Friday, November 30, 2018

Railroads of Greece 7: Corinthos Train Station (Ektar film)

Corinth is an ancient city at the east end of the Gulf of Corinth, a long, narrow body of water that separates the mainland of Greece from the Peloponnese region. The Peloponnese was developed with 1-m narrow gauge rail in the late-1800s. Corinth was one of the first cities that a traveler reached on his rail journey from Athens to the Peloponnese.
This railroad station on Dimokratias Street is rather severe mid-20th century architecture, possibly 1950s or 1960s construction. I do not know how many older stations on the site were replaced by this building. Fortunately, it is not abandoned. I saw modern computers and office furniture inside, so someone is using it as office space. It may have been painted since I last visited the site in 2011.
Kodak Ektar 100 film, Yashica Electro 35CC camera, polarizing filter.
The modern Athens Suburban Railway, Train OSE, is a regular-gauge commuter line that enters Corinth on a totally different right-of-way. Therefore, this older 1-meter system is currently unused. The rail yard is unused and grassing over. Some rolling stock that I saw here in 2011 has been pulled away.
The Ektar film does a nice job emphasizing the red of the roofs, graffiti, and rust.
These old spigot arms are still in place, even though steam locomotives were phased out decades ago.  Some of the old locomotives are rusting away in Myloi, a town on the west side of the bay of Naufplio. When the family and I took the train from Kato Achaia to Athens in 1997, we rode in self-contained diesel-electric cars (meaning not pulled by a locomotive).
The KTEL bus station is across the street. On the day I was there, a modern and clean Athens-bound coach pulled into the street and picked up a few passengers.

These photographs are from Kodak Ektar 100 color negative film, exposed with a Yashica Electro 35CC compact rangefinder camera. I used a Canon brand polarizing filter to cut glare. This inexpensive little camera has a very fine 35mm f/1.8 Color-Yashinon-DX lens, maybe marginally lower resolution than my 35mm Leica Summicron lens, but not far behind. These Electro 35CCs are a bargain on the big auction site. Update: like many other film cameras, these 35CCs have gone up in price and sell for over $100, mostly from Japanese vendors.

The picture of the WC door with books is from a Moto G5 mobile.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Romanian Railroads 2: Sinaia (Romania 2018-02)

Sinaia, Fujifilm Acros, Leica M2 camera, polarizer filter.
Sinaia is an elegant mountain resort in Prahova County, Romania, about 3 hours drive north of Bucharest. The town was named after Sinaia Monastery, which, in turn was named after Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula (another set of photographs to scan one day....). King Carol I of Romania built his summer home, Peleș Castle, near Sinaia in the late nineteenth century. The town became an elegant and trendy resort for Romania's wealthy, and the windy mountain roads have an impressive collection of grand old wooden mansions and mountain chalets (somewhat like Zakopane in southern Poland).
In the 1800s, traveling to the summer resort meant taking carriages. The 1800s were a great period of railroad expansion throughout the industrial world, the Russian Empire, and the African colonies. But Romania went through significant political changes and turmoil, and the country only gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. Major railroad construction probably lagged in Romania but I am not sure of its industrialization patterns.
This plaque shows the builder, but I was not able to find information on who sponsored or funded the project. The line ran north from Bucharest to Ploiești, the major petroleum center, and then along the Prahova River valley through the Carpathian Mountains to Brașov.
This odd sedan was equipped with railroad wheels to run along the tracks.
This line is now electrified (see photograph no. 1) and has regular passenger service. The 1913 station is clean and in good condition. We also saw trains with petroleum cars moving through the valley.

The two black and white photographs are from Fujifilm Acros film, taken with a Leica M2 rangefinder camera. The color frames are digital, from a Moto G5 phone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Successful Experiment: Pentax Takumar 24mm Lens on my Leica M2

Background

When I travel overseas and need to pack light, I often take my Leica M2 rangefinder camera with its compact 35mm and 50mm f/2.0 Summicron lenses (and light meter, filters, and hoods). But recently, I have been thinking wide, which must go along with my increasing girth. Some options:
  1. New Leica 24mm f/1.4 Summilux-M lens. $7500 in USA. (Wow)
  2. Used (OK, "pre-owned") Leica 24mm f/2.8 lens. About $1800. (Lesser wow)
  3. Used Zeiss Biogon 25 mm f/2.8 ZM lens. About $750.
  4. New Skopar 24mm f/4.0 lens. About $400
Of course the genuine 24mm M lens or the 25mm Zeiss would be best, but realistically I would not use them all that often. But we have a clean Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 24mm f/3.5 lens for the Pentax Spotmatic in the cabinet. It has a longer register distance to the mount than true M lenses, making room for an adapter. So I bought a $20 Fotodiox M42-Leica M adapter from Amazon and did a test run. (Note: all the M42 thread-mount Pentax Takumar lenses are excellent performers on film.)
Chinese specialty companies make adapters to fit just about any older manual SLR lens to most so-called mirrorless digital camera bodies. This gives new life to many beautiful classic film lenses. Most longer focal lengths, around 50mm or more, perform really well on digital bodies. The wide angles sometimes have problems with digital sensors, but in that I was using film, I was going to use a lens designed for film on the correct sensing media.

