Monday, December 29, 2008


Ross's old red sweater
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Catching up on scanning is fun sometimes, much as I hate doing the tedious work. I found some really nice negatives in my folder just waiting to be processed, some from over a year ago. Most are from the Mamiya Press, and certainly have a great quality to them.

On another note, I'm seriously thinking about making 2009 be the year of the Mamiya, and perhaps only using that camera all year. I dunno. It would certainly be a fun experiment.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Scanning Negatives is bad for the Psyche

Scanning negatives is the only thing holding me back from using my Mamiya Press more or less constantly. I love the heft of the camera, the photos are beautiful, and I work pretty well with it. The negatives are super-detailed from edge to edge, and it suits a photojournalistic style well.

But honestly, you can only understand how much pain scanning can cause when you scan a medium format 6x9 negative on an old flatbed scanner through a USB 1.1 connection onto an old iMac. It's torturous. And when it finally is done scanning, I have to go through the whole photo and retouch all the dust so it doesn't look terrible, crop out the edges, and hope there are no terrible scanning artifacts. Ugh, what a process. I can only get through maybe two photos from start to finish before I have to get up and do something else.

I can see why people praise digital so much. Sure the final image isn't really as good in many ways, but boy you sure don't have to jump through any hoops to get there. Shoot, transfer, process - it's got to be about 10x quicker than scanning medium format film.

I guess I could do better with faster equipment, but that would cost quite a bit, so I'll be torturing myself a while longer yet. It's worth the effort.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Color in Winter

Chucks and Colors
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
It's hard to find. If you want a really colorful place, try a playground. They look especially weird when it's too cold and snowy for the kids to play, I think. This shot was at Hawk Island Park, the water park area. They obviously have turned off the water, and no kids around, so I can finally take some photos there without feeling like a creep.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bring your camera with you!

Winter Heron
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Seriously! I usually bring mine to class with me every day, but today I forgot it at home. Of course there was a beautiful Blue Heron in the middle of the Koi pond today, looking majestic against the snow-covered rocks. I raced home to get the camera, and by the time I got back of course he was gone. I eventually saw him flying rooftop to rooftop and managed this photo.

The key to great Osanpo photography is just taking your camera with you, and keeping your eyes open. Be prepared!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Busy time of year!

Blank Ballot
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
I've been pretty darn busy photographically lately! I had a wedding about 3 weeks ago that I shot for a friend and I'm still working through the RAW files - over 500 of them! Whew, that's a lot of processing, gotta keep going.

I also went to a great costume party for Halloween, and was quite happy I brought my camera. I went digital, with my Canon XT, and I recently plunked down the (whole lotta) cash for a 580EXII flash, which has been oh so useful lately, what with the sun setting at like 5 pm. So there are some good costume shots here, especially if you're a big Hayao Miyazaki fan!

Finally, you may have noticed it was election day recently. I took my camera with me to take some shots at the polls, and a friend mentioned later it's illegal to take any photos there. So for the record, I didn't take any election photos at the polls, because we all know that's illegal in Michigan for some dumb reason.

I'll update with the progress on the wedding photos soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bicycle in Autumn

Bicycle in Autumn
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
The joys of Polaroid are back. Just shoot, pull, wait, and peel. I'm glad Fuji is going to continue to support instant film for a while. I'm not ready to give it up. Get out and shoot while the leaves are turning!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sugoi desu ne!

Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Koi are pretty cool in my book, and so are Japanese gardens. Lansing Community College has one of the best Japanese gardens around, for my money. They have a beautiful waterfall trickling down to a pond stocked with some of the most gorgeous Koi. It's not too deep, so I doubt they overwinter there, but I don't know for certain when they remove the fish, and where they go when it's time to move them.

Peadeful is the way I'd describe it, and such a serene atmosphere is a valuable commodity in the immediate area. I hope LCC continues to keep the garden up for years to come, it's the crown jewel of the campus.

