Saturday, January 30, 2016

One of those days.

Lots of blank pages. Nothing but blank pages. The cap is firmly screw on my pen, not posted. I don’t have a camera loaded. The only camera in a bag is just there because I haven’t unloaded it from the last outing. My screens are white empty word processing pages only populated by blinking cursors, mocking me. I’m tired from not sleeping well. Uninspired. I’m having one of those days.

The well established way to try to restart the creative juices among photographers is to go buy a new widget and play with it. See if it opens up a new approach to the problem. Many times, that works. New gear forces you to look at things in new ways. This approach is not all bad. But for the foreseeable future, I am not going to buy anything new. Well, other than film. I have gear I haven’t used, and that chafes. A camera is potential, and unrealized potential is a waste. Plus, there are some pretty major undertakings in the future, and I need to save up a bit.

shoot-505I may revisit some older gear. I haven’t bought any instant film for a long time. Over a year, at least. I tried to sell my Minolta Instant, which uses Spectra film. There were no takers, so it’s sat unwanted on a shelf. I still have a few packs of Spectra film. I may have to drag that out and see if that has the same effect as buying new gear. See if it forces a perspective change.

The weather report has been variable. By which I mean they say it’s going to snow, rather a big snowstorm, but no one can agree to exactly when this is going to happen. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow. One of those days. It’s slightly complicating the planning.

I may just grab some random film, slap it in one of my XAs and pedal out for a while. I love the bike paths here, but all but one of them has construction going on. If I ride south, I’ll have to roll though the warehouses for a while, dodging the work. West the detour drops you on a two lane that feeds from the interstate to an industrial district, leaving you to deal with semi trucks on a road with no shoulder. Cherry Creek is awash in roadies who think the path is their own personal raceway, and if you show up and make them slack off their target heart rate, they get nasty about it. Sand Creek to the southeast sounds best, but it’s still diverted for flood restoration and construction of the new commuter rail line to the airport, and the detour wasn’t particularly well-marked last time I tried it. We may just have to flip a coin and let it choose our poison.

I dislike days like this. But the only way around them is through. And the sooner I get a move on, the sooner it will stop being one of those days.

One of those days.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Contax RTS II

I had a bit of bad luck, which led me to buy a RTS II. I’d just about finished collecting all the Meyer-Optik lenses I wanted in M42. And on the brink of my victory, the M42 body I had rolled over and died. I shouted “KHAAAAAAAANNN!” at the heavens, and then went looking for a replacement.

I failed to find a good, cheap M42 body. Nikon to M42 adapters are iffy. The Spotmatics mostly had dead meters, and the ones that didn’t still required a battery modification. I sighed, resigned myself to dropping $400 on a Bessaflex, and started saving up.

shoot-504Along the way, I happened across a Contax RTS II body for $100. I stopped long enough to make sure I could get an adapter and bought it. It showed up from Japan in good shape. The body had brassing, it was obviously a user, but the light seals were brand new, and that’s a big consideration in an SLR of this age. The leather looked good. I put in the battery and the Kipon M42 to Contax/Yashica adapter and grabbed a couple of lenses to go shoot.

The RTS II was the Contax flagship professional SLR in the 1980s until replaced by the III in 1990. I had looked at buying a III, but it seemed to have some features I felt were problematic, like the vacuum system to hold the film flat. I liked a little less automation in my camera bodies. The RTS II offered the same level as my beloved Nikon F3, which it was a direct competitor of. Apparently, I am the target demographic of SLR manufacturers circa 1986. Too bad I was flat broke in those days.

The RTS II is smaller than the F3, and handles a bit differently. It’s not an unpleasant difference, it’s just noticeable. It does seem to be as robust as my F3, with a titanium shutter curtain and dependable electronics. The shutter is quartz timed for greater accuracy. The pentaprism isn’t modular and can’t be switched out, but you can change out the focus screens if you want. The metering seems to be highly precise, more so than other in camera meters I have used.

