Winding Down Hen House Photo Workshops
After much thought and discussion, Priscilla and I have decided to bring our Hen House Photography Workshops to a close. We have thoroughly enjoyed hosting the workshops, but getting them back up and running since COVID has proved challenging. In looking at other photography workshops, it seems that many have moved permanently to a virtual model. While that certainly is a viable model, it's not one we are interested in pursuing.
To all of you who have attended a Hen House Photography workshop, thank you so very much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to spend a weekend with us down at the Hen House. We cherish the memories of those weekends together.
If you follow me on the socials you'll still be seeing photos posted from the Hen House. We will continue getting down there whenever we can for a country getaway. I will be changing the URL for our website to www.tomnorthenscold.com. Our blog will live on at that address. Take care and best wishes!
All My Children (i.e. Cameras)
My daughter, Anna, accuses me of treating my cameras like my children. I suspect there’s more than a kernel of truth in that. It's a good thing they're not though, as we'd be in the poorhouse given the number of them.
The gallery below includes all the film cameras that I regularly shoot. As camera collections go, mine is on the small side. True collectors often have dozens of cameras. I am at the point with my collection where if I add a camera I feel the need to move another one out. I’m not looking to increase the number of cameras.
Originally I started accumulating 35mm film SLRs to use for a film workshop I was leading with the youth of our church. Well, let’s just say that was the spark that lit the fire. I honestly don't consider myself a collector, in the sense that I shoot every one of these cameras on a regular basis. I don't keep them for show and don't have them in a fancy display case. I don't get all excited about what serial number the camera is or whether it came with the original box. I just want them to work. They sit on a shelf in my office, and when I'm set to load a new roll of film I take a look at the negative sleeves to see which camera hasn't seen much love lately.
I thought it would be fun to quickly run down how these cameras came to me and what I think of them. By the way, the cameras are shown below by the vintage of the camera within make, with the oldest being mid-1930s vintage and the newest being 2002. Most are from the 70s and 80s.
Kodak Duo Six-20 Art Deco: This was the camera I first learned photography on back in 1969. The one I used then was given to me by my Dad. I picked this copy up last year, looking to get back to my film roots. The Art Deco version came out in the mid-1930s. As the name would suggest, this camera has beautiful art deco styling. It was made at Kodak's plant in Stuttgart, Germany. It is manual everything. There is no meter or focusing aid. You guess the distance to your subject and then let depth of field handle the rest. I use a small, handheld external meter. The Six-20 in the name refers to an obsolete format of Kodak film that this camera used. Fortunately, there are options to shoot readily available 120 medium-format film in this camera. I still have the original camera I used in 1969, but, sadly, it's not in working condition.
Rolleiflex 2.8c: The Rolleiflex is an iconic film camera…perhaps the iconic film camera. Last year, I was looking to get a medium format camera that didn’t break the bank or my shoulder when carrying it. A twin lens reflex (TLR) like the Rolleiflex seemed to fit the bill. National Camera had one available in decent condition at a fair price, so I bought it. TLRs have a nice compact size and typically come with a fixed lens, so there is no need to invest in an entirely new set of lenses. The Rolleiflex 2.8c is all manual and has no meter. It does provide the ability to focus the lens though. The 2.8c model of the Rolleiflex TLR came out in the mid-1950s. I'm getting more accustomed to shooting with a TLR. The photos this camera produces have a distinct quality to them I quite like.
Nikon F Photomic FTn: This camera was gifted to me by my Dad. The Nikon F was a landmark 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) camera system that launched in 1959. Prior to that, rangefinders ruled the market for 35mm cameras. The Nikon F changed all that. The Nikon F is all manual, in that it works without a battery (except the meter). This is a fun camera to shoot...so simple and elegant. My copy of the Nikon F was made in 1972, toward the end of the Nikon F's long production run.
