Tuesday, December 19, 2017

That SINKing feeling in Jackson, Mississippi

Round, rectangle, octagonal - take your pick.
Old House Depot is an architectural salvage store at 639 Monroe Street in Jackson, a block north of the State Fairgrounds. Old House is a great place to explore if you are restoring a historical house and want to use authentic fittings, door knobs, windows, or lumber in your project. My experience with renovating an older house is it is almost hopeless to find the right parts at a chain big box store.
Late on a sunny afternoon, Old House was closing, but they generously let me linger and photograph their collection of sinks and plumbing bits in the side lot.
This was top quality porcelain manufacture in its day. Note the unusual U-shaped sink in the top picture - Art Deco elements?
Here is a handy double header.
This is a practical design: a wide apron so that you can splash and gurgle without dripping water on the floor. Note the modern streamlined valve and handle.
An interesting oval wall-mounted sink with backsplash but it has separate valves.
The wasps lived in this loo. I opted not to use it.
Moving away from the toilets and sinks, here is a choice of window sashes for your project. This is an interesting place. Support your local businesses.

These photographs were taken with a Pentax Spotmatic 35mm camera using Ilford Delta 100 film. Most frames were with the 35mm f/3.5 lens, but the two of the entrance area were with the 24mm f/3.5 lens. The film was too contrasty for these brilliant white objects, and I had trouble scanning the frames. In the future, I will request N-1 development for Delta 100 for sunny conditions. However, note, for a gloomy rainy day, the Delta was perfect, as per my test in Edwards, Mississippi.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

On the Boardwalk: Coney Island 1999

Coney Island has been the summer beach playground for New Yorkers for over a century. America’s first large engineered beach fill was the boardwalk and recreational beach on Coney Island in 1922 - 1923 (Farley 1923). With the completion of the project, immigrants and factory workers could escape the sweatshops of the sweltering city and enjoy a (crowded) Sunday at the beach for only a nickel subway ride (Stanton 1999). "The Improvement helped convert nearly 2 miles of shoreline characterized by ramshackle development and narrow to non-existent beaches from which the general public was excluded, to a world famous resort that was accessible to all for no more than the cost of a subway fare." (Dornhelm 2012). Coney Island is part of the borough of Brooklyn.

In the photograph above, the odd mushroom-shaped frame was once a parachute jump, where guests would hop off and float to the ground. The boardwalk has been rebuilt many times.
Coney Island beach pumping in 1922.
Coney Island 1941. From the archives of the Beach Erosion Board, now at the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, US Army Corps of Engineers.
Parachute jump,1941 or 1942 (from Library of Congress, intermediary roll film) fsa 8b00812 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8b00812)
This was the scene at Coney Island on a summer day in 1941, at the eve of World War II. The subway was still a nickel then.
Despite being refurbished and "urban renewed," there are still old structures and remnants of Coney Island's exuberant past.
 There is still an amusement park, but it is small compared to the ones in the 1950s.
Notice the rocket architecture, likely something from the Sputnik era when rockets were modern and trendy.
The famous hotdog stands are still there and thriving. The fries look great, but I may pass on the mystery-meat hotdogs.
This stone structure was known as a terminal groin and was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers at W 37th Street. The reason is convoluted. The community at the west tip of Coney Island is known as Seagate and is closed to the public. By law, beaches which are nourished with Federal funds must be accessible to the general public. Therefore, when the Corps of Engineers performed beach nourishments on Coney Island, the sand had to be restricted to the part of the beach east of W 37th Street (to the right in the photograph).
View across Gravesend Bay to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Seagate, Coney Island.
Along this shore, longshore transport is from east to west. Thanks to numerous beach fill projects, sand has filled the project to the seaward end of the 37th Street terminal groin and moves around the tip and to the shore at Seagate. The sand moves around the west end of Coney, past the Coney Island Lighthouse, and into Coney Island Creek. Some residents complained that the beach on the north side of Seagate was too wide (after decades of complaining they were suffering from beach erosion).
Rockaway Beach also has a wide boardwalk and the beach has also been nourished many times to provide storm and flood protection as well as recreation benefits.

