Lightbox Wednesday #50

Fires, floods, hurricanes, mudslides...if you pay any attention at all to the intense weather events we've been experiencing recently, it has to make you realize that global warming is very real. We've had a couple of wild years out here in California for sure.

After a brutal storm, this fishing boat washed ashore near Bodega Head. I'm not sure if the storm drove the boat into the sand or it was scuttled there. Over several weeks, I made some interesting photographs of it with my Nikon F2, 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor and some TMax film. One day, I looked and it was gone. Either someone had it towed back out during high tide, or the Pacific reclaimed it. Not sure.


Last Photos of 2017/First Photos of 2018 & A Processing Failure!

I had a grand plan to bring 2017 to a close and celebrate the beginning of a new year of photography; shoot a roll of film on New Years Eve and another on New Years Day.

I selected two of my most dependable classic cameras. For the last day of 2017 and a sunset walk on the beach, my serviced Pentax Spotmatic F fitted with a crystal clear SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8.

The New Years Eve Camera: Spotmatic F 

The New Years Eve Camera: Spotmatic F 

For January 1st and my traditional long hike out to the tip of Point Reyes, my trusty little Minolta XD, serviced by Blue Moon Camera & Machine with a splendid MD Rokkor-X 50/1.4.

New Years Day Camera: The Minolta XD

New Years Day Camera: The Minolta XD

I decided to use Kodak's Portra 400, a color film that I use almost exclusively now. I'm getting comfortable with Portra and feel like I get consistent and dependable results shooting it at ISO 200. 

Dependable Kodak Portra 400 

Dependable Kodak Portra 400 

Good hardware and trusted software...what could go wrong? Turns out...lots!

The moment I stepped through the front door of my local camera shop and saw the pouty face on my friend behind the counter, I knew that either they decided they didn't like seeing me anymore or something was wrong. The latter was true. My little camera shop started a new employee in their mini-lab the week between Christmas and New Years. During her first day running the C-41 processor all on her own, the machine decided to jam up and shut down, leaving my two rolls of Portra cooking in the developer. Amidst blinking error lights and alarm signals, she panicked and by the time she was rescued by another employee who got the machine running again, my Portra, over exposed intentionally, was now over developed as well.

You can see trouble afoot from my first shot on the New Years Eve roll, the wavy vertical lines in this frame of my Christmas poinsettia.


It was approaching magic hour. My plan was to grab some sunset shots with the Spotmatic. The light was spectacular. Considering that my film was sitting in the soup for way too long--kudos to Kodak! This film actually held up pretty well to the chemical torture. Note: I have not used any digital post processing on these.


I'm not an expert on the processing machinery used at my camera store, but my research indicates that the UFO-like dark spots on this next shot are caused by two rolls of film coming in contact with each other or with some part of the machinery.


Even pushed one stop and mini-lab processed, Portra 400 typically exhibits very fine grain. Over development yielded very apparent grain and tons of contrast.

Last Day Fish.jpg

Strolling along the beach at sunset on New Years Eve with my Spotmatic was a great way to wind down the year. It really is one of my favorite cameras and the walk was reflective and peaceful.


The Tomales Point trail is a nearly 10 mile roundtrip hike that starts at Pierce Point Ranch on the tip of Point Reyes National Seashore. It's become sort of a New Years Day tradition for me and requires layered clothing and a backpack full of snacks. The compact and lightweight Minolta XD camera and prime 50 are the perfect choice for this hardy hike. I considered taking one of my Pentax K bodies and my 135mm telephoto lens as I knew I might encounter Tule elk on the trail, but I opted for portability instead.

There are a number of ranch outbuildings at the trailhead.

Outbuildings at Pierce Point Ranch trailhead

Outbuildings at Pierce Point Ranch trailhead

I'm not sure if this roll preceded or followed my New Years Eve roll through the processing machine, but this entire roll over-cooked as well. Unaware of the future chemical catastrophe, I headed up the trail.


I've shot this same seascape from this same place many years in a row on Fuji Acros black and white film and on Portra. Over development made grain apparent, increased contrast and disturbed the film's wonderful color palette. Again, I am not digitally correcting any of these images.


Pierce Point is a Tule elk reserve and it wasn't long before I spotted some. They could have cared of less about me snapping away.


And that's about where this roll really got into trouble in the soup.


When I looked quickly at the negatives at the photo counter, it seemed as if some of the shots indicated a light leak in my camera, but the XD has new seals, a full CLA and roll of Acros I shot after these turned out just fine. I think it's safe to assume over development caused these issues as well.

