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Batteries Not Included

A blog focused on cameras with no batteries - and the photos they take

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Ragnar Axelsson's "Faces Of The North"

Some months ago I stumbled upon a book by Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson with some of the more stunning photos I've seen depicting life in rural areas where snow, cold and wind is an almost constant factor.

The book, titled "Faces of the North", features about one hundred powerful images taken over the past decade and a half. Through the images the reader gets exposed to some of the vanishing lifestyles in the North Atlantic (Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands) and the struggles - and joy - of life in these regions.

Born in 1958, Ragnar Axelsson is probably Iceland's most famous photographer. He has worked as a staff photographer for the Icelandic newspaper "Morning Paper" since 1976 and have had his work published in Life, National Geographics, Time and others.
Ragnar is also a recipient of the "Oskar Barnack Award" (2001) that is awarded to
photographers whose "powers of observation most vividly express man's relationship to his environment".

Ragnar was kind enough to send me a free, signed copy of his book - and just returning from an assignment up in the mountains where he photographed sheep roundups across over a hundred mountaintops he was more than happy to provide some additional information about his photography.
What camera(s) were you using for taking the photos in the book "Faces of the North"?
Ragnar: I used a Leica M4-P and Leica M6. I also use a Mamiya 7 (6x7 images), Linhof 6x12 and a few shots are taken with a Pentax 6x7.

Do you have any film preference when you go on assignments like these and if so which one(s)?
Ragnar: I used mostly Kodak Tri-X - but I did end up also using Kodak Technical Pan 25 which I rated at 50. I find it to be a difficult film to develop - but the results are great.
I am currently trying to use Kodak TMAX 100 and I like it a lot as the grain is very fine - but Tri-X is still close to a perfect film I think.

How did you end up using Leica cameras?
Ragnar: I've used Leicas since 'the beginning' since my father, who was an avid photographer himself, used them and I find the lenses to be great.

How did the Leicas perform during what seems to be quite extreme weather conditions?
Ragnar: In the colder climates like in Greenland it was the only camera that still worked perfectly through the cold without getting stuck. I can't say the same about my Mamiya and a Canon that I tried out on that trip
The cold got down to -40 Celcius (-40 Fahrenheit).

What lenses do you bring with you when shooting images like the ones featured in this book?
Ragnar: Most of the time I used lenses with a focal length from 21mm up to 50mm on my Leica(s) and a 43mm on my Mamiya 7. I also brought a 200mm lens for my Pentax camera in case there would be polar bears coming in a bit close. I prefer wider lenses and really only use long lenses when I do editorial work in sports and news for my paper. Doing documentary work I much rather prefer wide lenses.

Who are your own icons - or who inspires you?
There are many. I look at photographs from all around the world and many photographers makes me feel happy just seeing their work.
I do like the old masters like W. Eugene Smith a lot and the old LIFE photographers which I think were great and they inspiered me a lot. Mary Ellen Mark is a good friend of mine and I like her work and her passion for photography a lot. Henry Cartier bresson is also one of my favorite.
Nowadays I think James Nachtwey is one of the greatest ones - he is quiet and is always showing some great stuff.

I personally really enjoyed "Faces of the North" and can recommend it to anyone interested in photography with a strong human focus. The book - which is in tritone B&W and printed on high quality paper - can be ordered from the publisher (Edda Publishing) by emailing them at

For more information and images see Ragnar Axelsson's online site

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Audio-Photo Slideshow

Remember in school when you were forced to sit through those narrated slideshows about everything from 'Life on the Farm' to 'Secrets of the Depth'? Well, they're back. They're on-line and growing in popularity.

With so many more people accessing the internet through some sort of high-speed connection streaming audio and still images/videos are getting more and more popular. You will find this 'new/old phenomena' everywhere - from personal blogs and homepages to online newspapers and photo agencies (Magnum Photos being just one example).

A few weeks ago, Rob Galbraith wrote an interesting article about the growing popularity of online slideshows that you can read here.

I got curious and created a small test show myself named '94114'
(Click on the image below to view it - don't forget to turn up your volume).

(If the link above doesn't work try this one).

It was surpringly easy - and fun - to put together and it took less than two hours to create the slideshow. Much of that time was spent playing with the features and if I was to create a new one it could probably be done in an hours time (using recorded voices/ambient sound would ofcourse add significant editing time but could make for a much more interesting showing).

The tools I used for this test were all free;
* The Soundslides tool (not free-ware but allow you to use a demo-version until you've figured out if you want to purchase a copy),

* Free hosting of the files.
Note that soundslides doesn't create one quicktime file (or anything along those lines) but rather utilizes flash technology. This requires you to uplod a number of files/directories to a server that you then can point to (as in my link above). If you already have a server this is not an issue for you - but if you don't you will need some sort of free host. The one I used was www.webNG.COM. (Caution: It's free but the allocated bandwidth you get is pretty limited so if you are expecting a high number of people to access your slideshows it will most likely make sense to rent some server space from one of the many hosting services around).

So - you may have thought that the days of the A/V clubs were over but beware..they are alive and kicking..and they are coming to a site near you...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Elusive One

The Olympus 35UC is often referred to as 'The Elusive One' or, equally jokingly, claimed that it is made out of 'Unobtanium' - all due to the rarity of the camera.
The 35UC is funtionally identical to the 35SPn cameras - and optically identical to the 35SP and 35SPn. The differences are purely cosmetic with some added black plastic around the view-/rangefinder windows and the version lettering. Therefore one could argue that the only reason anyone would seek out the 35UC over any of the other cameras mentioned above would be to expand their camera collection.

For some time ago I managed to end up with two of these cameras - without paying a huge 'collectors fee'.

Photo of one of my 35UCs:

I must admit that they have not seen much use since I bought them two-three years ago so it felt good when I took one of them out with me a few weeks ago when I headed down to San Francisco's Mission district. Its f/1.7 lens combined with some fast Neopan film allowed for some fun low-light handheld street shooting.

Olympus 35UC, Neopan 1600

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Urban Dogs

People love dogs. People in cities love dogs. Here are a few snaps of urban dog-living from when walking around here in San Francisco.

Leica M3, Summicron 50/2

Leica M3, Summicron 50/2

Contax IIIa, Sonnar 50/1.5

Canon VT deluxe, Canon 50/1.4

Leica M3, Elmarit 90/2.8

Contax IIIa, Sonnar 50/1.5

Friday, October 20, 2006


I recently, by the spur of the moment, 'invested' seventy dollars into a kind of camera that is completely foreign to me. It's not 35mm, not medium format, not large format and not some obscure disk or glass-plate camera (even though I secrely probably would want one of those as well) - it's an 8mm Film camera.

The Bolex film cameras have a special reputation within film photograhy and even today you will find active users of their regular/double 8mm camera as well as the super-8 and 16mm formats.
Film and development options are still available online as well as over-the-counter.
Some cities like San Francisco are fortunate to have places like ActionCamera that provides a number of services for film photographers.

My Bolex D8La was the last version in the elegant line of regular/double 8mm cameras that the Swiss company Bolex Paillard put on the manufaturing lines in the 50's-60's.
It's a fully manual camera (with a built in CdS meter) that in this version takes up to three lenses. The lenses are mounted on a turning turret which makes changing focal-length a breeze.
The camera is a gorgeous piece of machinery covered in English leather.
It looks, colour, build quality - and even size reminds me of my Leica M3.

New in the mid-60's this camera and lens-kit sold for about $450 dollars - that is about $2,700 in today's money. Not an insignificant amount of money.

My particular camera is in need of some lubing and if all goes well I am hoping to shoot my first roll of Tri-X in it next week. Moving Tri-X. The mind boggles.

Below are some photos of my latest no-batty camera - this time a bit different.
(Coke can included for scale)


A few weeks ago the Ethel Merman Experience was performing at the annual Castro street festival.
Below a photo taken at the end of the excellent performance.

Leica M3, Summicron 50/2

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hello - Anybody out there?

I thought it would be fun to see if there is 'anybody out there' that reads this blog - and if so where in the world you are located. All you need to add is your name and location and you'll appear on the map. :)

To Add yourself: Click 'Add' on the map below and enter your name and location.
To See the map (and the people on it): Use the zoom-tool (right side of the map) and then drag the map around around the world.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Get your free film

Kodak US is as part of promoting their new Portra film giving away 20,000 rolls for free.
To get your four rolls (35mm or 120) go to this site: Kodak Offer and sign up.
Offer is valid until Nov 22, 2006 and only available to US residents.

Update: As of Nov 13, 2006 this offer is no longer valid as the 20,000 available rolls have all been asked for.

Night Creatures

It had been quite some time since I last used my Hasselblad so one night I decided to take it out for a spin.
It happened to be 1am at night so I brought my newly acquired tripod with me as well (where the old one went I have no idea).
I am by the way a notoriously horrible tripod buyer and user. People talk about Manfrotto/Bogen/Gitzo and various heads, etc, etc. I personally tend to go for the 30-40 dollar cheapo tripods that you find in the windows of your local Ritz or Wolf camera - designed to lure customers in with their low prices where they are talked into buying something better and more expensive. If it wasn't for me there would not be any rotation on these cheap display cameras.

I loaded up the camera-back with some Tri-X 400 in 120 format and into the night we went...

Night Creatures

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Tri-X 400

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Tri-X 400

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Tri-X 400 (pushed one stop)

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Tri-X 400 (pushed one stop)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Getting some NOOKY

We all want some NOOKY - but what do we do with it when we get it?
In the case of Leica NOOKY - you use it to focus your SM Elmar really, really close to your subject..

I recently picked up a like-new NOOKY for fifty-five dollars and took it out today for a first test roll and it was an interesting and fun experience.

First some basic information about the NOOKY:
This is a near-focusing device introduced in the 1930's that allows Leica 50mm lenses a much closer focusing distance (as close as 17 1/8th inches (44 cm)). Two versions were produced: the NOOKY that fits the Elmar 50/3.5 lens and the NOOKY-HESUM that will fit the Hektor or Summar 50mm lenses.

The device screws into the camera's lens changing flange and when securely attached the rangefinder window is covered by a glass attachment that adjusts to the new, closer focusing distance - and a parallax compensation frame is in place in front of the viewfinder. The lens is then fully collapsed and screws into the attachment - and you're now ready to go closer than you ever have with this lens!

See below for how to mount the device and lens on the camera:

Below are some photos of a NOOKY and Elmar mounted on my Leica III (F):
Leica III (F), VALOO hood and NOOKY

Leica III (F), VALOO hood and NOOKY

So how did my test shoot go?
Well, it was great fun to be able to focus this close with the Elmar and some of the photos from the first roll hints at that this could be an interesting portrait set-up as well. Once the adapter is mounted one is supposed to focus with the lever on the NOOKY - instead of the lever on the lens itself. In theory that sounds ok but in pratice it is much easier to just pre-focus and move the camera until the subject is in focus.

The original manual adds two pieces of information that helped;
a) Make sure that you focus just on images that are in the centre of the viewfinder, and
b) The depth-of-field becomes very shallow and a minimum of f/5.6 is recommended (having said that it will be interesting to shoot some photos wide-open (f/3.5 in the Elmar's case).

Another thing to keep in mind is that once the adapter is in place you have pretty much committed yourself to doing close-focusing photography as the furthest you can focus at now is about 3.5 feet.

Finally, some shots from the roll from earlier today.
All shots on Kodak's BW400CN film.

The News

A billion people died on the news tonight
But not so many cried at the terrible sight
Well mama said It's just make believe
You can't believe everything you see
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies
On the news tonight
The News, Jack Johnson

Leica M3, Summicron 50/2, Tri-X 400

Saturday, October 14, 2006

San Francisco Streets

As mentioned in an earlier post I wanted to try out Kodak's BW400CN film with my Leica M3 to do a more 'fair' comparison to the roll of XP2 Super that I had just shot. So, I took to the streets and shot a roll of it.
I like the results - but I still feel that Ilford's XP2 Super gives a bit better sharpness and contrast.
All photos in this post taken with a Leica M3, Summicron 50/2 and Kodak BW400CN film.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Jet Plane

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go

'Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane
I don't know when I'll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go

Leaving on a Jet Plane, John Denver

Leica M3, Summicron 50/2, Leitz yellow-green filter, Kodak BW400CN film

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Take Me Home

Strapped in the chair of the city's gas chamber
Why I'm here I can't quite remember

The surgeon general says it's hazardous to breathe

I'd have another cigarette
But I can't see

Tell me who you're gonna believe

Take me down
To the paradise city
Where the grass is green
And the girls are pretty
Take me home, yeah
Guns N' Roses, Paradise City

Leica M3, Elmarit 90/2.8, Walgreen's C-41 Colour film

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ilford XP2 Super

After being very pleasantly surprised by the results I got from Kodak's BW400CN film a few weeks ago I decided to put my preconceived notions about the world of C-41 B&W to the side and take a second look at what it has to offer. Something I thought I'd never do. What's next? A dSLR?

I had heard and read a lot of praise for Ilford's XP2 Super film - another C-41 B&W film wih the same apparent benefits as the Kodak equivalent (convenience and speed when it comes to developement turn-around (for people that don't process at home)) - and decided to try a roll this weekend.

So, off I went to a Ritz Camera here in San Francisco and picked up a roll for $4.99 (Note: online retailers such as Adorama carries the film for $3.49). Loaded it in my Leica M3 (fitted with a Summicron 50/2 (rigid, first version)) and took to the streets for a couple of hours of shooting. Since this was a test roll I wanted to try it out in a number of lighting situations as well as both indoors and outdoors.

It was great fun and a bit challenging for me to 'have' to finish the roll in a few hours (I can sometimes leave the same roll in a camera for a month...). But alas, I prevailed and managed to overcome the tremendous task of pressing the shutter thirty-six times within my self-alloted timeframe - and below you can see some of the photos that this resulted in (Click on any photo to see a larger version):

First shot on the roll. Cute.

Went and had lunch and ended up next to this studious girl

One more shot before hitting the streets again

Shot from the hip

Another hip shot

Last frame on the roll

Went to my local Wahlgreen's - and three hours after I bought the film I had the developed prints and negatives in my hands. Pretty impressive to someone who is used to rely on a few B&W labs and their sometimes unpredictable turn-around times.

Initial impressons based on this one roll:
- The machine prints from the XP2 Super looked much more like 'real' B&W prints compared to the Kodak BW400CN prints that had a significant green tone to them,

- The negatives were very sharp and contrasty (another 'win' for the XP2 Super when comparing to the Kodak film).
Note: I used an Olympus 35SPn when I took the roll of Kodak film (see separate post below) and my Leica M3 and Summicron 50/2 for this roll of XP2 Super so some of the discrepancy I'm seeing here could have to do with the difference in equipment used. I will put a roll of XP2 Super through my SPn as well in the coming week and see if the results are still the same.

- The negatives scanned very well and required minimum post processing.
Fairly eq
ual to the Kodak film that also excelled in this area.

Over all I am so far very impressed by Ilford's XP2 Super. This is as close to a traditional-looking B&W film I have seen come out of a C-41 minilab and I am already planning on picking up a few more rolls tomorrow. It's a Sunday...but I can still shoot and have my B&W film developed within a hour


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Crown Of Thorns

I wear this crown of thorns
upon my liar's chair
full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
beneath the stains of time
the feelings disappear
you are someone else
I am still right here
Johnny Cash, Hurt

Leica M3, Summicron 50/2

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How super is 'Super'?

A few years ago (April, 2004 to be more precise) I picked up a Mamiya Super Deluxe at a Photo fair for sixty dollars. The camera was in near-perfect condition and the meter is still spot-on which is impressive for a camera made 40+ years ago (1964).

I think I was initially attracted to it due to the similarities between it and the Olympus 35LC (which is another camera I own and like). For some reason I never ended up using the Mamiya much. I don't know why not as I find it to be an attractive camera, good ergonomics (for me) and it sports a pretty impressive 48/1.7 lens.

The other week I was going through my cameras to check which ones had film in them (I have a habit of shooting half a roll in a camera and then forgetting it's there) - and found that the Mamiya was loaded with a roll of Tri-X 400 with more than half of it exposed. After ruining a couple of frames from opening up the back I fired off the remaining frames and had the roll developed at my favorite, local lab. Below is one of the frames that escaped my back-opening-light.

Mamiya Super Deluxe, Tri-X 400

It's a few years later now - but maybe I can make it up to the Mamiya by taking it out for a shoot this coming weekend. I think it deserves it.

A little bit about the Mamiya Super Deluxe:
The Mamiya Super Deluxe is a fixed-lens, leaf-shutter rangefinder camera produced around 1964. It features an matching-needle meter that is visible inside the viewfinder - as well as on top of the camera. It also have a on-off switch for the meter on the back.

It was released in three versions;
Mid 1964:
1) Version I - Mamiya-Kominar 48/2.0 lens (Copal-SVE shutter)
2) Version II - Mamiya-Sekor 48/1.7 (Copal-SVE shutter)

Late 1964:
3) Version III - Mamiya-Sekor 48/1.5 (Copal-SVE shutter)

(Mine is a 'Version II')