Rolleicord in the rain

DSCF8699The end of 2016 was not good for our household, between deaths in the family and other issues going on it was getting quite overwhelming. 2017 wasn’t starting out any better so it was time to get off this runaway train and take a good friend out for a walk. My trusted friend is my Rolleicord VB. I also have a VA that steps in as needed.

For me there is something very peaceful and stress relieving walking around with this little box of a camera. It’s a very unassuming camera that people don’t see as a threat like a big DSLR, in fact if anything, it is the most asked about camera that I use. It’s uniqueness in todays digital world intrigues the passerby. It’s quiet, just a slight click from the shutter is all you hear and it’s oh so light to carry. I have the leather case for it which also carries a couple of pouches for filters. This camera and a couple roles of film is all you need to take a breather from a much too fast paced life.

Happy wanderings!

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Let’s talk fishing

I’ve been having a love-hate relationship with technology lately. As an Art Director for a magazine I love what the advancements in technology has done to make my job easier. As a photographer I am placed more in the middle of the road about it. With certain things, such as off camera lighting, the digital revolution has helped tremendously. It certainly has made leaps and bounds of improvement in the quality of images from 35mm gear. My medium format film gear however, still puts up a good fight against digital. Yet as a father and member of society technology greatly frustrates me.

Yes those techno-marvel gadgets have made a lot of things easier, too easy in a lot of respects. Raising a teenager you realize that it is so much easier for kids to get into trouble because of the ease of access to various things due to society’s appetite for all things hi-tech. Kids and adults become mind controlled zombies glued to their tiny phone screens for hours a day. One on one conversations have been replaced by text messages and tweets. Life revolves around tiny, computerized pieces of disposable plastic.

Obviously I am from the generation that didn’t have these things as a child…thank God. You actually had to use your imagination and create fun things to do or you had to…gasp…go outside and play. Step away from the computer games young ones and walk towards the light!

There is one particular outdoor activity that has brought almost magical healing powers to both of my boys. Healing not from physical ailments but mental and emotional issues that this overloaded society piles on our children. That activity is fishing.

If you start them early, they will gladly put down all electronic devices, even the phones, to go fishing. Heck they will even get out of bed early which is no small feat when you are dealing with a teenager. Instead of staring at a tiny phone screen they will be entranced by that magical globe of red and white plastic floating in the water. The child’s whole being will be transfixed on that bobber waiting for the inevitable tap, tap, tap followed by plop under the water. Fish on!

There is a real sense of wonderment with a boy or girl’s first fish. The colors, the feel and yes sometimes even the smell of it all gets stored in their little brains. It’s cool, it’s real and it’s not electronic. Initially it will be all about catching fish for them but over time they will start to appreciate the whole experience. Things such as how the sky looked one evening as the sun set or the smell of the water mixed with fumes from a small outboard motor on a fishing boat. Maybe if they are lucky they will see a bald eagle swoop down and catch their own fish. This is a good place to be both in mind and sole.

What does this have to do with photography? If you have your camera with you, and you always should, you have the chance to capture moments of childhood innocence. Images of youth doing something healthy, clean and fun.

Tight lines and happy wandering.

Smile and say Rollei!

The Rolleicord or probably any twin lens reflex camera, is the perfect portrait camera. Now before you get your feathers all in a bunch and start throwing out better options, let me explain what I mean. I am not talking about the camera’s technical abilities, I am coming at this from a purely relational point of view.

More often then not, when I am wearing my Rolleicord around my neck, I will receive admiring glances when people walk by. Trust me, those glances aren’t for me but for the camera. They walk, they glance and if they take the time for a second glance curiosity will take over and questions will soon follow about the camera. Most of the time they want to know what it is because it looks so cool. Other times it will be an old timer who starts reminiscing about when he owned one or more often than not someone’s dad used to have one when they were kids.

It’s not a menacing looking camera like so many of today’s professional DSLRs with a big 70-200mm lens hanging off one end and a flash and a grip hanging off other areas of the beast. No, it’s a rather handsome camera with a friendly face attached to it, a kind of vertical eyed robot face that you might see in a Disney movie. People want to engage with it instead of run from it. It’s disarming nature is one of it’s secret portrait potions. It allows me, the photographer, to start a friendly conversation with a stranger.

These conversations have allowed me access to a stranger’s past. I listened to a WWII veteran’s tale about his time as a prisoner of war and how he bought one of these cameras when he gained his freedom. I met a lovely older couple out for a walk so the husband could exercise his heart. He too used to own one of these beauties. I’ve had people just want to know more about the strange vertical eyed box that is out of place in this digital age. The conversations have been wonderful but then there is the photos. The portraits that I have been allowed to take because I took the time to answer some questions or to listen to someone’s story.

That is why these are the perfect portrait cameras.

Happy wanderings!

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!

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.