What I have done

This week I returned to the cabin to have another go at getting it habitable. This included hauling the enclosed trailer out there and filling it with stuff. I could have used a semi trailer for all the stuff. As it was only the miscellaneous furniture that had been store upstairs found new residence. Oh well, every little bit out of the way is a bit out of the way.

The main work is focused on getting the water supply reconnected, the propane reconnected, and the septic reconnected. For practical purposes the electric is back, albeit there is no generator input line nor outside electric outlet. That can be done later. The main point is to try and make it livable enough for me to stay there and concentrate on work until its livable for anyone else. I’m more adaptable.

In doing so I came across a few problems which I need to discuss with the contractor who did the rehab of the logs and put in the foundation skirting. Here’s the latest one I discovered:

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All three of the new door hinges are like that: missing screws, and some that are there are crooked. It probably is why getting the door unlocked is such a challenge. This is a new door in a new frame installed by professionals? I could do better when I was 10.

Now the biggest problem was having to get under the place to re-run the water feed and electric line for the pump. First of all there’s the matter of the badly done ‘access door’. I have already been reworking that so that it makes sense. Having to remove a six foot segment of 12″ lip flashing in order to get at a 2×2 plywood panel with 18 screws in it that once removed reveals a chunk of styrofoam which covers over a log and the actual hole which is half the height of the whole mess is … not right.

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Okay, I can deal with that. I already have put in a new 2×4 level with the log bottom and paneled off the upper section because there is no point in removing that bit at all since there is no hole behind it. I took out that black pipe too; that was supposed to be ‘access’ for wiring and piping. Hah! These boys fall completely on their faces when they meet up with engineering. Total failure.

Anyway the big problem here is all the rocks I had to haul out. They were supposed to have been remove before the skirting was put on, when it would have been easier to do so because they had to take the rocks away from the logs anyway. Just reach under a few more feet and drag ’em out, boys! Do not make some unwell old man do it through that tiny hole you left. I’m too old for that. Did it anyway, because I don’t have forever to wait for the contractor to get his butt back here and fix the mistakes his boys made. How many rocks? Here’s the pile of them (and it isn’t all that were under there):

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They range from small you-can-toss-it-out up to one that’s about 60 lbs. After that I got to remove two wheelbarrows full of dirt, and that is just for starters.

At this point I found I could get the water line reconnected the way I want, but not the pump wiring. The wire turned out to be abraded in spots and so unsafe for reuse. I had a roll of 12/2 G that I started working back in, but this time it will be fastened to the framing – a permanent installation instead of the temporary one that’s been used for 10+ years. Only there’s more dirt in the way and I had to stop, having spent a horrible day doing too much work and getting too tired and achy. In fact I may have crack a rib crawling under there (barely room for me, and the spaces between logs have oversized nails sticking down that were use to secure the underlay to the subfloor when the place was built 70 years ago). I have a lot of pains right now, and need a few days to recover before I can go back at it and … dig out more dirt. That is the big thing that needs doing so that other things can be properly placed beneath the cabin.

One curious thing I noticed is that I wasn’t coughing so much when working this hard. It’s as though the muscles don’t have time to spasm when they are heaving to get enough air in and out. Resting is fine, extreme exercise breathing is normal, but in between activity is subject to spasm coughing.

Oh well. I’m going to mow the lawn today I think. At home, that is. Taking it easy. Decade number seven is proving to be difficult.

My Photography – Part Two

Cameras.

I’ve had a lot of them, as I’ve mentioned before. The Great Disaster of ’18 ended this, as well as causing several other problems. What should have been … well you can waste your life thinking “if only”.

Now I could just copy and paste my list of all those cameras I’ve owned, but the average reader’s mind would go numb before even the halfway point, and it would probably take days to recover. The first part of this series mentions and shows some of my “main machines” over the years. This part is just a bit of nostalgic musing. I’ll keep it down to a few of the more significant bits of photographic history I’ve had.

Starting at the beginning of the alphabet we have a few oddballs and some major players like Agfa, Ansco (and sometimes Agfa-Ansco), and Argus. To pick some from these brands I’d have to mention the Ansco Autoset that I got for $15. It was brand new, even though it was years old. It had sat on the dealer’s shelf unsold all that time. Surprisingly it didn’t get jammed. Even more surprising was that I later found an underwater housing for it! I did not, however, try the two together. Another interesting Ansco was the No. 2 Buster Brown. Although a very simple box camera, it was named for the cartoon character of the early 20th century who was featured in the promotions. And now for illustrative purposes and Ansco Panda (their answer to Kodak’s Brownies):

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Under the letter ‘B’ I’ll just note that there were a few Bell & Howell branded cameras (always made by someone else). I find this amusing because I recently came across some digital Bell & Howell branded cameras. You can bet the quality is like: lousy.

Do I even have to mention Diana F? Surely everyone knows about them! They were the icon of cheap ‘real’ cameras of the day. Practically anything else was better quality, even when sold under a different name.

