How looking for a misplaced camera case saved my family…

It’s the holiday season for most of us – opportunities to spend some time with our families and give thanks for all that we enjoy in our lives. This will be an especially thankful Christmas for me and my family as we were spared almost certain disaster.

In the rush to get a million things done in only a short time, I was a bit miffed that I couldn’t find a vintage leather camera case for one of my Yashica cameras. I searched everywhere twice and then searched again in the usual hiding spots. Whenever something photographic goes missing, my studio (actually an unused guest bedroom but it sounds better saying “studio”) is the likely hiding place. I checked the open shelving unit that holds the boxes and bins of camera stuff (again) when I caught sight of something wedged behind it between the bottom shelf and the wall. Ah ha I thought, found it! It’s no easy task to move this beast of shelving so I would need to lighten the load if I ever hoped to slide it away from the wall. That’s when I saw it – a small discolored spot on the electrical outlet cover. Thinking that something dirty had stained it, I wedged myself behind the shelves for a better look. As I watched, the small spot became bigger and then the spot turned into something else –

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The first clue something was wrong. I saw the small discoloration on the cover – but it quickly became more!

I raced to the garage and ripped open the service panel box and found breaker number 10 – the bedrooms – and switched it off. Then I raced back inside to access the damage. There were no flames and only a small bit of smoke but the spot on the cover and outlet had grown larger. I put the back of my hand near the cover, it was warm but not hot. Convinced that it was no longer burning I dashed out again to find a screwdriver. I removed the cover and was completely shocked to see –

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In only a few seconds this is what happened to the outlet box and receptacle.

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By this stage of the meltdown the heat had scorched the wood stud that the box was nailed to and blackened the paper facing on the insulation. Seconds before flames I’m sure.

Seeing these images again as I write this has reawakened the panic that swept over me that day. The thoughts of “what if” I hadn’t been home or “what if” I hadn’t gone searching for that case at that very moment or the dozens of other “what ifs” that I can’t think of at this moment.

Sure we thought we were protected. Our home was built in late 1989 and is a modern home in good condition. We are the only owners of the house so that means we’ve lived here for over 25 years now. Our electrical service panel is rated at 200 amps and the wiring is code approved copper 12 gauge with ground. The bedroom is never used so nothing more than a lamp is plugged in at any time.

So what happened? Why didn’t the circuit breaker trip? Why did the short occur? How could this happen to me when I’m one of the most safety oriented guys I know?

The answer, it doesn’t matter how careful a person you are, it’s the unseen electrical dangers that almost destroyed our house. As I dissected  what had happened here’s what I’ve learned…

  1. My home is 25 years old… wiring and outlets don’t last forever.
  2. The outlet was unused and therefore uninspected.
  3. Uninspected outlets are potential trouble. I bet there were early warning signs that something was wrong.
  4. Trusting a circuit breaker to trip and shut off the power and save the home. Not so!
  5. Circuit breakers don’t trip for this type of short.
  6. I need to have an electrician install AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters) in my service panel.
  7. I need to inspect all outlets in my home and feel if they or the plugs that are plugged into them are warm, hot or discolored.
  8. Replace faulty outlets as soon as possible.
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    This is the non melted side of the receptacle. Notice the two rusted screws – they were the early warning signs of trouble. The outlet box and receptacle are mounted on an outside wall behind a brick exterior. Although there’s a vapor barrier (I hope) behind the brick and wood sheathing it’s still an unheated space – moisture in the air condensed on the terminals and caused rust. The rust loosened (slightly) the connections and created resistance which led to heat which led to the short and meltdown.

    Now please understand that I am not an electrician and the points I make here are my unprofessional views of what happened. What I hope you can take away from this is that you need to do regular check-ups of your electrical service and if you see or feel something is wrong, call an electrician to check. You and your families health depend on it (the electrical system) in your house to be safe. Look into installing AFCIs in your home (in the United States). I understand that they are required in new home construction and in some restorations of existing homes and something like it is required overseas (Europe). If I had these AFCIs in my panel box then the power would have been shut off instantly an arc was detected and there would have been no meltdown. Have a blessed Holiday Season!

    Please share This story with your friends and discuss it with your family. ^.^ Chris

Florence… 1986

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Nothing says Florence like the Cathedral of Florence. Canon F-1 with FD 24mm f/2.8 lens on Kodak Kodachrome 25.

