There are times when I’m out shooting that I get stopped and asked about what kind of camera(s) am I using. I attribute this to the fact that I still shoot almost exclusively medium and large format film cameras for my personal and fine art work. So, I decided to give you all a peek into what type of gear it is that I use and a little insight as to why I still shoot film.
First up is my Yashica Mat-124G Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) medium format camera.
The Mat-124G was the last TLR camera made by the Japanese manufacturer, Yashica and was the follow up to the Mat-124 model. The ‘G’ designation for the fact that the latest model came with gold plated contacts. It uses medium format roll film and can take both 120 and 220 lengths, utilizing a sliding pressure plate to keep the film in proper placement along the film path. You get 12 exposures with 120 film and 24 exposures with 220 film and the camera counter automatically adjusts depending on the position of the pressure plate. A window directly above the winding crank will show either 12IM or 24IM to let you know what you have loaded in case you forget. This is accomplished by a spring loaded pin that is pressed down by the pressure plate when it is in the proper position for 120 film. This means that it will show 24IM when the back of the camera is open, no matter what is the position of the pressure plate. This is also the same mechanism that allows the counter to go to 24 when 220 is loaded. Image size on the film is 2 1/4″ by 2 1/4″, or 6x6cm, which is more than four times larger than the negative taken with a 35mm camera.
The top photo shows the Yashica Mat-124G set up to take a photo of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The bottom photos shows the reversed image on the focusing screen.
The lens is a Yashinon 80mm f/3.5, four element Tessar type, and the viewing lens is a f/2.8 version of the same type. The taking lens is mounted in a Copal SV leaf shutter with speeds from 1/500 second to Bulb, ‘X’ and ‘M’ flash syncs available at all speeds. The lenses use the Bayonet I mount for both filters and accessories. While the lens is fixed focal length and cannot be interchanged for other length lenses, there are both wide angle and telephoto adapters that use the Bay I mount and allow you the choice of three different focal lengths.
Metering is done with a needle matching system with the needles viewed through a window on the top front of the camera. Film speeds from 25ASA to 400ASA can be dialed in, and if you are using a faster film, some slight mathematics will be required to determine the proper f/stop and shutter speed. The meter was designed to take mercury batteries, which are toxic and no longer available. However, Wein zinc-air replacement batteries are available and I find the meter in my Yashica to be extremely accurate. I get batteries for my Yashica and my Gossen light meter from Vintage Batteries. There is a switch that activates the meter when the waist level viewfinder is opened, and which shuts off the meter to save on battery power when the finder is closed. Just know that the zinc-air batteries will continue to drain as long as the air ports are open. If you plan on not needing them for a while, it is best to replace the tape over the tiny vent holes to keep the battery from further depletion. Just remember to take the tape off an hour before you need the batteries to work properly.
The 3x focusing loupe is shown flipped into place for fine focusing.
Film loading is pretty straight forward, as it is with most TLR cameras. Film advance is with a crank on the right side of the camera, with the film counter window located just above and forward of the crank. Focusing is done with a large knob on the left side of the camera, which also has a reminder window that you can set to what type of film that you have loaded. There is also a selection that reads ‘Empty’ for you to choose as well. A depth of field indicator is located on the focusing knob, which is extremely useful when shooting wide open, or at close distances from the subject. The focusing screen is of a Fresnel type, and has a 3x loupe that you can pop out for critical focusing. If you have never shot with a medium format camera with a waist level finder, it may take a roll or two of film to get used to as the image is reversed (left and right). While a TLR was not exactly designed for fast action sports shooting, the waist level finder does have a sports finder feature. There is no parallax indicator in the viewfinder for close in shooting, so you need to keep in mind that you are viewing the scene through a lens approximately 1 3/4″ above the taking lens. Advancing the film also cocks the shutter, which is tripped by depressing a small button on the lower right front of the camera. This is also where you would attach the cable release and the shutter lock lever is located around the shutter release button. While there is no multiple exposure feature available with the Mat-124G, there is a delay timer that will allow you to get into the shot. The delay is obviously mechanical in nature and can vary slightly from camera to camera. On my camera it comes in at nine seconds.
The sports finder feature of the Yashica Mat-124G is seen in the above photo.
Overall, the Yashica Mat-124G is a well built medium format camera and capable of taking some amazing images as you can see below. It is an excellent camera for those of you interested in getting into the world of medium format photography. You can see some of my more favorite shots that I’ve taken with my Mat-124G below.
Yosemite Winter Storm – Tunnel View No.2 – Medium Format
For those of you familiar with Flickr, the shot above has been at the top of my stream for ‘Interestingness’ almost since the day that I posted it. It was taken at the famous Tunnel View on California Highway 41 in Yosemite National Park during a break in a winter storm this past February. This is the same location that Ansel Adams made his famous ‘Clearing Winter Storm’ photograph at.
The Moon and Fog Above The City
Taken from the Marin Headlands during blue hour with a full moon, this shot is one of the most favored shot of the Golden Gate Bridge that I have taken. It was taken about an hour after sundown and is long exposure on Kodak Ektachrome 100 Vivid Saturation. I was bracketing like crazy and did not take down exposure times for the individual shots. I was using f/16 and this is probably in the 30 to 40 second range. I did crop it from the original square image for composition.