I previously mentioned the Exacta I had. In fact there were three, plus an Exa. That was a cute little thing with a ‘guillotine’ shutter that used Exacta lenses and accessories but was smaller, lighter, and only had four shutter speeds. Very quiet, they were known as “the mouse”. I quite liked that camera.

Now I have to say something about the Herbert George Company. They manufactured hundreds of different cameras under various names, usually Imperial. Well I had a lot of them! They came in lots of different styles and colours and sometimes ‘official’ editions like for the Scouts. They were all pretty poor quality when you get right down to it. But they make a nice display:

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Yes I saved some of them, junk though they be. Why? Because of the mid-century modern colour and style and the fact they didn’t weigh much so shipping was … well, expensive in fact. That was one of the major problems with saving anything.

For sheer lousy camera fun we have the Hit. A 16mm roll film “real camera” sold out of the backs of magazines for many years. I had about half a dozen of these in their various guises. It was no problem to slip one in the luggage and smuggle it out.

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We now skip a few minor makes like Keystone and find ourselves among the Kodaks. Oh boy. One hundred and forty-four Kodaks. A gross of Kodaks. A dozen dozen. Many of them were cheap Brownies or Instamatics. I even had some of their near-the-end disc and instant cameras. Some were “high end” editions like the Signet 35 or the Kodak Stereo. But for esoteric fun nothing beats the green Petite (and its blue art-deco fronted brother that I also saved) or this brightly-hued Rainbow Hawkeye:

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Yes I managed to salvage that as well. I say nothing beats it but … wait ’til the end of this article.

Skip ahead to the letter P, which stands for (among others) Polaroid. Yes, I had a few of the original instant print cameras. In fact I had the first model they produced, the 95:

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I regret not saving this one. Okay, I regret not saving all of them and all of my Dad’s as well. The logistics were just … impossible.

We can wander down the alphabet to the letter ‘U’ and find the Universal Camera Company, most famous for it’s “non-Kodak” film sizes and the Mercury I and Mercury II model cameras. I had one of each, and also this little bugger which I brought back with me:

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The Univex AF (which does not stand for ‘auto focus’) that took size ’00’ film. Believe it or not I actually had a roll of film for it and shot it! It didn’t come out well, due to the age of the film, the quality of the camera, and having to “roll-dip” the film in a tray for processing.

At the end of the Alphabet we have the letter ‘Z’ and that means Zeiss Ikon. Yep; had some. Including two Box Tengors, which are the ‘cream’ of box cameras. And this odd movie camera they made:

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So here we are, after examining just a few of the 450. No doubt some people would find the ones I skipped interesting, or at least some of them. And then there’s all the ones my Dad had collected, which were frankly more up-scale (think quantities of Canon, Rollei, Nikon, etc). Let’s just say that someone, somewhere got some real bargains.

Now we are at the end of this posting, so it’s time to reveal the star of my collection. Here it is:

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Looks rather dull, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s just a plain box camera that doesn’t even have a viewfinder. It’s a Kodak Brownie. Not very interesting? No, unless you know this is the very first model Brownie and it was only produced for a few months because the slip-off back did. It was redesigned with a hinged back after a very short production run. According to A Century of Cameras there are only six of these known to exist. That doesn’t include this one. And yes, I have shot pictures with it despite not being able to get size 117 film.

That concludes our all-too-brief look at my now mostly lost camera collection. The next installments will focus (pun intended) on images more so than cameras.

My photography – Part One

The history of my involvement with photography may not be mandatory, but it seems obligatory. You simply can’t start any missive about your relation to a subject without some background. It tends toward the dull and yet slightly egomoniacal. Nevertheless …

I was born into a family of keen amateur photographers. That is to say three uncles and my own father were keen on it. One of the uncles managed to make a career of photo-journalism. It helped that he was quite the raconteur too. But my Dad was the major influence on me (no surprise there, eh?)

Thus we come to my first camera: the Kodak Petite folder from the 1930s:

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I still have it, having saved it from the Great Disaster of ’18. It was also my Dad’s first camera, so with that much family history and sentiment I could hardly leave it behind. It’s not in such good shape anymore, as the synthetic bellows did not stand up to the years of mere existence. Getting it pulled out for this photo was … a bit tricky and slightly nerve-racking. It takes 127 roll film, which no longer exists. It is also “Autographic”, meaning if you have the right film you can slide a little door open in the back and use the often-lost (although not here) stylus to scratch a few words through the paper which is then exposed to light and leave the writing permanently on the film. You could use it in either horizontal or vertical formats, focus is by guess and by golly, and exposure comes down to Instant or Bulb at US Stops 1-2-3-4. Light meter? Whazzat? Nevertheless a lot of film went through this camera.

This started something of a competition when my Uncle Roger saw what I was using and decided I needed a better camera. Enter the Kodak Brownie Starmite. Better? That’s debatable. My Dad debated it, and the next thing you know I was collecting cameras. We would go ’round to yard sales and flea markets and see what we could find. What we could find eventually numbered hundreds, perhaps a thousand between us with my own share being 450: I still have the database file of them although I regret not being able to keep the lot. It just wasn’t possible.

