There Is No Cat

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

52@52 Week 17

I took the Calumet 4×5 out to Sandy Hook on Tuesday. I took the week off from work, so I just headed out there at lunch time. I also brought some New55 film, but my ham-fisted attempt at getting it to develop more evenly kinda ruined the shot, so this week’s photo is this piece of Tri-X 320, from a box that expired in 2008 that I found in Columbus last year.

Looking north towards New York City from Sandy Hook

I rated the film at box speed and developed it in Rodinal 1:50 for 14 minutes. I shot it at f/32 for 1/125 of a second. As I was dismantling my setup, a fisherman walked by and said “I recognize that!” Turns out he was a retired Art Director, presumably from a magazine or agency in the city, and was well-familiar with large format photography. He even recognized that I was shooting Polaroids from the box of New55. That was pretty cool; usually when people approach me when I’m using this camera, I have to explain.

I have two large format cameras coming in the next few weeks that should be more portable than the monorail monstrosity that is the Calumet CC-401. I backed the Intrepid Camera on Kickstarter; the last word I saw was that there should be a shipment of those covering my backer number tomorrow, although the latest update they posted on Kickstarter makes me think some time next week is more likely. The Intrepid is more of a press camera, kind of like an old Speed Graphic, and I should be able to use a more reasonable tripod with it than the lovely, heavy, wooden Berlebach tripod I use for the Calumet. The second camera is a Wanderlust Travelwide, which is something rare, almost a point-and-shoot large format camera; if Lomography did a 4×5 camera, it would be this. The Travelwide is made to shoot handheld in a way that even press cameras struggle with. I missed the Kickstarter for that, but got in early on the pre-orders. They’re shipping cameras to their Kickstarter backers first, and several hundred have made it out into the world. No idea when mine will show up, but I’m hopeful that it will be here soon. It’s almost like there’s a race between the two to see which one gets here first. I look forward to working with both of them.

Posted at 9:46 AM
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Thursday, November 19, 2015

52@52 Week 16

I loaded the Canonette QL17 with Kodak Tri-X (actually its doppelganger, Arista Premium 400, which used to be sold by Freestyle, but it’s the exact same film) and took it out for my walk to Penn Station from our office in Soho.

I shot at 1/30 of a second with the lens wide open at f/1.7. None of the photos are tack sharp, but I’ve long felt that sharpness is overrated. This is one of the sharper ones, and one of the last ones I shot Monday night. This is in Chelsea, somewhere between 14th and 23rd streets on 8th Avenue. Things get progressively less interesting the closer you get to Penn Station. I love the West Village. Chelsea is okay south of 23rd. North of 23rd, it’s less interesting. Still, it all beats the hell out of midtown. The streets are always full of interesting people and interesting businesses.

A street shot taken on 8th Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City

I rated the film at EI 1600 and stand developed it in Rodinal 1:100 for an hour. The histogram in my scans indicates that I have a bit more leeway than I thought, so I think that my next shots in this situation will use a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second to try to and reduce motion blur.

Posted at 8:19 AM
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

52@52 Week 15

We went to Cincinnati last weekend to see one of our favorite bands, the Ass Ponys. They broke up about 10 years ago, and last weekend, they got back together and played a couple of concerts. Added bonus: getting to hang out with our friend Shirley!

We stayed across the river in Covington, Kentucky. Laura and I spent some time wandering around Covington and next-door Newport. Newport seems to be the more, um, downscale of the two cities. I noticed this go-go club with a cool neon sign, the Brass Ass. Looks like maybe the dancers can get their outfits next door.

Halloween decorations

I shot this with my Canonet QL17 GIII on Kodak Plus-X, expired in 2004, developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 12 minutes.

Posted at 10:48 AM
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Thursday, November 5, 2015

52@52 Week 14

I saw this while walking around the West Village at lunch time last week, the day after Halloween.

Halloween decorations

I shot this with my Canonet QL17 GIII on Adox Silvermax film, developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 12 minutes.

Posted at 9:50 PM
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Thursday, October 29, 2015

52@52 Week 13

We moved to a new office at the beginning of October. We moved from Times Square to Soho. The office is in a little piece of Soho that feels like a bit of midtown dropped into the middle of the coolest neighborhoods in North America. But at least with a short walk, you can be in either Real Soho or the West Village. I took the Rolleiflex out for a walk at lunch time through the West Village.

The camera needs to be fixed. While I was out, I noticed that a screw came out of the body, meaning that one of the rails that holds the back in place and provides a place for my neck strap to connect is loose. I can’t count on the camera not to fall. It made for an unsettling lunch out with the camera.


