Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

Merry Christmas everyone. One guess what I'm asking for.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

This Foggy Evening

This Foggy Evening
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Proof positive that I need to indulge myself when I feel like taking some photographs.

Today I had to work a short shift, 11-4, and I knew that would give me enough light to snap a few photos when I was done. Unfortunately a steady rain set in around noon, and never let up. By the time I was out, fog blanketed the area and I was steadily losing light.

Normally I would get discouraged and sit inside, but today I decided to brave the nasty (really nasty) weather and shoot. I loaded my tripod, Mamiya Super 23, and dSLR into my car, along with my umbrella. I only had enough time for a couple locations, so I went places nearby that I thought might be picturesque in a fog.

Luckily, I got a keeper, taken with my K100D. Sloshing around by myself looking for shots is actually far more fun than it has any right to be. Great photography happens when you actively seek it out, not when you get around to it. Lesson learned.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Big Camera

I've always been on the lookout for the next thing that's bigger and better, and I may have found it. I purchased a Mamiya Super 23, and a very nice 100mm f/2.8 lens for it, and now I'm waiting for the 6x7 rollfilm back to arrive before I can try it out.

Anyone who has known me photographically can say that I don't have any one camera that I could call "my camera." When people ask what kind of photography I do, or what kind of camera I use, well, there really is no easy answer for that. I love my SX-70, but it can't be used in many situations. I like my digital SLR, but can't say I love it.

Still, I want to have that one camera that I grab, that makes me think "photography" when I carry it. Well, this Mamiya definitely screams "photography" when you hold it. It won't be something to carry around all the time - it's nearly as big as my head - but I think I can learn a thing or two using it, maybe finish some projects I've been kicking around.

If nothing else, it has compelled me to sell most of my superfluous cameras, and rethink what my goals are.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
People who know me personally usually find out quickly that I have a lot of cameras. It's not that I consider myself a collector, far from it. I just seem to pick them up here and there, thinking a new camera might spark my creativity or open up a new door to me. But there's a problem that comes with being at a crossroads, with all paths open to you. You can't decide what road to choose, and you can't see very far down any of them.

So it is with me and my cameras. Instead of opening up new possibilities, each successive camera I purchase seems to stall me from actually going out and taking photos. Which to grab, for any given circumstance? I've found it can be crippling, and with my experiment last month to use only one camera all month, I've also found that the alternative can be liberating.

So I'm getting rid of any camera I haven't touched in a while. Some of these are just shelf decorations, but I don't really need something to decorate my shelf. Any of the cameras pictured here are for sale, so let me know if you want one.

I'm keeping my digital, the SX70, Polaroid 110A, Rolleicord, Mamiya 23, and Holga. Oh, and the XA, I need that too. I don't need one more camera, except maybe the pinhole I made a few years ago... Just the digital, the SX-70, the 110A, Rollei, Mamiya, Holga, XA, and the pinhole. I don't need anything else.

Unless it's a Bessa R...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Silver Bells

State Tree
Originally uploaded by Aunt Owwee
One of the city's big events is nearly upon us. Silver Bells in the City, with its electric light parade, fireworks, and the lighting of the State Christmas tree, helps to kick of the holiday season in the Capitol area. Thousands of people gather around the Capitol building to watch the floats drive by, and enjoy the show.

All the cultural buildings are open and free to the public while the event is underway, and you can watch ice sculptors at work, or enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

I went to last year's event, but didn't really get any photos worth posting. This year, I plan on taking a tripod with me to shoot the lighting of the State tree, and maybe get a few fireworks shots as well. If you plan on doing any people shots, a fast lens or flash, probably both, is a must. But don't get too caught up in taking pictures - this is an event you'll want to step back and enjoy.

Silver Bells in the City runs on Friday night, November 16th, from 5 to 9pm. The Parade kicks off around 6pm, and the tree will be lit sometime after that. Fireworks will take place, weather permitting.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The [un]usual

Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
I really like photography as documentation, and when it comes to that style of photography, it helps to have some connections, and an open mind. Everyone has personal connections they can use when it comes to photography, but you may not realize it because it's a part of your daily life.

My wife is a vet student, and much of our lives revolves around animals, be it wild or pet. I see a lot of things the layperson may not because of this, and I've found it a great way to get my foot in the door in many cases. A friend of a friend may run the wildlife sanctuary, which gives access to all sorts of interesting photo opportunities, like exercising a hawk, pictured above.

Even though I'm not interested personally in animal medicine, tagging along on field trips gets me opportunities to see things from a different perspective. The Vet students see this stuff every day, so they may not think it's so extraordinary.

That's the challenge for photographers. We have to recognize the extraordinary, and that's especially difficult in our own lives. When you see the same thing over and over again, you begin to develop a sort of blindness.

Let's say you're going to photograph an event, like the upcoming Christmas parade. What would you take photos of? Most people will shoot the environment, with photos of the floats as a result. The people around you are equally interesting though, many times more so than the parade itself.

The best thing to do, most times, is not get lost in the crowd. Keep your mind focused on getting a good photo, and don't be surprised if it comes from where you least expect.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Through The Viewfinder

Originally uploaded by Corey (a.k.a. ten0fnine)
Through The Viewfinder (TTV) is a neat way to use old cameras. A lot of cameras are out there that are neat old relics, with great styling, and they can be had cheaply. Unless you're like me, chances are those cameras are pretty useless in your digital repertoire. Useless as cameras that is, but perhaps not as lenses.

Basically all you need to do is take a camera with a nicely bright and large viewfinder, say an Argus Seventy-Five, and point your lens into the viewfinder. Take a picture, and you have a TTV shot. To be done well, you need to make a somewhat elaborate mask for the finder so that your camera is attached to the vintage camera in a way that makes shooting simpler. Most people use cardboard.

