Tag Archives: featured

Behind the Shot, Ruins of Cape Romano

Dome House off the Cape Romano coast in Florida is reclaimed by rising oceans and strong hurricanes.

In my professional life I am a technical consultant for a cloud computing company.  I spend most of my day in front of a computer screen and on the phone with customers talking about their enterprise wide computer woes. Whenever I get a chance to follow my passion for photography I take it.

One of the benefits of my day job is I have the opportunity to be sent on business trips to some pretty cool places. For one of these trips I traveled to the Fort Meyers Beach area in Florida for a software conference. I was excited to have the chance to capture some images in a coastal setting during my free time. Being landlocked in my home base of the Rocky Mountains I don’t have a lot of opportunity to photograph on the coast. With my destination scouted via Google Earth I packed up my trusty Mamiya 645 kit and headed to the beach. Ready to capture some sand and surf images.

There were several group entertainment options for this conference. Golf, fishing, karaoke, etc. One of the activities was a short boat ride to Romeo Island for some beach combing. Now I’m not a shell collector but the idea of a boat ride to an island sounded like fun. I thought, “I could take my camera gear and get some nice beach and surf photos while everyone else has their nose in the sand looking for shells”. That was the plan… I couldn’t have expected the surprise that awaited me when I got there.

At the time this photo was made (2012) the Dome House was still on a small island off the shore of Cape Romano.

On the boat ride everyone was dressed for the occasion. Shorts, flip flops and sun glasses. Then there was me, with my photo back pack, tripod strapped to the side looking like I was prepared for a 3 hour cruise. After a short ride we arrived at what the captain called “Romeo Island” and beach landed the boat on the east side of the island. Everyone scattered to stake out their prized beach combing claim, except for me.

I needed to separate myself from everyone else so I wouldn’t bother anyone while I was photographing. I took off across the small sandy island to the west side. Weaving through the palm trees I came out on the other side on the beach. I looked left and then right… and there it was! Some sort of dilapidated building, left behind for the ocean to reclaim. I could hear some of the other people from the cruise making it around the bend on the beach. I hurried to set up my camera.

Constant waves and tidal cycles have destroyed the island this house used to sit on since 2012.

I figured I had about 10 minutes before the beach combers were going to be at my location and all over my newly found subject. I was happy to be able to get a few frames composed and exposed before the rest of the group made it over to the ruins. Cell phone snaps were made and then they all started back along the beach to the boat with their heads down, looking for the next treasure to be found. I thought “Great, I can get a few more shots and head back through the middle and meet them at the boat.”

With my final shots taken I packed up and huffed back to the boat while the rest of the group was loading up. Being the last one back on board, everyone asked how my pictures turned out. I told them all that I shoot with film and wouldn’t know until I processed them when I got home. That started some great photography conversations for the ride back.

Dome house of the Cape Romano coast in Florida is reclaimed by rising oceans and strong hurricanes.
Today, the Dome House sits 100+ yards off the cost of Cape Romano and is almost completely covered by the ocean.

As we headed out, the captain pulled out some old photos of the ruins in its heyday. The photos he shared showed the unique house set back, hidden among the palm trees. Apparently, an oil developer had built the house some time in the early 80’s. When it was built the house was actually part of the mainland, not on an island. Over the years and several hurricanes later, that part of the mainland washed away and became a little sandy island. When I was there the house sat halfway in the water, but today this house sits almost completely underwater and the island is totally gone.

I was so happy that I decided to take the boat to “Romeo Island”. These are some of the most unique coastal images I have ever captured. Photography has taught me to expect nothing but be ready for anything.

Repost – Kodak UltraMax Test

This is a re-post of an article I had on my old blog site. It was a popular one even though it wasn’t about black and white film photography. Whenever I can I like to encourage new photographers to try film and this article is a good example of how to get really good images from some really cheap film. Because this was an older post some of the links to external sites may not work.

I have a few more posts planed around how to shoot, process, print, scan and the whole film workflow in coming posts, so check back soon. Enjoy the re-post.


Disclaimer: This is not a scientific test, my results may be different than yours and results may vary. 

I have ordered some of the new Kodak Portra 400 film and can’t wait to give it a spin. I have seen some posts on a few other blogs that have shown how wide the exposure latitude of the new film is. You can see some good examples over at Twin Lens Life. They are some great film shooters in the Riverside area. I have also seen a test of Fuji X-tra 400 consumer film that showed how much exposure latitude it has over at Figital Revolution. All films are different and behave differently, that’s the beauty of film. Knowing what you want to get right out of the camera and knowing what film will get you there instead of working for hours in photoshop to get there is a great way to work.