In presenting a short series of images of Florence (one of the most beautiful of all cities in Italy), it’s a tough call on which images to include. In Pisa, it has to be the most famous bell tower in the world. I imagine for Rome I would choose the Coliseum – Colosseum or the Vatican. Since there’s so much beauty, history, art and architecture at every turn in Florence it’s nearly impossible to choose the one to use first. My visit to the Tuscony Region was in late October 1986 – the weather was perfect and the visibility was awesome!

My camera was the Canon F-1 (1978 version) with three lenses to use: FD 24mm f/2.8, FD 80-200mm f/4 zoom and the normal FD 55mm f/1.4. Since sunlight would be in abundance, Kodak’s Kodachrome 25 fit perfectly with the days shooting plan (no interiors in the plans).

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Vista view to the north… FD 24mm while hanging the camera over the side of the railing (wobbly pieces of metal) loosely attached to 600 year old stone.

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The Duomo with its instantly identifiable tiled dome. FD 80-200mm at about 150mm

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FD 200mm braced on the railing.

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Back to earth… Canon FD 24mm wide angle lens at f/22

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More FD 24mm… my go to lens in the tight quarters of a city. It’s not easy to get all three in the same image.

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The Canon’s light meter (spot) handled this tricky exposure well. Yep, FD 24mm lens.

Of course what would a visit to any city be without the required “People and Pigeon” shot.

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Happy people and happy pigeons.

This of course is only a very small sample of what’s available in and around Florence and the Tuscany Region. I had only one short afternoon to visit so I was lucky to see as much as I did. The old “someday” I hope to travel back and do it right.

Thanks for your visit!

Chris

 

 

Pisa… 1986

Pisa… a gorgeous city filled with unbelievable wonders. Photographic eye candy to be sure. In 1986, shooting with a Canon F-1 and Canon lenses on Kodachrome 25 was as close to “perfect” in 35mm photography as one could hope to achieve (sorry Nikon guys and gals). In appreciation of the all the imperfections and limits of film photography (just like vinyl records), analog photography still moves me. Sure I love digital – some images with digital were impossible with film (or nearly so), but film has a softness of color and detail that I love.

These images were taken in mid October 1986. They’ve received only minor post production after scanning – mostly small crops to remove the edges of the 35mm slide mounts and some occasional color balancing and brightness tweaks. Film used was Kodak’s Kodachrome 25 (perfect for bright lighting and known for its fine grain).

My Canon F-1 (1978 version) and three FD lenses were all that I had in my bag: 24mm f/2.8 wide angle, 80-200mm f/4 zoom and the 55mm f/1.4. The weather was perfect – bright sunshine, low humidity with mild temperatures. Visibility was amazing as a recent cold front had passed through the area and cleared the air of haze and pollutants.

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24mm taken on the south side of the tower.

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80-200mm zoom. Until you see the tower in person you have no sense of the dramatic lean. Just amazing that it’s stood since 1327 like this.

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The tower as a sundial. 80-200mm zoom

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In silhouette. 80-200mm zoom hand held.

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Holding the tower upright. 200mm

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Enjoying the view to the north.

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Pisa cathedral. 24mm

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Gelato and soda. 80-200mm zoom at 150mm

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Art in the streets. 55mm

An amazing city worthy of your visit.

Chris

Montauk Point Lighthouse, Long Island

The lighthouse at Montauk Point, Long Island, New York is one of my favorite spots to visit ever since I was a child growing up on Long Island. As a kid, the main attractions for me were – the ocean, the countless rocks in that ocean (big and small), the hills (Long Islanders are hill challenged) and finally the lighthouse itself. As I got older, the main attraction was the lighthouse with the other ‘likes’ fading into the background. When I earned my New York driver’s licence, Montauk was my first long drive from my home by myself. When I became a certified SCUBA diver, the waters near the lighthouse looked tempting for a dive but the great whites known to frequent the cold waters off Eastern Long Island kept me ashore – so I headed to Florida instead.

While going through some of my many mountains of slides from my collection, I came across these images of the lighthouse. The first set of photographs are from August 1972 and were shot with my Yashica TL Electro-X mostly using the normal Yashinon 50mm lens. The second set of images are from 2002 when I traveled to New York with my family for their first visit to Montauk. The 1972 images show how completely the original Kodak Ektachrome slides have degraded over the years.

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August 1972. Yashica TL Electro-X with f/ 1.7 50mm Yashinon lens with 2x teleconverter on Ektachrome 64.