There are lots of folks out there doing this, and as you might expect, I've tried it myself. I find I enjoy actually shooting film through these cameras, but many others have gotten some great shots TTV. Many, like this one, feature strange colors (done in photoshop), and lots of dust (a relic of using these old viewfinders as lenses. I like the effect in some circumstances, though some folks use a photoshop action to simulate the effect. To me that's cheating, because half the fun is knowing you're doing something that requires a bit of effort on the photographer's part, with a creation you've made yourself.

So next time you see an old camera in a junk store, and you're a bit low on creativity, try some TTV photography. It might get you hooked.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Octoberoid Update

I've done quite well following my prescription to come out of the photographic doldrums this month, keeping my promise to use the Polaroid SX-70 as my only camera. There have definitely been some situations that I would have been better off with another camera, like a late night party, but on the whole I think I've learned quite a bit from this experiment. Things like composition, timing, and knowing what is and isn't a good photo before pressing the shutter release.

To be honest, I'm not looking forward to putting the camera down at the end of the month, I think I get along quite well with its limitations. Still, I miss some of the other cameras, and Polaroid film is getting expensive!

If you'd like to see every photo I've shot this month, all with the SX-70, just check out my Octoberoid set on Flickr.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Perspective 2 Studio is open!

Many budding photographers I've talked to have expressed an interest in "studio photography." That's normal, of course, because most of the photography we see in everyday life is churned out using a studio. Magazines, newspapers, weddings, websites; they all utilize studio photography. If you want to get paid in this field, learning to light and stage properly isn't just a suggestion, it's a must!

In the past I've taken to Strobist for all my lighting advice and needs. The work of a studio photographer is unique - we need special lighting equipment, special camera equipment, and often an indoor environment that we can control for the shoot. You can always buy the right equipment, so long as you have the money, but where can you find a good location?

Well, locally we now have Perspective 2 studio, located in Lansing's Old Town. It's a community-driven space that hosts photographers in two studios. I like the idea so far, because they seem to have a knowledgeable staff, great equipment for photographers to rent, and classes for those of us who are lighting-challenged. There is also a vintage store on-site, so if you want to, you can rent vintage items to be used as props for a shoot.

Studio A is a huge space that sometimes doubles as a theater for local acting troops. It's about 1100 square feet, has a solid chicago-style brick wall, with high ceilings. Studio B is smaller, at about 800 square feet, and can double as a classroom for photographers. You can rent in hourly blocks or become a member, where you pay monthly for free time and discounted rates.

I wish the studio the best of success. It will be an important resource for area photographers, especially if they offer useful classes.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Back to Basics: one camera, for one month.

Haiku, for Keturah
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
If you have ever set foot in my apartment, or met me while I was taking photos, you'll certainly know one thing about me; I have a lot of cameras. I got caught up in the whole camera-collecting thing at about the same time as I became interested in photography. While they may seem to go hand in hand, I've begun to think that having so many cameras is detrimental to my progress as a photographer.

See, I've always been a gearhead. First it was cars, and believe me when I have a laundry list of strange and rare cars I want to own someday. I found photography as a hobby, and suddenly I was doing something where I could afford a lot of the gear. It started innocently, with cheap thrift store finds, but lately it's gotten out of hand. Don't believe me? I count 17 cameras that I can see from where I sit right now, in my living room.

Obviously they don't all get used too often, and that's a shame, because many of them really are nice cameras that could take wonderful photos. Many of them are more decorative than useful. And with so much choice, a photographer can bog down and not shoot much of anything, as I have been doing recently. Each camera has a different shooting style, and if I can't decide what camera to pick up, I can't easily decide what to shoot.

I've talked with others about working within tight limitations, and I think it's time I acted on my conversations to see if they could be more than just words. I'll use only one camera for all of October, starting today. Maybe I'll learn better what I can do with it, and what I can be capable of.

So I've chosen the Polaroid SX-70. It's one of the most limiting cameras I own - the photographer controls only the focus and the composition. You can't do much about the exposure, development, or aperture, because the camera and film take care of all that. And of course Polaroid film is quite expensive, so I can't just go around shooting everything I see, or I'll go broke. I believe that these limitations will force me to work more creatively, and to explore and push the limits of what the camera and I can do together. I'll let you know at the end of the month how it goes.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Fit City?

The Racers
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
If there's one thing I've been struck by in Lansing, it's that the city seems serious about physical fitness. We have a few great bicycle shops - Riverfront Cycle and Velocipede Peddler - and a great fitness store as well - Playmakers. There are many events in the summer geared towards the fitness-crazed among us, from triathlons to 5K races to half-marathons.

Today was the running of the Capital City River Run, which includes both a 5k and a half-marathon. For those not in the know, that's a little over 3 and 13 miles, respectively. This year attendance skyrocketed to 2,000 from last year's 900 because the city has done a good job promoting it in the outlying communities. My wife and a friend had been training for the 5k, and I was lucky enough to have the morning off from work, so I joined them down at the Lansing Center, to take photos of course. Not that I can't run, but given the choice I'll grab the camera any time.

Races like this start in the morning, and this time of year that means the light can be iffy for people shots. If I were doing it again, I would have used an on-camera flash for fill lighting to balance out the deep shadows. You really need a digital SLR to get the best out of the situation - having a zoom lens and quick shutter response is helpful - and you can change your settings on the fly to get different effects, like the blurred runners pictured above.

