Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Art of Flamboyance (Icons Behind the Lens Series)

Noel Coward behind the Ansco Super Memar 

Sir Noel Coward is arguably the epitome of flamboyance.  English playwright, composer, singer, director and actor.  That is why I decided to use his photo as a background for the exemplar Ansco Super Memar.  Both are products of the 1950s.  Loomis Dean captured Sir Coward in 1955 at the desert near Las Vegas to depict his song "Mad Dogs and Englishmen".  The camera was made in 1954 by Agfa, the same company that manufactured the film.

I made a few decent shots with this camera.  The viewfinder is bright and uses a neat rangefinder, which focuses with relative ease.  I love this camera for its functionality and for its classic look.

As for Dean's shot of Sir Coward, the urbane artist complained that he doesn't wake up until 4 o'clock in the afternoon.  But with limo and a tub of ice and liquor, Coward was persuaded.  He goes on to say, "Splendid, splendid ... now if only we have a piano."

This is my latest installment to paying tribute to vintage cameras and icons behind them.  For techies, you would be please to note that I've been using the Carl Zeiss 100mm Makro mounted on the Canon 5d Mark ii set at f/22 and at a very long exposure.  I'm also using LEDs to light up the subject.  The killer shot is actually a composite of images shot from different lighting direction and later on layered so I can paint out desirable shadows and highlights.

#Flickr #horizontal #portrait #tripod #LongExposure #PhotoAsBackground #tribute #StillLife #Monochrome #AnscoSuperMemar #IAMGenerationImage #vintage #analogue #camera #IconsBehindTheLensSeries #VintageCamera #film #LoomisDean #NoelCoward #LifeMagazine #rangefinder

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Harbor Ventura in the Sunset

Boats along Ventura Harbor

I'm sorry to write that this post is tired and boring so I'm hoping that the majestic sunset photo above will make up for it.

There is a popular 70s song called Ventura Highway.  I wish somebody would have written a song about Ventura Harbor.  I think the harbor has far more romantic appeal than the crowded highway.

We did something different this Christmas.  We went up to Ventura to spend Christmas there.  The drive was not bad since everybody was going on the opposite direction: towards Las Vegas.  I read somewhere that casino try to out do one another this time of the year.  Also, everything is open.

We stayed at the same hotel that Mimi loved.  She has become familiar with the place that she would mark every turf we passed by.

One thing that I learned about going out of town during Christmas was that almost all the restaurants were closed.  Las Vegas is an exception.  The only ones we found out that were opened were Asian restaurants and ones in hotels.  I suppose both of them don't celebrate Christmas.  I bet that these restaurants make the most profit during this day.

#vacation #VenturaHarbor #travel #boat #sunset #CaliforniaSunset #IAMGenerationImage 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Brownie Girl (Icons Behind the Lens Series)

Partial photo of Alfred Eisenstaedt's Children and the Puppet Theater Behind the Kodak Bbrownie Target Six-16

The Brownie Target Six-16 was introduced in 1946 and was discontinued fifteen years later.  It was originally priced at $4.  Nowadays, one could get an acceptably functional one between $30 to $80.  I say "acceptably functional" because one could never really get a shot that would be comparable even to today's cheapest camera available.  I'm not sure where I got mine.  I'm sure somebody must have given it to me.  I have a few more Brownies, which kind people gave to me and which I also plan to pay tribute to later on.  I have not much use for them.  The camera uses a film size 616, which is almost impossible to get hold of as Kodak discontinued its manufacture in 1984.  Maybe Kodak thought that 1984 would turn the States into the dystopian era similar to George Orwell's 1984 novel.

Although the Brownie is in a different era as Alfred Eisenstaedt's photo of Children at the Puppet Theater (shot in 1963), the nostalgic feel of the photo and of that of the camera go well together in my opinion.  I must be post-modern.  Because I don't have much regard to historical accuracy when it suits me.   Eisenstaedt's photo captures the children's excitement as they watched a puppet show.  The Brownie captures the same excitement for amateur photographers who could take pictures without pawning the family heirloom.

