Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘vintage

Dolled Up

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Untitled_Panorama2-Edit-2

The wife and I recently met up again with Desirae, a good friend and blogger who specializes in vintage fashion. We spent some time strolling through Golden Gate Park with Suki in tow, chatting it up and shooting some photos.

Since this was a casual shoot, I decided to experiment a little more than usual. I shot most of these as either single frames or stitched bokeh panoramas using one of my favorite lenses, the Nikon 135mm f/2 DC. A single speedlight and a small reflector kept things light and portable while serving as an additional lighting option as the sun kept ducking behind scattered clouds.

Untitled_Panorama4

The other digital in the bag was Fuji’s new X100s. With its built-in neutral density filter and ability to sync with flash at ridiculously high shutter speeds, the camera works wonders with small flash in a bright environment. And those files…goodness. Single SB-910, gelled warm and zoomed to 200mm, firing into a small reflector behind me for these two. Taken at f/2, 1/1000:

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The gear:
Nikon D800E + Nikkor 135mm f/2 DC
Fuji X100s
Nikon SB-910, Pocketwizard Plus IIIs

Written by Jonathan

May 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm

This Ain’t Your Father’s Film Camera. Wait, Yes It Is.

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 Fuji X100 | 1/60th sec f/5.6 ISO200

On the heels of my last post, another film-related adventure! The camera above is an Ansco Cadet, a nifty little 127 format camera that was made in the late 1950s. I dug this camera out of my parents’ basement, and learned that they purchased it back in 1960 to bring on their honeymoon.  This camera has been in my family, then, for over 50 years.

I kept the Cadet in my home for a long, long time, and all the while it served no other purpose other than looking good on the shelf. The shutter was stuck and I just assumed it was broken, with no hope of ever firing another frame. But I very recently decided to inspect the camera further. I opened it up, played around with every moving part, put it back together, and doubting completely that anything different would happen after all these years, hit the shutter release.

“Ka-Click”

No way. There’s no way that just worked. Cranked the film advance and fired again.

“Ka-Click”

I can’t really put into words how exciting it was to hear that sound and see the camera’s shutter move so smoothly. It was time to find a roll of 127, and it turns out that only one place in the city that I know of carries that format (you rock, Glass Key!). Picked up a pack of both black and white and color, good for 12 frames per roll, and went through both of them in one little afternoon with the wife and the Suki:

Shooting with the Ansco is pretty interesting, to say the least. I had to tape up parts the body here and there to prevent light leaks. There are only 2 control points: the shutter release button, and a toggle switch between B&W and Color, which basically gives you two different apertures. Light meter? Of course not. Focus control? Sorry. Shutter control? Nope. It does fire though, which is all that really matters:

I had a hard time finding a place to develop this film, and it wasn’t cheap, so I may need to start developing the black and whites myself. On top of that, I had to take it to another place entirely to have scans and prints done. Goodness!

Here’s the color roll:

All in all, pretty happy with the results. Incidentally, I had the opportunity to share all of these prints with a small group of artists at Photobooth’s monthly portfolio night this week. It was a wonderful experience. Lately I’ve been used to sharing my photos on my blog or Flickr page or whatever other online service I’ve been using these days. But sitting down in person with others that have a passion and a respect for the art of creating photographs, laying real prints on a table, and sharing in thoughtful discussion with one another…that’s an entirely different experience altogether. I left that event more inspired than ever to continue my journey with the Cadet.

Oops. Where’s the Nano Coating? ;)

Written by Jonathan

April 20, 2012 at 9:16 am

Reviving a Vintage Camera

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Fuji X100 | 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 1250

Ever since Photobooth’s grand opening, I’ve been thinking about the two Polaroid cameras I recently found among boxes of old photo gear my dad gave me. The first one I discovered was an all-plastic model. Pretty cool. The second one, however, is a much more exciting camera. We brought both to Photobooth, but the Land Camera 450 pictured above is what got all the love and attention.

