Monday, January 23, 2012

A doggone tricky photo shoot

My friend Jessyca is quite the entrepreneur. She runs Jess & Co Canine Couture, a luxury clothing maker for small dogs.

She's quite the photographer herself and has worked with a lot of great people, so I jumped at the chance to do some shots with her and her pomeranian, Tokyo.

Friday morning had been very overcast and rainy, so when we settled on 1:15 p.m. for the portrait session, I wasn't too worried about the light. Little did I know that by the time I made it downtown, the clouds would part and the sun would appear in full force. The thermometer in my car was showing 85 degrees when I got there.

The harsh sunlight made things rough, but then to add to the challenge, the wind decided to start gusting at around 15 knots. Oh yeah, and then there's the dog ...

I grabbed the Leica M8 and the Leica M3, and we worked our way around Eleanor Tinsley Park. Did I mention the park turned out to be undergoing major construction? Everything seemed stacked against us that day.

I call this one the Wizard of Oz shot because Jessyca looks like she's about to blow away.


But Jess and Tokyo started working those matching outfits.


Eleanor Tinsley Park is a great place to pick up the Houston skyline in the background of your photos.

In the park

And we finally got the shot I was waiting for.

Jess & Tokyo

But, of course, Tokyo still had to have her close-up.

Little Tokyo

I was relieved when I pulled the Ilford 100 out of the developing tank that the recent shutter repair on the M3 was succesful. I think next shoot I'm going to try some Kodak Portra 160. Here was an attempt with the Alien Skin Exposure 3 plug-in to see if I could get the look from digital.

Jess and Tokyo

Monday, January 16, 2012

Have you done any jousting lately?

One of my friends gave me a call Friday afternoon and said, hey, if you're not doing anything tomorrow, they're jousting out at the barns.

Now, I'd seen jousting at the Texas Renaissance Festival in years past, so obviously the jousters have to learn and practice somewhere. However, these jousters are a bit more serious than the "theatrical" jousters at RenFest and Medievil Times. This was a big deal sport to them, and they were all getting ready for the Lyst of the Lakes Tournament in Austin.

It was a bit strange to see cowboys riding around spearing things.

Spear practice

But eventually they suited up to practice riding in armor.

Jousting practice

And by the time the sun was going down, they were facing off for practice runs.

The Faceoff

It was an interesting shoot, and I only came close to being trampled like a serf one time.

You can see all the shots on my site

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Duaflexperiment

On my last trip to visit my parents, I came home with my great grandfather's Kodak Duaflex IV twin lens reflex camera. It's a very simple medium format camera that uses 620 film.

Kodak Duaflex IV

There just so happened to be one roll of Verichrome Pan 620 in the box that had expired in 1981. I loaded it up in the camera and headed out for the weekend.

About halfway through the roll I could tell something funky was going on with the shutter, so my expectations weren't too high when I mixed up some Caffenol-C to see what I'd captured.

This was the best of the bunch.

Kodak Experiment 03

The exposures got worse from there as everything got blurrier and blurrier as the shutter apparently stuck longer and longer.

Kodak Experiment 01

Kodak Experiment 02

Kodak Experiment 04

Kodak Experiment 05

Kodak Experiment 06

Kodak Experiment 07

Kodak Experiment 08

I think I'll keep my eyes open for another medium format camera, and the little Kodak will remain decor on the bookshelf.

What I've learned about sailboat propellers

After warning me that my propeller needed to be replaced while scraping the coral reef from the bottom of the Starwind, our diver returned Saturday morning with more tools to pull the prop.

Starwind Prop

The prop was much smaller than I expected. It was a 12" diameter with a 10" pitch and a 1" shaft. It also turns right-handed. I learned this is all stamped on propellers and usually denoted with something like RH 12 x 10.

Obviously the diver was correct. The prop needed to be serviced. It's already missing chunks. But how could he know (aside from feeling that hole) in the murky water with almost zero visibility?

Apparently the quick and easy way to tell if a propeller is still good is to tap it with a wrench or something metal. If it rings like a bell, you have good metal. If it makes a dull "tink" sound, the metal has become porous and full of fractures.

My original plan was to get the diver to pull the prop, hand it off to me while I found something comparable at the Kemah resale shop down the street, and then have him put the replacement on as soon as I got back. I'd only have to pay for one dive and a smoke break. Unfortunately, the closest thing I could find was a RH 13 x 14. That's a 13" diameter with a 14" pitch. It was not only a larger propeller, but it also pushed a great deal more water.