I love it that the little girl is leaning towards the camera and looking at Eisenstaedt.  Everyone else is engrossed at the puppet show.  Come to think of it, the image reminds me of Orwell's 1984 for some reason.

#Flickr #horizontal #portrait #tripod #LongExposure #PhotoAsBackground #tribute #StillLife #Monochrome #KodakBrownieTargetSix #IAMGenerationImage #vintage #analogue #camera  #IconsBehindTheLenaSeries #VintageCamera #film #AlfredEisenstaedt #ChildrenandthePuppetTheater

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mama miya My Mamiya - an afterthought (Icons Behind the Lens Series)

Nina Leen's Whippet behind Mamiya-6

If you are a person who likes to be the center of attention, I have two suggestions when getting photographed: (1) do not pose with a young child, and (2) do not pose with a cute dog.  I guarantee that either of these two will blow you off and steal your show.  Hence I may be making a big mistake in composing the picture above.

Nina Leen shot this fawn-and-white whippet in 1964.  The dog became a superstar in Great Britain.  To my eyes, the photo has that classic portrait feel that I thought would be a cool background for my classic Mamiya-6.  Initially the vertical photo above was going to be my tribute to the Mamiya-6 but I ended using Bill Beall's Busted as a background photo just because it looked better on screen.  In doing Icons behind the Lens series, I realized that the horizontal or landscape format worked better when displayed on the screen of a computer.  My dilemma is that horizontal formats do not work well in books as opposed to vertical or portrait format.  I'm still trying to figure out a way for the audience to appreciate looking at photos in both a book form and the web.  Sometimes, the square format is the compromising solution.  But this would mean cropping the picture  since I'm using an SLR with a 2x3 format.  I think that would be a waste of pixels.

#Whippet #NinaLeen #portrait #VintageCamera #IconsBedhindTheLensSeries #IAMGenerationImage #Mamiya6 #StillLife #LifeMagazine #FoldingCamera #MediumFormat #6x6 #tripod #LongExposure #PhotoAsBackground #tribute  #vintage #analogue #camera  #film 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Sunny Side of Life (Icons Behind The Lens Series)

One cannot have too many cameras.

The iconic photo behind the two cameras was shot by Bill Beall as he chanced upon Officer Maurice Cullinane gently coaxing two-year old Allen Weaver back to the Curb.  The photo won a Pulitzer award.  And how could it not?  Entitled Busted, the photo is a classic street shot.  Unsuspecting protagonists caught at the decisive moment by the photographer.

I decided to use Beall's photo as a background for my Mamiya-6 as the camera came out about the same time as when Beall took his photo.  Around late 1950s.  The Mamiya-6 (note the hyphen) is different from the more famous plastic-bodied Mamiya Six, which came out in the 1990s.  The former is a classic folding camera, which has long been forgotten.  The latter is still used around.  Actually the Mamiya-6 series debuted in the 1940s.  My Mamiya-6 is the last version.

It is curious why Mamiya decided to resurrect the model name fifty years later.  Perhaps, a period of fifty years is too long for one to remember the classic folding camera.  I'm glad I have one.  In my fantasy, I dream of having two.  Thanks to the magic of Photoshop.  Besides, one cannot have too many cameras, right?

#LifeMagazine #BillBeall #Pulitzer #AllenWeaver #Mamiya6 #IconsBehindTheLensSeries #FoldingCamera #MediumFormat #6x6 #StillLife #VintageCamera #tripod #LongExposure #PhotoAsBackground #tribute  #IAMGenerationImage #vintage #analogue #camera  #film 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Kodak 35 and King Louis (Icons Behind the Lens Series)

My Kodak 35 and Louis Armstrong
The Kodak 35 is arguably the ugliest camera ever made.  I own one.  It is not only ugly physically but functionally the beast is cursed.  It ate two rolls of my 35mm films.  No it just didn't eat them.  It devoured them and spit them out or whatever were left of them like fishbones.  I never made any single decent shot out of this camera.  That is why I think it is only appropriate to have this camera proped in front of the most beautiful voice ever around: Louis Armstrong.  He not only played beautifully but he sang like he played.  It was dearly.  Hail to the king.  Satchmo's outstanding photo was taken by Philippe Halsman, who shot this for Life magazine.  The Kodak 35's paltry photo was taken by Juzno, who shot this for himself for lack of anything better to do with his time.