For my example I chose to shoot with some Kodak Ultramax 400. It’s easy to get your hands on and I figure that if someone wanted to start shooting film for the first time, or go back to it for kicks, they would be likely to pick some of this up and start shooting. It breaks down to about $2.50 a roll, not expensive and easy on the wallet.


Inexpensive color negative film
Kodak UltraMax 400 4 pack @ 24 Exposures for each roll. Single rolls retail for $2.99 each online today.

What I did on my first roll is to expose the first frame at 50 iso and then move each frame after that up one stop, all the way to 6400 iso. I did this so I could find the “sweet spot” to set my iso on my camera. You might be saying “But the box says 400 iso, don’t you set it at 400?”. The short answer is maybe. Just because the box speed says 400 doesn’t mean that you get the best results at 400. In the other examples from Twin Lens Life and Figital Revolution you can see that the films performed really well at just about all speeds. That’s right, you can shoot those films like you can with digital and move the iso around! The Kodak Ultramax however, doesn’t perform so great at 400 or higher (again these are my results, yours may be different). You can see my examples below.

Test exposers of Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm film
Examples of Kodak UltraMax shot at different exposures to determine the best ISO and settings to use with the film.

As you might be able to see, 400 iso is about the max this film can shoot at. It seems that the film starts to flatten out in contrast and the grain starts to get bigger at 400 iso. If a person didn’t know this and was excited to “try film” and shot this at box speed they might be a bit disappointed and think that all film looks like this. Now that I know how this film behaves with my shooting style and camera system I will be shooting this film at 100 iso not 400. The grain structure, color saturation and the blacks seem to be real nice at 100 iso and it still gives me about 2 stops + or – for error and I will still get a nice exposure. If you want to get into shooting film and you chose this film just for “testing it out” you would probably be better off setting your iso at 100 or 200 to start out. I think you will like your photographs more and it wouldn’t discourage you from shooting some more.

Impacting Images from A Small Format

I was lucky enough to be able to take a trip to Buenos Aires and Sydney Australia last January. I was traveling for business and had to pack light. If I had my choice I would have left the suit coat and business attire at home and brought my Mamiya 645 gear with me. Considering the level of meetings I was to attend, that was not an option.

Being selective with what gear I was going to take with me was going to be tough. Considering I had never been to either Buenos Aries or Sydney before I didn’t really know what to expect or what to plan for. Because I was going to have to keep my gear to a limit, I would be packing a 35mm kit to save on size and weight.

SyndeyHarbor2016_605_SMALLDowntown Sydney Australia, Pentax ME Super, 24mm Lens, Arista.EDU 400 ISO film

The smallest 35mm body I have is a Pentax ME super. It is a really compact camera with a great automatic exposure system as well as full manual control. All in a package as small as a Leica. I love to use this camera for street shooting too. Not to mention I just love the sound of the shutter on this little gem. With the decision made of what camera to take I had to whittle down what my lens choices were going to be.

I knew that my opportunities for photography on this trip were going to be limited to late evening or well after dark. I was hoping to be able to shoot some wide cityscapes but I wasn’t sure how close I could get to the subjects that I wanted to photograph. Also, to make sure I was going to get the most out of a small 35mm negative, I knew I had to stick with prime lenses. I couldn’t afford the distortion of a zoom. With all of that in mind I chose to take my 24mm f2.8 wide angle and my 50mm f1.7 prime lenses. Both small and light.

BuenosAries2016_626_ShareDowntown Buenos Aires Argentina, Pentax ME Super, 24mm Lens, Arista.EDU 100 ISO film

For film I wanted to use something that could handle the contrast of night photography and show some texture but not too much grain so I would have enough to work with when enlarging to a big size print. I decided to go with Arista.EDU films, both 100 iso and 400 iso. I really like the classic structure of the image that this film produces. I could have chosen one of the T grain films but thats for another post.

Finally, I had to pick a convenient tripod that would fit in carry on luggage and make sure I had enough batteries, shutter release and any filters I might need.

Between the two cities I was able to expose 6 roles of film. I just happen to be in Sydney for Australia Day (like 4th of July in the U.S.) and got to celebrate with millions of people in downtown Sydney. It was a blast, I just loved the Australian hospitality. Overall I am very pleased with the images I have from the trip. You can see a couple here in this post. It was a great trip and I have several more posts to come with some other images from this trip.