Apparently, a great many people make Tomales Point trail a January 1st expedition. I had lots of company.


As I looked at my end-of-year/start-of-year images on my computer that night, I was overwhelmed with disappointment and considered changing labs. I've had near perfect results when I've used Richard Photo Lab and thought perhaps that in 2018 I should use them for all my work. Sleeping on it, I realized that I've sent many many rolls of C-41 through the machine at my local Mom & Pop camera store, all with very good results and I like to support local businesses whenever I can. Come to think of it, in all of my years of photography, these are the only rolls of film that have ever been spoiled in processing.

Of course, the camera shop refunded my money and let me select two rolls of film for free. They don't stock Portra (I get it at B&H), so I picked up two rolls of Tri-X. I haven't shot any in a while and I'm going to make a serious effort to home process my black and white work this year. 

Free film

Free film

Considering the chemical torment the newbie lab tech put Portra through, I have to give this Kodak film credit for returning any images at all. 2018...cheers!

EOY Ramblings...

Looking back and forward...a little bit of this and that as the clock ticks down.

I can't believe how prejudiced I had always been towards certain camera brands and how this year really opened my mind. 

Take Canon for example. Pooey! Until, on a lark, I tried a Canon F-1n 35mm SLR.


Canon F-1n

Made me a Canon fan!

It's a great, truly great professional grade SLR! I love shooting it, the FD lenses are wonderful and I can't recommend it enough! I enjoyed the F-1n so much, I bought its predecessor, the original F-1.


Original F-1

Love the patina!

While this camera doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the later version, its minimalism is endearing. The more I use it, the more the body reveals a wonderful brass patina.

One of the cheapest cameras I have ever bought delighted me to no end as I "point and shot" my way through a Sonoma County winery this summer.


Canon A-1

Point & Shoot & More!

Set the A-1 in program mode and let the camera do all of the heavy lifting. Or, take it out of automatic and learn to drive a stick shift. Hipsters are clamoring to buy AE-1s, making the better Canon A-1 a steal! If you see a nice A-1, buy it! Great camera!

I would never try brussels sprouts because I had myself convinced I wouldn't like them. Then, I tried roasted brussels sprouts and guess what? Loved 'em! Somewhere on the internet, I read that Minolta cameras were plastic and cheap and prone to breaking, so I stayed away. Unexpectedly, a little XD fell into my hands this year. 


Minolta XD

Small package. Lots of features!

Although working fine, it had a smudge inside the viewfinder. After a quick trip up to Blue Moon Camera & Machine and a simple, affordable CLA, the Minolta XD quickly became one of my favorite shooters this year. This camera shoots in manual mode, shutter priority mode and aperture priority mode. It's small, light, made of metal and is the platform for a wide variety of stunning and affordable Minolta Rokkor lenses. I was wrong about Minolta. So much so that I went looking for a good example of a legendary camera; the XE-7.


Minolta XE-7

A Leica in disguise.

The XE-7 was released during a time when Minolta and Leica were joined at the hip. This camera has one of the nicest sounding shutters and smoothest film advance mechanisms of any classic SLR I have used. I love the fact that the XD and XE-7 can share the same lenses. Although my XE-7 is purring like a kitten, I like it so much that I am going to invest in a Mark Hama CLA in 2018.

I stumbled across a professional photographer cleaning out his freezer.


Old Film

Kodak & Agfa

I bought some Plus-X from him (2012 expiration) and some Agfa APX (1998 expiration). I have no expectations of performance, but I've shot a roll of the Plus-X so far and it seems fine.

Expired Plus-X, Pentax Spotmatic SP

Expired Plus-X, Pentax Spotmatic SP

As I have written before, about once a year, the Polaroid bug bites.


New Film

Polaroid Originals

Santa brought a pack of new color and a pack of black and white film for my SX-70, which spent the fall back in New York in Matt Widmann's shop. The camera got an extensive refurb. Like total rebuild! I got it back just before Christmas and shot a few test shots with the film pack Matt left for me in the camera. The guy is a genius and what fun to have an SX-70 that works like it is supposed to! There will be a series of posts next year documenting everything Matt did to my old Land Camera and some instant shots.

2017 has been the year of Pentax, another camera brand that I snubbed my nose at while shooting my Nikons and Leicas. I never would have tried my first Pentax camera, the ME Super, if it weren't for Jim Grey's Down The Road blog. 


Pentax LX

Love my LX!


Pentax MX

Basic & Beautiful!


Spotmatic SP

Simply sexy!


Pentax ME

Get one!


