Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Final Word

This blog came into being because of the great love a group of strangers from around the world share for Nikon manual focus lenses. We came together to celebrate these lenses on a photography website called I was the instigator of a discussion I fully expected would last a few weeks, but that has, in fact, lasted for over two and a half years. In reality, I see no end to what has become a conversation that continues all day and all night seven days a week, since it involves people from around the world.

In early 2012 I suggested to one of the participants of the conversation that it might be fun if we were to share a lens, passing it from one person to another as it circumnavigated the world. Leighton Womack, who lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, offered to create a blog through which we could share with one another the photos taken by participants. We broached the subject in our discussion on Fred Miranda, asking the salient question; what lens might inspire folks who already own and use a variety of manual focus lenses, to become engaged?

A relative newcomer to the conversation, Ben Bruni from Sydney, Australia, offered to make available a forty year old lens that none of us had used before. It is the pre-AI 85 f/1.8 H.C. that had been converted using an AI conversion kit offered decades ago by the Nikon Corporation. Conversion is essential because pre-AI lenses originally designed for film cameras may not be mounted on modern digital single lens reflex cameras generally used by today’s photographers without causing damage. It seemed the perfect lens for what we soon began calling the Great Nikon Lens Adventure.

I developed Guidelines, a Lens Itinerary as well as a Contact List with information about all the participants of the Adventure. With a lens selected and guidance for how to proceed we began. The lens soon given the name “Nikki” moved from Sydney to Singapore the middle of May, 2012, then on to Hong Kong; Amsterdam; Rotterdam; Paris; rural Germany outside Cologne; a city in Romania; Venice, and then across the Atlantic Ocean to Rochester, New York. The lens zigzagged across the United States before arriving, ten months after the Adventure began, at my home near San Francisco, California. I used the lens for two weeks, which was the time given to each participant. At the end I shipped the lens back to Ben in Sydney.

We began this Adventure without any idea how it would unfold. We all knew there were risks involved. The lens would cross many borders and pass through the hands of many people. Ben was remarkably open to the possibility something untoward might happen over the months. We were in reality strangers to one another after all. Yes, we’d gotten to know one another in cyberspace, but few of us had met in person. I was aware from participating at another website where something similar had been tried and failed, that there was no guarantee we’d be able to sustain this effort over many months. But, remarkably we did. A total of twenty individuals had Nikki in their possession, eighteen men and two women. Those of you who’ve followed this blog have met these folks and seen a bit about their world.

Along the way, one person bought a new lens hood to donate to the Adventure; a couple of people contributed lens filters; someone initiated a card that subsequent participants wrote on and a few participants slipped gifts for Ben and myself into the box. Yes, there was an accident, with the lens tumbling to the ground in Dayton, Ohio. The lens hood was bent, a lens filter broken and the front ring for mounting filters badly bent. The person responsible for the lens at that time, promptly sent it to a repair shop in Chicago, Illinois. Fortunately, they had a replacement part from the same version of the lens. That in itself is quite amazing given how old the lens is. Nikki came out of repair good as new.

When I received the lens and read comments from those who’d gone before me, I was deeply moved. We really did something quite wonderful. This may have begun as a lark, but it became a real cause for celebration, not only for those who participated in the Adventure, but also for those who later happened on the conversation. We likely could have sent the lens back around the world, giving new people an opportunity to join the fun, but Ben was anxious after seeing what others had done with the lens, to mount it once again on his camera. The lens safely arrived in Sydney mid-April, 2013, and Ben got his wish. We really did it!

I congratulate all who participated in this Adventure for a job well done. Thanks to one and all.

Curtis Grindahl

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Last Post with Images from Nikki

Well, Nikki made it back home to Australia and Ben. She had one heck of a ride this past year! Here are some images from Nikki taken by Ben to welcome her home.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Curtis' Sixteenth Post

"I changed cable cars where the California Street line crossed Powell Street and headed down to Union Square.  I figured I’d catch a few photos of locals and tourists who pass through the Square.  I paused as another cable car passed and grabbed this shot of a young woman posing for her companion.  We certainly do love our cable cars!