Photographs taken with a Leica M3 rangefinder camera with 35mm Summicron-RF and 50mm Summicron (type 4) lenses on Kodak Kodachrome 25 film. I scanned the frames on a Plustek 7600i film scanner using Silverfast Ai software.


Dornhelm, R.B., 2012. The Coney Island Public Beach and Boardwalk Improvement of 1923. Fourth Annual Northeast Shore and Beach Preservation Association Conference (NSBPA), October 24-26, 2001 | Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ.

Farley, P. P. 1923. Coney Island public beach and boardwalk improvement. The Municipal Engineers
Journal, Vol. 9, Paper 136, pp 136.1-136.32.

Stanton, J. 1999. “Coney Island - Nickel Empire (1920's-1930's).” (https://www.westland.net/coneyisland/articles/nickelempire.htm, accessed 09/27/2017)

Update, Jan. 19, 2018:  A friend sent me this interesting picture of Coney Island during Hurricane Donna in 1960. The photograph was on Facebook in the "Old Images of Brooklyn" group. Original source is unknown. It looks like it might have been a 4×5 original, so possibly from a press photographer.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Abandoned Rocket Fuel Plant, Redlands, California

Redlands, California, is a historic town on the far east outskirts of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.  The historic core is well-represented by gorgeous Craftsman architecture houses in impeccable condition. But drive to the unincorporated town Mentone, turn north on some gravel roads towards the Santa Ana River wash, and you come across a wasteland of boulder fields, water retention pits, and hulking concrete bunkers. The bunkers are the remains of the Lockheed Propulsion Company, which developed and tested solid fuel rocket motors and propellants for use by the military and NASA between 1961 and 1975. The Grand Central Rocket Company used the site before 1961.

Southern California was, for many decades, one of the prime locations for the United States aerospace industry. After World War II, aircraft companies expanded their operations to encompass the new rocket and space technologies. This accelerated after the 1957 launch of Sputnik and in the 1960s, as we developed equipment and systems for the space race.

These were sturdy buildings, with thick reinforced concrete walls. Some semi-buried bunkers (see the fourth photograph) were made to store highly explosive materials. Bunkers like this are built with thick earthen sides and a thin roof so that an explosion will dissipate its energy vertically into the air. Note the troughs in the floor through which cables and conduits could be routed.

These rectangles contain glass at least 6 inches thick. They were designed for movie cameras to film rocket nozzle exhaust. I have seen windows like this at an old building (no longer extant) at the Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

According to a Wikipedia article, the Lockheed plant closed in 1975 when the last contracts for the Apollo program ended and NASA selected Thiokol to prepare solid propellant for the Space Shuttle booster rockets. Solvents and other toxic chemicals have been measured in water wells in the region. Nevertheless, Lockheed-Martin Corporation has refused to pay for the clean-up of the contamination. Is this not a familiar story?

For more articles on Redlands, please click the links:
1. Restoring the Santa Fe Depot.
2. Historic Redlands High School's Clock Auditorium.
3. A quick tour of Craftsman houses.

For an odd site in the California desert:  Salvation Mountain.

The photographs of the rocket fuel plant are from a compact Yashica Electro 35CC film camera with a fixed 35mm f/1.8 Color-Yashinon lens. My impression is that the lens may be giving slightly more coverage than 35mm, but regardless, it is a handy focal length for street and casual photography. The film was Fuji 200, purchased in Kathmandu, Nepal. I scanned the negatives on a Plustek 7600i 35mm film scanner using SilverFast Ai software.

Update January 2018
A retired rocket scientist, Mr. C.E. Juran wrote to me. He worked at the site, which was then run by Grand Central Rocket, from 1956 to 1966. He confirmed that Lockheed left a mess when it closed the site in 1974. Recall, in that era, there was minimal environmental awareness. The photograph shows Mr. Juran with a rocket being assembled; the propellant "grain" is suspended above the pressure case.

Update July 2022

A short commemoration of Mentone's 135th birthday in the Redlands Community News summarized the history of the rocket fuel facility.   

Monday, December 4, 2017

Good Things in Small Packages: Leica IIIC Camera

My Leica IIIC with its original 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens
English language instruction manual

At the Parthenon, Athens, Greece, 1953. Photograph on Kodachrome film with this Leica IIIC.