#vertical #portrait #tripod #LongExposure #PhotoAsBackground #tribute  #flickr #StillLife #Monochrome #Kodak35 #IAMGenerationImage #vintage #analogue #camera  #IconsBehindTheLensSeries #VintageCamera #film #LouisArmstrong  #PhilippeHalsman

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Al, Arnie, George, John, and the Graying of America

I love grayscale.  Sometimes it works well.  Other times, well ehh.  But this one really works for me.  I met these fine gents at Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles.  Initially, I noticed the guy on the left as he was calling his friends.  I made small talk.  One of them noticed my camera.  The Fujifilm xpro-1.  I love it when people notice it.  It looks retro that most people mistake it for a film camera, which I think got its attention.

They tell me that they go to lunch once a week at different places.  Thus far, they have gone to more than 200 restaurants.  If my calculation is correct, they have been doing this gig for the last four or five years.

I asked how they met.  I think it was Al (the guy with the baseball hat) who told me that they all go to this Lutheran Church out in Santa Monica, and they all hate the people at their church - a commonality that binds them together.

One of them commented on my shoes.  Interestingly, I had the same size shoes as them. They love my shoes because they were designed for old men with orthopedic issues.  It's nice to empathize with one's age.

I just love these folks.

Last night, I got an email from one of them - inquiring if I still have their photo.  I sent him this one.  I hope they enjoy it.

#GroupPicture #BlackAndWhite #BW #OldMen #Fujifilm #Xpro1 #35mm #XmountLens #DowntownLA #LosAngeles #GrandCentralMarket #GrayScale #Downtown #urban  #IAMGenerationImage #SeniorCitizens #street

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ikonta and the Migrant Mother (Icons Behind the Lens Series)

Ikonta in front of Dorothea Lange photo
I have always suffered from anxiety.  Even as a young boy, I have tried every imaginable solution.  Think good thoughts.  Try not to think of going to the bathroom. Don’t listen to what the priest tells you.  Etc.  Etc.  Sad to say, I have not really overcome it.  I have merely placed rescue flags along the way – so when anxiety strikes I have those flags I could reach for to wave for rescue.  The flags were not always within reach.  And that would mean mental breakdown in my part.  It does not happen often.  But when it does, I’m pretty much useless.  

One thing I have learned about being anxious is I could spot one who is experiencing the same thing. Such is the Migrant Mother.  An iconic poster person of the Dust Bowl era.  Shot by the great Dorothea Lange.

Who could not be moved by Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother?  This is one of my favorite vintage photo.  In today's standard, the photo documentary can be considered flawed.  Yet everything about it seems to work. Lange used an uncorrected lens in most of her portraits.  She preferred the soft focus, which perhaps made this photo more appealing.  The softness aptly captured the mother's tenderness.  I heard that Lange staged this shot.  So in a sense, it is not candid.  But I don't care.  Whether it was contrived or not, the mother's anxious gaze appeared real to me.  

For this photo, Lange is known to have used a 4x5 format viewfinder camera.  I don't have one but perhaps one day I can get my hands on an old one.  So instead I used my Zeiss Ikonta medium format as prop.  My Ikonta goes back to late 1930's.  About the same time that the Dust Bowl happened.  I've fantasized about my Ikonta.  Perhaps it has been used to memorialize events nobody cared about.  Except for the photographer who took those photos.  Could have been at the Dust Bowl.

