Found Film: Albert Family Outings

A couple of additional rolls this week from the series of photos taken by Raymond Albert in and around Rumford, Maine in the late 1940s and early 1950s (see “Introducing the Alberts”).  This looks like spring and summer, 1952, in which the family takes a trip to the beach, and also some nice shots from a picnic.  And finally, a visit to Grandma’s.

I’ll start out with a few photos taken of the person believed to be Raymond Albert himself, soon after arrival at the beach. He’s chosen an appropriate tie for the day – stick figure drawings of a trip to the beach!

Raymond Albert's Photos - roll 11

What happened to the photos from the camera below?

Raymond Albert's Photos - roll 11

Then there was a picnic – it may have been the same trip, judging from uncle’s (?) swimsuit. But it involved roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire. And Mrs. Albert with a couple of pretty cool cars. On the left is a 1951 Chevrolet Fleetline Deluxe.

Raymond Albert's Photos - roll 11

Raymond Albert's Photos - roll 11

Not sure what the other car is, but in either case, it seems the 1948 Mercury (?) seen in earlier posts and repeated below has been replaced.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 1

The roll also appears to feature photos from a trip to Grandma’s. Cousins (?) joined for a game of dress-up.

Raymond Albert's Photos - roll 12

Grandma had an amazing garden.

Raymond Albert's Photos - roll 12

There is also this photo, which I’m not sure I can explain.

Raymond Albert's Photos - roll 11

Finally, a nice photo of Mrs. Albert.

Raymond Albert's Photos - roll 12

To see other posts about the Alberts, check out this link.  To see more of Raymond Albert’s photos on Flickr, check out this album.

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Found Film: The Alberts at Christmas

This is another post in the series on the photos taken by Raymond Albert in and around Rumford, Maine in the late 1940s and early 1950s (see “Introducing the Alberts”).  I’m guessing this roll is from Christmas, 1951.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

It’s always interesting to see what’s under the Christmas trees from yesteryear.  The top photo comes from a different roll than the rest of the photos, and presumably from a different tree – maybe a visit to Grandma’s revealed that Santa had dropped off gifts there as well.  This year Santa brought dolls and large stuffed animals for the girls.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Everyone got shoes.  The top photo includes a pair of Kickerinos, and a box marked McGregor footwear.


And below we have more shoes and boots.  And a Parcheesi game!

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

And there is a whole series of photos showing the kids inexplicably jumping off the roof into the snow.  And Dad taking pictures of the whole thing, apparently!  I can’t imagine a soft landing….

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

The Christmas doll makes an appearance both here and on the sled/toboggan – whoa!  That’s a lot of snow!  And below the full collection of stuffed animals and dolls, all on display.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Bunnies were raised in the back yard.  Do you suppose young Louise eventually had to learn the cold, hard realities of why bunnies were being raised in the back yard?

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

It’s hard to know exactly when these pictures were taken.  I initially guessed Christmas 1952 but it could equally have been 1951.   Winter 1951 dumped nearly 6 feet of snow on Rumford, Maine.  And who can forget the blizzard of 1951, in which over 20 inches of snow fell on Portland in a 24-hour period?

To see other posts about the Alberts, check out this link.  To see more of Raymond Albert’s photos on Flickr, check out this album.

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Camera Test: No. 1A Folding Pocket Kodak, R.R. Lens Type

Remember the No. 1A Folding Pocket Kodak, R.R. Lens Type?  With such a distinctive name, who could forget it?

No. 1A Folding Pocket Kodak, R.R. Lens Type

Not like the cameras nowadays – all DSC-something-cybersomething-shot-pix – they all blur together.  Naming conventions were different in the early 1900s.  Over the course of half a century, Kodak only made around 50 cameras with the word “folding” in the title, 50 with the word “pocket” in the title, and a good 125+ cameras starting with the name “No.” followed by a a number between 0 and 6, often with the letter “A” behind it, occasionally a “C”, but almost never a “B”.  But only 6, made over the course of 16 years, with “No. 1A Folding Pocket Kodak” in the title.  And only this one included “R.R. Lens Type,” though they could just as easily have thrown “autographic” into the title to make it distinctive.  And then you think you have it all figured out, and you go to a website talking about the camera, and the picture they have looks different.


For what it’s worth, “R.R.” stands for Rapid Rectlinear, a lens type developed in 1866.  No idea why it was considered significant enough as a component of this camera, manufactured between 1912 and 1915, to be included in the camera’s name.  But it was.  Here is a close-up:


So the problem with testing this 100-year-old camera is that it uses 116-size film, which was manufactured for 85 years, but for the last time in 1984. The closest-sized medium format rollfilm is 120, which is 56 millimeters wide, unlike 116 which is 70mm wide.  As is accurately noted on the Camerapedia website, however, “with some ingenuity,” 120 film can be used in a 116-film camera.


Basically, you have to unroll the film from a 120 roll and re-roll it into a 116 roll, in the right place so the film is exposed when the number in the back window is showing, and tape down the end, and roll the whole thing back up – and all in complete darkness.  You end up with photos where the top and bottom few millimeters are cropped, and because the 120 film is also not as long as the 116 film was, 7 exposures instead of 8.

Figuring out the settings is a little tricky because the shutter speed for the camera only goes up to 1/100 of a second, but you can adjust with the small aperture settings.  To focus, however, you move the entire lens forward or backward in accordance with the markers shown below, which (I think this is interesting) are marked in both feet and meters.


So enough description already! How did the pictures turn out?

Well, the first roll I used was a roll of color film, but somehow I ended up getting mixed up, and processed it as black and white. And here are a couple of the pictures I ended up with:


Man and Girl

So before I shared my results, I ended up doing a “do-over”, with actual color film that was processed as color film. The results were interesting – what you’d expect with expired film, for example – but the film was new and fresh. No idea about the color aberrations you see in the pictures, but they are definitely unique and interesting.

Fishing Village

Fishing Boats

The line that is seen near the top edge of some of the pictures is most likely due to not having added enough of one or another chemical during the developing process.

Fishing Boats

Fishing Boats

Fishing Village

And finally, the white “cloud” seen in the final photo may actually have been a scrap of paper that ended up in the tank somehow. Remember, the developing tanks are loaded in complete darkness. There’s no telling what may end up in one of these tanks one day. And for what it’s worth, the overhead shots are taken from the top of the Chennai lighthouse – the community below is a fishing community – there’s a daily market toward the left side of the frames. We’ll be doing a photowalk there this weekend, so keep an eye out for the pictures that will come out of that effort. It’ll be from another camera, as this one will go back to the shelf for now.

One last question for anyone who may be interested. There is something scratched on the inside of the back cover of the camera. Can you read it?