I arrive at the square.  Something tells me these guys are locals since they don’t see to be heading any place soon.

And here is another view of the dude, this one taken with the 105 f/2.5 P AI’d that gave me a bit more reach.

And with the same lens, a photo of folks leaving the square, perhaps to grab a cable car as I planned to do.  This too was with the 105.

I thought it might be smarter to go to the foot of Powell Street to catch a cable car after noticing packed cars coming up the street.  When I reached the turntable I found perhaps fifty or sixty people in line waiting for a car.  Fortunately, the fellow standing behind me was willing to have a conversation.  It turned out he is from Sao Paolo and after spending some time in New York city, was doing a bit of traveling before heading home.  He was staying at a hostel in San Francisco and would leave a few days later for Los Angeles.  I asked if I could take a photo and he said yes.  I told him about this thread, so who knows, he may show up and say hello at some point.

So we slowly walked our way around the turntable as we waited to board.  Luiz intended to get off the Hyde Street cable car at Lombard Street so he could photograph the curvy road as it meandered down the hill.  I had other plans.  But here we were at the turntable.  I chose at that point to switch to the 55 f/1.2 S.C. AI’d to broaden my perspective a bit.  I ended up shooting with it the rest of the day…  sorry Nikki.

And finally we were on our way with another grip in charge...

We’re on our way to the end of the Hyde Street line where the world famous Buena Vista Cafe is located.  I've been looking forward to at least one Irish coffee, for which the Buena Vista is famous.   Mmm, good."

Curtis' Fifteenth Post

"Before we jump on the cable car one last photo from the ferry, this a shot toward a passing freighter on its way to the Port of Oakland with the Oakland-Bay Bridge above and Oakland in the distance.

And here a shot of that bridge from the promenade.  During my time in San Francisco I relied on a range of pre-AI lenses, some of which are contemporaries of Nikki, one of which is older, the 105 f/2.5 P AI’d.  I also used the 24 f/2.8 N.C. AI’d as in the two photos below as well as the 55 f/1.2 S.C. AI’d which will make its appearance toward the last segment of this visit.

Then a shot of one of the trolleys that runs on Market Street.  The City of San Francisco bought trolley cars from other cities both in the U.S. and Europe.  I really love the trolleys from Milan, Italy.  That will come later in this day and certainly in a later blog post.  This trolley, however, comes from Los Angeles, which in itself is remarkable because sports fans from this part of the state have no love lost for L.A.  In fact, folks from the Bay Area tend to consider the L.A. basin a wasteland...   Don’t tell any of our friends from the southland I said that.  LOL

And as always, street vendors make their wares available for passing tourists and locals alike.  In the distance you can see the entrance to the Ferry Terminal.

And finally I arrive at the turntable at the foot of California Street where cable cars are turned around for the trip up the street.  As you can see these a busy streets shared by cable cars, buses, automobiles and bicycles, though it is a brave rider who chooses to go over hills rather than around them.

Always a favorite with tourists are the free spirited grips who do as their name suggests, using the lever in his hands to “grip” the cable running beneath the street as well as “grip” the brake lever.  These trips would be pretty terrifying if the cable car goes careening down these steep hills.

And we meet another cable car as we approach the top of Nob Hill.

The conductor suggested when I got on the cable car that I should sit on the right side so I’d get this view of China town as we passed Grant Street.

Next we head down to Union Square which is perhaps the heart of the business district, if NOT the heart of the financial district which is closer to the bay.  Union Square is surrounded by hotels and department stores as well as speciality shops.  You’ll always find a mix of locals on their lunch breaks or catching a few rays and a flock of tourists."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Curtis' Fourteenth Post

"Believe it or not, despite the fact I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over forty years, I've never taken any of the many ferries that ply the bay.  In the early decades of the last century there were NO bridges across either the bay or the Golden Gate.  All travel was by ferries that carried passengers, cars and even rail cars.  Once the major bridges were completed in the decade of the thirties, ferry traffic diminished greatly and certainly didn't serve commuters who could travel much faster to their destination on the opposite side of the bay by car.  But with increasing traffic congestion and the difficulties of finding parking in San Francisco, new ferry routes were developed.  Of course, Marin was able to maintain ferry service, often more focused on tourists than on commuters.  But eventually high speed ferries made their way into service and commuting became a more realistic option.  One can park in huge lots adjacent to the terminal in Larkspur and take the thirty minute ride into downtown San Francisco then either walk to the nearby financial district or take either a bus or cable car into the heart of downtown.

