These are what I consider my best 100 photos of 2015.
This past weekend I participated in the Food and Farm Experience, hosted by the NY Farm Bureau Foundation for Agricultural Education. The two-day seminar was a chance for members of the media to learn more about agriculture and some of the myths perpetuated in popular culture today about issues such as GMOs, chicken, beef and milk production and the impact those myths have on farmers, which means working families since 95 percent of all farms in the US are family owned.
Most, if not all, of the journalists participating either cover ag or come from a publication surrounded by a business community dominated by farmers and those industries dependent on or supporting farmers.
For me, in general terms, nothing I heard surprised me or contradicted what I already know to be true, but I do think the experience will help me be a better ag reporter when I come across stories involving some of these issues.
This is a yellow daisy photo I took at Judge Road and Route 77 in Alabama. Testing how the gallery plugin works with a single image.
Today a client sent me to a town in Niagara County near Lake Ontario. The irony was, the night before the assignment came in, Billie said to me, “I’ve been thinking, we haven’t been up to Lake Ontario in a long time.” For a while I’ve been thinking, I would like to drive up to Lake Ontario to try and find some photo subjects.
So, after the assignment was done, Billie and I took a drive as much as possible long the lake toward the west and then swung down to Medina in search of a meal before heading home.
Here’s the photographic results of the day.
I suspect I could spend a lifetime in San Francisco and never exhaust the photographic possibilities. A million photographers couldn’t. It’s no wonder it’s a city that inspires so much art. Here are a collection of photos from my two photo-making sessions during my visit to the Golden City.
On Saturday, Ed Summerfield gave me a bit of a tour of San Francisco, including lunch in the Haight and a walk through the district. I first met Ed in 1977 when he was in a band called Adjust-A-Boy. He was the coolest guy me and my friends knew. He became my guitar teacher and a friend. I hadn’t seen Ed in more than 25 years before Saturday. I’m ever so grateful that he took time on a Saturday to hang out with me for a few hours. It was a very groovy day.
To me, a night like tonight is a perfect winter night. Such nights are rare enough in winters when much snow falls. They are rarer still on mild winters, such as the one we’ve had to endure so far in 2012.
The snow falling is thick and wet, but more importantly, there is no wind, so it falls gently.
It’s the kind of snow that sticks easily to tree branches and fence posts, but more importantly, tomorrow we are likely to see some nice snowmen around town.
We need more nights — and days — like this before spring arrives.
These are what I consider my 12 best pictures from 2011.
To go with my purchase of a Nikon F4 (paid for with my sales of some used mobile phones), I also bought a Nikon F.
The Nikon F was introduced in 1959 and remained in production until 1973. While it wasn’t the first SLR, nor did it introduce any great innovation, the Nikon F was the first SLR to combine all of the advanced features in one camera found piecemeal in other SLRs.
For more than a decade, most professionals carried Nikon F SLRs.
That’s why, when I decided to spend some money on film cameras, I knew a Nikon F had to be the fully manual camera in my collection.
I spent more than three weeks watching Nikon F auctions on Ebay. There are an amazing number of dealers that will price these cameras at $500, $800, $1,000, even $3,000 for these cameras.
I bought mine for $165.
Unless you want a mint Nikon F to sit on a shelf, I can’t see paying more than $200 for one of these cameras. They’re just not that uncommon and there aren’t that many film shooters left in the world.
Below are shots from my first roll of film through the camera (Kodak BW400cn). My primary goal was to blast of a roll in a day or two just to ensure the camera still worked properly. I’m pleased with the results, though I find, at least so far, the camera meter seems to encourage a bit of over exposure (exposure on these shots corrected in PhotoShop).
Reader Scott Atkinson left a comment a few days ago asking that I do a post on the “practicalities of shooting film.”
This post will answer his specific questions, plus a couple of others.
The best place to start is asking first, why do you want to shoot film? Answering this question will help determine the direction you want to go with your photography.
For me, I saw film as an avenue to help me become a better photographer. Because digital frames are essentially an infinite supply, it’s easy to fall into a “spray and pray” approach, whereby you put her camera in burst mode and hope you get something good from the half-dozen frames or more you fire off.
With infinite digital frames, you can often take multiple shots of the same subject using various settings and then pick the one that works best. This limits the need to think ahead, or think much at all.
Now, both of these results from the infinite supply of frames can be (and were for me) great learning aids; however, I still felt in order to get my photography to the next level, I needed to learn to slow down. I realized film could help me to think ahead, to “pre-visualize,” as Ansel Adams learned to do.
Film offers a limited supply of frames. While film isn’t expensive (typically less than $5 per roll, plus another $7 for processing), it’s still an expense. There’s either 24 or 36 frames in a roll. If you take the same approach with film that you do with digital, you can run through a roll of film in minutes if not seconds. That gets expensive quickly.
