I want a “correctly” exposed image, I must close it when it needs to be closed, not when I want it to be closed), but beyond that we have no real control over what happens WHILE the shutter is open. Things happen on their own. Movement is never fully predictable. Moving subjects speed up, slow down, change direction, or stop without warning.

I’ve started thinking of these cameras that I’ve been using – the Belair and the LC-A – as “serendipity boxes” because to use them successfully, they require an acceptance of serendipity, chance, and fortune. They’re life-metaphors in a way – just like in my own life, I can point them a certain direction, look at specific things, get closer, and turn away.  But if I don’t learn how to see through them, to take in the periphery, work within the uniquely skewed perspectives that they offer, I’ll miss out on things that are presented to me because they didn’t fit in the tightly-controlled box I wanted them to fit into.

 

Time-lapse video – DC Metro from Shaw-Howard U to U Street

Just a little experiment I’ve been wanting to try for a while. I’ve wanted to shoot the tunnel between stations because it’s something most subway riders never see or pay attention to. There’s some interesting architecture in the tunnels, and they’re not the black voids we tend to think of them as. 


Here’s the same concept but in standard frame rate. 

Swing Lens Panoramas with the IPhone 

The iPhone has had a major impact on personal photography. While it’s nowhere near as capable as my Fuji X-T1, it is both an exceptionally capable and flexible photographic implement, and the camera you always have with you. One of the very cool built-in features is the panorama  function. On my way home from work today I was having fun playing with it, and testing out the low-light quality simultaneously. 


As you can see, you achieve a panoramic image by swinging the camera from left to right (or in some cases top to bottom- This can also be reversed and swung the other way). You can do an up to 360-degree image. Because of the rotation of the camera, you get linear distortion. 

When used carefully, This can make for some interesting images. The curves really highlight the shapes and the light in the scene. Used poorly, it can drag your eye (and hold it) in an ugly and/or uninteresting part of the image. 


Another effect is if you have subjects moving through the scene, they can get stretched or compressed, depending on their speed of motion and direction, relative to the camera’s rotation. You can see that very clearly in this image. 

Nighttime exposures present some challenges to image quality, especially when combined with the swinging of the camera to stitch together the exposure. 

As a last comparison, here’s a daytime panoramic:

Portraits of Ordinary Objects

A couple more in the Ordinary Objects series.

Trashcan, Columbia Plaza
Trashcan, Columbia Plaza

I’ve noticed that as the series continues, my style of shooting it has evolved, which is a good thing. The photos are becoming more consistent, especially in terms of composition. The camera is placed on a level with the object, which usually means much lower than eye or even sometimes waist level, and more frontally square to the object.

Fire Hydrant, Vero Beach
Fire Hydrant, Vero Beach

The hydrant is in a suburban Florida cul-de-sac where the tallest things around it are date palms, and they’re not massed together to form a giant wall, so the lighting is direct sun, not a diffused sky. I’ve been looking at it and trying to decide how well it fits the series – I think it does on the subject matter and the compositional level, but until I shoot more objects in suburban or rural environments it feels weird because the background isn’t walls or windows or passing traffic, but grass and trees.

MODEL SHOOT, GEORGETOWN – THE FILM EDITION, Duos

Ok, well, two duos and a single. I couldn’t leave well enough alone and stick strictly to the article title, as there was one image left that needed to be used.

Trevor, Grayson
Trevor, Grayson
Trevor, Grayson
Trevor, Grayson

At least the odd single is in the same location, same lighting, same film. So it kinda-sorta fits. All three are, as tradition, shot on my Rolleiflex 2.8E, with Kodak Ektar 100.

Grayson
Grayson

Model Shoot, Georgetown – the Film Edition, Black-and-White

I squeezed in a roll of Tri-X in my shooting with the models. I wish I had had the chance to shoot some frames of Trevor, the other model, in black and white, but such is life. Another time.

Grayson
Grayson

Grayson has a very commanding gaze and makes for a great portrait subject. He uses this to compensate for an otherwise willowy physique (not that there’s anything wrong with willowy).

Grayson
Grayson

We shot all of these down under the Whitehurst Freeway where it runs parallel to the Potomac River on the edge of Georgetown. Despite the deep shade it creates, it makes for some beautiful, soft light.

Grayson
Grayson

The tank top reads “I like bad boys” in French. It was Grayson’s own choice of wardrobe – very fun and cheeky.

Grayson
Grayson

The last shot was at a boarded-up building tucked away under the freeway. I’m surprised given the value of real estate in Georgetown that such a place could exist. Whatever, it makes for a neat backdrop for models. The bottle of Fat Tire was found en-situ, and trust me, nobody drank from it.

Grayson
Grayson

Model Shoot, Georgetown – the Film Edition, “Nuclear Age”

While we were out scouting a location, Grayson saw this bit of graffiti and said, “I want my picture taken next to a sign that says, ‘Nuclear Age Sucks Shit’. The colors were cool, the message edgy, and the model was inspired, so who was I to say no? I’m going to keep it on my list of places to shoot.

Grayson
Grayson

The Anarchy symbol made for a kind of halo in purple for Grayson.

Grayson
Grayson

In this case, the diffuser wasn’t big enough to soften the light on the whole scene, and the hard-edged shadow on the wall made perfect sense given the message of the mural – the shadows recall the kind of shadows cast by the blast of a nuclear weapon.

Grayson
Grayson

In this last shot, I moved in tight to get the golden mushroom stenciled on the wall. It just seemed a fitting counterpart to the rest of the graffiti.

Grayson
Grayson

Again, all shots were taken on Kodak Ektar 100 in my Rolleiflex. It gives punchy saturation when you need it without being over-the-top.