Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Exakta Camera

For some reason, I’ve been seeing numerous references to the Exakta camera lately. Most recently, I saw that the Exakta was one of Vivian Maier’s cameras (see my last blog post).

Ihagee Exacta Camera

The Ihagee Exakta was a series of cameras manufactured in Dresden, Germany, beginning in 1933 (and continuing in various versions into the 1970’s). The Exakta was the first 35 mm single-lens reflex camera manufactured.

The Exakta was also the first SLR I ever owned (not the 1933 version, though!). That camera served me very well. I still have it (somewhere!). I recall that it was smashed years ago in a fall in the New Hampshire mountains, although, held together with duct tape (the lens did not break), the camera continued to function admirably for a while thereafter. The Exakta was all manual. There was no autofocus. The lens did have an auto-diaghragm lever that would stop down the lens, and it was designed so that you could push that lever in the same action as triggering the shutter. But you still had to set the exposure, both aperture and shutter speed. The film advance lever was on the “wrong” side and the film essentially wound backwards. But it worked nicely.

I have not shot on film for years and, today, feel completely committed to digital imagemaking. But I think shooting film for many years, learning photography shooting film, and learning photography having to work in completely manual modes served me well in developing my photographic skill and sensibility. Once in a blue moon, I used a hand-held exposure meter, but usually not. More often than not today I’ll shoot with manual focus, and I will often use manual or aperture-priority exposure (and possibly changing ISO each image). When cameras first developed automation (or at least I could afford to begin buying cameras with automation), I would frequently try to “second-guess” the camera, predicting the exposure by eye and then looking to see what the camera wanted to set. That struck me as a valuable exercise and a good habit to get into. It’s still a good discipline.

I’m nostalgic for that Exakta camera.  More information about Exakta cameras here.

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Update: Vivian Maier, Street Photographer

That is a trailer for the new documentary film, “Finding Vivian Maier.” A couple of years ago, I was visiting Santa Fe when I walked into a gallery off the square and discovered an exhibition of prints by Vivian Maier. I wrote a blog post about it here. At the time, Vivian Maier was only just beginning to be a phenomenon in the photography world; the exhibit I saw in Santa Fe was one of the earliest presentations of her work. In the two years since, interest in Vivian Maier has grown exponentially. More shows are being devoted to showing prints of her work, and her work is getting the critical attention it deserves.

From the Vivian Maier website:

An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Vivian bounced between Europe and the United States before coming back to New York City in 1951. Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. Taking snapshots into the late 1990′s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives. Additionally Vivian’s passion for documenting extended to a series of homemade documentary films and audio recordings.

Produced and directed by John Maloof, who has been responsible for getting Maier’s work to the attention of the photo world, the new film, “Finding Vivian Maier”,  is now making the rounds of art house cinemas around the country, distributed by IFC Films. Here is the film website.

There are so many fascinating questions about Vivian Maier’s life and photography. Can work like Maier’s be appreciated or enjoyed apart from the story of her life? Well, yes, but I think so much is lost if we try and do that. Maier’s life and photography are of a whole, and her art encompasses both.

What I find most interesting – even more than the astounding quality and perceptiveness in Maier’s work – is that most of the over 100,000 images she made were never printed during her life. Did she intend for her photography to be seen? Did she expect that it would be? Was she only shooting images for herself? Her street photography developed her art and skill to such a high degree, almost redefining the nature of street photography. Is it art? Can a photographic image be art if it is not exhibited? For what purpose did Maier capture so many incredible scenes of urban life?

Fall Scene, New Canaan

Fall Pond Scene. Nikon D200. 38 mm. ISO 400. 1/500 sec at f/8. October 2013. Copyright Joanne Mason 2013.

Fall Pond Scene. Nikon D200. 38 mm. ISO 400. 1/500 sec at f/8. October 2013. Copyright Joanne Mason 2013.

Here is another nice Fall woods scene. This is in New Canaan, Connecticut. (Click image for larger.)

River Reflection

River Reflection. Fuji X100. 23 mm. ISO 400. 1/200 sec at f/4. October 2013. Copyright Joanne Mason 2013.

River Reflection. Fuji X100. 23 mm. ISO 400. 1/200 sec at f/4. October 2013. Copyright Joanne Mason 2013.

This is the Byram River just above the dam at Glenville (Greenwich) Connecticut. I like this image. I wish I could say I planned it this way, but, alas, no. I was shooting the fall foliage along the bank and the reflection in the water. The more I worked with the image, I realized the reflection in the water was what it should be. So I inverted the image and cropped. (Click image for larger.)

Barn Window

Barn Window. Nikon D200. 55 mm. ISO 400. 1/1500 sec at f/3.3. October 2013. Copyright Joanne Mason 2013.

Barn Window. Nikon D200. 55 mm. ISO 400. 1/1500 sec at f/3.3. October 2013. Copyright Joanne Mason 2013.

Red Barn. Fuji X100. 23 mm. 1/550 sec f/8.0 @ ISO 800. May 2013. Copyright 2013 Joanne Mason.

Red Barn.

I’ve shot this barn before. (See the thumbnail at right. Was posted here.) It’s at the Greenwich Audubon Sanctuary and has a lot of character. The current image was shot on a warm fall afternoon in strong sunlight. The way the white window stood out against the wall and the shadows was most striking. (Click images for larger.)

Spring in the Park

Spring in the Park. Nikon D200. 105mm Micro Nikkor. ISO 800. 1/1500 sec at f/5.6

Spring in the Park. Nikon D200. 105mm Micro Nikkor. ISO 800. 1/1500 sec at f/5.6. April 2013. Copyright Joanne Mason 2013.

Spring in Connecticut is in full bloom. I love the pastel colors of spring. This image is from a late afternoon stroll in the park on a lovely spring day. (Click for larger.)

Extraordinary Vision

If you like outdoor photography, and you have an iPad, you must get the new iPad magazine, Extraordinary Vision. Extraordinary Vision

Extraordinary Vision describes itself as the first fully interactive outdoor photography magazine on the iPad. It’s also free (the app will make you subscribe after your first issue but the subscription is free). Extraordinary Vision focuses on photographic vision. There is a how-to element, but the magazine does not do reviews of gear or highly technical explanation. For the most part, it is “diversely talented photographers [who] openly share their insights and inspiration into what makes their images so powerful and evocative.” [From the editor's introduction.]

Extraordinary VisionExtraordinary Vision consists mostly of articles written by professional outdoor and nature photographers, including a small “in-house” crew, as well as articles from  contributors (which are actively solicited). The articles are well-written and the photography is fantastic.

True to it’s self-description, Extraordinary Vision is very interactive. Many articles include accompanying videos. A feature I especially like is that each article includes, besides the mandatory facebook and twitter links, links to the author’s website, to books and workshops the author has done, and in some cases a direct Extraordinary Visionemail to the author. The website links are handled by an in-app browser.

Many authors seem to have published books, e-books, and iPad apps, and Extraordinary Vision promotes those and includes links. Other than that, there is no advertising. This magazine is truly a labor of love, and it comes across, as the attention to detail, to high quality content and appearance, is evident.

Some of the interesting articles in the first three issues of the magazine have included an article on lighting (specifically looking at ten distinct kinds of Extraordinary Visionlighting and how to shoot for each), and article on composing pictures around water, an article on how to build a photography business, a wonderful article on shooting with long exposures.

You can’t beat the price – Free. Extraordinary Vision is a terrific almost one-of-a-kind addition to the range of photography magazine for the iPad.

(iPad link here.)

Extraordinary Vision