Thursday, October 25, 2007

The South may never rise again, but Pentax will!

During a weekend trip to Palm Springs, I found a used books store. In the back of the store, there was a whole wall full of magazines still in boxes. Either some people cleaned their basement, garage or someone died. I searched for a little while and found a whole collection of American Photographers magazines dating from 1980 to 1985. I bought the whole lot for 50 cents per magazine. I found a treasure of resources on photography techniques that still apply to today’s digital SLR cameras. It is a five year collection. Did the person cancel the subscription or did the person die? I will never know. Since I am a devoted Pentax user, the first thing I did, once back in our hotel room was to scan all the magazines for Pentax ads and articles.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Oh, by-the-way, check this hotel we stayed at; Hotel California…is this the actual Hotel California that the group “The Eagles” were singing about? Well…it’s not. We asked the owners and its pure coincidence. They should have lied. I would have preferred it to be the actual Hotel California of the Eagles song. I could have checked in but I couldn’t have ever left.

Back to my magazines, it is so obvious that Pentax was a big player back in the eighties. They were manufacturing 35mm cameras as well as medium format cameras. They were catering to amateurs, hobbyists, as well as professional photographers. I don’t think that there are too many companies that have dominated more than one camera format ever (35mm format and medium format) . Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Olympus, etc, were always in the 35mm SLRs and point-and-shoot cameras. Mamiya, Hasselblad, Rollei, etc were in medium format but not in 35mm. Actually, Rollei and Mamiya tried to introduce 35mm cameras, but were unsuccessful. So from what I see, Pentax is the only camera maker that dominated two formats at one time. I believe they were the first company to introduce the 645 format. The Pentax 67 system is still used by thousands of photographers all over the world. Here are some ads that I reproduced from some of the magazines.

So what happened to Pentax? They were late getting into the Digital Single Lens Reflex market and that surely didn’t help them much. Pentax is often referred to as a company for the old school photographers. I suppose that since they were slow to move from film based cameras to digital based cameras, the new generation of upcoming photography amateurs and hobbyists never knew much about Pentax. It appears to me that someone, in a high position at Pentax, thought that Digital was just a fad. Someone was obviously wrong, and maybe that’s why Pentax was recently gobbled up by Hoya. I think that it is still possible for Pentax to regain its stature, but the market is tight. When companies like Sony purchase what was Minolta and vows to acquire one third of the market, you know the competition will be fierce. Nikon and Canon are introducing new cameras regularly, but I see that as a betrayal to their long loyal customers. They build what I refer to as “planned obsolescence”. Old lenses do not fit on the newer cameras, as a rule. They already know what their DSLRs of next year will be, but prefer to introduce the minimum advancements possible now and keep some for next year’s newest models of DSLRs that will replace the existing models. I feel that most companies have betrayed photographers by selling their DSLRs through other venues than camera stores. Best Buy, Circuit City, Costco, Wal-Mart, all sell Canon and Nikon DSLRs. They should have kept these outlets for point-and-shoot cameras. Try to ask technical questions about Digital Photography to a sales person at Wal-Mart. Most don’t know the difference between a DSLR and a point-and-shoot. Thus far, Pentax DSLRs are mostly available through a network of camera stores and camera mail-order stores. I believe that Pentax will rise again. Are you with me?

Thanks for reading,

Yvon Bourque

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Upcoming Posts on PentaxDSLRs blog

We went to Palm Springs for the weekend of October 20th. While there, I found old American Photographer magazines from the early 1980's. Pentax was really in the Pro photography then. So here's what coming in in the next several posts:

  • Pentax of the 1980's - Hopefully they will regain their status. (Photos and editiorial)
  • Photos of Palm Springs - (Photos and editiorial)
  • Electricity generating wind mills as far as you can see in Palm Springs. (Photos and editiorial)
  • Found an interview with Ansel Adams at his studio in the old American Photographers. (Photos and editiorial)
  • Writing books about Pentax DSLRS, not as easy as it looks. (Photos and editiorial)

Please come back often as these new posts will be published within the next two weeks, and undoudebly, more subjects will come up. As a rule, I will update this blog with new posts about twice per week.

Thank you,

Yvon Bourque

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Where have all the pictures gone…long, long time ago?

This is probably a subject that has been discussed many times over, and yet, I still do not know the correct answer. The question is: should I print my images or save them to a digital media?

