Goodbye 2011, Thanks for the Good Times

Nikon F100, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, Fuji Velvia 50

Last year was a great year!  I have many things to be grateful for in my life, most notably my Dear Sweet Wife, our lovely two boys, and the rest of our family and friends.

2011 was a tremendous year of growth and wonderful experiences for us all.

Our older son entered first grade and took on new interests such as tennis, piano, and even film photography (no influence there, ahem).

Our 3-year-old graduated to solo swimming lessons, conquered potty training, and also took some photos with our cameras (with our permission or not!).

And somewhere in between my DSW and I managed to squeeze in some date nights, going out to dinner in restaurants without crayons or seeing movies that weren’t G rated.

Photographically speaking for me 2011 wasn’t a bad year either.   I rediscovered my love of film photography and started playing around with vintage film cameras and new formats such as instant pack film.

This blog was a big step for me, to encourage myself to both keep shooting as well as write about my experiences.  In some ways I feel like I am still just getting started, while in others I feel I have achieved a lot in my first posts.

But enough about last year… it is time to look forward to this new year 2012!  I am excited about what it may have in store for me and my family, and will share my resolutions soon.

Christmas Preparations in Full Swing

Nikon F6, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, Fuji Velvia 100F

Here is another shot from that first roll I put through my F6.  I liked the creamy tones on this classic car, and at full magnification you can see a lot of detail in the reflections on the bumper… even I am in there if you look closely.

I have been busy with our family’s Christmas preparations the last week or two.  But we have moved from buying gifts to starting to wrap and ship them, so I feel like we have turned the corner.

A few things I have been reading online:

I have been following Amanda Gilligan’s Mocking Bird blog lately and dig her style of photography.  I empathize with her motivations to continue shooting film which she describes in an article on Daniella Marie’s A Lifestyle Blog.

My house is overflowing with Legos and I have wondered if I could put some to use for a photo test pattern.  My DSW pointed me to Cary Norton’s Legotron Mark I 4×5 camera which was a much more ambitious project.

Dan Domme is experimenting with some alternative printing processes (ex. carbon printing via UV light) and has a very brief primer post about how he is going about getting into it all.

And in terms of what I have been up to lately photographically, mostly just pumping a few rolls of Ilford XP2 Super and Kodak Portra 400 though my Rollei B 35.  I do have a new toy (I often do!) to go with it which is a Nikon SB-30 flash.

The SB-30 was released in 2002 and is I believe Nikon’s smallest Speedlight ever.  It has a non-TTL automatic mode where the flash measures the reflected light itself to match your desired exposure level for your current aperture.

It is probably the only flash with that feature that is still (barely) smaller than the Rollei itself.

Back to the Christmas prep work… Can’t wait for the holiday to actually get here!

Lab-Scanned Alfa

Nikon F6, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, Fuji Velvia 100F

I finished off that roll of slide film I started shooting in my F6 almost two months ago and had it developed at North Coast Photographic Services located in Carlsbad, CA.  This is my first time using that lab, I got the idea from Ken Rockwell‘s site where he gushes about their services.

In particular he likes their scannning at time of film processing. I am frankly still struggling to keep up with my own scanning backlog and so I decided to try out a few labs that offer film processing and scanning at the same time.

My initial impression of this roll scanned by NCPS is that the detail is good and the scan has nice contrast, but it is also a bit grainier than I would have expected from my own Nikon Coolscan 5000.

I plan on having some more rolls processed and scanned by my usual lab Photoworks SF as well as another new contender The Darkroom.

If one (or more) of these lab scans is enough to my liking for casual use (Flickr, small prints, etc.) then perhaps I can focus my own scanning efforts on more critical uses.

As much as I appreciate producing a good scan and final image, I would rather be out taking more photographs instead!

Halloween in Available Light

Nikon D300, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G

I hope all you out there celebrating Halloween had a great time on Monday!  We certainly had a blast in our household.

Our six-year-old dressed up as a “stealth ninja” (not just any old ninja he is quick to say).  And our three-year-old went as a wizard, a home-made costume created by my DSW 4-years ago for our older son.  They both had matching glowing blue swords, because, well, don’t ninjas and wizards need them?

I actually had trick-or-treating in mind when I rented a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens for the week.  I considered shooting film initially, but then decided I was foolish to pass on our DSLR’s low-light ability and immediate feedback.

The angle-of-view was a bit tight using this lens on our D300 due to the smaller sensor crop factor, but it still worked out.  I never had to backup further than the curb to nicely frame each home’s walkway and front door where the eager kids had buckets outstretched.

A friend who was out with us commented on how good my pictures looked, and how natural the flash lighting was.  Then I reminded her I wasn’t using flash and she was quite amazed.

Most shots worked with available light @ ISO 800 to 1600 and still keeping around 1/50 shutter and an aperture between f/1.4-2.8.

I am a bit more tempted by this lens now that I have used it in very low-light situations.  Hopefully I can shoot something else with it before I have to return it on Friday.

And a big congratulations to my DSW on her blog’s 600th post!  Quilt Otaku is going strong after nearly five years.

