Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Agfa Billy Record

One of the cameras I find most endearing is my 1930s-era Agfa Billy Record.

It's a 6x9cm folding camera with leather bellows. Some really nice photos of a Billy Record that appears to be in better condition than mine can be found at 3106 photography.

In Memorium of 9/11 :: September 11, 2008 :: Gardendale, Alabama
There are several variations of the camera. Mine has a JGestar 105mm f/7.7 Anastigmat lens. There are four shutter speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and B; and three aperture choices: 7.7, 11, and 16. I almost always meter the light by eye and estimate the appropriate combo of shutter speed-aperture with this little charmer.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens :: May 2008 :: Dallas, Texas
When I first purchased the camera, the lens was somewhat hazy, which led to the glow that can be seen on the photos above. But I thought that I could fix it. I was wrong. After disassembling the three-element lens, cleaning the components, and re-assembling the pieces, I now have a camera that is haze-free but delivers photos that offer some interesting and inconsistent distortion (see below).

Horton Mill Bridge :: Blount County, Alabama
Yet with all of its idiosyncrasies, it's a camera that I go out of my way to reach for. I think particular photographs are ideal for it. Both the covered bridge above and the Billy Record have weathered the test of time, and one seems the perfect subject for the other.

The Riverwalk :: San Antonio, Texas

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Seattle :: The Emerald City

Pike Place Market and the Fisherman's Wharf


Seattle Skyline on a Rainy Day

Alder Lake and Mount Rainer National Park

Having arrived in Lacey, Washington, my family and I unloaded my sister's belongings from the vehicle we had just driven 2300 miles. Then we set out to visit Mount Rainier (I expressed to my folks that I must be some kind of idiot to voluntarily subject myself to another 5 hours in the car, after being subject to its confines for most of the previous 37 hours; no one disagreed). 

I had previously visited Mount Rainier in Thanksgiving 2008, but managed to ruin most of my film during the developing process. It was one of those times that I was really unimpressed with my ability to do unfathomably unintelligent things.


Canon Rebel t2i, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 @12mm, ISO 100, 1/200s @ f/5.6
Canon Rebel t2i, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 @15mm, ISO 100, 1/125s @ f/8
Canon Rebel t2i, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 @24mm, ISO 100, 1/100s @ f/7.1
Canon Rebel t2i, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @24mm, ISO 100, 1/100s @ f/9

This last photo, the panorama, is a composite of about 20 photographs that were stitched together. It amuses me that, since the file was originally saved in TIFF format, that single file was so large that it would not have fit on the hard drive to the first computer my family purchased in 1995 (which I think it had 4MB of RAM, 400MB of hard drive space and ran Windows 3.1).


Canon Rebel t2i, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 @ 12mm, ISO 200, 1/125s @ f/5
Canon Rebel t2i, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 @ 12mm, ISO 200, 1/250s @ f/11
Canon Rebel t2i, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 @ 12mm, ISO 200, 1/125s @ f/9
Canon Rebel t2i, Tokina 12-24mm f/4 @ 12mm, ISO 200, 1/160s @ f/9

Canon Rebel t2i, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 40mm, ISO 200, 1/320s @ f/10

Thursday, March 24, 2011

from Birmingham to Washington State

In an effort to help my sister and her husband (she has an infant, and he's is deployed to Afghanistan with the Army), I agreed to help my dad drive their stuff up to Washington state from Dallas, where she was living while her husband was away. But I don't want to give the wrong impression and have someone prematurely nominate me for sainthood - my motives weren't entirely selfless. First, a road trip (even a really brief one) was going to provide some great photo opportunities. And second, I needed to add some more states to those that I've visited; it had been a couple years since any new states had been added (I'm now at thirty-three).

I flew out of Birmingham at 5:30pm on Wednesday; upon arriving in Dallas, I disembarked the plane headed straight to my dad's awaiting vehicle, and from there we grabbed a burger from Whataburger and hit the road by 8:15pm. Initially, there had been some discussion of spending the night in Kansas, but we decided to head straight on through the night.

Daybreak found us already in Colorado, where temperatures reached 15 degrees, which was sixty degrees colder than what I had left behind in Birmingham.

some Rest Stop on I-70 in Colorado
My favorite road on this venture (I have to qualify it by saying "so far," because we're currently still in Idaho), has been Hwy 287 in Colorado. Fortunately, from my photography perspective, we hit some road construction on Hwy 287 in a very opportune location.

on Hwy 287 in Colorado

on Hwy 287 in Colorado
We stopped for gas around lunchtime in Rawlins, Wyoming, so I asked the attendant for a suggestion (this after I commented to him that I hoped he had his store anchored down because the 30mph winds were about to push us off the road, to which he replied that it was "just a light breeze"). He recommended Penny's Diner, which was a 1950s style diner located in an aluminum trailer just up the road. It was the best BBQ burger I've had in a long time, maybe ever.