Before the winter snow, you can go view the garden and fish together on LCC's main campus, off Capitol Ave near the intersection with Genesee. Check out the cool Rogers-Carrier house while you're there too, some really neat architecture.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
More fun with the robot.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Look out, a Robot!

Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
A friend had a great idea for a photoshoot, and for once we actually followed through on it. We just happened to have a robot laying around, and thought about how Robots and humans have a big communication barrier between them. We thought about how Robots have to go about their daily lives when they are not laboring for us, and how people can misinterpret their actions. We also thought about how to portray the different ways Robots see the world, how they notice things we take for granted.

These shots were the result, and I think they came out great. I chose to use my Digital SLR, though originally I planned on using my big Mamiya medium format. After thinking more than a few minutes, I decided it would be more important to be able to move and shoot at the same time, and let the camera do at least some of the thinking (exposure and focus-wise) for me. That turned out to be a good idea, as I would have missed most of these shots had I decided to use the slow, cumbersome Mamiya.

I knew up front I wanted to go with a black-and-white film or digital conversion, because Robots just scream black and white to me - from binary code to their actual colors. It also turned out to be a bit of a rainy day, which worked in my favor, since Robots tend to be quite reflective, and the clouds muted that a bit.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm not posting lately, sorry. I've been taking less photos to be honest, and the ones I have taken have to get processed still. I'm in school, working, and applying to nursing school. So get off my back, willya?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Shifting Gear

Alpena: Field of Daisies
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Some of you may know, I am a user of the Pentax digital SLR range, or was until recently. I bought a K100D brand new a couple years ago, and it served me beautifully while I had it. Shots were crisp and the body was totally reliable, and the in-camera shake reduction and backwards lens compatibility were handy features I found myself using more often than I would have believed before buying the camera. A great introduction to digital photography.

So why then, do I find myself with a Canon Rebel XT, a body that is older and arguably "worse" than the K100D that I started out with? Well, I found a great deal on one at the right time for starters, but to be totally truthful, I found the Pentax didn't always do exactly what I wanted it to, every time.

When it comes to a dSLR, I have found that a body that produces predictable results is worth its weight in gold. The Pentax had white balance issues under many different light sources, its exposures seemed to be consistently underexposed, especially when using older manual focus lenses, RAW mode was unsupported by my older copy of photoshop, and perhaps most frustratingly, its NiMH AA batteries seemed to leak a charge and die before I picked up the camera to shoot, requiring me to keep a fresh set on the charger at all times.

Worst of all, in order to get decent results from JPG mode, I felt I had to set the camera to a flat tone and sharpness curve and adjust in post, almost processing each JPG image as if it were a RAW file. When processed, these files looked great - sharp, beautiful, rich, and contrasty. But it was the time that it took me to process even the quickest of snapshots that frustrated me.

With the Canon, I have found great shots that come right out of the camera, spot-on white balance and exposure nearly every time, and a great supply of new and used accessories and lenses that are, quite oddly, less expensive than their Pentax equivalents. So I'm a happy camper.

Not that I'm totally happy with the Canon - its tiny LCD is just about useless for critical things like checking focus, the viewfinder is at best no better than the Pentax, and I don't find its controls quite as intuitive. Plus, the body is that "sparkly silver" color that just screams amateur. But hey, I am an amateur right now, and it gets the job done. I saved a bundle on the body, so I have decided I will spend the cash on a decent set of lenses, where it counts. I started with the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, which I love so far.

More as it comes...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy 4th Lansing

Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Went down to the festivities on the fourth, and only really saw one other guy with an interest in shooting the fireworks. Riverfront Park is quite photogenic though, and I found a bit to inspire me while we waited for the show to start. Also, Lansing Community College is simply gorgeous in the summer. The landscaping and gardens are quite easy on the eyes, and the Japanese garden, with the huge Koi pond, seems like it's straight out of a fairytale.

I bet it would make a great photowalk location - you could hit all the historic buildings including the Capitol, the LCC campus, and take some photos of people enjoying the riverwalk and nearby farmer's market, maybe even a quick trip up to Old Town.

