an untitled photo
of a place with no address
I have been working on this project for a couple weekends now, but I thought I’d document it properly with better photos. I have spliced together an antique camera and my Pentax k10d before, but this time it’s more personal. The camera spliced with my Pentax now is an AGFA Ansco Ready Set Pronto No. 1 camera issued to my grandfather during World War II. When I was young he related to me the story of how it came with a small can of paint and orders to paint the body of the camera green when he was in an open bottom tent in the pouring rain at bootcamp in the south (Kentucky maybe?). The mottled texture of the green paint reflects the less than ideal conditions to paint; The bellows, track and lens housing were manufactured green already.
The shutter is on the outside of the lens, therefore it gives the lens a sort of weather protection, and has preserved the lens all these years. I would guess the last time this camera took photos was Berlin, 1945. (some of the original photos from Berlin are found in an early entry).
My grandfather would have preferred the details of making this work to any of the photos. My grandfather was more pragmatic, but last we spoke he mentioned “You’re more like me that way.”
This works because a lens is a projector, which is projecting the image of what you see through the viewfinder onto the film, or in this case a digital CMOS. The Agfa’s bellows rides on a track and the design allows the lens housing to move along the track at any time. This is key since this is a single element lens (only one piece of glass). Normally the focal length on a single lens camera is constant. These old cameras in general were 120mm. The track however gives some freedom when being used with a DSLR. You can slide the lens housing increasingly out for macro-zoom effect, and increasingly closer to the CMOS for infinity focus until 120, infinity is reached. Not all antique bellows cameras allow this slide, as they’re often designed to automatically lock at their prime position.
The old AGFA doesn’t have an fstop control, but I’d guess that the AGFA’s timed shutter has an fstop of about f6, and it’s instant shutter is about f4. The instant shutter seems to be about 1/350, depending on it’s mood. I would guess some 3 in 1 oil would get it cranking to 1/750, but I only use the timed mode, which keeps the shutter open until you hit the shutter lever again. This allows the Pentax to use manual mode to set the shutter speed. I then use shutter and ISO to control the exposure with an assumption of f6. The light meter can be made to work using tav, but the Pentax runs to dark if I try, as it tries to suck in light through the AGFA’s tiny lens, so I chimp the histogram instead. The Pentax’s focus recgonition continues to work, so when I adjust the AGFA’s lens position during a shot, the Pentax still beeps and blink when it thinks it has good focus.
The landscape in this set was taken in the Blackhawk area of Illinois with the setup shown.
The last time I did this with a camera I named it Frankensteintax. I’ll call this one Grandfather’s Eye.
out in the middle again
Same tree, same camera position, two different lenses.
Something lost forever (Taken with instagram)
When I was in the second grade, my father was adamant that the trains were not to go to school, not even for show and tell. I snuck downstairs to the train set he’d painstakingly put together with me. The Chessie System, with box cars and a log mill that worked. The engine lit up, the gates went down as the train passed the crossing. I snuck the caboose in my bag that morning. As I walked to school, I imagined how show and tell was going to be amazing. I imagined holding it up like a crown. And I did.
But somewhere between school and home I must have dropped it. I thought it was in my backpack. I couldn’t believe it.
I didn’t say anything at dinner.
I didn’t say anything as I left for school the next day, walking in spirals like a circular search pattern slowly making my way to school. Nothing. It was nowhere. It existed only as a sense of dread. I couldn’t sleep. The next day I tried again. About half way to school I ran into the bully, the one who lived right on the way to school, the one I hoped never to run into. He was 7 or 8 and already thought it was cool to wear work boots even in gym class and keep a cigarette on his ear always asking what anyone was going to do about it.
The bully asked me if I was looking for my train. Of course I said yes and he smiled and told me where to look. I couldn’t believe it. The bully had been nice for once.
I imagined it sitting in some grass next to a tree, as if it had gently fallen from sight. When I got to it, it was smashed. The wheels were pulled off, the bottom was broken in two. The plastic body had been thrown into the sandy corner of a parking lot a few feet away.
I didn’t get in trouble, or my parents might have figured I’d tormented myself enough on this one. They’ll read this, so I wonder if they remember, maybe not. It is an indelible memory of mine in either case.
It’s ironic to me that the one toy I thought I had lost forever, that kept me awake for nights, would arrive back 30 years later in a box from my mother with some other things. This object gives me a feeling I cannot reproduce in any other object. Despite not being lost, it represents something intangible lost forever.