Mystery roll

It has felt more like fall than spring lately but that isn’t why I am posting fall color photos. These are my surprise photos from a roll of film that didn’t get developed for quite a few months. It’s kind of like that roll you used to leave in the camera for a year or more and couldn’t remember what was on it once you got it developed. This roll wasn’t quite that bad. I had hung on to it because I hate sending only one roll of film to the lab to be developed so I wait until I have at least a couple of rolls. I knew what was basically on the roll of film but there were those pleasant surprises in the frames that I had forgotten I had taken. Those surprise frames from that mystery roll during a whole different season.

See the magic, shoot some film.

Rolleicord as a landscape camera

Landscape photographers love their wide angle lenses and rightly so. When used correctly the wide angle lens can provide the extra expanse needed for landscapes. I indicated in an earlier post that one of the limitations of the Rolleicord is it only has the one size lens which is a 75mm. With medium format film this lens would be more like a normal size lens on a 35mm camera, maybe a hair wider. Some landscape photographers would find this way too restricting. So does that make the Rollei a poor landscape camera? Absolutely not!

When shooting my Rolleicord, instead of looking for expansive landscape shots, I look for landscape chunks. What I mean by this is I look for pieces of the landscape that I find visually and graphically interesting. The waist level viewfinder is very helpful with this. I will walk around an area, looking through the viewfinder, without even taking a shot. During this time I am visualizing through the viewfinder. I’m looking for something visually interesting. Since I can’t shoot expansive shots I will instead look for different points of view by crouching down to ground level or anywhere in between. The waist level finder works brilliantly for this.

Once I’ve found something that I like, I will further compose the image to make it graphically interesting as a square image. Then it’s a simple matter of taking your light meter readings and making your photograph. Be creative and think beyond the restraints of your camera. In reality, the only restraint is your imagination.

Happy wanderings!

It’s not fair

As we get older things we used to be able to do at a younger age hurt more than they used to. Our bodies, like an old car, get more miles on them and our parts start to show their age and start to wear out. This is to be expected, maybe not liked but expected. It seems reasonably fair.

When someone you know or love, or even yourself, gets diagnosed with cancer it never seems fair. With age however, we expect to see more of these ugly possibilities showing up. Fair enough I guess.

To me what has never seemed fair is when a child gets cancer. For a child to have to spend their precious young years fighting a disease to stay alive is not fair. I know there are plenty of other societal issues that have children fighting for their lives and those aren’t fair either but today I am talking about cancer.

Why bring this up in a photography blog? Well I was recently given the privilege of photographing a precious little three and half year old girl named Ania. I was photographing her for The Little Lutheran magazine. Ania has cancer of the eye called Retinoblastoma. By the time I was able to photograph her the cancer had already required the removal of her left eye. Her right eye is the most beautiful, brilliant blue that I have ever seen. I can only imagine her left eye was the same. It’s not fair.

Ania is a happy, vibrant little girl who just happens to love painting pictures. Her mom Erica came up with the idea as art therapy for Ania and it took off from there. For a young budding artist to lose one of their eyes does not seem fair.

It has not slowed Ania down for she continues to paint prolifically with glee while listening to her favorite music. Art supplies were donated by Blick Art Materials, which gave Ania a stash of paints, brushes and canvases that would be the envy of any artist. Unfortunately as we know, cancer does not play fair. Ania now has to endure six months of systemic chemotherapy. She will feel sick and she will lose her hair all in the hopes of stopping her cancer once and for all. It’s not fair.

Erica writes a blog chronicling Ania’s cancer battle. It can be found at, Ania is a warrior for sure but so are her parents. They are giving all they have to save their little girl. They have opened an Etsy store at where they sell prints of Ania’s paintings to help pay for the medical and travel bills. The costs of this battle, as you can imagine, are not fair.

The day I photographed Ania, I chose to shoot a roll of medium format film along with the required digital images. The film images are what you see here. If you would like to help Ania, go to the Esty site and buy a painting or follow Erica’s blog and say a prayer. Help make Ania’s fight a little more fair.

The Rolleicord

So about a year and a half ago I had been collecting some antique 35mm cameras. I had been fully entrenched into the digital revolution and all it had to offer. Staring at those cameras got me wondering and questioning, what would it be like to put a roll of film through them?

I came up with a personal project. I would shoot a roll of film through each camera that I had just to see the results and get a chance to play with these old machines. One of the cameras I tried was an old Argus TLR. I got one roll of film through it before it broke. But oh what a roll of film it was. It also showed me that I really enjoyed working with a twin lens camera.

I did what everyone does these days and hit the internet to do some research. Everyone said if you want a quality TLR camera you need to buy a Rolleiflex. Have you seen the prices of a Rolleiflex? Even a banged up one on Ebay goes for a premium price.

Enter the Rolleicord. A company out of Germany called Franke and Heidecke were the manufacturers of the Rolleiflex. The Rolleiflex was their professional twin lens reflex camera that was introduced in 1929. They made them for many, many years. It was the best of the best with premium lenses and construction however not everyone could afford these marvels of photography. So in 1933 they came out with a high quality but simpler camera called the Rolleicord.

Back to the internet and more specifically, Ebay, I went. One Rolleicord Va was purchased, which is a later model, but still over fifty years old. Reality check time! When you buy a camera that is over fifty years old you will probably need to get what is called a CLA, which stands for clean, lube and adjustment. This is because all of the oils and grease have gotten thick and sticky over the years and it keeps your camera from working properly. There goes another $150.00 out the window. In the long run it is more than worth it though.

Let me state up front that I love these cameras. If I could only keep one camera, this would be it. I have two of them now, one Rolleicord Va and one Rolleicord Vb. Using a twin lens camera suits me but it is not for everyone. When you look down through the ground glass, the image is flipped horizontally. That takes some getting used to but I don’t even think about it anymore. There isn’t any built in meter either. You have to use a hand held light meter to figure out your exposures.

You have to learn to work within the camera’s limitations. It’s certainly not digital where you can fire off fifty shots to get that one good photograph. It takes a roll of 120 film that gives you twelve, 6×6 square photographs. There isn’t a rapid fire shutter either. You have to cock the shutter each time before taking a photograph and then you have to wind the film to the next frame. You are stuck with one 75mm, 3.5 lens. There are some close-up attachments called Rollinars but that is about it.

So why do I like the camera so much then? Well because of everything stated above. Digital has made photography easy and that is both a good and bad thing. It’s like when word processing software came out in the design industry. Everyone thought they were a designer. There was a lot of crappy design that followed. Digital cameras have done the same thing to photography. Everyone thinks they are a photographer and there is a lot of crappy photography out there now. Digital has made it easy and easy is what everyone wants. They don’t want to learn the techniques and theories behind photography and they certainly don’t want to have to work to get a good photograph. Auto everything is required.

With an old camera like a Rolleicord, auto everything goes out the window. You have to work at it to get that great image. It brings the craft of photography back into the game and that is why I love them.

Happy wanderings!

Welcome to my blog

Blogging is going to be a new experience for me. I am putting the finishing touches on a new website design through and this blog page will be opening the door for you all to follow me during my photographic wanderings. I am a professional photographer and art director in the Chicago area. My professional photography work is mostly done digitally but my fine art photography is done on film.

I have been shooting with antique cameras for the last year or so and am loving it. My main cameras are a couple of Rolleicords, a Mamiya 645 system and a Crown Graphic 4×5 camera. A lot of this blog will be about my adventures with these cameras and I hope you follow along.

In my next post we will get into why I am using film again and introduce you to the amazing Rolleicord camera. The little brother of the infamous Rolleiflex.

Until then, happy wandering.