Thursday, May 26, 2011

Zeiss! {New Braunfels photographer}

Those of you with no interest in excessive fawning over camera equipment might want to click away now. Because I'm about to gush passionately about a camera I bought (okay, okay--Lisa gave me the money. But still!). One of the things Lisa wants for her studio space is a collection of vintage cameras to display, classics like the famed Graflex Speed Graphic cameras that reporters carry in all those screwball comedies from the 30s and 40s. So the other day I was poking around Craig's List, and came across a listing for a Zeiss Ikonta in good shape. I made an offer that was accepted, and shortly thereafter I drove down to San Antonio to pick it up.

Zeiss Ikonta 512/2 camera New Braunfels photographer

The camera is a Zeiss Ikonta 521/2, a nicely designed medium-format folding rangefinder from the famed German camera maker, Carl Zeiss. Details are hazy, but from what I can tell this particular camera was designed just prior to World War II, production was suspended for the duration, and picked up shortly after Germany surrendered. Zeiss manufactured this camera through the late '40s and perhaps as late at '54, as I've seen different dates given.

Zeiss Ikonta 512/2 camera New Braunfels photographer

One thing is for sure--this is an elegant camera. It is economical in its size and stylish as well. It came with it's own embossed leather Zeiss Ikon carrying case, which apart from a few age cracks and some scuffing is in surprisingly good shape for its age. Likewise the camera itself. There are a couple of spots of chipped paint, but no rust or dirt or other gunk or wear that you might expect for a 60-year-old camera.

Zeiss Ikonta 512/2 camera New Braunfels photographer

This camera takes 120 or 220 medium-format film, which is still available today (surprising in this digital age). On the back of the camera, above, there is a small octagonal window covering a window of red glass. The photographer opens this window to check how much film is left in the camera by reading the frame numbers printed on the paper backing, a simple and straightforward solution that is just as effective as mechanical counters but a lot easier to engineer.

Zeiss Ikonta 512/2 camera New Braunfels photographer

Therein lies its beauty. This is a simple camera, and there are lovely aesthetics at work here. The shutter, aperture and exposure are all controlled by the mechanics in the front lens mounting. The photographer composes by looking through the rangefinder viewfinder to the side, then sets focus by dialing in the distance on the lens mounting. Ditto for the aperture and exposure time. Old school photographers--and we're talking really old school here--had to be mathematicians to calculate the proper exposures using this little gem. Unlike today's digital cameras, there was no auto focus, and you couldn't chimp the LCD display after a shot to see if you got the lighting right!

Zeiss Ikonta 512/2 camera New Braunfels photographer

This particular Zeiss Ikonta has a 105mm Novar f/4.5 lens, which is well-regarded and fairly common for this model. It was also available with a f/3.5 Novar or a f/3.5 Tessar. The higher-quality, wider-aperture Tessar models are much rarer and collector's items. Unfortunately, the lens on our little Ikonta shows several translucent spots of fungus on the internal element. This will degrade image quality unless cleaned off. The mechanical exposure timer also sticks, which I understand is common for old cameras like this. A thorough lubrication and cleaning should restore it to prime operating condition.

Zeiss Ikonta 512/2 camera New Braunfels photographer

What we weren't expecting was the hidden surprise inside. Opening the camera, Lisa discovered an exposed, undeveloped roll of Plenachrome 120 film! This is a type of black and white film produced until the late '40s. Maybe production continued into the early '50s. Either way, this film is at least 50 years old. Maybe older. Considering the lack of wear on the camera, it wouldn't surprise me if this was packed away prior to 1955 and not touched since.

Zeiss Ikonta 512/2 camera New Braunfels photographer

Naturally, we're going to develop it. Which is easier said than done, since 50-year-old film needs special TLC that won't be found in a commercial film lab. The film is likely bonded with the backing paper, and may be fogged to some degree by age and exposure to heat. Nevertheless, we're going to persevere and find out what secret images are hidden on that film, no matter the quality. It's like a miniature time capsule nobody knew about.

Hit Japanese spy camera New Braunfels photographer

And just to show how nice people can be, the fellow who sold me the Zeiss also gave me the little Japanese "spy camera" above when he learned that Lisa is building a collection of vintage cameras. The Hit cameras were popular in Japan after World War II and used 17.5mm film. They had a fixed focus 30mm f/11 lens and a 1/30 shutter speed. That's it. Talk about minimalist! But in post-war Japan, with staggering resource shortages, these cameras served a role. This one's obviously seen better days and won't ever take a picture again, but it's a nice piece of photographic history to have and will have a place of honor on the shelf next to Lisa's old Canons, Nikons and Zeiss.