Comparison of Three 50mm Nikkors

Nikon D300, Nikkor 35 f/2 O.C

I love shooting with a prime 50mm lens, a so-called normal lens on a 35mm film or “full-frame” digital camera.  It has many advantages including a very natural look, not too compressed like a telephoto or warped like a wide angle.

I have an opportunity that I can’t pass up to compare three recent normal Nikkors: I own one, I rented another, and our current house guest my sister-in-law brought a third with her.

There are plenty of places to look up Nikon lens specifications as well as read reviews and comparisons of them, so I am just going to focus here on my impressions of their features and usability.

My AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 was the first lens I bought along with my N80 about ten years ago.  It has served me well and gotten as much use (if not more) than any other Nikkor I own.

It’s strengths are that it is the smallest and lightest of the three and it stops down the most to f/22 (the others stop at f/16).  Its primary weaknesses is its maximum aperture is 2/3 of a stop slower than the others so it is slightly less capable in the low-light and selective focus departments.

My sister-in-law brought along an AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D (on loan from my father-in-law, truth be told).  It has a faster maximum aperture (a plus) and only stops down to f/16 (a minus), but otherwise is almost identical to the f/1.8 aside from being a hair heavier and larger.

The third is an AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G that I rented from for the week.  It is a dramatic redesign from the previous two and differs in many ways, but is not the clear winner I had assumed.

It does have a nicer feel to the focus ring which can be used manually at any time (the others require you to shut off the camera AF first).  It has theoretically better bokeh due to its 9 rounded diaphragm blades (two more than the others).  And it has a solid snap-on hood compared to the old screw in rubber type.

But its negatives weigh in heavily.  The AF-S focusing should be fast but isn’t.  It’s G designation means it has no aperture ring and doesn’t work with manual focus bodies.  Its filter ring is an odd 58mm which is a hassle.  And to add insult to injury it is dramatically larger than the others.

While I thought my rental might be a “try-before-I-buy”, so far I have to say I don’t see a compelling reason to retire my trusty f/1.8 in favor of either of the faster lenses.

We Have A Winner

Nikon F100, Nikkor AF-D 50mm f/1.8m, Fuji Velvia 50

Congratulations to the winner of our first joint Sunny Sixteen/Quilt Otaku blog giveway: Zizophora!

You will be sent your prize soon, a copy of Cotton Time issue #82.  Please just send your name and shipping address to Marisa of Quilt Otaku (e-mail: quilt [dot] baby [at] hotmail [dot ] com) and it will be on its way.

By the way the above image is a photo I took a few years back at one of the historic dairy farms located inside Tomales Bay State Park about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

This one is not operating any more (although most there are).  You can walk around the grounds and easily practice using selective focus with a wide open aperture as I did here.

Batching It

Nikon N80, Nikkor AF-D 50mm f/1.8, Fuji Provia 100F

No, I am not talking about having to cope with my dear sweet wife and adorable kids being out of town for any time.  I merely meant that my box of shame has finally forced me to investigate the wonders and mysteries of batch scanning.

I have been a big fan of the Vuescan scanning software for quite some time.  It is a 3rd party application which can be used to control nearly any scanner.  I have used it with at least six different scanners over the last ten years or so with great results.  I love it for its straight forward (if detailed laden) interface, consistent usage model across both film and flatbed scanners, and high end features such as color calibration/profiling, multi-pass scanning, and infrared cleanup of slides.

I am usually a control freak and like to tend to each scan one-by-one, but with 18 rolls waiting for my attention I figured it was time to learn to automate!

I was afraid that I would lose some control if I used batch mode, but actually it is more about saving user time than automating.  I enabled Input>Batch Mode>Auto & Crop>Multi Type and started a preview on a cut strip of film with six images.  Vuescan proceeded to perform independent preview scans of all six images.

The beauty is that before performing final scans, Vuescan allowed me to step through each preview and adjust scanning setting for each independently.  I rotated for vertical if needed, set scanner focus point, adjusted crop (though auto was almost always perfect), and even adjust color settings.  Then when I hit scan it executed all six final scans but with their independent settings in place.  This might not have sped up the overall process, but since I could focus on other tasks (like a blog post) during the preview and scanning phases it felt like I was much more productive.

I wish I had tried this before, as you don’t lose any control at all.  And it also makes me seriously want to process slide film as strips for batch scanning rather than mount them since the days of analog slide shows are pretty much over.

Oh, by the way, one down and seventeen left to go…

Hello World!


Nikon F100, Nikkor AF-D 50mm f/1.8, Kodak E100VS (cross processed)

Perhaps this should have been titled “First Post”, but this feels more like a welcoming to me. I also suppose I should wax poetic about my plans for this blog to become something impacting the very fibers of the blogosphere. But honestly, all I need to do is post some content to test out the design and formatting capabilities!

I suppose a few of you might wind up reading this first post though (hi Honey!) so just to set the record straight:

  • I love photography
  • I especially love film and more manual processes and techniques
  • My gadget-loving tendencies drive me to try new old cameras, lenses, and accessories

So if you were wondering what I will be capturing in this blog, it is my love for taking photographs using less-than-modern techniques! Now back to my formatting…