Saturday, October 24, 2020

Stupid Stupid Internet

We are experiencing technical difficulties . . . 

If you happen to scroll through the previous posts here on the Uncle Jonesy's Cameras Blog, you quickly will discover a problem with most of them:  no photos where there should be photos. The following is a quick explanation:

When I first created the UJC Blog, I opened a Google account just for Uncle Jonesy's Cameras. That is why our email address is "unclejonesyscameras@gmail.com," of course. However, at the time when I created the UJC Blog, I was employed as a music teacher by a school district that used the Google education platform for it's email and cloud storage. I found that trying to switch back and forth between my school Google account and the UJC Google to be difficult at best, so I just gave in and used my school Google account for the blog. Furthermore, as the "author" of any post I wrote, I used my school Google email as well. Kelley, on the other hand, used a personal Google account for the post he authored.

So, as you may know, I retired from my teaching position in July. My school email remained active until the end of September, when it was turned off. I did not anticipate what would happen to the UJC blog when that happened. First, all the photos in the posts I wrote were gone. Second, I was no longer able to sign into the account to post or edit. Great. Just great.

So, I asked my school IT to turn my account back on so that I could fix the problem. After some searching on the internet, I thought I knew how to do it. I logged back in and added my personal Google account as both an author and an admin. Then, I removed my school Google account from the blog. The help I found on the internet assured me that the new admin account would "inherit" all of the blog posts. I tested everything, and everything looked good. 

That is, until my school Google account was turned off once again. I can log into the blog with my personal Google email, but once again all of the photos I posted while using my school Google account are gone. All of them.

I promised my school IT that I would not ask him to turn on my school account again, so that train has left the station. And unless any of you Google-savy readers have a suggestion for me to get those photos back, I will have only one option, and that is to replace as many of them as I can one by one in each blog post.

So, please forgive the current sorry state of the UJC blog. I will do what I can to repair the damage, but it will take quite some time. In the meantime, all new posts will work just fine.

Thank you so much for your patience, and thank you for reading the UJC Blog.

Kevin

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

UJC Podcast #26: Make That Movie - Test Those Lenses - Buy This Zine

Recently both Shutter Brothers got together in the same room to share with each other what each has been up to lately with their cameras and photography, so once again we turned on the UJC microphone and captured Kelley and Kevin's thoughts for you to enjoy. The last time we did this Kelley was getting ready to shoot some 8mm movie film in his Bolex camera, and he takes the first part of the show to share some of his experiences with double 8 movie film and what he has learned from it. 

Double 8 movie film is 16mm wide, but an 8mm camera only
shoots half of the film on the first pass and the other half on the
second pass. Then, when the film is processed, it is slit into it's 
two 8mm halves and spiced together to make one 50' movie.

Kelley holds his finished 8mm movie!

Meanwhile, Kevin has been testing a pair of Russian-made lenses that came with his two Zorki cameras. While we all love to talk about cameras, it is important to note the a camera's lens has the most significant impact on the quality of the image. So what do you do when you suspect a lens is not performing as well as hoped? Answer:  Put it to the test. Kevin explains how he conducted his lens test, and you can see some of the results right here in the Uncle Jonesy's Cameras Blog.

These Russian-made Zorki cameras came with Russian-made
lenses. Are they any good?

Finally, Kevin reviews a colorful photo zine from Matt Murray. Matt is the person behind one of our favorite film photography podcasts, Matt Loves Cameras. The zine is titled Every Summer, and Kevin's company sits proudly on his coffee table. Not only is the photography top notch, but Kevin finds Matt's style of decluttered composition very inspiring. You can get your own copy of Every Summer by clicking here.

Matt Murray's fabulous zine is not only a pleasure to look at,
but also Kevin finds it to be very inspiring!

You can find the Uncle Jonesy's Cameras Podcast on your favorite podcast provider, or you can click here to listen. We'd love to hear from you as well. You can send us emails and voice memos to unclejonesyscameras@gmail.com.

Happy Shooting!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A Tale (and Test) of Two Zorki's

Ok, I'll admit it. I'm obsessed with my two Zorki rangefinder cameras, especially the older one, my little Zorki 1. Come to think of it, I'm quite fond of my Zorki 4 as well. Both of these cameras have a special place in my heart and in my camera arsenal, and I've written about them before in this blog (see links above and below). I love seeing them sit on my window sill, and I love putting film in them and making photographs with them. 
They are fun to use, not because they are fancy or loaded with features, but quite the opposite, actually. Using them connects me with the basic functions of a camera:  shutter speed, aperture, focus, and depth of field. I sometimes feel as it I have stepped back to an earlier time in photography when photographers learned to think carefully and quickly about composition and exposure to avoid missing shots. I am not fast with these cameras yet, but the more I use them the more comfortable I get. 

