In recent months, I have been in a little “slump” in my photographic adventures. Luckily, in October when I took a driving trip to see my family in Virginia, my father gave me a Koni Omega Rapid (oddball medium format), Graflex Crown Graphic (large format), and a Rolleiflex Automat (twin lens reflex) to use! He’s always been good like that and I think that seeing me getting back into film photography made him want to hand these off to someone to use again…they were just sitting in drawers in their dank basement.
I got home with these new gems and was getting some great inspiration just by having these cameras in my hot little hands. Upon my return, I was on flickr catching up and someone had posted about a photographer by the name of Vivian Maier from Chicago that had just been “discovered” after her passing. He made mention of her use of a Rolleiflex and this really intrigued me. I found more information on the web about her shooting through many decades with her Rollei and that there were thousands of rolls of film found of hers. There were two major things that made me very interested in her; the fact that she was a woman photographer in a time when it was very male dominated, and that she used a Rolleiflex camera rather than a more “dainty” 35mm or other smaller camera that a typical woman of the era would.
I came to read about her, watch videos and see her story explode across the internet. What a find this John Maloof had come across! Thoughts of her falling into obscurity went through my mind and made me so thankful that John had the wisdom to see the great value of this woman’s images and the story of her life. There is now a display of her work and a couple of her cameras in Chicago…makes me really want to go there to see it and the place that she had called home for so much of her life.
Now this Rolleiflex that my father had entrusted me with had so much more meaning to me. It started with a fascination of the German engineering of a machine that was made around WWII and now the added interest of a mid century woman photographer having used a very similar camera. I can’t wait to use the camera more and watch the incredible story of this amazingly talented woman photographer unfold.
I was just going through my gallery on my website and realized how many images I have from cemeteries. I don’t know what exactly draws me to them…a sense of history, a mystery of a life I never knew, or simply showing respect to those that have left this world. I have been intrigued since I was very young and my brothers and I would sneak into graveyards to peek at the headstones.
Since my foray back into film photography, I have shot Key West Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale fairly extensively. I think my favorite subjects would have to be the angels…beautiful heavenly beings watching over the souls that have passed on. Key West has some gorgeous hand carved marble angels that I adore. There’s even one there that had an eerie light flare no matter what camera or angle I took it from.
My favorite cameras for shooting in these environs have been my modern Diana F+ and vintage Diana, Ansco Pix plastic 35mm, and Minolta Minoltina AL-s 1960s rangefinder.
After the Hi-Matic 7s and Minoltina AL-s, I was certainly hooked on Minolta rangefinders, but wanted my next Minolta to be the 7sII…but it was out of my price range. I set my sights on another vintage beauty, the Canon Canonet QL17 GIII (a long name for a legendary camera).
I have certain tactics I use on eBay in order to get the best deal I can. The QL17s I had been watching there were going for about $50 and up and even more for CLA (Cleaned, Lubed, and Adjusted) models. This time, my tactic was to get on eBay during the Super Bowl (best times I’ve found are Super Bowl and World Series), as most people in the US are watching TV instead of prowling eBay. I found a QL17 that was ending during the game that was described as “not in very good shape” and “not sure about functioning.” It looked dirty in the pics, but I could see no damage, so figured it was worth the risk and won it for about $35 with shipping.
I dubbed it “The Ugly Duckling” because it was so grungy. I began cleaning it up and realized all the more what great shape it was in. I even managed to get the residue from masking tape off the top 😉 I popped a battery in it and it came to life…here is “The Swan!”
I thoroughly enjoy using this camera…it has very intuitive controls (which is my pet peeve…I’ve had some that make no sense to use!), shutter priority auto mode, and fully manual mode. One quirky thing is that the meter only works in the “A” mode, not in manual. It’s handy when using this mode since you can change the shutter speed to get the desired aperture. For manual, I meter in A, then decide how I want to change shutter speed and aperture accordingly. Once nice thing about the meter being off in manual is that it’s essentially “off” then…thus if one doesn’t have a lens cap or it falls of, you won’t drain your battery.
Here are a couple of shots I’ve taken with this little beauty:
These were shot handheld in “A” mode on Kodak T-Max 400 developed in Rodinal 1:50.
More shots of/taken with this camera here: Canonet QL17 GIII set on flickr
My foray back into film camera collecting began with the plastic Diana F+, but I got off onto a tangent with vintage rangefinders shortly thereafter. First, with the Argus C-3, Kodak 35 RF, and Minolta Minoltina AL-s. Once I started using that sweet little “Tina”…I was hooked once again.
The Minolta family grows…”Tina” is joined by the big & beautiful Hi-Matic 7s
My web searches on other desireable rangefinder models came up with the Minolta Hi-Matic line. The 7sII looked very appealing, but the prices were out of my range (I normally don’t spend more than $30-$40 on my new acquisitions), so I set my sights on the previous model, the 7s. It had appealing features with fully automatic, aperture priority, and fully manual modes. It’s amazing with a camera of this age to just have to point at your subject, focus, and shoot. I used it at an air show one day and had it on the “Auto” setting the entire time…here are some results from it:
“Patriot Wing” shot with Minolta Hi-Matic 7s 35mm rangefinder w/ Kodak bw400cn film
So, it was official, I am an addict. I began researching which one to purchase next 😉 See my full set of images of/taken with this camera here: Minolta Hi-Matic 7s set on flickr