Saturday, February 25, 2023

Vicksburg with a Hasselblad 100mm ƒ/3.5 CSi Lens and Fuji Pro 160 NS Film (Abandoned Films 10)

After successfully completing some medical treatments, I was overcome with a serious bout of GAS. That is Gear Acquisition Syndrome, although the other gas was also present. 

Hasselblad 501CM with 100mm ƒ/3.5 Planar CSi lens and correct hood

For over five years, I used an 80mm Planar lens on my Hasselblad. But sometimes I wanted just a bit more reach. With 35mm cameras, I liked the 55mm ƒ/1.8 Super-Takumar lens on the Pentax Spotmatic. This was just marginally longer than the more common 50mm. Hasselblad's 100mm Planar lens would provide a diagonal coverage on 6×6 approximately equal to 55mm on 35mm, so I started looking at online vendors in USA. Soon, this gorgeous 100mm ƒ/3.5 Planar CSi lens came in a big padded box from Camera West. This is a 6-element Planar design and is reputed to be the highest resolution Hasselblad lens for distant subjects.

On a foggy and drizzly January day (my favorite light), I loaded a roll of Fuji Pro 160 NS film in the holder and headed out. This is a neutral color balanced film designed for wedding, fashion, and commercial product photography. Fuji did not distribute 160NS in the USA and discontinued it in the Japan market in October 2021.  

I posted these frames at 2400 pixels wide, so click any picture to see the details. Most were tripod-mounted.

Polk Street view east, January 7, 2023, 1/15 ƒ/11
Monroe Street looking south from China Street. The former Junius Ward YMCA is to the right.
Pearl Street near Fairground Street, 1/15 ƒ/16
2521 Pearl Street, still occupied (taken from railroad tracks)
501-509 Fairground Street (taken from railroad bridge), 1/15 ƒ/16
Floodwall and Bunge Corporation, Levee Street, view south (hand-held)
1109 Mulberry Street, view east, 1/30 ƒ/11

LD's Restaurant is in a building that formerly housed a club/bar (closed several times because of shootings) and a liquor store.

Railroad yard from Levee Street - 250mm ƒ/5.6 Sonnar lens, 1/4 ƒ/22
2427 Washington Street - 80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lens

I added two frames that I took with my 80mm and 250mm lenses. Hasselblad's 100mm lens is considered to be their "sharpest" (whatever that means in internet fantasy-land), but all the Zeiss lenses are superb performers. My 250mm Sonnar is a 1960s silver barrel example with single coating, but it is just fine.

I found a very handy padded bag to hold my camera on the car seat next to me or on the floor. The rest of the kit stays in a larger camera bag. This is a Ruggard Onyx 35, only $17.95 from B&H. $17.95? That is the cost of a roll of film now. The original idea came from a WalMart lunch box, but this Onyx is well-sewn and protective. Highly recommended.

Thank you all for joining me on this semi-random tour of Vicksburg.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

From the Archives: Iraq in 1956

In the post-WWII era, Iraq looked like a progressive and advancing country, with active foreign trade, factories, major agricultural output, and (most important) oil. My dad worked on water supply projects there in 1956 for an American engineering company. I assume the work was funded by US-AID, as were infrastructure and water supply projects around the world. This was the short period when the USA was still seen as one of the victors and heroes of the war in Europe and Asia. We funded development projects around the world, fed a starving Europe, and shared scientific knowledge. These efforts led to the green resolution and the virtual elimination of small pox, tuberculosis, and polio. These were the good years before we ruined our reputation with the misguided interference in Latin America, the Bay of Pigs, and the disaster in Vietnam. 

In the 1950s, Iraq was awash with oil money. The government even commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to develop a Master Plan for Baghdad. None of it was ever built, so my dad did not enjoy any of Wright's extravagant architecture (such as the opera house on an island in the Tigris!).

Tigris River from Zia Hotel

This is the view from the Zia Hotel, where my dad stayed. 

Agatha Christie lived in the Zia in 1928 and used it as a model for her Tia Hotel. 

Haydar Khana Mosque, Baghdad 
Super stewpot, probably the Souk al-Safafeer, Baghdad

Souk al-Safafeer was Baghdad’s ancient coppersmiths’ market.

Agatha Christie's heroine, Victoria, came across the Souk on her first day in Baghdad:

"And then, as she walked along the street, a prodigious hammering and clanging came to her ears and peering down a long dim alley, she remembered that Mrs. Cardew Trench had said that the Olive Branch was near the Copper Bazaar. Here, at least, was the Copper Bazaar.

"Victoria plunged in, and for the next three-quarters of an hour she forgot the Olive Branch completely. The Copper Bazaar fascinated her. The blow-lamps, the melting metal, the whole business of craftsmanship came like a revelation to the little Cockney used only to finished products stacked up for sale. She wandered at random through the souk, passed out of the Copper Bazaar, came to the gay striped horse blankets, and the cotton quilted bedcovers. Here European merchandise took on a totally different guise, in the arched cool darkness it had the exotic quality of something come from overseas, something strange and rare. Bales of cheap printed cottons in gay colours made a feast for the eyes."

Villagers walking past an archaeological site
Checking out the date harvest
Ruins of the Arch of Ctesiphon. Note the massive base.

Ctesiphon was an imperial capitol and rich commercial city on the east bank of the Tigris about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad. The arch is a famous tourist destination. 

Ruins of the Arch of Ctesiphon.

Note how a modern buttress had been built to keep the wall from toppling.

From Alamy via The Economist.

Early-to-mid-1900s passenger network, from The Economist

The Middle East once had a comprehensive network of rail lines. You truly could take the train from Berlin to Baghdad, and continue to Basra, or the line to Beirut, and hence on to Cairo or Medina. Most of it has fallen into ruin after a century of war, deliberate destruction, mismanagement, and bad governance. But select rail lines are being rebuilt. 

