Close Assault at Camp Mabry

One of the things I try to make a point to do over the Memorial Day weekend is to pay a visit to Camp Mabry, where a WWII Reenactment always takes place. It's always a sobering experience for me as this small bit of living history brings to mind the tremendous sacrifice made by our military for the sake of the freedoms we get to enjoy. It's not about glorifying war. It's about recognizing the price paid by too many of our soldiers.

While the mock battle between US and German troops is the highlight of the event for many people, I more enjoy wandering around among the troop camps, talking with the reenactors, and getting some candid shots as they prepare for the battlefield. These guys take their roles seriously and if you hang around in the background, you'll catch some war faces.

All images were captured with a Fujifilm X-T2 and 50-140mm lens using the Acros film simulation. More photos from the event can be found on my gallery site.

A Ride and a Roll

It had been way too long since I'd taken a ride on a motorcycle down some Texas backroads when I decided to saddle up on my Road King one warm afternoon in early Autumn. Nothing clears my head quite like a ride down some lonely roads, yet I seem to find precious little time to hop on the bike and head away from the city with no particular destination in mind. Photography isn't usually a big priority on little outings like these. Still, there are plenty of interesting sights that stir up nostalgic thoughts and I can't help pausing along the way to capture a bit of a quickly fading past. 

My image gathering companion on this trip was a Zeiss Ikon Nettax medium format film camera. It's quirky to use, with no working meter and focus distance guestimation. This beautiful camera, a gift from a dear friend, is a well suited for travel on two wheels. It folds to a thickness not much more than a deck of cards and slips into a jacket pocket or hip pouch. Sure, so does my iPhone. The limitation of shots on a roll of film, 12 in this case, is just what I need to keep me from turning a ride on a beautiful afternoon into a snap happy photo excursion. It's all about balance. 

Rian C at Texas Beer

The Texas Beer Co. in Taylor, TX has become a favorite watering hole of mine. It's a friendly place in a small Texas town with a nice selection of craft beers including their own brews. Last night Rian C was rocking the house with a hard rocking Honky Tonk kind of sound. The guy is very talented and put on a great show. 

I love photographing at live music shows and I tend to enjoy smaller and less crowded venues. Being mashed up against a stage with hundreds of people packed in shoulder to shoulder around me isn't my idea of a good time. It's nice to be in a place with a more modest crowd and be able to casually step up to the stage for a few photos of the musicians. This time out I was carrying a Fujifilm X100F that I acquired only a few hours before. I was getting acclimated to it while snapping photos of Rian and his band.

Getting good shots of live music is hard enough when you know the camera so it maybe wasn't the best place for a first time out. The X100 series is a quirky camera (I owned the original X100 a few years back) and it takes some time to get accustomed the style of shooting it demands. It's not designed to be optimal in the conditions that live music presents, i.e. dim lighting and lots of movement. However, I enjoy the challenge of working with a few limitations in the gear department. It helps keep my brain focused on the art rather than the tech. If you follow my blog you know that I'm the same guy who ditched all his DSLR gear and shoots pro hockey with the Fujifilm X-T2 - something a lot of people say can't be done. Pressing the Fujifilm camera to their limits has been more liberating than limiting in my experience.

All images taken with Fujifilm X100F, Acros film simulation. Full image set and information available on my gallery site.

Sunday in Taylor

Camera G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) struck me a couple of weeks ago when I noticed that my favorite online camera seller, KEH, had a sweet sale going on. While I wasn't particularly looking for anything at the time, a sale is sale so I had to take a look. As luck would have it I found a camera that was on my "want it some day" list. It was an Olympus OM-4Ti 35mm film camera and at 25% off I clicked the buy button without a second thought. I'll talk more about this camera and why I was interested in it in an upcoming post. For now, I just thought I'd share a few photos I took with it on a functional test in nearby Taylor, TX. 

It was last Sunday morning when I ventured out with my friend and fellow photographer Jim. He has the same camera and was kind enough to show me the ropes on it and lend me some lenses. Taylor is a small town and I've certainly been there enough times that it seems like I've taken photos of just about everything there. Once again though, Taylor didn't disappoint as I pushed myself to find something special in the familiar. 

All photos were taken with the Olympus OM-4Ti using 50mm and 24mm Olympus lenses on Fujifilm Acros 100 black and white film. The film was developed and scanned by Austin Camera.

Searching for Clarity

There's nothing like a ride on my motorcycle through some quiet Texas backroads to clear my head. The purr of the engine silences my thoughts and the sights along the open road are a peaceful respite from city life. A camera usually accompanies me, although when I'm looking to get away and regain my mental clarity, taking photos isn't always a priority. I knew I wanted to ride more than shoot one Sunday afternoon. To keep myself on the task of riding meandering roads as much as possible, I took only a compact folding medium format camera a single roll of film. 12 shots. That was the limit I placed on myself.

I took my shots in a few small towns along my little trip. There was Briggs, Buckholts, Rogers, and Davilla that I can remember. A few old and lonely structures beckoned for my attention. As I sometimes do when I decide to shoot film in daylight, I didn't use a light meter. The exposures were educated guesses. It's not tough to do, especially during the day with black and white film. The Zeiss Ikon Nettax I carried in my small bag is a gift from a dear friend. Simple in operation while requiring a bit of skill and attention to detail. I'd find out later that I was a bit lacking in the latter that afternoon. 

The Nettax is a diminutive, bellowed camera of a different time. It is operated as much on instinct as procedure. A viewfinder separate from the lens helps one to frame a shot. The only focusing aid is a distance scale. A red dot on the small focusing ring helps the photographer find infinity focus. Red dot...well, maybe to someone else - not so much to my colorblind eyes. Too anxious to get back to riding, I setup what I thought was infinity focus by lining up the focus indicator with a dot on the ring. Had I bothered to take off my sunglasses and put on a pair of readers, perhaps I'd notice there was more than one dot on the focusing ring. Maybe there is only one red one, I don't know. Apparently that's not the one I chose.

12 shots were taken, 11 with the intent of focusing at infinity. One was shot with a closer distance in mind and I managed to adjust focus accordingly (meters vs feet...eh, close enough.) 12 shots, 11 blurry pictures. Ouch. Now, I am known to shoot deliberately blurry pictures sometimes with artistic intent. It would be nice to say this was one of those times. I meant to do that. Um...no, that's not true. If these were digital files I might well have deleted them. Medium format film...it would be such a waste. In spite of my carelessness, I actually like the way some of these turned out. The soft focus adds a bit of mood that I think fits with the scenes and my emotions of the day. 

I'm not holding anything back. Here is the whole roll. I edited these for contrast, along with some dodging and burning. When I work with film scans I try not to do anything that wouldn't be possible in a darkroom. These are processed more heavily than I would normally do in post production. The out of focus images reminded me a bit of Holga toy camera shots I've seen so I worked with that in mind. The Zeiss is no toy and I'll try to use it more carefully next time. Then again, there is a certain look here that kind of works. Maybe there will be more sloppy focusing in my future. Next time I'll do it because I meant it. Here's to happy accidents.

Zeiss Ikon Nettax, Fujifilm Acros 100 film