A Three Year Old's View Of The World

Sometimes you need to get down real low to capture the shot. This past week we spent some time visiting family. My Brother has a three year old son who sees "Uncle Mark" as the perfect plaything. I spent a lot of time with him, playing with everything from puzzles to toy trains. Here's a shot of his train set that I tried to capture at his level:

A Three year Old's View

For my 49 year old body, getting down to three inches off the floor was a bit of an effort but it gave me a more interesting perspective on my Nephew's train set.

We really enjoyed the family time. Our Niece and nephew are changing so fast that each time we see them they are completely different people. I'm glad I'm able to capture their progress whenever we see them.

Hard Rock Cafe Neon Sign And Post Processing Musings

During our time visiting Great Smoky Mountains NP we stayed in Gatlinburg, TN which is right outside the border of the park. Needless to say, it is a VERY "touristy" town with all kinds of stores, shops, etc. to entice people to separate themselves from their money. Towns like this are a like/dislike thing for me. I like them because of all the things there are to photograph, especially neon signs, which are quickly becoming a favorite subject of mine. I dislike them for pretty much the same reason, all the shops,signs, and over-the-top stuff. I guess I'll just have to learn to balance things out (and bring my camera) whenever I visit these types of towns. Speaking of neon signs, here's an image I shot of the Hard Rock Cafe's neon sign while walking back to the hotel after dinner and a few tasty craft beers:

Hard Rock Cafe Neon Guitar SignAs you can see, it's a big Guitar, or as they say down here, "GEEEE-TAR". I took this just after sunset, right in the sweet spot of the famous "blue hour". The result was a very nice deep, dark, blue background for the sign. I tried to give some perspective to the sign by including the side of the building in the image. The only thing I wish wasn't there (in a perfect world) is that light sticking out from the sign, but I guess I could clone it out if I wanted to.

On second thought, I probably won't do that,....WARNING!: POST-PROCESSING PHILOSOPHY MUSINGS START HERE.... since I'm finding that I enjoy keeping the images as close to what I actually saw with my eyes. And since I saw that light when I made the decision to compose the image the way I did, I can't very well clone it out and say "that's the sign I saw while walking back to the hotel from the brewpub after a few tasty craft beers!", which is exactly what happened.

Good thing the camera had image stabilization then, I guess :-)

That's not to say that I do zero processing on my images. Far from it. I'm finding that my "prime directive" when it comes to post-processing images is to try and get the image to match what I actually saw with my eyes. I think I'm sort of in line with Trey Ratcliff's philosophy of photography (though not 100% completely on everything) which is basically that your eye and brain see far more than the camera can capture. So, in order to really communicate what you saw, you need to make adjustments to the image. In many cases that means that I must adjust the color, contrast, sharpness, etc. in order to get the image to match to what I saw before I pressed the shutter button. Oftentimes that means that I use "image enhancing" software like HDR Efex Pro, Topaz Adjust, Lightroom or any number of other apps, in order to get the final image to match what my eyes saw.

What it doesn't mean (at least to me at this point) is that I can't just fire up editing software and delete/clone-out, severely crop out, any object I find objectionable in the image. The way my thought process goes is that it's my job as photographer to get the best composition I can, given the circumstances, before I press the shutter. Do I do this stuff (crop/clone out objects) some of the time? You bet I do but I try not to as much as possible. I think that sticking to my self-made rule will help make me a better photographer in the long run.

What do you guys think? Do you substantially alter an image (remove objects, severely crop, ect.) or do you tend to keep things basically the same (outside of adjusting color, contrast, sharpness). You can enter your comments below and/or record your answer in the "Photography Poll" on the right sidebar. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, it's just photographic opinion.

I'm really interested to see what y'all think!

Project 365 Day 336-Needs Work

After 5 years of riding by this slowly decaying/collapsing house, I finally made the drive out to it to photograph it: It is located in a rural/suburban area that is surrounded by subdivisions. There is a chicken coop behind the house that I didn't get to today, but maybe next time. I think what motivated me to get out and shoot this was the fact that I have the Rolleicord, which seemed like the perfect tool to document this piece of local history that is slowly fading away.

I took this about 30 minutes after sunrise this morning and developed the roll around lunchtime today. I used Ilford Delta 400 b&w film and developed it for 7 minutes in Ilford Ilfosol 3. By 5PM the negatives were dry and I was able to scan them in.

Tagged Manhole Cover

Last Friday we visited Piedmont park in Atlanta. I shot a roll of Ilford Delta 400 film as I wandered around the park. We were walking along the "wetlands trail" when I saw this: It looks like a regular, ordinary, manhole cover but I guess it must be really important because someone took the time to tag it with some graffiti.

I guess all "taggers" need to start somewhere :-)

  • Camera: Rolleicord Va
  • Film: Ilford Delta 400
  • Developer: Ilfosol 3 for 7 minutes

Confederate Soldier Headstone

Here's an image from a roll of film that I shot with my Rolleicord in a local cemetery: This was shot at a small cemetery near our house. We've lived in the area for 6 years and had never explored this bit of history. The cemetery is at the intersection of two streets and is filled with graves and headstones from the turn of last century. This particular headstone caught my eye as it had a small Confederate flag stuck in the ground next to the grave. I figured it would make a great image in black and white.

I shot this with Fuji Neopan Acros 100 speed film. The film was developed at a lab and I scanned the negative with the Canoscan 9000f. I'm still learning to use the scanner and software but I think this one came out pretty good.

I plan on developing an additional 2 rolls of film this weekend so I should have some more images from the Rolleicord to post very soon.