Pentax SPF

The Ultimate Spotmatic!

I've had a lot of fun since discovering Pentax. Thanks Jim!

To get better, to have to push yourself out of your comfort zone.


Street Photography

With the Leica M

I am far more comfortable with my camera on a deserted stretch of beach than I am poking it into the faces of strangers. That hasn't kept me from admiring the work of fine street photographers, past and present...and yearning to try it myself. I set a goal this year to read, study, learn and force myself to get out there and work at my own street photography. Two street workshops this year with my Leica M rangefinder and an "AH-HA" moment the last time out. I'll be posting more about that next year.



So grateful.

I am grateful for the kind community of photographers, craftspeople and merchants I have gotten to know so well since re-entering film photography in earnest 8 years ago. The people shooting film and supporting film photographers right now are an amazing, giving group. Like my good friend Sover Wong in the UK who has carefully serviced all of my Nikon F2 cameras. Ken Hansen in New York who trusts me enough to send me a Leica before I have paid him for it. Eric Hendrickson who skillfully CLAs all of my classic Pentax bodies. Youxin Ye who returned youth to my Canon P rangefinder. The cool folks up at Blue Moon Camera & Machine who re-did my Minolta XD and Canon F-1. Bellamy Hunt, the Japan Camera Hunter, who is up to any camera or lens hunting challenge I've thrown at him. Matt Widmann at 2nd Shot SX70 Service who did an incredible job turning back the clock on my SX-70. The aforementioned Jim Grey, who got me on to Pentax cameras and offers frequent encouragement in the comments here. One of the first photo bloggers I discovered was Mike Connealy  and I still look forward to his posts. Mike does amazing work with some very very old cameras.

To the small group of regular readers of the Fogdog Blog...I so appreciate you and wish you the best of everything in the New Year.

Lightbox Wednesday #49

I guess the best way to wrap up the year is by posting the first photographs I took in 2017, New Year's Day out on the very edge of the continent, the tip of Point Reyes.

For the past several years, I've been trying to start the New Year with a healthy, hardy day hike on the Tomales Point Trail. This year, I kept it simple; a light pack, good shoes, layered clothing, my Spotmatic SP and Acros film. The trailhead is at Pierce Point Ranch where I always find interesting subject matter in the old outbuildings.

Weather permitting, I'll start off 2018 in a similar fashion.



Does camera love last? I'll let you know starting today and throughout 2018 as I revisit cameras from my collection that I gushed over when I originally bought them. How do classic film cameras hold up over time? First up, my Contax RX.

Contax RX with Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 Planar

Contax RX with Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 Planar

I bought my Contax RX almost three years ago for two reasons, one more rational than the other. Rationally, I wanted an inexpensive way to try Carl Zeiss glass. Irrationally, I thought the Contax/Yashica bodies produced in the mid-1990s were cool looking. Although I buy a lot of old cameras on eBay and have had really good luck there, the RX is a pretty complicated camera full of electronics. With that in mind, I decided to get mine from a trusted source with a solid return policy, so I kept my eye on KEH, B&H Photo and Adorama. It wasn't long before a nice one turned up at B&H. They also had a 50/1.7 Zeiss Planar in the Contax/Yashica mount, so I heated up the credit card.

When I originally reviewed the RX on my old WordPress blog, I couldn't heap enough praise on this camera. Even though the RX was big and fairly heavy, I wrote that it felt just wonderful in the hand. It's metering was spot on, I loved its digital focus assist, big and beautiful viewfinder, built-in diopter adjustment and oh-so-sweet sounding shutter. Here are some shots from my first roll through the RX on Acros film.


I haven't shot this camera nearly enough and when I took it out for a walk on the beach a few weeks ago, I had to ask myself why. The RX is truly a very pleasant camera to shoot. Like the Nikon F4, it offers up most every metering mode a photographer could want. And the camera will bend to the skill level of its user with fully automatic everything shooting mode to manual. The integral motor drive will have you shooting up 36 frames in no time and I still think the Contax RX has one of the best sounding shutters of any camera I have tried.

As I have written before, the RX was released just as the photographic world was beginning to embrace auto-focus, so it has the brains of an auto-focus camera without the ability to actual automatically focus a lens. As you are manually focusing, an indicator at the bottom of the viewfinder will tell you when you've nailed focus. It's cool, but with this big and bright viewfinder, stunning Zeiss lens and split image screen, you really don't need the computer assist.

