Things I Like: Pentax K1000

Things I Like: Pentax K1000

At heart, I’ve always been a photographer. I was the one snapping pictures on family trips, at fraternity parties in college, and on cross-country vacations.

But besides some disposable Kodak film cameras (remember those?), it’s always been digital.

As I got more into photography, the more I toyed with the idea of playing with a film camera. There was a local camera shop in town that still processed film. Film is still relatively cheap. All I needed was a camera.

Then, last summer, we were cleaning out the attic at work when one of my co-workers stumbled on his old Pentax K1000 – the camera our communications department used before we switched to digital.

He was nice enough to offer it to me.

So I gained a whole new side hobby: film speeds, new lenses, not-quite-automatic exposure controls. Pretty cool.

I definitely use the Pentax differently. The shots are a bit more thoughtful, more composed, and (I’ll just say it) more artsy. With film, there’s only one shot to get it right. So maybe it’s a bit more my methodical speed.

It did take me three wasted rolls of film before I learned how to load the thing probably, though. So there’s that.

But the first developed roll turned out just fine. I stuck to fairly boring landscape shots, but I’m getting the hang of it.


Things I Like: The Radio

Things I Like: GE Radio

I’m reminded how much I like my AM/FM GE radio every time I have to replace the batteries in my shower radio.

It’s always the GE that comes to the rescue on mornings that I don’t feel like switching out the batteries. Plug it in and turn it on.

The GE comes in rescue, in general, all the time. Washing dishes, cleaning house, working on a project – switch that thing to the classic rock station or NPR and I’m good to go.

Everything I said about this little radio before remains true: sometimes the simple things are the best. An off/on switch, a tuning dial, and an AM/FM switch. That’s it.

And that’s what I love.


When Doctor Octopus Was Cool

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Dr. Octopus has been with Spider-Man, and Marvel, since forever.

He’s also a tough customer. I mean, the guy took on the Hulk. C’mon.

But Doctor Octopus has never been a cool Spider-Man villain. He doesn’t have the edge of Venom, or the mania of Green Goblin. He just has those arms. And those glasses. And that gut.

Which is why my favorite rendition of Otto Octavius was Erik Larsen’s in the early 1990s.

Octopus was the scientist whose mechanical arms were grafted to his body in an experiment gone wrong (naturally), driving him to a life of crime. Probably Spider-Man’s most intelligent foe, Dr. Octopus was the schemer. He was also a good organizer, drafting the Sinister Six into existence.

But he was always so dumpy. A fat Roy Orbison in green tights. So not cool.

Until Larsen’s run, and especially in the early Spider-Man issues. Larsen portrays Otto with a snazzy double-breasted white suit and black shirt. The glasses stay, as does the bowl cut, but the simple addition of the suit does wonders.

Erik Larsen was my canonical Spider-Man. His rendition of Black Cat, his work on Savage Dragon, his return to Amazing Spider-Man, the weird way he draws…did I mention I got to meet him once? In Chicago?

Anyway.

During Larsen’s reign, Doc Ock was stylish without being handsome, exactly. He looked like a professional villain. With self respect. He’s all business.

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Which is why the above panel is probably my favorite super villain quote ever. Strictly business, that’s what that is.

“You’re going to die Spider-Man. I’m going to kill you.”

Since then, Doc Ock has taken on many forms and appearances (Ock’s new career as Spider-Man is both weird and hilarious), but Larsen’s will always stand out as, at the least, the most dignified.


Things I Like: 50mm Lens

Things I Like: 50mm Lens

All of my “Things I Like” photos were taken with a Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 lens, pictured here – except this one, obviously, which was taken with an 85mm.

But the 50mm is my favorite. I, like a lot of beginning photographers, cut my teeth on the 50mm prime lens. Originally, I had the f/1.8 model that served me well for two years. In fact, I took a lot of my favorite photos – hell, maybe a majority of my photos – using that “Nifty Fifty.”

Over the holidays, I found Canon dropping the price on the f/1.4 model by $100 or more. I thought about it, and thought about it, and finally pulled the trigger in January. Canon has been updating – and raising the price on – their other primes, like the 28mm. I figured with the recent 50mm price drop, Canon would refresh it next. So I pulled the trigger and took advantage of the deal.

I use a 50mm f/1.4 almost exclusively at work, with a Canon 7D. It’s my go-to portrait and classroom lens. I love the quality, the color, and the contrast the lens produces. And I’m super glad to have one of my own now.

There are tradeoffs to having a 50mm lens on a cropped-factor camera like my T1i: you need space to work in, and you can’t capture a whole lot in the field of view. But I find it often takes intimate photos that can’t be beat.