Friday, June 27, 2008

This needs to be posted

I haven't been posting much, and that's because I haven't been photographing anything, at all. I'm in between cameras right now, and life is throwing me a ton of curveballs in regards to transportation, work, and study. No big deal, I'm busy but happy.

However, this shot, from Mr. Lou O'Bedlam has inspired me. I need to go out and shoot. I need companionship. I need to quit worrying about fixing the Volvo's water pump, and just enjoy summer while it lasts.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Even a film holdout uses digital

That's right, I'm a digital shooter too. I think there are plenty of areas where digital and its instant feedback are useful, for example, still life. You can check lighting, composition, focus, depth of field, all within a second and adjust. The more you play with it, the more likely you are to get good results on the first try. No more bracketing shots!

And for learning off-camera lighting, a la Strobist, digital cameras are a godsend. Pop off a few shots and check them to see if your flash is at the right angle and power, and you're good to go. Honestly, I'm lost trying to do bounce flash with a film camera - it's an insurmountable task for me. With digital, just pop a few shots to get it dialed in.

Some people think its lazy, learning via trial and error like this, and not making the attempt to learn the math behind lighting and focus. They may be right, I don't know, but in this era I think you would be insane to use film in many circumstances. I think the shot of Morel mushrooms I've posted here would have been quite difficult to get right on the first try with my big Mamiya camera, but using the instant feedback of digital, I dialed it in.

Now if I wanted to reshoot the shot with a film camera for a particular effect, all I have to do is get the settings from my digital, set my film camera up similarly, and bingo bango you have the shot. Years ago pros would use Polaroids to make sure their shots were coming out correctly exposed. That was expensive and slow. I still use Polaroids of course, but digital has to be king for shot proofing now.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Local Photo Show

Dirty Rollers
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
You may know that there are a lot of great art galleries in Lansing, many of them centered in the Old Town neighborhood. Well, from now until June 30, the AE Gallery at 523 E. Grand River near old town is running a Lansing Photographers exhibit. Some great photographers are hanging their work there, including Doug Elbinger, Stan Simmons, Gabe Lopez, and many others including yours truly. I have five Polaroid pieces up, and I'm quite proud to be in my second show.

If you have the inkling of checking out what the local talent is up to, head over to AE Gallery, which is open between 11-7 Thursdays through Sundays. The first Sunday of every month is the Lansing Gallery walk, which would be a great time to check out the area. While you're there, don't miss your chance to eat at some local favorites, like Golden Harvest or Pablo's.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

World Wide Pinhole Day 2008

On the Fence
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Chances are pretty good that if I talked about pinholes with someone, there would be a lot of explaining on my part. It's one of those things that I forget that not everybody knows about, indeed I myself only learned about them in December of 2005. I know this because I attended a talk on pinholes given by Matt Callow, a fellow whose passion for low-tech photography has helped inspire me. Appropriately, Matt and a few mutual friends helped found the Crappy Camera Club not long after our first acquaintance.

Back to the real subject, we're talking about pinhole cameras here. What is a pinhole camera? Basically it's a camera that uses a pinhole, yes a small hole, to project an image onto film. Instead of a lens, that is. I could explain how it works, but that's what Wikipedia is much better at. Basically, just know that it works.

Now, some very interesting things happen as a result of using a pinhole instead of a lens. Expectedly, image sharpness usually degrades a bit, though perhaps not so much as you may think. Images have a tendency to vignette, especially wide-angle on larger formats like the Polaroid shown here. You can get a nice wide angle simply by building a pinhole that way. I made mine out of a jewelry box drawer. No kidding. One of the difficulties you may run into is framing issues, and you could build yourself a viewfinder, which many people do. I'm not so inclined, and I just aim the camera at the subject, guess the framing and exposure, and hope for the best. I try not to overthink it, because pinholes are really about having fun.