This is my Leica IIIC rangefinder camera made in Wetzlar, West Germany. It uses the standard 35mm perforated film with frame size of 24 × 36mm. My dad bought this IIIC in 1949 when he worked for the US Navy on Guam. It came with a 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens. He had owned an American-made Perfex 35mm camera during the war years but had wanted a Leica for a long time. During World War II, a few Leicas were exported to the Allies via Sweden, but they were reserved for special uses (spies or well-placed generals?).
Advertisement from Olden Camera & Lens Co., New York, January 1947. Note Leica IIIB and Summitar cost  $385.00, a major investment in the late-1940s.
Modern Photography advertisement, September 1953. The IIIF is the contemporary model, selling for $368 with the Summitar lens. The superior Summicron lens cost $25 more. (Click to enlarge picture)
After the war, one of the ways a war-ravaged Germany began to rebuild its economy was to export precision optical equipment, such as the famous Leica cameras. Leica's advertising emphasized excellence and sophistication. My dad took the opportunity of low prices at the post exchange on Guam to buy this body and lens. As I recall, he said they cost $150. He used this little Leica for many years, taking family photographs when we lived in Greece and southeast Asia in the 1950s and 1960s, and I used it in the 1970s and 1980s.


On modern standards, this camera is a bit fiddly to use. First the viewfinder has two windows. The way I use it is to first look through the right finder, which shows the complete scene covered by the 50mm lens. If I like the scene, I shift my eye to the left window and focus on the object that is most important. By the way, it is a remarkably accurate focus arrangement considering the short base length. Then I shift back to the right window, do the final framing, and take the picture. Really, it is easier and faster in practice than to describe in text.
With permission from The Online Darkroom.
Instructions for trimming film before loading
Second, the film needs to be trimmed with scissors to have a long tongue before you insert it in the take-up spool. Then you slide both the 35mm cartridge and take-up spool into the body from the bottom. Leica once sold a trimming guide, but you do not need it. Just use your Swiss Army knife to trim about 8 or 10 cm from the tongue, and it will work. Once loaded, turn the rewind knob gently to remove slack. Then, when you advance the film, make sure the rewind knob is turning in the opposite direction to be certain that the film is truly advancing. Again, it is easier to do than to describe.
As the photographs show, the camera has almost watchmaker precision in the fittings. The chrome on mine is pitted because in the early post-war era, chromium was hard to buy, and many German cameras had poor plating.

Lenses and filters

From Popular Photography, approx. 1950
With permission from The Online Darkroom.
Leica marketed lenses ranging from 21 to 400 mm, all the best quality available at the time. Oddly, my father never bought any more lenses.

My dad's IIIC came with a 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens (the prestige lens as opposed to the less expensive 5cm ƒ/3.5 Elmar). Mine is the Type 1 version with 10 aperture blades. The Summitar was in production from 1939 to 1953. It was designed by E. Leitz's genius lens designer, Max Berek, in 1937. The war-time production lenses were uncoated, but Leitz applied anti-reflection coating from 1946 on. The construction was a complicated design of 7 elements in 4 groups. It must have taken a heroic effort to compute the ray paths by human computers using mechanical calculators and trigonometry tables. The central sharpness is superb, but the edges fall off, and there is some field curvature. This can be used creatively, and regardless, "sharpness" is not normally the factor that makes a photograph successful.

A few years ago, Sherry Krauter in New York cleaned and checked the Summitar lens for me. Mine is pristine and never suffered the scratches in the soft coating that plague so many 1940s lenses (old-time photographers cleaned their lenses with their neckties).