If this seems strange it might help to know my entire life has been strange. I grew up in an abode that was a combination of museum and warehouse. My first job was clerking in an antique store my Dad owned jointly with a friend. While most kids were reading Superman I was learning how to tell a real antique from a reproduction. And collecting cameras.

In terms of my pursuing photography, I did. Practically every camera I got I tried to take pictures with, including those that were already beyond the point of available film. It is a bit of work to tape over the red film number window, load a single sheet of custom-cut film in the back, go take a snap, and bring the whole thing back just to see how that one shot turned out. Kind of the diametric to a Polaroid you might say. My interest in the cameras and the processing revealed my future engineering interests. Artistic expression was not a major point to it, but occasionally I put some effort in. I even managed to get a few photos published, but not for any great remuneration or recognition. That didn’t matter then, nor does it now; I do it for fun and always have.

Even so the quality of my ‘main’ camera inevitably stepped up. I switched to use 35mm courtesy of Uncle Roger again, who sold me a Fujica Classic IV on time payment. I got two lessens there, you might say; one photographic and one fiscal. The Fujica offered the same guess focusing as the old Petite, but complicated matters with more shutter speeds and more lens openings. This in an age when light meters were selenium cell devices usually separate from the cameras themselves. Don’t laugh; in the right hands its more accurate, even if also more cumbersome.

But rangefinders aren’t the apex of photography (yes, I had the obligatory Argus C3 as well as a C2). Eventually I got my hands on an Exacta V (habitually pronounced “vee” but in fact it’s a Roman 5). Never heard of it? Exacta was the manufacturer of top-line SLR equipment back in the day – before Canon and Nikon began ripping off Contax and Leica rangefinder editions. There were so many lenses and other accessories available – and the quality was top notch. The Exacta bodies had some features I quite like, such as a trapazoidal shape that fits the hands better and a front shutter release which greatly reduces camera shake (squeezing instead of pushing down). Oh yes, they’re ‘lefty’ machines too! The crank and shutter release are on the “wrong” side. The shutter is an amazing thing in itself, in that it was capable of 1/1000 second (by focal plane trickery) down to – are you ready for this? – 12 seconds. That’s not “you hold the cable release that long on Bulb”; the complex mechanism wound up a separate spring and held the shutter open itself. There was even self-timer built in for speeds to 6 seconds. Got that in your digital, have you? True, the average person would never use this. But there it was for those who would.

Alas Exactas got old and out-of-date. No built-in exposure meter, and the company falling by the wayside as Japan overtook the market. Time to upgrade again. Enter the Pentax Spotmatic:

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I still have this, as it was still my main camera when I made the big move across continent and borders. 35mm film was still very much the prime format. I had another couple of bodies I picked up for it, like an H2 and a Yashica, as well as a ton of accessories which never made the move. You can’t get batteries for this anymore, so the meter is useless, but being mechanical it can still take pictures. If you can find film and processing (not around here).

Well the digital age soon crept in and I had to get one. I still have my first digital, a Kodak DX3900, somewhere around here. It’s so old that the type of memory it uses is not compatible with anything but that camera! It still works, though. Or did the last time I played with it. Not terribly impressive specs, but it was the first step to the future.

The next step was this Kodak P850:

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The main reason I chose it was because at the time it had excellent resolution (5 MP) and a fantastic 12X zoom. I do a lot of nature shooting (and other spotting) so the telephoto function is important to me. It also did not cost massive amounts of money such as a DSLR at the time, and it has three user-defined preset functions. I have to say that this is the camera that finally got me making a serious effort towards artistic shots. The advantage of digital being you can shoot a lot and manipulate a lot and maybe get some good pictures out of what would otherwise have been wasted frames of film (more on this in future postings). It still works but I hardly use it anymore. Maybe I should, just for fun.

A few years ago I went full-overboard (for me) and bought this:

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Nikon P610. 16 megapixels and a 60X zoom! You might think the performance of such an extreme lens is lousy, but it really isn’t. Sure, some fine-crafted purpose-built telephoto is going to outdo it. But not for the money. And it won’t be as handy as being able to carry around one unit that can go from taking macro close-ups of flowers to a bird on a branch a long ways away. This is my go-to camera for most shots, but strangely enough I have another Kodak 10 MP 3X zoom cheap thing I keep in the vehicle just so I’ll have something better than my phone cam if I see something.

I have looked at replacements for the P610 and found they offer not much improvement. Oh a little bit more zoom, a few million more pixels (mostly the shots get scaled down for Internet purposes anyway) and a lot of bells and whistles I have no use for. At this point I don’t see anything out there that will do what I want any better than what I’ve got. But you never know about the future. See my musings about my ‘ideal’ camera here: Digital (Camera) Dreams

This has already expanded into a longer posting than I expected it to be, which means you, poor reader, will be subjected to even more of my blithering on about photography. If you choose to.