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that Zorki was a brand name for a series of cameras manufactured in Russian beginning around the time of World War II. They were meant to be copies of the very fine (and very expensive) German-made Leica rangefinder cameras that Russians citizens could no longer get because of the war. My Zorki 1 greatly resembles a Leica ii, and my Zorki 4 is loosely based on a Leica iiic. Of course, the Leica's were far better cameras with outstanding optics, and today Zorki's are dirt cheap compared to the investment one must make to own a Leica. Ironically, I used to own a Leica iiib beginning back in the 1980's until it my house was broken into in 1994. Maybe someday I will own one again. Maybe not. However, for now I have these two Russian copies to play with. 

If I had to pick one really good thing about these cameras, it would be that they actually work. I have had to made some repairs on the shutter curtains of the Zorki 1, and I have had the Zorki 4 shutter completely overhauled by a professional camera repair person, but hey, eventually you have to service all vintage cameras including Leica's. so functionally, my Zorki bodies work fine. But what about the lenses?

In my experience so far, the quality of theses Russian-made lenses are the most significant difference between the Leica and the Zorki. My early experiences with both cameras produced results that ranged from mediocre to out-of-focus bad. It was enough to make me question actually using them until I was able to afford better lenses. However, I decided to try again and do something along the lines of a test. I decided to try shooting subjects at difference distances with different apertures to see what the lenses can do under the best of conditions. Also, I strove to make sure that I was focusing carefully and holding the camera steady to get the sharpest photos possible. 

I started with my Zorki 1. It is equipped with a Russian-made Industar 22 50mm f3.5 collapsable lens that is a copy of the German-made Leica Elmar lens, a very fine lens indeed. I loaded the Zorki 1 with some Ultrafine Extreme 100 film and looked several walks around downtown Chattanooga on sunny days, which gave me easy-to-calculate exposures. I shot subjects at close distances, and subjects at infinity. I developed the film myself and made some prints at Safelight District Community Darkroom, where I am a member. I decided to make prints of only the best shots.

The best way to describe what I found is this:  inconsistency, especially with distant subjects. Some photos of our river bridges (a favorite subject of mine) were just not sharp, even though I set my focus at infinity. Using different apertures, like f8, f11, and f16, did not make a significant difference, either. However, a shot of our local aquarium from a distance was much better and certainly acceptable. Photographs of subjects at a medium distance (about twenty feet) also were reasonably sharp. 

The Tennessee Aquarium. Reasonably sharp
at infinity, unlike other photos at similar distance.

Universal Joint, a local pub. Good focus from about twenty feet.

Where this lens really shone was with shots with five to ten feet. I made several photographs of a public art exhibit called Passages, which commemorates the tragic removal of the Cherokee Nation from Tennessee and Georgia in the 1830's. There are several large ceramic disks that tell of the history of the Cherokee, and I wanted to see how well the Industar lens would render the details. The resulting prints are very sharp indeed! 

Strength of Life, Passages, Chattanooga. I was surprised at how
sharp the details are. Good job, Industar 22!

Warrior Birds, Passages, Chattanooga. I'd take this level of
sharpness from this lens anytime.

I am left with several conclusions. First, it is possible that the built-in rangefinder on the Zorki 1 needs some adjustment. Perhaps the lens is not really at infinity when I set it to infinity, but such a condition would show up more on close up, I would think. Second, I should try again with a tripod to achieve maximum control and rule out "Shaky Hand Syndrome." Putting a 35mm rangefinder goes against the very purpose of these cameras, which was mobility and spontaneity. Third, I would love to try a better lens. I have given thought to either selling or trading some cameras to get a genuine Leica Elmar. Anybody out there have one I could at least try out? 

Lastly, I'm not giving up. I'm going to continue to find out what can this camera and lens can do best and/or how I can improve my skills to make better shots with it. Maybe it will make me a better photographer along the way. 

Next time:  My Zorki 4.

Happy Shooting!





Wednesday, September 23, 2020

UJC Podcast #25: Interview with Mark Gilliland

©2020 Mark Gilliland
Today I recorded an interview with one of my favorite people in the world, who just happens to be an outstanding professional photographer. His name is Mark Gilliland, and like Kelley and me, he is a Chattanooga native. Mark is one of those rare people who make a living doing what he loves to do:  capture beautiful images with a camera, and in his thirty plus years he has worked in just about every field of professional photography including news, sports, features, fashion, food, real estate, and wedding photography. His work has earned him awards from Nikon, the Associated Press, and the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association. When he is not shooting for assignments, he shoots for himself, capturing patterns of light, color, lines, and shapes with an uncanny eye for beauty. His photographic art hangs in museums in Georgia and Arizona. 