#StillLife #camera #VintageCamera #ZeissIkonta #DorotheaLange #monochrome #vertical #portrait #MigrantMother #scratched #textured #tripod #LongExposure #PhotoAsBackground #tribute #IAMGenerationImage #IconsBehindTheLensSeries

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Road Less Travelled

What is a poet?  A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music. – Soren Kierkegaard

Days have been terribly lonely.   I am chasing the wind and whistling in the dark.  Today the leftover steak that Rose cooked two weeks ago before she left will be all gone.  I have been rationing myself with the meat as I was too lazy to cook.  I'm lazy because I have forgotten how to cook.  I think the last time I made Sloppy Joe was 20 years ago.  Besides, I don't have all the ingredients to make Sloppy Joe.  Don't think this is the time to experiment.  My hope is that I could be in the Guiness Book of Record to have survived on a single piece of steak for two weeks.  I haven't eaten anything else.  At least, nothing substantial.  Liquid food like  wine and beer do not count.  I may be on my last bottles of liquid food.  Sooner or later I need to go out and replenish my supply.  Again I am too lazy - even going out seems like a chore.  I may have forgotten how to drive.  This could pose a problem when I fetch Kamilah at the airport next week.  If we survived the traffic, I could let Kamilah pick up Rose the following day.  

It is very cold today.  I'm typing this post outside because I am smoking a Cuban.  Rose would never allow me to smoke inside the house.  My cell phone tells me it's 52 degrees F and it's already noon time.  My fingers are freezing.  I'm such a weakling in terms of cold.  I don't have enough fat to keep me warm, which is one reason we live in Southern California.  So I decided to smoke because the forecast is it will be raining soon.  Perhaps for another couple of days.  This could be the only time to smoke before it rains.  

So much for that.  I have now forgotten why I'm writing in the first place.  I can be easily distracted.  I'm one of those who needs to focus because I can't multitask. "Concentration slips way, because your baby is far away..." There is a neat line in the Crosby Stills and Nash song that goes, "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with."  Nowadays, I'm loving the dog and the cat.  They have been keeping me warm during the nights.  We would snuggled up in this little sofa with an army blanket.  Both of them would be competing who gets to sit on my face.  

I realized that I'm not much of a dog person.  Walking the dog everyday can be quite a challenge.  Especially when she poops on somebody's front yard.  I'm always on the look out if the neighbor catches us with this situation.  I think I'm more of a cat person as they tend to be less maintenance.  Although our cat is 16 years old and requires a lot of maintenance.   For instance, he demands to have a clean litter every time he uses it, which is like every hour.  We should have trained him how to use the toilet.  Once, we had another cat who almost learned how to do it.  In the end, we just gave up.  The cat won and he had his litter back.

So here I am - somewhat home alone.  It's been almost two weeks since Rose left for the Philippines.  I guess I can go at it alone for another week.

If you have gone reading this far, you may be asking what the picture above has to do with my rambling.  The honest answer is nothing.

#Flickr #StillLife #conceptual #blur #vignette #guitar #FretBoard #Music #IAMGenerationImage #macro #CloseUp

ISO 1200 Magazine | Photography Video blog for photographers: Bert Stephani reviewing the Fuji X100T on street p...

ISO 1200 Magazine | Photography Video blog for photographers: Bert Stephani reviewing the Fuji X100T on street p...

Friday, December 12, 2014

I think my rose needs some Southern California soaking

To borrow my friend's wit: This image certainly stirred a disturbance and the gods offered sympathy and willingly drops of very cold water from heaven come tumbling down, profusely... today....

#rose #DriedRose #petals #WhiteBackground #StillLife #botany #flower #DriedFlower #stem #macro #CloseUp #flash 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's always sunny in Socal

While the rest of the country is knee deep in snow, my flowers think it's spring time.

#macro #flower #collage #botany#Canon60d #CarlZeiss100mm #JuznoOfTheDay

Monday, December 08, 2014

Smile like Nirvana

Once in a while I'll go through my archive and see an apparently botched shot and then I'll ask myself what was I thinking.  This botched shot is cool.  A lot of times it was my state of mind.  I was seeing the trees for the forest, which can happen when I have taken several shots - perhaps scores and scores that I couldn't see the forest anymore.

