My love/hate relationship with color

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Sometimes I just really can’t stand my color work. Then other times I like it.

I’ve been working on some recent color films. Things like these shots just wouldn’t be the same in black and white I think.

MKT Mural

Civil War Mural

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24 exposures

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Thirty-five millimeter film commonly comes in rolls of 12, 24 or 36 exposures.

The “professional” thing is to use rolls containing 36 frames. For me however they are really a pain in the butt. I’ve been shooting the 24 exposure rolls for a while now simply because they’re available locally. But I’ve really come to prefer them, and here’s why.

Negative pages for 36 exposure rolls which are made to fit in regular binders don’t hold the entire roll. You end up either throwing away a couple frames, or double sleeving (usually scratching them in the process). They do make pages which will hold the entire roll, but they are oversized and require specially-sized binders.

I recently found that PrintFile makes negative pages which hold seven strips of four frames each, which is an entire 24 frame roll of film. And they fit into a standard binder.

Secondly, since finding the pages holding strips of four frames I simply allow the labs to cut and sleeve the negatives in their normal manner. Many times I’ve asked a lab not to cut the negatives (so I could cut them in six frame strips later) only to pick up my film scratched all to hell because of poor handling.

I’ve had labs stuff the uncut film into one of their photo envelopes. I’ve found my film tightly rolled up inside a film can. I’ve found my film wound up with a rubber band around it. Fixing scratches on my negs rates very high on my “un-fun” list.

Letting the lab to cut it in their usual four-frames-per-strip minimizes confusion and the chance the film will be damaged.

Pentax ZX-M

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Pentax ZX-M sporting the M 135mm f/3.5 lens

I’ve long joked that the greatest thing about digital photography is that it has pushed the price of old film gear way low. And it’s true, the Pentax PZ-1p I paid $700 for 10 years ago, can now be had in excellent condition for around $100.

Another case in point is this camera. A fellow PDML member found a lens he wanted to buy which came with this camera. The price was low enough he bought the entire package then asked the list “who wants this camera?” He got the lens he wanted and I got a neat older camera in perfect working order for the price of shipping.

While the other camera companies were adding buttons and dials like there was no tomorrow, Pentax simplified this system giving it a very retro look. I think the idea was outstanding, but I don’t think it ever really caught on. Most folks seem to like their bells and whistles, even when those bells and whistles detract from the actual experience of photography. Oh well.

Anyway, the ZX-M was the lowest model of this line. No autofocus. Center-weighted meter only. Mostly plastic body. It was aimed at the beginner/student photographer. It does offer autoexposure modes.

I’ve been shooting with it a bit and it seems like a decent enough camera, especially when you consider how much I paid for it. The viewfinder strikes me as not being as nice as my Program Plus, but that may just be a matter of acclimation. I haven’t sent in any of the film yet so I’ll have to wait for a final verdict.

In regards to my joke about digital photography things appear to be changing though. Prices for old film gear (especially lenses) have been on the rise the last several months. I think this is for several reasons.

First of all, a lot of folks who jumped on the digital bandwagon right off are now switching back to film for some or all of their work. Second, lots of younger folks who grew up in the digital era are discovering the joys of working analog.

And thirdly (and maybe most importantly), some enterprising manufacturer saw all those old, classic, vintage lenses being sold for nothing and invented adapters allowing you to mount just about any lens you find on any interchangeable lens digital camera. Damn it anyway.

Pentax Program Plus

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Here’s the camera and lens I have been shooting almost exclusively for a little more than a year now.

I have an admission to make though. I chose this camera because it was the cheapest available at KEH when I went to place my order.

I have a nostalgic preference for Pentax. When I started my career as a photographer this is the brand I already I owned and I made the choice to stay with it for some time. When I came back around to shooting film I knew I had to get another one.

Yes I had my eye on some of the more well-known models like the MX, but it just wasn’t in the budget at the time. Nonetheless I’ve found the Program Plus a great camera which suits me fine.

Kodachrome

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Today was the last day the legendary Kodachrome will ever be processed.

I’m disappointed.

I have to admit I’ve never shot a frame of Kodachrome.

By the time I got back around to film, its discontinuation had already been announced so I never bothered.

But Kodachrome is everything I want in a color film. Namely true-to-life colors and proven longevity.

I’m not shooting much color right now, but the little I do I wish it were Kodachrome.

Life update 2010

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I cannot adequately describe the utter, over-riding joy I feel in regards to life right now. My Beloved and I have long been working at having a specific kind of life, and I believe we really are there. Not almost there — there!

I’ve been thinking about our recent past tonight and I thought I’d jot down some notes.

We came to Missouri in 2003. I got a job at the daily paper as an “editorial assistant” (translation: do everything guy). In 2004 we bought a house in a tiny rural village about 8 miles outside of town. And we were mostly happy, we were on the road to the life we wanted.

In 2005 I decided I wanted to pursue photography more than I had been. I planned on getting an old film camera or two and make photographs for myself (much like I’m doing now).  But … two weeks after I’d made that decision, the daily paper in Independence, KS, called me up and offered me their head photographer position.

And I took it. And it was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. The day we moved there I turned to Noel and told her we’d made a mistake. I was never truly happy there. It ate at me. And it led me to make many more mistakes.

Even now, a year-and-a-half later, I can’t put my finger on exactly why I was so unhappy there. All I know is that I was deeply unhappy, and it drove me crazy.

In 2008 I quit the paper there. I enrolled in a college class, took a job at the Walgreens. Neither lasted long. Got a job at the public library. I was the janitor, it was one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had. Still wasn’t happy. And my life was falling apart around me.

Then in 2009 we finished paying off the property in Missouri. In July we sold or gave away almost every single possession and left Kansas. It was crazy and drastic, it was foolhardy, stupid even. And it was the second best thing I’ve ever done in my life (the first was marrying my Beloved, which coincidentally was also stupid, foolhardy, drastic and crazy).

When we made the jump, everyone warned I’d never find a job. In three weeks time I had three jobs and was turning others down. There will always be work for folks who want to work.

From July until early fall we lived in a tent in our backyard — the house has been uninhabitable for a while now — until we found the fifth wheel camper we live in now.

The first day back I felt what I’d been missing all those years in Kansas … peace.

This past year hasn’t been easy by any means. Last winter I was subbing on the school bus and working 30+ hours at WalMart, I was never caught up on my sleep. We were constantly behind on the bills. But I never doubted I had made the right choice and we were on the right path.

Now here we are at the end of 2010. I have my own regular school bus route. I have a good part-time job which dovetails with the bus driving perfectly.

The majority of my time is my time. All the bills are paid. My Beloved and I get to do just about everything together. I can pursue my photography at my own pace in my own way. I’m relearning to play guitar. We are slowly tearing the old house down and looking at plans of what we want to build in the future. We’re getting ready to plant a garden this spring. I’m thinking about a small chicken house.

I am over-flowing with peace, love and joy!

Life is GOOD!

Oh, as an aside … when we left Kansas. Our original plan was to head back to Florida and follow the tourist trade around working where ever we could. Eventually living aboard a boat again. I’m not really sure what that was all about. When we got to Missouri, I was getting job offers. We realized we had the property here free and clear. So we just stayed here. I don’t regret it.

Note to other drivers

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That big, fat white line at an intersection is there for a reason.

If you pull five feet past it when coming to a stop, you forfeit the right to get angry when you have to backup so me in my big, fat school bus can make the turn.

Thanks and have a nice day!

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