Penny's Diner :: Rawlins, Wyoming

So being filled up, we went onward and forward. More grandeur accompanied us on our route.

west of Rawlins, Wyoming
near Salt Lake City, Utah
near Ogden, Utah

So it's dark now, and we're about to wind it down for the evening in Ontario, Oregon. After more than 24 hours of being largely confined to either the captain or passenger chair of the Tahoe, I'll be able to unfold myself for a bit, before setting about on the final leg of this trip...actually, only the driving portion. I still have the flying back to do, which should be less taxing.

Update: This was taken Friday morning in Oregon, just before crossing over into Washington.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Break: Austin, Texas (Final Installment)

Our final stop on our trek across Texas was in Austin. (Well, that's not entirely true; we ate some good barbeque at Clem Mikeska's place in Temple, Texas. It's worth the stop if you're in the area). I thought it only appropriate that, while visiting central Texas, we stop at the nation's largest state capitol building. Anna tried not to show how impressed she was, but I was able to distinguish it nevertheless.

Texas State Capitol Building - Panasonic LX3
Looking up into the Rotunda - Panasonic LX3
 And last but certainly not least, we have some local peace activists lecturing a troop of Boy Scouts on the evils of war, because in her own words: "Peace makes peace, and war makes war." Daniel Webster, that silver-tongued orator, is likely jealous of her eloquence.

Panasonic LX3

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Break: San Antonio (Installment 2)


Panasonic LX3
Upon seeing the Alamo for the first time, Anna said, 
"Is this what we've been remembering all this time?"

Panasonic LX3
Panasonic LX3
But after initially being underwhelmed, 
Anna too decided that she would always "remember the Alamo."


Panasonic LX3
Panasonic LX3


The Milam Building - Panasonic LX3
This building was named after early Texas hero Ben Milam,
who was later assassinated in his San Antonio hotel,
from a sniper in a tree along the river bank.

Panasonic LX3
Panasonic LX3
 And this fine structure is the Robert E. Lee Hotel, 
which purports to be "air conditioned,"
according to its rooftop sign.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Break: Dallas and San Antonio (Installment 1)

I've flown from Birmingham to Dallas more times than I can count, but the arrangement of clouds and sky is a landscape that is ever-differing. On a particular occasion it even sparked a poem; now I don't claim to be much of a poet, but it must have struck a chord, I suppose.

The Kingdom
It was a pillar of cloud
so magnanimous
as if to seem that its only purpose
was to dwarf
the other, smaller,
more sporadic clouds,
to lord over them
as a fief his serfs
And yet it was only
so much accumulated vapor

This is only a modest representation of the Thunderhead, that was the poem's inspiration
 On this particular trip, Anna and I went to visit my family for a few days during my Spring Break. And while in Dallas, there is one particular site I had in mind to see. Previously unbeknownst to me, there is an area of downtown called Thanksgiving Square; in that square, there is a chapel; and in that chapel is a really impressive stained glass window (or rather a series of windows), called the Glory Window. I ran across this while perusing Bill J Boyd's photography. So I had in mind to see it.

Panasonic LX3
 And I was as impressed as I had hoped to be. 

 But that I wasn't all I was to be impressed by. While we were wandering about, and in honor of St. Patrick's Day, Anna set out trying to jump and click her heels like a leprechaun.

Her success is self-evident.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Composting: Day 15 - We Have Earthworms!

Good news on the composting front:
In my biweekly tossing about of the compost in the bin, 
I discovered an earthworm!

It's good news that worms are being drawn in 
through those half-inch holes in the bottom of the trash can. 
They have come to feast on my decaying plant-life.

The compost is progressing well,
though I could certainly do with some warmer temps,
so as to speed things up.
Tomato planting season is fast approaching, 
and I will be in need of some sumptuous soil.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Camping and Kayaking at Kings Bend

For the second year in a row, I planned a camping and paddling trip to take place on the Locust Fork of the Warrior River during Spring Break. Last year's trip was nearly a total disaster ("nearly," only in that we all survived in-tact). I immediately knew this trip would prove more successful when we arrived at the right river. Last year, I got confused which direction to turn on County Road 26; so instead of putting in on the Locust Fork (on right), we put in on the Mulberry Fork (on left).

Unfortunately (or perhaps, in the end, it was fortuitous) that stretch of the Mulberry has some whitewater; additionally, the river was pretty high because of recent rainfall, both of which we were unprepared for. Three people in a sixteen foot canoe, laden with food and drink enough to last us the whole of our two-day camping trip.