Results

The good: The optical results were better than I expected. I do not have a genuine Leica 24, so I have no basis for comparison. Sure, it is not as "sharp" as my 35 Summicron, but so what? Sharpness phobia consumes pseudo-photographers on digital camera web pages. For $20, I am pleased.

The clumsy: Framing is a problem. If I move my eye left and right and up and down the maximum extent across the M2's eyepiece, I think I see most of the 24mm coverage. The lens blocks part of the view, and using the genuine Takumar hood is hopeless. To do: buy a 24mm auxiliary finder. Focus is totally manual.

The heavy: The Takumar with its Fotodiox adapter is a bulky and rather heavy cylinder.

Here are some examples from Romania and Greece. The film was Fujifilm Acros, exposed at EI=80. Praus Productions in Rochester, New York, developed the film in Xtol. I scanned the film with a Plustek 7600i scanner using the Tri-X 400 profile (the SilverFast software does not have an Acros profile).
Rooftops, view from Kronhaus B&B, Braşov, Romania, 24mm Takumar lens. 
Room with a view, dormer window at Kronhaus, Braşov, Romania. Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron lens. 
Room with a view, dormer window at Kronhaus, Braşov, Romania. Takumar 24mm f/3.5 lens. 
Our room at a bed and breakfast in Braşov, Romania, had interesting views over the old tile roofs in the historic center. The two photographs above show the difference in coverage between the 35mm lens and the 24mm. The exposure is a bit different, and I think the 35mm Summicron does a slightly better job at distinguishing subtle tonal variations.
The view of the upper town and the Gothic tower of the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary in Sibiu, Romania, is from the Council Tower. I used a yellow filter on the 24mm lens to darken the sky. The photograph is through glass, which you see in the upper left.
This abandoned hotel, possibly once called the Angela, is in Nerantza, Greece, a few km west of Corinth on the Gulf of Corinth. I have photographed here in 2011, but the 24mm lens with black and white film gives an appropriately gloomy look to this 1960s hulk.
Never-complete hotel, Nerantza, Greece

Conclusions

The 24mm Takumar lens works well on the Leica M2. Framing is clumsy and you need to guess the distance of your main subject, but that is not too critical with a wide angle lens. I already had the 24mm lens, so $20 for an adapter was a bargain way to get wide angle coverage. A 24mm auxiliary finder would be helpful.

Other photography articles

Please click the links for other articles about equipment, informal tests, and film:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Test of the Leica Monochrom versus the 69-year-old Leica IIIC film camera

Leica IIIC rangefinder body and 50mm f/2.0 Leitz Summitar thread-mount lens
Dear Readers, a business trip brought me to Washington, DC in late October. I arrived early on a Saturday and decided to check out the Leica Store on 977 F St NW. The store is in a strategic location: the Imperial Capital, seat of power and unbridled (and corrupt and uncontrolled) spending, half way between the White House and the US Capital, and near tourist sites like the Mall. The staff at the Leica Store are very nice and were glad to see me using my 1949-vintage Leica IIIC with its 50mm f/2.0 Summitar lens. I have written about this IIIC before and used it for a month in Nepal during my 2017 trip. Similar to the Leica Store in Hong Kong that I visited in 2014, this one had shelves covered with fantastic camera bodies and lenses, and superb photographs were hung on the walls.
Leica Monochrom Type 246 with 50mm f/2.0 Summicron-M lens (from US.Leica-Camera.com)
I had always wanted to try the Leica Monochrom, a digital rangefinder camera with a monochrome sensor. It has a body about the same size and shape as my 1962-vintage M2, but this one has a 24MP 24×36mm B&W CMOS sensor with no color array or low pass filter. Pseudo-photographers on popular photo web sites like Dpreview bash the idea of a monochrome camera, but serious workers around the world do some amazing work with it. Unfortunately, the Monochrom body alone costs about $8000. Hmmm.....

