What’s happening?

So what’s happening with this web site?

I hear that question a lot.

Honestly, I’ve been swamped. We had a water leak in our new house, which led to mold remediation, which led to asbestos remediation, which led to a reconstruction project. So, life has been in a bit of a shambles while this has been dealt with.

The downsides to this interval are many (expense, damage to the house, damage to my cameras), but it has afforded me some time to think, and that’s always a good thing.

It’s led me to some conclusions, and I’ve made some changes.

A few months ago, I decided to pretty much stop listening to the film photography podcasts I was listening to. Photography podcasts are a coastal thing anyway. Events on the east coast or west, but not much else. Us folks in flyover country don’t count. I stopped listening to one when the host talked about visiting Montana as “a trip to the midwest.”

But I think my underlying problem was the fact they all fell in to a similar trap: they weren’t really talking about photography, they were talking about cameras.

I’m really tired of talking about cameras.

I admit, I’ve done it in the past, and I was actively moving to get away from it when the activity on this site dwindled down. It was a step in the right direction, but I’m not sure I went far enough.

Part of it is the general fatigue about talking about some camera again. I mean, we’re all pretty familiar with how one works. This ground has been well trod.

Mostly though, I’m tired of the douchebag it brings out in the people who feel compelled to comment and nitpick about everything.

“Idiot! That lens is not a true retro focus design!”

“You like that stuff? Enjoy your overpriced film, asshole!”

“You just hate digital cameras! You have no idea what you’re talking about! Digital is superior! Fuck you, Luddite! Die in a fire!”

Those were all comments I’ve received. The last person persisted on putting at least two comments about how digital is better in every entry I did on this website for more than eight months straight. I kept all this bad noise off of my site by requiring every comment to be approved and moderated. Looking back, the negatives are ahead of the positives.

I’ve run out of fun tickets. I’ve toyed with eliminating the comment section on my site, but I do get some really good ones, talking about good things. I’d hate to miss them. I hope the break gives the gaggle of assholes impetus to go bother someone else.

You know what I really enjoy writing about?

How it feels to get to the top of a trail where it opens up in to a high meadow just as the sun is in the perfect spot to nail a shot.

How I love bombing down hill on a bike, even if I don’t really like climbing up. How rattling around on a bike in the city I love has shown me parts of it most people don’t ever see, and given me ideas about capturing hidden beauty along bike paths and in back yards.

How it feels to spend time honestly, intentionally working on honing your craft, reading books and picking the brains of people better than you. How good it can feel to see when that has a concrete result.

I’ve honestly laughed out loud when I find that spot, or nail that shot, or crest that hill. Talking about cameras never once made me do that. Sure, my website views are going to take a nose dive, which is what kept me from doing this a long time ago. But that’s a trade off I’m far more comfortable with now.

So that’s where this website is going, that’s that’s going on. If you’re here solely to lecture pedantically, use the phrase “well, actually,” self-aggrandize, bitch, moan, complain, nitpick, or fling insults, this is where you get off.

Everyone else, let’s go on an adventure.

A specific need- the Kodak Medalist I

The DeLaney Farm’s round barn on Portra 400

I’ve been working on this review longer than any other I have done, but I’ve finally arrived at the point where I am ready to do it. Here’s my experience based review of a camera that is, for me, a beautiful answer to a specific need. The Kodak Medalist I.

The Medalist I was introduced in 1941, and adopted for service by the US military almost immediately. My camera was made in 1944, according to the serial number, and probably saw limited service. I decided it would only be pointed at beautiful things while I own it.

Winter’s hike, Cherry Creek Reservoir on Portra 400

The reason I chose this camera pretty much mirrors why the military chose it. I was looking for a simple, mechanical camera that took a good size negative, preferably 6×7 at least, that wasn’t the size or weight of a boat anchor to use in hard to get to areas. I wasn’t hung up on fixed lens or removable, but I wanted good glass. This machine is a very fine solution.

It uses 620 film to capture 6×9 frames, so I respool 120 film on to 620 metal spools, more on why in a moment. Focusing the exposed helicoid is best done roughly with the large ring first, then fine focus achieved with the small focus wheel. The viewfinder has two windows in it. A framing window sits up top, and a split focus rangefinder is under it. Focusing it is like using a screw mount Leica, but the two viewfinders are one above the other instead of side by side, and you can get the information from both viewfinders at the same time. Almost everyone who has looked through it has commented how weird it is, but once you get used to it, it’s fast and instinctual.

Edge of a burn on Green Mountain- Delta 400

This camera was in somewhat rough condition when I got it: the shutter was sticky, it had spacing issues, but the lens was clean and clear. There aren’t many places that work on these. The most famous repairman, Ken over at Bald Mountain, retired in January. I’ve heard of a few folks who will take a look at the shutter, since it’s just a standard rim shutter set up, but apparently the film transport is no fun to work on.

Once I got it back, there was a bit more learning to be done. As I said, this camera likes metal 620 film spools. Some places that re-roll 120 film stock use a spool with a metal core, but the end flange made of thin plastic. The film transport holds the spool in place by applying pressure to the flange, and the plastic ones flex, leading to misaligned frames. I haven’t tried the injection molded spindles. I seriously doubt you can use a hacked 120 spool.

The payoff for getting used to these quirks is very worth it, however. That 100mm Ektar lens is a dream, a simple design that never fails to produce. It’s weight is only slightly heavier than a 35mm SLR with lens and you get a larger 6×9 image. The Series VI filters it uses can be had for next to nothing. Come the thaw, this one is spending time in saddle bags and back packs this summer.


Color film development by Old School Photo Lab, black and white done at home. Detailed specs on the camera available here