The dream is to someday hook it up to a full-frame Canon. Some day.

For now, though, it’s still my go-to and favorite lens.


Things I Like: iPod Shuffle

Things I Like: iPod Shuffle

One time I got something stuck in the headphone jack of my iPhone 3G.

Being the DIYer that I am, I decided to fish it out with a Q-tip. Bad move.

From then on, no audio jack plug worked with my iPhone. The fibers from the Q-tip became stuck inside the audio jack, preventing a secure connection. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

This meant I couldn’t listen to albums or podcasts on my morning commute. Thankfully, my trusty iPod Shuffle came to the rescue. I used it every single day as my on-the-go audio device until I purchased an iPhone 4S.

To say the iPod Shuffle is simple is to be coy. There’s no visual interface. Just a few buttons and a clip. But its simplicity is its beauty – and its usefulness. I use mine all the time.

The blue one was my first one. It was a refurbished model, all of $50, that lasted until I left it in a pants pocket and it took a trip through the wash cycle (I’m hard on my iPods). Try as I could to save it, it was done. Retired.

But I didn’t want one of those goofy 3rd generation Chicklet models. No, I wanted real buttons. So I bought a 2nd-gen model on Amazon – a low-key silver one that works like a dream.

These days I mainly use my Shuffle for gym workouts. The clip is everything: it helps the iPod stay out the way, stay secure, and stay with me. And it does one thing well: plays audio. Boom.

The one complaint I have is that, if you accidentally his the Reverse button, you erase all the progress on a podcast – meaning you have to fast forward through to the point you left off. It’s annoying, and it happens enough that I’m complaining about it.

But despite the abuse, despite it’s simple nature, and despite being a two-generations-ago model, I do appreciate the little bugger.


Things I Like: Books

Things I Like: Books

When I bought my first iPod, it opened me up to an idea: instead of carrying stacks of CDs in the car with me on road trips, with an iPod I could carry something the size of a pack of cards and have all of my music with me.

No more fishing for CDs, so more jewel cases slipping between the seats – everything about it was better.

The same thinking has not occurred to me with books, however. Maybe it’s that I don’t have a dedicated e-reader, so I don’t know what I’m missing. But I haven’t felt compelled to buy an e-reader, either.

So I still buy books. Good ol’ fashioned bound, paper, heavy books.

My favorites range all over the place: Carl Sagan takes the cake, of course, but also John Irving, a few political biographies, and a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. I like the heft of books, being able to open one anywhere and continuing where I left off. The smell of an old bookstore, the feel of the paper, my notes scribbled in the margins.

Some of that you can replicate with e-books. But not everything.

It’s not just books. It’s everything involved with books: libraries, book stores, “free books” carts in the classroom hallways. There’s a lot of infrastructure around books, and I like all that, too.

I understand that a lot of it is not necessary. Libraries are already evolving into “media centers.” Book stores are having a helluva time. Just as we don’t read scrolls anymore, the days of the book may be limited.

Unlike when we upgrade our video media, however, you can always pick up a book. It always works. It’s never obsolete or incompatible.

Maybe someday I’ll grab an e-reader and switch full-bore. Maybe. In the meantime, though, I’ll keep reading Dr. Sagan as I always have.


Things I Like: Apple’s Newton eMate

Things I Like: Newton eMate 300

It had been so long since I booted up my Newton eMate that, before taking a photo of it, I had to recharge its meager battery.

But like clockwork (and like all of Apple’s Newton PDAs), it started up like no time had passed – it’s familiar grid of app icons hinting at future Apple products.

It used to be that I ran a decently popular blog, Newton Poetry, writing about the eMate and its MessagePad cousins. There used to be not a day that passed that I wouldn’t scribble on one of these green screens, hacking my Macs to get them to install new software, or discovering some long-abandoned app that still, after all these years, seemed useful.

But now my eMate sits on a shelf in my office, along with my Newton MessagePad 110, a few non-working iPods, and other miscellaneous Apple products. It’s joined the assorted classic Macintoshes that I just haven’t found room for in my life.

Not after buying a house, and not after taking up photography as a full-time hobby.

The truth, though, is that booting this little green guy up made me happy. It made me happy to still see it working. It made me happy to see all the apps I installed to monkey around with. And it made me happy thinking about all those fun blog projects, from 2007 to 2011, that I tackled.

I keep thinking I’ll kick-start the blog again, instead of leaving it languishing with a few random photo posts here and there. There’s a collection of articles just waiting for commentary. The project stuff, though – there just doesn’t seem much room for that stuff. Not any more.