I would buy the RX all over again and even though I have only tried one Carl Zeiss prime lens, I love the way it renders. There are a couple more C/Y mount Zeiss lenses I have had my eye on, the 28mm f/2.8 is supposed to be amazing and the 35-70mm f/3.5 is reviewed as one of the best zooms ever made. After living with my Contax RX for a few years, I can definitely say I'm still in love. Here are some shots from my beach walk during a negative tide, ironically shot again on Acros film.

Negative Tide.jpg
Negative Tide 2.jpg
Two Dogs.jpg
Two Fishing.jpg
Doran Horses.jpg

Lightbox Wednesday #48

I'm not much for Christmas.

I suppose after nearly 30 years of working in retail advertising, putting together ad campaigns for Black Friday, Christmas sales and year-end sales events, the holiday season has become something I just slog my way through. Deadline looming. Deadline met. I only come up for air around the first full week of January, taking a deep, deep breath and toasting the fact that I got it all done again for another year. So while you're celebrating, I'll be sleeping...and enjoying every wink.

When I do let myself think about Christmas, my mind drifts back to a gentler time. Here's my sister and I on a Christmas Kodachrome my father shot '65 or '66 I would guess.

Kodak Retina IIc, Kodak Kodachrome color slide film

Kodak Retina IIc, Kodak Kodachrome color slide film

Finishing the Roll

Every year I say the same thing; seems like the weeks between Halloween and Christmas just fly by. This year has been no different. Wow! It's almost Christmas again!

And, as in past years, I find myself finishing off partially shot rolls of film in some of my cameras as we click off the final days of 2017.

It was on a hike in July that I started this roll of Portra 400 in my Pentax MX. These were shot with the SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2

Thinkin Place.jpg

Five months later, I finished up the roll on a December Sunday using my 85mm f/1.8 SMC lens. First, reading the morning paper...


Late in the day, near the magic hour, a stroll on the beach...

Yes, those are birds, not specks of dust!

Yes, those are birds, not specks of dust!


Back home, some Christmas gift wrapping...


It had been so long since I started this roll of Portra that I had forgotten what was on the first few frames. Getting the scans back from the lab was a pleasant surprise. I remembered that it was a nice July hike. Good air, exercise, some quiet time. And finishing the roll with my 85mm was a good reminder of how much I like this focal length and how I must use it more in 2018.


Lightbox Wednesday #47

My Dad was always a General Motors man. Growing up, his pickups were always Chevy or GMC. And Mom hauled us around in a Biscayne wagon. After he retired, he bought a Cadillac. GM through and through.

I've always been a Nikon guy. Just as my Dad swore that a Ford would never grace our driveway, I couldn't imagine ever liking, let alone loving a Canon. Until I bought my F-1. Love that camera. And those old FD lenses...sweet! Here are some shots from my first roll through the F-1 this past February.


Lightbox Wednesday #46

When my old MacBook started throwing fits last fall, I knew that sooner rather than later, I'd be paying a visit to the Apple Store and laying down some serious bucks for a new one. I really hate spending my hard earned money on technology because as soon as I buy something, it's outdated. But my laptop is a tool I use every day for work and pleasure, so I justified buying the most robust one I could afford; a new MacBook Pro.

This Lightbox project started out as a simple cleaning of my digital garage. I wanted to get rid of documents and images I'd clung to on the old machine rather than transfer all of it to the new one. Cleaning up my documents was a pretty easy process, accomplished over a couple of weekends. I decided to attack my images in a more methodical way, viewing them all on iPhoto's lightbox desktop, thinking about each one before I kept it or slid it to the trash can.

I've been at it for 46 weeks and the exercise has been cathartic. It feels good. The garage is almost clean. My images are organized for easy retrieval and the editing process has revealed my growth both as an operator of the equipment and as a photographer. I still have a lot more to learn and I'm excited about that.

One added benefit is that as I looked through my photos, it made me remember how much I enjoyed using a particular camera, or in some cases, didn't enjoy using it. I realized that I've written some thoughts here on the blog about certain cameras and then never really followed up down the road as to my feelings as I spent more and more time with the camera. I am not alone in this area. Occasionally, when I read a camera review online or watch a YouTube camera review, it's interesting to see a photographer gushing over a particular camera. Then, scrolling through the comments, I'll read that the photographer ultimately ended up getting rid of the camera for one reason or another. So I have decided to revisit some of the old cameras I haven't shot in a while and see if I still feel the same way about them. As I came across this image from January 2015, I realized I hadn't put any serious miles on my Contax RX in far too long. I have some Acros in the RX now.