The 450 is a beautifully made, vintage Polaroid camera, fully loaded with an all glass lens, auto-exposure system, and a big, bright Zeiss Ikon finder for focusing and composing. Unlike my plastic model, the 450 has a solid metal build, folds down into its own case, and has a cool-looking leather strap:

Vince, one of the studio’s owners and an expert on Polaroid cameras, was very helpful in getting us started. After making sure it was in working order (to our surprise, the battery that drives auto-exposure still had juice), we purchased two packs of Fujifilm cartridges and learned how to load up the camera:

Land Camera 450 training: Framing up your subject, focus, cock the shutter, release the shutter. Bridget gave it a try first:


Fuji X100 |  1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 800

What to photograph for our very first instant print? Hmm…


Fuji X100 | 1/950 sec, f/4, ISO 800

Ok, here’s the tricky part. The Fujifilm stuff seems to be a little thicker than the original Polaroid Pack Film the camera was designed for, so we had to be really careful when pulling out the first 3 or 4 exposures. Those first few frames are pretty tightly packed:


Fuji X100 | 1/250 sec, f/4.5, ISO 800

Get the frame out, wait about a minute, and…drum roll!

Keep the drumroll going….


Fuji X100 | 1/240 sec, f/4, ISO 400

You wouldn’t think this would be such a big deal, right? But when I first saw this print, I was completely and utterly giddy. Like, hop up and down and clap your hands giddy (not that I did that, but you know). The entire process felt more like forging a picture instead of just taking one. I was instantly hooked.


Fuji X100 | 1/850 sec, f/16, ISO 800

Suki wasn’t as excited.

The late afternoon light was beautiful, and what better way wind down the day than to go out on a photo walk with our “new” camera around one shoulder and digital camera around the other:

Outside the studio, we got little anxious with our first film cartridge and damaged a few frames trying to yank the tightly packed film out. At a little over a dollar per click, it’s not something we wanted to make a habit out of, but hey, you have to learn somehow.


Fuji X100 |  1/750 sec, f/10, ISO 400 (Provia Film Sim)

The Mission District surrounding Photobooth is such a great place for a photo walk. I took the above with the X100, and then took the same shot with the Land Camera 450:


Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

The super sharp, high-resolution, colorful digital file looks great, but there’s something really special about the instant print. These scans seem to lack the contrast of the actual prints, which look fantastic right next to my keyboard as I type this.


Fuji X100 | 1/140 sec, f/2.2, ISO 200

Here’s a frame that got jammed in the cartridge as we tried to pull it out of the camera. Even though the print didn’t properly develop as a result, I kind of like how it turned out. I think the damage gives it character:


Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film


Fuji X100 |  1/125 sec, f/2, ISO 1250

Bridget tried mightily to get a frame of me taking a picture of her. She did great, but again, the frame jammed.

As the picture above (right) shows, we had to place our prints right on the ground as we stopped to take photos since we had no place to store them as we walked about. I think Suki stepped on one of them at one point. More character. =)


Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

Way to go Jonathan, ignore the shadow from your big head in the frame. That’s ok, I can just photosho–aw, wait a minute…


Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film


Polaroid Land  Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film


Fuji X100 | 1/450 sec, f/2, ISO 400


Fuji X100 | 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800


Fuji X100 | 1/160 sec, f/2.5, ISO 400


Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

I was hoping the two cartridges we purchased would last a couple weeks. We ended up shooting both within an hour. Oops!

To think this beautiful camera has been sitting in storage for decades, a little box of fun that I didn’t even realize was there all these years. Well Mr. Land Camera, you have a second shot at life now. Let’s make pictures.

Written by Jonathan

September 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

The Docks

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Can you think of a spot in your home town that brings you back to your childhood every time you visit? It had been years since I’ve come back to Red’s Java House in San Francisco, but stepping inside the old dining area, I realized that nothing inside has changed. Except for the prices, of course. Ouch!

When I was very young, my Dad would sometimes say “hey son, let’s go to the docks.” I knew that meant a trip to Red’s to grab a hot dog or burger. The dining room is antique and charming, but we’d always eat outside, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. I’d throw bits of bread at the sea gulls and stare at the murky, green bay water. My Dad would tell me these crazy stories of when he was my age. Jumping in the bay and swimming around, chasing wild animals with nets he and his friends had stolen from local tennis courts, running over the once barren red-rock hills of the city…hills now covered by houses, hotels, and other businesses.


(blue bottle coffee)

As a third generation native of the city, it makes me think of how San Francisco has evolved since I was young. Old, run down areas of the city now replaced by a culture of young professionals who insist on their $4.50 cup of fair trade, hand roasted and brewed cup of coffee every morning. Ok, I’m guilty of loving the gourmet coffee, I admit it! But every so often its nice to revisit the old days and grab a simple burger on a sourdough roll at Red’s.