I'm starting to really enjoy taking photos at events like this. I could see myself covering events for a small local paper, although I don't know if my preferences in photography would totally intersect theirs. Perhaps I should take a class...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Michigan State Shutdown Imminent

An appeal to reason
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
As negotiations continue in the Capitol, it is becoming clear that partisan politics will not allow legislators to agree on a budget for the next fiscal year, causing the state to suspend all nonessential services. Sounds awesome, don't it? Well, not surprisingly most people I talk to see this as a bad thing, and are embarrassed at how their elected leaders are conducting themselves; putting politics before the welfare of the state.

Luckily, I live in the state capital, so I figured I'd go on down to the Capitol building to see what was going on. I packed my digital SLR (with fresh batteries), expecting to see perhaps some protesters, news crews, and angry citizens voicing their concerns. I hung out for about an hour and only saw the woman pictured here protesting, however. There were about a dozen news vans parked around the Capitol, all just hanging out waiting for a break in the story. I asked one passer-by what they thought about the state being shut down, and he had no idea what I was talking about.

I may go back up again, as one of my favorite things to photograph is a protest, but the prospect of one happening seems dim. Perhaps that could change, should the lawmakers actually shut down the state.

Monday, September 24, 2007

UAW on strike in Lansing

UAW Strikers
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
As of 11 this morning the United Auto Workers went on strike from General Motors facilities. Anyone who has been in Lansing for any period of time knows that the city is tied indelibly to General Motors, and as a result the UAW. For many years it was GM and the UAW that provided a living wage to the area residents, and to a large extent this is still the case. Of course, General Motors has fallen on hard times, and as a result, Lansing and its citizens have felt the pain.

I decided to go out and take a few photos of the people directly affected by this strike, so of course I reached for my digital camera. As happens often, the batteries were completely dead and I reached for a few more reliable, if antiquated, pieces of equipment: Olympus XA, Konica I, and Polaroid SX-70. It is, of course, the Polaroid you see here - more later when I get the 35mm film developed.

It was odd, me using a Konica from 1952 to photograph an organized strike. An old rangefinder has been the camera to use for journalistic photography since about World War II. I realized that a lot of what the UAW fights to preserve are the values that went into the making of my old Konica. High level of quality, hand-crafted precision, these are qualities that have since been replaced by automated manufacturing processes, cost-saving materials, and overseas construction and assembly. There is no way you could build a camera like the Konica today, things just aren't made that way anymore. What was once done by skilled labor with metal is now done by computer and robot with plastic.

It's much too late to turn that boat around, as the UAW and its members long ago realized. The media has reported that this strike is about retiree benefits, but the real meat of the matter has to be long term job security. These workers are rightly concerned about staying employed, as they have watched countless coworkers sent packing in the last couple decades, their jobs replaced in foreign countries by fewer workers, paid less.

It's not a problem I can solve, but I do support the UAW and its members. Nobody wants the strike to last forever, and people wrongly blame the union for GM's downward spiral. As one of the strikers put it, "I'd love to see GM make a billion dollars next quarter." These people don't want the moon, they want a reasonable compromise that makes sure both parties can stay afloat in difficult waters.

As a note about the photography, most of the strikers seemed upbeat and eager to talk and have their photos taken. From my experience the early hours of the strike are when people feel the most optimistic and free to cooperate, if you're inclined to take photos. A digital SLR would probably be the best for this kind of photography, but any "normal" lens will do, and just work with what you've got. Don't try to get people to pose for you as they are in this Polaroid - rarely will that work.

Friday, September 21, 2007

About that time again!

One of my personal favorite parts of being in Michigan has to be the apple Harvest. Seems that no matter where you live you can find a cider mill or three, and enjoy the crisp weather with a bushel of apples, a fresh warm doughnut, a glass of apple cider, and maybe a hayride.

Everybody has their own favorite apple (mine is Honeycrisp), and everyone seems to have their own favorite cider mill. In the Lansing area, you have a few options available:

Uncle John's Cider Mill: This is the big one in the area. It's a few minutes north of Lansing in Saint Johns. Seems half the time I go there is a waiting line for pretty much everything, and the place is totally overrun with people. If you want to go to the biggest mill, and the best established, this is it. No u-pick apples though.

Country Mill: This is a smaller mill and orchard, located to the southwest in Charlotte. It has a nice u-pick orchard, a working historic cider mill, and best of all for me, Honeycrisp apples in early September. Mmmm.

There are other options as well, and exploring the mills for a day is a relaxing change of pace.

Bring your digital camera or color film with you, because half of the fun is seeing the fall color while the sweet smell of apple fills the air. You can do some landscape shots of the orchard, equipment shots of the mill, maybe even a Macro or two of pumpkins and apples waiting to be harvested. I love to take photos of the visiting people as well. See you out there this year!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Park for the Dogs

Black and White Lab blurred
Originally uploaded by sakjosep
East Lansing used to have a really nice dog park right by the Commuter Lot. For some reason they decided to close it down and make it into a disc golf course. Thankfully for us dog lovers, Lansing has opened a brand spankin' new dog park, located off Aurelius Road adjacent to Hawk Island Park.

The park is named Soldan Park, after its benefactors Howard and Erma Soldan. It's a large well-groomed grass park, with an all-dogs-welcome policy. I went to the old East Lansing dog park and it was a great place to take photos as dogs chase and play. It's good practice for those of us dSLR shooters who want to learn how to do sports and action style photography. Take your pooch and camera, and have some fun. See you there!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stop the hate, people.

Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Evidently this blog gets read from time to time. I won't go into the nitty gritty, but I just got a call about it, someone upset about the way I had been slamming Lansing in my previous post. They're right a little bit, I was upset when I wrote that and I have to learn to read my posts twice before publishing. I don't want to degrade Lansing or hurt anybody's business - I still think Lansing has a long way to go as a city, but there are many people out there working to change that and I want to wish them well, not step on their toes.

It reminds me that even though we have the freedom to mouth off on this great big internet, and we may think we're anonymous, we really should keep a measure of self control. Hell, I publish my own name on this, so I shouldn't expect to be anonymous. I don't want to seem like a weakling, but after consideration I have gone back and revised that post to better reflect my conflicted feelings on Lansing.

So to those trying to make Lansing a better place: keep on trucking. I still live here, just not downtown, and I'm going to continue to support the city in ways that I can. We'll see where to go from there.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Goodbye Downtown

Reflected Sky
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
I've spent the last year living in the neighborhood on South Washington between South and Elm streets. It's home to Discount Dave's, the Cadillac Club, and a few other small businesses. It's been a convenient area for me to live because of its proximity to the freeway and River Trail, both easy ways to travel around Lansing.

I moved in thinking the area was due for a renewal project, and a lot of events on my block are underway during the summer months, but nothing drastic has happened so far. I've yet to see a business move into any of the vacant storefronts, including the downstairs of my loft. The area directly north is also regularly featured on the 8 o'clock news, and not for positive reasons.

So I'm moving out. I've found a place that is larger, closer to MSU, and has space for my motorcycle for substantially less. I'll miss having all the sights of downtown Lansing only a 10 minute walk away, and I love urban living. Unfortunately Lansing has not been able to live up to my dreams as a city, with its businesses closed after 3pm, dead quiet streets, and lack of a sense of community. Maybe I'm being harsh, but honestly, I thought the city was in for a turnaround. I still think that's the case, but it won't happen while I'm here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Favorite Cameras: Polaroid SX-70

Untitled #33
Originally uploaded by edscoble
Really, it was two things that got me back into photography. One was the website Flickr, which opened an easy avenue for me to share my photos with a receptive audience. The other was the Polaroid SX-70.

The camera came back into my life at just the right moment. It had been my grandfather's camera, and I was given it when he passed about 10 years ago. I thought it was interesting at the time, but I just packed it away somewhere and forgot about it. I'm not sure what made me think of it again, but about two years ago I remembered the camera and started to see if I couldn't still use it. To my great surprise, Polaroid did indeed still produce film for it.

I took it to an out of state wedding that weekend and it was love at first shot. Everyone was intrigued by such an old strange camera, and I ended up giving a lot of the best shots away. I picked up a photo scanner, and once I found what a large and growing community there was around Polaroid cameras and film, the hook was set.

The elegant simplicity of the camera is its biggest charm - it's a single-lens-reflex camera that folds completely flat into an easy to carry package. My camera is manual focus, but it sets the exposure automatically. All you do as a photographer is compose, focus, and shoot. You don't have any post-processing control over developing, color, saturation, or contrast, and that can be incredibly freeing as a photographer. You just concentrate on the basics of composition and lighting and let the camera do the rest.

Unfortunately Time-Zero, the Polaroid film for the SX-70, was phased out of production in 2006. It had a unique color cast to it, mixing green in where it should be blue, and a strange desaturated look. I was a big fan of the look, but all good things must come to an end. Thankfully, there are ways to use Polaroid 600 film in the SX-70, from using a ND filter over the lens or film, to modifying the camera's circuitry to compensate for the faster film.

I recently had my camera modified by a friend to accept 600 film, and I'm blessed to have it back. If you're interested in having one yourself, check his auctions on ebay, as they frequently come up for sale there.

Some Examples:

The Chosen One Pale Blue Eyes
Pacific Sam says "Hi"

Sunday, June 24, 2007

(artificially) light a photo

It's a simple concept, but one that's easy to forget. Photography is 99% about light. Many of us amateurs happily point and shoot away, hoping and praying for good results, but I've found that those good shots become a lot more frequent and consistent when you experiment with artificial light a little.

One of the early things you'll learn as a photographer is natural light = good, artificial light = bad. That rule is entirely wrong, though, so you have to try to overcome it. Natural light is great sometimes, but you have to be able to recognize the times it's great, and the times it's not so hot. Being well versed in artificial lighting not only can help you recognize bad light, it can give you options to overcome it. is one website every amateur should at least take a peek at. It's a blog that deals with simple artificial light using off-camera flash, and it's written in a way that even a complete dolt like myself can understand. It's not the holy bible of light, more like the annotated primer. The site has helpful hints and equipment advice, along with some sample shoots and assignments.

In that vein, I have started to assemble a "studio" setup myself. Studio lighting sounds expensive, and it certainly can be - strobes can run in the hundreds of dollars, along with radio triggers and other accessories. But that doesn't mean that a poor photographer lacking funds can't use artificial light to good effect.

My own kit proves this theory; I must have spent less than $80 on the whole thing, not including the camera of course. All you need is a flash that has a manual mode, a light stand, some cords or radio triggers, and an umbrella. In my case, that means a Nikon SB-24 ($40), an old tripod, some chinese flash triggers ($25) from eBay, and a sun Parasol with reflective silver lining from Wal-mart ($6). Set it up on manual power, pop off a few test shots, and you're at the beginning stage of lighting. And that's a beautiful thing.

Monday, June 4, 2007

My favorite cameras: Brownie Hawkeye Flash

Originally uploaded by aikithereska
You may know this already, but I'm an avid collector of cameras, and in a non-traditional way. A lot of my cameras, probably 80% of them, have little to no value at all. That works great for me because A) I like the results, and B) I can't afford a ton of decent cameras.

