Thursday, November 7, 2013

Old School Tools ... Film is back !

My new mantra is a simple one " in time everything comes along on Craigslist " !

Some time back I was lucky to find a Konica Minolta 7D, a great leap backwards at a very fair price allowing me to expand into the world of a second lens maker. Over the last few years I have based much of my photography around Olympus gear, always costly but great Zuiko designs. So the addition of the KM 7D allowed me to find the odd specialty lenses that I sometimes enjoy exploring.

Fisheyes, odd telephotos, strange Chinese made lightweight specialty lens..... All things that the limited market of Olympus professional users most often don't get to dabble in due to the small market share. Expanding into the KM 7D automatically opens up the still small but a little more robust Sony " A " mount world, as Sony purchased the system from Konica Minolta and still exploits today.

Two film Minolta XD -11's have served me faithfully from the mid 70's, both are now having issues and need to be serviced ... yet few have the skills to do such and might require hundreds in labor alone. Then when its all said and done it's still old school film gear.

Film teaches every photographer one critical skill ... How to think and make every press of the shutter count.  The only thing a new photographer today needs to know is were to insert the memory card :-(

Sometimes the old warrior in me needs to pick up a film camera and return to battle, it makes me a better photographer.

So why not pick up one of the last great 35 mm auto focus Minolta cameras that share the " A " mount lens ?  So the hunt was on for a Maxxum 7 or 9.  The Max 7 uses about the same body and function layout as the fully digital 7D and has the same sweet " keer-chunk" sound of the shutter / feel, most of these seem to have had some internal issues with the aperture base-plate, requiring a full tear down and finding a now very rare repair part. When found in good order a sweet camera. The Max 9 is a completely different beast, but uses the same lenses. When found Max 9's are coveted by owners and still fetching $300 + in good condition. With the late arrival just before the major jump to digital, Max-9 production numbers were limited.

Maxxum 7 circa 2000
Fate and Craigslist came into alignment yet again and a Maxxum 7 with both a 50 mm f1.7 & 70 ~ 210 zoom f 3.5 + gear bag popped up. By the time I cleaned up the bag and extra lens and resold these, the camera cost me $ 10 :-) A good cleaning and a dab of Spray n' Gloss and zip zap it is like new, aside from a slight tackiness of a rubber surface (common with the wet grip used by Minolta after a decade), everything works fine.

Maxxum 7 cleaned and ready. 

One just never knows about Craigslist ... in time a Maxxum 9 might just come along and tempt me :-)  Yet in the end, how many rolls of film will I ever shoot again ?   

F  A

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lens 800 mm Bausch & Lomb

My enjoyment of various telephoto lens comes from one basic thing, it enables me to make images from places and under circumstances that I could not normally accomplish.

Now being the poor " old photographer  " it precludes me from running out and purchasing the latest 300 mm Olympus f -2.8 , with a $ 6000 price tag :-(

Olympus AF 300 (600mm) 4/3 lens $ 6000 !  
If by some chance life decides to drop the winning lottery numbers in my lap, well you may find this lens bolted to my E-5 ! But until then it is possible for me to collect and enjoy using some great manual focus fixed aperture telephotos.

Added to my collection recently is a cool Bausch & Lomb 800 mm, spotted locally on Craigslist. In its original box as new the previous owners father was given this as a gift in the 90's and it became a shelf space taker.

B&L 800 mm

The seller was asking $60 , but settled for $ 40 and a new home was established for this fine lens.
It does double duty as a cool star gazing  / field scope, but came equipped with a " T " mount camera adapter. 

This lens was built at a time when 35 mm film cameras were still top of the pecking order, in its day the B&L 800 mm retailed in the $ 450 range as configured. Given that it uses a T mount my 2x adapter just screws right in place making this a cool 1600 mm lens !

Will this lens do everything its $6000 cousin does ?  No it will not, no auto focus, no aperture adjustment .... but it will get the job done 70 ~ 90 % of the time when the subject is far off, and cost about the same a dinner for two these days.

F   A

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Highlighted model - Lana

In Southern California potential models abound, visit any shopping center and just count them as they go by, but external looks are by far deceiving.

It is the inner spirit and heart that makes " Super Models " for with these ones personality shines in the camera like a bright star.

Some years back I had a photo shoot with a new to LA Russian lady, she was very soft spoken, kinda shy and stunning eyes... but her personality popped like a skyrocket on the forth of July !

Not long after that, I suffered a damaged disk in my back that left me in poor shape, as fate would have it my new model friend was dating a local fellow, but driving all the way across LA to do so as she lived close to downtown. So we came to a wonderful arrangement, as I recovered she lived in my studio and helped with light lifting and she was just a few moments drive away from her new friend.