Nikkormat FT2: This Nikkormat was also gifted to me by my Dad. Now do you see where I get my Nikon fanboy genes from? Yet another fully manual camera, the Nikkormat FT2 was actually my first Nikon. I used this all throughout the 90s. It still works well. It's built like a tank. The FT2 was made in the mid-70s.
Nikon F3 HP: The sexiest camera ever made...that's my claim and you'll never convince me otherwise! My purchase of this camera in 2017 marked the beginning of my return to film. The Nikon F3 was the camera that cemented my return to film. The F3 is one of my absolute favorite cameras. It is incredibly well built and is a delight to shoot. This is definitely geeking out, but the film advance lever on the F3 is a mechanical marvel, and the shutter sound from this camera is pure camera porn. The F3 is an automatic camera, offering aperture preferred metering, which is one of the key reasons I purchased it. I wanted some level of automation when I first returned to film. My copy of the F3 was made in 1981.
Nikon FE2: I picked this camera up in 2019 once I was fully committed to film. The FE2 is another automatic camera, but has much lighter weight than the previously listed Nikons. I've got to say that the FE2 has the best viewfinder of any of my film cameras. All the information you need is right there in the viewfinder, and it is nice and big and bright. This camera ranks up there with the F3 as a favorite. My FE2 was made somewhere in the 1983 - 1987 time period.
Nikon FM2n: This is the latest addition to my camera collection, serving to replace a recently sold Nikon F2. The FM2n is another manual camera that will function perfectly well without a battery. It does have a meter though, with a readout in the viewfinder that is simply wonderful...so easy to use. I'm really enjoying shooting the FM2n. I had held out for a long time on buying this camera, since it is priced a bit higher on the used market, but once I sold my F2, another manual camera, I wanted to replace it with a manual Nikon camera that I'd enjoy shooting. In terms of how it feels in the hands, it's much like the FE2. Both are light and compact, and are easy to carry on long hikes. Surprisingly for its styling and features, my copy of the FM2n was made in around 2001.
Nikon N80: This was the first Nikon camera I actually bought new with my own money back in 2002. This was at the tail end of the film era and the beginning of digital overtaking film. This is the only film camera I own that has auto focus. One nice thing about it is that I can use all my Nikon DSLR lenses on it.
Olympus OM-1n: The Olympus OM-1 was another breakthrough 35mm SLR, representing a dramatic downsizing of the traditional bulky 35mm SLR. The OM-1n is an upgrade to the OM-1 that came out in 1979. Like the OM-1, it is a fully manual camera that is beautifully built. It is a delight to shoot, so simple and intuitive. All the OM cameras have amazing viewfinders...among the biggest and brightest out there. I picked up my first OM-1n with the objective of adding a fully manual Olympus OM camera to my collection. I purchased my second OM-1n because I just couldn't stand to see it sitting there listed at a bargain price of seventy bucks at National Camera. I tried to interest others in buying it in the online film community at Twitter, and when that didn't work, I just couldn't let this deal pass me by. I sold a Nikon F2 to make room for this camera in my collection.
Olympus OM-2n: When I was looking to buy my first 35mm SLR back in the 1970s, what I really wanted was the Olympus OM-2, but I couldn't afford one with the money I'd saved working at the lumberyard. The OM-2n was an upgrade to the OM-2 that came out in 1979. This particular camera is my first Olympus. I picked it up in 2020 at KEH. Built just like the OM-1n, it is an automatic camera that offers aperture-preferred metering. Like the OM-1n, this camera is wonderful to shoot. It ranks up there with my F3 and FE2 as one of my favorite cameras.
Olympus OM-4T: The OM-4T represents the pinnacle of Olympus' achievements in 35mm SLRs. That is what served as my impetus to get an OM-4T, to have the best that Olympus had to offer in the OM line. The problem was that the OM-4T carries a hefty premium on the used market. I was able to find an OM-4T in "shooter condition" at KEH at a reasonable price. I sold an Olympus OM-2S to make room for this camera. The OM-4T has a sophisticated spot metering capability that I'm just beginning to get my arms wrapped around. The OM-4 and OM-4T had a long production run, ranging from 1987 to 2002. I don't know when mine was made during that time period.