San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts
One of the most recognizable landmarks in San Francisco is the Palace of Fine Arts. It was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and has just recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. This is a 30 second exposure at f/22 on Kodak E100VS film.
If you are like many of us (or like me) and still have Christmas shopping to do and you don’t know what to get for the photographer in your life, then you just may be in luck. Take a look below to find some great last minute gift ideas!
Did you get someone a new digital SLR for Christmas this year? Do you know someone that already has a DSLR, but they never take it off of automatic because they are unsure how to work their camera? Have no fear, David Busch is here to save the day! Published by Course Technology and found online at www.courseptr.com these books explain in easy to understand terms how to get the most out of your camera. Written for both the amateur and the professional alike, I have one for each DSLR that I own and cannot recommend them enough. Many bookstores including Barnes and Noble carry them, but most stores do not have the book for each model camera in stock at all times, especially for camera models that are out of production.
If the photographer in your life is looking to do more than the software supplied with their camera will allow them to, Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 may be just what the doctor ordered. It has many features that are found in the more expensive Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 5, but at a greatly reduced price. PSE 10 even has a few features that are not found in CS5. The good news is that B&H Photo and Video has it on sale through December 31st for only $64.95USD, with free shipping in the USA.
If you are going to get them the software, then you might as well go all the way and get what is without a doubt, the best book written for the Photoshop user (IMHO). Scott Kelby is the ultimate Photoshop guru and the founder of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. Matt Kloskowski is one of the top instructors for NAPP and together they have written a series of books about Photoshop that is geared for the photographer. When I got my first version of Photoshop Elements, I tried just about every book printed (including the ones by Adobe) and found that I learned more about Photoshop in this one book than I did in all of the others put together. It is published by New Riders and is available at many books stores, including Barnes and Noble.
If your photographer friend takes a lot of portraits and is looking to touch them up with easy to use software, then get them what I use…Portrait Professional. As you can see in the example above, it can do quite a few neat things to a portrait. I have used it to slim her face, whiten her teeth, reduce and remove wrinkles and blemishes, smooth her skin, and plump and darken her lips. There are numerous other touch-ups that it can do as well. I personally have the Portrait Professional Studio Version 9, but Version 10 is currently available and offers even more features. Portrait Professional software is developed by Anthropics Technology and Version 10 is currently on sale for $39.95USD (a $50 savings), which according to their website includes an upgrade to Version 11 when available. You can find it online at Portrait Professional, where you can even download a free trail offer. After I used the free trial on one photograph, I pulled out the plastic and ordered it…it is that good!
If you are not sure what the photographer in your life needs or wants, than maybe a gift card from B&H Photo is just the perfect thing to stuff their stocking with this Christmas. They range in denominations from $20USD up to $1,000USD and can be ordering by clicking here.
If your photographer likes to try gear before they buy, then let me recommend an electronic gift certificate from Borrow Lenses. They carry a large amount of gear for both the Canon and Nikon shooter, as well as studio lighting and backdrops. I have used them for the past couple of years when I’m looking for a piece of equipment that I need, but use so rarely that purchasing it does not make economic sense. Their customer service is great and if you live in the San Francisco area like I do, you can either pick up the equipment at their main office, or have it delivered (for a small fee) to one of several locations around the bay area for you to pick it up at. Of course, for the rest of you, they will ship it to your location. When you order the gift certificate, you tell them the amount, the date that you would like it delivered, and the email address of the person receiving the gift. They will email them the code to use on check out to pay for their rental/purchase. The certificate never expires and can be used all at once, or to cover the cost of multiple rentals. You can order it by clicking here, and values range from $10USD up to $500USD.
I hope that this has helped with the last minute gift getting for the photographer in your life!
For those of you that are in Marin County and interested in seeing some of my work in person, I currently have a nine print exhibit at WestAmerica Bank located at One Mitchell Blvd in San Rafael. There is no end date as of yet and they should be up through the end of January, 2012. I will update this post once an end date for the exhibit is set. All nine of the photographs were taken this past February during a two day visit to Yosemite National Park during a winter storm. The photograph above is one from the exhibit.
December 1st is World AIDS Day and in honor of this fact, many cities across the globe have illuminated major landmarks in red. The City of San Francisco was no exception and did this wonderful job lighting City Hall in a very deep red. I wasn’t able to shoot from my favorite spot in Civic Center Plaza, as the city was in the process of erecting it’s Christmas tree and the unlit tree and hydraulic lift was smack dab in the middle of the shot. So, I moved to the northeast corner of McAlister and Polk. If it looks like I was standing in the street when I took this shot, it is because I was. I did this to keep the electric lines for the buses from cutting across the top of the dome. Luckily there was a couple of available parking spots and I parked my Jeep in one spot while I stood in the spot in front of my Jeep to get the shot.
I took this shot with my large format Toyo Field 45CF, using a Fujinon 90mm f/8.0 SW lens mounted in a Seiko #0 shutter. The exposure is eight minutes at f/64 on Fuji Velvia 100. The eight minute exposure was to maximize the light trails and to try and minimize the ghosting of the vehicles stopped at the red lights. I used a Gossen Lunasix 3 light meter and a Benro A-169 Travel Angel tripod with a B-0 ball head.
This shot is actually from December 1st 2010, as I was unable to make it into San Francisco this year.