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Red Shutter Leica: To Repair or Not to Repair?

Hundreds of dollars spent on a collectible vintage Leica, and it doesn’t work.  What to do?  Naturally, take it apart!


This is the camera I picked up on eBay.  it’s a Leica IIIc, made in 1941.  I thought I’d gotten a pretty good deal – my McKeown’s guide lists this particular model as being worth $300-$450, and the lens is maybe another $80.  This particular camera is not in ideal shape – the covering is cracked and coming off, the lens aperture adjustment is pretty gummed up and hard to work – but otherwise it looks pretty good, especially considering that cameras of this time frame often have chrome issues due to wartime shortages in Germany at the time.  But it represents some of the finest workmanship in camera manufacturing, and I was excited to run some film through one.

But what makes this particular camera special is the shutter.  It appears that serial numbers 362,401 thru 379,225 were produced with either one or both shutter curtains made from some sort of mystery red cloth reputed to have been an experimental material received from Kodak.  The Leicas use a shutter made of two pieces of cloth that move from one side to the other when released, and the space between them (based on your shutter speed settings) is what allows the film to be exposed to the light.  During the war, Leica apparently used this red material until they ran out of it, and then switched to black parachute cloth.  Later, when owners would turn their cameras in for repair, Leica would replace the shutters for some reason.  So of the 14,000+ cameras made in this way, relatively few survive today.  Consequently, the value goes up to $600 or more.

The cool thing about buying old cameras of this quality is that they retain their value.  So you can buy one, use it for awhile, and if you get tired of it, sell it for what you paid (or more).

So I took mine out for a spin….and here is how all pretty much all of the pictures turned out:


img183 img187

Needless to say, Leicas that take pictures like this tend not to retain their value as much!   Having paid $400 (I’m guessing you were wondering), I went back to the seller, who had claimed the shutter was operational, and we negotiated a partial refund of $100.  It’s hard to say what’s fair – but I’m guessing that, accurately listed on eBay, the camera would have gone for no more than $200-$300, purely as a “shelf queen” collectible.

So what is wrong with the camera?  Is it salvageable, or will it be consigned to a bookshelf forever?  A bit of web searching revealed the likely problem: the shutter that is supposed to cover the film when the camera is in its “cocked” position is full of tiny holes.  So with the help of this website, I decided to go in for a closer look:


This camera loads from the bottom, so taking it apart was the only way to get a closer look at both sides of the shutter curtains.  This is the front of the shutter that sits in front of the film when the camera is not cocked:


I was surprised to see, when I flipped it over, that it appeared someone had already tried painting some sort of black substance over the back of the curtain, and it had flaked off in several places.  Also, some parts of it scraped off sort of like wax – almost semi-liquid.  It looks like black paint.


When I cocked the camera, I could see that the other shutter curtain is also red, but the red side faces the other way (toward the back of the camera).  And some sort of gummy substance had been spread on that as well (glue?)


And the forward-facing side of that shutter is cream/manila-colored, just like the other shutter (where the black paint has peeled off) and someone appears to have attempted daubing paint (?) on this side to repair pinholes as well.


The good part about taking apart a Leica IIIc like this is it allows you to shine a light through the shutter, and really see just how much is reaching the film when it should be fully covered.  The first photo is the shutter curtain that shows when the camera is not cocked – the repair job that was previously attempted appears to have worked, as light only gets through in the places where it has flaked off.  So maybe a touch-up with a similar substance would do the trick?


The other shutter curtain, however, was in horrendous shape – and fully explained why I had gotten the pictures I was getting.  I include another photo below for reference, with the contrast amped up a bit so you can see the areas where light is being let through more clearly.



After a bit of rotating and flipping to get the image to be aligned the same as the shutter, you can clearly see that the red cloth and the black paint, or whatever it is, do a pretty effective job blocking the light.

So the big question is, if I paint only the non-red side of the shutters (and let them dry/cure properly), can I preserve (somewhat) the “collectible” nature of the camera, while making it actually usable?  Am I increasing or decreasing the value of the camera?  I think painting over the red part would be a shame, but I want to make sure all the pinholes are properly sealed.  So the material I decide to use will be key.

If you’re interested in how this turns out, stay tuned – I’ll follow up once I’ve taken a stab at this and put it back together.

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Found Film: The Alberts, Summer and Fall 1951

The story of Raymond Albert’s family, as told through his lost and found photos, continues as we enjoy a late summer in Rumford, Maine around 1951-ish.  There is no real theme to tie these photos together – they come from three different rolls, each of which only had a few turn out well for some reason.  The photographer’s “success rate” is much better on most of the other rolls.  But I’ll just share the photos in no particular order.

I’ll start with a portrait of the family dog, who only appears on one or two of the twenty rolls in the collection:

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

The ladies enjoy mild temperatures out on the porch at 241 Knox Street, and St. John’s Church is in the background. And the kids play in the fresh air on outdoor toys. I wonder if they were bummed because there was no internet.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

…and it’s somebody’s 6th birthday!  Pretty fancy cake….

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

I thought this old car parked on Knox street was worth sharing, though it’s pretty dark. I tried to lighten it up a bit but the negative is pretty damaged.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

…an outing with Grandma, Aunt and Uncle (who enjoy clowning around). Note also the tie.  You don’t see ties like that anymore nowadays.

The waterfall may or may not be in the same place as the group photos; it shows up several times in the collection of photos but I haven’t managed to identify it.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Finally, Louise poses with her doll and stuffed animal collection; and we end with a nice (though a bit dark) portrait of Louise.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

Raymond Albert's Photos - Rolls 7-8-9-10

To see other posts about the Alberts, check out this link.  To see more of Raymond Albert’s photos on Flickr, check out this album.

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Big Photo Contest Win!

No, it wasn’t me.  Although I did get an “honorable mention.”

We used to tease my wife Anne over her insistence on using a camera that had long surpassed its obsolescence date.  Until one day it was mysteriously found inside the (clothes) washer, and she was forced to upgrade her photographic equipment.  And for the last year or so that she has been practicing with a shiny modern Nikon, on photowalks in Chennai and on our trips abroad.

Last weekend was the “prize-giving” for Global Adjustment’s 17th annual expatriate photo contest, and all that practice, an eye for a good photo – and we take credit for insisting she get a new camera – all paid off.  Two 2nd place category winners, and the contest’s overall best photo!

The “Faces” category 2nd place winner:
Faces 3

“Yours truly” participating in a daily pigeon feeding at Marina Beach, which took 2nd place in the “Into India” category:
Into India 4

And the overall “best photo” winner. Wondering what she’s looking at?
Faces 4

As for me, I got an honorable mention for the following submission:

Durga Procession

But I get to share Anne’s prizes. Congrats to all the contest winners!