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August 1972. The lighthouse in need of a serious restoration. I believe it was still under the control of the U.S. Coast Guard at that time. It’s obvious that 40+ year old Kodak Ektachrome didn’t hold up well – even when stored properly. Most of the vivid original colors have faded and the slide lacks depth.

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July 2002. The lighthouse and grounds were looking much better after the restoration. Canon F-1 with FD24mm f/ 2.8 lens on Kodachrome. My son is the little one climbing up the hill (as I had done hundreds of times before).

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July 2002. Canon F-1 with FD24mm f/ 2.8 lens on Kodachrome.

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T.J. on the rocks… just like me in the 1950s.

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The automated light of 2002. Wonderful view from up top too.

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Captivating views from up top.

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Gotta love the rocks!

If you ever get a chance to travel to Long Island, then the Montauk Point Lighthouse must be on your “to visit list”. It’s very photogenic and lends itself well to the digital age. There are images that a good camera phone today can capture that were a serious challenge to film photographers just 15 years ago. Happy shooting!

Chris

 

Kamakura Daibutsu

My wife and I lived in Yokohama, Naka-ku (Honmoku) from the Summer of 1977 to early Spring of 1980. We totally enjoyed our time in this wonderful country and are hopeful we will be able to return again. We had our favorite spots – Sankei-en and Kamakura being two of our most favorite. As with any well known attraction, the Great Buddha at Kamakura has been photographed from every angle imaginable. I’ve always enjoyed exploring angles that may not have been tried before.

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July 1979. Canon F-1 with FD 24mm lens on Kodachrome 25.

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Kodachrome 25. Bright sun. Canon F-1 with FD 24mm lens. It’s what film photography was (is) all about.

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More traditional view of the Great Buddha. Steaming hot July day on the Kanto Plain. Yashica TL Electro-X on Kodachrome 64.

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Gotta have a tourist shot! We love the antennas on top of Mt. Fuji!

So many things will have changed in Japan since we were last there but they’ll be plenty that will stay the same… forever. Kamakura is one of them.

Thanks for the visit!

Shooting in squares…

It’s tough to think square again! I’m spoiled (aren’t we all) by the ease of digital photography – nice proportions – wide screen – big images – bold colors – lots of megapixels. Exposures? Shutter speeds? Composition? No worries – the technological gems we hang from our necks will think for us. I’m as guilty as anyone – I love what digital can do and what it can’t.

Now try to think of the world in little squares – 6 x 6 centimeter squares to be exact. It’s hard to do – modern formats are always elongated squares. Who loads square images on their blog? The square format went out with the Instamatic! But if you’re lucky enough to own (or have access to) a medium format (6×6) camera then you too can shoot in squares.

I recently took one of my Yashica TLRs out on a date – threw in some fresh Fujifilm and off I went. I must confess – I love color! Sure I like an occasional fling with some black and white (Neopan 100 Acros) but color gets me going. Not “computer generated color” – the subtle color you see only on film. It’s there (just like in real life) but it doesn’t tackle you to the ground like some overly saturated digital image. Just nice and easy color.

These following images were taken with my Yashica-Mat EM twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera. Exposures were determined (suggested actually) by the EM’s on board exposure meter. Yashica claims that it’s built-in but it’s really just attached to the left side of the body by three screws and a wire. No TTL or coupled metering here… just a bunch of tiny numbers on top of more tiny numbers with an almost invisible pointer pointing at those tiny numbers. I chose Fujifilm’s Fujicolor PRO 400H color negative film because I enjoy shooting with Fujifilm and usually like the results. I will point out that no post production was done on these images. No cropping, no color adjustments – they’re just as they were when developed and scanned by the lab (which was The Darkroom).

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This is actually image 12 on the roll. Taken on day 2 of my travels. Perfect small town America shot. I lost my bright sun from the day before but the Fujicolor 400 made up for the dull sky. Is it properly exposed? Probably not. Off by about 1 stop or so.

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Day 1 – image 7 on the roll. The Fujicolor handled the strong contrast between the sky and building. The Yashica’s meter did a fantastic job. About 1/500 at f/ 16-22.

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Faded Florida – along U.S. Highway 17 in North Florida. High contrast with strong shadows. f/ 16 at 1/500.

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A nice test for the Tomioka 80mm lens. No flare and some nice highlights on the water. 1/250 at around f/ 11-16. I metered to the left of the bridge. Looking south into Florida from Georgia. Highway 17 bridge over the St. Marys River.

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Looking north towards Georgia. The Yashica’s meter did a wonderful job suggesting the proper shutter speed and aperture setting. 1/250 at f/ 16.