Also, you introduce a longer exposure because of how little light makes its way through the pinhole. How long? Well, the photo shown here was taken at about 11 am on a mostly sunny day. I held the shutter open for 12 seconds, and the film speed was 80. That's a long time, but appropriate because the aperture of the pinhole is like, oh, f/352 or so. Obviously with an exposure that long there is gonna be movement, like the clouds and trees blowing in the wind here. Also, some films have some crazy Reciprocity characteristics, meaning things start going badly as the exposure gets longer. Polaroid is one of the worst (or best!) films for color shifts, and that only gets more pronounced past a second or two of exposure time.

World Wide Pinhole Day happens once a year, and it's a reminder for Pinheads like me that not all great photography must be done by the greatest equipment, that sometimes all you need is some film, imagination, and a will to get out and shoot. This year it will be Sunday, April 29th. Here is my shot from last year. If you have a pinhole camera, get out and shoot. If you don't, at least maybe you'll understand what the heck is going on when you see me out standing around for a long time with a wooden box on a tripod.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lansing Lo-Fi

eckert power plant
Originally uploaded by 8ran
I've been active in the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club (whew!) for a while now, and I've grown a lot because of it. While we mostly spend our time shooting bull about cameras and drinking a beer or two, there are some honest discussions about photography and aesthetics from time to time, and we periodically get our act together and do a show.

Well, Ann Arbor is great, and I have a lot of photographer friends there, but I don't live there anymore, and haven't for a while. I've met a couple of really awesome photographers in the greater Lansing area lately, and I think we have enough people interested in the low-tech philosophy to make a go of it. So I've started a Flickr group, predictably.

If you still shoot film, piece of junk cameras, or Polaroids, you're more than welcome. I'm not elitist about it - I use digital cameras too, but my heart and soul exists in a universe of film. Hopefully we can get the ball rolling, and get a local show together sometime soon. Contact me if you're interested.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bring your camera with you!

Waiting for number 8
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
"The best camera is the one you have on you."

That's what photography is about after all, getting the shot, and you can't get the shot if your camera is at home. Now, many people don't want to carry a big camera around with them, and I get that. I used to carry my tiny Olympus XA with me in case of photo opportunities. Now I have a tendency to grab one of my big guns as I go out the door, either my Polaroid 110A or Mamiya Press. They're both big and heavy, but not really so much so that you can't carry them.

Any way, today I was carrying my big Polaroid, just in case. As I exited the car on my way to school, an elderly woman was at the corner waiting for he bus to come. The light was perfect as the sun was rising, and I just knew there was a shot there. I approached her, took the photo and chatted a bit, and continued to school.

That's the second part of getting a good shot. You have to have the equipment of course, but you also have to be willing to take the shot when you see it. A few months ago, I may not have taken this photo, out of shyness or lack of confidence. But I figured, what's the worst that can happen? Someone gets angry? Usually people oblige you, I've only had a problem once or twice.

Ask permission, or don't, whatever works for you. The most important thing is to practice, and be ready when the shot comes along.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Street Photography

Chicago Girl
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
I've experimented some with "street" photography, and I've come to a few realizations. First of all, I don't like it all that much. It's not that I don't like photos of people in real-world situations, far from it. I'd prefer a portrait of someone as they are to a studio portrait any day of the week. But the way street photographers take photos is at its best a tad dishonest, and at its worst crappy snapshots. "Shooting Street" usually involves trying to take someone's photo while they're unaware of it, on the sly. When subjects find out what you're doing, many times they react angrily, and who can blame them? You're skeeving around trying to sneak photographs of people, why would they not be creeped out?

The photo posted here isn't really an example of street photography at all, but it's indicative of what I'm talking about. Working with a giant camera like my Mamiya Press, it's impossible to not be noticed and recognized for what you really are - a photographer taking pictures of people with a huge camera. You don't get the intimate candid snaps that you might if you were working with, say, a Leica, but I'd argue that kind of photography has been done to death. I mean really, who is going to top Henri Cartier-Bresson in that realm?