I shot this with old formula Tri-X (code TX, which was 400 speed, as opposed to TXP, the 320 speed version of Tri-X) that expired back in 2003. It was frozen since it was bought, according to the professional photographer I bought it from on eBay. I’ve seen nothing to disabuse me of that idea since I started shooting it. I bought 20 rolls and have shot at least 10 of them. I love this film. Now I just wish I was shooting better pictures with it.

With this shot, I am now one quarter through this project. 13 down, 39 to go.

Posted at 6:53 PM
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Thursday, October 22, 2015

52@52 Week 12

This week’s shot is from the Oktoberfest in Highlands, New Jersey. This attendee had the most spirit. Usually there are a lot of dirndls and lederhosen, but it was kind of chilly, so pretzel mouse ears won the day.

I try to go to this Oktoberfest every year. They have good German food, provided by Bahr’s restaurant, which is mostly a seafood restaurant, but they also have a small German menu courtesy of their chef, who used to own the Hofbrauhaus in Atlantic Highlands before it was torn down and replaced by McMansions. They also have a good selection of German beer, although that’s less unusual now in the area since the Asbury Festhalle und Biergarten opened a couple of years ago.

In the spirit of Oktoberfest

I shot this with the Rolleiflex (a good German camera for a good German Oktoberfest) on expired Plus-X 120. I think this was my last roll of Plus-X in 120. I’m going to miss it. I think it’s really a lovely film.

Posted at 5:26 AM
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Thursday, October 15, 2015

52@52 Week 11

I tried to take this week’s shot with New55 film again.

It didn’t work.

Shame, really. I met a family on the pier in Atlantic Highlands, two kids, a mother, and a grandmother. The grandmother was very chatty and asked if I wanted to take their picture. Sure!

I should have shot them with the Tri-X 320 I had. Oh well. I just got a gray blob. Not sure what happened with that one.

With the second shot of New55, I know what happened; the shield came all the way out instead of stopping where it should have. So that one didn't turn out either.

$34 wasted, and my success rate dropped below 50%, where it had been hovering reliably.

Atlantic Highlands Marina

This was shot with the aforementioned well-expired Tri-X. I found a box of 50 sheets in Columbus, Ohio, at Columbus Camera Group, a funky store in a repurposed old church just off High Street. They had a lot of funky old film when I was there last year, including a Pro Pack of AGFA Scala in 120 format, which I also bought (and haven’t used yet; it’s sitting in my film fridge). I don’t think it was stored particularly well, but I also think there’s something with the bellows on my camera that cause the odd shadowing in the lower corners. I’m looking forward to getting my Wanderlust Travelwide and Intrepid cameras, which won’t have those problems. I had a really bad time with film this week. Both New55 shots failed, and a roll of Fuji Superia 800 that I shot on our first day in the new office with the Canonet QL17 came out utterly blank, not even any markings on the film; I think the chemistry went bad. Sucks, because we’ll never have a first day in that office again. I guess this doesn’t happen with digital. Part of the charm of film.

Posted at 8:17 PM
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Thursday, October 8, 2015

52@52 Week 10

We moved to a new office this week. Last Friday was our last day at the old office (Google’s original office in NYC, incidentally) on Times Square.

I brought my latest acquisition on the day, a Canonet QL-17 GIII 35mm rangefinder that my friend Olivier had gifted me, loaded with expired Tri-X (actually Arista Premium 400, but same difference; it’s Tri-X under the hood). I shot the whole roll. I developed it in Rodinal 1:50 for 13 minutes.

This is a shot of my friend Tony, eating lunch in our cafeteria for the last time.

My friend Tony having lunch on the last day in our old office

I can’t say I’m going to miss this office. It made for a relatively convenient commute, being a ten minute walk from Penn Station, but midtown is soulless. Bryant Park is nice, but the several million Elmos mobbing Times Square are not.

Our new office is in Soho right on the border between Soho and the West Village. I’ve been walking the nearly two miles from Penn Station to the new office every day. It’s a lovely walk down 8th Avenue and Hudson Street. The West Village feels like a foreign country; it makes me feel like I’m in London. I’m still figuring out how I want to commute (the ferry is also a possibility), but any way I choose seems like an improvement to me. I’ll probably post something shot at the new office next week, and expect to shoot many pictures as I explore our new surroundings in the coming months.

Posted at 12:13 AM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2015, Ralph Brandi.

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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