Bookshelf, January 7, 2015 shot with the Contax RX, 50mm f/1.7 Zeiss Planar on Tmax 100

Bookshelf, January 7, 2015 shot with the Contax RX, 50mm f/1.7 Zeiss Planar on Tmax 100

Lightbox Wednesday #45: Should I get a zoom?

I've only shot one lens longer in focal length than 85mm in my photographic life; the Pentax-A 135/2.8. It was a lens I picked up on a lark this Spring and took it to a local college graduation ceremony.

Pentax-A 135mm  f/2.8 on Pentax LX body

Pentax-A 135mm  f/2.8 on Pentax LX body

Pentax-A 135mm f/2.8 on Pentax LX body

Pentax-A 135mm f/2.8 on Pentax LX body

Telephoto lenses really make you see the world differently and I've been thinking that maybe I should shoot this 135 more. I've also been considering a zoom lens. I've never owned one and really never had the desire to until now.


I have so many different camera bodies, so the choices are vast. Manual focus or auto focus? Nikon? Pentax? Canon? Olympus? Minolta?

Right now, I am leaning towards finding an inexpensive Nikkor AF-D zoom and shoot it on my Nikon F4 body. Not sure. Suggestions are welcomed.

Lightbox Wednesday #44: Selfie Special Edition

I started taking self portraits with my classic film cameras for fun. As I became a more competent photographer, I used selfies for metering tests and close focusing.

My very first photography selfie was not with a film camera at all, but with my iPhone. I found a cool Kodachrome mirror on eBay and took a photo of myself after I had proudly hung it in my den.


My second one was with my first Polaroid Land Camera. I shot this at the end of a very long night of doing some intense camera repair work to get this old camera to eject exposed film properly. I treated myself to a nice glass of wine after I got this image. Or was it two glasses?


When I started this journey back into film photography, I wasn't very concerned with organizing my images. I was just shooting film and having fun. Earlier this year, when I started this Lightbox project of cleaning up my archives and labeling all of the images I wanted to keep, I realized that one of the unexpected benefits of shooting a selfie on many of the rolls I'd taken was that it allowed me to clearly identify the camera and lens I was using at the time.

Since that revelation, I have made it standard procedure to shoot one selfie either at the start or end of the roll to assist in future archiving. I am also considering adding a slate card in the shot to identify film used.

What started out as goofy fun became a benefit. Here are some of my selfies through the years.

Nikon F2

Nikon F2

Hasselblad 500c/m

Hasselblad 500c/m

Nikon F2AS

Nikon F2AS

Minolta XE-7

Minolta XE-7

Leica M3

Leica M3

Pentax Spotmatic

Pentax Spotmatic

Pentax LX

Pentax LX

Mamiya 645

Mamiya 645

Olympus OM-4

Olympus OM-4

Leica M9-P

Leica M9-P

Nikon F4

Nikon F4

Pentax ME Super

Pentax ME Super

Canon P

Canon P

Nikon F2AS Vertical Shot

Nikon F2AS Vertical Shot

Olympus OM-2n

Olympus OM-2n

Leica MP

Leica MP

Pentax MX

Pentax MX

Olympus OM-2n Black Body

Olympus OM-2n Black Body

Pentax Spotmatic Chrome Body

Pentax Spotmatic Chrome Body

Leica M-P typ 240 with EVF

Leica M-P typ 240 with EVF

Lightbox Wednesday #42

Fall is my favorite time of year, especially October. Four years ago, I had to move inland about 15 miles, renting a tiny cottage in the town of Freestone, CA for six months. The owners called the place "The BoHo Cottage" because it was located on the Bohemian Highway. 

The month of October was beautiful in the BoHo Cottage. Rays of warm sunshine sliced through the thick canopy of trees on the property, creating all sorts of photographic opportunities. I shot these one Sunday afternoon with my Mamiya 645Pro on Ektar 100.

My favorite place to enjoy morning coffee

My favorite place to enjoy morning coffee


When fall turned to winter, the realities of living in a thin walled, uninsulated cottage became apparent. I've never been so cold as the winter I spent in the BoHo Cottage!

Lightbox Wednesday #41

All year long, I've been editing my archives of the images I have taken since re-entering film photography in 2010. Kind of like cleaning the garage, it's an exercise that you procrastinate over doing. Once done however, the results are deeply satisfying.

Just prior to buying my first film camera in 2010, I was snap-shooting with a Nikon Coolpix point and shoot digital camera. Most of my work with this camera is forgettable, but I like this one.

Seagull captured from the Alcatraz Ferry, San Francisco Bay, Winter 2009

Seagull captured from the Alcatraz Ferry, San Francisco Bay, Winter 2009