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Varanasi: The View from Mother Ganga

Varanasi, India is, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.  Also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi, the city’s identity is inseparable from the River Ganges, along whose left bank the city of just over 1 million residents is nestled.


If you visit Varanasi, one of the experiences not to be missed is the early morning river cruise.  Many hotels, like ours, will offer this for free so you don’t have to hassle with the local boatmen.  We met at the boat around 5:30, well before the sun was visible, and slowly headed upstream.

Morning on the Ganges

As we were visiting the city during a major Hindu festival, there was more debris in the river than normal, and much of the smaller bits of refuse that was the byproduct of countless rituals performed upriver would coalesce and form a scum where many of the boats were tied up. As the morning activity picked up, most of this was jostled around and began to be swept downriver. At the same time, people were beginning to gather at the various ghats (stair approaches to the river) to engage in the variety of activities that are carried out each day along the banks of Mother Ganga.

Boats on the Ganges

Boats on the Ganges

Merchants were already bringing fully loaded boats to contribute to the vast amount of wood required for the funeral pyres that burn upriver 24 hours a day.

Funereal Firewood

Some of the sadhus, or Hindu holy men, who have congregated in this city in search of moksha, or the release from the endless cycle of death and rebirth, can be seen walking along the river. Pictured below is one of the more frequently photographed sadhus – in fact, if you type the word in google images, you’ll be able to pick out a number of photographs of him.


As the people began to congregate at the various ghats along the river, so too did the number of boats carrying tourists continue to grow. Sometimes the other tourists were more interesting to watch than the activity in the ghats.

Boats on the Ganges



As the sun rose over the opposite bank of the river, it bathed everything in an orange light that made for excellent photographic opportunities.

Sunrise on the Ganges


Eventually, as the sun continued to rise, our boatman allowed his oars to rest in the water, and the current of Hinduism’s most spiritually important river slowly began to carry us back downstream.


As we headed back, I snapped a few photos with another camera, using black-and-white film. As it turned out later, I had made a mistake re-loading a roll of film and ended up with a roll of double exposures. I thought a couple of them turned out kind of cool, and throw them in at the end of this post.




This is the fifth and final post in a series about our trip to Varanasi.  See previous posts“Varanasi by Night”“Death on the Ganges.” or “Varanasi:  In and Around Town.” or “Varanasi:  Walking the Ghats”.  You can also browse other Varanasi photos in my Varanasi album on Flickr. 

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Found Film: The Alberts Go Fishing

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 7

It’s time to share another batch of Raymond Albert’s photos. In this batch, Raymond (shown above) goes on a fishing trip with some friends and family. I’m not sure where this lake is – probably in Maine, but there are so many…

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 7

Here a shot of the inside of the boat:
Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 7

Fishing fashions of circa-1950:Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 7

This batch of photos also contains some of the best pictures in the entire collection (of 20 rolls), in my opinion. Here are the first two:Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 7

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 7

I think this second photo is just great. I don’t know why. I love how the (early morning?) light comes across from the right side and highlights the girls’ faces.

The second roll I’m sharing today is just an assortment of photos. This is Grandpa, who’s into woodworking, and appears to have had a pretty impressive woodworking shop:

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 6

Despite having a collection of about 600 photos that appear to span 7 or 8 years, there are few hints to tell how the people in the photos are related to each other. The man above is likely either Raymond’s father, or father-in-law. Interesting body language though. Were they having a heated debate on Truman’s handling of the Korean War? Or did they just not get along? And I wish I knew the background on that tie!

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 6

Here’s a picture of the girls – Louise (left) and her (cousin?) They spend quite a bit of time together during their childhood.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 6

And I’ll end with this shot of “fun on the farm” – the final of the three “favorites” I mentioned earlier.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 6

To see other posts about the Alberts, check out this link.  To see more of Raymond Albert’s photos on Flickr, check out this album.

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Camera Test: Ansco Readyflash

Ansco Readyflash

The Ansco Readyflash – so named because it’s “ready for flash” (but I don’t have one) via two connectors on the camera – is about as simple a box camera as you could probably come up with.  It’s made of sheet metal and plastic, and takes 8 exposures on a roll of 620 film, 6 x 9 cm each.  It feels like an empty tuna can in your hands and makes roughly the same sound when dropped.  Yet is surprisingly durable, and takes much better pictures than I expected.  Mine is difficult to open and close, and if you look closely you’ll see that there’s a chip out of the plastic part of the case.  But it seems to work just fine.

Lighthouse View

The shots above and below were taken from the top of the lighthouse at Chennai’s Marina beach – above is the fish market, along with a long line of boats and the 2004 typhoon-damaged housing many of the fishing people live in.  I’m not sure what the complex below is – it may be the police headquarters – but it’s just west of the lighthouse.

Lighthouse View

This is a shot of the beach, and all of the debris produced, behind the fish market.


Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to prevent double exposures, so you have to pay attention to what you’re doing and develop a routine for advancing the film.

Double Exposure

I particularly like the next two shots – this is one of the many vendor carts that “litter” Marina Beach, left stranded in a section of beach that is still flooded from last week’s rains.  Below that is a row of granite “balls” placed at different locations along the beach to prevent vehicles from entering certain areas.  They can be used for creative shots in the right light.  I especially like how you can see where the focus falls off from the center of the (non-adjustable) lens, and the vignetting in the corners – effects some people will add to digital photos using software.  Cheap lenses of this type (think “Diana” camera) are all the rage in the lomography crowd.  You can easily spend a hundred bucks on a plastic Diana.  Or pick up one of these for under ten.


Granite Balls

Finally, check out this old carousel, which provides man and animal alike respite from the sun!

Carousel Shade

For another review/photo examples of this camera, check out this guy’s blog post.  For the record, I used the same film (coincidence – Ilford FP4 125) but developed it for 10 minutes at 70F in HC-110, dilution B.

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Found Film: The Alberts and the Korean War

We met the Alberts a few weeks ago, when I introduced Raymond and his family, whom we know from a box of about 20 developed rolls of film Raymond left behind recently.  This installment appears to have been taken around 1950, and daughter Louise is about 4-5 years old.  I’m guessing the Korean War is ongoing.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 3

This is Hosmer Field, in Rumford, Maine, where the family lived at this time.  No idea what’s going on, but it clearly involves the military.  The stands are packed and families are out on the grass watching military marching bands perform and drill.  For comparison, here is Hosmer Athletic Complex, much more recently, from an article about flooding.


