Old 01-26-2014, 03:10 PM   #1
Ron Flanary
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Default The Realities of Old School Photography

I've been working on a presentation for later this year, and one illustration I created was a portrait of all 14 cameras I ever used for train photography. I used my wife's small Nikon to get the shot:



So, I e-mailed this around to some of my geezer railroad photographer buddies, and I got this response from one of them:
I've been very impressed by a number of the younger guys (and gals). Yeah they have all the marvelous equipment but a lot of them have the "eye" to find the good images.

Nonetheless, I've long thought it would be amusing to send them out for a day using their own digital camera but with these constrains: ISO 50, cannot change. Manual mode only. Choice of spot meter or center-weighted only. (Separate light meter allowed if they want.) Two lenses only, a 50mm (or equivalent) and one other fixed focal length of their choice. Must wait 1.5 seconds between each shot (to simulate manual winding). They would also have to disengage the auto-focus. Monitor screen turned off; cannot see photos until a week after they are taken. That might lead them to better understanding of what it took to get a keeper not that many decades ago. Me, I've always marveled at many of the gorgeous color photos people took back in the 40s and 50s with ISO 10 or ISO 25 films in the cameras they had then.
Now, that's an interesting concept you younger photogs might want to consider as an exercise one day. It'll make you appreciate the "easy" button that is digital technology in today's world. No---I'm not advocating going back!!

As for all those cameras in the photo...except for my current model (a Nikon D600, shown somewhere on the far right), the rest are pretty much paper weights or door stops (or collectibles). I didn't include the pile of lenses, strobe flash units and assorted junk, which are in another box in the closet.

Of the images of mine you see posted on RP.net, every one of them came from one of these cameras---and every camera here contributed at least one image.
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Old 01-26-2014, 03:21 PM   #2
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My cameras don't have iso 50. Otherwise, I think I'd do just fine.

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Old 01-26-2014, 04:37 PM   #3
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I'm with you Ron. I'd love to see some of the 'youngsters' try and capture an image with an old mechanical manual camera. I've spoken with some current newspaper photographers and told them about the 'good old days' of Tri-X film and Extachrome for color. They have no clue about tight deadlines...a 9:30 spot news assignment with a 10:30 deadline. Printing the 8x10 while the negatives are still wet. I wish I still had all of my old cameras like you.
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Old 01-26-2014, 04:40 PM   #4
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My cameras don't have iso 50. Otherwise, I think I'd do just fine.

Loyd L.
Well...whatever is the lowest (100?).

I agree you'd do fine, Loyd--but I wonder about those with considerably lesser skills than you who rely too heavily on the bells and whistles of a modern digital camera. Back in the day, if a person hadn't mastered the basics of photography, more than likely they wouldn't even try. But, digital technology has certainly empowered many more people to take up train photography---and that's a great thing. We're all richer for having their work to see (although as soon as I type that, I realize that God in Heaven couldn't make good photographers of some people...).
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Old 01-26-2014, 04:42 PM   #5
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What bothers me is that sometimes people think "youngsters" have no respect for their elders and how much harder photography was "back in the day." Definitely not the case.
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Old 01-26-2014, 05:04 PM   #6
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What bothers me is that sometimes people think "youngsters" have no respect for their elders and how much harder photography was "back in the day." Definitely not the case.
I agree that I've met some younger photographers that have respect for their elders. I'm always amazed by the 'old timers' that had Speed Graphics to use for news photography. I always used manual focus Nikons.
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Old 01-26-2014, 05:18 PM   #7
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The older I get, the more I see of a certain - for lack of a better term "generational arrogance."

It is the attitude that "we" could have done as good as you, but things were harder, more expensive, or we didn't have the nifty gear that ya'all have now.

Well that is all true, but what is the point?

Every generation that came before can point to those following and make the argument that life is easier - that is the goal of humanity, to make life easier.

I for one, have used many of the cameras in your image, or models like them and compared to what I was using five years ago, they all blow.

Compared to what I am using now - well, there is no comparison.

I have shot and hand developed film, printed both color and B&W and I will tell you that there is one primary difference between now and then.....