In the film era, you would typically shoot a roll of film, bring it to the corner drug store or local photo studio for developing and printing. In my case, back then, I used mail order for most of my development and printing needs. I used to get two 4 x 6 prints of each picture because the difference in price between one print or two prints was minimal. I would put my best prints in photo albums, and the negatives and the not-so-good prints would find their way into a shoebox. It may seem archaic to a new generation of photographers, but the albums were always accessible to show friends and family. It was fairly easy to bring an album with you to show your friends at work or to someone else. After many years of collecting albums and shoeboxes full of negatives and not-so-good photos, it was rather difficult to catalog all of my collection. Once in a blue moon, we would get all the albums and shoeboxes out and spend a whole day digging and looking at old photos with family and friends. We would all have different memories of the same events; “Oh, I remember that!” “Look how skinny and young I was!” “That was such a nice vacation. We had a good time” It was a good way for a family to get together and reminisce over good and bad times we’ve had.
The above shows the wall of my office, with some of my prints.

And then came digital. I went nuts over digital. What a giant leap for photography. Instant review of your images, no more film to develop, no more prints of the not-so-good images, almost unlimited post processing of your images, easy cataloging of your images or files with computers and software, and the list of benefits goes on. Memory cards are getting cheaper all the time. Hard drives are bigger, faster, and can hold thousand of images. The files or images can be copied to CDs and DVDs for safe storing.

Well, that’s the way it has been portrayed to all of us. The reality can be quite different. Sure, some professional photographers and fewer hobbyists are very meticulous in saving and cataloging their images. They duplicate all images and save them on CDs and DVDs almost religiously. They are a very small portion of the digital photography world community. Be honest with yourself, how many images or files have you lost? I know I have lost so many that I stopped counting. I think they are saved on a CD somewhere, but I don’t know where for sure. I can look at my CDs, but I don’t know what is saved on them without getting on the computer and searching endlessly. I don’t think it would be enjoyable to spend a whole day with friends or family, looking at CDs or searching your computer hard drive.

My wife, who doesn’t really like nor want to search electronic devices to find pictures of the grand children or vacations memories, reminds me all the time of how she dislikes the digital photo albums. She is always asking me to print images so that she can affix them on the refrigerator, in her office, and in an album she can show to friends, etc.

As for me, I keep shooting, and saving file after file of great photos that may never be seen in printed form. It is so much work to print all of those images and besides, I have to take some more pictures. I just don’t have time to print all my images. Last Month, my wife asked me to retrieve all the nice photos I took while visiting Galveston five years ago and I just got on my computer and got them right away…..Huh! "Let’s see, I had a different computer then…..I think they are in that bunch of CDs in my filing cabinet….no… I guess they are on my current hard drive… Huh! Well, I can’t find them right now, but I will in the next few days." That was a while back and I have no idea where the Galveston photos are.

So, I am now trying to catalog my files but I really should make prints of the good ones and put them in shoeboxes or albums. Decades from now, my children may be able to spend a whole day looking in my shoeboxes and albums and reminisce about what it was like then. In decades ahead, CDs will be outdated and new recording media will be introduced. Files will be lost in the process because files are just that, a digital encoded form of the real thing, living in cyber space. However, the shoeboxes and albums with real pictures on real tangible paper will likely still be available to look at, by future generations.

Photo albums are the recorded journey of our life and experiences. Don’t you think they have a better chance to survive as real prints rather than digital files? That’s what I’m going to do from now on…as soon as I catch up with my current projects. :)

Thanks for reading,

Yvon Bourque


Click on image to enlarge.

I live in Southern California and for the last three days, as many of you may know, wildfires have spread over much of our state. From our home, we can see one of the fires up at Lake Arrowhead. Last night, we could actually see the flames jumping and the orange glow in the sky. It is like watching a volcano erupt. The smoke is like nothing I have ever seen. I have also been watching people on TV being evacuated (over 500,000) from their homes and what they bring with them if they have the enough time, are pets, insurance papers and photo albums. So... we should do both; save our favorite photos on paper and on photo sites such as Our hearts go out to all that are having to go through this tragedy and to the many firefighters, military, police and volunteers working together to end perhaps the worse fire in the history of this state. And yes, sadly I have been taking pictures of the fire. Hopefully, we can look back and will have learned from some of our mistakes when it comes to our enviroment.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The ghosts of Gettysburg

I’m always trying to get interesting material and photos to present on my blog. My blog is essentially my modern version of a personal journal. I write about what I like and if someone happens to read it and get something out of it, that’s great. If nobody reads, I still express myself openly and that makes me feed good. I’m obviously obsessed with photography and always was. A wife can only listen to an obsessed husband photographer so much. Therefore, my blog is where I can talk frankly about my beloved hobby. If you feel that way too, send me your comments. You can never bore me with photography stuff.

