First View-Master Reel

Photos taken on View-Master Personal Camera, Fujifilm Velvia 50

Our vintage View-Master film cutter and personal mounts arrived early last week and I have made our first personal View-master reel.

The process was actually easy and I am very impressed with the precision engineering of the cutter and mounts.

All you have to do is load your uncut strip of 35mm film into the cutter by aligning the first pair of frames with the cutting holes. Then use the knob to move the film from shot to shot, it clicks nicely into place for each image.

Push down on the cutter and it stamps out the stereo pair of images you are currently looking at.  Take the resulting finger nail-sized film clips, slip them into the tweezers-like inserter, then slide them into open slots in the blank reel.

The only challenge is making sure you have the right side of the reel facing towards you (the one without blank labeling lines for each image) as you insert the film.  You also have to insert the film backwards as if you were looking through it from the opposite direction.

I goofed this up a couple times before I paid good attention to the circle and square guide marks put on both the film and reel.  I will post about this process in more details soon.

Putting my first reel together only took about ten minutes, and I bet with just a little practice it will easily get under five.

There is something magical about seeing yourself and your family in 3D via a View-Master viewer!

Seeing Double

(this shot of the film taken with) Nikon D300, Nikkor AF 105/2.8 D Micro

As my Dear Sweet Wife has mentioned, we have been bitten by the View-Master bug in our household.

In this day and age when our kids have done just about everything possible on our iPhones, it has been a pleasure to see them wildly entertained by our childhood favorite analog stereo image viewing device.

Our six- and three-year olds, their cousins, and a number of their friends have been amazed for hours by viewing wheels about Dora, Cars, space exploration, and other topics.

While we are happy to see the View-Master brand still alive and well after over 65 years, we are getting serious about making our own reels via a decidedly vintage approach!

We purchased a classic View-Master Personal Stereo Camera and have run our first roll of slide film through it.  I shot a number of exposure tests and everything seems to have come out well.

With this success under our wings we have ordered the accompanying vintage cutter device which slices out the pairs for perfect insertion into blank reels.  With luck we may make our first reels in a week or two.

UCLA Sprockets

Lomography Sprocket Rocket, Fujifilm Pro 400H

One of my New Year resolutions for 2012 was to streamline my workflow and one step I am experimenting with is out-tasking my scanning.

Scanning film is labor intensive, and believe it or not I still haven’t fully processed my box of shame yet.  However in the last week or two I have processed (backed up, put online, etc.) almost ten rolls of film shot over the holiday season.

I did so by using the scan-during-processing options from both The Darkroom and North Coast Photographic Services labs.  I received back from them both discs of scanned images along with my film and prints.

I love NCPS’s “enhanced” scans, and The Darkroom has done a great job on my Sprocket Rocket images like the one above taken at our alma mater.  Neither is as good as the scans I can achieve with my trusty Nikon 5000, but for online use and small prints they work great!

Later I will compare their scanning services in more detail.  For now here are some things crossing my feeds…

Macro Lens Testing

Nikon F100, Fuji Velvia

My Dear Sweet Wife and I like to shoot macro or close-up photography, for our blogs and otherwise.  She picked up a Nikkor AF 105/2.8 D Micro lens a while back and it has been our workhorse lens for close up shots taken with our film bodies.

However, our D300 and its small DX format sensor and resulting crop factor has increased the working distance of that lens.  Trying to shoot small items on a desk has become an exercise in backing up more than we have room to do in our tiny and crowded house.

We have been considering getting a shorter focal length macro lens with a closer working distance ever since we bought the D300. has a promotion right now (code winter15) which lead me to rent two shorter micro Nikkors for this weekend, just to try them out.

Both are current lenses in Nikon’s lineup, the AF-S 60/2.8 G Micro and AF-S 40/2.8 G Micro.  Judging by specifications, the 60mm lens wins in terms of features: nano coating and ED glass, 2 aspherical elements versus 0, internal focusing, and support for FX and 35mm bodies.

But none of that matters if the 60mm lens working distance is still too far out.  Stay tuned for a few posts comparing all three lenses after I have put them through their paces!

Meanwhile if you have some spare time this weekend (perhaps two hours) be sure to catch Star Wars Uncut, the full crowd-sourced recreation of Episode IV was just released.  Be warned it is only mostly G-rated…

Hello 2012!

Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-105mm AF, Fuji Velvia

My goodbye to 2011 featured a sunset I shot a few years ago at a beach in Garrapata State Park, California.  For this hello to 2012 I reached even further back in my archive of slides to a sunrise at Haleakala National Park, Hawaii.

Here are my photographic resolutions for 2012.  These are not goals to try to achieve and then forget, but rather changes in my day-to-day activities that I hope to make permanent.

Streamline: This may just mean a few simple changes to my workflow, but I spend too much time scanning and processing images these days.  I need to leverage more lab scanning services as well as reconsider the process and tools I use to go from film to final image.

Share: I started building a Flickr presence last year and have flirted with other sites.  But I need to better leverage the various sites, communities, etc. to get my photos out there and even critiqued as well as work with my DSW to update our portfolio.

Engage: I need to be more active in the photo blogosphere and forums, become part of the online photography community.  Especially the film-shooting folks, as we need to stick together and keep our interest alive and well!

Hopefully the resolutions above should help me focus more on the creative and social aspects of photography.

What are your photographic goals or resolutions for 2012?

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!

Giving Thanks

Nikon FA, Nikkor AF 105/2.8 D Micro, Fuji Velvia 100

Because the sunset at Cayucos was just so-so, I only shot half of the roll of Velvia 100.  I wanted to finish it off so I took a number of macro shots of a flower bouquet later that week.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating.  I hope you find yourselves surrounded by family, friends, and good food!

A couple things on my mind or just in my inbox…

Eddie Soloway’s November newsletter talks about the great time he had recently shooting in Kyoto.  He also is planning to add some 2012 workshops to his list over the weekend.

Polaroid has launched a combo digital & instant camera, integrating their ZINK printer into a classic-styled camera.  It looks fascinating, but sadly does not support old-school manipulations.

The British Journal of Photography has an iPad app for quarterly interactive publications, the first of which is free.  Sadly I did not make their top ten list of photo blogs…maybe next year!  (ahem)

If you really are looking for a good way to use lots of 35mm film, check out Lomography’s new hand-crank Lomokino movie camera.  They have some interesting video clips online already.

Cayucos Pier

Nikon FA, Nikkor Ai 200/4, Fuji Velvia 100

This is a shot I took while we were on our summer vacation in Cayucos.

This was the first time in a long time I had the opportunity to plant my camera down on a tripod. We are a very active family these days and pretty much everything I shoot is handheld, so this was a nice break.

The sunset was not spectacular, but there were some nice purple tones just after it fell below the horizon.

Velvia 100 is slightly less saturated than Velvia 50, but the colors still pop off the slide and screen with this shot.  I adjusted black/white levels a bit with curves in Photoshop, but otherwise this scan was as true to the slide as possible.

I had a great time shooting this sunset with my father-in-law.  I don’t recall seeing what he got here, will have to ask him…

We are already thinking of making a reservation in Cayucos for a similar stay next summer.