Friday, April 30, 2004
When You See Red, Shoot It!
One of my Usefilm.com friends, John Barclay, commented to me, "When you see red, shoot it!" Not a bad philosophy, actually.
What can I say? All that red screamed out to me, begging to be photographed.
Friday, April 23, 2004
"Hi, my name is Steve, and I'm a photographer"...
(...chorus of "Hi Steve!")
Yes, photographers need a 12-step program.
Not snapshooters, to be sure, and probably not professionals - they get rewarded by being paid, after all. But those of us in the middle, we "serious amateurs," we need help.
Think about it for a second - the word "amateur" itself. It comes to us from the latin amator, or lover, and from the verb amare, to love.
And that explains why we're photographers in the first place, doesn't it? We do in fact love and are passionate about our craft and our art.
Love and passion are wonderful, to be sure. They bring us happiness and fulfill deep needs within us. But they are difficult to sustain, and they often bring other, more difficult emotions to challenge us.
Photography, once you're past the snapshot stage, is an emotional endeavor. And along with the ecstatic moments of finding beauty and serenity, there are also moments of pain, resentment, anger, self-pity, and jelousy.
Just getting started is so hard: Will I be good enough? Is there really anything out there worth shooting today? Do I even have the right equipment? (translation: "Did I buy the right toys?")
I'm sure that part of my motivation in photography is remembering being that 9-year-old kid in Mrs. Baker's 4th-grade class who never seemed to have anything really cool to bring to show-and-tell. Photography is my show-and-tell redux, and I do sometimes get the "oh wow!.." reactions I always craved but never got back then.
The Internet-era equivalent of show-and-tell is the photo forum, where you can post your images, comment on others, and receive comments yourself. Right now, I post regularly to Usefilm.com (see the link to my Usefilm.com portfolio at left.) And here's where the pain, jelousy . amd self-pity comes in: I notice that I seem to get far fewer comments on my photos than do many others. I'll sometimes post a photo that I really love and then check back on it 20 times over the next day or so, only to find three or two or maybe no comments. And suddenly, I'm that nine-year-old again.
And then I get a comment like this:
Hi Steve, many thanks for your kind comments. This is what brought me to your fine portfolio. On looking through it i think you are highly underated. You have some very good work, especially abstracts. This photo is for me also highly underated and i can't understand that. I like the composition and the simpleness of it. I think it is very good and to me tells the story of, end of summer, end of the day, a day out in the park, last of a romance etc etc. Don't be put of by the lack of comments. This IS good work. My compliments Neil
Thanks, Neil - I needed that! Even at age 54, I sometimes still need someone else's assurance that what I'm doing is good.
Maybe I should ask Neil to help me start Serious Amateur Photographers Annonymous (SAPA?)
"Hello, my name is Steve, and I'm a photographer."
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Fanatics Attack Major Eastern Seaboard Port, Using Soviet, East German Equipment
Well, Baltimore Commie Camera Day 2004 was a great success!
Three of us Comrades met to invade HarborPlace with our glorious Commie equipment. In the interest of detente, I also invited one of my running-dog capitalist friends, Lou. Lou had a great time as well.
So what the heck am I talking about?
I'm talking about collecting and using camera made in the Former Soviet Union and other Communist countries.
Why would anyone do that?" you ask. Good question - I personally think its some form of addiction. Stay away from it if you can.
I became an amatuer photographer at 17 and continued pursuing this hobby avidly until about age 30. Getting married and raising a family diverted my attention for the last 20+ years. But in the fall of 2001, I decided to return to my old and beloved hobby.
When I looked over several year’s worth of old photos, I found that the ones I liked the best were taken not with the fancy SLR’s and their many lenses, but with an old Leica IIIc and its 50 mm lens! My first thought was to buy another old Leica, but when I saw how much they now go for, I wished I had invested 20 years ago in screw-mount Leicas rather than my company’s 401K.
I recalled a dim memory of "Russian Leicas", screw-mount clones of the Leica II series. With a little research on the Internet, I found that the Soviets had indeed made relatively faithful copies of the classic screw-mount Leicas - both before and after WWII - and many more in fact than Leitz ever produced! Not only that, but the Soviet photo industry went on to make a surprising variety of Leica-Thread-Mount, focal-plane shuttered, rangefinders with a number of improvements over the original Leitz design. And not only that - but a quick check of online auctions and dealers’ websites showed that they were plentiful and cheap!