These older Leica bodies have a screw mount for the lenses. The thread is 39mm × 26 turns-per-inch or threads-per-inch (tpi). This was a Whitworth threading standard, which was common in microscope manufacture in the early 20th century. German, English, and Japanese companies made hundreds of different lenses for this 39mm mount, but focal lengths other than 50mm require an auxiliary viewfinder to show the correct frame. Soviet companies made lenses for 39 × 1mm, but this was close enough to fit on the Leitz bodies. The Japanese company, Canon, continued to make superb thread-mount lenses up through the 1970s, when they finally discontinued their excellent thread-mount rangefinder cameras. Note that this is a different 39mm than the 39 × 0.75 thread used for large-format Copal 1 and many other shutters. And it is different than the 39F pitch (39 × 0.5) used for 39mm filters that screw into the front of many Leica lenses. Confusing? Yes, of course!
The shutter in the body had been troublesome for over a decade, but Don Goldberg (known as DAG) in Wisconsin did a fantastic job overhauling it mid-2017. This is the main roller, on which Mr. Goldberg marked the areas that were badly worn. He replaced it with a new-old-stock main roller, the genuine Leica part. For how many other consumer products that are seven decades old can you still get factory replacement parts (possibly some fine watches or Rolls Royce motorcars?)?
The Summitar lens requires filters with a unique 36mm tapered thread. These were known as Type L filters (see Appendix 1 below). When I used filters on my Nepal trip, I had Leitz Series VI filters and a Tiffen 606 retaining ring (see Appendix 2). It is a bit clumsy but manageable, and the series filters will fit other lenses with the appropriate adapter rings. A polarizer is the most clumsy, but Leica made a brilliant fold-out polarizer just for this task (model 13352). I finally bought genuine Summitar yellow and dark yellow filters, which are easier to handle than the series filters and do not block as much of the view through the viewfinder.

As for a hood, the rectangle folding unit known as a SOOPD fits over type L filters and causes the minimal blocking of the view through the viewfinders.

The Summitar lens is a bit quirky. My example (and maybe all of them?) has a lot of field curvature, so the edges of a flat object will be fuzzy. But a typical scene with the subject near the center has smooth out of focus area away from the central subject. 

Areas outside the zone of focus look smooth and innocuous. This out-of-focus appearance is known as bokeh. Thirty years ago, almost no one thought about it, but now, "photographers" are obsessed with the topic (even though most of them just consider anything out of focus to be bokeh). The newer Type 2 and Type 4 50mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron lenses for my Leica M2 body are "better", but I rather like the old Summitar. It feels good to have my dad's camera in operation again. He would be pleased.


Village Elders, Siran Danda, Gorkha region, Nepal.
School girls, Dhulikhel, east of Kathmandu.
Young ladies of Nepani, Gorkha District, Nepal.
For a trip to Nepal in October of 2017, I decided to use this little IIIC with black and white film and skip the obligatory digital imaging device entirely. It was a great success. Many Nepalis were amazed that I was using a mechanical camera almost 70 years old. It was a tension-breaker to let people look through the viewfinder, but I had to explain that there was no LCD screen for them to see the results. Surprisingly, some of the camera stores in the Thamel area (the main tourist zone) of Kathmandu still stock fresh Ilford and Fuji film in 35mm size. But you probably could not find any 120 or large format film. These examples are on TMax 100 film, developed by Praus Productions in Rochester, New York. I had only used TMax 100 once before and I'm impressed by the fine grain. Nice stuff. To measure exposure, I used a Gossen Luna Pro Digital meter, usually in reflected mode but sometimes in incident mode.
Cooking pots at Thubten Choling Monastery, Solu Khumbu region.
Tools at Serlo Monastery, Solu Khumbu region.
Hanging around in Kathmandu. Note: most mannequins in Nepal are European ladies (but may be made in India??).
Nepal is a fabulous photographic destination. The people are friendly and welcoming. The country is developing and changing quickly. Go soon to see remnants of an earlier era before they are torn up and replaced with the new commercial world. The same warning applies to Cuba: Go before the developers pillage and ruin it, especially if American developers ever move in.


A few reasons to buy one of these ltm Leicas:

1. As time goes on, the remaining stock of these thread mount Leicas will be more and more beat up and will diminish in total number.
2. They will be repairable in the future.
3. They don't make them like this any more. Definitely not!
4. They will be usable as long as 35mm perforated film is made and sold.
5. You will enjoy occasionally using one as a substitute for a more sophisticated newer 35mm camera or digital unit.
6. These ltm Leicas are compact and great travel cameras, especially with the collapsible Elmar lens.
7. They are technologically elegant.
8. People stop to admire it when you are using a ltm Leica. It can be an ice-breaker.
9. It is definitely not a spray and pray photon capture device: you need to think with one of them and know a bit about what you are doing (i.e., you can't just push a button).
10. They are unlikely to depreciate.
11. The thread-mount lenses can be used on modern digital cameras.
12 The lenses are appreciating in price, especially for clean examples without fungus or haze.