Since this was my first time on the ferry I took the opportunity to shoot favorite landmarks from the water.  I’ll begin this final segment of my time with Nikki with photos from the ferry.  Then I’ll move onto land and play a bit.  Of course, first we have to say goodbye to the two seagulls waiting for our departure.

Then on the bay.

And one of my fellow passengers enjoying the breeze as the speeding ferry creates wind that blows her hair backward.

Alcatraz captures the imagination from every angle but I've only once before been on a boat when I've shot it.  But when on my friend's sailboat I was using Canon gear.  That seems like ancient history...

The city comes into view.

As we approach San Francisco the first landmark is Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill.  We won’t visit them all, but San Francisco’s beauty comes in part because it is built on a series of hills that offer spectacular vistas of the city and surrounding bay.  These hills tend to be the most precious to home buyers and renters alike with prices that rival the most expensive cities on earth.  Multi-million dollar price tags are the norm.  One listing I saw recently noted the monthly mortgage payment would be $111,038.  Can you imagine the kind of income required to handle that?

In the foreground you see a couple of the ships that cruise the bay, giving tourists a San Francisco treat not produced by Rice-a-Roni.

The next landmark is the TransAmerica building with its pyramid shape. These are among my favorite photos taken with Nikki so please indulge when I share a few of them. Please note that I converted these to black and white because that allowed me to manage what was a difficult sky. You will also note in the second photo the Bank of America building to the left of the TransAmerica building. When it was proposed it created a great deal of controversy because San Francisco’s buildings have typically been much lighter as can be seen here. Many people are still unhappy with the decision of Bank of America to go black. At the time the bank was headquartered in San Francisco and this was their statement. Subsequently, BofA as it is known, was taken over by a bank in North Carolina, which didn’t help matters...

And we approach the Ferry Building at the convergence of Market Street and California Street.  Buses and trolleys travel up both streets but cable cars only travel up California Street.  We’ll be there shortly."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Curtis' Thirteenth Post

"On my way into San Francisco I drove along the beach and then into Golden Gate Park, but the overcast skies made the scene less than ideal. I did stop, however, at the Palace of the Legion of Honor with a tip of the hat to our friend Philippe who lives in France. This building is 3/4 scale version of the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in Paris and has a collection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin whose museum is also in Paris. His “Thinker” can be seen in the courtyard beyond the portico, though I understand this man’s work has been replicated and each piece is found at multiple locations. Nonetheless, it is wonderful to have these powerful pieces as part of the permanent collection of what is an outstanding museum.

The Palace is on a hill so turning east one can look over the surrounding golf course toward downtown. Again, a black and white image makes sense for it conveys the feel of the day.

As I drove into the city, having traveled less than ten miles, I found some sun. I also found what I’d hoped to photograph, a few of the Victorian houses so much associated with San Francisco. Most often the tight spaces required I shoot with the 24 f/2.8 N.C. AI’d, Nikki’s companion from the early nineteen seventies when both lenses were in production. I wandered through streets south of what is called “the panhandle” that leads to the Golden Gate Park. If you see a map of the area you’ll understand how that name makes sense.

The last shot above was taken at Alamo Square, a favorite spot for tourists to capture photos of Victorians with the downtown skyline in the background.  This is one such shot, also taken with the 24mm lens.

But Nikki got in the act as well...

Next we’ll take a ferry ride, courtesy of a friend who bought a ticket for me when I told her the story about Nikki’s journey and of my intention to travel the city by cable car.  She takes the ferry regularly to work and when I mused about what delight that might be for a photographer, she made her surprise gift.  Thanks Joan!"