Monday, March 25, 2013

Camera Cerebrum





Post-Script: I won't claim to be an expert on experimental psychology or crossmodal research, so I must take the good doctor's word on it, with the caveat that I also have my own experience with the Camera Cerebrum to fall back upon.

I must admit that, given the opportunity to go out onto the street, or into the wilds, equipped with either a Camera Cerebrum viewing frame or conventional recording camera, I'm more likely to choose the latter over the former, if given but one choice. In this regard, I seriously doubt that the use of viewing frames will ever become a popular activity unto itself however pleased I might be to see that happen. I am again reminded that a picture, as it is said, is worth a thousand words.

I do find it interesting how the 2nd-generation device has entirely given up its former status of pretend-camera, no longer functioning as a tool to equip the fledgling street-protestor, but instead takes on some hybrid variation of a pretend-tablet device. So it has that going for it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mental Photography







Post-Script: While this project started out as a combination performance art and civic protest, it ended up being an exploration into the most private form of image-making possible. In that regard, perhaps I should create a new Like-A, the Model II, that instead of trying to appear to be a faux-camera, can instead be much simpler in design, like a simple cardboard box with an open frame in the front and viewing hole in the back, and a simple snapper device with which to resonate on the box so as to make a shutter-like sound. If I do pursue this new project, I will be sure to share with you the results, including detailed descriptions of all the wonderful images I captured, mentally of course. Typecast via Olympus SM9, images via Lumix G5.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Long Way to the Pup-N-Taco



Post-Script: Photographically, I'm still amazed that this medium-format color print film puts out such brilliant colors when ran through these cheap plastic toy cameras, like the Holga GFN used here. I don't remember seeing this kind of color when using 35mm film in toy cameras. Typecast via Olympia SM-9.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Room to Spare



Post-Script: Typecast on Olympus SM9, photo from scan of Harman Direct Positive in-camera print.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Don't Lose Those Legs

Don't Lose Those Legs


Post-Script: The second in a series of three rapidly inspired typecasts, set to childrens' writing paper in the Man Cave yesterday afternoon, upon the Olympia SM9, before I turned ill from eating reheated frozen egg rolls. By the time this was being composed, my gastric system was already beginning to churn. Sometimes one finds inspiration in the strangest of ways. Photo via Hipstamatic app on iPad2.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Taking Inventory



Post-Script: The first in a series of three quick but highly inspired typecasts from the depths of the Man Cave, earlier this afternoon, before I began to get queasy from having eaten for lunch something of questionable worth found in the recesses of the freezer.

Typecast via Olympia SM9 onto children's writing tablet paper; photo via pinhole body cap on Lumix G1.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Day Trip to Abo Mission

Abo Mission Ruins

Yesterday was a beautifully calm day in central New Mexico, with very little winds and balmy late-winter temperatures. The sky was filtered through a thin, intermittent layer of high clouds, translucent enough to moderate the otherwise harsh sun, giving us a perfect day for outdoor photography.

I packed the car with the Speed Graphic 4x5 camera and film holders loaded with pre-flashed Harman Direct Positive print paper, along with a compact digital and my iPad2’s Hipstamatic app, and off we went, through the Rio communities south of Albuquerque, around the south end of the Manzano mountain range and the nearby town of Mountainair, where nearby we stopped at the Abo Mission Ruins, one of three sites that make up the Salinas National Monument.

I had recently made a visit to another of the Salinas sites, that being the Quarai Mission Ruins, and knew what to expect in terms of scenery, but wanted to try my hand with the recently acquired Fujinon lens on the Speed Graphic.

The drive down to Abo takes one along state highway 47 through little towns dotted with ranches and farms watered by irrigation from the nearby Rio Grande, and then the highway bends south and east along the barren rangeland west of the Manzano range, reminding me of what it must have looked like, a century or more ago, before little Albuquerque grew up along its east mesa up to the base of the Sandia Mountain range.

Highway 47 intersects highway 60, but not before crossing a major east-west rail line, where we had to stop and wait for one of those behemoth freight trains to lumber past, its boxcars sporadically decorated with some wannabe artist’s graffiti and sporting the names of global shipping conglomerates of the kind that get stacked onto huge container ships and ply the world’s oceans, the mules of global capitalism. Once their cargos are unloaded here in the States, I’m told that the empty containers are worth more as scrap metal rather than be shipped empty back across the vast Pacific. These cars were headed east, to places hungrily awaiting their contents, to a nation whose appetite seems ravenous and insatiable.

Abo Mission Ruins

Three or four centuries ago a different kind of economy found its way to New Mexico, from a Spanish crown hungry for wealth from the New World. Local pueblo peoples were converted to Catholicism and enlisted to mine salt from nearby dry lakes east of the Manzano Mountains. Abo is the site of one of these villages, made from adobe brick and stone, whose centerpiece was a mission church that’s now in disrepair, with only a few high walls still left standing.

We had brought ourselves a picnic lunch, which we enjoyed prior to unloading the camera gear and stalking potential images. I put the compact digital under my wife’s care, setting it up to function as a point-and-shoot, and off she went in search of scenic vistas to record. I’m normally the one who does the picture taking in the family, so it was refreshing to see her with a camera in hand.