Lots of people find it more than a bit odd when I pull out an old Polaroid camera to take a picture. Sometimes I get odd looks, and just about always a lot of questions, which is fine with me. Most people today, even photographers, live in a purely digital world, ruled by megapixels, write speed, and zoom lenses. That's a wonderful thing - I have a digital SLR I use constantly, but there are plenty of things it doesn't do well that my cheap cameras do better.

Brownie Hawkeye Flash

Which brings me to the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash, or BHF. It's a favorite camera of mine for many reasons. It's a bakelite box camera with a simple meniscus lens, takes medium format film, looks cool and takes great pictures, like the Statue of Liberty above. Best of all, they're common as dirt. Don't pay more than $10 for one.

The lowly Hawkeye has developed something of a cult following on the internet. People modify their BHF in many ways - most often by flipping the lens to distort the images. I hacked mine apart myself to add a tripod socket and cable release socket for increased stability during long exposures.

For snapshots, as long as you have enough light, just load it up with 100 speed film and you're golden. Everything takes care of itself. For indoors shots you'll need faster film, or use the bulb switch for exposures of a few seconds.

The results for a clean, normally-oriented lens are actually quite good - far better than those of other typical toy cameras such as the Holga or Diana. Flip the lens and sharpness falls off rapidly from the center, with focus being reduced to 2 to 5 feet instead of the usual 5 feet to infinity.

If you're looking to get into toy cameras, and want something simple to use you could do worse than a BHF. There's a great community on Flickr that is glad to educate folks about this wonder of plastic, so don't be afraid to get your feet wet!

Some Examples:

In the Bedroom
My Theme 2: Ann Arbor Architecture

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Dinosaur Dies

A Dinosaur Dies
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Well, I thought this might happen. Castle Photo, one of Lansing's only real local photo shops, is closing. Apparently the owner didn't want to pay next month's rent, though that's just a rumor. It's probably partly true, but they probably also weren't making all that much money. Castle Photo was great to have around because they stocked lots of different films, from slide to traditional black and white, in many formats.

Castle Photo also carried darkroom supplies, and I don't think any other place in town does, though I may be wrong on that. They had a large selection of lighting equipment, bags, tripods, and odds and ends.

What did them in as a business was their refusal to fully embrace the digital camera age. They were a Canon-only digital shop, and that doubtless turned many away. Folks like me loved the film selection and cheap accessories, but unfortunately folks like me are few, and certainly not enough to sustain a business.

I'll miss Castle Photo. If you want to get some good deals, or find out what you've missed, head down there before the end of the month.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

MSU photo club!

Originally uploaded by jstealth03.
So I got an email recently about Michigan State University's photo club being active again, check it out here. I'm a bit excited because I've not found a decent local club with young people in it - the only other club requires dues (yuck!) to be a member.

Right now it sounds like they're in the planning to be active stage, but the more participation they get the better. It sounds like a come-one come-all type club, enrollment is open to students, alums, and probably just regular ol' locals like yours truly. I'll check it out in more detail when they get a bit more organized, so stay tuned.

If you want more details email

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Travel Photography

4 Queens
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops.
I've been on vacation in Las Vegas the past week or so, taking lots of pictures and losing some money. Traveling is a lot of fun for me, and I always like to take pictures while I'm about, but I find it difficult at times. I have a hard time choosing what kinds of cameras to take with me, what film, where to take pictures, and what kind of photos to take. Some of what I have learned:

1) Pack light. This may not be hard for most photographers, but if you're like me you have about 40 cameras to choose from when you take a photo. I brought four on this trip, and really that was two too many. I ended up taking my Pentax dSLR, Rolleicord, Polaroid SLR680 and Olympus XA. Next time I think just the XA and Pentax would do just fine. I brought the tripod too, which wasn't a bad idea, but I didn't use it as much as I could have. I'd suggest an SLR that has lots of control along with a small pocketable P&S would be a great combo.

2) Scope out some places before taking the trip. The internet is your best place to find the best photo spots in an unfamiliar place. Look and see what locals and other travelers take in the same area. You don't have to take the same photos, but it can give you an idea of what has been done before, and where the interesting places are.

3) Digital is best for "vacation snapshots." As much as I love medium format and Polaroid, I just don't seem to have the time to fiddle with them while I'm on a trip. With a compact digital, you can take perfectly wonderful snapshots 99% of the time and be pleased with the results. Plus, you'll have the camera when the perfect picture comes along.

4) Think outside the vacation mode. When I take photos while traveling I find it very easy to fall into the "Oh, that's pretty *snap*" mode of photography. Because everything you see is new, you tend to forget to do a lot of the things that make photography interesting. Try some people shots. Try some detail shots. Not every travel photo has to be a landscape or a friend posed in front of a local landmark.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Worldwide Pinhole Day

vilano pinhole 1
Originally uploaded by jason_in_gvile.
Yesterday was Worldwide Pinhole Day, in case you didn't know. I went out to take some pinhole photos, did you? WWPD is the day you go out and take a photograph using the most primitive of gear - the pinhole camera. What's a pinhole camera, you ask?

It's a camera that uses a pinhole instead of a lens to transmit an image to the film plane. Because a pinhole is so small, it often takes much longer to take a photo - in my case the aperture is about ten stops past f/16. What that means is a pinhole image usually has some element of time lapse in it. The image also has infinite depth of field - an object 1 mm away will be rendered as clearly as one at the horizon.

One of the coolest things about pinhole photography, in my opinion, is making your own camera. I did this last year and it was a lot of fun, and a great learning experience. After many hours of work, I had finished Pharaoh, the Polaroid Pinhole camera. He accepts Polaroid packfilm, and is very wide angle, I'd estimate about 18 mm in 35mm terms. If you're not DIY-inclined, there are places to buy pinhole cameras and even a paper fold-up camera out there.

