Summer of Portra

It’s been almost two weeks into shooting with two Nikon N80s, armed with Kodak Portra film, and two lenses.  The lenses, a 24mm and a 50mm, represent two focal lengths that I rarely work with.  Most of my photography is done at 35mm.

Why did I choose two Nikon N80s?  I’m a single father and already had one body and the 50mm lens.  I found a like new second body on craigslist for $20.  I found a like new 24mm lens from KEH, rated at 70% for well below half the cost of a new lens.  So, for two bodies and two lenses, I spent way less than buying whatever film point and shoot is in vogue now with the same, if not better, autofocus and metering.

To my camera bag, I added a Japan Camera Hunter film case and a Leuchtturm1917 journal.  Sometimes I add a SB-26 flash for TTL.  I was advised to keep a detailed journal of my shots by a mentor, Erich Camping.  So far, I’m only logging my shots in the order in which I take them.  This way, if I decide to show the shots in the order in which I clicked the shutter, I will know their order.  Each entry is a description of a shot, which lens was used and the number of the photo on the roll.  The Leuchtturm1917 journals are quite useful as they have a TOC in the front.  I’m not much of a journaller so I doubt I will put any thoughts in the journal unless something exceptional happens that needs to be documented with the photos.

When I am shooting, I take notes in my phone then transcribe them to the journal later in the day.  I missed two shots early on in the process.  I am not sure if it was due to me forgetting to log the shots or some other user error.

I haven’t met any real challenges yet.  The bag is light, especially when I have one camera in my hand.  I’ve shot mostly landscapes, strangers I meet and candid street photos while walking in downtown Rochester.  My girlfriend, youngest daughter and I have taken a few excursions so there are a handful of snapshots representing visits to the beach, Rochester Red Wings baseball games and the Maplewood rose garden.

I’m in no hurry to process the photos and upload them to whatever internet platform.  At some point curiosity may overcome me and I may get the first rolls from each lens and display them in order on here; mistakes, poor composition, missed shots and all. Aside from that, I’m not sure what to do with these photos.  Maybe I will make them into a zine.  Maybe a project will come out of them.  Whatever it is, I’m enjoying the personal discovery through film.

The goal is to shoot ten rolls of Portra through the summer.  I’m almost through two rolls (one of each with the 24 and 50) so I may burn through 10 quicker than I thought.  The Rochester Jazz Fest is coming up so I may get out with a flash for some candid street photography.  July 4th holiday is right around the corner, Wall\Therapy is only a month away, and the baseball stadium is only a five minute walk from my apartment so I am guessing my goal of 10 rolls will be an easy one to reach.

Retina IIa, round 2

After the Presidential Election, there was an Anti-Trump rally at the University of Rochester.   I figured this would be a good chance to practice focusing with Retina and to try to get better acquainted with the camera.

Like before, the Retina IIa didn't like mid day sun much at all.  You have to work to get an exposure that's not overblown.  I'm not sure how much I like the small coupled rangefinder either.  I pretty much just zone focus and point and shoot.  This is the first rangefinder I have shot with so I'm at a disadvantage comparing it to other rangefinders.

KEH had a film sale a while ago and I took advantage, getting a stash of film at around .75 to .80 a roll.  Most of it was Lomography color film.  I stuck with the Lomography to test out the camera.  I also shot two rolls of HP5 at the rally.  Those will not be processed until sometime this winter by me in a darkroom.

Anyways, the Retina performed pretty well.  If you are a street shooter who likes wider lenses, the 50mm lens will require a little getting used to.  I'm still adjusting, positioning myself where I would be with a 35mm or wider lens.

Kodak Retina IIa

I recently acquired a Kodak Retina IIa from a retired Kodak engineer.  There's usually quite a few of these cameras popping up but none in the condition I was able to find.  The camera looked brand new and had the original leather camera case.

First of the roll.

The Retina IIa is very easy to use.  The best feature of the camera is that everything is manual.  No batteries are needed to run a meter.  One downside is that while focusing the lens I sometimes moved the aperture dial.  The Retina IIa seems to be more of a camera you would use for deliberate shooting.  I found the rangefinder to be a bit tough to focus quickly at the start.  I have never shot with a rangefinder before.  As I used it more, I was able to be quicker to focus.  You will get better results zone focusing.

Rochester, NY alley

The Retina IIa is perfect for places like Rochester, NY.  You can only go to 1/500 second shutter speed.  The camera may not like very bright sunny days unless you use 200 speed film or are able to find some expired 64 speed film.

Yellow with Kodak tower in the background.


I tried to shoot in as many conditions as possible.  The 50mm f/2 lens seemed to work perfectly in fairly bright and dark conditions as well as in some challenging lighting conditions like the parking garage in the above photo.

Wings of Progress, Rochester, NY

Corner of Exchange Blvd., Main St., and State St., Rochester, NY

Wilder Building, Rochester, NY

I have since shot a few more rolls.  Once I process the black and white film I used in the darkroom I will share the results.  I think I will enjoy shooting with this camera through the winter.