And so my friendship with " Svetlana " was formed !  As time passed I watched as this tiny fireball with amazing persona bloomed.  These are just a few of the images we crafted:

As the years have passed my dear friend Lana, always amazes me with great art work she produces. Far above her stunning looks is her ability to be a fantastic human being and bring magic to anything she does !

To connect with Lana :

F   A   

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A lens / gear for every shoot & bagged to go !

Sometimes you just never know what direction a photographic effort will take you, being prepared, knowing your gear and experience. When it all comes together magic sometimes happens.

On the left above is the new modern digital gear that gets used most often these days. Rock solid from 2000 mm to fisheye. Right is my collection of old trusty gear the reminds me of the good old days of film. In the center is my daily use gear bag ready to rock the next adventure.

Knowing were you came from and the path you have traveled is a sure guide to were you will be today as you blaze the trail ahead making memories for the future !

F  A

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bits and pieces to support new gear .....

So your asking yourself what do these tools have to do with " Photography " ? When you get fed up with paying crazy prices for things or no one has quite exactly what you want or you might want to modify something stock .... these are the things you need. 

Previous small parts made - car stuff. 
These past few months I have acquired several large lenses, that require some kind of support, along with this my Olympus E-5 has video capability. Producing quality video requires a stable platform and the ability to manually and smoothly focus, this is most often done with a " follow focus " gear set. Often a complete set up to convert a DSLR to a video platform can cost as much as a camera body new ! Now like everything else these days there is " China " made or USA, some of the Chinese stuff is very good value for money, some junk. Most of the made in USA stuff is just down right pricey.

Building this should be a few extra evenings, when done a CNC tool path to reproduce this as required will be on hand. Material cost: $ 5 ~ 6 screws bolts + $ 10 of scrap 6061-T6 aluminum and .50 cents of 15 mm tube stock.  

Long term idea is to make a batch of useful products, stock a few of each and offer to sale to other photographers at attractive prices. 

More to follow with future post ...... 


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What does it take to be a successful photographer ?

What does it take ?  Often I have been asked this.

Great expensive gear - No.  A fixed studio open to the public - No. Being " Published " in major magazines - No.  Traveled worldwide taking snapshots - No.

Understand people - Yes. Being able to see the image in your mind before you snap the shutter - Yes. Making images that the everyday person can say wow to - Yes.

What defines you as a professional ?  When others enjoy your images enough to compensate you, and refer you to friends or business entities.

When do you know your successful ?   When you have done enough work that results in a steady enough stream of income that allows you to put a roof over your head, food on the plate, cover operating expenses, and sack a little away for the future.

How does the world know your successful ? When your images can change the lives of others. When your images bring a smile, and find a warm place in the hearts of others.

My secret to success : Give back more than you take and your plate will always be full !

F   A

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why no Facebook for Photography ?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Cooked Spam... my distain of social networking goes deep. Life is full of so many layers of bull shit why add another ?

" In a models world, how is it the dog, cat, goldfish gets sick causing a grandparent to come close to death and this impacts a car engine / transmission ? These events seem to trigger, a boss calling you in to work unscheduled and that time of the month arriving early ?  This interstellar alignment causes the rent to become due and the cell phone to suddenly stop receiving text messages and voice mail.

Yet despite these insurmountable obstacles, that all take place just hours before a long scheduled photo shoot, within just a short few moments, the phone comes alive, the car is working, the cramps go away then your dancing your ass off at a nightclub and somehow you manage to update your Faceyuck page with snazzy shots of you smacking down top shelf booze. "

These are the paradoxical forces of the universe that often impact a photographers life :-)

Always consider were your life has been, were you are now and were it is going !

F  A

Monday, July 22, 2013

So, sure I can write all day about many cool photographic adventures , BUT the real deal is can he take great images ?

Well have a peek at my page on Flickr

Flicker just updated its free storage to some crazy amount that 99% of you will never reach , so if you like the site sign up and give it your support - Free is good :-)

Summer is in full swing in Southern California, so I am getting rather booked up with photo sessions, but if you have something cool going on that you need a special photographer - yack at me !  If I am tied up, I know several other great photographers that I can connect you up with.

F  A


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Model Mayhem - The good, the bad and the ugly.

Model Mayhem - For seven years it has been one of the sources I have used to find new faces for various projects, events and adventures.

MM started as a site that was a cross between social networking and portfolio storage, it was often at first considered something close to Myspace and then later Facebook, its founder Tyler just brought together the code and made the servers play.