There's really not much more satisfying than taking a picture you love with a camera you built with your own hands. Try it out, it can be very addictive.

Pinhole Links...

f295 - A pinhole message board and community

Mr. Pinhole - Pinhole Camera building resource

Homemade Pinhole - Flickr group with photos of and from home-built pinhole cameras

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Color Creeps in...

Spring has come to Lansing, and with Spring comes color of course. For many it's time to break out the slidefilm, or perhaps the dSLR, and take a photo stroll to see what you can capture. I look forward to the warmer days of spring for another reason.

As you may or may not know, I am a Polaroid fanatic. I love the colors, the immediacy of the image, the simplicity of the cameras, the social aspects of shooting a Polaroid. When the temperatures hit 70 (optimal temps for Polaroid development), it's hard to stop myself from spending massive amounts of money on Polaroid film.

Shooting Polaroid film can be frustratingly simple. You put in the pack of film, point the camera at a subject, and shoot. There are no development controls, no depth of field controls, no shutter speed controls. Perhaps most limiting, you only get one copy of the image.

I love that. If you get it right, you get it right on the first try. You don't monkey around in photoshop, you don't increase development to compensate for poor lighting, and you certainly don't change lenses to get a better angle. The only thing you can do is work with the camera's limitations in mind. Concentrate on composition, and after a little while you begin to see what works well in the format.

With a Polaroid, you only get the one copy. You can certainly try to copy it with a copy stand or scanner, but you never get that original quite right again. The scans I post online pale in comparison to the real deal. As photographers, it's easy to try again and again to get the perfect print from a negative. You can copy it ad nauseum with no degradation to the image. There's nothing wrong with that, but something is to be said for having a unique original.

The film is expensive too, about $1 a shot or so. That means someone like me doesn't take many photos when they're out. I'd go broke like that! Instead, I have learned to look through the viewfinder and consciously decide, "Is this shot worth $1?" These are rules that can benefit anyone, regardless of what equipment they shoot with.

Be warned however, if you try Polaroid photography, you could become addicted.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Everything is falling apart

The Plume
Originally uploaded by boileraae.
Well, it seems that way lately. After my last gallery show, it's been hard to get out and take new pictures. I have like 12 rolls in the drawer waiting to be developed. I don't know if it's the weather, the backlog, how much I've been working, or what. I just seem to have run out of steam.

Thankfully the cold has let up a bit, and I'm sure that when we see green and warm temps I'll get back in the groove. This is all an apology for not updating in a while, both here and on Flickr. Anyway...

Castle Photo, an old-school camera store in Frandor in Lansing, is hiring part-time help. I'd take the job myself but they want someone to work Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Saturday. Weekdays I can do, but not the weekend. If you're interested, go apply in person. You won't get paid much, but you get a good discount and you're around cameras all day.

Call For Entries
Newaygo County Council for the Arts Statewide Photography Competition

April 25-May 26, 3007

Deadline: April 14, 2007

NCCA Statewide Photography Competition- To exhibit and acknowledge the finest photographers in the state of Michigan and encourage greater growth and achievement in the photographic community. Cash awards, ribbons, and recognition. Exhibit opens April 25 and closes May 26. Award ceremony and reception May 4, 2007.

Any photographer residing in the state of Michigan, 18 or older may submit up to two photographs in any process, not previously shown at NCCA. $20 non-refundable entry fee covers both submissions. A complete application with rules and guidelines can be downloaded form

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


Originally uploaded by Apocaplops.
I did some official photography for the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine over the last weekend. They had their annual open house, Vet-a-Visit, where the public comes to check out what the life of a veterinary student is like.

The CVM sets up exhibits to inform the public about animal welfare, and also has hands-on demonstrations thatanyone can take part in. The event is well-attended, bringing upwards of 5,000 visitors to the Vetrinary Medical Center.

This was my first attempt at doing photojournalism-style shooting, and I'm pretty happy with a lot of the images I got. I learned a thing or two that I wouldn't mind sharing, and hopefully it will help myself and others out in the future.

1) Be versatile. Events like these are very difficult to light off-camera, and fiddling with equipment is more of a hassle than it is worth. Bring a wide-short tele zoom lens, a shoe-mount flash, a diffuser of some sort, and that should be all you need.

2) Check out the light beforehand. In this case it was all flourescent lighting, and not very bright in many areas - about 1/50, f/5.6 at 400. Low ceilings meant I could do primarily bounce flash with a homemade bounce card. I wish I had a flourescent color correction gel over the flash, as a lot of my subjects were color-balanced, but the unlit background was not.

3)Bring Extra Batteries. I did so, and though I didn't run out it would have been terrible if it had happened. Bring batteries for your camera and flash.

4)Act Professional. After a while I wasn't nervous about getting in people's faces to take photos, and people responded better as a result. You don't need to ask to take a photo of someone, just go up and do it. If you look like you know what you're doing, they will just assume you do, and let you do your job. I only got one question all day about who I was and why I was taking pictures. A dorky camera vest and bag don't hurt either.

If you're interested in seeing the day's photos, check them out on my flickr site. I'll be in the process of uploading them over the next week or so.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Photo Trip to Ann Arbor

The young photographer
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.
Get your good photo-shooting hat on! Tomorrow, Sunday April 1st, Ann Arbor will be having their first annual FestiFools parade. It will run 4-5 pm on Main street. Basically, they've been creating Mardi Gras-type outfits and papier-maché puppets and plan to put on a grand show for the public. A kinda street-performance-art type thing using "enormous street puppets, inventive musical instruments, expressive choreography and resourceful costumes." Their words not mine.

