Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘vintage’:

Classic Cars at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

Note: If you enjoy these images, I’ve uploaded many more to our social media channels. Please enjoy them no matter which platform you prefer: Facebook, Flickr, Google+.

Taillight from a classic ChevyFor almost 20 years, a big event on the local calendar has been the annual Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, a great competition and display of beautiful U.S. and foreign automobiles, with a separate auction of another group of classics. Back in the ’70s, I started photographing (on Kodachrome, of course) details of vintage cars. Never the whole vehicle, just intersections of color, chrome, and beautifully formed sheet metal. Over the years, these images were published widely, including as a group of posters for a Japanese tire company.

As digital photography took over from film, I held back on resuming the project, since I wasn’t sure the technology would be up to Kodachrome standards. But my Nikon D800 (with the 105mm macro lens) has leveled that playing field. I got lucky this past weekend with fine weather and a superb array of automobiles. Unless you know a whole lot about great old cars, or you’re beyond a certain age, some of the names may meet with a total lack of recognition. In any case, here’s a sampling. I deliberately stayed away from the Ferraris, Porsches, Mercedes, and Rolls Royce/Bentley examples… they’re a dime a dozen around here.

Even Buick, for a couple of decades now seemingly the choice of no one under the age of 70, was well represented by some 1950s beauties… does the name Roadmaster provoke a shiver of recognition?

Tail fin from a classic Cadillac Delahaye emblem and grill

A car-loving photographer's dream afternoon!

Tiltall: The Definitive Tripod

Tiltall tripod (photo by user 'voytek' on

Ozzie Sweet, maybe the all-time numbers champ in terms of magazine cover photos died two weeks ago at age 94. I knew the name, but the obit by NY Times writer Bruce Weber was a mother lode of information. One of the three photos in the obit was a self-portrait from the 1980s, showing Sweet with a massive telephoto lens mounted on a Hasselblad, the rig supported on a tripod I recognized instantly – the Tiltall. That brought back a whole lot of memories since in the day, Tiltall was the definitive tripod. Made in New Jersey by the Marchioni Brothers and later licensed to Leitz for broader marketing, the Tiltall was beautifully made of machined aluminum, sturdy, durable, and with a full range of easy adjustments. I finally lost mine to the PanAm baggage system, and by then it had disappeared from the marketplace.

In writing this, I just discovered more about Tiltall, the Marchioni Brothers, and where the product has been and is now, courtesy of Gary Regester’s blog. FYI, you’ll learn more about Gary, whom I met 30 years ago and who was the first in the industry to come up with the collapsible soft-light bank.

Things Used to Be Simpler (Until It Came Time to Use Your Weston 650)

We recently had dinner with friends here in Connecticut whose home is a casualty of Sandy. They didn’t live on the water but near enough so that the storm surge made their home for the past 40 years, unlivable. They are lucky in that they have insurance and have found a new home.

They’re taking the time now to look at all they have accumulated and make some decisions about what goes and what gets tossed. When they arrived at our home, Peter brought a box filled with truly obsolete cameras and miscellaneous photo gear of no great value. No vintage Leicas, Nikons, or Rolleis,though; the only camera that had sentimental appeal was a Kodak Retina IIIC, which I coveted in the mid-1950’s.

But also in the box was a Weston Model 650 light meter (now gifted to me). Made in Newark, N.J. in about 1936, this is one of the earliest light meters, and if you’re a fan of Art Deco designs made of Bakelite, it is just beautiful. The photos (front and back) show that this is no fast and easy way to calculate exposure, particularly now that most photographers have been lulled into setting even the most sophisticated cameras to “auto” and leaving it there for as long as they own the camera (don’t get me started on this subject).

Weston 650 light meter

No instructions included, but once again a quick trip to leads straight to the original manual, courtesy of Mike Butkus in New Jersey. Mr Butkus relies on the good nature of his site’s visitors to send a small payment for the downloadable files on just about all cameras, etc.

Using the Weston meter was a complicated process — in-camera metering wasn’t an option when I started 45 years ago. The Gossen Lunasix I began with was the best product on the market.

My first photo editor at the AP (“We don’t take pictures, we make them”), gave me the magic formula that I used for years and have never forgotten:

For any camera or film, the correct exposure in maximum sunlight is f/16 with a shutter speed equal to the ASA [now ISO] of the film.

So for Tri-X, it was be 1/500th at f/16 (or f/8 at 1/125th and so on. For less than maximum light, just use your eyes and try to figure out how much less light there is… didn’t take long.

So Peter, thanks for the meter — it has a special place on display.

Weston 650 light meter (back)

The Busch Pressman Model D – A (Decidedly) Non-Pocket-Size Point-and-Shoot

I recently acquired a 4×5 camera that I’d never heard of before: a Busch Pressman Model D, vintage late 50’s. About 40+ years ago, my assignment editor at the AP had given me one of his ancient Speed Graphics, but it mostly sat on the shelf as a curiosity item. The Busch camera, made in Chicago,  is something else entirely – an aluminum body, precision machining of all the controls, multiple viewfinder and framing options, including a flip up wire frame; and it folds up just like the Graflex series of 4×5’s. the lens is a Wollensak 135mm Raptar (made in Rochester). I don’t know how many of this and other Busch models were made, but it was certainly a workhorse for press photographers in the days when 4×5 dominated. And for breaking news, with a film holder in place, the dark slide pulled, and the wire frame viewfinder up, it really was a point-and-shoot (assuming you’d read the light correctly and set the shutter and f/stop correctly).

Busch Pressman Model D

Busch Pressman manual

Although much of its operation is intuitive (no electronics or multi-level menus), I still wanted some kind of instruction manual, and, of course, turned to Google. That quickly led me to a site that has manuals and documentation for a very wide range of cameras, lenses, and accessories. Everything  can be downloaded in PDF format, and all that the fellow behind the site asks is an “honor system” payment of $3.00. No problems there, my three bucks are in the mail today. Many thanks to Michael Butkus for that.

I haven’t had a chance to put the camera to work, yet, but if you’re interested, Flickr user Stuart Grout has a nice set of images to browse, experimenting with a variety of print materials. Otherwise, please enjoy a couple more angles on this very attractive vintage camera.

Busch Pressman Model D lens from aboveBusch Pressman Model D lens from below

Leica It… or Not

Leica M9-P by Hermes (photo courtesy Leica Camera)

The NY Times last month had a special section, titled Wealth (no subtlety there). Front page of the section teases an article headlined Just the Thing for Those Who Have It All (except, apparently, intelligence or common sense). The front page and the first item shown in the article, is a Leica M9-P covered in leather from Hermès with a price tag listed at $25,000 to $50,000. Just what a hard-working photojournalist needs.

Earlier this year, I posted about someone who can’t live without his vintage Argus C3 wrapped in wood (instead of leatherette), priced at $1850. That was merely madness; this latest from Leica crosses whatever line there is beyond that. I know that Leica had to come up with ways to stave off bankruptcy a few years ago, but is this really the path to follow? Whatever happened to the workhorse Leicas?

Well-worn Leica M6 (from <a href="" target-"_blank"></a>)

(photo by Blake Andrews – click here to view more images of this well-worn/well-loved camera.)