What the Grasshopper Saw

I love photographing the tulips at TulipFest every year.  But last weekend had intermittent rainstorms, and I decided to wait until Monday to get the shots I wanted.

And the shots I wanted … included shooting with an old vintage lens attachment.

Follow me on this.

Continue reading “What the Grasshopper Saw”

Making the Spirit of Life come alive

Do you remember last Monday’s post, when I went to Congress Park in Saratoga Springs for some photography?  Yeah, I only took one roll of film (dumb me), and spent the next hour afterward watching the ducks and contemplating life.  Not necessarily in that order, mind you…

My goal at the time was to take my four-lensed Nimslo camera and capture some shots on film, then turn those shots into three-dimensional cinemagraphs or stereo cards or something along those lines.  Plus, it’ll be a great way to test if I can show off cinemagraphs in this new blog.

Continue reading “Making the Spirit of Life come alive”

The Homemade View-Master® Concept Reel

So I took several of my stereo photos … brought back a toy from my childhood – and made my first-ever stereo viewing disc. Want to see it? Sure you do!

I’ve been tinkering with this idea for a while.  It’s a concept that involves building something for a toy I once enjoyed as a little kid.  And if it works … I’ll have some great images for future projects.  Maybe not for Competition Season showings … but possibly for “Charity Season” showings.

Let me explain.

For the past few weeks, I’ve taken stereo photographs of various winter scenes.  You know … the Black Bridge in Green Island, a snow-lined stream in Schoharie County, a frozen shot of the Helderberg Escarpment at Thacher Park.

And you’re probably wondering to yourself … “Chuck, you’ve been on this stereo photo kick for a while.  Are you going to make another lenticular print or something?”

Oh I’ve come up with a better “or something” concept.

I’m building my own View-Master® reel.

Continue reading “The Homemade View-Master® Concept Reel”

North Pearl and Columbia Streets in the 19th Century

Of late, I’ve been absorbed by the discipline of stereoscopic photography – creating three-dimensional images with film prints, and using some sort of viewer or printing technique to recreate the 3-D effect.

The other day, I came across a vintage Albany-themed 3-D stereoview card from the “American Scenery” series, and although the print is somewhat faded, and the color tinting is rather amateurish, I thought I would share it with you.

I’ve come across stereocards before, but I’ve never seen one before that was hand-tinted.  And right away, there are plenty of clues as to what the photographer tried to capture here.

On the bottom of the right-sided image, you can see the words “1997 Looking Up Pearl Street From Columbia Street, Albany, N.Y.”  Of course, you certainly could have figured that out by seeing the towers of the First Church in Albany in the distance, couldn’t you?  Yeps.

But that image is kinda small to view.  So how about I re-scan the image, and just crop it to the one stereo photo that’s clearer and has more contrast?

The one on the left, of course…

In doing this, now we have more historic artifacts in view.  You can clearly see the “99 cent store” sign that’s attached to the electric pole, as people walk past the intersection of North Pearl and Columbia Streets.  The people in the street are more defined and clear; the people on the sidewalk are blurry and ghosty, as if nobody bothered telling them to hold still for the camera.  And as for the “99 cent store” sign … could it be a sidewalk advertisement for the building next to it, which may … or may not … be Lodge’s Department Store?

I can make out a couple of businesses in this picture – on the right side of the street is a store called Pemberton’s.  In the building where the Bayou Cafe is today, you can make out what look like signs for a pocket watch shop and a dentist.   The left side of the street has a sign that says “HAIR” on one of the buildings.  Whether that’s a wig shop or a barber is beyond me right now.

The streets are cobblestone, and outside of a single buckboard wagon, there’s not a single stitch of traffic on North Pearl Street.  Yeah, try taking that picture at 5:00 p.m. today.  You’ll probably get run over by someone trying to flee Albany on their way home.

This is a fascinating little photo card.

I’m going to need to investigate it some more.

Of course, if there are any Albany historians who want to take a crack at this and offer some historic background…

By all means.  Fill me in on what you discover.

Taking stock on my clock

I’m currently trying anything and everything to take my mind off my broken foot.  I have to.  Because if I can at least focus on other things, then I can get through another day and get one day closer to healing or surgery or repair or whatever.

So I’m trying to focus on other projects, other calculations, other mental manipulations.

I have to.

Distraction has to be the better part of my mind right now.

Shoreline at Hampton Beach, N.H.  Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Shoreline at Hampton Beach, N.H. Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

For the past couple of days, I’ve gone through my photography archive and looked at images that I thought at the time were decent, but never really gave them much of a second thought.  Now that I have more advanced photography editing software on my computer, between Adobe Photoshop and the Nik Collection software filters, I can find something strong in these old photos.

Like the Marine Memorial at Hampton Beach, which you see above.  The statue is sillhouetted against a canopy of angry storm clouds, a wreath in her stony hands, a prayer for those at sea to all return home.

sneakers
Sneakers in Schuyler Flatts. Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Yeah, here’s a shot from the winter of 2012.  I remember seeing those sneakers, as they dangled on the snowy branches of a Watervliet park.  As I re-edited this photo, I thought about how I could improve on this shot.  I can wait until winter, toss a pair of my old, muddy, no-longer-fit-for-footwear sneakers on a tree branch like this, and maybe shoot with my 3D film camera and turn it into a lenticular print, what with the tree branches and dirty kicks and whatnot.

We Cut Keys.  Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
We Cut Keys. Nikon D700 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Oh yeah, and there’s this photo.

This little image was caught in February 2013, adjacent to an abandoned, condemned building on Clinton Avenue.  That little sign in the window – “WE CUT KEYS” – just below the abandoned satellite television dish – pretty much adds to the ultimate dichotomy, doesn’t it?

I wonder if the building’s still there.  I could go and see.  And maybe re-take the picture.  Or expand on this one.

I know.  I’m still trying to focus on breaking out of this malaise.  It’s almost as if 2016 has become a series of derailments, one after the other.  It’s not fair.  I know it’s not fair.

So I need to focus on other things.

Like my car, for instance.

In late June 2016, I purchased my fourth-ever car, a 2013 candy-red Chevrolet Cruze.  And I’ve slowly grown accustomed to my vehicle, which I’ve nicknamed “Dracourage,” a portmanteau of “Dragon” and “Courage.”

And as is my custom with buying cars, I don’t just pay the minimum car payment every month.  I pay extra.  I throw a few extra dollars on the car note when I can.  If a photo of mine sells, that’s on the car payment.  If I do some freelance work for a friend and they offer me some coin, it goes into the Dracourage car fund.

Yesterday, I did some calculations.  And I came up with $22.58.

$22.58 is the average per-day amount I could pay if I wanted Dracourage lien-free and loan-free on August 25, 2018 – my 55th birthday.  That would be three and a half years ahead of time, and yes it does entail a lot of will power and dedication.  Besides, what’s $22.58 a day right now?  Two tickets to a movie?  A decent sit-down white-tablecloth dinner?

Then, on my Facebook page, I received word that one of the boutique photo labs I once used – DR5, which was the only lab capable of producing images from AGFA Scala 200 B&W slide film – has relocated and is now in the testing stage of resurrecting that product and service.  Aces.

You see, I still have one sealed roll of fresh Scala (well, it expired in 2007, but B&W film can stay fresh for decades), and if I can get some stunning B&W shots of the wintery Adirondack Mountains this year… ooh those would look stellar in competition, yes they would.  Maybe a shot deep in the heart of the Adirondack Park – maybe a return to the Boreas Ponds, or possibly a recapture of the White Mountains of Vermont, or even breaking through and finding some lightly lurking, lilting luxury locked in my imagination, and setting it free by pressing a camera shutter button and whispering, “Say cheese.”

And if I keep focused on these goals … reviewing my old photos and making them better; reconsidering some of my original photo concepts and deciding how to improve on them; creating some dutiful, dynamic financial target and aiming for it like William Tell in an orchard – I can set things in motion.  I can stop focusing on my broken body and my fractured psyche.

I can do this.

I have to do this.

And if I slip and fall…

I have to get up and keep walking.

And after I walk…

Then I can run.

And when I run… I will reach those goals.

Not “if” I reach those goals.

When I reach those goals.

And I hope you’ll be there with me.

Let’s get there together.

Flora

One of my goals for 2017’s Competition Season is to create a three-dimensional lenticular print with my camera gear.  I’ve come up with several ideas and concepts, and depending on how things go, I hope to have something that will dazzle.  And although I have had some successful lenticular “magic motion” prints have done well in the past – photos like Vivaldi’s Pond and Re-Lighting L-Ken’s and Lauren and the Leaves – I’m still not satisfied.  I can’t settle for “just good enough.”

Last Monday, I took my cameras to St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.  The fall foliage was bursting through with beautiful reds and yellows and greens and oranges and browns, and I wanted to capture something that showed off the cemetery grounds in autumn.