Shooting in squares can be fun and challenging. Do I think some of the images would be better in a 6 x 4.5 or 6 x 7 format? Yes – definitely. Can I learn to enjoy squares again? Yes – definitely.

Comments are always appreciated and welcomed. Thanks for your visit!

Chris

 

More ‘Found Film’

We recently posted a short article about the good and bad sides of ‘found film’. It’s always exciting whenever we acquire a new camera and find film from the previous owner. We enjoy trying to figure out what year the film may be from. In this case, the 120 roll is Kodak Ektachrome-X – color slide film or reversal film if you prefer. It was found in a Yashica-A twin-lens reflex (TLR) medium format camera.

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Yashica-A TLR and some ‘found film’. In this case some Kodak Ektachrome-X color slide film.

The camera (Yashica-A) is from October 1959. Its general appearance would indicate that it saw limited use as the camera is in near mint condition with only a few small detracting marks. It works perfectly and the optics are sharp and clear. The shutter is accurate and it’s ready to shoot with again. It always amazes me how many cameras we find with half used rolls of film.

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Nice little addition to our vintage film collection.

We’re not going to get this roll developed. Our experience with the most recent roll was basically a waste of money – and a bit scary as you never know if the previous photographer shot something bad. We’ll let this one alone.

If anyone can give us an idea as to when this style of film was in use we would love to know.

Many thanks for your visit!

Chris

You can visit us on flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/127540935@N08/

 

 

Pentamatic bling!

A little eye candy for all the Pentamaniacs* out there!

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Some original Pentamatic packaging items. Yashica kept a theme of the pentaprism design on the presentation box and the instruction booklet.

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The red box on the right is the outer or shipping box. Once again Yashica kept the pentaprism design going.

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More Pentamatic toys.

If you’re looking to collect a really interesting camera (that’s also a joy to use), then give the humble Pentamatic a try. First available for sale by late Spring 1960… never sold in large quantities so it’s a bit of a challenge to find. The viewfinder is bright and appears very large (no needles or other stuff in the way), and the normal 5.5cm lens is big and bright – easy to focus too.

*Many thanks to a reader for the suggestion of ‘pentamaniacs’. ^.^

Thanks for your visit. Questions and comments are always appreciated.

Chris

A beautiful sight…

Nothing like a fresh roll of film in your camera. The possibilities are endless – the results, well I’ll have to wait a week for those. Could be the reason digital became so popular so quickly. Could be why people still load cameras with instant film.

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Some Fujicolor Pro 400H color negative film.

It’s a beautiful sight…

Thanks for your visit! Now load up some film!

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Forgotten and faded Florida…

U.S. Highway 17 was the way to enter Northeast coastal Florida in days past – long before I-95 was even imagined. If you came down from the North in the late 1940s, you entered Florida over a way too narrow bridge over the St. Marys River – the official boundary between Georgia and Florida. The two lane road was well traveled and one of the last cities you would pass through before the bridge was Kingsland, Georgia… just a few miles north of the river. The next city wasn’t until you reached Jacksonville, Florida – a long way south. You can’t really count the in-between hamlets of Yulee and Oceanway – they were home to flashing lights just to make you slow down a bit.

To be the first attraction – or motel – or restaurant – or bar – or whatever along this busy corridor meant something I imagine. Where would the tourists stop to take a picture or pause to, you know, rest? Highway 17 was the bomb – it was the way south. Then I-95 came and it was over in a hurry.

What’s left of the Florida firsts?

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U.S. Highway 17 bridge over the St. Marys River. Looking north into Georgia – this would have been your first step on dry land that was Florida.

After your safe passage over this way too narrow bridge, you would be treated with your first photo op…

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Everybody stops to get their picture taken in Florida! What better place then this sign… and with palm trees too! This is the sign along U.S. 17 a little south of the border.

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Gotta have a plaque to dedicate the sign.

All that’s left of some of the ‘firsts‘…

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‘Souvenirs’ and ‘Whiskey’.

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Nothing left to buy here except more time I suppose.

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More than a few tourists walked through this door… come in please.

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Faded Florida.

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Last one out.

A wonderful place to explore… that first half mile of faded Florida along Highway 17. Many more opportunities to be sure. It was the first motel in now forgotten Florida. The people are elsewhere but the photo ops remain.

Thanks for your visit. As always your comments are appreciated.

You can also visit me at https://www.flickr.com/photos/127540935@N08/

Chris

One last shot – a modern I-95 Florida welcome.

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