Regardless, Mr. Paul at the store let me do a quick test. We went outside to F street to find a suitable subject. A restaurant next door had white plates and cups that were glowing in the sun.
Leica Monochrom with 50mm f/2.0 ASPH lens, DNG file opened with Photoshop Elements 11 and contrast reduced. Resized with ACDSee Pro to 1600 pixels wide. Click to enlarge.
Fujifilm Acros film, exposed at EI=80, developed in Xtol, Leica IIIC camera with 50mm f/2.0 Summitar lens.
The Monochrom DNG file has a tremendous tonal range. In the example above, I reduced the contrast to show details under the table, while not allowing the white dishes to become featureless glowing white blobs. But surprise: the Acros film also recorded all the data. I could probably increase the contrast to reasonably match the Monochrom scene. I scanned the 35mm negative at 3600 dpi with a Plustek 7600i scanner using Silverfast Ai's Tri-X 400 profile.
Full-size crop of the sugar packets in the Monochrom DNG file. Note the almost complete lack of grain.
Full-size crop from Acros film negative.
With a crop of the file to look at the lettering on the sugar packets, you can see that the Monochrom file is essentially grainless. The resolution is amazing. The Acros film file is clearly grainier and has lower resolution. But remember, this is the "primitive" and "obsolete" chemical recording media exposed via a 69-year-old optical instrument. If I mounted the newest version of the 50mm Summicron lens on my M2 camera, the resolution would be better, and an exposure on the now-discontinued Panatomic-X film might reduce the grain. Regardless, I am happy at how much detail film can record. It is not obsolete by any means (but the prejudice on the part of film-haters certainly is).
Leica SL (from US.Leica-Camera.com)
I also examined the Leica SL. It is a gorgeous piece of Teutonic engineering and solidity (like the Leicaflex SL of the 1970s). The viewfinder is superlative. But this thing is a monster and feels as heavy as my Nikon F2 with motor many years ago (and that was a big machine).
Comparison of Leica SL and 1960s M2 (from Camerasize.com)
Sorry SL, I just will not carry you around when I travel, and if I am going somewhere by car, I may as well take my medium format cameras. Also, the minor issue of the cost - $11,300 for body and 50mm lens - is problematic.

In summary, I really like the Monochrom but do not need it now. It is a bit (OK, very) expensive. Black and white film suits my needs presently, and I prefer the way it depicts the scenes that I typically photograph. The Leica SL is just too big and heavy to interest me. Its lenses are as big as Hasselblad lenses. I want to thank the gents at the Leica Store in Washington for the test run.

Here are a few touristy film photographs from the venerable Leica IIIC.
Room with a view: 17th Street NW. Fuji Acros film, Leica IIIC.
Sunset at the WWII Memorial, Washington, DC.
Checking the scene at the Mall, Washington, DC
Pennsylvania Avenue at the FBI building. I used a GGr (yellow/green) filter over the Summitar lens.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 22, Tulsa, OklahomaTrip 35, Kodak BW400 film

Tulsa is the second big city in Oklahoma that Route 66 travelers passed through (coming from the west). According to the Route 66 Adventure Handbook, Tulsa was the home of Cyrus Avery, who was instrumental in the establishment of Route 66. Tulsa was historically a major oil city.
In the 1930s, Meadow Gold Diary erected a large rooftop sign on a low building on Eleventh Street (Route 66).  In 2004, the sign was saved and re-erected on a Route 66 commemorative brick base, now at Quaker Street. Nice work to save this handsome icon.
The Boston Avenue United Methodist Church is one of the most amazing examples of Art Deco architecture that I have seen outside of New York City. According to their tour web page,
It is considered to be one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical art deco architecture in the United States and has been designated by the Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark. It is also an international United Methodist Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Like many Art Deco buildings, Boston Avenue United Methodist Church reveled in the use of various different building materials, so metal, glass, terra cotta, Indiana limestone and Minnesota granite can all be found. The exterior is decorated with numerous terra cotta sculptures by the Denver sculptor, Robert Garrison, who had been a student of Adah Robinson's in Oklahoma City. These sculptures include several groups of people at prayer representing Spiritual Life, Religious Education and Worship. In these groups again can be found the motif of two hands together upward in prayer. While the building is in many ways unique, the idea of the large, semi-circular main auditorium has an earlier precursor in another Methodist church, Louis Sullivan's St. Paul's Methodist Church, designed in 1910 and built, somewhat modified, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1914.
The building's straight, vertical lines suggest the church's reaching toward God, and the tower's four shards of glass are placed at angles to the four directions - receivers and reflectors of light. The downward-flowing lines in the terra cotta motif symbolize the outpouring of God's love and are echoed throughout the building. The tower is 255 feet high and fifteen floors. The first fourteen are offices, and the top floor is a small prayer chapel with space above for an electronic carillon.
11th Street (Route 66), Tulsa (Kodak BW400CN film, Olympus Trip 35 camera)
Route 66 signs will direct you through central Tulsa, although with traffic and other distractions, they can be a bit hard to follow. On the day I was in town, the temperature was blazing, but there was a brilliant clear sky. In the northern part of town, Route 66 follows Eleventh Street for several miles. This is now a typical nasty American strip, and there was not much Route 66 architecture. I hope the photograph above conveys the sense of summer heat.
Olympus Trip 35, Kodak BW400 film, polarizer filter
8929 11th Street, Tulsa. Olympus Trip 35, Kodak BW400CN film, polarizer filter
We saw some old motels and car dealerships, but not as interesting pickings as I expected.
Oasis Motel, 9303 E 11th Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Oasis Motel at 9303 East Eleventh Street has a Route 66 appearance. The sign is, I think, a modern one intended to resemble a classic Googie sign. Googie design elements developed in the 1950s as an offshoot of Streamline Moderne architecture. "This was achieved by using bold style choices, including large pylons with elevated signs, bold neon letters and circular pavilions."