Interestingly enough, I'm poised to lead another film photography workshop with the high schoolers at our church during Arts Month in March. I'm hoping it all goes ahead. The youth will be using my 35mm SLRs for this workshop and we'll be shooting HP5+ black & white film from Ilford. It should be fun. I'll write about it here.
A Circumscribed Life
During COVID, getting out for long walks with a film camera in hand has been my way of refreshing my body and mind. Most times I walk the trails in our neighborhood. Sometimes I walk in the woods. Other times I walk in Minneapolis. And on the coldest of days, I walk the mall. Wherever I'm walking, I have my camera in hand. The images I make on my walks reflect a circumscribed life...the constrained lives we've all experienced during COVID.
Film photography is my photographic journal. As this body of work has grown and evolved, I get a sense that these are lonely images. There is only one person in all these photographs...a solitary photographer out walking. When I make a photograph, more than anything I'm hoping it evokes an emotion...any emotion. It's not that I'm seeking the emotion I was feeling at the time I made the photograph. Those are mine. I'm hoping they evoke an emotional response in the viewer.
I've told you what emotion I sense in these photographs. I'd love to read what emotions you sense when viewing these photographs in the comments below.
Top Ten Photos from France 2021
Now that we've been back a few weeks from Paris, I thought it'd be a good idea to go through all my photos and pick my top ten. First let's run the numbers. I have 1,735 photos in my Paris 2021 Lightroom album. That may sound like a lot, but when you figure that we were there for two months, that only works out to about 30 photos a day. Of those photos, 451 rated two stars or above, which means I'll put them the Apple Photos photo stream that I share with family. Only 152 photos made it into my selects album that we use for our screensaver on our Apple TV. Getting down to that number was hard enough. Getting down to ten? That was almost impossible, but I got there.
I needed some criteria to help out. The first is that I selected only photos that I might sell as a print if someone were to ask. That leaves out photos of family and friends. The next criteria is that I freed myself from worrying about needing to include photos from trip highlights. Certainly I photographed those things, but the photos might not be what I considered my best. After that, I applied a super critical eye to every remaining photo. It had to be evocative of a feeling, place, or time. Finally, I looked at the photos to hone in on those with the strongest compositions.
I haven't bothered to rank order these ten photos, although I will say that the lead photo (Vertigo) is my favorite from the trip at this point. I will show each of the remaining nine photos below.
A Bientôt Paris
The past few days, Priscilla and I have been going through an extended series of goodbyes (a bientôt). On Saturday we met up with our friends Ellen and Jean-Pierre to walk the Coulée Verte one last time and then have lunch at a neighborhood bistro, Le Square Trousseau. On Sunday, we took in the service at the American Church in Paris, meeting up with Ellen and Jean-Pierre one last time. Priscilla went back to the ACP later on Sunday to attend a concert with Ellen…“A Night at the Opera”, At the same time I was doing one last photo walk. On Monday, Priscilla and I revisited some of the areas I had walked to the day before.
Late this afternoon Priscilla and I walked to the Seine to say goodbye to Paris with a glass of wine. It is a cool, cloudy day here, so there were no crowds. We had the place to ourselves. Well, all except for a rat that decided he wanted to get by where we were seated.
For lunch, we stopped in at Mokonuts and said our goodbyes to Moko and Omar. We had a “marvelous” time. Marvelous is Moko’s new favorite word.
Tonight we are doing final packing. Tomorrow we will head off in the wee dark hours on Uber to get to the airport with plenty of time. It will feel strange to close the door of this apartment one last time, but this time leaving the keys behind.
We have had a wonderful time in Paris. I hope you’ve enjoyed traveling along with us.