Lisa On Location Photography

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kitten Season {New Braunfels Photography}

New Braunfels photography kittenDid you know there was a kitten season? Well there is. And that season is now. Cats like to breed frequently during the spring and summer so as a result there are kittens galore this time of year as opposed to December, which happens to be the time of year we tend to like to adopt and have a heck of a time finding kittens.

I'm a firm believer in spaying and neutering cats to control the overpopulation of animals. I've volunteered in shelters in the past and am always so heartbroken to see the kittens coming in on a daily basis -- most of them destined not for a happy home but for a short life in a cage. Sadly, it was often the same people who brought in entire litters of kittens year after year.

The cats in our home are fortunate to have the 9 lives that we provide each of them. Our cats tend to live for many years (with the rare exception of the unfortunate case of our lovely Holly). Many kittens are not so lucky.

Last weekend I paid a visit to a friend of mine who found herself with the unfortunate task of having a large number of kittens to find homes for. It's not easy. Sure, they're cute and most people love them when they're kittens. Kittens grow up to be cats, however, and if those cats are cared for properly, there's a big expense in veterinary care, cat litter, food, scratching posts, flea control and of course, spaying or neutering so you don't end up in that situation. If they're not cared for properly there's the potential for disease, rabies, fleas, malnutrition, coyote attack and of course the inevitable litter after litter of kittens, thus repeating the whole vicious cycle.

I had a hard time pulling my children away from their house when it was time to go. There were teardrops, and the kids cried too. I would love to shelter all the kittens of the world, but I know my limitations. And my darling husband's. But if you know of someone looking for a kitten for which to provide an everlasting home with all the responsibilities to go with it. I know some who'd be happy to go home with you.
Lisa On Location Photography

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

R.I.P. Dear Point and Shoot Cameras {New Braunfels photographer}

Recently while perusing some of my favorite photography news sites I read something that caught my attention. It seems the point-and-shoot (or compact digital camera) field is not doing so well. Sales are declining for the little pocket-sized cameras that pack a whopping 12-15 megapixels into a tiny sensor sized perfectly for on-the-go shooting. Sales in the DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras, however, are increasing. What this seems to say to me is that people are starting to care more about quality photography that they are opting for the DSLRs instead of the smaller point-and-shoot varieties. Maybe. Or maybe people are depending a whole lot more on their camera phones.

New Braunfels children photographerI suspect the drop in the point-and-shoot sales is purely a result of the increased use of the camera phones and the increased ease in transporting them. Yet people still want the higher quality for more important events and are opting more for the DSLRs. Why would they want a little pocket camera when they have their phone?

The problem with this is that I'm seeing a decline in the picture quality of the photo albums of this generation. Or, worse, a non-existent photo album with the ease of collecting digital images on one's phone and never printing them out. How often do you see people pulling a DSLR out of their pocket at a theme park? Go to any elementary school event and what do most people have in their hands -- holding them into the air above the heads of the crowd to snap a photo of Junior on the stage 20 yards away -- their phones. Phones with teeny tiny sensors, slow shutter releases.

Thirty years ago the little instamatic cameras were all the rage. You remember them. Your mom had one with a little cube flash on top. They sold film in little rolls that popped right in. The results were nice.

That's me and my sister in about 1976. It's not a high quality image from a photography pro point of view, but it's priceless to me. It hangs in a frame on my wall. The quality is nice, and the exposure was just right. Most importantly, it actually got printed up rather than left on a phone.

I don't take my expensive DSLRs with me to Six Flags. Who wants to worry about that thing on the log ride. I do, however, have my phone with me all the time -- who doesn't? So this is what I have to show for my most recent trip to Fiesta Texas.

New Braunfels photographerIt's cute. But for my standards it kind of sucks. It's pixelated, it's low quality, and I may never bother even printing it up. Or maybe I will. Maybe I'll print up all the images I shot with my camera phone and stick them in an album for my kids to peruse when they grow up. But if I put that album next to the albums my mom made with her little instamatic, there would be no contest.

I'm hoping the quality of the camera phone will improve for the sake of all our children. I don't see a return for the point-and-shoot. And I mourn the loss of the photo albums the way we saw them growing up.

That reminds me, it's time to print out some photos from Easter. They're still on my flash card.

Lisa On Location Photography

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

M.W.C., C.P.P. {New Braunfels Photography}

Acronyms define each industry from within. If you're a journalist you know what AP style is and you know that SPJ is a worthy organization and PEJ is leading the field into the next generation. That sentence makes no sense to you if you are not in the media.

Doctors, accountants, truck drivers -- every field has its own list of acronyms that make no sense to most of us, but they are simple and straightforward to those within the industry.