I had brought four double-sided film holders for the Speed Graphic, but the first two shots were wasted, once when my dark cloth partially obscured the lens, and the other when I inadvertently pulled the dark slide out with the lens shutter still open in preview mode. But the other six images were recorded with no issues. With the light fading in the west behind clouds, I put the camera and heavy tripod back in the car and took out the iPad, with which I used the Hipstamatic app to record some quick impressions.

Immediate feedback is the most convenient part of digital photography, but I would have to wait until today to see what was hidden inside those film holders. Processing the Harman paper prints this morning in the convenience of my kitchen using a developing tank, I was very pleased with the outcome, the composition, focus and tonal range on the remaining six images being very nice.

Abo Mission Ruins

Though this sounds like some ancient form of recording pictures, there was no direct positive paper back in the 19th or early 20th centuries. Instead, a glass plate or plastic film negative would have to be exposed, processed and dried, then contact printed onto a sheet of silver print paper, which in turn would have to be processed, before a positive image on paper could be seen. With the new Harman paper, the print itself is loaded and exposed inside the camera, then processed in one step to yield a fine quality finished positive print.

Unfortunately, the evening is too late to permit me to scan the results, so I will merely include iPad Hipstamatic images instead. And a quick write-up in iAWriter on the iPad will have to suffice, instead of a properly typed-up report. But I will make amends soon enough with a proper update.

Post-Script: The Tintype style in Hipstamatic uses a "film" effect that gives the peeling wet plate emulsion appearance along the edges, while the black and white "lens" effect uses the iPad's face-recognition software to emphasize those features it recognizes as a face, and blurs the surrounding areas. What's interesting is using this effect on landscape images devoid of human faces, and how it becomes a fun game to see what results in the images.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Body Cap Bliss

Olympus BCL-15 Body Cap Lens on Lumix G5

It recently came to my attention that Olympus, the Japanese camera manufacturer, has released a fixed focal-length, manual focus lens built into a µ-4/3 camera body cap. The price being right (less than $50US), I snapped one up, and this weekend had opportunity to try this lens out on my Lumix G5.

In case you were wondering, Olympus and Panasonic make cameras and lenses that are compatible to a common standard, that being µ-4/3, which means that you can mix and match Panasonic Lumix bodies and lenses with Olympus bodies and lenses. This common format was the first of the so-called “mirrorless” interchangeable lens cameras that are now all the rage, starting in 2008 with the Lumix G1, with the likes of Sony, Nikon and Fuji only getting in on the act in more recent years. However, these Johnny-come-late brands are not compatible with the µ-4/3 standard, despite what your local under-educated camera salesman might infer.

I already have a good selection of Lumix lenses to use with my G1 and recently acquired G5, but even the best autofocus lenses have some sort of electronic delay. The great thing about the Olympus BCL-15 body cap lens is that it's manual focus only, meaning instant response and, with a detent focus position for the hyper-focal distance at the lens’s fixed aperture of F/8, means that for subjects at normal distances (say, from about a meter out to infinity) it’s just fire-and-forget, no fiddling with the focus lever at all.

However, you might want to fiddle with that focus lever if you intend on getting in close to some subject, as the lens will close-focus down to 0.98 feet. What enables you to check focus easily with the G5 camera is its convenient focus-zoom feature in the electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is activated by a press of the thumb dial. A subsequent half-press of the shutter button takes you back to normal viewing mode for composing your picture prior to releasing the shutter.

This takes me to the next point I want to make, which is that I found using this Olympus 30mm-effective-angle-of-view lens while the G5 camera is set to electronic shutter mode makes for an entirely silent, instantly-responding camera experience. It fires with no detectable delay, entirely silently, right now. This implies that my SLR-like G5 camera is now transformed into an ideal candid picture-taking point-and-shoot, but one with a state-of-the-art large-sized sensor, articulating LCD screen and built-in, live-view, eye-level electronic viewfinder.

The optical quality of the body cap lens is only marginal, however, but that’s not a real limitation given the quick-acting response and compact size this lens gives a competent photographer. Off-axis chromatic aberration is noticeable to pixel-peepers, but can be corrected in post-processing, while a little bit of vignette is not objectionable, and can also be corrected if desired.

The photos I’ve posted in this article (see link below) were all processed from in-camera JPEG files in the iOS Filterstorm app on the iPad2, with no chromatic aberration correction applied. To some images I’ve actually added additional vignetting, while others were left as-is. I think you will agree that for Internet-sized files these images are completely usable.

Where the BCL-15 falls down is when used under marginal lighting situations, because its aperture is fixed at f/8 and, even with late-model cameras like the G5 that offer good-quality high-ISO noise levels, is therefore simply too slow. In those situations I’m apt to use the remarkable Lumix 20mm-f/1.7 lens, instead.

I like it when a simple, inexpensive accessory is found, like the Olympus BCL-15 body cap lens, that transforms the tool’s usage mode to further enable one’s creativity.

Post-Script: The BCL-15 can also be used while recording video. On the G5 camera, video can be recorded using the various scene modes, which means that I can shoot, using this fixed-focus lens (meaning no focus hunting, no focus motor sounds in the microphone and less battery consumption) in the Toy Camera Mode, for instance. Very cool.

Here's a link to my Flickr set using the Olympus body cap lens.