Printaphilic Phorum

December 11, 2017

#165 Prints From the Box — part one

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 11:20 am

#165 Picks From Pix In The Box — part one

Every serious photographer I know has their own version: The Box.

Into The Box goes the stuff that you can’t figure out what to do with. Sometimes it’s reject or damaged prints that don’t fit in easily named folders. You just don’t want to throw them away. Sometime it’s pix taken on speculation that the potential client didn’t buy. Sometimes it’s just lost and found. Throw it in The Box.

Mine occupies about 1 ½ cubic feet in an old wood fruit market crate. It’s almost all old silver gelatin hardcopy prints.

5562BrickWallClipboardOriginal-©WEB   Of what possible importance has this print ?  It was made sometime in 1958 in a basement darkroom from a negative out of my first real camera, a 1938 Zeiss Nettar that I still occasionally use.  In those times we often printed on toned paper. Except for a drop of india ink on the top the print is still in excellent condition condition after 60 years.








About a week ago thru a mutual Facebook friend I chanced across the widow of a guy I’d been good friends with in Oahu more than half a century ago. In our facebook chat I mentioned that I probably had a couple of pictures of Ed from that period…would she like them ? I offered to scan and send them electronically.  I had two spercific pictures in mind and never did find them, BUT

It occurred to me to look in in The Box…I hadn’t touched it for several years. Once I got in there it seemed I’d opened The Box of Pandora. There were the half dozen contact sheets from the unsold speculation job. About half never had the negative numbers or filespecs written on the back. I found some prints by my East Hill photography class kids, the only survivors of a major 5th grade science project. There’s a contact sheet of college yearbook pictures I was sure I destroyed.


This violin still life got me graduated from high school. I was flunking senior English because I was spending too much time on photography.  I was also hopelessly in love with a gal who was principle second violinist in the all-state high school orchestra.  That began my lifelong fascination with the violin. I spent many week researching the evolution of the violin and the report with a grade of A+ changed my Flunk to a C-

It got serious when I found one drugstore print from a portrait session with a lovely high school gal buddy, shot by available light in math class with my late sister’s borrowed Samoca 35mm. The negatives were so underexposed that they’d been treated in chromium intensifier. Only that one print survived.


Somewhere there used to be a roll of negatives stored in an aluminum Panatomic X film canister of a sweetheart who was one the most important people in my entire intellectual and artistic life. I’ve searched for those negatives on and off for years…I’m sure they’ve perished…but there were eight drugstore prints and a handmade 8 x 10 in The Box.

These pictures all seemed to have survived for a reason. Sometimes I don’t know* the reason. Here are a few, with explanations of why they still seem important.

This print I feared lost forever, but there it was near the bottom of The Box.  The negative is gone. There is only the one print.  I was SO proud of this picture. It was made with a salt water corroded Leica IIIc  with Zeiss 85mm f/2 Sonnar lens whose rangefinder was mis-adapted from Contax to Leica mount…never did focus correctly. The industrial subject was dust separation cyclone cones on the roof of a factory …O-Jack Manufacturing Co…where, during WWII, my big brother tended a turret lathe after high school, making bomb detonators for the U.S. Navy.  The thing that so impressed me about the print was the “look” of an 11 x 14″ LIFE magazine page.  The print was slightly overdeveloped and has a stain of the same color as old pages.


Here are two old prints…the originals…of subjects that for not clearly understood reason reappear several times over decades in widely separate locations with different equipment.  The pictures KEEP happening











The railroad underpass was on my walking route to high school.  The rainy windshield was while waiting to pick up someone at a train station.   Whenever I encounter these two visual situations they strike an emotional chord that reappears as a life motif and I make the picture again.  Who know why ?

This picture is not about the gal at all.  There are many better of her.  It’s about the structure nestled in the New Jersey shore sand dunes behind her.  The negative is lost, short of examining hundreds of proof sheets with a hand lens, because I neglected to write the negative number anywhere on the print.  I wish I had several more pictures of the historic architecture of the compound of buildings.  There was a U shaped complex with a two story clerestory main building in the center, facing the Atlantic ocean, and two one story wings, the southern one shown here as guest house appendages to the main home.  The construction as rough cast concrete with corrugated sheet iron roofing and many windows. The complex was utterly out of context with the carpenters shingle gothic of its wealthy neighbors and most people considered it an eyesore.  I though it was a masterpiece of simplicity in its site.  The entire compound were destroyed sometime in the years between 1980 and 2000.



They say you cannot go back again…but in some senses of memory you not only can…but you must.


Only by understanding who you were in the past can you come to terms with who you are in the present.  The Future ?  That’s any ones guess, NO?