The other advantage of film in helping you slow down and think is the lack of an LCD screen. You can’t “chimp” (the practice of constantly checking your LCD screen while shooting). With digital, the LCD screen will tell you if you got the shot and whether it’s properly exposed (check and trust the histogram). The screen isn’t a great aid in checking focus, but take enough shots, at least one of them should be sharp.
With film, you must think ahead.
In carpentry, the rule is “measure twice, cut once.” With film, everything needs to be measured twice: Exposure, depth of field, focus and composition all need to be thoroughly considered.
Exposure is a practical matter (any picture is ruined by under or over exposure, and unlike shooting digital RAW, there’s little latitude for post-process correction with film), but it’s also a creative decision, from choosing aperture for creative use of depth of field to how light and shadows will play with the subject.
With film, I check my exposure meter multiple times, thinking through my exposure options because my goal is to snap but one frame of the subject.
In slowing down, I must be very careful with focus (it turned out actually to be a blessing a few years ago that I needed cataract surgery, returning my right eye to 20/20 vision). On my older cameras, I’m working strictly with manual focus.
When it comes to composition, again, I slow down and “measure” two times or more. I look at every corner of the frame through the view finder before tripping the shutter.
Every element of the photograph, then, with film must go through a “measure twice, cut once” process.
This kind of practice can’t help but make you a better photographer.
You may have your own reasons for shooting film. It could be argued that film provides a visual appeal (no matter how many PhotoShop plugins you buy to simulate film) that you simply can’t get with digital. Some will argue as well that film is inherently sharper on your in-focus areas, that digital can never be truly “tack sharp.” You may think getting into film, especially larger format cameras, may be a better creative outlet for you.
Whatever your reason for shooting film, it will effect your decisions on what you buy and how you proceed.
Buying a camera
If you don’t already own a film camera, you will need to buy one.
You can still buy brand new film cameras. The advantage of new, of course, is you’re getting something under warranty that should work as expected right out of the box. New can be either more expensive or cheaper than used, depending on the used model you target.
Ebay is the first place that comes to mind for buying used equipment. On Ebay you’ll find the greatest selection at the greatest price variance. Other options include Craigslist and established Camera shops (both in your home town and online, such as Adorama). A camera shop can be a reliable place to buy used equipment. If you have time and patience to hunt, there are second-hand stores, garage sales, estate sales and local auction houses to consider. These are the same avenues Ebay dealers use to find their equipment, so if you know what you’re looking for, you can find some good bargains.
The most practical place to shop, get a good deal and have a good camera in your hands quickly is Ebay.
Whether you want Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta or some other brand, you can find an SLR to get you started.
If you have only $50 to spend, you can find a perfectly good starter film camera on Ebay for $50, with a lens.
Better cameras, such as pro-level (in their day) Nikons cost more.
But be careful. There are many dealers trying to get $500 to $3,000 for top-line Nikon cameras. You don’t need to spend that much for a working Nikon F, F2, F3, F4 or F5 (all the pro cameras of their day). I paid $180 for my Nikon F and $240 for my Nikon F4 (both, body only).
Before buying any camera on Ebay, read the product description well. Ethical sellers will tell you if they’ve tested the camera and what they found. Most dealers selling working cameras will offer money back if it turns out it doesn’t work.
There’s a wide range of Nikons available. I think if you have the $200+ to spend, get the Nikon F4. It was a break-through SLR when it was released and was hugely popular with pros back in the day. It has a great auto-focus motor, is well designed and all of the controls are tactile and easy to reach.
I’ve seen recommendations for the Nikon F100. These seem to go from $150 and up. They were the “enthusiasts” camera of their day (like the D90 or D7000 today).
If you want to go manual focus, the Nikon F (pro) or the Nikkormat (enthusiast) are great choices. Pricing is only slightly less than the F4 or F100.
The prices I quoted above are without lenses. Getting a camera with one or more lenses will drive up the price significantly, but you’re going to need to get at least one lens.
With Nikon, you definitely want to own a 50mm F1.4 (or thereabout). It’s a workhorse lens, generally great, great glass and is practical to get started with. If you want more lenses than what comes with your camera, or buy a camera without a lens, read this page from Ken Rockwell on Nikon lens compatibility. It’s critical to know what lenses work with your camera before making a lens purchase.
Where to buy film?
There are still drug stores around that sell film. In my town, both CVS (where I go) and Rite-Aid offer one-hour processing, so they sell film. As much as I dislike Walmart, Walmart also sells and processes film. From what I’ve read, though I haven’t tried it, Walmart also gets beyond mere C-41 processing (more on this in the next section). I’ve read, for example, that you can get 120 film (medium format) processed through Walmart (I imagine they also sell it).
