Monday, September 2, 2019

Greaserama 2019 through a classic cinema lens: Part 1

Note: I'm breaking this post into multiple part so I don't run into the the perfectionist trap and never get it published. I have too many drafts already.

The staying power of the Kansas City area Greaserama car show is impressive. The original founder passed away several years ago and a network of area car clubs just keep making it bigger and better, year after year. I spent a good portion of Labor Day weekend Saturday at the Platte County Fairgrounds and wandered with a Fujifilm X-H1 and a variety of vintage lenses.

Yes, I had even more lenses in the trunk. I picked four to carry and experiment with.

I vacillated between adapted Olympus PEN F and Pentax AR lenses and wasn't happy with the output on a cloudy day with on and off spitting rain. Then I tried the Taylor Hobson Cooke Ivotal 50mm f1.4 and fell in love with the previews.

Photographic perfection on a cloudy day would have been really boring.

For the sake of clarity, I'll just share out of camera images. Color and contrast are tough in deep cloud cover and aesthetic choices are personal by nature. The slightly funky bokeh is partly due to the classic Cooke triplet design and partly because the lens was designed for a smaller 16mm frame. It's a C mount with a larger than average rear element.

More than you ever wanted to know about Cooke triplets:

Patent information:

This early '50s lens came off a 16mm camera that was stored badly for decades. The old lube was so gummy that is was almost seized up. Fortunately, it was designed well and easy to tear down for a basic relube. I love the feeling of old-school brass and glass.
The triplet design patent is fascinating. Imagine thinking through how to bend light properly in an era where glass was shaped and polished by hand.

Honestly, 50mm is a bit long on an APS-C sensor when attempting to shoot large objects. That and a really shallow DoF make the process a labor of love. There are mistakes and I would not trade them for modern autofocus perfection at a vintage car show.

The Dirty Shame Saloon is a converted chicken display barn.
Cruising the perimeter dirt roads is an honorable pastime at Greaserama. It's also really hard to shoot manual focus. The old ways are still good ways.

At 70mm equivalent, life comes at you fast.
Earlier in the day, I shot a collegiate cross country meet. That's a venue where perfection counts and autofocus is my friend. I used the well-loved/abused X-T2 for that. There's no way to get accurate shutter actuation counts on Fujifilm cameras, but it's way over 200,000 after multiple events, street photography walks, cross country, and track and field meets. The X-H1 has great focusing aids and the leveling indicator is more reliable than that on X-T2. I know the sensor stabilizer has saved more than a few marginal shots.

One of the things I love about Greaserama is that people as old as me or older are just doing their thing. I started going grey quite awhile back and have taken to wearing a cap whenever I am at youth oriented street events. I ran into a couple we knew at church. I had no idea they were part of a car club. I could get used to this lifestyle.

Bike cruising has always been a thing at Greaserama. The background swirl is very dependent on distance to object and background. This is at f2.0

Teach your children well. Seriously, they were cruising at 5 MPH or so.
Back before the death of G+, I kept a collection of artist at work images. I met one of the pinstripers who has a great Instagram feed and had fun learning a little about his craft. Get this: the top of his toolbox is his palette and has layer upon layer of paint on top. His personal car is practically dipped in paint.

Neko Lynn's personal ride


A steady hand and untold hours of practice


The build on this rat rod is truly amazing. The dashboard was a work of art.

It's solitary work. So is photography.
That's it for tonight. The next entry will likely focus on capturing some of the musicians performing in the Dirty Shame Saloon. As always, thanks for reading.

Yes, this circa 2008 lens carrier makes me happy every time I look at it.


  1. Very nice work.
    Experimenting with lenses is fun. I've not done much with digital. I have done some lens adapting to 35mm. I need to get back to it.
    The experimenting aspect as well as much of the creativity of film photography has gotten lost in the perfect image or latest and greatest system with digital.

    1. Thanks! I have been doing the technology upgrade cycles because of track and field photography where low-light performance and motion tracking are paramount. I find it discouraging that digital photography has turned into an never ending cycle of churning out semi-disposable things every 12-18 months. My collection of Fuji lenses has stabilized and I use adapted vintage for everything else.

      If you opt to play with your old glass, I've got some recommendations. I'm not including Sony full-frame since I haven't personally used the latest and greatest. APS-C or Micro 4/3 will have a crop factor of 1.4x or 2.0x. I am a glasses wearer and diopter adjustment on an EVF is a primary factor.

      Fujifilm X-T1: Currently under $400 on KEH and cheaper through ebay. It's very competent for adapted lens work. The EVF is amazing and focus peaking makes manual work easy.

      Fujifilm X-E2: Compact and light, this body has a smaller EVF and no tilting screen. I use one for travel with an autofocus pancake lens and an Olympus PEN F 40mm f1.4. KEH has one in like new condition for $330. Bargain or ebay is much cheaper.

      Panasonic GX8: This rangefinder style 4/3 body has a unique tilting EVF and a tilting and rotating screen. The sensor is a bit smaller and better suited to C-mount lenses. There weren't as many of these made as the Fuji bodies and it's a bit harder to find. Deals can be had for less than $450.

      Always update firmware since some of the manual focus aids were added after the fact. Adapters are shockingly cheap, and old glass is forever :-)


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