Thursday, November 29, 2007

Moving On...

Hi all, for the thousands of you who regularly read this blog (yeah, right!), I have recently setup a new service that is mainly geared towards people who enjoy sharing their writings along with photographs that they take (for example, me :).

The twist is that the new blog site requires zero server hosting/maintenance/programming skills. Cool, eh? Let me know if you want one :)

The new blog site is Advance Lever MU.

Oh, And my blog's address is now:

Those Simple Days.

See you all there!

Monday, November 5, 2007

One man's treasure...

"... one man's junk is another man's treasure..., at least before he actually bought it..."

I actually remembered that saying as we pulled into the parking lot (or field, a big one at that). We arrived late in the afternoon in Canton, TX. A mere hour-drive away from Dallas, Canton is the home of the First Monday Fleamarket.

Usually I'd give away the website at this point, but I think you'll be severely dismayed looking at their website. Like I did... that is, until I realize how many people are visiting the 4-days shopping, RV-ing, lounging, barbq-ing extravaganza! Who needs a website when the visitors numbers at thousands (that's on the WEEKDAY-part of the "market").

So, let's get the show going...

Five buddies loading up the day's "treasures"

They guy at the parking lot booth ($4) just shrugged and said, "straight ahead, son" when I asked him whether I can park anywhere among the sea of SUV's and RV's at the parking lot. At first, we picked a shady spot at the "spill-over" grass area of the field, after all, where we saw variations of the "five buddies" scene depicted above. After receiving a tip from a lady parked next to us, we moved closer to the main entrance.

After securing a parking spot (it's nice to arrive late, in the morning, the line at the exit of the interstate I-20 into Canton was a mile long). We started to enter the long warehouse like buildings and start checking out stuff ranging from arts and crafts, to literally, scrap heap.


These horse statues looks very nice, I didn't even check the price tags, as my wife and I already decided to window-shop-only. Well, I did bought a set of old photographs, but that's another write-up.


"Cross my heart and hope to ... buy my stuff"


Every age group is well represented, including the ones measured in dog-years


well, who can argue with *THAT* ?? :)


This is literally the downtown square, for the weekend, it's *incorporated* into the market.


Except for the cellphone, this scene must been recurring since 1940 when the "First Monday" trade day was first popularized.


These guys served mean Peruvian-Andean music. Those panflutes are awesome. I think I even get my daughter interested in it.


Junk, no kidding... (but check out the tonality and sharpness of the photo ;)


Ever had your head handed to you in a basket?


I like vintage Ford cars, but this one feels rather superficial :)


As the shadow grew longer, we made our way back to our car, a nice gentleman who also sold very good roasted peanuts kindly explained how the maze was arranged. Following his direction, we found our car just fine.

About that time, people who already closed their booths, who brought their RV's started to congregate together, barbecuing, and having a great time. Looks like not everything is about money... and that's very good to see.

Lastly, a cowboy in waiting...


Oh, the camera of the month is none other than the trusty Olympus 35 SP in black. Film of the choice is one from my never ending supply of Ilford XP2.

As usual, all shots are un-metered. Only the sunny-16 rules and a super tonality provided by a super expired film :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

An Old Rangefinder and a Balloon Festival

"Don't bring a tofu knife to a gunfight..."

This would be my first year to attend the annual Plano Balloon Festival in Plano, TX. In yesteryears, I've been wanting to go, but there were always excuses, events, what-have-you.

To make it interesting, I decided to bring my M4-P to the event. My favorite film with this camera is the Kodak BW400CN. While 99% people out there were toting some kind of zoom lens cameras, I decided that this would be a good place to practice taking pictures of people, which is as much fun as trying to take decent pictures of the balloons themselves.

So, without further ado, here are the pics:


At this point, the field was almost dark, lit only by street lights. Btw, this is one reason that I'm amazed at the M4-P, handheld, almost dark, I still get a picture.

Fired up

You have to anticipate when the balloons are lit when something like this can be seen. Yes it would be more awesome if I was about 10 feet from the balloon, but, with the lack of "press pass", I'd have to make do with what I have.

The Others

Some of the other photographers who seems to be more "prepared" than I was to take pictures of the balloon. Most of them don't even see me pointing an unassuming small black camera at them.

The Kids

The kids are kinda restless because the balloons are just sitting there...

Then all of the sudden...

Ready for Lift-off

As the day grew brighter, more balloons took shape.

Ready for The Shot

The tension is mounting, like this guy ... fully poised to capture that moment...

More balloons

More balloons getting ready for take-off...