I first met Mark when both Kelley and I were just beginning to return to film photography. Mark has had to put up with my constant questions, and he always more than happy to answer them. He truly loves what he does, and I find that and him incredibly inspiring. I hope you get some inspiration from our conversation. I highly recommend that you investigate his work, some of which can be see at www.markgillilandphotography.com. He is a frequent poster on Instagram and can be found @magill3179.

Happy Shooting!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Hello Goodbye

Today’s post is a little different. There are no film photographs or prints to share, and I am not reviewing a camera. Instead, I am sharing with you some news that has been ongoing since mid-July and has only now come into complete fruition, more of less.

I’m retired. 

That’s right. Retired. Retired from being a public school music teacher. Retired from my career, the only career I have ever known. And not just me, either. My wife, Debbie, a career elementary school teacher retired with me. We always have enjoyed taking our journeys together, and this is the start of a big one, one we have been looking forward to for quite some time. One that wasn’t supposed to start for another two years. But scratch that. It’s on.

We made our decision suddenly but certainly while in our VW Rabbit on the way back from our summer trip to the western US to visit both our daughters. We like to take backroads and stay off the interstate when possible, and we happened to be on a very backroad winding our way around Missouri cornfields at the very moment when our decision was made. The day was sunny, and the corn was tall. Debbie was driving, and I was in the middle of a Google meet with my principal. When he announced that a change in our reopening plans had been made, we looked at each other and made our minds up. No turning back from then on.

No doubt you likely are thinking that our decision to retire was brought about my COVID-19, and you are not wrong. However, during the month and a half since that day, we both have come to realize that this choice was the right choice at the right time - pandemic or not. Something inside had been telling me that the end was near for a year already. I’m fascinated by baseball players (I love baseball) who either because of their love of the game or because of the money keep on playing past their time of effectiveness. Sometimes it works out and magic happens. Other times it’s painful. I felt like my “game” was in pretty good shape still, but the daily pressure to be creative (teaching the same standards year after year but always having to have new lessons, songs, games, dances, etc.) was beginning to take its toll on my central nervous system. Certainly our change in lifestyle from urban house owners to downtown condo dwellers had something to do with it, as well. At any rate, it’s time for the next chapter of my life:  Chapter Three.

2004:  Hello
I call it Chapter Three, because I think of my life so far as being divided into two periods. The first was my youth all the way to the conclusion of my college education. The second was my teaching career. Both were periods of generally routine and predictability. Not boring, mind you. My wife and I love our live together as we always have, and we could not be more proud of two daughters we raised. It was a blast, but they are grown now. Changes come and life goes on. Being parents was great. Being empty nesters was great, too. Same thing with college. I loved being a college student, but I also loved being a professional music educator. Each has its season. and now the season has changed again. Now, I am turning the page and starting Chapter Three. To quote Elvis Costello, “Everyday I write the book.” I’ll write it as I go.

2020:  Goodbye
When we look back at the photographs we made throughout the stages of our lives, the meaning of “season” becomes crystal clear. Have you ever put photographs of you or your loved ones from two different seasons of life next to each other for comparison? It amazes me how things change while also staying the same. Most of the time a “Hello” photograph is very different from a “Goodbye” photograph. Look deeper, however, and you may see that, while there certainly has been a journey traveled, you are still you. You are here still, even if all you did was to survive. Hopefully, you did much more than merely survive. That’s a good thing.

I actually don’t like the word “retirement.” It calls to my mind images of being in a rocking chair taking it easy. That won’t be me, God willing. I’ve got lots to do. Yes, the first couple of weeks have been an adjustment, and we have enjoyed the constant thought that we are not tied down to a routine. But we have plans together for travel, learning, and service. And in all of that, I will make more of my own music than I have been able to do for some time. Of course, I will shoot lots of film, develop it, and make lots of prints. And I plan to write a lot for this blog and for others. I still love to do what I did as a profession educator, and that is sharing what I have learned. And yes, there will be more Uncle Jonesy’s Cameras podcasts. Thank you for your patience. Stay tuned.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Reports From the Road #7: Suitcase Full of Memories


Our long drive began yesterday morning in Pittsburg, Kansas, and it. ended as we turned into our designated parking spot at our condo building in downtown Chattanooga. And with that, our Summer 2020 vacation adventure also came to an end. It had been a lovely day driving the backroads of Kansas, Missouri, and western Tennessee, winding around farm fields on roads named M, B, EE, and J, being up close and personal with golden fields of corn, wheat, and soybean, and truly, truly feel that we were seeing America in a way that can only be done by driving the backroads. What a magnificent way to end a vacation.