Although everyone I talked to suggested that the RTS II was more dependable than the I or the III, the only drawback I felt was the fact that repair of the camera seems more difficult to obtain. If something goes wrong with mine, I’ll just have to take it to the local guy and hope for the best. Manufacturer support is long gone. That concern was outweighed by two things: the accessories and the lenses.

The system accessories are pretty easy to find and have been fairly cheap. I managed to find a perfectly working W-3 power winder for $19. The remote shutter release for the camera is proprietary, but pretty reasonable. The infrared triggers seem to be hard to find, but I haven’t looked very hard for them. The lenses, though.

The lenses that were designed to be used with the Contax line are Zeiss, that magical manufacturer. And the Zeiss lenses in the C/Y mount this camera uses are the least expensive of them all. I plan on getting the Planar 50mm f1.4 of course, and trying the 85mm f2.8 Sonnar. But first, I want the 45mm f2.8 Tessar, because I am addicted to Tessars, and because the camera with that little lens on it will be the smallest SLR outfit I have owned but still extremely capable.

I don’t know how much time my RTS II will spend in the back woods, but I bet it will be the choice for portrait work going forward. My little gateway to Zeiss goodness.

The Contax RTS II

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Is that really in your bag?

Everyone knows those “In your bag” sites. Japan Camera Hunter runs the best and most famous one. There will be a picture of a bag, with all the gear pulled out and arranged , and a description of what the gear is, and why it’s carried. I look at the gear some people say they carry and I wonder.

Are they really carrying all that stuff around?

I don’t carry three to five bodies and six to eight lenses all the time. I don’t see the need too. Plus, I think carrying a Mamiya RB67 with four backs, a Yashica Mat 124G, a Nikon F4s, a Nikon D4 and a Leica M6, plus a couple spare lenses, a couple of flashes, a laptop, chargers, film, an iPad, spare batteries and so on isn’t well thought out. If you shoehorn all that in to a shoulder bag, you’re going to kill your shoulder carrying it all. Hell, carrying that level of gear is approaching the point where you’re better off hiring a Sherpa.

I just don’t feel the need to tote that many things in my bag. I’m getting older and I like being comfortable when I walk. Comfy shoes or boots, adaptable clothes, nice and even weight distribution, and minimal gear.

So what do I carry around?

shoot-502This time of year, if I want to go light, I wear an M65 Field Jacket. I put an Olympus XA and a reused Rollei film case that carries two spare rolls in my pocket, and away I go. No bag required.

If I’m on my bike, I’ll add an additional camera, probably a plastic 35mm pseudo panorama, one of Japan Camera Hunter’s film cases, the smallest Gorilla pod they make, and a couple of spare button batteries. It all fits with ease in my seat bag and leaves me room for a couple Clif bars.

I bought a Tamrac 4252 Jazz Messenger 2 on the cheap. KEH was selling them for $10 one day, and I have a bag problem, so I ordered it up. It’s about as big a bag as I ever walk about with. One body, a spare lens or two tops, and a couple rolls of film. It turns out to be just the right size to fit in my day pack as well. If I’m going to the back country, I’ll put it in the klettersack I use, on top of the clothes and food I’m taking with me. Pretty much the same if I’m traveling, although I’ll have less outdoorsy gear and add a laptop at that point. If I’m around town, I’ll delete most of the clothes and let the laptop keep it company.

I do have a whopping Domke bag that holds my 4×5, but that’s for door to door transport more than anything else. I’ll take that bag on the train some times, but the cameras get left behind when I do.

I’ve been amazed at what I see on some of those bag sites. I have an urge for simplicity that’s far too strong to let me carry around as much as most of them. Plus, that would mess with the default level of lazy I like to use.

Is that really in your bag?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

What you find

It’s interesting how when you aren’t really looking for new things, you find them. And then you also find yourself making plans because of what you find.

I found the Adventure Cycle map, and realized there are more routes than I thought there were. The overlay that shows you the Amtrak routes is especially good, as it gives me ideas on how to connect the dots with the train. With enough time, I could cover a serious amount of ground on a bicycle. I noted the Great Parks South route is entirely inside Colorado, and logistically the easiest to get to. Stephanie noted this also has many, many more mountains to climb. All of the routes that traverse the Rockies in Colorado use Monarch Pass. I don’t recall if I’ve ever been over Monarch. If I have I don’t remember what it’s like. I may have to go run some recon this winter before making any decisions about trying that route or not.