It sounded like fun, and at the very least an interesting photographic opportunity well-suited to my Krappy Kameras, so I'll be there, probably toting a Holga or Diana or Polaroid of some sort. Let me know if you plan on going, perhaps we can meet up and strategize.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Play Ball!

Olds Park
Originally uploaded by MichSt.
Lansing's class A Lugnuts baseball team is set to kick off the season on April 3rd with a game against the MSU baseball team. If you're unfamiliar with the Lugnuts, they play in the heart of downtown Lansing, in Oldsmobile Park. It's a great location, and the atmosphere is laid back and very enjoyable.

An especially enjoyable promotion is Thirsty Thursday, when you can get a beer or soda for $2. You get close to the action, and I'm sure you could get some great shots if you bring your camera.

If I remember right, tickets are $5-9 each, so it can be a really cheap way to enjoy the afternoon. Couple tickets, couple hot dogs, and a couple drinks would get you in and out under $30. Can't beat that!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Nighttime at the Capitol

Michigan's Capitol
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops.
I noticed the nice soft light today after getting off work and decided to hurry over to the Capitol to see if I could get some photos. When I got there, I saw that someone else had much the same idea - a woman had her SLR mounted on a tripod and was beginning to set up for a few shots.

I said something like "Hey, no photography!" when I walked up carrying my camera bag and tripod. I was intending on getting her name and info but I didn't notice her leaving until it was too late. If you know her, or you are her, let me know.

It's always fun to compare notes and stories, and that's something I really want to start doing locally. The more we get together and trade knowledge, the better photographers we all will be. To me, Photography isn't about who has the best shots necessarily, it's about improving yourself, and helping others if you are in a position to do so.

I got some nice shots, but I wonder what hers look like...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Spring Fever

First ride of the season!
Originally uploaded by 8ran.
Oh man, do I want a motorcycle. A few short days ago we had 70 degree weather in Lansing. It was enough to make everyone I was around sick with anticipation of spring's arrival. Those unlucky enough to work through the day found themselves sneaking outside for a break and just enjoying the return of sun and warmth.

Personally I don't mind the winter, but it becomes photographically boring in its later stages, and a day like this is all it takes for me to get excited again about going out and taking pictures. My Polaroids don't work all that great in the cold months, so that is something I look forward to in the thaw.

And then of course, a day later, comes the crushing reality that it is still mid-March, brought on by a 30 degree drop in temperatures. Now I'm sitting inside, wishing for warmth all the more because of that first taste. I want more, and looking at the forecast, we're all going to wait for some time to come.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Local Show: Call for Entries!

Fast as you can
Originally uploaded by MichSt.
A local alt-art studio is hosting a show soon, and they have a call for entries out right now. If you're a local photographer and have some work you're proud of, this would be a great way to have your work included in a show. The exhibit will be based on the theme of action, motion or movement. Get your entries in ASAP, deadline is April 6th!

Press Release:

East Lansing's alternative art space, (SCENE) Metrospace
announces a call to artists for an upcoming exhibit based
on and around motion, action, and movement. All artists
over the age of 18 are invited to participate. Applications
will be accepted through Friday, April 6, 2007.

The exhibit will take place Friday, May 11 - Sunday June
17, 2007. 2-D works presented must be framed and equipped
with hanging wires, or otherwise ready for presentation.
This could be interpreted through an assortment of medias
and styles including but not limited to: graphic design,
photography, collage, painting, installation, drawing,
sculpture, performance, video, and sound. Artwork in any
media or any combination of media will be reviewed.

To apply, artists must submit images or documentation
representative of the work to be exhibited, along with a
description of your project idea, a corresponding artistic
statement and a resume (submissions with missing
information cannot be considered). Artists must also
include an SASE for the return of their materials. There
is no entrance fee.

Please send your information to: (SCENE) Metrospace, C/O
Peter Richards, Coordinator, 410 Abbott Road, East Lansing,
MI 48823. Application deadline is April 6, 2007, and early
submissions are strongly encouraged.

(SCENE) Metrospace is located at 110 Charles St., and is
open Wednesday through Friday afternoons from 1-4 PM
through the gracious support of volunteers; as well as
regular hours Friday from 6-9 p.m., Saturday from 6-9 p.m.,
and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. during scheduled exhibits. For
more information, please contact Peter Richards at (517)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Night Photography

Snowy Night
Originally uploaded by MichSt.
Night is a great time to go out shooting if you can brave it. One local who seems particularly adept at the stuff is Mario Q, aka MichSt on Flickr. Digital cameras are great for night photography because they don't have the exposure problems film does with long shutter speeds. One thing you have to watch out for is added noise, or speckled grain, in the photo when taking a long exposure. Winter is great for night photography too because of the way the snow reflects light, providing for a nice division between ground and sky.

Advice for newbies to night photography? Get some gloves, a tripod, some extra batteries (the cold kills 'em) and let 'er rip. Use the self-timer to avoid camera shake if you can, and take a couple exposures for each shot. What looks great in camera may not when you get indoors. And trust me, when you get back inside you won't want to go out again.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Michigan in Pictures

Mackinac Bridge
Originally uploaded by mandj98.
If you're looking for a place to look at beautiful photos of Michigan, there are a lot of places to look, and it can be overwhelming. You could peruse Flickr, or check out some of Flickr's many Michigan groups. But that all takes time. Sometimes you've got the time, but we all know it's not a renewable resource.

