There Is No Cat

Hollering into the void since 2002

Thursday, December 31, 2015

52@52 Week 22

Took the Calumet out to Popamora Point yesterday. It was a cloudy day. I metered using a Pentax Spotmeter V that I bought from KEH on Black Friday when accessories were 50% off. First time I used it. That is a sweet piece of a equipment.

Sandy Hook seen from Popamora Point

The New55 worked this time. The gouge in the negative on the right had nothing to do with New55 and everything to do with me being a little sloppy carrying the drying negative upstairs. I had the negative hanging from my MOD54 film hanger, a wonderful little piece of equipment, when the hanger fell off its clip and dropped to the floor. That’s how the negative got gouged. Oh well. At least it’s at the edge; if I print this, I need to rotate it slightly anyway, and can set it up to not show that.

This package of New55 is one of the ISO 50 packages that get developed for 2 minutes, instead of the 4 minutes that the ISO 100-200 packages get. I was happy to receive these packages, as I was wondering how they would work differently. I was very happy with the negative. I was less so with the print. But this is only one exposure, on a day when the range of information in the screen went all the way from EV 11 to EV 12 according to the aforementioned Pentax Spotmeter V. So it was a pretty flat scene from a lighting perspective, and the print reflected that. I hope to get a bit more contrast next time I shoot this to see how it responds.

I’ve lived in this area for almost 40 years, and I didn’t even know that Popamora Point existed. It’s off in the corner of Highlands. Laura and I discovered it on Christmas Day. We went for a walk on the Henry Hudson Trail starting in Atlantic Highlands, not knowing if the trail was even open (it was closed for a long time after Sandy), and not knowing where it ended. It ended (or actually started) at Popamora Point. The Henry Hudson Trail covers 22 miles in Monmouth County. I love this section of it; it’s right on Raritan Bay and has some beautiful views.

Posted at 8:25 PM
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Thursday, December 24, 2015

52@52 Week 21

I’m taking some time off from work for the holidays. I went down the shore yesterday. My original intention was to go to Seaside Heights and shoot on the boardwalk, but while it was only drizzling when I left home, the rain picked up on my way down the Parkway. So I decided to head south a little further and get some lunch at my favorite spot on Long Beach Island and just see what happened.

Barnegat Lighthouse

The rain let up for a little while after lunch, so I figured I would make the best of it while it lasted and head up to the north end of the island to take a couple of pictures of the lighthouse. This is what I got.

This was actually one of the backup shots. My original intention was to shoot New55. I got another couple of packs, and this time it was the ISO 50 variant that you develop for 2 minutes instead of the ISO 100 variant that you develop for 4 minutes. Everything went fine with it at the shoot, the envelope clicked into the holder nicely, slid right in and out, definitely easier to use in the holder than earlier packs. I pulled the pack out of the holder and put it in my bag. And that was my mistake. When I got home and went to pull it out of the bag to develop, the negative holder just slid out of the the envelope, exposing and ruining the film. I didn't even bother to develop it. This film is a constant learning experience, a reminder to mindfulness.

So I shot this with the Tri-X 320 that I’ve been using as backup for my attempts at New55, knowing that shit happens and I can’t always count on it working the way I expect it to. Same camera set up, Calumet CC-401, Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar-S 210mm f/5.6. The guys at Intrepid started shipping last week, but only got up to backer 93 from their starting point at backer 77; I’m backer 99. And they’re taking the week between Christmas and New Years off (good for them), so unless they built and shipped it this week, it looks like they won’t get to it until January. No news on the Wanderlust Travelwide, although I saw on one of the sites that they told their Kickstarter backers that they were about to ship the last batch of Kickstarter fulfillments, so I’m hopeful they’ll get to the pre-orders soon. I think I was pretty early in the pre-orders, first day they went up, but it’s not east to tell the way it is on Kickstarter where you fit in the list.

Anyway, the rain held off for a while and I got a couple of shots off with the Calumet. I also brought the Rolleiflex, but didn’t finish the roll yet, so I haven’t developed it. And I also brought my Bubl 360 degree camera. Haven’t looked at the shots from that yet, but it’s digital, and outside the scope of this project. After about 15 minutes, the rain showed signs of starting to get heavier, so I packed up and headed to a nearby brewery to sample their candy cane porter (it was good enough to buy a small growler, but not good enough to bring to Christmas celebrations).

Hopefully I’ll get to Seaside with the camera next week.