Digital does not waste your time, and time is the one thing that cannot be bought, or re-shot.

If young people want to learn about film and printing, fine, but if they don't see it as important I would agree, it is a step backwards.

As far as picking up an old camera and going out and using it to appreciate what the old geasers are complaining about, that ain't going to happen.

It is my observation that the old people doing the most complaining seem to be technophobes anyway (and I am to a point too).

I hate having to learn a new way of doing things just because the old one wore out.

This has been an issue with operating systems, appliances, skiis, mountain bike gear systems and photo gear, but in each case, I was much happier (and thought I was being old and inflexible) with the new tech once the learning curve is over.

So sure, old people think the young don't appreciate the past, and usually they don't, but eventually they become the past and the realization that the expectation was unreasonable becomes apparent.

BTW: I am seeing some neat stuff on Instagram taken by noobs with phones.

Perhaps this is where the future lies, or at least part of it.

Disclaimer: This rant is not directed at Ron, rather at those who feel like the person in the quoted paragraph - and Charles

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Old 01-26-2014, 05:22 PM   #8
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I suppose the previous generation felt like this too:

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Old 01-26-2014, 05:42 PM   #9
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Wow, I recognize that Yashica Electro 35 camera. It is a range finder type. You really needed a good eye to get a picture in focus.

Here's a picture taken with that camera.

Image © Chris Zygmunt
PhotoID: 255783
Photograph © Chris Zygmunt


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Old 01-26-2014, 05:49 PM   #10
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I regularly use cameras from the 1940s and 1950s. Good fun! Makes you use your brain a bit more. It's not rocket science by any means though.

That guy in your quote sounds a bit like a whiner to me. He's got it all wrong. The CAMERA doesn't make the difference. It's PHOTOSHOP that makes the difference. Let them use whatever digital gear they want, but no Photoshop. Now that would be a real challenge!
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Old 01-26-2014, 05:52 PM   #11
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I suppose the previous generation felt like this too:

Yes they did, and if you reproduce, they will mock you too.

Mine does.
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:22 PM   #12
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One generation always thinks the next generations music sucks, that they have no respect for their elders and that things were harder but so much better when they were young. These things will never, ever change.

I may only be 34 but I grew up shooting with a Canon AE1 from about 1980, it wasn't that difficult honestly. Like anything, you learn how to work with what you have. I still take old cameras out today and shoot slides, my Favorite is my Olympus OM-2 with a 100 MM Prime, again, not that difficult. Not a slam on anyone, just my observations. I hate the ETTS attitude that so often pervades
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:33 PM   #13
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One generation always thinks the next generations music sucks
There is no doubt that this current generation's music is the worst shit ever. Very little made since year 2000 has any musical merit. Music today just sucks ass. I can look back from the late 90's all the way back to the 30's and find good music, so I am not one of those "my generation's music is the best" people. Probably the 70's and 80's music was most eclectic, diverse. There were stupid genre's in there (IMHO) like disco, new wave. But even inside of those genre's there was some musical talent.
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Old 01-26-2014, 08:30 PM   #14
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Well...it certainly isn't a generational arrogance on my part. I, for one, can't compete, talent-wise, with many of the younger photographers of today. They're just a lot better than me. And, I wouldn't suggest going back to the old stuff at all (and I thought I made that clear).

As for music---I think I can address that as well. Today's "music" is simplistic and just plain old bad. I'm all ears for new and exciting sounds--all the time--but we've been in a serious "funk" for a few years now in terms of musical creativity. There are some exceptions, but right now, music of this era will not be warmly remembered in the future. At this moment in time, I could even dig A Flock of Seagulls reunion gig...
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Old 01-26-2014, 08:35 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Z View Post
Wow, I recognize that Yashica Electro 35 camera. It is a range finder type. You really needed a good eye to get a picture in focus.

Here's a picture taken with that camera.

Image © Chris Zygmunt
PhotoID: 255783
Photograph © Chris Zygmunt


Chris Z
Here's one of mine taken with the Electro 35:

Image © Ron Flanary
PhotoID: 164297
Photograph © Ron Flanary


You're right, Chris...it was kind of the devil to bring into focus. But, it took some good shots for me (not to mention a bunch of duds!).
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Old 01-26-2014, 08:51 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Well...it certainly isn't a generational arrogance on my part. I, for one, can't compete, talent-wise, with many of the younger photographers of today. They're just a lot better than me.
No they're not... they just have better equipment than you did, and more access (read: free time, mobility) than you may have had.