Cemeery Road. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Cemeery Road. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Monument. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Monument. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
The Peaceful View. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.
The Peaceful View. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

St. Agnes Cemetery is one of my “centering” locations, a place where I can refocus my life and my thoughts.  It’s a place where, in 2010, I captured my first truly successful “star trail” photograph – I aligned my camera so that the star of Polaris was focused behind the head of one of the tombstone monuments.  A couple of hours later, I captured this.

The Star Trail of St. Agnes Cemetery. Nikon D700 camera, Kiev 24H fisheye lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

God, that seems like so long ago.  I wonder if the Morrone family – whose family member is buried under that granite carving – knows that their efforts inspired this image.

Oh look, there’s another monument over there.  And if I align myself carefully, I can get a beautiful shot with my four-lensed NIMSLO camera.

Let’s give it a shot, shall we?

St. Agnes monument. Nimslo camera, Kodak Ektar 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.
St. Agnes monument. Nimslo camera, Kodak Ektar 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Decent shot… I’ll have to boost the levels and make some adjustments in Photoshop…

Let’s get to work.  Scan the film.  Adjust the highlights.  Boost the foliage.  Crop the picture into four separate units.  Align the images onto a focal point.  Nope, didn’t like that focal point.  Re-align everything.  Keep going.  Don’t give up.  Check.  Double-check.  Good enough.  Nope.  Never settle for “just good enough.”  Do it again.

And after all the adjustments and movements and alignments and the like…

Here’s what I got from that little strip of film.

Yeah, I know, the animation is a bit fast, but I’ll fix that later.

And it wasn’t until I finished editing this picture …

That I noticed the name on the monument.

FLORA – 1912-1926.

Barely a teenager.  Sad.

Yet with all that… How in the world was I to know that this monument of “Flora” would frame nicely with the changing flora of the autumn leaves?

Trust me, I couldn’t have scripted it as well as this.

But wow… what if I was able to create a lenticular print out of THIS image?

Hmm…

Maybe … just maybe …

The Half Moon on a Full Moon

So here I am at the top of a parking garage in downtown Albany on a Saturday night.

Sounds like the beginning of a pop song, doesn’t it?

No it doesn’t.  😀

I wanted to try something with my new Soviet mirror lens, the MC MTO-11, which is an 1100mm f/16 cadiatropic piece of glass.  The idea was to photograph the Half Moon weathervane atop the old D&H Building in downtown Albany, and then hopefully capture it as the full moon sailed by.  That would be a swank photo.

Let’s try it.

First, I had to see if the camera could pick up the Half Moon weathervane.

Half Moon weathervane.  Nikon Df camera, MC MTO-11 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Half Moon weathervane. Nikon Df camera, MC MTO-11 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Damn.  For perspective, I’m across the street – actually, I’m across the block, photographing it on the fifth level of the Hudson and Green Parking Garage.

map

And then, as night fell, I saw the full moon rising up from the horizon.

This is going to be great.  I’ll get a great shot and …

Uh-oh.  The moon is taking a path that guides it to the right side of the weathervane.  And I can’t line up the vane and the moon unless I walk further to the left … and unless I suddenly became Wile E. Coyote, I’m not going to be able to defy the laws of gravity.

Okay.  Down to ground level.

And by “ground level,” I mean the intersection of State Street and Broadway.

Test shot.  Can I get the moon with nice sharp pretty craters from here.

moon
Full moon. Nikon Df camera, MC MTO-11 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Dang, I think I can see Alan Shepard’s stray golf balls over there.

Okay.  The moon is lining up with the weathervane.  And I can get a great shot of …

Uh-oh.  Something I didn’t anticipate.

Despite all my efforts, I had a choice.  If I wanted to get the moon and the vane together, I could either capture the moon in focus…

half-moon-1
Half Moon 1. Nikon Df camera, MC MTO-11 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Or, I could try to get the Half Moon in focus, but then it would be silhouetting a bright white circle without any definitive “craters.”

Half Moon 2.  Nikon Df camera, MC MTO-11 lens.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Half Moon 2. Nikon Df camera, MC MTO-11 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And despite what anybody says, the Half Moon weathervane, at least from my angle, appeared larger than the Moon itself.  Which is great if you’re Captain Hook sailing in search of Peter Pan…

Well, if nothing else, this was a first try.  I’ll scout new locations as time progresses.  Maybe I need to wait until the moon arrives in twilight rather than in pitch black darkness.

This is the thing.  Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.  It took a lot of trial and error and failures along the way, though.

First step is the hardest.

But it gives me ideas on where to go and what to do to make the next step better.