Yashica Love

A few years ago, I fell in love with a camera called the Yashica Electro 35GSN. It’s a pretty straightforward rangefinder camera. You focus, control the aperture and the camera decides on the shutter speed depending on the aperture you set. I had no idea it was the camera that would start an obsession. After finding orphaned GSNs at thrift stores, I took the plunge and picked up a refurbished one on eBay. Here’s the baby–

With the flood of digital cameras in our society and our overall mindset, “everyone” sees themselves a photographer. There’s no thought needed to produce images on a phone or computer screen. There is no need for understanding exposure, shutter speed and aperture. Why worry when you can take 100 images and simply pick the “best” one. If you only have 12 shots on a roll of film, you’re going to damn well put some thought into what you’re doing. Don’t get me wrong, I have a digital camera that I use for point-and-shoot situations like the camera images in this post. In addition, I know that there are photographers that use digital cameras. The fundamental difference these photographers understand exposure and put thought into the images they capture with these digital cameras. Anyway, enough of that soapbox sermon.

After finding a Brownie Reflex II at a local thrift store, my attention turned to that singular class of cameras called TLRs (Twin Lens Reflex). To use a TLR, you look through a viewfinder on the top to see an image that is almost exactly what will be exposed on the film through the lower lens. Again, you control the aperture and shutter speed. After reading page after page on these works of art, I set my mind to getting myself one of my own. Can you guess who manufactured some of the better TLR cameras? That’s right..Yashica. Here are two of my more recent finds, both still in excellent working order–over fifty years after they their production.

With my learning to develop my own black and white film, using these beauties will be much more practical and fun.

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Serendipity

As my blog’s name suggests, I am a huge fan of photography– especially lomographic work like that made with a Holga, Diana or other plastic toy camera. The unpredictable nature of these cheaply made cameras is their bane to a professional looking for consistency, but a treasure to those looking to release control of the photographic experience and just let things happen. The only drawback to using these cameras is that processing of the film is not as readily available as it once was.  It can take a week to get a roll of film processed and printed or scanned. I’ve looked at Flickr a lot lately, losing myself in the eye of other people’s plastic lenses. Page after page of light leaks, dreamlike colors, unexpected textures and vignetting have been yelling inside my brain. Seeing the magic that people have been able to conjure out of the film by processing it at home,  they know something I don’t, and I don’t like it. I want to know. I want to learn.

This need to learn is what put me in my car and led me to Showcase Video on Cheshire Bridge Road here in Atlanta. List in hand, I made my way to the darkroom supplies area of the store. I stood, dumbfounded, looking at shelves of chemicals, tanks and reels. I was completely overwhelmed. I needed more than a list. I needed help. After about ten minutes of picking things up and reading labels before putting them back, a man I later found out was named Barry came up to me and started asking me what I was looking for. He didn’t work there, as he did not have on a logo shirt for the store.  I meekly told him what I was wanting to do, and he started suggesting things to me. “Pick this chemical. It’s the same as that one but not expensive.” The blaring sound of his cell phone put an abrupt end to our conversation. I was again sweating inside as I continued to look at the almost cryptic labels on the developing chemicals.

After he finished his call, I asked him to confirm the chemicals he had recommended to me. I started looking at the tanks and reels, which prompted him to give me a business card and tell me to come see him for my hardware. He was going to sell me everything I needed for a small fraction of the price Showcase was charging. After looking at the price tags on the reels and tanks in the store, I quickly agreed. I told him I’d be at his work, Photography Center of Atlanta, at noon on Friday. I still didn’t know what I was in for.

Friday, I showed up  and was led back to the wet room. It was a mish-mash of trays of liquids, bottles of other liquids, tongs, reels…you name it. Barry took some time to answer some preliminary questions, then did what any pro would do. He showed me some of his work. Prints from 35mm, 120, even 5X7 plate film. Unbelievable work from as recently as January and as old as the start of the 20th century. I loved every second. This is where I belonged.

He took me into the wet room and showed me his setup. After a few minutes, he asked if I wanted to sit in while he processed a few rolls of 120 film. I couldn’t believe it.  I eagerly agreed to stay and watch him do his work. Over the next three hours, I watched him process three rolls of 120 film and 5 rolls of 35mm film. Between each roll, he told me stories of  exhibits he had done and people he had met along the way. As I sat in the dark talking to him and listening to him pull the film out of its protective canisters, I realized he was giving birth to someone’s vision. He was taking personal moments of someone’s life that had been transferred to film, and giving them safe passage to the world outside those canisters. Photography became not so much an act of capturing moments, but setting them free.

All in all, I got a hell of a deal on equipment and made a new friend. I honestly could have stayed in that wet room/dark room all day long. I didn’t feel afraid to do this on my own. Instead, I felt challenged, inspired… I felt alive. For the next few days, I’ll be practicing loading film onto reels in the dark. It’s the hardest part of the work, and leads to big problems if you don’t do it correctly. Ultimately, loading the reels is not difficult, it just requires focus.

While I have my doubts about many things in the universe, I have no doubts that this was not just a chance meeting. This man’s path crossed mine for a reason. He came into my life so I could realize a dream that I’ve held  with slippery fingers for years. Look for more from me. A lot more.

Spring is..Springing

I’m one of the biggest supporters of long, cold winters in the South. I love being able to wear hats and scarves and coats and..well, you get the idea.  This particular Winter, though, has been a particularly cold one.  While I won’t admit it to anyone else, I’ll be very glad to see this Winter pass. And while every Spring is different, I’m striving to make this one the best one ever.

What a difference a month makes.

Here was mid-February..

And here’s March 16th..

Spring is a great time of year. Not too cold, not too hot. Because it’s the time that flowers bloom and birds return from their migratory Winter homes, it’s seen as a time of rebirth. This particular Spring will be a rebirth for me as well. Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve lost 16 pounds. Considering Winter is a time when most people gain weight, I’m excited to get outside this year and start really making the pounds fall off.

Board shorts this summer. That’s my goal, and I’m off to a hell of a start. If I can keep up the same pace on my weight loss, I’ll be very close to my goal weight by the end of the summer. It’s going to take work, though. The more I lose, the harder more work it’s going to take in order  to keep losing. It’s an exciting challenge, and I’m looking forward to realizing a dream I’ve had since fourth grade. Almost thirty years of being overweight. It’s about damned time.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers is a big part of my life. It’s the path I’ve chosen to get rid of the weight I’ve carried on my body and in my heart for a good twenty years now. I’ve lost almost fifty pounds up to this point, and have about forty to go.

I’m taking my first trip home in almost 3 years on April 11th. I’ve set a short-term weight loss goal of twelve pounds before I get on the plane/in the car to head down. (I’ve not decided which will be my mode of transport as of yet.) Ambitious, yes. Possible, absolutely. The one thing I’m going to have to increase is my physical activity. My eating is on target, so it’s just a matter of learning to love exercise and physical activity in general.

Hello world!

I couldn’t think of a better title than the one provided, so there you have it.

Blogs, blogs and more blogs. I’ve had my share. I’ve “divided” them by subject, motivation, and even by very specific audience. This has been tiresome at best and only resulted in deserted blogs scattered across the internet. It’s time to really just have one blog and call it a day. Here are some things you might encounter– weight loss, knitting, kitteh,  photography (hence the username), matters of the heart and who knows what else. I’m not much on introductions. I’ll let the words speak for themselves so you can form your own opinion. Comments are welcome if you are so inclined. I apologize in advance for out-of-sorts posts in the start while I feel my way around alternate methods of posting. I’ll try to at least keep that entertaining, too.  My goal tomorrow? A new header.