The Veil in Hydrogen Alpha

To allow a wider field of view requires changing optics. In this case putting away the TV-76mm telescope and mounting a vintage Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED camera lens.

The Nikkor 180mm is a classic lens, once a favorite of professional film photographers for news and portrait work. Now the lens is out of date, not autofocus, or image stabilized, a bit of very good optics left behind by technology.

Of course, autofocus or image stabilization are useless for astrophotography. With a simple adapter the lens can be mounted to a modern system and used as a fully manual lens in an application where the excellent optical quality can still be appreciated.

The Veil Nebula in hydrogen alpha
The Veil Nebula in hydrogen alpha

Shooting Film Again

Photography was not always a process of pixels, megabytes, SD cards and Photoshop. Once it was chemicals, paper, darkrooms and something called film. I learned to shoot in another age, when every shot counted, there were only 24 or 36 frames available. When it was a week or at least a few days before you knew if the shot worked.

Marble Grotto
The stream flowing into marble Grotto makes a tempting target for a medium format film camera, photo by Randy Zelick
I still have a few relics of those days, cameras kept for the memories they carry. Traveling through Europe or the Desert Southwest, capturing images on celluloid and silver. Several experiences over the last couple months have served to remind me of those days… Walking into a camera store in Portland, a store that is as much a museum to the era of film, shelves filled with beautiful machines from the past. Watching Randy load roll film into a classic Pentax 6×7 on a glacier in Alaska, hearing the soft click of that mechanical masterpiece. Reading blog posts from a friend on Oahu about his adventures in film.

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Shooting Film

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of my fellow voyagers our annual boat trip was an avid photographer. The wilds of Alaska are simply candy for a camera, spectacular photos can be seen in every direction waiting to be captured. As usual I was ready for photographic effort, with no less than four cameras along, not counting the cameras in my phone and iPad. The Canon 60D, EOS-M, a Canon G12 and a GoPro 2 HD comprised a nice array of capability. I was looking forward to the conversations and maybe a chance to learn a little from another photographer.

There was a surprise when I saw the photo gear Randy was unpacking, it looked a little odd.

Randy was shooting… Umm… How do I put this delicately… Randy was shooting film.

Yes, remember that stuff that came in rolls. For those who might not remember, this is how we took photos before digital sensors, megapixels and SD cards became the language of photography.

Randy Zelick
Randy timing an exposure with a medium format Pentax 6×7 camera.
Randy does it in style, a beautiful old Pentax 6×7 medium format SLR camera.

The setup is not compact, a bulky camera requiring a full backpack to carry with the camera, lenses and light meter. It is around fifteen pounds of gear, quite a contrast to the two or three pounds the EOS-M I used for most of my shooting.

The medium format camera presents difficulties on the boat. Taking long exposures is impossible from a moving and rolling platform. Still, he managed some nice shots when the water was calm, as it was when we visited walls of ice in Glacier Bay. Finding solid ground for the tripod required breaking out the launch and going ashore. We created a couple of great opportunities, landing on algae covered rock, we slip and slide to a place where the beauty of Marble Grotto is fully exposed. Another slippery landing, this time caused by glacial mud, allows us to explore the face of Reid Glacier with cameras and tripods at hand.

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