Among photographers there are a few that I'd like to share with you. The first is C.P.P. It stands for Certified Professional Photographer. Just like C.P.A. is Certified Professional Accountant, which I'm sure you've heard.

As of yesterday, I'm allowed to put C.P.P. after my name on my business card. I'm excited about it. It means a lot to me. I blogged about my journey toward certification in the past (also here and here) so I won't repeat all of it now.

Basically, there are fewer than 1,800 CPPs in the country. That's about 8% of all professional photographers. Being certified is a designation that tells the public you know what you're doing. When hiring an accountant, many people look for that CPA designation. It's how they can be assured this person has met certain professional standards.

Now I'd like to introduce you to another acronym in the world of photography, and this one is not so flattering. MWC or GWC. Mom With Camera or Guy With Camera. I hear the phrase repeatedly at the photography conferences I attend as well as online when I peruse the professional photography forums. A MWC is a person (in this case a mother) who picks up a camera and decides "I want to be a photographer," and then hangs out a shingle, so to speak, and starts charging a small (very small) pittance for photographing families. No photographic training, no professional equipment, no knowledge of the use of the "manual" mode on her DSLR. She doesn't use a multi-light set-up (depending instead on her pop-up flash) and often wouldn't know a reflector from a frisbee. I am a Mom with a Camera, but I am not a MWC, and you know what -- so what if I were. There are plenty of MWCs who produce fine quality work -- just as there are plenty who produce crap -- and have no desire to learn otherwise. But who am I to say at what point she stops being a "MWC" and becomes a "professional photographer." Most will never stay in business long enough to advance past a minimum skill level. But for every MWC who closes down, another three pop up.

It's ironic, but I've been called a MWC, by the same men who probably were in about junior high when I was pushing film in a professional darkroom in the early 90s -- before the ease of digital photography and Photoshop. Looks can be deceiving. Mom plus camera does not equal MWC in the derogatory sense. The face of professional photography is changing. It's the MWCs who are standing up and taking charge. It's the MWCs who are learning the ins and outs of the business. It's the MWCs who are leading photography seminars, working towards their CPP, and eventually their M.Photog. (Master of Photography -- there's another acronym for you) or their Cr.Photog. (Photographic Craftsman).

I support these women and I encourage them to get educated. You want to be a photographer and that's great! Take some classes, talk to photographers you admire, learn from them. Get knowledgeable about it. And don't be afraid to get that certification. Yes, it's challenging, but three years ago it was something I thought I would never do.

But I'm not done learning yet. Every single session I come away from I see where I can improve. I see my weaknesses and they frustrate me, but I keep at it. Each time learning from past mistakes. Some day I'll have M.Photog. after my name as well. That's my hope. I have a long way to go. I have a fear of photographic competition and I need to tackle that fear. It's the only way to improve my skills.

I am a mom and a I have a camera. And I use it. A lot.

Lisa On Location Photography

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's like "Trash the Dress" without the dress {New Braunfels photographer}

New Braunfels San Antonio Austin glamour and nude photographyIt rained last week. That alone was enough to earn a 2-inch letter headline across the front page of the newspaper here in New Braunfels. I can't remember the last time it rained. Had it even rained since the new year here? I don't know. Rain is a stranger to us lately and the event troubled our 9-month-old beagle to the point that he turned his nose to the sky and barked and growled for the entire shower. Is he that unfamiliar with the wet stuff coming from the sky that in his short life, he hadn't seen enough of it to understand what it is?

So anyway, the rain brought with it a little mud. It's that mud that sparked an idea in the mind of one of my clients. She e-mailed me with her exciting idea. "I want to be photographed in the mud." Okay, I thought. I love a good trash the dress session -- yeah, only except there would be no dress in this session. Just my client and the mud.

"Great! Let's do it," I said. We secured a remote and private location thanks to one of my wonderful friends and then we met in the morning to get down and dirty.

Photography isn't all glamour and glitz, you see. It was hot and humid and the mud was everywhere. But the results were fantastic. I was so excited to have such a willing client who wasn't afraid to get mud in her hair, mud under her fingernails, and who didn't freak out when a roach decided to join her in the mud -- well she didn't freak out too terribly much. It was a lot of fun and a great way to start my weekend.

Now to clean out my boots and do some laundry.

Lisa On Location Photography

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On Top of the World {New Braunfels Senior Photography}

Canyon Lake senior portraits, New Braunfels senior picturesToday I wanted to share with you another of my more recent senior sessions. I had the honor of traveling to Megan's home near Canyon Lake to shoot her portraits. When giving me directions to her home, Megan's mom told me they were at the top of a very steep and rocky driveway and she'd understand totally if I wanted to park at the bottom and call her for a ride up.