Still, my eMate and I? We had a lot of fun together. And now that I brought it back to life, maybe we’ll have some more fun.


Things I Like: Coffee Mugs

Things I Like: Coffee Mugs

[Here’s something new: a series of things I like and use an awful lot around the house.]

I like coffee, so liking coffee mugs seems obvious.

But my coffee mugs tell a story: where I’ve been, where I’ve worked, what friends have given me gifts. My mugs come from Las Vegas, and Chicago (above), and Yellowstone National Park, and even Texas. I have mugs from my alma mater, my former employer, and a marketing company in Columbus, OH.

There are mugs I’ve designed, and mug I’d wished I’d designed. There are Beatles mugs, and NPR mugs, and patriotic mugs.

A lot of my mugs have broken handles. That’s because I’m a klutz. It usually happens when I’m washing the dishes. Either I’ll drop a mug and break it against another dish, or I’ll drop a mug on the floor trying to put it away. I drop lots of things.

There’s another class of coffee mug: the travel mug. These don’t last as long because they get more use. But here again, something always breaks. Usually it’s a seal, and so the mug starts to take on water, and I make a mess on my morning commute.

So I keep collecting them. And using them.

// edited with VSCO Kodak T-MAX 3200+ (switched to color mode)


How I edit iPhone Photos for Instagram, Flickr, etc.

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I’m a frequent Instagrammer – usually averaging two photo posts a day. I also try to post a photo to Flickr every day, and some of them are iPhone photos.

So how do I edit my photos to share with the world? Like this:

Camera Apps

When taking a photo, I’m not picky. Usually the default iPhone camera app, accessed from the lock screen, does a good enough job.

If I’m not in a rush, and I want to take more time on composition and framing, I’ll usually use one of these three camera apps:

I prefer not to have a camera app store each photo in the app itself. The iPhone photo gallery is usually my go-to place. But sometimes the app doesn’t allow for this kind of photo storage.

I like VSCO cam because the shutter is fast (however, it does have a tendency to corrupt photo files).

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KitCam (above) is great because you get a preview of what the film/lens combo will look like before you snap the photo. I tend to like the Brooklyn film and Accent lens presets. But you can have a lot of fun (and get a lot of flexibility) out of various combinations, à la Hipstamatic (another camera app I enjoy using).

And Camera + is a good, all-around camera app to use.

Editing Photos

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When it comes to editing iPhone photos, my number one editing app is PicFX (shown above). The combination of editing styles and filters – plus the ability to layer effects on top of each other – makes it a killer app.

As shown above, I tend to stick to straightforward filters. The vintage film effects, the PFX 15/150 filters, and the greenish Meadow and Creek filters are my favorites.

PicFX is nice because it crops photos in the square format, too, making it easy to share with Instagram when you’re done editing. In fact, sharing your edited photo with Instagram is as easy as hitting the Share button.

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For “problem” photos (like the one above, where it’s a bit underexposed), I try Camera+’s “Clarity” scene preset. It tends to lighten the shadows a bit – although sometimes (as with the photo above) you get a glossy HDR effect. I’m not a fan of this look, so I usually try some of the other scene modes to see what looks appropriate.

Camera+ offers some nice filters as well. I try to avoid the obnoxious ones. The black and white whites tend to be good on certain photos.

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My newest editor is VSCO Cam. You can import photos from your default gallery into VSCO, or take the photo from the app, and turn its film-style effects loose on your image. I’m a big fan of VSCO film packs for Lightroom, and you get a bit of that old-school look with this app – especially that faded, grainy look that’s so popular now. A nice, subtle vignette is easy to do with VSCO cam, too.

Finishing and Posting

After editing, I save the finished photo in a photo album called “Instagrammable.” Rarely do I post a photo immediately after snapping it – I usually save it in the album until a certain mood catches me.

My Instagram album is full of photos. I’ll dip in and grab a photo that fits whatever I’m thinking about that day, or fits a song lyric I like, or is weather-appropriate. There’s no hard and fast philosophy.

Often, I’ll take a photo and re-edit it if I find a filter I really like. Also, rarely do I use the standard Instagram filters anymore. Not that they’re bad. I just like a unique look, and I find the third party editing apps do a better job of creating the look I like.

For posting, I do two Instagram posts a day: one in the morning that’s shared with other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, sometimes Flickr). The other one gets posted at night, usually before bed. The evening photo is exclusive to Instagram. It’s also where I play around with styles, and get creative trying out different looks.

Find me on Instagram to see what I’m up to, where I’ve been, and what I find beautiful or interesting in the world.