Sunday, August 21, 2022

Instant photography fun with a Polaroid SX-70

Godzilla and the Multiverse of Raptors (2022)
Polaroid SX-70 Sonar

Editors note: Um, sorry I posted the HTML version of the blog entry. My Chromebook ran out of battery and crashed while I was working on the post. I posted what came back on reboot under the assumption that no one would look at my poor wheezing blog. 17 of you did. oops.

Well, here I am again - typing an entry on the 23rd birthday of the Blogger platform. Once upon a time, I stopped blogging because of the rewarding Google+ photo community experience, and then that died. Prior to death, I started an Instagram account to diversify my photo sharing outlets. In this summer of 2022, it's clear that Instagram is making a slow and painful journey to irrelevance; especially for the still photographers that built their platform.

First Instagram post while G+ was in the process of dying

That's a long way of introducing the odd and wonderful group of photographic rebels who are playing with instant cameras on Twitter, of all places. Why Twitter? Well, the hashtags work and discussions are dynamic. You also don't have to deal with the worst UI in existence on a phone. This delightful event(?) was organized by the Shitty Camera Challenge. Whoever runs that account calls it "a photographic cult, run by cats". Check out the merch at

You will not regret checking out the #InstantRegret hashtag on Twitter. Users are posting photos from Polaroids of every description, large format cameras with instant backs, Instax and third-party cameras for that film, and thermal printer cameras designed for kids. Yes, you read that right.

I dusted off a late '70s Polaroid SX-70 Sonar and bought film directly from Polaroid (formerly Polaroid/Impossible Project/something after that). With an ND filter in front of the lens, it can shoot more readily available Polaroid 600 film.

"How to make your kid look like a serial killer"
Tip from the SX-70 manual

Seven Foot Skeleton and Friends (two exposures)

Why the SX-70? Well, I have some circa 2016 Fujifilm FP-100C in a box *somewhere*. I would love to play with packfilm if I can find it. Conversely, the stockpile from six years ago is now worth around $85 a pack. That can pay for cool lenses or weird bodies I am coveting. 

A not real Polaroid from the now defunct Polamatic app

The SX-70 is an interesting experience. It was well-built and very expensive back in its time. This camera offers TTL viewing and a decent depth-of-field through an f8 lens. Yeah, it requires a ton of light. The shake warning indicator light comes on in a dappled, sunny backyard. The sonar focus works surprisingly well and a tripod cures any number of potential ills.

A happy accident with camera shake and partial overexposure.

Shooting outside in anything but hard daylight can be a bit of an adventure. I have resorted to parking props and backgrounds directly in sunlight. That works surprisingly well.

Raptors serving their Alien master
Rumor has it that this is the guy that was beating on Baby Yoda

While I am likely to burn through a couple packs at the Greaserama car show, playing with my odd collection of toys has been enjoyable.

Portrait of a young Rancor as an artist (1)
Polaroid SX-70 Sonar

Portrait of a young Rancor as an artist (2)
Polaroid JobPro, a very different vibe than the SX-70

As the project continued, I have been playing more with indoor set pieces with lots of LED lights and a tripod. Polaroid film doesn't have a lot of latitude, so extreme lighting begets memorable renderings. The following are three lighting experiments with 'The Mandalorian Meet Godzilla'.

Oh, back at the beginning you witnessed those nasty little raptors abusing Doctor Strange. The indoor, tabletop set allowed for the creation of 'Astral Doctor Strange summoning Astral Baltan'.

Godzilla should have left Doctor Strange alone

As usual, I am at risk of letting perfectionism keep me from publishing this entry. Since I can add to it later, I'll finish up for now by showing a happy accident. As I was taking a photo of the seven foot tall skeleton who lives in the backyard, wind shifted a branch and changed the amount of sunlight being delivered to his head.
"Come with me if you want to live."

Will I be disciplined enough to actually keep this blog rolling? Maybe. The Instagram experience isn't getting better in a hurry.

As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A Vintage View of Model Trains

The Kansas City Union Station has a pretty amazing model train space with multiple layouts in multiple scales. The hobbyists who build and maintain the layouts pulled out all the stops for the holiday season. I had a lot of fun capturing images with a Panasonic GX8 and an adapted Kodak 63mm f2.7 Cine Ektar lens from a 16mm movie camera.

Given the way 16mm movie cameras were used, a lens like this isn't really built for speedy focusing. The glass is nice and is sharp in the center wide open. The mechanical bits are not smooth, even after stripping it down and removing the original gunked up animal fat lubricant. The built in macro helical and unique rendering makes this lens so fun to work with, anyway.

The old Kodak lenses were not inexpensive. Using an inflation calculator, this one would cost roughly $830 in 2020. A scan of the sales brochure can be found here: Kodak Cine Ektar via Pacific Rim Camera

Due to the pandemic, I didn't do a lot of my normal photography in 2020. I missed track meets, cross country season, county fairs, demo derbies, and countless street festivals. It was nice to have something fun to shoot. BTW, most of the trains in this series were moving. Maintaining anticipatory focus, exposure, and timing skills is important.

I love model train hobbyists. They added lots of fun details throughout.

I'm always happy to nail the focus on a moving object. Stopped down, image clarity is good to the edges of the frame with some vignetting, but where's the fun in that?

In this image, both trains were in motion. Unfortunately, nothing was running on the track where this bench full of HO scale passengers had fallen ;)

I have a particular fondness for the interurban trollies. The Kansas City neighborhood I grew up in had remnant rails from their old system.

This HO locomotive was moving way faster than one would expect for its type. It took me a few tries to get it mostly in focus. I stand firm in my belief that photographic perfection is boring. 

It's always Infrastructure Week in America's subways.

Ironically, this image was transferred from the Panasonic to my phone via WiFi.

