MONTERREY — I have shot tightly framed portraits of people since I began taking photos at age ten or eleven. A certain style of naturalistic headshot, the subject fully aware and looking straight into the lens, has been a major element of my work for my entire photographic life. I still have almost every negative I ever shot and though I hope I have learned a thing or two along the way, I am still rather happy with many of the portraits I took of my classmates, teachers, and family back in Junior High and High School.
A few years ago, in the last days of the common film era (CFA) and the beginning of the Age of Digital (AD), point and shoot film cameras were common items. Even as the digital writing was on the virtual wall (for those who cared to look) the camera industry introduced an entire new format, the Advanced Photo System or APS. The system used a self-contained, more or less idiot-proof cartridge designed to address various perceived problems with 35mm film. It used a somewhat smaller negative (30.2mm x 16.7mm as opposed to 36mm by 24mm) (think APS-C sized sensors as opposed to “full-frame” sensors), had no film leader and, among other features, nearly every APS camera could be easily switched between several aspect ratios. These were simply crop modes but they were briefly quite popular, so much so that many 35mm point and shoot models followed suit and added a panoramic mode.
I have been working as a documentary photographer off and on in Latin America for over 15 years. Some of my favorite memories and images have come during Holy Week, Semana Santa. I have photographed these incredible expressions of faith on three previous occasions in Central America. First in Antigua, Guatemala, then in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, and last in Santiago de Atitlan, Guatemala. All of these were marked by procession all day and night, intricate carpets of flowers laid out on the streets, the dirge-like antique music of marching orchestras, the stations of the cross and other reenactments of the crucifixion and resurrection. Continue reading “VIA CRUCIS”
We talk a lot about gear, about boots, cameras, knives, and tents but too little about books. All the great adventurers I know are great readers. They travel far in their minds as well as across continents. As well, they gain inspiration, ideas, and, indeed, advice and knowledge on gear and preparation from other travelers, even those from previous centuries. And a book or two should be part of your gear, something to fill time while waiting at dusty bus stations or when you’re at your hotel in a city too dangerous to wander out at night or when you simply need a few minutes or hours of quiet. I love e-readers but they run on batteries. A good paperback is always ready and when you are done you can pass it on to another traveler or often trade it for a new book in a café or hostel. Continue reading “10 BOOKS TO HELP YOU ON YOUR ADVENTURES…”
Sometimes you should listen to the voices in your head and sometimes you shouldn’t. Do not run with scissors in traffic. Do not befriend Nigerian royalty. Do not shave your head and climb that bell-tower. But if the voices are telling you to hang onto a particular lens, that someday you’ll figure out what it’s good for, and that someday you’ll figure out how to use it correctly, then listen. Continue reading “THE VOIGTLANDER 15MM F/4.5 SUPER-HELIAR V1”
You shot your rolls of film, developed them or had them developed. You looked at the prints (or jewel-like slides)– the only way to look at your photos unless they were published — and decided which ones you liked. When you were learning photography you looked at the negatives and picked one. You held those little frames to the light or looked at them through a loupe over a light table. You made contact sheets and looked at those through a magnifying glass, at tiny windows into the worlds of your own past. They were full of mystery, tiny little scenes that you had chosen, burned into silver halide, glowing frames of silvery greys and blacks, the direct opposite of what you had seen. It was up to you to think about them, think about what you wanted. Then you had to turn the lights off, turn on the red light, fit that chosen frame into a holder, fit it into a larger frame, make decisions and then commit to it. You held your breath and pushed the button and the light came on, changing the photo paper invisibly, immediately, and forever. You took that piece of paper and slipped it beneath the developer. Again you held your breath, waiting, wondering. Would it come in a rush of overexposed blacks or a tentative, underexposed outline of whites and greys? Or had you calculated correctly when you committed light to the paper as you had when you opened the camera’s shutter to expose the film. Continue reading “PRINT YOUR PHOTOS (PROBABLY A BETTER TITLE OUT THERE)”
I received the good news that Leica was fixing my Monochrome’s shutter, replacing the sensor glass, and giving the thing a general tune up. The additional good news was that it would all be free. The bad news was they estimated the repairs would take 18 to 20 weeks (and this 8 weeks after sending it in). Regardless, this gave me the green light to buy a bag for my Monochrome. I believe that every camera/camera system needs its own shoulder bag home suited to the way I use that camera. Every camera has an infrastructure that needs to be contained and organized along with items of more general utility that live in camera bags. If you use more than one type of camera and constantly swap cameras in and out of bags, then very soon you’ll find yourself trying to put a Nikon battery into a Leica or attach an M lens to an F mount or find yourself without a flashlight or pen at some critical moment. Continue reading “THE ONA BOWERY LEICA BAG”
When I bought a digital Leica I wanted a new lens to go with it. There was no question that this lens would be 50mm. I use other focal lengths (and have nothing against buying used optics) but, in this case, I wanted a new lens for the new camera. When I bought a Leica M6ttl in 2001, I briefly used an antique 50mm f/2 Summar, but was soon able to acquire well-used 50mm f/2 Summicron from the 1970s. I bought the Summar for $150 from an acquaintance and the second hand Summicron for $500 at the now sadly deceased F-Stop Camera in Akron, Ohio. That lens has served me well but, when I decided to buy the digital M-P 240, the Summicron was in for repairs. Anyway, I wanted a new lens for my new Leica and the M6 would be lonely and jealous if I confiscated its friend Summicron. I like to maintain harmony in my stable of cameras after all.Continue reading “ZEISS PLANAR ZM 50mm ƒ/2”
ARLINGTON — A few years ago I attended a seminar about keeping yourself safe overseas. It was taught by a genuine Bearded Tactical Guy (genus Hombre Sapiens Tacticus Barbus Americanus). I have no doubt he delivered a terrific amount of great information but I only had two major takeaways. First, the next time you are really, really, really hungry up in Nepal — like lost for a week or two in the Himalayas hungry — control yourself and don’t eat undercooked water buffalo when you finally stagger out of the hills. It can make you really, really, really sick. Really, that’s really a lot of reallys but don’t do it. Eat your water buffalo well done. Wait until you’re back at Longhorns to get the rare steak. The second thing was that there is underwear with pockets. In an aside, the instructor mentioned that you could carry some last ditch money, emergency numbers or such items in the pocket of your underpants. I mean, I’m a guy who loves pockets but I’d never even thought of having pockets on my skivvies. So, remember this, scouts: never eat undercooked water buffalo and there’s underwear with the ability to store more stuff than just your stuff.