Later in the roll, I love this shot of who I believe to be Raymond, fishing.  Fishing was such a more formal occasion back then.  Slacks, tie and sweater vest.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 3

Here we have a photo of Louise in a cute sailor suit. I think people in the ’50s and ’60s were also big on dressing their kids in sailor suits. Those are the pictures grown men keep hidden years later.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 3

This appears to be three generations, following mom’s (Fisher) side of the family. They are posing on a bridge over a river. Can you identify it?

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 3

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 3

This appears to be some sort of vacation house belonging to Grandma Fisher. If you look closely, you can see “Cranberry Lane” just below the roof. Another shot from the short end of the house shows a sign “Andy” on the porch above the door. I couldn’t find anything on the ‘net to suggest where this is.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 3

Moving on to the next roll, there was a whole series of wonderful family photos; here are a couple of examples:

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 5

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 5

Nearly all of these people would be long gone by now. But Louise is still around! She lives in California. Here she is talking on a phone. Which doesn’t fit in your pocket.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 5

And – apropos for today – Halloween!!

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 5

Lastly, the return of a war hero. This would have been during the Korean War, though there could still have been people returning from World War II at this time (things moved more slowly back then). But most likely the Korean War. A wartime loss would have impacted a small town like this, as most people would have known the soldier or sailor returning from war, and much of the town would have turned out.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 5

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 5

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 5

Here is a separate photo of the Rumford rail station with the Rumford paper mill in the background (1919) – which Mike found for me on Flickr.  Paper production was one of the main (no pun intended) employers in Rumford – in fact Raymond Albert, who took these photos, worked in one.

Depot 1919

And thus ends another installment in the Albert Family’s “found film” series.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 5

You can see the previous installment, which gives a bit of history we have been able to glean from the photos, here.  And you can browse through all the photos, including many I didn’t post, here.

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Varanasi: Walking the Ghats

In previous posts I’ve talked about the “ghats” of Varanasi.  People keep asking me, “What exactly IS a ghat, anyway?”

Wilted Flowers

Basically it’s a series of steps leading down to the river.  We spent hours walking along the ghats. And not just because walking parallel to the stairs is much easier than walking up and down them. But we observed first-hand that the nearly 100 ghats of Varanasi are used for lots of different things.  Some are used for kite flying:

Kite Flying


Dog Days of Summer

Getting access to the river:

Holy Cow

Playing marbles with a friend:

Banks of the Ganges

Reading a good book:


Taking pictures:

River View

Improving your graffiti art skills:


Having a chat with the neighbors from your window:


Or grooming each other:


Among the many impressive buildings that overlook the ghats, and the Ganges, is the Alamgir Mosque – a colossal building which is said to be the largest building built on the banks of the river.  We were greeted by the mosque’s caretaker, Rashid, who explained the history of the mosque, as it had been handed down to him by his father and grandfather, who had also been caretakers.

Alamgir Mosque

If you look carefully at the photo above, you will see where two minarets once rose from either corner. Rashid explained that one of the minarets had collapsed in the 1940s, and then years later, the Indian government had removed the other out of fears it might be growing unstable as well. At this link you can see how it looked with both minarets.  Although the vast majority of the people living around the mosque are Hindu, there are still enough people to make it an actively used mosque.

Alamgir Mosque
This is the third in a series of posts about our trip to Varanasi.  See previous post“Varanasi by Night”“Death on the Ganges.” or “Varanasi:  In and Around Town.” You can also browse other Varanasi photos in my Varanasi album on Flickr. 

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Andy Shepherd’s Camera


The Shaw-Harrison company manufactured these simple, bakelite cameras from 1959 to 1972 in a variety of colors – along with an identical model called the Valiant 620. I picked this one up on eBay for a few bucks because it was advertised as still containing a roll of film. When it arrived, I discovered that the film was only on exposure number 6. With 620 film, there are normally 8 exposures – but this is a rare 620 camera that takes square pictures, so still half the roll was left!

When the camera arrived, I saw that the previous owner had etched his name into the side of the camera:


Was this the inspiration for the film “Toy Story”?

I thought it would be fun to finish Andy’s film roll, and then develop the whole thing.  Who knows what would be on this film – maybe from 50, 60 years ago!

Below are the photos I snapped.  It seems the film had become damaged somehow – maybe the camera was opened at some point?

img020 img025 img026 img027

Sadly, it seems that too much time had passed between Andy Shepherd’s last use of the camera, and my first. This is all I could glean from the photos he had taken, prior to moving on to other cameras. Or interests altogether.



Sorry, Andy. I tried my best.

You can get all the different colors of this camera on eBay for less than $20 each. Or, if you are patient, maybe even less than $10 each. Or you can buy them on Etsy for ridiculous prices – from nearly $50 to as much as $125.  If only Andy hadn’t etched his name into the side of this one….

If you really like the look of this camera (without Andy’s name), you can get a poster of half a Sabre for your home.  The poster costs $67.  How much for a picture of the whole camera?

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Varanasi: In and Around Town


There is an endless number of interesting faces, places and scenes to photograph in Varanasi. Last week I shared some photos of the ghats along the river – where most of the tourists hang out; but in this city of 3 million and its environs you can go just about anywhere in the city and find things abuzz with all sorts of activity. In this post we go “inland” – into the streets and alleyways of Varanasi, to the Ram Nagar fort, and to the nearby town of Sarnath, the site of Buddhism’s earliest days.

Dueling bike rickshaws

We happened to be in town during an interesting confluence of religious holidays. The Hindu “Durga Puja” festival, which was winding up on the 3/4/5 of October, culminates in processions to carry large Durga idols for immersion in the Ganges. This was to be closely followed by “Bakrid” (Eid ul Adha), the Feast of Sacrifice, on October 6. In preparation for this holiday, Muslim celebrants were bringing animals from throughout the city for the annual ritual sacrifice. Busy times in Varanasi!

Durga Procession

Durga Procession

Above, this Durga procession could be heard from half a mile away as they came down the street with a group of drummers.  Just in front of me, they paused to light a firecracker – and the kids started jumping in the air when they spotted me taking pictures. We followed them down to the beach (photo below), where they performed the traditional immersion. I’m not going to pretend to be any kind of expert on the overall festival – you can read more about it here – but from what I observed, it involves setting up “pandals” (temporary, tentlike temples where the Durga idols are installed), we saw straw effigies in wooden frames and copious amounts of flowers being offered to the river (assume this was related), and then in the end these idols follow the other offerings into the Ganges.  It seems like a lot for the river to absorb, but just downstream, we saw enterprising men in boats collecting the floating wood frames and taking them apart, likely to be repurposed for some other use.

Durga Procession

The group of boys below was going in the opposite direction, and they seemed to be having a great time piled into the back of the cart.  When they spotted me taking pictures, two of them came running over and insisted I take their portrait!