These little Leica thread-mount cameras are still available at reasonable acceptable prices. They are fun to use and have a precision feel that most modern cameras do not replicate (other than Leica M film bodies, which, as of 2021, are still in production). Just go buy one, return to the basics of photography. I bet your creativity will blossom.

Other articles

For an earlier article about how I have used Leica cameras to record urban decay, click this link. Thank you!

Mike Johnston, former editor of Camera & Darkroom magazine and now author of The Online Photographer, wrote an excellent article in 1992 about Leicaphilia. He also wrote about The Leica as a Teacher. "A year with a single Leica and a single lens, looking at light and ignoring color, will teach you as much about actually seeing photographs as three years in any photo school, and as much as ten or fifteen years (or more) of mucking about buying and selling and shopping for gear like the average hobbyist."

35MMC has a useful article titled 7 Reasons You Should Own a Thread Mount Leica. I agree with the author that these cameras slow you down and make you think. You just can't spray and pray and then doodle around with Lightroom for weeks culling files, doing the "workflow," and hoping that you might have "shot" a meaningful photograph. Film does not work that way.

Johnny Martyr wrote a detailed review of the Leica IIIC, titled Tempered Indulgence. Also, check our his review of the Summitar lens.

Phoblogger has an interesting interview with the manager of Richard Photo Lab (Los Angeles, California) about how film most definitely is not dead and is reviving among many age and skill groups.

Andrew Yue wrote a nice introduction to the Leica thread-mount cameras titled, "- Leica Screw Mount Cameras - the 1930's through the 1950's -"

Update 2019

I bought a Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 ltm lens and have had very nice results with it.  Click the link to see examples. I also have a 50mm ƒ/2 Jupiter-8 lens from the Soviet Union.

Appendix 1, Summitar Filters

The Leitz Summitar used a unique tapered 36mm filter thread. As far as I know, only Leitz and Walz offered this size. This note from the Leica Users Group (LUG) by Marc James Small describes the Leitz filters:
In any event, here is the best listing I can produce for the Summitar filters.  These were known at Wetzlar as L filters (by comparison, the E39 range were O filters). 

Very Light Yellow       GBOOM   13080
Light Yellow            GBWOO   13085
Medium Yellow   GCOOL
Green #1                GEYOO
Green #2                GCYOO   13095
Graduated Yellow        GHOOF   13105
Graduated Green GILOO
Orange          GDOOK   13100
Light Red/IR            GECOO   13115
Medium Red/IR   GFEOO   13120
Dark Red/IR             GFOOH   13125
Blue                    RQPOO   13097
UVa                     GHIOO   13130
Blank Filter Holder     FOOXC
Haze                    FIHAZ
Skylight                GCSKY   13150
Type F          FKDSUM  13137
Type FP         FPKSUM  13147
Type A          FIDAY           13135
Photoflood              FIFLO           13140
Flash Conversion        GCHEO   13145
Swing-Out Polarizer     FISUM           13395
Rotating Polarizer      POORE   13355

Filters which only have a catalogue code-word and not a catalogue number did not survive into production to 1954, the first year for the universal use of the numbers.  Many of the 
Summitar filters had dropped out of the catalogues by 1960 and all were gone from the Leitz catalogue by 1962.

Appendix 2, Series Filters

The most comprehensive description of series filters and the various adapter rings made for hundreds of lenses is from photographer Robert Allen Kautz in Vermont. 
  • Summitar adapter: Tiffen model 606
  • Jupiter-8 lens (40.5mm thread): Tiffen 602 
40.5 mm was common on many German lenses in the mid-1950s. Beware that Tiffen, Ednalite, and Enteco adapter numbers are different (Confusing? Of course!).