Camera Tales: Seduced by the Cirkut

There can be no doubt, my Cirkut No. 6 Outfit draws attention wherever it goes. It is a beautiful thing to behold, this wood and brass camera perched atop its spindly wood tripod. And to witness it in motion, engine purring as the camera slowly rotates, is a mesmerizing experience. I see its effect on bystanders as I demonstrate its workings. I watch the giddiness of people, arranged in an arc around the camera, each waiting for the lens to swing around, to briefly point at them and capture their likeness as it continues its sweep across the group. It draws press attention too. The camera has appeared, along with me, in several newspaper articles. CBC television took notice as well, producing a lengthy documentary about my work with the Cirkut camera that was seen across Canada! Continue reading

Camera Tales: The Cirkut Panoramic Camera

Looking back, it is hard to believe that this is a camera I willingly chose to work with. I had been seeking an expanded point of view since the late 1970s. Just a year ago, I was using multiple images to fabricate complex vistas for the Trail Markers project. A year before that, there was the series of wide-ranging, wide-visioned panoramas taken with the Horizont panoramic camera.

It’s 1987. Those projects are completed. I’m looking for the next logical step in my photographic explorations. A tiny classified ad on the back pages of Shutterbug magazine grabs my attention. On offer was an antique Cirkut No. 6 Outfit panoramic camera. Without  knowing anything about Cirkut cameras, other than their ability to take large scale, full-circle panoramic images, I place my order with the vintage camera dealer in some New England state, for something like $1,000 dollars. Continue reading

Camera Tales: The Nikon FM & FE

A small format camera is the photographer’s sketchbook, the place where ideas can be quickly explored before paint is applied to that big, forever canvas of the final print. Over two decades, my coterie of Nikon cameras and lenses ably served as my sketchbooks.

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Camera Tales: The Horizont

Push the shutter release button and something unusual happens. No click, just a brief mechanical whir as the narrow slit in a silver drum rotates counterclockwise across the front of the camera. This is the Horizont, a Russian-built swing lens panoramic camera, the first of several devices I would own and use to take long sweeping views of my world.  Continue reading

Camera Tales: The Omega D2 Enlarger

I can’t recall when I bought it. 1978 seems about right, the year I acquired the Cambo, my first view camera. Nor can I recall how much I paid for it. $300.00 perhaps.

It was a used enlarger, purchased, like the Cambo, through a Winnipeg Free Press classified ad. I remember visiting an older man, who had carefully stored it under a drape of plastic. He graciously offered a Gra-Lab timer, the de-facto darkroom timer of the day, as part of the package. I like to think he saw me as a serious photographer, someone who would use his equipment to make beautiful prints. The deal was done. I happily lugged the awkward beast home and set about building the first of several darkrooms to house it. Continue reading

Camera Tales: The Wista 4” x 5” Field Camera

It’s an object of beauty. Built for desire as much as for function. It was the more portable view camera that I needed in 1983. But so beautiful as well.

Wista 4” x 5” Field cameras are hand-built in Japan. The camera bodies are constructed of rosewood or, like mine, cherrywood with intricate tongue-and-groove joinery, all finished with a clear lacquer to preserve the beauty of the wood. The hardware is all brass plate or finely machined solid brass knobs. The  black bellows and brown carrying handle add accents of leather. This camera exudes craftsmanship in every detail.

Yes, it has a carrying handle. The Wista folds neatly into a relatively light, compact package that can easily fit into a mid-sized shoulder bag. This is a camera built for the prairies, built for backpacking, built for travel. Continue reading

Camera Tales: The Cambo 4” x 5” Monorail View Camera

Did this camera choose me or did I choose it? I can’t be sure. What I do see in the photos taken with my Cambo view camera is a wonderful synchronicity of photographer and machine.

I bought it used, in 1978. Found it advertised in the classified ads of the Winnipeg Free Press. At $300, including a high quality Rodenstock 210mm lens, it was a good deal for this university student.  Continue reading

Camera Tales: The Konica Autoreflex T (second exposure)

Konica introduced the Autoreflex T in 1968, the company’s first fully automatic 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) camera with through-the-lens (TTL) metering. The camera is built like a tank and, when the shutter-release button is pushed, it sounds like one. Its heft might suggest it was carved out of a solid block of steel.

The camera came with a 52mm f/1.8 Hexanon lens, those days considered a not-too-wide, not-too-telephoto good standard  focal length. Its all-metal barrel gave it a weight and sense of durability to match the camera body. The bayonet mount, introduced with the Autoreflex T, allowed for quick lens changes. Indeed, my kit soon filled out with 135mm telephoto and 28mm wide angle lenses.

Around 1973, I acquired the just-introduced Konica Autoreflex T3, an updated version of my first camera. The Autoreflex T was relegated to use as a back-up body or loaded with a different film. With two camera bodies, either switching film speeds or film type during a shoot simply required a quick change of lens from one body to the other.

This photography kit would be by my side through the bulk of the 1970s. My understanding of photography would evolve over that period, alongside my design education at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture.  Continue reading

Camera Tales: The Konica Autoreflex T (first exposure)

The body of my first real camera, the Konica Autoreflex T, is all that remains of my once robust stable of Konica 35mm cameras and lenses. But that is enough. This carcass of polished metal embodies a decade of life changes, worldly explorations and career accomplishments.

It was 1970 and this was the first camera I bought for myself. Many memories surround that purchase. I remember the camera store, a small storefront in the old market building in London, Ontario. I remember the sudden death of my father just weeks earlier. I remember, weeks later, my brave, young mum, picking up the pieces of a family set adrift and moving us to Winnipeg.  Continue reading