Retail stores typically have a more limited selection. I love Kodak’s Ektar 100 color negative film, but I can only buy it online. There are about a half-dozen different C-41 films I’ve found in online shopping. I haven’t tried them all yet, but every film has its own characteristics and best uses. You will want to experiment with a variety of films and see what you like best.
Where to process film?
As mentioned above, there are still drug stores around that offer one-hour processing.
Typically, the one-hour shops are providing what’s called C-41 processing. C-41 refers to the chemicals used in the process. There are both color and black and white films that can be processed in C-41. When you buy online, check the specs for the film. It will tell you the kind of processing required. If it says C-41 and you’re going to a drug store, the film will be fine.
I’ve not checked to see if Walmart offers anything other than C-41. If they do, it probably requires the local store to send the film out. This will mean you won’t see your pictures for a week (but slowing down is what film is all about).
The first time you go into your local one-hour shop with a roll of black and white, the staff there may tell you they can’t process it. Explain to them C-41 processing. In my local store, the first time I went in I didn’t know about C-41 and was initially turned away. Fortunately, a staff member came in later who knew everything about processing film in his store and he got it taken care of for me.
You will save a good chunk of change if you get your pictures back on CD without also paying for prints. Getting prints doubles the price of processing and you don’t need them. My one-hour place will provide a contact sheet (or what passes as a contact sheet — they call it an index card) at no additional cost. You want to play with your photos on your computer anyway. You should leave instructions that you don’t want your photos corrected for exposure or color before being transferred to CD. You’ll also get your negatives back, which is kind of cool. I also ask for TIFF rather than JPEG on the disk. TIFF isn’t quite like getting a RAW file, but it does give me a little more data to work with in post processing.
What about a darkroom?
I would love to have my own darkroom, but the expense isn’t something I can afford right now.
For a darkroom, you need an enclosed space that can be made completely and totally dark with running water and vents.
The advantages of a darkroom is you can process a wider variety of films (depending on what equipment and chemicals you want to buy and deal with). You can get beyond C-41, but you can also get beyond 35mm film.
It’s also still true in the art world that the photographs that command the highest prices are of prints made by the photographer.
If you or I want to continue shooting film for many years, a personal darkroom may become absolutely necessary. Eventually the one-hour processing shops are going to go away. It’s unavoidable and inevitable. I’m planning on installing a darkroom in our too-low-ceiling basement some day. The day will come where it’s either that or stop shooting film (well, mail order will be an option, probably, but that will likely be expensive).
So, for anybody thinking of making the jump from digital back to film, I hope the information here proves helpful.
And if you don’t know about my photoblog, it can be found at VuFindr.com.
Some time ago, I decided I wanted a Nikon F and a Nikon F4.
The Nikon F is the seminal SLR camera. It was the pro camera of much of the 1960s and 1970s. And the lenses I use with my Nikkormat are 100 percent compatible, plus I already own a great Nikon F/Nikkormat manual.
The Nikon F4 was a huge step forward in 1989 or so in SLR technology and the camera all the pros had to get after it was introduced.
My idea was that I would use the Nikon F to shoot black and white and the F4 to shoot color. This way, I would always have a camera loaded with black and white and one always loaded with color.
The problem was, though, how to pay for two old, used cameras.
Then I remembered I had a couple of old iPhones and a Droid phone to sell.
Those three phones brought in nearly $500.
That turned out to be just enough to buy an F and an F4.
The F4 arrived today and I quickly ran a roll of Kodak BW400cn through it to make sure it works.
And it works very well.
Below are three shots from today. There may or may not be more on VuFindr.com.
One cool thing about the F4: It’s compatible with my SB700 Speedlight, the newest strobe from Nikon, as the third picture below shows.
I’ve now shot two rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 film. I love this film. The warmth and saturation of the colors is just wonderful. It reminds me of the tone and texture of Kodachrome shots I see in my old National Geographic magazines, though probably not quite as saturated.
After the first roll, I bought three more online, but decided to run this through my Pentax (the auction-bought camera that started me on this film binge).
The meter in the Pentax doesn’t work, but a week or so ago I found an old Weston Exposure Meter in a local second-hand shop. $7.50 later, I had myself a very serviceable light meter.
I decided to use the Pentax because I started having trouble with my Nikkormat. After some shots, after I cocked the film advance lever, the shutter still wouldn’t fire, causing me to cock it again and wasting a frame of film.
Meanwhile, I sold two old iPhones and a used Droid phone and a couple of other items on Ebay, putting nearly $500 in my PayPal account. I spent that money on a Nikon F and Nikon F4.
The F4 arrived today and I’ll do another post shortly of some shots from the first roll I ran through that camera.
Form this Ektar roll in the Pentax, I have 10 shots worth of consideration for publication on VuFindr. I present three here and more may or may not appear on VuFindr.