There Is No Cat

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

New Toy

Last spring, I stumbled across a Diana-F camera in a thrift shop in Levittown, Pennsylvania. I recognized the name immediately as one of those cheap toy cameras so popular the past few years, similar to the Lomo or Holga. The Diana was made in the 1960s in Hong Kong and given away free with the purchase of gasoline and that sort of thing. The charm of these cameras is that they're not terribly light-proof and that the lenses are crap, which leads to some interesting color aberrations and odd focusing effects. The store wanted a dollar for the camera, so I snapped it up. I knew that even if I didn't like it, I could always sell it on eBay; indeed, when I got home that day, I saw a couple of Diana cameras with bids above $100.

The camera takes 120 format film, bigger than 35mm but not easy to find here in the wilds of New Jersey, but easily available from online retailers like Adorama and B&H. I ordered three rolls of negative print film, one Kodak 160 speed color, one Kodak 400 speed black and white, and one HP5 Plus. (Sorry, I don't remember the exact Kodak films now....) I shot one roll of black and white during an early spring snowstorm here in New Jersey, the other roll of black and white on a trip to Our Nation's Capitol, and the color roll on a brief vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and Wildwood, New Jersey.

And then I got lazy and let the rolls sit on my desk for almost a year.

Last week I finally roused myself to take them to the local photo finishers. The results were interesting. I think they developed the black and white rolls in color chemistry, not really surprising I suppose, so my crappy pictures probably turned out even worse than they would have otherwise. Then again, given that part of the charm of the Diana is the color aberration, I'm not sure what I expected from the black and white shots. The color shots were by and large more interesting.

Here are a few samples. You can see more on my photos page. The versions there are larger, too.

Laura on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach

Laura and I had a good time by ourselves for a few days in Rehoboth Beach. Her top wasn't this saturated in real life.

Sunrise in Wildwood

After a few days in Rehoboth Beach on our own, we took the ferry back to New Jersey to join Laura's family for a few days in Wildwood. This was the sunrise one morning from the balcony outside our room.

The swimming pool at our hotel, unchanged since the 1960s

This swimming pool scene almost looks like I could have shot it with the camera when it was new. This shows off the chromatic problems of the Diana nicely; check out that red sky in the upper left hand corner (made darker by the vignetting the camera is prone to.)

Toys on the floor in the sun

This is probably the best of the black and white shots. It's the one shot on the two rolls that does the shadow thing nicely. This is some toy cars (Mini Coopers) that Laura got from her brother for Christmas and a CD player boombox with a bunch of the CDs Laura uses for dance practice. I like the way the light from the window contrasts so heavily with the unlit parts of the floor.

Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C., from the middle of the street

In May, I spent a few days in Washington, D.C., attending a meeting about digital shortwave radio. I brought the Diana with me. This shot from the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue is not bad; I like the composition of it, and the huge expanse of pavement in the lower half of the photo.

It's been more than 20 years since I shot black and white film. Judging by my results, I could use some more practice. I think I was basically shooting color shots on black and white rather than paying attention to the interplay between light and shadow that black and white captures so well. Well, that was part of why I shot on black and white, to re-learn what it was like. If I shoot more black and white, I'll keep this in mind.


Posted at 1:06 AM


Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

One thing that is very cool about those pics is they have a look that would lead you to believe they were shot decades ago (esp. the swimming pool pic--which I guess you are eluding to with your comment). Wonderful shots! I've borrowed all of my family photos from the '60's and '70's and they all have this sort-of "aged" look to them (just like the ones you have posted). It would be fun to shoot some pics of people in vintage clothing with your camera (since it had this cool effect).

Posted by Pat R. at 10:55 PM, April 22, 2006 [Link]

I agree with Pat. Even the new cars look old.

Posted by Mamacita at 7:05 AM, April 24, 2006 [Link]

cool & trippy -- must agree that they look like actual old photos. the shot of the Mall looks like it could be from WWI!

Posted by Elaine at 4:01 PM, April 25, 2006 [Link]

This communication comes about 3 months too late. I just threw out about 3 dozen rolls of 120 film of various types. It was all out-of-date, but perhaps it would have added to the list of things that have gone so wonderfully wrong.

Posted by Todd Cratty at 12:04 PM, May 5, 2006 [Link]

Bummer. Oh well. Guess I should have developed the film sooner.

I just had a couple more rolls developed this week. Hopefully this weekend I'll be able to post them.

Posted by ralph at 12:24 PM, May 5, 2006 [Link]


This site is copyright © 2002-2024, 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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