That's all for today. I hope you enjoyed the trains. Who knows, I might get more consistent with this blog in 2021. Either way, thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

1943 Triumph NORM 6: The Cleaning

I received a slightly grubby and fully functional Triumph NORM 6 and decided to try spiffing it up with an automotive cleaning product. It had the usual dust, some pencil shavings, and that general scuzzy film that accumulates in the high touch areas. Being a totally scientific type, I went to Target and looked at what auto detailers were available.

The tricky thing about Triumph typewriters from this era is that the body is painted steel and the top section is molded Bakelite. I figured that a detailer made for modern paint and plastic should be okay on this machine. I'm very pleased with the results, and it only took ten minutes and one ArmorAll Ultra Shine Wash Wipe. I stayed away from the decals, and the rest was easy.

Here is a before image to give you an idea of what the ArmorAll product can do.

I wasn't planning on getting a second NORM 6, but my maroon machine is too rare for me to feel comfortable taking things apart to get the platen recovered. This one popped up on ebay and sold cheap. I've also been working on an Erika M. It's a beautiful machine, but I like the snappy feel of the Triumphs just a bit more.

According to the Typewriter Database, this machine was manufactured during WW-II in 1943.  As with many wartime machines, it was likely brought back to the U.S. and a mechanic switched the Z and Y. The base still has the original seller's plaque, shown here as is and with the not very good Google Lens translation. 

The address comes up in search as currently housing a beauty supply store. Here's an image from the era before streets were taken over by cars.

In case you are interested, here is a link to my other Triumph NORM 6. It has some additional backstory and links to other Typospherian writing. 1938 Triumph NORM 6  I'll take better photos of the 1943 machine later. I wanted to get past perfectionist's blogger block and get something published. Besides, I really needed a break from pre-election noise. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Glorious Aluminum Christmas Tree Overdose

Over the holidays, we made a pilgrimage to the Johnson County Museum in Overland Park, Kansas to see dozens of aluminum Christmas trees on display.

Seriously, I have a new reference point for what constitutes an adequate number of artificial trees belong in one house.

In this case, the house was originally built as a demonstration project for the Kansas City Power and Light Company (KCPL) in the 1950s. The museum was originally a bowling alley and skating complex that I spent time in while growing up in the 1970s. A house where the skating rink was takes some getting used to.

Yeah, the aluminum trees are kinda cheesy, but I love them. These were on loan from collectors and many had their original color wheels. Why color wheels? Well, stringing a conductor with electric lights might have led to accidental death - definitely not in the holiday spirit.

Some of the trees also had their original rotating stands. They spun majestically with the color wheels aglow. There was also one unfortunate tree that we thought was rippling in a heat vent breeze. Nope, it had a vibrating device attached to its trunk.

Yes, it's a house. Pretty cool.

If you want to learn more about the biggest brand name in the business, check out this story about Evergleam Wisconsin Evergleams are Making a Comeback

 What could possibly be better than aluminum trees with color wheels? How about adding a snow attachment with an angel tree topper helping to direct the blown styrofoam pellets?

I want one these so badly.

Once upon a time, these were kitsch. Now they are highly collectible. This model in the display case has never been removed from its box.

In case you are curious, the photos in this entry were captured with a Google Pixel 4 and a Fujifilm X-H1 equipped with a 1950s Cooke Ivotol cinema lens.

Thanks for coming along on this little stroll down holiday lane. The Internet is vast and Blogger is an increasingly smaller corner. I'm glad you're here.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A few scenes from Nashville

Well, heck. It only took a few weeks to get totally sidetracked from posting on this blog. So, back in the habit with a quick and dirty peek at the few days I spent in Nashville last week.

I took a pass on the heavy tourist zone on and near Broadway. I spent a few free hours in the Musicians Hall of Fame and it just blew me away.

 This museum is focused on studios and musicians that created our soundscape. The few photos here don't do it justice. Jimi Hendrix has his own section with artifacts including a drum kit, guitar and outfits.

 Shall we bump up the volume to ear shattering?

 The last thing you see on the way out is a Roy Orbison section. This is just a small part of it.

 I absolutely loved the Enactron mobile studio trailer that now lives in the museum. Visitors get to walk through and get a glimpse at how recordings are made. After a number of years on the road, it was parked in the yard of the owner's home and continued on as a fixed studio.

 The mixing board and preamp live in the middle of the trailer.

 Can you imagine Dolly Parton and Rosanne Cash recording in this space?

 You know how audio fetishists get all wound up about analog and warm sounding amplifiers? Here's a reminder of the kind of equipment that was used to process music before the pure digital era.

 My nerdy stereo loving heart went pitter pat on seeing this stack.

Here are a few artists that recorded in this space.

And how about the pianos that contributed to the sound of David Bowie and Elton John albums? Mind blown.

Captain Fantastic is one of my top twenty favorite albums of all time.

Too much to share here. I hope you make this museum a Nashville destination.

Next up: Hatch Show Print. This shop has been making show posters for over 140 years. The gallery space in front featured a visiting artist that dove into the collection of wood blocks and added some twists of his own.

 Yes, the visiting artist created this amazing take on the Ramones.

 The Hatch work space is visible through a glass wall. The technology is delightfully analog.

A sampling of the prints available in the store.

In my last full day, I had an hour to spare and took a walk to Third Man Records. The brand aesthetic is incredibly strong in this store.

 Vinyl is forever, y'all.

And then it was time to go home. Southwest is a quick direct flight from Kansas City. I love what they do for Halloween. It helps take the drudgery out of travel. The Nashville airport is a pretty decent place to spend time. The Burger King even has Impossible Whoppers.

 Adios, Nashville!

These photos were captured with a Google Pixel 2. It's a very good travel companion.

As always, thanks for reading!