One of the places we went that day (we were out and about for 9 hours!) was the nearby Ramnagar fort. The part tourists are allowed to see was not all that spectacular – it houses a museum with extremely dusty old cars and lots of weapons, and there is a small temple in the back, through a passageway filled with BATS!

Ram Nagar


The Ramnagar Fort is the residence of the Kashi Naresh, the cultural patron of Varanasi and a member of the royal family of a Brahmin state which currently no longer exists.  I didn’t know this when we visited the fort, though – but now I know why the guards there didn’t allow us to wander around the grounds.

Ram Nagar

Above:  Ramnagar Fort – can you spot the monkey?

Finally, we also learned that Varanasi is also an important city for Buddhism. When, at the age of 35, Siddhartha Gautama – i.e. the “Supreme Buddha” of our age, reached enlightenment, he went to a forest near Varanasi to preach his first sermon, and met his first disciples. This forest is the Deer Park of Sarnath, about 13 km from Varanasi.  The Chaukhandi Stupa, which is believed to mark the spot where he met his first companions/disciples, is shown below.  It’s about 1500 years old.

Chaukhandi Stupa

And no description of our day exploring Varanasi and its surroundings would be complete without mentioning Buli, our rickshaw driver. With a pink scarf around his head, he offered to drive us all around the area, and asked a very fair price for doing so. Before we got started, he pulled over to load up with betel nut, and then we were on our way.  Every now and then he’d spontaneously start singing “la-la-la” and chuckle, “My music.”  He suggested places to go and told us about admission prices and how to avoid the odd scam here and there.  The photo below suggests he was unfriendly, but in fact he was extremely jovial and friendly, but when he was driving (betel nut aside), he was completely focused on his work.  If you go to Varanasi and want to hire him for the day, give him a call at 9335029645.

Rickshaw Driver

This is the third in a series of posts about our trip to Varanasi.  See previous post “Varanasi by Night” or “Death on the Ganges.”  You can also browse other Varanasi photos in my Varanasi album on Flickr. Like the one below.

Things you see in India

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Found Film: Introducing the Alberts

Raymond Albert was born on March 20, 1926 to Willa and Annie (Chenard) Albert, who were born around 1880.  According to the 1940 census, at age 14, he and his family lived at 318 Waldo Street, in Rumford, Maine (photo from Google Earth in 2014).

318 Waldo

He had two older sisters: Theresa (Legere), who had already moved out by this time, as she was 10 years older than Raymond; and Lillian, who was 16.  He also had a younger brother named David, age 8.

Raymond eventually married Cecile Fisher on July 9, 1945.  They bought a house not too far away from his childhood home, at 241 Knox Street, where they raised their daughter, Louise, who was born soon after they married (the white house to the right foreground is 241 as it currently appears)

241 knox

One of Raymond’s hobbies, besides his love of automobiles and fishing, was photography.  This post is the first in a series of “found film” post that chronicle the photos he took over a 6 -8 year period, from about 1948 until the mid- to late 1950s, and what we know about him based on these photos and a bit of googling here and there.  The photographs came to me as a box of already-developed negatives, dusty from having been packed away for the last 60+ years.

Below is the person I believe to be Raymond.  Because he appears in so many of the photos, it may have been his wife who was the photographer; but it is Raymond’s name that appears on one of the film rolls.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 1

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 1

This is Louise, in what appears to be a 1948 Ford Mercury. And below, I’m guessing this is Raymond, Louise and Raymond’s parents, and a picture where Raymond swaps places with Cecile. Any idea what dam this might be?   Update: this is the Rumford Falls dam – see a contemporary photo below these!

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 1

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 1

Rumford, Maine

In July 1949, it appears that Raymond’s sister Lillian may have gotten married.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Here’s how we know the date:

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

The reception may have been held at a local community center where bingo could also be played:

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

However, it seems the wedding itself was held at St. John’s (Catholic) Church.

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

This church was literally just a couple of blocks down the street from the Albert home on Knox Street.  In fact, if you scroll back up to the top of the page, you can see the steeple in the distance.  The church catered primarily to French-speaking (Acadian) people living in the area.

It seems the Alberts also had relatives in the country – perhaps Raymond’s grandmother?

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Sheep! Cows!

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Lobster feast!

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

The women of the family pose on a trip – perhaps to Lameque, New Brunswick? And what are those odd ruins?

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Raymond Albert's Photos - Roll 2

Update: Thanks to Mike for identifying these “ruins” in the last photo! Check out this one for another view of harvesting peat moss in Canada.

Want to see more photos in this series?  Check out this collection on Flickr or visit the next post on the Alberts.

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Death along the Ganges


As Americans – like most “Westerners” – we are for the most part, relatively isolated from death.  Not that we don’t have people close to us dying – we just don’t deal with the specifics.  I reflected on this just a few weeks ago, when we lost our longtime family dog in India, and suddenly had to deal with specifics.  In the US and in Europe, when you have a pet put to sleep at the vet, you just leave the animal and it comes back to you as a container of ashes (if that’s what you want) – or you can take it home and bury it, if it’s a small animal.  It’s similar with humans – most of the specifics are dealt with by specialists you hire to do this for you.  Most people have a relatively sterile funeral service, where you look at someone who has been fixed up and filled with chemicals to avoid anyone having to deal with any awkward smells or sights or other unpleasantness, or maybe you look at a closed box that gets lowered in the ground and covered up after you leave, or you end up with an urn.

In India, death is a much more intimate occasion.

Visiting Varanasi recently, one of Hinduism’s holiest cities, we reflected on the separation between the living and all of the business of death in our own culture.  The ghats of Varanasi – nearly 100 of them – are allocated for different purposes – bathing, washing clothes, and other things – and two of them are dedicated exclusively to cremation.  On the banks of Mother Ganga, the funeral pyres burn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Manikarnika Ghat

The process is simple and unadorned; somber, yet not overtly one of sadness. Because to die in Varanasi, be ritually purified in the holy waters of the Ganges, and then return to the elements, is a fortuitous occasion – one which eases the release from moksha, the cycle of rebirth.  Relatives (usually only male) of the deceased family member carry the body, wrapped in cloth, to the site on a bamboo stretcher.  Led by the nearest male relative, identifiable by his shorn head and white garb, the body is dipped into the waters of the Ganges and then placed on the steps to dry.  With the assistance of funeral workers – frequently from the Dom caste, fees are exchanged for an amount and mixture of wood (the more sandalwood or other aromatics, the better) from one of the endless piles stacked around the site, and the pyre is prepared.  The closest male lights the fire from the nearby temple  – whose flame is said to have been burning continuously for the last 3,000 years – and lights the pile, prepared with ghee to catch fire more quickly.