Everyone is shooting

Turned around to see a frenzy of concentration...


... trying to capture this picture...

Camera Down

Then as soon as all the balloon were gone, people start packing up. Here a nice CanoNikon couple :)

On the walk back to my car I spotted this beauty:


... well, I can't pass it up, can I?

Back view

All in all, it's not a bad morning for an old, unassuming rangefinder camera.

Monday, October 8, 2007

That's why it's an RD!

"... in the end, it's the one that feels most comfortable that you'll be coming back to ..."

When asked for a word to describe the Olympus 35 RD, I came up with one that was really unexpected, even by myself.  Comfortable.

The camera feels comfortable in my hands, it is not solid like the Olympus OM-1, or curvy like the Leica-M, or the commanding presence of a Nikon F.  It is not even as hard-edged as its bigger older brother, the venerable 35 SP.

Yet the RD is simply comfortable.  The patch is bright and viewfinder is again, comfortable to see through. When I press the shutter, I am confident that the little but fast lens would be able to handle anything that the available lights throw at it.

Confession time: I was heavily obsessed by Zeiss optics this past month. That's why I haven't posted a single entry here yet.  I am expanding my lens "collection" into the T* coated realm of the legendary Carl Zeiss.  Testing the RD is more of a whim.  Expecting nothing more than another ho-hum testroll.

Boy, was I ever wrong! Note to self, self: Do not ever look down on a Zuiko lens ever again.

Took the camera to the First Saturday flea-market, which, on this particular morning, was extremely dreary.  The usual mixed light consisting of yellow halogen street lights, and the severely overcast sky makes for a more difficult that usual lighting condition.  More evil-ly, I decided to throw in one of the most difficult film I can find (that and I want to use up the stash quickly :). The Super-expired Ilford XP2 Super!!

I was snapping away half-heartedly, wanting to just get through the roll quickly.

Specular lights abound on these crystals:

An amphibious military vehicle:

Find a grenade-shaped perfume dispenser in this picture:

To add insult to injury, the trip to the flea-market proved to be fruitless, other than a brief excitement of seeing an old, dusty Agfa showing some life left in it, everything else pretty much blurred into blinking LED's and chatter noise.

Then, completely uninspired, I decided to drive around downtown just to take advantage of the very light traffic and see some parts that I haven't yet frequented.

Squares upon squares of dilapidated square building:

It's OU vs UT "Longhorn" annual football match:

On the way home, a quick panning-job:

But... never would I thought that these pictures would emerge from the testroll. The six-element Zuiko lens is delivering sharpness where it counts and an incredibly smooth transition from foreground to background.

These shots are taken without any light meter, just my eyes, half-sleepy brain, and the sunny-16 rules (not keen on using meter if I can help it). The expired film adds to the complexity. I shoot the film as though it's 100ASA just like when I tested the Fed 2 a couple of blog entries back.

Despite all that, the RD came up on top. It is an absolutely wonderful camera of the month.  The RD is another shining example of how vintage, manual, technology can beat the jelly out of modern ones. No wonder it still command a hefty sum on the used market.

Now, sadly, having the 35 RD, I have to say goodbye to the 35 DC.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Day at The Car Show

"... nothing like an old-car show to close the summer with, the smell of fresh-popcorn wafting in the air, baloons and fiddle players, childrens with painted faces running around..."

... and people with cellphones clipped onto their ears... :) oh, well, so much for tradition... but hey, there are seems to be more cars and goers this year at the annual Downtown Festival at Denton Texas. 

About 30 minutes from Dallas on I-35E, Denton, which could be considered a suburb of Dallas, is the home of the University of North Texas (famous for its Jazz music program).

Thanks to online maps, finding my way there is not the least problematic. Keeping my daughter cool under the scorching Texas sun, is another story.  By the way, this would be my first date with my daughter that involves more than an hour driving, half of which, thankfully, she took her afternoon nap.

We arrived at the downtown area, all parking spots are practically full.  We meandered around, already building the anticipation upon seeing tons of people, nothing could put a damper on the mood when seeing a "festival" with barely enough people to run it.

Having found our parking spot, my daughter and I made our way to the town hall proper where the festival is centered around.  We were stopped by a handful of friendly people from the local church handing out cold bottled water and a BIG 100 dollar bill look-a-like with the Ten Commandments printed on the other side. Neat!

