Celebrate Northeast

The ‘Celebrate Northeast’ parade always makes me feel like Minneapolis is a small midwestern town.  It’s classic Americana — marching bands, firetrucks, Shriners in go-carts, suburban beauty queens…  the list goes on.  It’s a fun celebration of the diverse population of Northeast Minneapolis (‘Nordeast’) and surrounding communities.

I shot these images with my trusty Yashica Electro 35 on Kodak Portra 160 film.  Scans are from Dwayne’s photo, and are straight from their scanner except for resizing and adding the watermark.

This camera never ceases to please me.  It is quick and easy enough to use that I can get fairly fast shots, even having to focus on moving subjects.  I’ve used it enough that I can reach for the focus ring quickly and know which way it needs to turn.  The rangefinder patch is big and bright enough to make focusing easy.  And I’m always more than happy with the sharpness of images, great color and contrast, and nice natural feel to the images.  And I love the 45mm focal length.

The fact that I’ve gotten to know this particular camera and am comfortable with it leads me to ponder one big problem that comes with collecting a lot of old cameras.  It really takes time to get to know a camera, but when I’m always trying out some ‘new’ old camera that I picked up, I seldom really get comfortable with many of them.  I have several cameras that I’ve only put one roll of film through, and when you shoot your first roll of film you spend a lot of time tinkering with the settings and dials and just figuring things out.  It can sometimes be hard to focus on the actual images you’re shooting, when figuring out the functioning of the camera is taking so much of your attention.  I think this is why many great photographers probably used a single camera almost all of the time.  I’m sure when Cartier-Bresson picked up his Leica, he never had to waste a moment of thought on how to operate it.  The camera likely became an extension of his eyes and his hands, and he could probably compose, focus and shoot an image nearly as quickly as someone today with an autofocus digital SLR (though he couldn’t fire off 12 photos per second, then pick the best image out of hundreds or thousands shot in one day).  He never had to decide which lens to put on his Leica, because I think he always shot with the same lens.  The images he captured and the compositions he created with such simple equipment stand up to anything created today, and I think some of that may actually be because of the simplicity of his equipment — he wasn’t weighed down with equipment to figure out, technical decisions to make.  Many people today focus so much on having the latest, best, hot new camera and so many lenses and accessories and gizmos, that they probably don’t have much attention left to give to the images they’re creating.  That’s certainly not true of everyone, but it’s an easy trap to fall into.  I’m guilty of that when shooting my digital SLRs, and when I’m using so many different old film cameras I tend to have the same problem.  I’m not going to stop collecting old cameras, because the cameras themselves are of such interest to me and I so enjoy fixing them, learning about them and using them.  But it doesn’t at all help my image making — in fact, it hinders my image-making.  This may merit further discussion in a later post.

Industrial color on a gray day

There’s something about gray, foggy, dreary days that make me want to go out and shoot photos.  Just such a day presented itself last spring when there was still ice on the Mississippi River, and the new Lowry Avenue bridge construction was in full swing.  When I went out that day, I had in my mind the landscape photos of Australian photographer Chris Round.  His photographs rarely depict a pristine, unspoiled landscape, but rather they usually involve man’s impact on the land, the man-made landscape, the industrial, the abandoned, the forgotten, the dirty and gritty.  There’s a simple, sublime beauty to his compositions and to the calm colors that make his work stand out among the current plethora of over-saturated photos.  The gray sky, even lighting, and overall muted colors of this day reminded me of his work, and I set out to try to capture some images inspired by him.

When I saw these images yesterday (after sitting on several rolls of film for months and finally sending them to Dwayne’s for developing and scanning), I was really pleased with what I saw.  I think I accomplished my goal of capturing what I was seeing and feeling that day.

These images are from a single roll of Kodak Ektar 100 film, shot in my Rolleicord III. These are the straight scans from Dwayne’s, with no editing done except for my standard Lightroom export, which resizes the images to fit the blog and ads the copyright watermark.