We are nearing the end of our Paris adventure. I find myself with a bit of melancholy, thinking back on all the wonderful experiences we have had and all the beautiful people we have met. I want to soak up as much of the Paris atmosphere as I can, knowing that we will soon be gone from this city we love so much.
None of this is to say that we aren't happy to be heading home to Minnesota. Priscilla and I are dyed in the wool Minnesotans, of that let there be no doubt. But Paris is a magical place for us. Not our home, mind you, but magical nonetheless.
Tonight I went on a photowalk to a neighborhood in the 11th arrondissement that is on the other side of one of the major streets in our neighborhood, Rue Fauborg Saint-Antoine. To date, I hadn't walked much in this area. It seems that in Paris, around every corner and down every quiet street there is a scene wanting to be captured. I walked slowly tonight, taking it all in, again, knowing that this was one of my last photowalks on this trip.
This feeling of sadness that I have in leaving Paris tells me that we have had a wonderful two months in the City of Light. We have lived as Parisians. We have come to love our neighborhood in the 12th. Tonight I stopped at Le Square Trousseau just to watch and listen to all the children out playing in the park on a Sunday evening. I was mesmerized. I leave you with a short video clip from the park. (Sorry for the bad audio. I'm having a problem with the microphone on my iPhone.)
Hidden Passageway to the Seine
Yesterday I went out for a walk late afternoon to explore our neighborhood a bit more. I soon found myself at the Arsenal Boat Yard. We pass over this boat yard every time we take the #1 Metro east to our station–Gare de Lyon. It was a beautiful fall day and it was a holiday (Armistice Day), so the Parisians were out in full number for an afternoon stroll. I decided to follow the flow of walkers to the south, toward what looked like a dead end, but strangely people were getting through.
Our friend Ellen had mentioned that there was a shortcut to the Seine, although I'd never found it. But as I went with the flow of traffic, it dawned on me that I was heading in the direction of the Seine. Just maybe this was that mythical shortcut. After crossing over a pedestrian swing bridge and then going through a narrow tunnel way under roads and the Metro line, I was delighted to come out on the other side at the Seine!
This shortcut is not at all evident when you look at a map on your phone, but there it was, the Seine. And what a lovely day to walk the Seine, The sun was low on the horizon, giving everything it touched a golden glow. The Parisians were making the best of it, finding spots to soak up the sun wherever they could.
I walked along the Seine all the way to the Marais district and the stairs we would take down to the river when we were staying in the Marais in 2019. That portion of the walk was in the shade, so not as many people were there. But as soon as you rounded the bend and got clear of the shadows thrown by the buildings on Île Saint-Louis, the crowds reappeared.
Priscilla and I plan to get an evening glass of wine down at the Seine before we leave. Now that I've found the shortcut, this will be much easier to accomplish. Sometimes it pays to follow the crowd.
Paris, A Moveable Feast...For The Eyes
Paris is an amazing city. Hemingway called it a moveable feast. It is that for certain. Paris is especially a feast for the eyes. It seems that around every corner and down every out of the way street there is something interesting to see. From fascinating storefronts to intriguing wall art to seemingly throwaway objets d'art, such sights are on practically every street here.
This makes Paris a fabulous place for a photographer to just wander with camera in hand. I've done plenty of that. I suppose the locals think nothing of these scenes that, to me, are fascinating. Just why is this bicycle tire ringed with brightly colored tennis balls resting against a building, covered up by a bunch of other nondescript objects?
Sometimes wall art is framed by the elements of the building and other times it just floats on top, as if in thin air. And sometimes the wall materials alone make art.
We've been blessed with a string of cool, crisp, and dry fall days here in recent weeks. I've been getting out for walks every opportunity I have. Today Priscilla and I took the Metro up to our favorite coffeeshop, Beans on Fire. We were hoping to get brunch, but unfortunately they've quit serving food...just hot drinks and pastries. After cappuccinos and pastries, we walked the mile back to our flat on Rue Charles Baudelaire.