With my Mamiya, I'm looking for something different. An exploration of the relationship between the subject and the photographer, where there is a personal connection made. In the photo here, I was stopped on the streets of Chicago by a woman who wanted me to take her photo. She looked at me, and said, "I love having my picture taken." There's more going on than at first glance too - is that her car? Why does she love having her photo taken? Why does she feel the need to pose? It's like, in an instant, subject and photographer fall into the expectations that their roles imply, and a photo is the result.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Against the Grain

The Stranger
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
There's a lot of agreement out there about where digital photography goes wrong and what it's doing right. People love the instant feedback that the digital camera gives them, and you've undoubtedly seen many people "chimping" as they look at the photo they've just taken. Hell, I do it myself, and why not? It's an easy way to see how the photo can be bettered, and it's a necessity with some of the godawful viewfinders packaged in with these dSLRs nowadays.

People like the live view offered by most P/S digitals, as it allows them to see what the photo will look like before they take it, and take it from a different angle. This is one area I think camera manufacturers have got it wrong - packaging cheap digicams with no optical viewfinder at all. An optical viewfinder doesn't drain the batteries like a LCD does, but the real difference is in stability. No way can you hold a camera stable out at arm's length. With the old viewfinder style, you brace the camera against your body, anchoring it against shaking.

The big think lots of people are currently going gaga over, however, is the reduction of noise. I talked about it a few posts ago myself, and I must admit there's a lot to be said for a nice noiseless image, especially at low light levels. But I miss grain. Good old black-and-white film grain. Lots of you won't know what I'm talking about, but soup up a roll of Tri-X and you'd understand right away. It's dirty, it's gritty, and the disparate elements of image and process meld together to make meaning.

Maybe this is all just reminiscence, but a great grainy black and white can bring a lot of emotions to an image, and enhance an aesthetic. Sure you can add it digitally, but is it the same? If you someone who has got it down, let me know.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Land Cameras

A gift from Apocaplops :)
Originally uploaded by 8ran
Well, I get questions about Polaroid cameras from time to time, and I figured it's about time to have a post I can send people to when they need an answer, so here it is.

If you like the idea of getting into instant photography, there's currently only one type of film being produced, and that is made by Fuji. FP-100B or C and FP-3000B are the Fuji instant pack films, and they will fit older Polaroid Pack Film cameras. Okay, I know there are other films currently available, and Fuji has an integral film, but I'm trying to keep this guide simple. The camera pictured here is a 360, or what are referred to as "100-series" packfilm cameras. They were made by the millions, and aren't worth any more than maybe $20 now, by and large. They produce wonderful images very easily, with their high-quality glass lenses and automatic light metering. Basically point, focus, and shoot. The mechanics of the camera are easy enough to figure out, so I won't go into that here.

Polaroid also made some other packfilm cameras, most notably plastic things like the Colorpack II, and also some cheaper folding cameras like the more recent Reporter and ProPack models. They also made some expensive professional model packfilm cameras like the 195, but they require more skill and money to use and purchase.

I usually suggest getting one of the higher-quality packfilm cameras since they cost the same as the cheaper, and produce better images. Look for a model 100, 250, 350, 360, or 450.

A great resource for any Polaroid camera user is the Land List. Just go there and explore a bit, I'm sure you'll find the answer. A big FAQ for these cameras is battery type. They all used proprietary batteries, just look here to find out what yours needs. You can also adapt them to work on AAA batteries if you're handy. Before you start snapping away, try to clean the front and rear of the lens of dirt, and gently swab the film rollers on the loading door to remove years of dirt and grime.

Loading the camera is straightforward once you have the film. Just place the pack in the camera and close the film door, latching it shut. Proceed to pull out the long black tab and you're ready to shoot the first photo. When you've taken a photo, pull the small white tab and you should see a larger white tab exit through the film rollers. Pull that big tab firmly and entirely out of the camera, and wait the amount of time required. Grab the two flaps of the film and peel the negative from the print smoothly. Peel the print out of its paper frame, and that's it!