Manikarnika Ghat

Friends, family members, workers and tourists quietly watch the process as dogs, cows and goats wander undisturbed throughout the area.  The heat from multiple pyres burning simultaneously can be stifling as smoke and ash billow out over the river where the ash leaves a film that moves slowly downstream.  Boats on the river in front of the ghat are loaded to the top with wood.  Every now and then a new group appears with another body.  There are no appointments, yet the process appears to flow smoothly.  It takes about three hours.

Manikarnika Ghat

Manikarnika Ghat

Not everyone may be cremated.  Children under the age of five, sadhus (holy men), people who have died of snakebite, and pregnant women need no further purification.  Instead, a stone is attached to the shrouded body and a boatman is paid to carry them out onto the river where they are consigned to the river.  Yet the river flows, things move around, and the stone may come detached, allowing the body to rise to the surface.  Death is not for the squeamish.  But the cycle of life and death continues in Varanasi, as it has for thousands of years.  And the nearby electric crematorium languishes unused and in disrepair.

Manikarnika Ghat

For an excellent photo essay on the subject, refer to this National Geographic article.

For more of my photos of Varanasi, refer to this Flickr album.  Other posts about Varanasi can be found here: Death on the Ganges; Varanasi by Night

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Varanasi by Night

We finally had the opportunity to visit Varanasi, India – also known as Benares or Kashi – one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism and Jainism, and also important in the development of Buddhism.  Varanasi, a city of 3 million on the western bank of the Ganges River, is said to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

There are plenty of nice hotels in Varanasi, but we chose a “heritage hotel” on the Ganges in order to be at the center of activity and to better experience the atmosphere of the city.  The view is worth it:

River View

The hotel, located on one of the central ghats (there are nearly 100) is only reachable by boat. We were dropped off by taxi at the northernmost ghat, were picked up by the hotel’s boat, and enjoyed a late-afternoon ride down the Ganges. That night, we were invited to take a boat ride upriver to the city’s most spectacular Ghat, the Dashashwamedh Ghat, where Hindu priests perform a nightly dedication to Lord Shiva, River Ganga (the Ganges), Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe.

On the way there, we enjoyed a spectacular (just post-)sunset ride.  See some of the photos:

Dusk in Varanasi

Dusk in Varanasi

We were instructed to keep our hands inside the boat to avoid getting them crushed, so thick were the boats on the river. Boys in rowboats were selling onlookers small floating candles to send downstream, while hawkers stepped from boat to boat selling bottles of cold water. We were pretty far out and there are better videos than ours, but this was our experience (very much shortened:

Still images of the ceremony can be found at this link.

Afterward, a meal on the rooftop restaurant at the hotel.  And our waiter explained that this evening was the last in a multi-day Hindu festival (there are so many we lose track – and they vary between cities and regions!), and he encouraged us to get out and have a look.  So we did.  We wandered around the alleys behind the hotel:


and eventually managed to find our way to the main road, which was packed with people heading in all directions.


In fact, I recorded a short video clip to try and convey our impressions. The sound is actually from the streets, not music I added afterward.

Finally after a long day we decided we’d had enough excitement for one day, so we headed back. On our way, we saw these guys just above street level:

Red Macaques

For more photos of our trip to Varanasi, check out this album on Flickr.  Other posts about Varanasi can be found here: Death on the Ganges; In and Around Town 

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Project Underwood: Typewriter Restoration

One evening about a year ago, my (younger) daughter and I were checking out typewriters on eBay.  We share an interest in “retro” machines (this is how my camera craze started, and her last Christmas present was a record player), and inexplicably, we both wanted – needed – a typewriter.  So we both picked one out and waited.  Got great deals.  Hers worked.  Mine didn’t.  Doesn’t.  Here’s what it looked like close-up after having removed some parts.

photo (2)

So I got it in my head somehow I was going to restore this thing.  Take it apart, clean it piece by piece, and put it together, a smoothly oiled and operating machine.  I carefully researched it and determined that to this day, I’m still not sure what it is.  According to its serial number (4808494-11), it should be a #6 made in 1938.  But then there is this website with pictures that lists it as a “late 1940s” model.  (For $1,295!!  Mine cost like 30 bucks plus shipping).

So I started to take the thing apart.  The carriage was all crooked and wouldn’t slide properly, the shift function didn’t work, the ribbon wouldn’t lift up when a key was struck, basically the thing didn’t work at all.  I removed about 15-20 major components and took pictures along the way to help remember the sequence.  Then I was faced with the prospect of disassembling all of the small pieces and levers inside.  I consulted somebody on about next steps, and he cautioned against it – saying the typical typewriter like this consists of 2-3,000 individual pieces!  So I took his advice.

I discovered that the metal frame of the typewriter had a crack in it.  I bought some industrial strength epoxy and glued the thing back together.  As for the rest of the problems, the typewriters of this era are amazing pieces of machinery.  Designing them must have been an endless trial-and-error exercise, but the end product is a triumph in human ingenuity!  Anything that’s wrong with it, you can basically look at it and fiddle around with the different levers and springs and connections, and figure out how it’s supposed to work.  So piece by piece I was able to restore most of its basic functions.

Next I used a vacuum, toothbrushes, rags and q-tips to clean it as thoroughly as possible.  Doing that helped it work even better.  As I cleaned it, I put it back together, somehow, using the pictures I had taken.  The end result is a typewriter that almost works, and simultaneously adds like 100 pounds to our weight allowance.  I could not figure out how the little bell rings.  And there just isn’t quite enough clearance for the carriage to go back and forth smoothly.  And a piece of trim is missing, as well as the carriage knob on the right side.  But it looks pretty nice:




So now I have a partly working typewriter.

I’ve just bid on another exemplar of the same model on eBay….I just know, if I have two, I can make one working copy….

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Found Film Friday: Only Briefly Misplaced

Every week I post a roll of “found” film that has been forgotten in someone’s attic or inside a camera, often for half a century.  You never know what you’re going to end up with though.  With the old spools, it’s pretty clear that the pictures will be pretty old, and often yield a few surprises from yesteryear.  Half the time, I don’t get any pictures at all – and this gets worse the older the film.

With 35mm film, the success rate is much higher, and often the photos are 30-40 years old.  But you never really know for sure.

This week’s roll came from an admittedly pretty shiny roll of Kodak 35mm film.  But I was still hopeful something cool would come out of it.  I held up the negatives to the light, and saw a bunch of pictures kind of like this:


I thought, “boring” and wasn’t going to even bother scanning them, until I realized it was a whole bunch of shots of the same building from the same spot – a sort of “time lapse” of some building under construction. So I decided to scan them after all, and thought it would be fun to do something different, and string them all together in a time-lapse sort of video. So here is what I ended up with:

Hmmm…wouldn’t it be interesting to try and figure out what building this is?  Gee, I wonder….  As it turns out, on the very last frame, a clue appears.  Note the blue sign above the back end of the white pickup truck on the right.  Yup, it’s a Courtyard Marriott?