Next post:  there are are least two more of these Pix from the Box.   Many of the pictures will require permission from people pictured to post, so I don’t when to predict their appearance.

November 13, 2017

B&W Challenge “Eight Days A Week !”

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 11:19 am

I’ve more than seven distinct eras since getting Viewmaster stereo disks and a projector for them in fifth grade. The projector was my first enlarger, cannibalized to print onto 2 x 2” war surplus glass plates. The endless string of cameras came later…the bakelite Hawkeye, my sisters Samoca 35mm, the Nettar bought with proceeds of six weeks shelving books in the public library after school.

I’m quite aware of, and basically agree with the precept that only the message of the picture matters…that whether it’s made with a Leica or a cell phone is irrelvant. But in some ways it’s not irrelevant at all. The science and mechanics (must* I say ‘technology” ? ) of the camera and sensor (film !) define the universe of pictures possible with that hardware. What a fight we had to get film and lenses fast enough to take pictures indoors without flash. Now it seems like nothing…you just throw enough dollars at equipment…”the Mind of Minolta”… and you get 50K ISO. I do mind if you don’t mind ! This is why I remember and acknowledge the film, cameras and darkrooms that made my pictorial retrospective in these selections. I know it’s a kind of snobbery… the ubiquity of imaging devices has brought a great democratization to pictures,  but those who’s image making starts with an i-phone and becomes B&W entirely in software just haven’t paid their dues. My dues, in the National Press Photographers Association, haven’t been paid in quite a few years.

Here are some explainations.

Eight Days A Week ! I-855-12AuldeStonesAtOdessa©WEB The mission is just to make sense of it all. Odessa, NY 2017. The stone mason here truly grokked the mystery of this place. The further up the hill you walk, the deeper you go into mystical space.   It’s been an era of massive computer hardware problems.  Creative Suite demands upgrade. Authentication issues w/WIndows7 migrate to Win10 and no drivers for legacy hardware….it nearly destroyed ALL digital image access…took weeks of reinstall from backups. Digital printer dies. Microsoft is not my friend. Adobe is not my friend. Life makes other demands! Film cameras ! These I understand: Ensign 820 from UK, $20…an idiosyncratic beast… Hungarian ISO 200 film @125. Ilfotech HC developer. Flea market treasure..Mint genuine Zeiss 6×6 , one dollar ! …keep shooting…darkroom, keep printing. Anne Becker

Seventh Day: I-669-16DrydenVFWtankInSnow©WEB Sometimes, I have to take a cold look at the negative.  Nikkormat EL, 35-105mm lens, Tompkins Weekly. Built real darkroom in Slaterville. Deadlines, deadlines. First serious digital cameras. Canon G-12, Nikon D-80 Battles with digital printers. Small success showing in art fairs. There doesn’t seem to be any way to earn a living at this; people like what I do but no one wants to pay what it costs to do it. Maybe that’s what make it “art;” it doesn’t pay but you got to keep doing it anyway. Peggy Brent

Sixth Day: BV018-15DeflectionShotBull©WEB Return to the womb…Ithaca ! Ithaca Journal…shoot, shooot shoooot…never give up. A small town bullfight somewhere in Bolivia, Aug 1993…Pamplona in reverse as a terrified teenage bull chased down the street by sub-teen humans…dude steps out for grab shot…’gringo fotographista con huevos !’ Nikon S-2 rangefinder, re-spooled Tri-X…no time to focus. 76 Rolls of film. (mostly color) Sells one picture. ‘Three Nikon bodies…only the rangefinder S-2 could stand up to daily use in the Andes…dust, second class buses. Peru. First digital camera, Apple 100, was crap. Photoshop ver. 2.5. Forced migration from 8-bit Atari to Mac SE-30, to unix mainframe to Dos to Windows…more crap. Life scatters to the winds of change. My little haven…studio/sales office downtown…never made two nickels. Ben E-F

Fifth Day: M806-07HungAshore-©WEB Aug 1992. Portland, Maine. Attempts to go-Pro. Lee’s Boat Shop, Spruce Head Marine, Harbor Builders, Maine Coast REPORTER, Maine Times, National Fisherman. Midcoast Photo Service attempts to fly on its own two wings. Deadlines, deadlines. Experimented with many cameras in this era, but Nikkormat El with genuine Nikkor 35-105 mm lens became my personal sidearm and remains so to this day.  Eight bit Atari computer and classic Macs: invaders from cyberspace. Steve Cartwright Nancy Griffin

Fourth Day: M498-38Priorities©WEB Knox County, Maine 1983 Too busy living to do much photography. Skipping an era. East Hill School (search Facebook for alumni association ) , the Chateau, then The Weird Years, ( every body must get stoned ), grandpa’s fiddle…nothing to show here…move right along ! Blueberry Cove, Renaissance time with Eve and Maine homesteading… get Priorities in order…market garden 6700 ft^2. Seed Savers. MOGFA. Violin untouched in case for a decade. Ed Emsh’s Exakta VX w/58mm Jena Biotar…lost overboard at a schooner launching….recovered, but lens sandblasted on harbor bottom. Nikon F, totally manual SLR w/varying lenses. Still have it, still works. Production wet darkroom shoehorned into 45 ft^2 bathroom including toilet.”What do you think about Art?”…”Oh, Yah, Man, Art blows the most!” Marjorie Strauss, Myron Jay Dorf, Susan Emshwiller.

