The Eastern Columbia Gorge.  

Windmills, Maryhill Loop Road


I’ve been falling in love with the eastern Columbia Gorge for about a decade, so one would think that the falling would be done by now.  I grew up in the deciduous forests of central Pennsylvania, where summers were lush, and the thunderstorms rolled in at the end of the hottest days, and the grass there stayed green until the cold of December made the landscape white.  The great, arid expanses of the American west, specifically Oregon for me, are like an alien planet.  I’m fascinated by the undulating hills, devoid of trees, and teeming with grasses that turn golden in mid June.  There’s a stark beauty that dryness creates.  It’s alien to me because I’m an an east coast boy, but it’s familiar and evocative as a “Roadrunner and Coyote” cartoon (yes, it’s in my blood because of Looney Toons).  The old west beckons from the 19th century in the American Psyche via western movies, but the windmills are ushering in the 21st century.  I’ll take both centuries.  I’ll take the landscape.  I’ll take the dry grasses and White Oak trees.  Throw in Google, wind power, and a camera from 1946, and I’m in heaven.   

Pendleton, Oregon. March 2013

Gaia and I went to Pendleton, Oregon in March on a well deserved vacation. It was entirely too windy to get out my 8×10 camera, but I could hand hold my Speed Graphic if I kept the shutter speed high. Here is the first picture. Watch this space for more to come.

Old Warehouse, Pendleton, Oregon.  March 2013

Old Warehouse, Pendleton, Oregon. March 2013

Camera: Speed Graphic 4×5.
Lens: 127mm Kodak Ektar.
Film: Fuji Astia.

Why Use 8×10 Film in a Digital Age?

Cedar-Creek-Grist-Mill-8x1November 2009. It’s 2:00 AM. I’m on the Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon. I have my Deardorff set up to photograph the city and it’s picturesque waterfront. It’s cold. I’m alone very near a bad part of town. The occasional pedestrian trudges past. I hope none of them are gang bangers or thieves. One short and stout man, possibly in his late 20’s, strolls up, and stops. He looks like he’s in a gang. I’m a little scared. He looks me and my camera up and down, and asks, “Do they still make film for those?”

I was so relieved that he asked a question, instead of mugging me, that I didn’t give the sarcastic answer. I told him, “Yes.” I showed him a few film holders. Two more young men stopped to watch what I was doing. I went about my work, talking to them about the process of using an 8×10 view camera. They asked a few more questions that I don’t recall, then one asked, “Why?”

The answer was so simple: Because I’m driven to.

I’ve told this story to many people over the years. I was fascinated with photography at an early age, but I didn’t get my first real camera (a Minolta XG1 ) until I went to Germany in 1983 with the US Army. I had no idea what I was doing back then, and I didn’t get very many good pictures. Disappointed, I put the camera down for a decade until I moved to Oregon. Once here, I found the Columbia Gorge to be a wonderful subject. I set out to teach myself photography. I bought books and magazines, and learned about light and pro films.

A name began working its way into my consciousness: Ansel Adams. I looked into his photograph, “Clearing Winter Storm” and my world changed. I could make out the needles on the trees. The picture was so sharp and dramatic. I decided to learn how to do it the way that Adams did. I moved up to medium format, bought a Hasselblad, and learned how to shoot black and white. When I was ready, I bought my first large format camera: a Linhof Technica. The learning curve was fairly steep, yet I soon found its limitations to be too problematic. I wanted tilt and shift. I bought a Calumet 4×5 monorail camera, and started my collection of lenses.

The next step was 8×10. I bought a clunky, old Calumet C-1. It turned out to be impossible to carry very far into the bush, so, when a Deardorff became available, I snatched it up, and haven’t looked back. 8×10 is the ultimate in sharpness. It’s not just the final image that matters. For the artist, it’s also the process used to get it.

Bonneville Dam at Sunset, October 2012

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This is from my new (very old) 5×7 Camera City View (by the Seneca Camera Co. of Rochester NY). The camera was made around 1906, but is on remarkably good shape. I will post a picture of the camera soon.

The film is Arista.edu 100.
The lens was a 180mm Caltar II.

The negative was stand developed in Agfa Rodinal 1:100 for 1 hour.

I took this picture on a Columbia Gorge trip with Gaia.  We had stopped at a few of the waterfalls, and ended our trip as the sun was setting at exit 41, just beyond the Bonneville Dam.  I had made an adapter lens board for the camera, and I wanted to see how light tight it was, so shooting directly into the sunset seemed like a good test.  One negative had a little flare on it, but I can’t yet attribute it to the lens board.  This negative turned out just fine.

The wind was blowing so hard that I had to pile equipment up around the tripod to keep it stable. I was left with the choice of whether to keep my shutter speed up, and accept some unwanted bokeh, or to attempt to get the entire image sharp, and add the risk of an entirely blurred negative. I split the difference. I opted for a little motion blur, and a little less Bokeh.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/foolscape_imagery/

The 760mm SK Grimes Lens

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The SK Grimes lens is the one on the upper right. It doesn’t look like much, but the focal length is 760mm. On an 8×10 camera it requires almost a yard of bellows draw. I refer to it as “SK Grimes” because they built the lens, possibly out of an old Nikkor copy lens. SK Grimes is a machine shop in Woonsocket, RI. They specialize in placing old optics in new lenses (barrels). Since their logo is on it, they get the credit.

St. Johns Bridge, Spring 2012

Shot with the 760mm SK Grimes lens.

It’s a slow lens. The widest aperture is f14. It’s razor sharp, though. It’s also uncoated, which means that it needs a lens shade, and has lower contrast, which can be a plus with modern, high contrast films. It covers 8×10 with room to spare, so camera movements, such as tilt and swing, are possible.