I still manage to visit locations in southern California, where we live, in search of good photo opportunities, almost every weekend. There are indeed plenty of photo opportunities in this neck-of-the-woods from scenery, city life, human interest, special events, sunsets, beaches and everything else in between. We have the mountains around us, the ocean to our west, the desert nearby, Hollywood, city life, country life, etc. All of these locations are within a few hours of driving from our home. I shoot almost exclusively digital, with a Pentax K10D. It certainly has all of the modern technical advancements and helps me capturing images better than any camera I have ever owned. It wasn’t all that long ago that my cameras and lenses were in the 35mm format. I don’t use them anymore, except for a few lenses that still fit my current DSLR.

So today, I want to reminisce a little about some pictures I took with my 35mm cameras. A few years ago, when living in Maine, we took a long car trip from Maine to Florida. We stopped at many places along the way and I took lots of pictures. We were on the road for about two weeks, not counting the week we spent in Florida. Although all those places and cities were nice to visit, one site in particular has stuck in my mind. That place is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

It wasn’t even on our plans to stop there. Getting up early, we left our motel at around 5:00 A.M. After driving for about an hour, we saw a sign for Gettysburg and decided to take a little detour to visit. Of course, everyone knows or should know that it is the site of the unforgettable battle of Gettysburg, July 1- July 3, 1863. As we approached the town, the sun was getting up and a fairly thick fog was hovering over the fields. We finally saw a monument, signaling the entrance of the battle fields. We joked about the folklore legends saying that people have reported seeing ghost of soldiers walking in the fields in the early foggy morning hours. Well…as we got out of our car, there it was, a soldier walking through the misty field, right in front of our eyes. We both stopped talking and didn’t know what to think. There was nobody else around us. I started taking pictures, hoping that the ghost, if indeed it was a ghost, would actually appear on film. I got closer and closer and the soldier started to walk toward me. “I’m a grown up man and I don’t believe in ghosts”, so I tried to convinced myself. The soldier finally got closer to me and uttered “good morning”. He looked real to me so I asked what he was doing this early, walking in the field, dressed as a civil war soldier. “Oh” he said, “we have a reenactment of the battle today and I decided to get here early to pay my respect to the deceased soldiers.

I tell you, for a while, I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t. I had a long talk with the man and he educated me more about the site. We visited the fields and took more pictures. The ghost did appear on my film after all.
I wanted to share these photos with my journal and with whoever reads this blog.

Thank you for reading

Yvon Bourque

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Glare Free camera LCD screens

Once in a great while a new product is introduced to the market that changes the way things are done. I usually don’t write technical reviews and this is not intended to be one. Ever since digital LCD have been used to either see the picture you are about to take or to review the picture(s) you have taken, glare has been a problem. With less that a perfect vision, point and shoot cameras have always given me (and many of you, no doubt) problems in that I can’t see the LCD clearly because of my particular vision and also because of glare issues.

Switching to a DSLR camera fixed half the problem by allowing me to focus through an optical viewfinder with a diopter adjustment for my particular eyesight. But when it came time to review my images on the LCD screen, the old glare and clarity problem arosed again. I have seen an assortment of retracting and bellows hoods on the market, but all seemed to either fix the glare problem or the vision problem, but not both.

Finally, Hoodman USA came up with an ingenious device that fixes both problems. It is made in China and I am not sure if it was actually designed in the USA or China, but Hoodman USA is the sole distributor of such device that I know of. It is called Hoodloupe Professional. At around $69.00, it’s one of the best gadget I found in a long time to help any and all photographers and users of digital cameras getting rid of unwanted glare and at the same time, allowing viewing adjustment to your particular eyesight. Here’s what they say on their Website:

Hoodloupe Professional is worn around your neck just like a normal loupe. When it is time to review your shot; bring Hoodloupe up to your image and place your eye up to the eye cup for complete glare free viewing. Hoodloupe has a +-3 diopter to accommodate those with less than perfect vision. Hoodloupe adjusts focus just like a binocular eye piece... you turn the eye piece in or out to set for your vision. Minimal magnification is used to eliminate visual pixilation of your image. Each Hoodloupe is encased in a user friendly rubber for comfort and protection from bumps that will occur throughout your shoot. Comfortable lanyard and compact protective storage case included. Fits up to 2.75 inch LCD screens.
The only problem I see in their advertisement...they are using the wrong camera. It should be a Pentax k20D. :)
It really works as advertised. I am not paid or associated with Hoodman USA in any way, but when I see something good, I don’t mind telling the whole world about it. I congratulate Hoodman USA for such a good and practical product. By the way, it is very well made and the optics seems to be multi-coated.

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque