Category Archives: using vintage equipment

using cameras and lenses that aren’t new. antique, old, hand me down, vintage cameras, soft focus, and other lenses too.


main street old earnshaw drugs

hand colored black and white

odeum theater

hand colored black and whtie

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Agfa Shur Shot

i was given an agfa shur shot camera years ago and didn’t use it much.  it is a box camera from the 1930s, a basic camera.

it isn’t the most well made camera, kind of made of cardboard and wood and it seems like it is going to break every time you change the film
because you have to pull out the wind knob but it seems to work OK just the same.

the other day i walked a few miles from my mechanic’s place, almost home, it was about 3 miles in all.  i took random photographs on discontinued kodak 120 ( plus x ) film.  sometimes i pressed the shutter and it fired at maybe 1/50th of a second, other times i put it on “time” and counted to maybe four or five.  when i got home and found the time ( maybe a week or two later ) i processed all the film in my usual film developer.  i use about 2L of perkolated sumatra coffee, and a few healthy pours of washing soda and vitamin C.  i also added some black, used and diminished ansco 130 paper developer dilute 1:10.  i wound the film on the metal reels, put it all in stainless steel tanks,
and poured in the developer to do its magic.  i left the room for about 1/2 hour and played a few games of solitaire ( canfield is my favorite )
and eventually i lost, and went to wash and fix the film.  it hung to dry from a string on the ceiling, and the next day when i found the time, i scanned the negatives, inverted them and began wondering what to do with these random frames from my walk.



sub station

sub station in color

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i am involved with a project with a few other photographers in rhode island …  the providence grid project. it was thought of by a photographer named paul shelasky. together withwarren eve, erik gould and me, we are photographing providence and its outskirts 1 square mile at a time. paul emails us a piece of map and we photograph what is there, or what isn’t there, people, place, things.

my last square was near india point park, including north main street. the bridge is no longer there and i took a series of images and this is what i got.

they are scans for now, but hopefully, like the other sets of series i have recently done, they will end up as prints.

providence from north main street, no bridge

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i have been spending more time at chepiwanoxet island these days.
years ago it was an island, but when the gaulidette airplane factory was
there, they trucked in dirt and linked it to the cove. no one knows
what chepiwanoxet means. i have an old dictionary of new england place names
and their english translations and it refers to chepiwanoxet island as “devil’s island”.
a few years ago i spoke with a elder of the narragansetts and when i mentioned that name
he got very upset. he said if i wanted a clue to the island name’s meaning
go in the morning or evening, and look to the north, south, east and west,
and maybe i would learn from experiencing.

the other day i was there with my box camera, i walked and listened, i walked and looked.
these views are what i felt and saw when i was there. the bay was quiet,
and silently lapped the shoreline. the wind blew through the weeds and tall grass.
i saw potowomut ( land of fire ), and cowesset ( place of the small pines )
and everything was still.

i also have a copy of the dictionary roger williams created
so he could learn the narragansett language.
if offers some clues too, but spellings are different.
chépewess means a northern storme of war,
chepassotam mean dead sachim
and chepasquaw means dead woman …

maybe if it was the place of a fierce battle, or where many people may have died
or a place where one could be touched by the spirit world.
it seemed quiet and offered a place of reflection when i was there.

i plan on going back sometimes soon, maybe my camera will help me
learn the true meaning …


the sea was quiet and wind was whispering
the birds didn’t see me as they sunned
i walked the shoreline, scattered with the
remnants of staples and airplanes
and looked across to the other side

looking north south east and west

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Cyclone #3 Camera

many years ago i bought a cyclone #3 camera on ebay.  at the time, i was buying old falling plate cameras, removing the shutters, cleaning them, and reselling them.  i worked on and sold many of them, mostly long format box cameras, some with variable speed shutters, some with just and instantaneous speed ( 1/30thS sometimes faster ).  the design was simple and worked very well.  in the days before roll film, glass plates were loaded up inside the camera in metal septums after the exposure, a button was depressed and the glass plate would fall to the front of the camera on a rail, and the next plate was ready to expose.  after i stopped fixing and selling them, i bought one last one, one that took 4×5 plates, the cyclone #3.

a few years ago, i stripped the dried, mottled broken leather off the wood box.  i took a paper towel and made it wet, and scrapped it right off.  i cleaned the cobwebs out of the inside of the camera, removed front plate where the shutter was, and put a drop of oil on the shutter.  the camera was ready to use.

i put sheets of 4×5 paper in each of the 8 septums and went out and made some exposures.  i processed the paper negatives in old print developer to control the contrast, i’d scan or contact print the results, it was a lot of fun  …  i hadn’t used the camera in over a year and picked it up again the other day.   i loaded it up with 4×5 film and made some exposures.  soon after i cut 5×7 paper in half and used a enlarger filter ( #2 ) to cut the contrast a little bit.    i went to the cove near my house and photographed the marsh and the beach weeds.


paper negative grass

the point

marsh near the point

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more work from the graflex 3A

at the beginning of this year i bought a graflex 3A.  i wasn’t quite sure what i was going to do with it …

the shutter was old and finicky, and while i had been in touch with a graflex guru to rehabilitate the camera, i opted not to use the shutter at all.  the camera originally took 122A roll film that was more than 3″ in width, and included a special backing to write notes on the edge of the negative ( it is an “autographic” camera ).  some people convert these cameras to use 120 format film, which is about 2.5″ wide but without a working shutter i opted to use the camera only for shooting paper negatives.  i have been working with paper instead of film for years with large format cameras (4×5, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14).  the format of this camera is 3.25×5.5 ”
and i love the long rectangular format so this was going to be fun.

at first i put single sheets of 5×7 paper in the camera, it made a beautiful exposure centered on the 5×7 paper, and this would work well if i didn’t need to make more than one exposure at a time, or i had a way to exchange exposed paper for unexposed paper.   i scavenged a second film spool from another 3A camera i have, and i experimented to find the best way to make long rolls of paper.  first i rolled fiber paper.  i had a lot of wasted paper, and the emulsion tends to crack when cold or bent, so i soon  realized this wasn’t the best choice.  i found a box of old 8×10 resin coated paper and cut pieces in half.  they were perfect for the spools.  i took tape and connected 4 sheets of sliced paper end to end and then wound the paper onto a spool.  i taped the end  and left the paper for another day.  leaving it wound up gave a “memory” to the paper so it wouldn’t readily unwind itself in the camera.

i eventually put the spool of paper in the camera and taped the end to the receiving spool and closed the back.  there was no backing paper with numbers on it to remind me where to stop winding, so i just winged-it.  2.5 full revolutions seemed to be OK.  made a lens cap out of tape and cardboard and put it on the front of the lens and was ready to make some exposures.  the system worked well, and i have shot 2 rolls of paper so far.

after the paper is done, i go back to the darkroom and turn on the red light.  i unwind the paper from the receiving spool and put each sheet in a warm water bath to relax the curl.  then i put them one at a time in a 3.5 gallon container filled with used coffee developer i have run film through.  the coffee developer works great with paper negatives.  it is low contrast and slow.  the images appear at around 2 minutes and finish developing at about 4 minutes.

the images scan well, and print beautifully as contact prints.

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yesterday …

yesterday was wednesday.
it was cold and snowy.
the snow came down light and steady for hours
and then it stopped.
the sun came out and warmed the road,
it gave me a chance to shovel and see my breath.
later after the kids got home they did their homework.
it wasn’t snowing, it was cold and grey.
i rolled some more paper, this time ilford and taped it tight on itself
and then i trimmed a 5×7 sheet and stuck it in the back of the 3A.
i saw the nosecone lenscap
i saw the snow, sometimes deep
and the flurries started again.
big flakes falling in slow motion as they always do.
i propped the camera on my leg and flopped the mirror
i pulled the lever to make sure it was up, as i always do and removed the cap
i counted: 1 sip of coffee, two sips of coffee three sips of coffee
i might have gotten to 4 or 5, i don’t remember.
the sun was down now and the snow glowed in the late afternoon light.

a few hours went by .. more like 5.

it was now 10pm
and i turned on the stove and put the wok ontop of it,
i reached in to the paper bag and pulled out 2 -3 handfuls of green beans
and swirled them around
at about 4 minutes they began to crack and sizzle
i moved them faster and removed them from the heat
i shook them and with “wrist action” i mixed them up and chaff continued to fall off the beans
they changed from pale green to light brown and they smoked
i opened a window but it didn’t do much …
the fan was on but it didn’t do much.
the beans were darker brown now
some darker than others
( old beans seem to roast at different speeds because of varying moisture contents )
and i poured them out into the mixing bowl.

i did this again and again 3 more times until i had enough.

after the beans were put into empty jelly jars i went into the dark.
i brought the 3A with me and turned on the red light.
i uncovered the 2 quart container with my spent developer and put the paper from the camera in the drink
i pulled it in and out of the developer to agitate it and the timer was on for 4 minutes.
at 2 minutes the image appeared i kept on with the tongs
and at 4 minutes i put the print into a water bath.
i filled and dumped the water a few times before it went into the fix tank and ‘agitated” the print for 5 minutes.
i washed it
i squeegeed it
blow-dried it
( and when it was not tacky )
i numericalized it …

i’ll be putting this in a print frame soon to contact print it
maybe in the sun
maybe under the flood

i haven’t gotten that far yet … i just don’t want to keep it all numbers

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ancient roll film camera and spools of … paper not film

many years ago i bought a medium format camera and used rolled paper inside instead of film. it wasn’t hard to roll about 2 feet of paper on an empty spool, but unfortunately
the tension on the film advance mechanism couldn’t take it, and it broke.

the graflex 3A is a little different. it is about 100 years old and the advance mechanism is just a key on the bottom of the camera. the spools are about 3 1/2 inches + in length and originally they were used for spools of film with a paper backing. this particular camera is an “autographic” so there was a little
window that slides open and a metal stylus to write notes on the negative. it was like carbon paper and made white letters on the print. i figured that a long roll of paper would wind very well in this camera, since it was originally made for film that was 2 layers thick.

i took some 5×7 sheets and cut them in half and taped them together.
i am a fan of black masking tape – it removes easily. after 8 sheets of paper were connected
i taped a leader on each end ( piece of 35mm film ) and put the paper spools in the camera.
i wound and wound
and noticed how many turns it took to get to the next frame ..
and i rewound the paper and closed the back again.

i began making exposures, but the paper wasn’t left wound on the spool tight enough, for long enough so it unraveled inside and bound up.

in a dim lit room, i opened the back, retaped the paper, and advanced it again.
it seemed to work fine.

i was a little off with “2 1/4 turns= 1 frame” but it was close enough.

these images were not photoshopped except to invert.
with the darker one the brightness was turned down a tiny bit.

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chemical free photographs

what is a chemical free photograph ?

usually when i make a photograph i expose paper to a small amount of light.  i either project a negative from an enlarger onto the paper
or i put the negative on top of the paper itself and expose it to a small amount of light, or i put materials on the paper and use a small amount of light
to expose the paper.  the paper is then put through a developer, where the image appears onto the paper and then a fixer to remove all the unexposed
silver so it will be “light safe” .

last fall i wondered what would happen if i just made a long long exposure with paper, in a camera or in contact with a negative.  would an image appear on the paper?  would it be able to be saved somehow so it could be viewed ?  or would it just fade away?  there were people i know of on and other places who
put plants and “living” materials onto paper and expose it this way.  the plants ‘sweat” and “cook” on the paper and a photograph is made showing the outline
and translucency of the plants.  the stuff that oozed out of the plants reacts with the photo paper and the image can be fixed in fixer and toned and can last as long
as any photograph.  i was hoping to do something similar, but without plants, and without making a photogram.

i loaded an old sears box camera up with paper and left the shutter open for an hour or so, and an image was on the paper.
i put a 4×5 negative on a sheet of paper and put that in a contact frame and left that outside in the sun, and in an hour an image appeared.
soon after i began to make my own cameras out of foam core and i bought simple lens cells.  the largest camera i made was 12×16
and i made 11×14 prints with it.  i taped paper inside after the camera was focused and left it for upto 4 hours.

i did run into trouble though.  i tried to fix the images and make them light safe, but they faded to white.  my exposures were too short so the fixer bleached the image off of the paper.  instead of using rapid fixer, i bought hypo ( sodium thiosulphate ) and with the help of a friend learned of a milder way to fix the images,  a way used for printing out paper.  unfortunately my images were still too underexposed and they bleached.
i did manage to scan many of the images i made so they were saved somehow.    the next ones i made will be exposed for two or three times my initial exposures
and hopefully will last longer.









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fruit and other things

there were some bananas on the counter

snow outside

a flying cage

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