This ends our short visit to Baghdad. My dad's employer never signed a contract for hydrology projects in Iraq and we never moved there. It would have been an adventure.

My dad took these pictures on Kodachrome film with his Leica IIIC camera and its 5cm ƒ/2 Summitar lens, the same package that I occasionally use today.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Verichrome Pan Film in Mississippi and Louisiana (Abandoned Films 06b)

In 2020, my friend from Indiana sent me a roll of the long-departed Kodak Verichrome Pan film in 120 size (for medium format cameras). I used it on a snowy day in Vicksburg in early 2021 and loved the results. It was high resolution and just perfect for my type of photography. I never tried Verichrome Pan when it was in production, but now I wish I had. 

I have had surprisingly good results with discontinued black and white films such as Kodak Panatomic-X and GAF Versapan. But it is always a gamble with expired film and I decided to only buy fresh product from now on. Well, as you can guess, I was unable to stick to my own advice. A seller on eBay claimed two rolls of Verichrome Pan had been frozen for years, so I succumbed to temptation.

Of the two rolls, the first was perfect. The other was so thin, it was useless. That is the risk of buying expired film. I used that first roll in the Mississippi Delta on a blazing hot June day with harsh and unforgiving light. The camera was my Rolleiflex 3.5E with its 5-element 75mm ƒ/3.5 Xenotar lens. Even today, this 1959 camera is totally usable and optically excellent. Used Rolleiflexes in good condition sell for serious $$s on eBay or via auction houses now. Click any photograph below to see it expanded.

Louise, Mississippi

Louise is a small agricultural town in Humphreys County west of Yazoo City. It consists of a small core of houses with silos and former shops along Main Street. It may have been busy decades ago, when the railroad ran through town. But today, it is forlorn.

Main Street view north, Louise, Mississippi (1/30 ƒ/11, orange filter)
Main Street, Louise
Silos (1/15 ƒ/16, orange filter)
Main Street stores, Louise (1/30 ƒ/16, yellow filter)

Lee Hong Grocery, Louise (1/60 ƒ/11.3, yellow filter)
Quiet afternoon in Louise

Yazoo City, Mississippi

Yazoo City was the "Gateway to the Delta." It is still a busy town with a harbor on the Yazoo River. Timber is a major product. But the town is a bit rough.

Fixer-upper store, West Broadway, Yazoo City (1/60 ƒ/11.5, yellow filter)
Garage and gin, 301 West Bridge Street (1/125 ƒ/8, yellow filter)

Tallulah, Louisiana

The last stop on our Verichrome Pan trip is Tallulah, Louisiana. Tallulah is just off I-20 about a 20 minutes west of the Mississippi River.

Former Tallulah High School, Bayou Drive (1/30 ƒ/11.5, orange filter)

This was a blazing hot (95º + F) afternoon with harsh sun. I had one frame left and stopped at the old Tallulah high school. Much of the roof has collapsed, but the brick walls remain. The ball field to the left out of the picture view is still in use. It is sad that these handsome brick buildings are abandoned.

This ends our short Verichrome Pan tour. I probably should have dialed back from an orange to deep yellow to just plain medium yellow. Internet users claim that Kodak's discontinued Plus-X film was very similar. My friend will send a couple of rolls of 35mm Plus-X for me to try. I'll post the results later.

Note: some film users on the internet believe the new Kentmere 100 in 120 size looks much like Verichrome Pan. I need to try it. Kentmere is made by Ilford company, and the 120 size is a recent (early 2023) introduction. 

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Summer Days in Barmouth, Wales

In 2002, my daughter said she wanted to plan the family's summer vacation. We said fine, go ahead. She chose Barmouth, Wales. Where? The town is in the county of Gwynedd, northwestern Wales, facing the Bae of Ceredigion. Well, it proved to be a brilliant choice. It feels remote from the crowds and hustle of England. We loved the geology, terrain, rugged landscape, view of the sea, and, to a lesser extent, the food. 

We flew into Heathrow and rented a right hand drive Fiat. The shifter was on the column to the left of the driver. Hmmm, shift with left hand? At least the position of the gasoline, brake, and clutch pedals are in the familiar sequence! We took the motorways north and then west across the mountains and down to the coast. I drove slowly and the locals flashed by on narrow country lanes. They probably said "Yanks" under their breath - or maybe out loud.

Barmouth and the estuary of the Afon Mawddach and Cardigan Bay.

William Wordsworth visited Barmouth in the 1800s: "With a fine sea view in front, the mountains behind, the glorious estuary running eight miles [13 km] inland, and Cadair Idris within compass of a day's walk, Barmouth can always hold its own against any rival." (from Wikipedia)

Railroad causeway across Cardigan Bay.

Barmouth blossomed when the railroad built a causeway and brought city dwellers to the town for their summer vacations. The causeway is now a splendid walking or biking path.

Slate roofs with a few modern exceptions

Almost all the construction in Wales consists of sturdy stone walls and massive slate roofs. Wales is a land of slate and shale. Quarrymen have mined and cut slate from the rugged mountains for at least 1800 years. Wales produced slate for British homes during the building boom as cities exploded during the Industrial Age. 

In the sunshine, Porkington Terrace.

The waterfront in summer is cheerful and sunny. People sit at cafes and bars on the Quay, soaking in the sun in anticipation of the gloomy winter. 

Room with a view

Barmouth was fun. This is one of the many places I want to see again. But when? There are thousand destinations yet to see in my remaining years.

These photographs are on Fuji Reala colour negative film film from my Fuji GW690II medium format camera. It has a 5-element 90mm ƒ/3.5 lens.