On our way back to our apartment we lunched at a Vietnamese restaurant in our neighborhood we've been wanting to try (it was yummy) and then grabbed some goodies at one of our boulangeries for an afternoon treat with our coffees.
It's hard to believe that in a week we will be on our way back home. We're at that point in the trip when I look back at photos from the early days and think to myself how long ago that seems. I leave you with a typical Parisian scene that will linger in my memory, a sidewalk cafe on a cool, clear, crisp fall day.
The past few days we visited our friends Ellen and Jean-Pierre at their home in the town of Séné, which is just outside of Vannes, one of the major cities in Brittany. We first met Ellen and Jean-Pierre at the American Church in Paris on Easter Sunday in 2019. We were thrilled to accept their invitation to come to Brittany as their guests.
Ellen and Jean-Pierre did a fabulous job introducing Priscilla and me to Brittany. Neither of us had been there before. To cut to the punchline, Brittany is both beautiful and fascinating. As a native Breton, Jean-Pierre has a deep knowledge of the history and willingly shared this with us, while Ellen is the tour organizer extraordinaire and has enthusiasm to spare.
The first place Ellen and Jean-Pierre took us was to the neolithic stone formations of Carnac, which date from around 4000 BCE. The photo above shows only a small portion of the formations. Nobody quite knows the reason for their existence, although they do have their theories. The most recent theory is that they served as some type of boundary or separation between one space and the next, perhaps in a metaphysical sense. It is amazing to think that people back then had the wherewithal to move such mammoth stones from the ocean all the way up to the Carnac area and then to get them stood up. Whatever their reasons, they certainly must have been important to them to go to such effort.
Later that day we visited the Port of Saint-Gouston, the place where Benjamin Franklin landed in 1776 on his mission to seek French aid in the Revolutionary War. There are signs of this significant historical importance all over the port area. As you'll note in the photos below, it was a rainy day. We were dressed for it though.
The next day we walked to the dock at Port Anna and caught the ferry boat to Île d'Arz. Of course I had to take a photo of the buoy in honor of our daughter Anna. By the way, Jean-Pierre informed me that if you pronounce the "z" in Île d'Arz they'll know you're not from Brittany. I remarked that all I had to do was open my mouth and they'd know I wasn't from around these parts. Prior to pushing off we were fortunate to see a traditional sailboat of Brittany called a sinagot. As we left port we passed the well known rose-colored house. Jean-Pierre told us that sailors used to get their bearings to port from this brightly colored house. I suspect with modern GPS systems, it's usefulness as a navigational aid has long since passed, but some things just shouldn't change I guess.
After our excursion to the Île d'Arz, we drove into the city center of Vannes where we toured the old town area. Vannes is one of the few walled cities that retains a large portion of the ancient wall that surrounded the city. The symbol for the city of Vannes is the ermine, which can be seen on the yard of the château in the photo on the far right below.
Our last day in Brittany with Ellen and Jean-Pierre was spent at the amazing Château de Suscinio. This castle dates to the Middle Ages and was used as one of the residences of the Dukes of Brittany (ducs de Bretagne). Eventually it became more of a hunting lodge. The exhibits and use of multi-media at the Château de Suscinio are absolutely top notch. Priscilla and I agreed that this is one of the best historical museums we've ever visited.
Finally, before returning to the station for our train back to Paris, we stopped at the coast to walk the beach a bit. It was lovely to see the Atlantic up close and smell the salty sea air. When I look back on all we did in just a few days I'm amazed. It's no wonder we are taking a rest day today. I hope Ellen and Jean-Pierre did the same. We had so much fun getting to know them better and look forward to the next time we can get together.
Odds and Ends
I've saved up a few experiences that on their own don't warrant an entire post, but strung together just might make a cohesive post. You will have to be the judge of that. First up is my visit to the Buttes Chaumont Park of a week ago.