The first few years were rocky with the site always crashing. I attributed it to tripping over the power cord leading to the garage were Tyler stored the server in his parents house :-)

But today it is a great place to search out models, make up people and stylist keeping these things in mind :

- MM allows anyone to join for free, so you could be dealing with rank amateurs.

- Screen and triple screen everyone, by this I mean to invite the person to make contact off the MM site via e-mail, then make contact via phone. Anyone not willing to have a real spontaneous live conversation or who will not give basic contact info, then resorts to text only, in my past experience is just dabbling and most often can not conduct themselves in a professional manor.

- Forty -five + models / make up people a year for seven years =  Whole bunch of people. Like in real life many have been great, several real pains in the ass, a rare select few downright sad human beings !  On the whole the overall experience has been a good one.

- My golden rule regarding MM, treat everyone as you would want your mom or dad, children or spouse to be treated.

- Several models have referred friends to me, always reward them with a gift card or some small token of thanks. Karma is a wonderful thing. Some amazing wedding projects have resulted due to this.

- My MM page can be found here:  Model Mayhem 

- Fotographic Aspirations web pages here : F A

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Craigslist - The digital treasure chest.

Craigslist - If there is something your looking for, have the time to explore and the knowledge of the market .... you can virtually find almost anything on the magic place that is Craigslist.

I started my early SLR days growing up on the Minolta brand name and over the years the camera's served me well Back in the old days if your learned on a fully manual camera and collected nice optics, it would be hard to pry my wallet open to purchase a new body with just a few added niceties.

By the mid 80's the big players had taken on a new mindset regarding camera marketing... you needed a new camera body every few years and all the new technology would be zipping ahead to make even the most dim witted aspiring amateur photographer produce great images or so they told you via slick marketing.

Canon and Nikon would end up on top of the dog pile, with Minolta and Olympus playing catch up in terms of sales, but still moving forward with innovations.

When I decided to make the move to digital my Minolta roots pulled at me and the retooled Konica Minolta 7D was in my sights, but the $ 2000 + price tag (body and lens), pushed me along to Olympus. But I never forgot that sweet sound and feel of the 7D, with its Magnesium body ! Turns out Konica Minolta lasted only a few years and sold the whole platform to Sony, this later mutated into the current Sony line still using the mount and contact system developed by Minolta for its auto focus 35 mm line.

Flash ahead almost 10 years cruising on Craigslist I spotted a 7D for sale in Carlsbad (about 90 miles south of LA), the owner purchased new and it was far to much camera for him, with the original box and packaging + 2 lenses. He was in the Navy and had purchased it wholesale at the base exchange for under $1000. Living fairly far from the major areas of both San Diego or Los Angeles he could not get anyone to make the drive. His asking price was less than $ 150 !

Craigslist lesion - Scout out to small towns far off the beaten path, buy a generation back, and know your gear :-)

Till next time ......

Welcome to my tiny blog :-)

The time has come to share my experiences, ideas and events of my life as a photographer. I hope you will enjoy, laugh and maybe with luck learn from all my mistakes.


As the title of the blog suggest, my entry into the art of photography did not start with inserting an 8 gb SD card into the side of a digital camera. Like the song says :
" When I think back on all the crap, I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all ....."

In time - yes they did take my Kodachrome away !  But no sooner than they took our film away, we were given instant gratification via the digital age, sometimes the photo gods do shine just the right light on us.

Photographic tools 

So many cameras both past and present, all have added something to my ability to judge the quality and texture of light, often some better than others. I am proud to have started my craft using the very primitive " match needle " cameras of the 60's and 70's. This forces you to truly understand what it is a camera does, no such thing as a programed mode (were the fancy on board computer will figure out a way to take something), it was all about your skills and learning along the way. 

Camera's I have had to joy and pain of using during my adventure : 

- Minolta SRT 201 
- Pentax 6x7 MU 
- Pentax 110 SLR
- Minolta XD-11 
- Mamiya M645 
- Olympus OM
- Epson 750 P 
- Minolta 7
- Minolta 7D  * 
- Olympus E300
- Olympus E500  *
- Olympus E-5  * 

* Cameras in daily use. 

Computers : 

Umax S900 
Mac G5
Macbook Pro
ipad 3rd generation

Windows XP machines

Studio gear : 

Halogen hot lamps 3 with barn doors and soft-box's
Vivitar 283 Flash with gel's (2) 
Britec BB200 Flash + snoot + grid
Yongnuo YN56 Flash
3 x 3 soft box 
Radio Triggers (2 sets) 
Backdrop's and stands
Ring Lamp 

Various Umbrellas and light modifiers. 

Wireless Mic  

Future post - My lens collection, Craigslist - The digital treasure chest, Model Mayhem - The good, the bad and the ugly.