The First Images From The Rolleicord

I received an email from the photo lab that I used to develop the 1st roll of film from my Rolleicord Va. The email had the link to the low-res scans from the developed roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 speed film. The negatives should show up in the mail in the next couple of days. As I expected, the images definitely aren't going to win any awards but that's not what matters. What matters is that the camera works! I did notice a couple of things though, which I'll cover in a little bit. But before that I wanted to share with you the very 1st image that I took with the Rolleicord:

Impressive, huh? :-) Actually its a pretty poor photograph. Its overexposed and out of focus. All I did was set the camera on the table, take a stab at the exposure settings, focus quickly, and take the photo.

I got a little better with the other images, but none of them are very good. Here's a couple more (from a low-res scan and not modified):


As you can see, all of the images are incorrectly exposed, although the last one (of the building) is ok. I blame that entirely on operator error as I wasn't using any type of light meter. All I did was take a SWAG at the exposure settings and fire the shutter. Once I get the negatives I may try to do some high resolution scans with a couple of the images to see if I can improve them.

I've shot two additional rolls in the last week and for both of them I confirmed my SWAG with an actual light meter (the 1st roll on my DSLR and the other with my new eBay Gossen Pilot 2). Most of the time I was off by quite a bit in my estimate. I expect the next rolls to be better exposed overall. We'll see...

One other thing I noticed, and I think you can barely see it on the images above, is a thin white line running top to bottom (on the right side). It occurs on all of the images, so my guess was that it was a rough spot somewhere on the film transport of the camera. I opened the camera and checked all of the rollers, etc. and did find a small fleck of something that had adhered itself to one of the rollers at about the same spot in the frame as the line. I scraped that off and cleaned off the entire transport just to be sure. Unfortunately, I had run through 2 more rolls of film before I noticed it so we'll see what comes back on those negatives.

The final thing was that I only got 9 images from the 12 image roll. The final 3 frames did not get exposed/scanned. I'm waiting to see if they send back 12 negatives. Maybe they got developed but not scanned. If not, I'm at a loss as to what happened. Maybe I did something wrong with loading the roll. The camera frame counter counted up to "12" and I thought I did everything properly. I guess I'll see what happens with the other two rolls.

Overall, I'm very happy with my decision to get the Rolleicord. The camera seems to work as advertised and any image errors are purely my fault at this point. I'm looking forward to seeing how the next two rolls of film come out. My guess is that they will be a little better than these but I'm still getting to know the camera so I'm not expecting too much. I definitely enjoy using the camera. Its completely different than using a digital camera, which is just fine with me. I think the Rolleicord will help me improve my skill as a photographer while having fun. I'm even considering getting some supplies so I can try my hand at developing my own film! :-) Stay tuned for more news on that front.

That's it for now. Until next time...Happy Shooting!

My First Day With The Rolleicord

Today was my 1st full day with my Rolleicord and I managed to get out over the lunch hour and burn through my first roll of film. I had a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus, Black and White Print Film in the camera and only about 30 minutes. Having never used this type of camera before I just wanted to actually run through the steps and see what I could come up with. I drove to a parking lot and walked around a bit trying to find something to shoot. I came across a fire hydrant that looked interesting so I spent about 6 exposures playing with the settings (and guessing as best as I could what the correct exposure value was). I also took some images of a nearby building. After I finished up the 12th frame I pulled out my Canon S95 and tried to replicate the view of the fire hydrant that I had with the Rolleicord. I ran it through Silver Efex Pro and used the Ilford HP5 film emulation to come up with this: I hope my image from the Rolleicord is close to the one above but we'll see... I know its not much but my objective was just to get used to using the Rolleicord, which I started to accomplish. I say "started" because it is going to take me a while to get used to the camera, for a main reasons:

  1. Everything is manual- There is pretty much zero automation on the camera. It doesn't even have a light meter. Mind you, I'm not complaining about that at all because that's what I wanted. But, it is going to take a while to get used to (and relatively proficient in) setting everything prior to capturing the image. Figuring out what exposure settings to use is going to be the hardest part. I really want to do as much as possible without the aid of a light meter, so that slows me down quite a bit. I even found myself forgetting to focus the camera a couple of times. I'm sure this is because 95% of the time my DSLR is set to auto focus.
  2. The image in the viewing screen is backwards-Because of the way the camera is designed, the image you see on the camera's fairly dim viewing screen is reversed. That means you have to move the camera in the "opposite" direction when trying to align the shot. My brain isn't used to working that way so I think it will take me some time to adjust. I also think its harder since you are looking down toward the ground instead of at the object you're photographing.

Other than those two things (which aren't complaints, just observations) I really enjoy the camera. I'm sure that with a few more rolls of film I'll start to become comfortable using it. The important thing is that the camera seems to work fine so any "less than optimal images" are going to be due to operator error :-)

I'm going to send this 1st roll off to the lab for processing so I should have some sample images w/in the next week to ten days. In the meantime I plan on shooting a couple more rolls of film this weekend if I have time.

I'll update you on my progress with this camera in the next week or two so stay tuned...

Happy Shooting!

Project 365 Day 298-Its Hip To Be Square

  After a few months of scouring the eBay listings a few weeks of failed bidding my new to me vintage Rolleicord V type 2 TLR camera showed up today! :-)


Everything appears to be as advertised and the camera seems to be in very good shape considering it is over 50 years old. I have a few rolls of 120 film ready to go and a copy of the original user's manual saved on my desktop. I'm looking forward to learning how to use the camera to take some beautiful 6x6 square images!