Quote:
As for music---I think I can address that as well. Today's "music" is simplistic and just plain old bad. I'm all ears for new and exciting sounds--all the time--but we've been in a serious "funk" for a few years now in terms of musical creativity. There are some exceptions, but right now, music of this era will not be warmly remembered in the future. At this moment in time, I could even dig A Flock of Seagulls reunion gig...
Exactly. Like I said, new wave wasnt my thing at the time, but they could at least see some talent in bands like Flock of Seagulls, Duran Duran, New Order, Boomtown Rats, etc.

You just cant say that about much modern music, outside of maybe Country, but even most Country artists are just retreading tired ideas and themes. I dont know how many times a guy can cry about his truck getting broke down, his woman leaving him or his dog dying. Heck, even the cheesy hair bands of the late 80's could at least play their instruments, even if they spent more time putting on makeup than writing their music.
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Old 01-26-2014, 08:56 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Flanary View Post
Well...it certainly isn't a generational arrogance on my part.
Not directed at you - "(and I thought I made that clear)"

Quote:
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And, I wouldn't suggest going back to the old stuff at all (and I thought I made that clear).

You did.
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Old 01-26-2014, 09:00 PM   #18
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Not directed at you - "(and I thought I made that clear)"
Why arent you out there taking pics of 4014?
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Old 01-26-2014, 09:05 PM   #19
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Why arent you out there taking pics of 4014?
Because, I am not at all interested in taking photos that look like this.

Image © Matthew Griffin
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Old 01-26-2014, 09:13 PM   #20
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Because, I am not at all interested in taking photos that look like this.
Well, had you been there, you would have at least submitted a level or at least undistorted wedgie.

It's a shame they couldn't get BNSF to loan them 6936 for the move.
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Old 01-26-2014, 09:30 PM   #21
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Well, had you been there, you would have at least submitted a level or at least undistorted wedgie.

That is the quality of work you get when you snap the picture and then rush home to upload it before Craig Walker gets his shots in the que.

I don't need to be involved in this chase, you can look at Mr. Mojave Sub's stuff instead.


Image © Matthew Griffin
PhotoID: 467664
Photograph © Matthew Griffin


Image © Matthew Griffin
PhotoID: 467659
Photograph © Matthew Griffin


Image © Matthew Griffin
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Old 01-26-2014, 10:06 PM   #22
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You guys are totally proving my point about music, you know that, right?
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Old 01-27-2014, 01:09 AM   #23
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Here's a couple of Kodak cameras I've been using lately.

Sorry my very cheap scanner really doesn't do them justice.

The Signet 35 (right) was used in WWII for surveillance etc. and later was sold to consumers. The Signet 80 was from the mid 1950s - a high end amateur camera with interchangeable lenses (35, 50, 90mm).


[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/22953190@N07/12160804814/]

Signet 80

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/22953190@N07/12060395993/]

Signet 35

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/22953190@N07/8546689208/]
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Old 01-27-2014, 01:51 AM   #24
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Somewhere out there in the great big interwebs is a forum with a thread titled "The Realities of Old School Transportation."

Within that thread contains a debate about how great it was when you had to use a horse and buggy to get around. And then one day, that newfangled thing called the "automobile" came along and changed everything in the transportation world (hell, it even helped to kill the passenger train!).


And Ron, music isn't any worse or better today than it was when you were growing up. It's just more accessible, meaning it's much easier to be exposed to the crap (which generally appeals to the LCD of society). There is complex, beautiful music out there if you take the time to look for it. And it also doesn't take long to find some really horrible garbage that was produced from the 50s to the 70s.
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Old 01-27-2014, 02:27 AM   #25
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Okay, I have to give my opinion on the music thing. Today's music does suck. And I am a youngster compared to most of you. Then again, I was raised on bluegrass and never quit listening to it. Lol.
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