So I bought a Soviet camera... and then another, and another... and so forth, until I had over 30 Soviet, East German, and Chinese cameras. As I said, it can be very addicting.
In the process of learning about these cameras, I found out that there is a quite a large, international community of like-minded nuts. I've "met" many of these Comrades on the Russiancamera-user Forum, and even become quite friendly with some of them.
In the last year or so, I've become more or less an iridentist capitalist myself, shooting almost exclusively digital. But my socialist conscience was getting to me - I felt that I had to run at least some film through one of my glorious Red Beauties, so I decided to organize the Commie Camera Day.
Allan came with his near-mint Kiev 6C 6x6 SLR, sporting an 80mm Arsat lens. The inimitable Nate Dayton revived the zeitgeist of the DDR, toting his Praktica MTL-5B 35mm SLR. And, trying to atone, I went purist, bringing my 1964 Kiev 4a with its Jupiter 8M normal lens.
My friend Lou came with his Canon Digital Rebel, and I brought mine too.. er, that is, to use as a meter for the Kiev 4a.
Think you might be interested in Commie Cameras too? Run before it's too late! But if you must, here are some essential resources:
Newcomers should make Jim Blazik's Rangefinders of the Soviet Era site their first stop in becoming familiar with the wonders of Soviet RF cameras. Even veterans will enjoy Jim's engaging writing style and the variety of topics he covers. For FED-2 enthusiasts, this site is a MUST! Jim is a master craftsman, and this site is beautifully crafted indeed. Want to turn your dowdy chrome-cum-polycarbonate FED-3b into a gorgeous leather-clad black beauty? This is the place for you!
Nathan Dayton's Commie Cameras website it the Mother of All Soviet Camera online information sources. Nathan is one of the foremost experts in the world on Eastern Block photography. If it's details you want, here is the place to go.
Soviet camera expert and outstanding New Yorker Yuri Boguslavsky, affectionately known in the Soviet camera world as "Fedka" is a collector as well as one of the most reliable and respected dealers of Soviet photo equipment. His Fedka web site has a lot of useful and interesting information on the Soviet camera industry, and his new Fedka Online Store is the place to go if you want to buy safely and hassle-free.
Anyone interested in the Kiev line of rangefinders should visit Kieth Berry's website. Illustrated with very nice photos, this site lays out the development of the various Kiev models and provides instructions on using these excellent cameras.
Our Dutch friend Tom Tiger has an excellent site in English, "Tigers Lair", that includes great photos, useful repair tips, and interesting thoughts on using Soviet cameras.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Jumping Into the Blogosphere
Well, here I am, a 54-year-old Jewish-America almost-senior citizen, jumping into the Blogosphere.
I'm a database application developer, and I've been working in IT for 15 years, but Blogs...I don't know!
I'm also an enthusiastic photographer, and although I don't make my living from photography, I do make a few bucks from it. My son Ben and I are in the process of creating a photo website for me, and I thought it would be nice to have a Blog to go along with it. Once my website is up and running, I'll transfer this Blog to my site's server.
What else is there to know about me?... First and foremost, I've been happily married now for 24 years to a wonderful and amazing woman, and I have 2 children, now 21 and 17.
I was born in 1950, stateless, into a refugee family in the American-occupied zone of Germany. We immigrated to the United States aboard a troop ship just prior to my first birthday. I got off to a rocky start by catching measles on board the ship, so Mom and I had to stay on Ellis Island for 10 days. But ever since then, my adopted country has shed only blessings on this proud and grateful naturalized American.
My undergraduate training was as a mechanical engineer, and I worked as an engineer in the electric power industry for 18 years. I must admit, though, that I never felt entirely comfortable in this field. I had an opportunity to ease into the IT world at age 39, just following the completion of a nighttime masters degree program in computer science.
Within a few years, I finally found my niche in the working world as a database application programmer, and I've never looked back. For the record, I'm definitely a Microsoft sort of guy, working with Visual Basic, SQL Server, MS Access, ASP, and now .Net.
I'm not sure what the heck I'm going to be putting into this Blog, but I think it will include musings on
- the Middle East
- (maybe) the Rightward Drift of an Aging Baby-Boomer Liberal
Meantime, please have a look at some of my photos!