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Monday, January 17, 2011

Rangefinder Cameras

New Toy
© 2011 Simon Hucko

In keeping with my goal to shoot more film this year, I used some Christmas money to buy a Canonet QL17 G-III rangefinder. The Canonet falls into the category of compact 35mm rangefinders which were popular during the 70's. Most of these cameras can be found on eBay for around $40. Beware that at that price you may have to do some maintenance to the camera (especially changing old light seals and cleaning the rangefinder). Not terribly difficult, but if you don't trust yourself you can pay more for a CLA'd model that should work great for you. (CLA = Clean Lubricate and Adjust, standard parlance for a camera tune-up.) After some research on the different cameras available, I settled on the Canonet as the best bang for the buck.

So why a rangefinder? The main reason is that I was curious. There's a lot of talk about rangefinders, especially in the street photography crowd (Leica being the ultimate "street" camera), so I wanted to give it a try and see how they differed from a SLR. I figured it would be a good fit for my laundromat documentary project, as that will probably have a bit of a "street" vibe to it. Another big reason I got the Canonet is the compact size and all-mechanical operation. This will be a very easy camera to carry around anywhere, and the nice fast 40mm f/1.7 lens means it will be great for indoor gatherings (parties, family dinners, nights out at the bar). The Canonet is basically my 35mm point n shoot - while I do have to make a few decisions and focus manually, it's quite quick and easy to operate and should hold up better than the plastic pieces of crap that litter Goodwill sales bins all across the country.

Last week I loaded a test roll of Kodak Gold 200 into it and blew through 24 frames during a walk around campus. While using the camera and after seeing the results, I realized that there was going to be a bit of a learning curve for me. Rangefinder focusing isn't intuitive for me yet, so it would take me a second to process what I was looking at and focus. That should get better with a little practice. The lens is also fairly wide (40mm), and after looking through my photos I realized that I wasn't nearly close enough when trying to photograph people. This should be easier when shooting friends and family, but it's something I will have to come to terms with if I want to shoot strangers. It was also a weird experience to be so disconnected from the lens, and I found that my framing suffered several times because of it. Finally, scanning 35mm film (especially color) is not so easy. I had a hard time getting good color from my scans, and the sharpness and detail of the scan sucked. Scanning is something I have very little experience with, so I have a long way to go there.

My next roll through the Canonet will be black and white. Looking forward to processing that myself. Hopefully the scanning will go better, too. I'll try to document the process and write about it here.

I found this video that talks a bit about rangefinders and simulates focusing with one. The guy even has a Canonet. It's a little weird, especially toward the end, but it should give you an idea of what handling and using one of these cameras is like.


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, January 10, 2011

52 weeks: the year in review

Watching the Sunset

Now that the 52 weeks project is finished, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on how it all went and pick a few of my favorite submissions from our top contributers.

Big props to irv_b for his 41 photos, earning him the #2 spot behind me. Irv didn't start his project until February, so it looks like he'll make it to 52 on his own. One of my favorites from him was "femme mosaic," a pop-art style collage:

femme mosiac

Coming in 3rd for number of submissions was [Adam_Baker]. Even though he may not have always submitted on time, I always enjoy Adam's photography. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be "Outer Light":

outer light

Next up is chofler. Catherine shared a lot of great food shots, but I think my favorite from her was "Golden Gate":

Golden Gate

Finally, rounding out the top 5 is q-pix. Andrew had a lot of great photos, with plenty of black and white. My pick from him is "Chess":


Just realized all my picks were black and white, but hey, them's the breaks. Thanks to everyone who participated this year, I hope it helped you grow your photography even a tiny bit, or at least to meet some new photographers whose work you enjoy.


[title of blog] on flickr

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

52 weeks: Week 52 wrapup

O Christmas Tree
© 2011 Simon Hucko

Week 52 is here at last! I actually managed a semi-decent photo this week, too, and on time. Good way to end the series.

I was inspired by all the wonderful holiday photos last week, so I took this (rather unoriginal) photo of our Christmas tree. I liked the relationship of the ornaments to one-another, and the feeling of depth in the photo. It always feels nice to put the 50 on the camera, a very different mindset from the "frame it with the zoom and blast away" that I get with my kit lens. Not that I don't like my zoom, I've made some great shots with it, but the 50 just has so much more character. I've been jonesing for something a little wider, too, perhaps a 35 f/2 is in my future at some point...

My pick this week is "Amplitude" by [Adam_Baker]:


It's a bit of a cheat, considering this was taken in October, but I think it's a nice way to start the new year. Click through the photo for Adam's description and a link to "theft size," where you can really see the textures and different colors coming together. A 1/4 second shutter leaves some great texture in the water, similar to my triangle photo. I'm definitely going to play more with those middle shutter speeds this year, as they can give some very interesting results. Thanks for sharing this with us, Adam.

So that's it! 52 weeks! Amazing how time flies. We've had some great photos this year, so next week I'll do a wrapup for the year and pull a few of my favorites. As I said in my resolutions post yesterday, I'm not doing another 52 weeks project this year. I'll probably leave the group open and running if you guys are interested in continuing (or if you know people who want to do a project). If someone wants to step up as a leader I'd be happy to give them moderator rights to the group, and as always anyone is free to post on the discussion board there. I'm glad I did the project, but I'm looking forward to taking my photography in a different direction this year. Thanks to everyone who participated.


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goals for 2011

Sunset 1-13-10

With the arrival of the new year, I thought I'd lay out some goals for myself for 2011:

First of all, no 52 weeks or 365 projects. The 52 weeks thing went pretty well for me last year, but there were times when I was in a bit of a rut with my photography, and forcing myself to come up with an image every week had more of a negative effect on my creativity than I thought it would. Rather than set a quantity of photos to take this year, my goal is to improve the quality of my photography. I hope to do this by putting more planning and forethought into my images, looking ahead a few months at a time to decide when and where I want to go shoot. I didn't capture nearly as many fall photos as I had wanted this year, and a big part of that was the lack of planning on my part - the leaves changed, and I went "OMG I have to shoot!" but didn't know where to start.

I would like to start (and hopefully finish) a documentary project that I've been kicking around for about a year now. I plan on going to the local laundromat and photographing/interviewing people there, and hopefully compiling it into a book of some sort. I expect that I'll get some interesting stories and conversations out of it, and hopefully some good photos to go with it. This also falls into the "get over your fear of photographing strangers" category, I'm hoping that the boredom of waiting for laundry will make people more amenable to me.

I plan on shooting my laundromat project on film, which is another goal for the year. I've been slowly collecting the necessary equipment to develop my own black and white (thanks in large part to my dad giving me his entire darkroom setup), so I plan on doing that somewhat regularly this year. I'm also liberating a 4x5 view camera from my dad's closet, so I'll be learning how to use that. I plan on blogging about the 4x5, and I'll probably do a few posts on shooting and developing your own black and white.

My biggest project this year will be National Photo Essay Month (aka NaPhoEMo) during November. A play on NaNoWriMo, the idea is to do the photographic equivalent of 50,000 words of a novel. Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, that translates into a 50 image photo essay. 50 images is a *lot* for a photo essay, so the scope will have to be large enough to avoid redundancy and filler. I may set myself up for success by cutting that number in half (25 photos), at least for the first year. I'll be blogging more about that and trying to drum up a group of people for the project as it gets closer, so start thinking about a photo project that you've been interested in.

What are your goals for 2011? Do you have any projects in mind? Where do you want your photography to go this year?


[title of blog] on flickr