Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Brand-Spankin'-New Start 66

 I have always wanted to shoot in medium format.  Every-so-often I browse Allegro to check the prices of a Mamiya RZ67.
While in Bazar na Kole, a massive bazaar/flea market in Wola, I stumbled upon a man selling an old Polish twin-lens reflex Start 66.  I snapped it up for 100zl (on Allegro, it sells for 300zl), and giddily took it home.  I cleaned it; learned how to load and unload 120 film; and figured out how to work this old mechanical beast.
The Start 66 is a twin-lens reflex camera built between 1967 and 1970 that shoots 6x6 frames on 120 format film.  It only comes with a waist-level view finder, and Emitar 75 mm lens with a leaf shutter, and a pretty crummy view finder.  The optics seem more suited to black-and-white film rather than color (see images below).  I've only shot one roll of film: a test roll of Provia 100, but I'm pretty happy with the results (for 100zl camera, I can't complain).
Poniatowski Bridge at sunset from Temat Rzeka.
Sandomierz from the Brama Opatowska. 
Sandomierz Castle.
Stepping from a world (digital photography) that is so automated (auto-focus, auto-advance, and most importantly, auto-exposure) to a world that is manual at even the most basic functions.  The Start 66 even needs to be cocked before you can fire the shutter.
Taking a picture isn't as simple as: point and shoot.  It's: take out the digital camera on Av or Tv mode (make sure it's on the right ISO speed.  If shooting ISO 140, set the exposure up 2/3 of a stop); meter the light and get a usable shutter speed vs. f-number, since the Start only has a small range of both); switch to the Start 66; set the correct shutter speed and f-number; try to frame the picture (because of the prism, it's hard because everything is reversed and I'm not very used to it); try to focus (almost impossible since the finder isn't the easiest to look into); cock the shutter; steady the camera and fire.
As you can see, shooting a portrait is almost impossible unless your subject has loads of patience.  Trying to shoot a picture where there are lots of people milling around, getting in front of your shot, and the clouds up ahead are changing the lighting from second-to-second (thus requiring repeat metering), can tax your own patience.
This camera was not designed to be ergonomic.  Handling it is like handling a small loaf of stale bread; this does not make for the easiest way to frame a picture and makes it much more likely that I will drop on the ground, only to watch in horror as the whole thing bursts apart upon impact.  After shooing my first roll, I also realized the the shutter most likely has a sticky blade (that or there is a hole in the camera) as about half the pictures have burn marks on them (over-exposed areas consistent with light leakage).
My introduction to medium format photography has been a pleasant one.  It's actually re-ignited my passion for photography (though I must admit my talent is lacking), and it's quite fun to play with.  I hope that eventually I'll be able to master the finicky device and take pictures that are in-focus (still a challenge) and properly exposed.

The Start 66 camera I purchased.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rosz ha-Szana (Rosh Hashanah) at the Kibbutz

Yesterday was the closing of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  Here in Warsaw, there happens to be a Jewish 'kibbutz' (kibuc) located on Jazdów called Kibuc Warszawa.  It's in an old 'Finnish' house, as are all houses on Jazdów.  (The Finnish Houses will actually be the topic of another post).  I say "kibbutz" because it's really not an agricultural collective, more of collective 'camp' (that's how I see it, anyway).  The kibbutz is run by ZOOM, the Polish Youth organization.
The Rosh Hashanah celebration was an open invitation to Jews and Gentiles alike.  The whole thing kicked off at sunset around a heavily laden table with food and wine (there was a cash bar too that it was pretty cheap).  One who was 'the Rabbi' gave a lecture about Rosh Hashanah, the Sabbath, and the High Holy Days.  He performed the ceremony and said the proper prayers (he did, however, omit the hand washing).  Few men in the crowd wore their yamulkas (I totally rocked mine as I take advantage of the few opportunities to do so), but enough were able to recite the prayers in Hebrew.  Challah (chalka) was blessed and passed around for all to tear off a chunk.  After the blessings and prayers, we toasted each other with slices of apple and pomegranate for a sweet new year.  The table was then opened up for all to feast.
There was no blowing of the shofars, which disappointed me, because I was looking forward to a good horn-blowing concert.  But, there was an unexpected feast, so I can't complain.

The table with fruit, cakes, hummus, fish, bread, chicken, and much more.

Luckily, it happened during a mild Indian summer.  The night was cool, but not cold, and one warmed up quickly while dancing (though the DJ could have been a little bit better).  A good way to ring in new year.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pleasant Surprise in the Mail

Recently, I ordered a slew of books of Amazon's UK site,  I picked up three packages today and found a little note on the packing slip.  See below:

Pozdrowienie z Gloucester ;)  (Greetings from Gloucester ;) )

Some poor Polak must be stranded working in a book depository in Gloucester (or just some Brit who knows some Polish).  I can't make out the last little mark, but it seems like it's a winking face.

It really made my day ;-)