Dear Readers, this ends my 2017 trip along Route 66. Some day, I will drive the section between Tulsa and Chicago. If you want to see my articles covering the Mother Road between Los Angeles and Tulsa, you can type "Route 66" in the search box or use a Google search:  Route 66 site:worldofdecay.blogspot.com .

En route to Tulsa, we passed through McGehee, Arkansas, another small town lost in time.

The four black and white photographs above are from Kodak BW400CN film taken with an Olympus Trip 35 camera, with a polarizing filter to darken the sky. I did not have the right size polarizer, so I simply held a 52mm polarizer over the Olympus' lens.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 21, east central Oklahoma

Heading out of Oklahoma City, we continue east on the Mother Road.

Arcadia

Arcadia is famous for an amazing example of woodworking: the Round Barn. It was constructed in 1898 and was restored a few years ago. It houses a gift shop, which is well worth a stop. The gift shop has photographs of other barns with unusual configurations. The round design is efficient in wood use and provides a large interior volume without the need for pillars. I asked the proprietor why there are so few true round barns, and he said one main reason was that construction required a level of skill similar to boat-building. The normal country farmer did not have the woodworking skill. Look at the astonishing roof in the photograph above (click to enlarge it).
Tuton's Drugstore from the 1890s is in an unusual limestone building. 
This old gas station at 109 Main Street may date to the Route 66 days. The asbestos siding on the building could be any date from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Chandler

Chandler has an old Philips 66 gasoline station with an appropriate Cadillac in front, awaiting gallons of gasoline and patiently awaiting restoration. I have previously written about an old Valentine diner on a side street in Chandler (click the link). A 2018 comment by a reader said the diner has been moved to another town for restoration. 
It looks like folks are conservative here in the Heartland. I hope it pays off for them.

Bristow

Bristow is a quiet town about 20 miles southwest of Tulsa. I did not see too much Route 66 memorabilia on Main Street. The downtown looks prosperous, and the shops are occupied. Nice little town.
We stayed the night in a modest motel run by a Pakistani gent. The place did not offer breakfast, so we headed downtown. Bristow has a real coffee shop! I am impressed, coffee culture is finally spreading out from the cities into smaller communities. As I recall, we had excellent coffee and scones.

Continuing east from Bristow, Route 66 passes under Interstate 44 and then curves to the east, eventually crossing and running south of the interstate again.

Kellyville

Kellyville is quiet. I saw an old brick warehouse that may have been once a shed for locomotives. 

Sapulpa

Contunuing east, we reach the small town of Sapulpa. This was once the home of Frankoma Pottery, according to the Route 66 Adventure Handbook. An older alignment of Route 66, Frankoma Road, winds through woods. The Rock Creek Bridge is an early-20th century keystone type. similar to the Fairground Street Bridge in Vicksburg.

The two photographs from Sapulpa are genuine Kodak BW400CN film, shot with a Olympus Trip 35 camera. Most remaining frames are digital images from Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera, with raw files opened with Photoshop Elements and black and white filtering with DxO Filmpack 5 using the Kodak Tri-X emulation.