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Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G
BW Conversion: Silver Efex Pro II

Written by Jonathan

March 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Now That’s True Vintage

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Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII

This is Desirae. She’s a friend, a fellow blogger, and an expert on all things vintage. Met her today out among the rolling hills of San Francisco to do a brief one-hour photo shoot. Seeing her step out of her front door immediately blasted me straight into the 1950′s. With perfect afternoon weather and a gorgeous model to work with, I was feeling pretty good about the shoot right from the start.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII

Desirae’s outfit is remarkable, not only because of its 1950′s styling, but because everything she has on is truly vintage, as in made 60+ years ago. Even her stockings are true vintage. Seriously, she’s that good!


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII

We originally planned to head to some specific and well known places in the city, but since we only had an hour to work with, we decided to just explore her own neighborhood on foot and make images along the way. Since I JUST finished this shoot only hours ago, I’ll need some time to process the images, but here’s a brief sampling from the time we spent together. Enjoy!


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII

On a side note, I used my new 24-120 f/4 VR for most of the shoot and was so very impressed by its performance. The images from it have such great contrast and the range was perfect for both wide and tight portraiture.

As I mentioned, Desirae is an avid blogger with a truly interesting site called Ruby’s Rose. The blog is a fictitious diary of a girl living in the 1950s, and it strictly adheres to events that occurred during that decade in real time. It’s really fascinating, so check it out at rubysrose.blogspot.com

Also, see more images from the shoot on my gallery page at www.jonathanflemingphotography.com!

San Francisco Light Rail

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Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 at 50mm f/2.8 ISO250 1/60 second

I don’t do very much black and white, but a shot of a 1938 San Francisco light rail train is just begging to be converted to grayscale, suffer from some clipped blacks and highlights, and have some vignetting applied to it. I’m fascinated by these old trains, and hope I can find time to chase them around the city and photograph them one of these days.

Written by Jonathan

January 18, 2010 at 2:11 pm

My First Model Shoot

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 60mm f/2.8 Micro at f5.6, ISO200 1/60 Second, CLS triggered SB-800

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 60mm f/2.8 Micro at f5.6, ISO200 1/60 Second, CLS triggered SB-800

Man, I scored a gig with an awesome and beautiful model yesterday by the name of Barbie. Have you heard of her? Ok, what really happened was that the weather was terrible for the city and landscape photography I planned for last night. But the photography bug bites in all weather conditions, so I had to shoot something!

The wife recently got into collecting vintage Barbies, and in fact, I bought her a vintage reproduction of the wedding Barbie and Ken from 1959 recently. Working with Barbie and Ken was actually a quite interesting experiment in portrait lighting. Due to their small size, I had to use my 60mm 2.8 Micro lens to get the portraits looking more human and less toy-like.

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 60mm f/2.8 micro at f/8, ISO200 1/60 Second

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 60mm f/2.8 micro at f/8, ISO200 1/60 Second

Adding directional light to the shot was the fun part. I used a single SB-800, diffused with a small light modifier and triggered wirelessly via the pop off flash on the D300s. A small, rather harsh light source for a real human being, but a huge and flattering source of light for a Barbie.

Since Barbie doesn’t move or get tired of standing completely still in the same exact pose for as long as I see fit, I really got to play with the size and direction of the light source, and it turned out being a ton of fun for me. Plus, look at her! Isn’t she absolutely incredibly gorgeous? The camera loves her!

At the end of this month, I’ll actually be shooting a real wedding. I’ll being doing it for free as a gift to the groom, a close friend of the family. Well, free for him anyway. Getting a few things to get me ready to take good photographs at the event will actually cost ME money, but hey, what I lose in money I’ll gain in experience! My father was a professional wedding photographer for nearly two decades back in the film days, but for some reason, photographing weddings hasn’t ever really been a desire of mine.

Agreeing to photograph this upcoming wedding, however, has sort of forced me into an interest in wedding photography, and now I’m actually really excited about it (I freaked out when I was first asked last week). Part of the excitement, I think, comes from an increase of confidence that has come from a tireless study of wedding photography technique over the last week. Yes, I’m cramming, because even though this will be a freebie for the bride and groom, I want to do the best job I can possibly do, for ME.

So for the next three weeks, I’ll be reading reading reading and shooting shooting shooting. My goal for this wedding will be to work creatively with directional light to make some pretty photos of the new couple.

Who knows? If it goes well, perhaps my next gig will be paid ;)

Click below for a couple more shots of my little “model shoot”

Written by Jonathan

October 12, 2009 at 5:30 am