Third Day: Minus018-17YachtClubDogsGreenPointHoboken©WEB Nothing whatever remains of my Lafayette college era pictures from the yearbook. Fortunately I destroyed them, kept shooting. Hoboken NJ. 1971 These are not junk yard dogs. Very friendly, they were the mascots of the Green Point Yacht Club  while I was studying PhotoJourn with late Joseph Brieghtenbach (“fotograph must make Schtatement !”) at New School for Social Research. Leica IIIf, Retina lla with it’s fatal design flaw…when dropped always landed on irreplaceable film transport lever. Handspooled TriX, Acufine. Staying in sleazy rooming house…midnight insurance arson fire…got my ass out… Leica perished. nominate Gene Z’bear Endres

Second day: Old020-22HonoluluStreetNames©WEB 1965-6 studied with Japanese photo/Buddhist teacher Lawance Hata. Almost all pix from this era are of people. Documented Waikiki Wobblers barfly culture. Camera Hawaii, freelance Waikiki Beach Press. One published Photo CD, another someday, maybe. Minolta Autocord. Canon IV rangerfinder…used to jam below 40 deg F. but OK in Hawaii. Zeiss Jena 85mm…rangefinder out of sync with lens…traded out. nominate Rick Bernstien.

First day: Minus098-10DL&W-rrMontclairStationNov’58©WEB. Began doing photography in B&W in 5th grade in a darkroom in my grandma’s fruit celler using WWII surplus glass plates to make B&W slides from Brownie Hawkeye 620 negatives…the process has never lost it’s magic. This photo of the former railroad station where I grew up was taken about 10:30pm of frigid November in 1958 with a Zeiss Nettar 645 camera on Panatomic X film F/11, 2.5 minutes exposure, developed in Microdol. I still have the Nettar 645; it still works ! nominate Ted Orland

 “Eight days a week” (?Lennon?McCartney?) Caveats about the whole thing. “No People…”… my editor on Maine Coast REPORTER once said “There are two kinds of photos….those about people, and those that don’t matter!” Only the byzantine legal situation about pictures of people make me acquiesce to this stipulation. No People, OK. “No explanations.” ? Where did we take that wrong turn? Explanation is context; the vast majority of pictures cannot be understood properly out of context.  H. Cartier-Bresson kept long pages of notes that were seldom published with his pictures.  In deference to the spirit of the challenge I’ll post the explanations only at the end of the week. Finally, due to copyright issues, (Facebook’s terms of use,) I’m posting my pictures on my regular blog site. 

RE: 7 day B&W photo challenge I’ve very nearly seven DECADES of being a B&W photographer.  Eight Days A Week !

I now return this blog to it’s regularly scheduled erratic activity.



November 12, 2017

B&W Challenge Day 7

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 9:23 am



November 11, 2017

B&W challenge, Day 6

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 9:53 am


November 10, 2017

B&W Challenge 5th Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 9:39 am



November 9, 2017

B&W Challenge 4th Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 8:55 am



November 8, 2017

B&W day 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 9:30 am


November 7, 2017

B&W Challenge, day 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 10:13 am



November 6, 2017

B&W Challenge, Day 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 11:42 am


June 21, 2017

#156 Another Report From Obsessional Behavior

Filed under: Uncategorized — printaphilic @ 7:04 pm


Obsession:   The starting point is violins…That’s a long story for another page….   This obsession is my first more or less successful foray into the process of French polish.  This particular violin was a flea market find at a VERY low price.  There are no “before” pictures.  Take my word for it; it looked TERRIBLE.  It appeared never, in maybe a biblical age, to have been cleaned.  All the pegs were split from over torque when decades stuck.  The bass lower bout was damaged beyond my skill to repair by scores of years with an over tight chin rest.  The overhangs were split and the back appeared as if it had played for  generations of square dances of the sort in a Lillian Beckwith novel…drunks and mayhem when fishermen are in harbor…and then simply thrown in the back of a pickup truck along with the chains, bait bags  and scallop drag.