Thankfully, Michigan in Pictures has you covered. One of my favorite blogs, MichPics scouts out some of the best photos pertaining to our great state and shows them off on a daily basis.

Another great place to check out is Absolute Michigan. AbMich is a collection of news, stories, links, and other Michigan-relevant information. More to my sensibilities, they profile local photographers every once in a while. They even have a photo-specific segment where they post a photo with a story behind it every Friday.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Lansing in Winter

Michigan Avenue
Originally uploaded by fullframe.
Is it just me, or is Lansing particularly black-and-white in the winter? I can barely see color in the winter around here, much less photograph it. I'm really looking forward to spring for something fresh to look at. Still, black and white works this time of year, no doubt about it.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Upcoming Photo-worthy events

I'd like to make this a place where people can find out some interesting things to photograph, and perhaps get together later and do photo outings for events. With that in mind, here is the first of my monthly photo calendars. If you have any events to add, leave a comment, or email me.

3rd: Total Lunar Eclipse! Should be mid-eclipse right before midight at moonrise. Hopefully we'll get clear skies.

12th: Bluegrass Jam Local musicians get together to jam with their acoustic instruments. No electric instruments allowed. Should be some good people shots there.

21st: East Lansing Film Fest I don't know how much photography you'll be able to get in, but it will be a fun event, and maybe some good "street" photography as well.

23rd: Cheap Shots Exhibit I talked about it earlier - this will be a photo show in Ann Arbor featuring work from Toy Cameras. I'm in it too, you really should go. 7-10pm

31st: MSU Vet School Open House Come photograph the Vet students and a ton of animals as MSU CVM shows off what it does to the public. This will be a fun event for anyone, camera in hand or not.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Spring means Construction

Originally uploaded by macinjoshdotcom.
Spring is just around the corner in Lansing. You can tell by the way construction signs keep cropping up. I thought Lansing was the worst place to drive when I got here last year - what with 127 and Michigan Ave practically shut down all summer. I hope it's not that bad this year.

If you ever want something to photograph and aren't feeling inspired though, there's always construction. The people are a little dirty, the signs are brightly colored, there can be a lot going on. Watch the guy directing traffic. I guarantee he has a great expression of boredom on his face, and he'll never notice you taking his picture. Just yesterday I took a new Rolleicord out to practice and found some ditchdiggers in the middle of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lansing Area Photo Stores

The Camera Shop
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops.

The first thing a good photographer needs to have is a good camera shop. Yeah, you can order anything online nowadays for a discount price, but then you don't get to play with the camera, to cross-shop cameras and equipment in person, which can make a big difference. You'll regret buying that cheap Nikon D40 if you find out it doesn't fit your hand!

Lansing really only has two stores to fill this need. You have Castle Photo in the Frandor mall area, and The Camera Shop on South Pennsylvania, near Meijer. Yes, there are a couple Ritz Cameras around, but you know what? Ritz sucks. They don't know what they're talking about and will give you bad information. Don't go there.

So Castle Photo. It's a bit hard to find, out by Sears in Frandor on Vine Street. It's easily the best area store for the film photographer, stocking chemicals, film cameras, and more film of all types than anyone in the area. It's really the only place I would go looking for old lenscaps, bargain film, or even used cameras. They also have a darkroom available to rent, and process everything from traditional black and white to modern digital printing. For digital SLRs they specialize in Canon, so if that's your bag then you're good to go.

The store has a nice hometown feel to it. It's a bit cluttered, but you aren't going to get lost in there or anything. If you need questions answered, I've never been let down by the staff, even when I've thrown oddball questions at them. They're open Monday-Friday 10-6, and Saturday 10-5.

The other area store is The Camera Shop, located at 6006 S Pennsylvania. The Camera Shop is much more modern than Castle, having embraced the digital age completely. They carry most digital brands, and have quite a large selection of cameras, lenses, and accessories. There is a small selection of film here, and they will process C41 and E6 film from 35mm up to 220, but do not have any black and white service other than C41. In addition, they don't stock slidefilm (E6), so you'd be stuck with print film. Their used camera selection is pretty small, and from what I learned from the man behind the counter, it doesn't turn over much. If you're looking for a bag, lighting gear, or digital prints, The Camera Shop has you covered. Visit them Monday through Friday 10-6, Saturday 11-4.

Cheap Shots: Silver Dreams of Plastic Cameras

It's not really Lansing-related, but it's me-related. Starting on March 23rd, the Ann Arbor Krappy Kamera Club, of which I am a member, will be putting on a photo show. Two of my Polaroids were judged into the show, and I'm quite proud. This is a first for me! If you're in the area, like photography, or just want to meet interesting people and eat free snacks, drop by Gallery 4 between 7 and 10 pm.

If you need artwork for your walls, this is a good chance to get something meaningful and personal. We'll all be there to talk about our work, and the displayed work will also be for sale, so if you buy something you can get to know the artist and the history behind the piece. Check out the press release here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Welcome to Lansing?

I moved to Lansing, Michigan after living in the Ann Arbor area for quite some time. It was in Ann Arbor that my love for photography bloomed, and I came to love the community and friends that grew out of my passion for photography. We created a Krappy Kamera Club, and met up with other photographers from Flickr.

Circumstances (a wife in veterinary school at MSU) forced a change of location, and I found myself in the state capital. I quickly found much to photograph and much to remind me of Ypsilanti. The people, the decaying grand architecture, the surrounding farms. What I had, and still have, a hard time finding is a group of people, a community, to share my passion with.

So I'm creating this space to try to bring together people in the area who love Lansing, and love photography. Heck, loving Lansing is optional. Let's just fill this void, and come together to create something new, something this area lacks and sorely needs.