Me, too wimpy to drive my car up a driveway? Nonsense! I gave birth to three children surely I can drive my car up a driveway. About halfway through I regretted my decision. I thought about giving up and going back down, but how would I turn around? Could I back out? Visions of my van plummeting backwards down the hill into oncoming traffic forced me to shoulder on and continue up that hill. I made it with my car intact to a gorgeous view of the hill country and a couple of the nicest people I could hope for.

Megan is a natural beauty with a talent in volleyball and basketball. She'll be playing basketball in college where she'll study horticulture. She was so proud of her plants and her garden. She showed us the treehouse she played in as a young child, she shared with us the sign she painted years ago on which she misspelled the word "cantaloupe" so her mom kept it and cherishes it (I don't blame her).

When the session was over, I ventured once again down the treacherous steep driveway and made it out with my car intact. It was totally worth it to meet such beautiful people. Thanks for the fun evening you two!

Canyon Lake senior portraits, New Braunfels senior pictures

Lisa On Location Photography

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Faust Hotel {New Braunfels wedding photographer}

You really can't talk about weddings in New Braunfels without talking about the Faust Hotel. The historic hotel has been the premier wedding venue in town for the better part of a century, and has earned National Historic Landmark status.

The Faust Hotel wedding photography by Lisa On Location in New Braunfels, San Antonio and San Marcos

Originally opened in 1929, the Faust has been painstakingly restored to its elegant, 1930s style with modern amenities (including Wi-Fi in every room). There's even a popular brewpub there, with an ever-changing roster of microbrews on tap. During World War II, the Faust earned its long-lasting reputation as the "honeymoon capitol of Texas." In the days before interstate highways, New Braunfels was a popular destination and the Faust one of the top luxury hotels in the state. It didn't hurt that a bus station was located just a block away, and soldiers from the area's many military bases would take advantage of the Faust to marry their girlfriends and honeymoon locally before shipping out.

The Faust Hotel wedding photography by Lisa On Location in New Braunfels, San Antonio and San Marcos

Walking through the Faust's front door is like stepping back in time. The lobby and guest rooms are furnished in 1930s vintage antique. Even the register at the checkout desk is a marvelous brass museum piece. Douglas, the events manager, is dedicated to maintaining the Faust Hotel's status as one of the top wedding venues in the area. The Faust's Grand Ballroom is perfectly suited for moderately sized receptions, and the Faust's wedding packages include the dining menu and wait staff to the dance floor and decorations. They even offer special rates for weekday events, for those wedding parties on a budget. Conveniently, the Faust also has a strong working relationship with select florists, DJs and even photographers (hint hint!) in New Braunfels to provide comprehensive wedding services to the happy bride and groom.

The Faust Hotel wedding photography by Lisa On Location in New Braunfels, San Antonio and San Marcos

There's a reason why thousands of couples have started their lives together at the Faust Hotel, and one visit is all it takes to understand why. Take a trip back to an era of vintage 1930s elegance by booking your wedding or reception at the Faust Hotel today. Of course, you'll want to book Lisa On Location just as soon as a date is set, because her calendar if nearly full for the fall wedding season, and you wouldn't want to settle for anything less than exceptional wedding photography!

Lisa On Location Photography

Monday, May 2, 2011

Martindale is a diamond in the rough {New Braunfels Photography}

San Marcos Senior pictures portraits MartindaleThe class of 2011 is about to graduate but there are still a few left to photograph. I've been swamped with senior portraits the past few weeks, but the end is in sight. At least the end for 2011. In just about a month I'll start shooting the first of the 2012 seniors -- the early birds. This year I've been honored to photograph seniors from Canyon, New Braunfels, Smithson Valley, San Marcos, Converse Judson, San Antonio, Poth, Godley, Pflugerville, Canyon Lake and Seguin.

One of my favorite sessions of the year was a session shot in Martindale. I'd heard of this little town before -- the site of the filming of A Perfect World, The Newton Boys, the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as a host of made-for-television movies. Samantha led me through the small main street section and pointed out her favorite backdrops. It was hard to shoot a bad photo with a beautiful young lady like Samantha, and the awesome scenery of this small town.

Most of you know I love to shoot broken down, falling apart buildings. The textures and colors are so intense, and the mystery behind the buildings intrigue me. This little town had old silos, an old gas station, an abandoned old charter bus and plenty of old brick walls. And Samantha was willing to sit on old dirty chairs, climb rusty old ladders and brave the tall weeds and potential hornet nests to check out the old barn.

Thanks for the great session Samantha -- Good luck at A&M, gig 'em!

San Marcos Senior pictures portraits Martindale

San Marcos Senior pictures portraits Martindale