Buttes Chaumont Park
Buttes Chaumont Park is located in the 19th arrondissement, which is north of us here in the 12th. Since Priscilla was helping Claudia out in her food stall, I decided to take the Metro up to Buttes Chaumont and get some hiking and photography in. Buttes Chaumont is an extremely hilly park, so I definitely got my stair steps in that day. My iPhone says I climbed 34 flights that day while walking nearly 7 miles. The vertical nature of this park yields some fascinating views to photograph. It was a cool, crisp fall day, so I had no trouble walking most of the trails in the park.
Afterward I came upon the neighborhood pétanque courts in full use. This is the French version of bocce ball. They take their pétanque seriously here. The woman shown pitching the ball in this photo had a unique pitching form, and based on the intensity of the conversations when judging whose ball was the closest, she plays for keeps.
The French love a good protest. Lately, a certain faction have been protesting the vaccine mandate. The way it works in France, you need a Pass Sanitaire to get into restaurants, theaters, museums, and public transport (although they rarely check at the train stations). To get a Pass Sanitaire you need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. You can get a temporary one if you present a negative COVID test, but that only lasts for three days. The good news is that France has a high vaccination percentage, with 68% fully vaccinated, and 76% having at least one dose. France also still has a mask mandate in place. It is quite rare to see someone unmasked in an indoor setting, unless they are eating or drinking. Consequently, the case count has come way down in France.
There are folks, though, who don't like the perceived loss of their liberty. Sound familiar? So they protest. Fortunately, the protests we have witnessed have been peaceful. On the day I made this photograph, I was going out for a late afternoon walk before dinner when I came across this protest. There was a significant police presence escorting the protesters, with lots of sirens blaring and chants coming from bullhorns. Soon the protest passed and I went on with my walk.
One of the things I've taken to doing on this trip is to make scouting runs to locations we might be interested in going to but aren't sure whether they warrant the effort. When we get back to Minnesota, Priscilla is due for knee replacement surgery, so we are trying to ensure that when we go out on expeditions, it's worth it. This past week I made two such runs, one to the Bercy neighborhood in Paris and the other to the village of Crécy la Chapelle, which is about 1-1/2 hours away from Paris by regional train.
Crécy La Chapelle is known to have a nice market that runs on Thursday and Sunday mornings. While it is a quaint and picturesque village, the sidewalks weren't terribly pedestrian friendly, so unless the market was a sure thing, I came away thinking we could pass this one by. We tried hard to locate information online about whether the market was currently operating. With COVID, many of the markets have cut back their hours. One website said the Crécy market was running, another said no, and the town's official website didn't have anything about the market, so we opted not to go.
The other scouting mission this past week was to the Bercy neighborhood, which isn't too far from us but isn't terribly easy to get to because of train lines. I read one blog that listed Bercy as one of the highlights worth seeing in the 12th. After making my scouting run there, I have to disagree. To me it was a big meh. Yes, there's an upscale shopping district, but that doesn't excite us. Paris has plenty of upscale shopping districts. So we are not going to make a return visit to Bercy.
I think one of the things that spoils us in Paris is just how many fascinating sights there are all around you. It seems that around every corner there's something of interest. The quaint alleyway in the photo on the left below is practically right next door to the Monoprix store in our neighborhood. The beautiful doorway in the middle photo is the home of local artisans who run some wonderful shops in Paris, called Petit Pan. As it turns out, I traipsed down this same alleyway in 2019 and made one of my favorite photos from that trip (far right below).
And then on my walks on the Coulée Verte, I might pop up or down one of the stairways to see what's street side in that neighborhood. The other day I came across this cool Bel-Air sign on one of those up periscope moments.
So for someone who proudly calls himself a walking fool, Paris is a fabulous city to call home for two months. Of course, I almost always have a camera in hand when I go on these walks. The funny thing is, I don't walk to photograph. If anything, the reverse is true, I photograph to walk. Walking is my favorite way to experience a city or an area. I just start walking.