We are bringing a suitcase full of memories home with us, and Debbie and I talked about an relive many of them during our drive home. We got to spend time with both of our daughters and sons-in-law, play with our granddog, play games, hike amazing trails, eat and drink together in memorable settings, paddle board, enjoy live music, and laugh together endlessly.  Because they live so far away, these moments with family are more precious than gold.


We unloaded the car and got everything on the elevator in one trip, brought it all into our condo and began unpacking. I found the rolls of film I had shot and put them in the refrigerator. Both cameras still have rolls in them as well. I will develop the black and white film right away. The Ektachrome color slide film will go to a lab (The Darkroom). Or maybe not. I’m considering ordering an E-6 developing kit and doing it myself. In addition to the two rolls of Ektachrome I shot on the trip, I had another exposed roll plus two fresh roll. That’s five rolls of Ektachrome altogether, and I could really save some money by doing it myself. I’ve done E-6 before; it’s really not any more difficult than doing C-41 for color negative film, which I do all the time.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these Reports From the Road. I certainly enjoyed writing them, as the process of writing them helped to sharpen the experiences of our trip in my mind and heart. And yes, I will share the photographs when I have those finished as well.

Thank you for coming along for the ride.

Kevin


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Reports From the Road #6 Homeward Bound

The worst thing about vacations is that they must come to an end eventually. The trick is to make as memories as you can while you have the chance, so that when the vacation does conclude itself, it will continue to live on in cherished memories that, unlike the vacation itself, never ends. Make hay while the sun shines, as they say.

Lake Chatfield
With that in mind, we set out to make a our last full day with Megan and Devin a day for the memories. To this end, we went stand-up paddle boarding at Chatfield State Park, which is south of Denver. Debbie and I first tried paddle boarding a year ago in Daytona Beach, Florida, and fell in love with it, so much so we be bought our own boards. Chatfield Lake is a large man-made reservoir that is perfect for SUP, due to the fact that no boats are allowed. This means no wake, and standing on the paddle boards is much easier. We we paddled around the lake, we were treated to a great view of the front range of the Rockies. Not a bad way to spend your last day of vacation.

When we were done paddle boarding, we drove back to Megan and Devin's home to get ready for supper. Once again, Devin was the chef, and his tacos and his quacamole was outstanding.
Darlin’ Dog
While the meal was being prepared, I made an effort to spend some time with Megan and Devin's dog, Darlin'. Darlin’ Dog became our granddog ten and a half years ago when Megan rescued her from a shelter in Nashville. I will never forget meeting her for the first time when Megan came to visit us shortly after, and we fell in love with her straightway. Darlin’ is a mix of two breeds:  Rhodesian Ridgeback and beagle, and she is totally devoted to Megan and to anyone Megan loves, which includes us. Debbie is “G Mommy,” and I am “G Daddy.” While a bit nervous around strangers, with us she is the ultimate herder and protector. Even though she is approaches her tenth birthday and is slowing down some, she still has such great love for the people who love her. I love her as much as I would a grandchild, and I cherish every minute I get to spend with her. She’s a good dog indeed!

When this morning (Tuesday) came, we got up early and said our goodbyes to Megan and Darlin’ (Devin, who has to work late tonight, was having a sleep-in, and we said our goodbyes last night), and we Point per our little Volkswagen Rabbit toward I-70 East and set out for home, sad for the departure but happy for the many memories we carry home with us. Hopefully, I will have some good photographs as well. We stayed on the interstate until just past Hayes, Kansas, when we turned south on US 281 and drove until we came to US 400. There we turned left and drove eastward through golden fields of Kansas corn and wheat and skies bigger than I have ever before seen.
Quite coincidentally, we came upon Parsons, Kansas, in the southeastern part of the state. Although I have never been there before, Parsons has a special significance to me, as it is the home of Dwayne's Photo Services. Since 1956 Dwayne's Photo has operated as a film lab, and in late 2010 they processed the last roll of Kodachrome ever, and processing had ceased everywhere else. Just a couple of weeks before developing that last roll, they processed my last roll of Kodachrome. Beginning in September 1980 when I purchased my first real camera new in the box (a Minolta XG-1) with my first teacher paycheck, I was a devoted Kodachrome shooter. I have hundreds and hundreds of Kodachrome slides stored away, slides that documented mine and my families's lives for thirty years before Kodak discontinued making the film.

Tomorrow, home. Stay tuned.