Never the less Something made me buy this fiddle.  The vendor  threw in a quite decent case, a few antique strings …gut…and a genuine pernambuco bow by a respectable early 20th cent. German craft shop.  The bow was fairly well ruined…most camber gone and having a wicked sweep side to side.  It all set me back a little over a weeks grocery budget.


I wanted a second fiddle to keep in alternate tunings, so I got it stung up as quickly as possible to hear what it sounds like.  They say that a long disused fiddle needs about six weeks of daily tuning and playing before it will reveal it’s potential.  I started by fitting a set of new pegs…viola sized because that was what I had in my parts box.  The strings were all used, salvaged , and I had to hunt for almost an hour before I discovered I didn’t have a decent D string…I had to use one of the antique gut strings that came in the case. I tuned and played it every day for a month and a half and decided it sounded pretty decent.  It hasn’t the brightness and clarity of my late grandfathers pre 1908 violin. It had been un-played since he died in the influenza epidemic of 1918-19 when I took it up in the early 1970’s. This second fiddle is maybe a bit newer. It has one advantage in tone over my grandfather’s instrument; it’s very even voiced and consistent from the bottom of its range to as high as I can play accurately.  The wood choice and workmanship indicate they may be distant German cousins.

Addendum:  Another advantage of this fiddle over the one I’ve been playing for 40 years is that it has power overall and sustain of the tone of the open strings that shows real potential if I live long enough and practice enough to learn to employ it.


Once I decided that the instrument is worth saving I ordered setup parts and striped it down to the box for cleaning and repair.  I wasn’t able to undo the damage of the old chin rest, but re-glued the area to stabilize it and re-fitted with a proper ‘over the tail block’ chin rest. The split overhangs were an easy fix.  I wasn’t able to completely re-camber and un-sweep the bow, but I was able to steam bend a usable camber.  The sweep is only partly corrected.

The obsessional part started with an evening of cleaning…alternating rubdowns with garnet paper, denatured alcohol dampened rags, turpentine rags and water damp rags getting finer until 400 grit…pretty course…but I didn’t dare go further.

Addendum:  part of the obsession about cleaning comes from a view that a clean and lovely instrument promotes the mental attitude that helps produce clean and lovely playing music. I don’t buy this 100%…but certainly some

Usual descriptions of the French polish process are way insufficiently informative !   I wanted to use this finish because it produces a lovely low loss luster surface that enhances the figures of the wood grain.  They say that a French polish once a year will have your violin looking like a genuine Stradivarius after a few score years.    They tell you to rub on an incompatible mixture of shellac and oil varnish using a bunched cloth or chamois pad in a circular motion on small areas at a time.  Well, yeah…but….


I put two coats on the back alone, sanding and rubbing between each coat before I discovered that things were not getting any better. I’d get a tacky, streaky mess before I could rub out more than a third of the area. I had to dry it in the sun before I could sand back to where I was before.   I don’t know about poly-urethane varnish , but natural oil varnishes will not cure completely without exposure to infrared and ultraviolet light.  It doesn’t take long in full sunlight, but you can’t proceed without a full cure. (Grow lights and heat lamps cost money…the sun if free when it isn’t raining).  I then discovered that the shellac straight from the can is way too thick; it takes about a 2:1 dilution with alcohol (ethyl, not isopropyl) before it will spread well.  The oil varnish likes to be cut a little too,  (turpentine, not mineral spirits.)

This emboldened me so I tried two thin  coats on the belly of old girl which seemed to please her.  She is not ready for a royal concert ball, but she’s prettied up some considerable since her square dance days.  I tried the newer,  thinner technique on the back and ribs. There are now five coats.  It helped but the back is still somewhat streaky and rough.  There’s time to work on that.

Addendum… A few things learned:   a.  you’ll have to experiment to find the right proportions of the shellac and varnish and their solvents; it only works when you find the right combination for the surface…which changes as you progress.  b.  It goes very slowly when you’re doing it wrong…it’s amazingly quick when you get the right proportions. c. You’ve got to develop a sense of when to stop !

After a full setup with all new student grade synthetic core strings it will need another play-in period.   The cleaning seems to have made the tone louder and more sensitive to the touch of the bow.  The timbre is what many describe as “toothy”… not as much as “sandy” but with an edge on it.  I suspect a higher grade of softer toned strings might help it, but for now…

‘Nuff Aw’ready:  Time to play with this lady…see if she can dance a bouree or gavotte as well as a hoedown.

Next Post:   I’m so over scheduled right now I can’t promise when I may post here again.

The photography:  natural daylight.  Nikon D-80 w/ 18-70mm AF-s-ED  Skylight filter.  Auto white balance.    PhotoShop 6.0 used only for cropping, level adjustment and image resizing.   Color balance and saturation are un-altered and are quite accurate on a calibrated monitor. 



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