As you can see it's quite a hands-on process, and other people are usually intrigued by what's going on. Most people under 30 have no clue what it is, but older folks will often reminisce about the old Land Camera they used to have. Sometimes half the fun is seeing how people react to such a bulky funky camera.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Photo booth!

Photobooth: Erich and Julius
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Lansing has absolutely NO photo booths that I can find. Do you know of one? I need need need one for my apartment.

There's an old black and white booth in a club in Ann Arbor, but that's a ways to trek for some instant fun.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Dem Bones

One of the great advantages of using Polaroid for me has been the availability of good high-speed film. Thankfully Fuji also produces a 3000 speed pack film, so I'll be able to shoot in low light even after Polaroid is gone.

With a 4.7 lens, my Polaroid 110A can shoot handheld in situations like this darkly lit museum, as long as I have 3000 speed film with me. This shot, for example, was handheld at EV 5 or so, which is really something for what is basically a large format camera. Try that with your baby Speed Graphic!

Nowadays you can achieve even more dramatic low-light shooting with some of the better digital SLRs out there, such as the Nikon D3. Some are capable of very low-noise even at ISO 6400, which opens up all sorts of new opportunities for lighting. I'm excited to see where this technology is finally going to take us, opening up new doors for all-new modes of photography.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Polaroids are for People

I may have written about this before, but it begs to be said again: there's nothing finer than a Polaroid for portraits. I'll bring my Polaroid cameras out and fully intend to shoot photos of still life or landscapes, and somehow the camera always gets turned to people. Folks don't seem to mind getting their picture taken with these cameras, in fact many will stop me and ask me to take their photo on the street, no joke. Many times I've been more than happy to shoot twice and give them a copy.

Recently, a friend of mine, Craig Nelson, has done quite a bit of portrait photography with his Mamiya RB67 and a Polaroid film back. His stuff is pretty distinctive - low shutter speeds, gorgeous natural light, and a quality to the portrait that says something about the relationship between photographer and subject. His stuff is great, and it shows a big reason why losing this film is such a shame. To be completely honest, he's using the Fuji version of the instant film, which is great because it will be in production for at least a little while yet.

Another guy to look at is Lou Bedlam, whose Polaroid integral-film portraits are stunners. Again there's the tight framing and personal connection with the subject, something that the medium can really shine at. I think he's progressing to TLR-based medium format right now as Polaroid phases out 600 film.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Jesus Saves
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
I've been thinking of building up some prints so I can sell them at art fairs, just to try to save a little money, and maybe make my photography pay for itself. My photos are so eclectic that I have a hard time finding a cohesive enough group of subjects to sell. In the Lansing area I think local landmarks would do well, but elsewhere what? Nature scenes?

I'm not too big in photographing wildlife, I prefer to shoot people and landscapes. People photography doesn't sell all too well unless you're in the photo, it seems, so I think I'm going to concentrate on landscapes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Buried Sweet

The Buried Sweet
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
I love going out to the cemetery and seeing what I can find. Some people have really interesting names, and I think the graveyard would be the perfect place for a couple to pick out names for their baby. Okay, maybe that's a bit macabre, but why not?

I just picked up a 50mm AF lens for my K100D digital SLR, and boy is that nice. Should have just done it a long time ago, but I couldn't talk myself into dropping the money. Once I finally got it, I ended up selling all my superfluous old manual focus stuff, and that more than covered the cost. For anybody thinking about using manual focus lenses on their dSLR, forget it. The viewfinder of even the best dSLR is dimmer and smaller than what you used to get, and the focusing screens aren't built to manually focus on.

If I had my druthers, I'd build a consumer-level SLR body with a nice pentaprism finder, and a split-image focusing screen. That would just be great. Don't see that happening, so I might as well cave and buy some decent AF glass.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Last Leaves
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
Time to get out and enjoy the weather.