Then I whipped out my Ansco Super Speedex, especially loaded with expired Kodak Portra UC 400 for this occasion.  I started taking pictures of the cars, the people, the beautiful sky, whatever.  It sounded easy, but it's more work than I thought, because I want to keep an eye on my daugther all the time.  Add to that, I tried to slap a filter in front of the lens and manually compensate for it.

Beautiful summer clouds over the downtown:

Just another red car (albeit beautiful, stylistic, and with attitudes :):

A face painting session, that's not my daughter, by the way:

A Studabaker Commander (also known as, the Cloud Reflector):

Almost on top of the keyboard player:

I don't know why this reminds me of "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned..."

I'm a Texan and so is my car:

Now this is just sick...:

We only spent less than an hour there because of the heat, other than that, my daughter seems to enjoy the butterfly painting on her arm, the music (very cool Jazz/Blues/Rock'n'roll band playing), and the baloons.

Next year, you bet we're coming back, and this time, Mom's gotta go too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fed Up!

"... the level of amazement corresponds directly to the distance between low expectation and high quality ..."

Nothing described my experience with Former Soviet Union (FSU) -made cameras better than that quote.  Despite my very frustrating bout with the first FSU camera I ever owned, a Zorki 4 with faulty film take up spool shaft, I can definitely say that I am a big fan now. 

And the camera on the menu today is a further proof.

Fed 2 is the only camera that meets my "beauty" standard among the Fed camera series made by the FED working commune and later acquired by the famous KMZ factory. For more info on the rich history on these cameras, just use your favorite online search engine for Russian cameras.

This Fed 2 lacks the refined feel of the black Kiev 4A that I have.  My toddler daughter can't even trip the shutter release because it's so heavy.  Boy, did that bummed her out ... for about 3 seconds :)

Although, my other Kiev, the 4AM still takes the cake when it comes to total "clunky-ness" scale with its extremely dodgy shutter speed dial.  But I digress...

Without the act of kindness of a certain Mike from Colorado who generously sent me a film take up spool, this blog entry would never have made it to publication.  Responding to my desperate WTB post on Nelsonfoto forum (a very good photography forum by the way), Mike simply state that he has a spare spool and voila! a few days later, it materialized in a padded film canister, in a padded envelope right in front of my door.

It's the community spirit done right by decent people, I say!

I don't know exactly what to expect from this camera. I mean, the camera looks ok, and the shutter speed seems to be ok, and the extremely small aperture opens up and closes down, so I should at least get some recognizable pictures, right?

So I decided to finish my (seems-like) neverending stash of Ilford XP2 Super (expired, that is :) ) by using it as the film of choice for the test roll on the Fed 2.  I have since learned that this batch of XP2 is best treated as 100ASA eventhough it's rated as 400 *Seven* years ago!

Now, the loading, I observed the take up spool I got from Mike closely and noticed at first that the metal curly "lip" (barely liftable) that supposed to catch the end of the film leader cannot be pried to open tall enough for inserting even the start of the film leader... hmmm, jumping into conclusion, I grumbled and get the scissors and start looking for that website that shows how to trim film leaders a'la Leica III.

Upon further inspection, I didn't pry hard enough, the whole "lip" turns out to be liftable.  So now I have a half-trimmed film leader and a film spool that doesn't need the trim in the first place.  Great...

So finally I got the film hooked up onto the film spool and I'm ready to put it into the camera body cavity.  No surprises here, I gingerly started to rotate the spool expecting at anytime to relive my nightmare of slipping take up spool on the Zorki 4.  But... everything rotates as it should, even the film holes latched confidently on the sprockets and the take up spool continues to roll without slipping.  Hooooray!

I put the back back in its place and I was ready to roll.  The question was, to where...?

Enter Deep Ellum.  The one section of Dallas downtown that I've never dared to venture into before (that and I just don't have the time).  It was said that the Deep Ellum is where the cool people hang out or hanged dry.  Caution is definitely needed... Sounds like the perfect testing ground for the Fed!

This is what greeted me there... Uh, hello...?:

Guitar man:

Cheerful guy:

Check out that texture on the old door:

How did I get here?

Weeds on Windows:

Flamin' Pillar:

And as I pull out of the Deep Ellum area, I spotted this Valiant in front of an old warehouse turned chic graphics studio:

Overall, I'm impressed with two things, the Fed 2 with it's shifty-looking Fed lens are obviously a good shooter.  These FSU cameras are definitely a unique piece of photography history and a joy to use to boot. That is, if you can get over the clunky operation and its beauty that is somewhat an acquired taste.

And Deep Ellum provides a very interesting testing ground.  Next time I'm gonna have to bring a sharp color-correcting lens.