Where, you ask?  Well, thanks to the clue offered by the “Maine Seafood” truck that appears partway through, it turns out that this is the Waterfront Courtyard Marriott in Portland, Maine.  And now I can figure out when it was built, so I can determine just how long this “found film” has been lost.

So it turns out….six months.  They completed this thing like in May 2014.  Which is why this was really just “misplaced film.”

But I still wonder, why did someone in 2014 go through the trouble of taking pictures of this thing from the same spot over and over, using a film camera, and then simply discard the roll.  Was it to document construction for insurance purposes?  In case the thing burned down or something?  I’d like to know.

And that’s this week’s “found film” roll.  Blast from the past!

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It’s 1914 and Everyone’s a Photo Critic


One hundred years ago this month, much of the world was at war.  But in the United States – which would eventually mobilize 4 million military personnel – public opinion in 1914 was still firmly on the side of neutrality.  This was very evident thumbing through this 100-year-old issue of “The Camera” magazine, published in Philadelphia.  Filled with photographs by Hamburg-based German photographer Rudolf Dührkoop, the only mention of the war is an editorial that claims the war was being used as an excuse to raise the price of photographic materials and chemicals.

Within a few years, images of war – many of them taken by American soldiers – would become much more common.  But in 1914, American photographers were more focused on portraits (Ansco was sponsoring a “50 loveliest women” photo contest – see the advertisement below) and on bright, sunny landscapes.  This was very evident from the content of one of “The Camera” magazine’s regular features, “From our Print Criticism Department.” In this feature, readers were encouraged to send in copies of their (photographic) work, to be criticized by the magazine’s editors.  It’s fascinating, not only because it gives an insight into the kinds of subjects photographers 100 years ago were interested in photographing (nothing at all to do with the ongoing war!), but also for the nature of the criticism that was offered.


In 1914, photography was still young, and limited to people who could afford the materials, could understand basic chemistry, and had the free time to devote to this new art form.   Rather than snap hundreds of photos and sift out a handful, photographers would have to painstakingly set up a scene, snap a few shots, and wait until hours later (at best) to see if they had succeeded.  Despite the differences in equipment, much of what defined a “good” photograph was the same then as it is now.  So I thought for today’s blog post, I’d share a bunch of these verbatim (the copyrights are all expired).  And like the American photographers of 1914, we’ll just forget all about the war that was raging throughout much of the rest of the world.


Verdi Burton – “Lifting Fog.”  A very unusual subject and one of much interest.  The effect you have caught is possessed of sentiment and feeling, and shows your appreciation of the poetry of Nature.  It is a theme for a painter, and we realize that the natural view must have been particularly beautiful.  You deserve much commendation for getting a real impression direct from Nature and not in the way too many do by faking negative and print.  Impressionism in photography is as legitimate as it is in painting, but the true artist gives us Nature, not a gutta percha world reflected in a brass doorknob.  Your subject is a true transcript from nature, and therefore delightful to artistic perception.

(Nowadays we might see similar criticism of photographers who overdo Lightroom or Photoshop adjustments.  And “gutta percha”?  This was a type of Malaysian latex used to coat cables.  No idea what this had to do with photographs, especially when reflected in a brass doorknob…)


H.B. Long – “Allegheny Bridge.” A very good picture of the bridge, but we should prefer a view from it rather than of the structure itself, which can be of interest only to a civil engineer. The scenery around fairly pleads for its taking. The view must be beautiful. Let us have the scenery without the bridge. The technical quality of your work is most excellent, and the photograph is especially of value for local association.

(I suspect that a contemporary critic would have been more impressed, and called attention to the lines leading the eye to the upper right third…rather than suggesting maybe the photographer ought to have taken a picture of something completely different)


F. E. Irving. – “A Hillside View.”  As a whole your picture is not a good piece of composition, but it has, like most of us, some redeeming qualities.  In the first place, it is [not?] a very good photograph, and then, on examination, we discover that, like the puzzle pictures, it has a picture concealed and indeed a pleasing picture.  There is a good deal of artistic merit on the right side of the photograph.  We would suggest cutting off all of the view by a vertical line to the left of the two slender trees, so as to just enclose them in the scene.  You will thus have a picture 2 x 3 1/2 inches which you could enlarge and thereby secure a really fine piece of composition.

(“Your picture pretty much sucks, but there is a tiny piece in the corner that isn’t too bad – if you could please crop out 80% of it you should be fine.”  Seriously, I would question this critique, as the composition they suggest seems like the most bland part of the picture)


F. H. Legleitner – “An Interesting Letter.” Your negative is woefully undertimed, consequently the print is hard and lacking in detail. The pose is not natural, but constrained and the accessories very annoying to the eye, especially the pennant with the lettering in the half-introduced frame. Your model, judging even from your photograph with its imperfections, seems to us an excellent subject for portraiture, and under good conditions of illumination any good photographer would get charming results. In a word, you do not do justice to your good subject. Study proper illumination and do not be afraid to give 5 seconds exposure instead of a fraction, and do not illuminate with such strong light as you have done. Soften the light by means of tissue screens and do not crowd so much in your photograph when you are taking a portrait.

(Honestly, I didn’t think the picture was that bad.  The pennant was odd, I’ll admit)



Gustav Nelson – “Camp Life.”  There are too many unpleasant vertical and horizontal lines in your photograph, which you might have diminished in number or have gotten rid of entirely by a little exercise of taste, especially as your topic does not demand their introduction.  You might have made quite a picture of the group of men and the boats if you had concentrated your attention upon them.

(I would have left out the part about the lines and asked, “this is a picture of….?”  Oh, and your horizon is crooked.)


J. B. Gale – “Lilies.”  Your flower study is excellent and you have reproduced the texture of the lilies well.  The only fault is in the monotonous black background which detracts from the merits of the picture.  It is entirely too funereal and so unpleasantly suggests a use for which flowers of that variety are employed.  A graduated gray would have set the bunch off better and give it the atmosphere which, like all living things, it needs.


H. M. Branin – “Among the Quaking Aspen.”  Your tree study is a charming piece of composition and also a most excellent photograph.  The rendering of the different textures – trees, rocks, foliage and water is well and adequately reproduced.  We can discover no fault whatever with your picture and shall congratulate you for your artistic feeling.  With the colors of Nature your view must have been delightful.

(I like how they basically say, “the color we imagine was there but can’t yet photograph makes this an awesome photo.”)