Posted at 4:41 AM
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Thursday, December 17, 2015

52@52 Week 20

This is my friend and co-worker Shannon. I took my SX-70 to the company holiday party last night at City Winery in Soho. Polaroid cameras get so much attention. People who ask about them tend to get their pictures taken.


Few of the photos I’ve been shooting have been of people. I am kind of shy, kind of introverted, and don't find it easy to approach people to ask to take their pictures. Using old film cameras is actually a useful tool for working around that. People see the cameras and are drawn to them. So they start the conversations, and I don’t have to. Polaroids are particularly good for this, but I’ve also found people approaching me when I use my 4×5 monorail, my Kiev 88cm Hasselblad knockoff, and our Rolleiflex.

I used a Mint Flash Bar to capture photos in the dark bar. This one came out the best; some of the other shots were a little too far away from the flash and came out dark, like the photos of the band (they were okay, just not as colorful and lively as this shot). I used some test film I got from The Impossible Project a few months ago made for 600 cameras and put a neutral density filter over it. This was at a stage where the film took about 40 minutes to develop. I’m pretty sure the film they’re selling today, which incorporates some of the changes in this test film, develops a lot faster, something like five minutes.

Posted at 11:26 AM
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Thursday, December 10, 2015

52@52 Week 19

I was kind of surprised to get this photo at all. By Wednesday night this week, I hadn't shot a single frame of film all week, despite having gotten our Rolleiflex fixed last Saturday at the estimable Kri-Mar Photo of Elmwood Park, NJ. I just hadn’t felt inspired. So when I got home last night, I figured I would use my last shot of New55 P/N and see what came out. I have been enjoying the explosion of craft breweries in New Jersey in recent years, and go most weekends to one of our local breweries and bring home a growler of their finest. Last weekend I stopped by Kane Brewing and got a growler of their Solitude, a wonderful Belgian Dark Strong Ale. I typically take pictures of my beers inside a Foldio2 light box and post them on Untappd, the beer-oriented social network. Since it’s December and it is no longer light out when I get home from work, I figured maybe I would be able to use the Foldio2 and set up a still life shot.

A glass of beer

This is what I got.

But that’s not why I was surprised to get this. One thing I’ve found with the New55 film is that I get a high failure rate. Sometimes that’s because I haven’t been careful; I’ve learned to measure twice and cut once, which is a good idea when you’re shooting large format film in any case, but doubly so with this film. Sometimes it’s more down to the way the packets are put together. I can’t say for sure if this particular shot had an issue, but when I went to pull out the dark slide, it came all the way out, and I couldn’t push it back in once I had taken the shot. When this has happened before, I’ve given up on that shot and tried again. But this was my last frame of this film (until I get some more, anyway), and it was close to my self-imposed weekly deadline and I didn’t see an easy way to get my shot for this week otherwise. So I took the camera and holder into a dark room, the one I usually load film in, and half dismantled my Polaroid 545i holder to get the film out without cracking open the developer pods. Then I tried to reassemble the packet, put it back in the holder, and pull it out in the usual way and develop the film and print.

It half worked. I made a small mistake when putting the packet back together such that the negative was pressed up against the backing of the print paper, which is silvery and shiny, and not up against the photosensitive side, which is white. Needless to say, I was putting this back together in the dark and without the infrared cameras they New55 people use when they assemble these to start with. So I didn’t get a print. But the negative worked.

I shot this again with the Calumet CC-401 4×5 and Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar-S 210mm f/5.6 lens, extended on the monorail to get the close focus required for this shot. This is when I’m glad I got the CC-401 with its 22 inch monorail instead of the CC-400 with its shorter monorail. I stopped the lens down to f/8 and set the shutter to 1/15 second, which seems to have been right for exposing this shot at ISO 100. Still waiting for my Intrepid, which should ship next week, and my Wanderlust Travelwide, which should ship at some point in the indeterminate future.

Two friends of mine posted this link about the National Park Service looking to hire a large format photographer to my Facebook wall. I commented on the first that I would have to be a much better photographer to even consider the job. On the second share, I commented that I had made the mistake of turning a hobby into a profession once already, and I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly interesting about this photograph of a glass of beer. It doesn’t illuminate anything about the beer or its surroundings. It doesn’t say anything about, well, much of anything. It’s a glass of beer. Someone posted something on the Large Format Photography group on Facebook a couple of weeks ago about how everyone writes about what camera they used, and what lens they used, and what film they used, but they’re not addressing their motivation, or what they’re trying to say with the photographs. Guilty as charged. My motivation was desperation to come up with a usable shot for this project using the subjects I had at my disposal. And since I’m not Edward Weston and this isn’t a pepper, what you get is a boring shot of some beer. It’s a really good beer, mind you, but just some beer, and not one that you’ll probably ever get to try unless you visit the brewery on the Jersey Shore.