Jackie came with her dad and her sister one winter morning.  "What do I do?" she asked as she gazed at her cell phone.

"Uhmm ... do a few somersaults and we'll see how that work," I answered as I moved the soft box lighting.

Jackie looked at me with disbelief - still holding to her cell phone.  Worst is her dad's yellow teeth started to reveal how ugly they were.  Well that obviously didn't go well.

"Maybe I'll play some stuff from Tony Bennett."

"Who is he?"

"Maybe you can ask your dad... Look, just be yourself.  Maybe think of good thoughts.  Do you like ice cream and hot apple pie?"

"Hmm... ice cream and hot apple pie."

Click.  Check the view finder.  Nah ... file under archive.  Maybe one day I'll print it.

Today is that day.

#portrait #AsianWoman #YoungWoman #EyesClosed #smiling #Brownhair #square #SquareFormat

Saturday, December 06, 2014


Sir Walter Raleigh is such a stupid get, and Satan is talking to his nearest mate, with head lifted up high.  Make me another shot of that absinthe.  The dregs are wormwood. And fire up that last stogie we shared – I think it’s no longer wet.  I wanna take you higher.  Oh, sleep - it is a gentle thing. 

I remember watching Woodstock.  I mean the original one.  Not there physically.  But in the movie and the record.  I was too young to be there.  So vicariously I try to live the moment by listening to the scratched vinyl record I borrowed from an older schoolmate.  This was early 70’s.  Maybe ’73.  I had just taken my first hit of pot and I thought I was one of the coolest guys in school.  The experienced seemed to have changed everything.  From a young scrawny punk to a damned-right-I-got-the-blues kid.  I was still a punk.  That never changed.  What changed was the right of passage.   It’s like smoking my first cigarette.  My grandpa taught me to smoke when I was 10. 

Oh yea, Woodstock.  Quite frankly, I was more impressed with the film footage than the music itself.  I had already been listening to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and the music that got played at Woodstock bored me.  Even the famous Star Spangled Banner that Hendrix played sounded old.  It’s not the musicians’ fault.  Or anybody’s.  I was merely two years too late.  

#Flickr #portrait #smoke #cigar #AsianWoman  #conceptual #textured #EyesClosed #culture #Lensbaby

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Desolation seen back in time through a tarnished window

My grief is my solace.  The world around me is dead.  Sometimes I try to think of my youth and my first love but my memories are all blurred.  Were they all just dreams - of longings and hope and youthful desires?  I have lost the art of remembering.  I have become a master at forgetting.  I do so effortlessly.  I have consigned all past things to oblivion.  They are to be forgotten - so that they can be remembered.

#Flickr #portrait #blackandwhite #BW #woman #oldwoman #textured #grainy #gritty #square #SquareFormat #NightTime #conceptual #melancholy #desolation #Loneliness #Time #Age #window #LookingThroughWindow #Story #fujifim #xpro-1

Monday, December 01, 2014

Harnessing Jack Bauer

I live in a somewhat boring community -  a middle class suburbia in the middle of four counties. People sometimes asked where I am from. One time in Marrakesh, a Moroccan vendor asked me where I was from.  I quickly replied, "Iceland."  Without hesitation, he told me that he had lots of friends in Iceland.  I lied and I thought he did too.  The next vendor asked the same thing and I told him I was from "Idaho".  He told me he knew a lot of people in Idaho.  It doesn't matter.  All they want is to small talk you to gain your confidence.  There would be times that I wanted to tell them that I actually live in Los Angeles and I personally know who Jack Bauer is.  In fact, the story of Mr Bauer was borrowed from my own when I used to work for the FBI.  I've faced near death so many times but I was always able to escape.  I can't tell them all the events that have happened but I hinted that most of the events in the television series were based on true stories.  Such is my way to add excitement in my life. "Tita, give me another shot of Tequilia, will you?"

#portrait #JackBauer #people #BlackAndWhite #monochrome#lensbaby #blur #square #man #hipster #urban #retro #textured#grainy #candid #UnsuspectingProtagonist #portrait