Frank Zwinak – “Spring Sunshine.”  The composition has got some good features, but is rather too monotonous in the lighting.  It does not convey any spring sunshine or in fact sunshine at all.  Everything is in one uniform tone.

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Flower Collage

Here’s a fun photo project…and an idea I stole from my wife (I explained to her that I was improving on her idea – it didn’t go over well).  Go find a green space and see how many flowers you can discover.  Or bugs.  Or whatever.  And then make a photo collage out of them.

I went in our back yard here in Chennai, India – which is filled with both green things and bugs – and I didn’t realize how many different flowers there would be.  I was hoping for 16 if I really worked at it.  I ended up with 21, but then realized I would need 25 to make a perfect square.  So I went back out and actually found 5 more within about 10 minutes – often tiny overlooked ones.  Which was good, because one of the previous 21 had been a duplicate.

I took all the pictures with a wide-open aperture, in RAW format.  f/1.8 ended up making parts of the flowers blurry, so I switched it to f/2.2, which was much better.  Then I did a bit of fixing and cropping in lightroom, and then dragged them all into photoshop.  I cropped each photo square, changed the canvas size to 10 by 10 inches, and then changed each image size to 2 inches square, and copied them in as individual layers.  You can also do it in photoshop, and save the whole thing as a jpeg.

Flower Collage sunglow

And then, if you’re bored, you can play around with different effects for fun. Like this “grunge” effect.

Flower Collage grunge

Or this “brocade” texture.

Flower Collage texture 1

Anyway, it was a fun way to spend a few hours. My wife wasn’t too upset that I “stole” her idea. She ended up finding 27 kinds of flowers to my 25….

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Found Film Friday: Cowboys and RVs

It’s been a slow week for photography and blogging.  Last weekend we went to photograph and film the annual Ganesha Chathurti immersion of Ganesh idols in the sea.  I got some great video, but unfortunately can’t locate the video card I recorded it on.  So the only new post for this week is the weekly “found film” post.

This weeks’ film is a roll of size 620 Kodak Verichrome Pan film, which usually turns out pretty good pictures, even when it’s old.  I don’t believe this week’s roll is particularly old, as this appears to be a mid-1980s minivan:


I don’t imagine there were many people running around in the mid-1980s taking pictures with black-and-white medium format film (certainly more than there are nowadays, but still not many). This person wasn’t particularly skilled at the use of their camera. We have a few photos taken out of the car window while moving, mostly of a pretty barren landscape. They appear to have been driving around the American West.



And finally we have a whole string of pictures that run together, because the user failed to advance the film completely. But it makes for an interesting negative, I guess:


I’m working on another collection of negatives I’ve come across – this time from Maine. It’s about 20 rolls of film taken over the span of a few years, and I’m trying to get them in some sort of reasonable sequence that makes sense. Look for them in the coming weeks, but here is a teaser. The photos are from the late 1940s and early 1950s, but she’s holding a vest pocket kodak from the 1920s (or older).


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Found Film Friday: Country Outing


This week’s roll of “found film” came to me from near Binghamton, New York, where the Ansco company was located from the mid-1800s to around 1980. The spool was covered in rust, and the backing paper was stuck to the film so badly that I was unable to remove large strips of paper. So I loaded it on the spool and let it soak in water for a bit, then was able to remove most of the bits of paper and fibers that were stuck to it so I could develop it.


The only real clue to the age of this film – other than its size (116) – was the expiration date printed right on the box – June 1958!  So we can guess these photos were shot in the mid-1950s.  116 size film is 70mm wide, and a roll like this would provide eight 2½×4¼ exposures.  These are tricky to scan because of their size, but with a bit of patience and some Photoshop enhancement to bring out some of the amazing detail on these large negatives, I think these 60-year-old photos, never seen by the photographer, turned out pretty well!  Most of the white areas are from fibers that I was unable to remove.

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

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A Brief History of Photography…as of 1912.

img485I have a few old camera magazines – about a century old.  It’s fun to flip through them every now and then and consider how much has changed…and in some cases, how little has changed…in the field of photography.

The article below, from the December 1912 issue of “The Camera” magazine (cover above), recounts the history of photography from that time frame.  Nowadays with our digital, throw-away cameras worth hundreds of dollars (or more) that do all kinds of crazy things we don’t even know about, in order to produce perfect images that can then be altered and made to “look old” again, I think few people know how photography actually came to be.

And in spite of all the things which have changed, it’s still all about capturing light through a lens and a very small opening to produce tiny chemical reactions on a flat surface.  Oh, and the screw used to attach a camera to a tripod is still exactly the same size.

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Dispatch From Sierra Leone: Return Home

So, I’ve been back a week, but a lot has been going on.  I wanted to go back and share some final impressions of what was a fascinating, extremely challenging month in this small West African country I never imagined I’d go and visit (as an aside: under different circumstances, i.e. flights readily available and freedom to travel “upcountry”, I’d definitely go again, as a tourist!)

Here’s a final shot of the western side of the Freetown peninsula, seen from the Country Lodge Hotel:


And this is what happens when you zoom in. There’s always all these ships sitting out there in the water. I never figured out what kind of ships they were or what they’re doing – they really don’t appear to move much.

Ships at Sunset
I also managed to collect some aerial video from roughly the same vantage point, and turned that into a short video clip.  Yes, those are vultures being filmed from above, at around the 1 minute mark!

Finally, the trip home, due to all the airlines that have (in my view, irresponsibly) suspended service to Sierra Leone, was a grueling, 40+ hour ordeal that took me through Casablanca, Zurich and Dubai, back to India (my suitcase took the same trip, but a few days later). I took advantage of one of these long layovers and ventured out into Dubai. Sharing the handful of photos I took there, if you’re interested. Click on the right side of the screen to see all 7 or so photos.

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Found Film Friday: Portraits with Grandma

This week’s found film was inside a camera – a Kodak Brownie Target Six-20, as seen below.

Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

This camera was manufactured between 1946 and 1952 and sold for three and a half bucks. It gets its name from the film it used – 620 film, a variant of 120 film, basically just on a thinner spool. 120 film is still available today and can be easily spooled onto a 620 spool. In other words, this camera can still be used to take pictures.

I’m guessing the photos on this roll were taken well after the original manufacture date. Mainly I’m guessing that from the hairstyle of the girl in these photos, which remind me of junior high in the late 1970s. Have a look at the old yearbooks!

Found Film:  Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

Found Film:  Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

Found Film:  Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

Found Film:  Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

I’m assuming this is a granddaughter and two different grandmothers?  Not sure what is on the front of the girl’s dress – it doesn’t look symmetrical.  And I’m guessing the film was only partly used, which is why the bottom half of the last picture was ruined.

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