And that’s why I wouldn’t even consider applying for that job with the National Park Service.

I find it interesting that such a dark beer came out so light in this photo. But that’s a technical consideration, not anything about the composition or about what I’m trying to say with this photo.

I’m not sure why I photograph any more. I just keep doing it, trying to figure that out. I don’t feel like I’m getting better as a photographer by doing this project. If anything, it’s the opposite. Maybe I should just take a page from Gary Winogrand, who said that he photographed to see what things looked like photographed. This is what a dark Belgian Strong Ale looks like photographed. Maybe that’s enough.

Posted at 3:56 AM
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Thursday, December 3, 2015

52@52 Week 18

We have a creek running through our back yard. There are a lot of trees on either side of the creek. Some of them are awfully close to the edge of the creek. This one is right across the creek from our house and has its root structure exposed. I decided this might make an interesting photo.

A tree with its root structure exposed

When I was a teenager, my dad and I moved the creek slightly to protect a tree on our side of the creek that also had this kind of exposure. It worked; that tree does not have quite this level of root exposure, and seems fine. This tree, I worry it will fall on our house one of these days. Maybe I should move the creek again. We were like our own version of the Army Corps of Engineers, doing stuff that was half impossible and probably not a great idea in the long run, but that accomplished what we intended it to, damn the long term consequences.

I shot this with the Calumet CC-401 4×5. I’m hoping that the two other large format cameras I have on order will be showing up soon, but they keep not showing up. I’m hopeful that they will both be here by Christmas. In the meantime, I keep shooting with the Calumet and my Berlebach tripod, and the Schneider Kreuznach Symmar-S 210mm f/5.6 lens. This shot was taken at f/11 with a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second. The film was New55 P/N, and this scan is of the negative. The positive came out better than many of the positives I’ve gotten with this film. It was in focus, which is a good thing. The guys at New55 are making strides with this film. It’s getting better. I still find it hard to work with, though. I had to try this shot three times before I got one that worked. The first two came out completely dark. I don’t know if it’s a problem with my film holder (likely) or with the film. I think that I have problems getting it all the way in, and that as a result, the carrier doesn’t lock and the negative doesn’t stay in place, resulting in a negative that doesn’t get exposed. At $17 a shot, that is a painful lesson.

I noticed that the New55 guys are saying they’ve fulfilled 50% of their Kickstarter pledges, which is great. I suspect they’re measuring by number of packs rather than number of backers, because I’m backer number 1,102 out of 2,475, and if math serves me correctly, 50% of 2,475 is greater than 1,102. In any case, I think that means I will be getting my Kickstarter reward of two packages of New55 P/N film (5 shots per package) in the not-too-distant future. It is a really interesting film. Flaky as hell, and damn, you have to do everything exactly right to get a useful image out of it. For this image, I did almost everything exactly right. I don’t think I pulled the slipcover out quite far enough, and my reward for that is a picture that's not quite fully a 4×5 photograph. But hell, I like it anyway.

I just barely got this one under the wire. I shot it this afternoon as I was working from home. As I mentioned, the first two attempts didn't work at all. As a backup, I was shooting Impossible Project test color 2.0 film in my SX-70 with a MiNT Lens Set close-up lens, just in case this one didn’t turn out. I was putting stuff in my Foldio2, another Kickstarter project, a lightbox with the capability to use color backdrops. Maybe I’ll post some of those photos here as well as bonus items. They came out kinda funky; it was like the Impossible Project film didn’t like the color temperature of the LEDs in the Foldio and made the background look kind of yellow-white instead of the white it actually was.

It’s hard to keep shooting something every single week. The conditions I set on this project were that the photos I post have to be completely created within the previous week, and that they have to be on film. I’m finding it hard to find inspiration every single week. But I haven’t missed a deadline yet, which is the idea; make me shoot something, anything, each and every week, even if it’s crap. 18 weeks down, 34 to go. I guess that means I’m just past one third of the way through this project. Yay me. Maybe I’ll post a photo I like one of these weeks.

Posted at 8:02 PM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

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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