Friday, December 11, 2009

Contemplating a Luddite Summer

Although essentially about how the 24-hour news cycle makes us crazy, New York Times blog post My Luddite Summer has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for me. So much so, in fact, that I'm contemplating doing it this summer. Chris gets 3 weeks off in July and just happens to have a friend he calls a "benevolent slumlord", so we may have a place in El Paso where we can stay. I do love Marfa with all my little heart, but I also enjoy a little urban life--I thrive on everything but suburbia. Plus, I can pretend I have a summer home. Woot.

Once we got the laptop with wireless, we used to take it around with us when we traveled. You know things are bad when you can't focus long enough to watch TV and need to get on Facebook and upload Bob Dylan Christmas songs. We forgot it one time and actually enjoyed ourselves. Oh, it sounds like such a joy to disconnect from the world for 3 weeks, get some serious reading done, and take photos with cameras that don't even need batteries! And to do this in the city with an international border on one side and a mountain range on the other? Lovely. All I need is a massive tome to undertake. Goodness knows what I'll do now that I've finished the Gandhi biography.

We'll spend tomorrow in El Paso because we're too lazy to switch banks. Why switch to a local bank when you can use it as an excuse to go to your new favorite city?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I learn more by the minute.

I know what you're thinking: "Oh please, not another post about the stupid cameras!" Tough luck--but we are going to El Paso on Saturday, so you should get something new to read about after the weekend. Turns out the other cameras do have rangefinders: the one on the Nazi camera is just so awful that I didn't realize what it was, and the one on the Seagull is in the middle of the viewfinder. This has launched the Seagull much, much higher in my esteem since it has a nice, big viewfinder and I only have to look through one window! Like I've previously mentioned, though, it's the easiest to open, so I've been having dreams that the back winds up open in the middle of a roll of film. My nightmares aren't always this lame, I swear.

I'm gearing up to dabble in the (film) SLR, so soon everyone will know more than they ever wanted to know about SLRs too. Excited? I thought not.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

First full day with 3 rangefinders

I've been subjecting myself to a crash course in rangefinders since this lovely mail delivery. For the time being, the only camera I can use is the Bolsey B2, as I didn't realize that the other two didn't have built-in rangefinders. I'll need to purchase a separate rangefinder attachment for the Seagull, and I think the National Socialist/Socialist camera (har har har) will mostly be a conversation piece. What I've learned is that the rangefinder on the Bolsey is like a viewfinder, but it has a line in the center: You adjust the distance until the two images in the rangefinder line up--if the two don't line up, it'll come out blurry. There was another little dial that I didn't figure out until this morning: It controls the amount of light let in with each shot. And I've also learned what T and B shutter speeds are: B means "bulb", and it keeps the shutter open until you let go of the button; T means "time", and it keeps the shutter open until you hit the button again. Congratulations, you now know as much as I do about rangefinder cameras.

Since the Bolsey B2 arrived, I've been seeing them everywhere. Seems they were very popular cameras--my mother told me that her parents had one as well! I put the cheapest roll of film in it first, and since it had been so long since I'd had a 35mm camera, I loaded it wrong and the Bolsey tore it to shreds. I've sorted it out now, and the second-cheapest roll is in there. Slowly, Bolsey and I worked out how it functions. End result: The first couple of pictures might be terrifying, but the rest should be okay. It's kind of terrifying not having the instant gratification a digital camera provides, but I'm remembering how much I loved having a 35mm. It's a dramatically different experience, and I love my Bolsey.

We can now get the Seagull open. The place I bought it from also had another one, and as we were looking at its pictures a lightbulb went off over Chris's head--he got the camera and pulled the rewind knob up, and lo and behold the stupid camera popped right open. So after struggling so long to get it open, it turned out to be the easiest camera to get into. I just need to put a little money down on a pocket rangefinder, and I know it'll be bliss to use.

Up next, I need an SLR (gee whiz, should I get a digital one at a starting price of $650 or a 35mm film one for $150?) and a medium format camera. I hear medium formats take lovely pictures, and there are places in the world that develop 120 film! Darkroom not required. Life is definitely an adventure now.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Brave New World: Presenting my new flock of vintage 35mm rangefinders

I've been like a kid at Christmas, staring at my little pile of black and white film and longing for the day when my rangefinder cameras would arrive from California (thank you, eBay). Today I turned into a parent at Christmas, staring at the kid-at-Christmas's new, state-of-the-art toy and thinking, "How the hell does this thing work?" Thanks to the fact that I'm not the only person interested in vintage 35mm rangefinders, the internet has schooled me in a few areas; and while I hate to waste anything, I'm sure these first few rolls of film will be of unimaginably bad quality while I sort out the mechanics. Have I really been using digital cameras so long that I've forgotten how 35mm's work?

Three arrived in the mail today, two from California and one from the Ukraine (I really wasn't expecting it so soon!). Of these three, I can open two, figure out how to load film into one, and stare in perplexity at the other. The one I can open but can't figure out how to get film into is a bottom-loader (as opposed to a back-loader). The one that confounds me is a back-loader, but being from the 60's it's more modern than the others and doesn't seem to want to work with me.

Anyway, to the important part. First up is the Bosley B2--the one that works with me the most.

Take note of the two windows: The one on the left is the viewfinder and the one on the right is the rangefinder.

Next is the Seagull, a Chinese camera that causes me no end of "Baroo?" face.

And then there's the Ukrainian camera, a Soviet-made Leica knock-off.
Hold on, let's zoom in on that.
Yep, it's a commemorative camera for the 1936 Olympics ... in Berlin ... hosted by one Adolf Hitler ... ironically made by Soviets.
It makes me smile to see it because I think of Jesse Owens. Take that, master race!
And because I speak German, the instructions for opening the bottom make me smile.

I do feel a little irony having taken these pictures with my digital camera, but how else am I supposed to show these babies off?

Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear former owners of Hamilton: I hate you.

People like you shouldn't be allowed to even think of having a dog. You had the sweetest, most loving, cuddliest dog on earth, and what did you do? You dumped him out in the middle of nowhere because you got tired of him. Where you tired of him marking everything? We had him neutered, which has remedied the problem. Where you tired of him barking? You could have tried crate training him. Had he lost your interest because he was no longer a puppy? Then you're all idiots--puppies grow up into dogs. If you've replaced him with a new puppy, I hope in a year's time you dump that dog in the same place so we can take him in and find him a new home with owners who care.

We know you dumped Hamilton miles from any civilization because Chris found him hanging out at the prison. Just because he's an animal doesn't mean he can survive on his own in the wild. The workers at the prison knew that--that's why they had plans to kill him. You really couldn't have put out the effort to find a new home for him? You couldn't have put him in a shelter? Even shelters that euthanize animals don't put them down by shooting them.

Last night, when Hamilton was being a toot, Chris lightly tapped him on the rear with a wooden spoon. This caused Hamilton to tuck his tail between his legs and sink to the floor. That was the first time we'd ever seen him shrink like that. So let's go down the list: You hit him with sticks violently enough to traumatize him, you dumped him at a prison, and he was almost killed inhumanely. Great job--CPS will be coming for you if you treat your kids that way.

I'm amazed that Hamilton is such a wonderful dog considering the hell you've put him through. He curls up in our laps an goes to sleep, he dances on his hind legs when he's waiting for dinner, he goes crazy with excitement when Chris comes home from work--he even frickin' smells good!! He's all love, and I don't know what more you could've wanted from a dog. You are bastards, and we hate your guts. Your loss (and stupidity) is our gain.

Good riddance,
Hammy's new parents