Stephanie has expressed a preference for the flatter, more eastern routes. I’m sure climbing the divide isn’t going to be easy, but I definitely know I do not want to ride any of the southern routes through Arizona. Walking to the car in 115 degree F was no fun. I can’t imagine exerting in that kind of weather.

shoot-499Although, I have a mind to spend a couple of weeks next winter in the Superstition Mountains. In February, when the high temps are low enough to be bearable. May even decide to take a group trip offered through REI.

I’ve started preparing for a new photography project as well, forcing myself to get some portraits done. I’ve tried them in the past, but I’ve never been happy with what I’ve managed to produce. This time, I’ll throw everything out and start from scratch and see what I can manage to do.

Plus, there will be a continuation of documentary photography in the west, but I feel that will be going on for years. There’s a lot left out there to find.


Here’s the Adventure Cycling Association Interactive Route Map

Today’s pictures taken with Analougue for iOS. An excellent brand new app for your phone. I’m still getting the hang of it, but it’s fun so far.

What you find

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Where I am home

I never go back to the place I came from during the holidays. I’m just not the holidays sort. Largely, because that’s not where I feel at home, where I feel I belong.

shoot-496I am home on a softly rocking rail car, awake in the middle of the night with the lights out and the curtains open. Watching the darkness stretching out along side us, broken only by the occasional lonely house with a light left on in its’ window. The driveway will reach out to the road that reaches out to the tracks and then under my sleeping compartment lit by the red light of the flashing crossing signal.

shoot-498I am at home pedaling along gravel in green tunnels, wondering what is around the next bend, finding good trail food and eating well. Talking to new people and then falling asleep to and waking up with the anticipation of new miles to pedal in the coming day.

I am at home afoot in the wilds, among the trees, the rivers and the streams. Waking stick in hand and pack on my back as I go. One foot in front of the other. Meandering and seeing new things, smelling the pines and crunching leaves underfoot. Breathing deep and clambering over rocks. Stopping as I go, admiring and capturing views.

I felt at home along the back roads of Peru, where I didn’t speak the language but that didn’t keep me from finding a pastry shop in every place I went.

shoot-495I am at home with my beloved. She is always with me on these adventures. Always taking care of me and I her. Always looking out for me. Always loving me.

Home is with her. The only one I ever knew. The only one I want to go to. The only place I ever belong.

Where I am home

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's Day means nothing

Funny thing about New Year’s Day, is that it really doesn’t matter. January 1, if you think about it, doesn’t have any significance.

It’s not a change of season, winter went right on kicking without a notice. It’s not even mid-winter. The stars overhead don’t line up in any significant way. It’s just another day.

In fact, New Year’s Day is only New Year’s Day if you use the Gregorian calendar. A good chunk of the planet doesn’t. The New Year comes at a different time for those who use the Rural calendar from China. India has the Saka calendar. Various faiths have their own, such as the Hebrew and Islamic calendars. Which is much the same origin as the Gregorian calendar , created by the Roman Catholic Church.

The significance of New Year’s Day is largely made up. I love the traditions associated with it: Hogmanay, First footing and the like. But really the day is arbitrary.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

People think that New Year’s Day is a special time of change. True, but the day is not the significant part of that. Change does not wait for a day on the calendar. It happens any time you want it. Any day can be New Year’s Day. Any day can be the start of change.

shoot-492So go ride your bike. Go try new things with your camera. Get outside and see something new. Travel, and expand your world. Have a better relationship with your partner or your family. It’s not a New Year’s resolution that makes it important. It’s deciding what you want and then going after it.

The date is not important. You are.

Change doesn’t wait for the calendar. It waits for you.

So Happy New Year, whenever it happens. But don’t wait for it to make change to make your life better.

Now is always a good time to make change.

New Year's Day means nothing