The diver got it seated, and I fired up the Kubota. It really vibrated at idle, so I throttled up to see what would happen ... but the engine speed never went up. Instead, my exhaust turned black.

I was over-propped.

My diver suited back up and pulled the RH 13 x 14 back off, so I could go return it. I think he was secretly happy that I'd have to pay him to come out for yet a third weekend once I found a correct replacement, but he hid it well.

I did find a RH 12 x 10 on eBay, which I procured for only $101 including shipping -- not a bad deal. Now there's nothing to do but wait for it to arrive and hope it does the trick.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Trying to save Kodak

Kodak hasn't done so hot the past few years. They sold off their sensor business last year and now their gelatine business. Looks like they'll be filing chapter 11 in the near future.

If you notice in my last post, my lovely girlfriend is holding an old Kodak Duaflex. That camera actually belonged to my great grandfather and came along with a half-exposed roll of 120 film loaded in it.

The other roll of film that was in the box with it had an expiration date of 1982 on the package, so we're guessing the film in the camera could have shots from as far back as the 1970s on it.

At lunch today I ran by Houston Camera Co-op and picked up a metal spool for developing 120 film. My goal for the week (aside from finding a new prop for the boat) is to finish shooting that roll of film, find out how to actually take it out of the camera, and to develop it.

Of course, I'm running on the assumption that it has black and white film inside. If it turns out to be color, I'll have to send it off.

Just to help Kodak I also picked up a fresh roll of 120 T-Max 100 and a couple rolls of 35mm Portra 160.

Sure, it's not going to save the company, but at least it makes me feel like I'm helping.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Oh film, I love you but I hate you.

I ran through two rolls of black and white film in December. I'm so used to the instant gratification of digital that it's hard to wait for the results. Then again, it's part of the fun -- unless the results are bad. Then it's no fun at all.

Holey Shutters, Batman!

Every single photo I took on the roll of Ilford had these burned spots right in the middle. Apparently while I was hiking through the woods shooting my first roll, the sun was burning a hole in the cloth shutter of my M3.

I had heard that if you left your camera sitting out on a table or something the sun could damage the shutter, but I didn't realize it could happen while hanging around your neck. I guess in the future I've either got to keep the lens cap on all the time or stop down the aperture between shots.

But not everything was ruined. I found a couple photos from before the Christmas party that I forgot I'd taken when I was testing the self-timer.


And a few shots from the hike through the woods turned out.




But, I thought I'd rewound the roll of T-Max and popped the bottom plate off the camera, only to find it hadn't rewound at all. That ruined over half the first roll.

So yes, in two rolls of film, 48 shots, I got four good photos.

This is why film drives me crazy. Of course, by the time the M3 shutter gets repaired, I'll be dying to shoot some more.

Lack of zinc and copper paint

November and December were busy months, so the Starwind got a bit neglected. She had quite the moldy aroma when I slid open the companionway for the first time in over a month.

I still haven't made the trip to FastenAll to pick up the all-thread I need to put the last bolt into the heat exchanger after it's third and most-recent repair, but the engine was still running fine if you don't mind the odor from the small exhaust leak. (At least it covers the mold smell.)

We were hoping to start the year with a sail, but it was far too gusty in Kemah Sunday. Instead we started the year with a bottom scrubbing.

Barnacle Bill

Our diver chiseled an estimated 200-300 pounds of these cranky crustaceans off the hull. Actually, he only made it around 3/4 of the hull and then his scraper broke. He's coming back to finish the last section later this week.

Accumulating this many barnacles in a year is not a good thing. We obviously have no bottom paint left at all, so a haul-out is imminent.

The other problem is that since there has been no rain this year, the marina has been extra salty. That sped up electrolysis, and we had no zinc whatsoever left on the prop shaft. The prop was already pink and getting a little soft when we had it checked at the last bottom cleaning. Now it's completely porous and falling apart.

I wasn't really wanting to buy a new propeller first thing in 2012, but it looks like I've got to find one this week if we want to do any sailing soon.

I guess it's time to get back to work and finish my wiring projects as well.

Braving the cold

Christmas took me to a little farmhouse in the tri-cities area of Illinois. There was plenty of cold, but no snow. I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad about the lack of snow. I've never really shot any photos in the snow. Then again, I'm pretty happy with what I got.

The abandoned farmhouse down the road looked nice in the morning sun.

The old farmhouse

The resident donkey was always looking for a hand out.

Nasty the Donkey

It was warm enough during the day that the creek hadn't frozen over yet.


But there was a little ice.


We hiked the old train tracks until we found the end of the line.


And although the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, the skies in Illinois give Texas a run for its money.