Within twenty minutes of putting in, we hit our first set of rapids. Since I was at the front of the boat, I could see that it wasn't going to go well for us, so I got as low as I could in the floor of the bow. Gallons of icy water poured into the bad as we hit the first wave. This made us even heavier, so that we were sitting lower and took on even more water after hitting the second. We didn't hid the third wave so much as blunder into it; at this point the canoe was essentially submerged. We were still sitting in it, but even the gunwales were entirely underwater. Then we hit a rock and were dumped out along with all of our belongings. Daniel was thrown clear of the boat and could be heard laughing hysterically, some twenty or thirty feet from Matt and myself. I scrambled to swim toward the watertight box containing our phones, GPS, and other essentials. Matt had the foresight to grab the boat. Most of our food was lost, as was my Flip camcorder, my lifejacket (which I wasn't wearing, of course), and an oar.

After we were able to beach the boat, after being driven downriver for a while, we were able to begin to collect our bearings. Everyone's limbs were still in tact. We were down to one oar. I was pretty certain we were on the river, and now had no idea what was ahead of us. We were in the middle of nowhere and had no choice but to carry on. Once we mustered the courage to re-embark, we began to come across some of our orphaned belongings: a bag of bananas, a cooler with our water and sandwiches, and here-and-there oatmeal creme pies.

Finally, we came upon civilization, a farm house atop a bluff - our salvation. We beached the canoe, called it a day, and ended the trip effective immediately.

This is the only photo I have to show for the trip - Canon Rebel 2000, EF 28-80 3.5-5.6 III

But that was last year. This year, I ended up in the water much more quickly, but at least I was in the right river. And since I didn't lose my Flip this time, I'll let the video tell its own story of our trip.

But here are a couple of the better photographs, since this is supposed to be a photoblog and all.

Sunrise at Kings Bend - Panasonic LX3
Panasonic LX3
Panasonic LX3

For more information about the North Jefferson Kayak Club and its activities,
visit our website and/or our Facebook page.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Form Follows Function - LX3 Water Resistant Housing

I am a firm believer in the age old epithet that "form follows function." And since I'm barely functional when it comes to all things ingenuitive, form not only takes a backseat, it rarely makes it into the same vehicle.

In fact, only once have I actually been successful in the creating of a thing. But that once made has made me immensely proud. Due to my kayaking activities, I was in need of an inexpensive method of waterproofing my Panasonic LX3.

So I took my generic waterproof plastic box (small size, purchased at Dick's Sporting Goods), that I normally used to keep my keys, phone, emergency first aid kit, etc., in and cut out a 60mm hole in the bottom of it with my hole saw. (I wish I'd taken in-progress photos, but only have the finished product to show for my labor.) I then glued a 58mm UV filter into that hole, using Gorilla Glue. (Gorilla Glue works really well, but if I were to do this again, I'd use a glue that doesn't expand as it dries.)

I then painted the interior, except for the lid, matte black, so that I would be able to see the LCD on the camera more easily. Unfortunately, due to the obvious rigidity of the housing, the only camera function I was able to maintain control over was the shutter button. This was done by drilling a hole into the box immediately above the camera's shutter button. I then glued a standard shutter remote into place in that hole, using a couple of nuts and washers to stabilize it.

I then used some large washers and nuts to create a "seat" for the camera. This would relieve any stress that might otherwise be placed on the cameras structure by having it screwed to the filter. The camera was further held in place (as alluded to above) by screwing the camera to the filter. The LX3 has an extension tube (46mm in diameter) that attaches to the camera and allows for the use of filters. Additionally, I got a 46mm-58mm step-up ring for two reasons: 1) I had several 58mm filters already; and 2) I wanted to have some more surface area on the filter in case I got messy with the glue. Also, I ended up gluing in the step-up ring rather than the filter so that I could change to a Polarizing filter if I wanted.

The camera has to already be attached to the extension tube when I go to screw the extension tube to the step-up ring. As you can see below, the space inside there is pretty tight, so this maneuver is not for those with large or less-than-nimble fingers.

This setup would be entirely waterproof except that the filter is not completely sealed, where the glass meets the metal. Also I could use Loctite or something on the threads where the filter threads meet the step-up ring threads, but I haven't done that either. In testing it, the allow time that water enter the housing was when I submerged it and held it under. 

Then came the field test. There is a swamp, called North Lake, tucked away into a corner of northeast Birmingham, that I had been wanting to photograph for some time. But it was definitely going to require my being in my kayak in order to get the photographs I wanted. North Lake is the only cypress gum grove in this part of Alabama.