The first parts

The first parts of the retro racer has arrived!
Very good service from the Pelago shop and the staff there! They did an excellent job on my request and questions. One and a half week after I sent the first mail with my strange questions I could collect an rather large parcel at the local service point for parcels.

It was the frame and front fork of an black Pelago Bristol that had arrived straight from their warehouse in Helsinki. I was told it was one of the first generation of the Bristol model that now was replaced by the second generation Bristol. I got to buy the last frame that never was assembled. The frame stands here with me now and are awaiting the rest of the parts so it can be transformed into the retro racer I have in my mind. Heavily influenced by the Pashely Guv’nor and the the 1930s Path Racers that seems to be in style now. But this one will not be a English racer, more a Finland/Swedish version. Bike in Tweed 2015 is the goal. Will I make it? I hope so.

As now I am looking for parts for the bicycle. 170 mm cranks, 40-635 rims, handlebars and all that. It is a fun and interesting search.  Of course the urge for building bicycles has grown stronger. It is fun and educational. Every new step includes lots of learning for the process. It is not only to build a bike. There is lot more knowledge and special facts you have to know. Just to build a wheel is an entire science. The spokes length, the calculation for length, position, where to start, how to start, why do one start there and not there, and so on. Then you need grease to lubricate, what to lubricate and how.
Perhaps there will be more projects. After all it is fun! But will my tweed fit the style of the bicycle? It will be more of an sport version? Of course!
With a pair of plus 4 trousers and a jacket and I will be good to go.

After all, tweed goes well with anything!

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The retro racer

I have mentioned it before. The idea that I would like to build a bicycle in the style of an “retro racer”. The standard roadster frame, one gear, upside down turned handlebars. All in a classical 1930’s style. The thoughts has been with me for a long time, but I never got around to it.

Some time ago I saw a classified add on internet of an old Swedish Monark bicycle made in the 1950’s, that the seller had rebuilt into a old racer with drop handlebars and other nice details that made it look very attractive and fast. I liked the clean look of the bicycle and started to think if I could do an build like that. I started to look around for a good project to get started with. Sadly, every old bike today are used, in original condition or expensive.
Since vintage bicycles today are popular they who owns them know what they are and know the market for vintage bicycles. So my options where to find a donor bicycle and re build that one or a frame of some sort. The problem was that the complete bicycles that where in bad shape was in really bad shape and the ones that where suitable for a rebuild was in way to good condition. With that I mean they where complete and in a good original condition and it should be a real shame to remake a bicycle like that. Only to strip it of all details and in short, destroy the original look and paint.

Then I started to look for a frame instead, an vintage frame that was from the right era. The mid 1950’s, only because that is when they built the frames in the most general way. All details where there, but it was a very good build and not so heavy as the earlier frames. But that turned out to be a real problem. Where to find one in a fairly good condition? Many of the frames or “in need of slight renovation” that were offered looked like they had spent the last 50 years on the bottom of an lake. After all, the fram should be safe, if it looks like it has been runed over by a buss, perpshs it is not safe to start to build a racer on that frame… But there was a place in the city where I got offered a frame. In my opinion it was a bit expensive. It was just the frame, no wheels or so. It was the same price for the frame as an complete original bicycle on internet.

One day I was looking around on the internet then I saw the Pashely Guvenor bicycle and I realized one thing.
Why make a old bicycle when I can build a new one to look just like an old one? New parts, new frame. Better parts in general. Of course, not exactly the same details. But I am only after a minimalistic retro racer. So I went home and looked at my black Pelago Bristol bicycle. That one is a 3 speed one, I was thinking of perhaps using that frame, it looks so good. Sadly it has loops for the cables for the gears attached on the frame. I visited the Pelago website and noticed that they where selling frame sets so you can build your own bicycle! Now that is just the ticket for me! What luck that I was going to Helsinki on my vacation a few days later.

At the shop in Helsinki they where very helpful and listened to my silly ideas with interest. I had some special requests about the bicycle frame. The nice girl in the shop helped me a lot and phoned around. I needed to go back home the same day, but I said that would write an email to them. Later that day I wrote an mail explaining my ideas again and about the frame I was interested in.  Two days later (it was weekend) I got an reply.
-Yes, the frame I wanted was available.
I placed the order right away. So now I will build a retro racer with a Pelago frame as a foundation. It will be a great build, all in a classical look. A Nordic build. It will be a special bicycle, only one example. But with the possibility to build more since all parts is available. That is one huge advantage agaisn real vintage parts. They are very scarce in finding. New parts are, well new. So the are simply a click away on your computer.

There is also an different project I am thinking of creating. The big photo project of 2015! It is a project to make a photo book based on my friends, the retro racer and my interest of photography and designing. The idea is to having a friend posing with the bicycle, then I will write a short text about the photo, the friend and the environments on the photo. Always the same bicycle. The retro racer. The friends I have asked so far to be a part of the photo project, they all says it is a great and fun idea! So now there is two major projects for me to do for 2015.
The Retro racer it self and the photo book. It will be a fun and productive year!

It is soon winter here in Sweden, so I will have 5 months to build this one. After all it is 11 months to Bike in Tweed 2015!

By then it will be done.

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Development of cameras, epilogue

There we have it.

Four different cameras used at one occasion. Four different ways to take photos, all with different results.
The Kodak box from the 1930’s with the minimalistic settings. The Rolliecord that took the photographing to a new level with adjustment availabilities with change of shutter speed and f-stop. Then we took a large leap into the digital era with the new Fujifilm X100. That is an camera also used by many pro-photographers as an great backup to their regular cameras. Or as an “back to basics” camera with the rigid lens and old style layout of the controls.
That leave us with the last camera, or phone, or computer or… Well, the iPhone 5s anyway. It is a camera/development laboratory and everything else that you might need for a great everyday photo, all in one.

Of course all cameras has their advantages and disadvantages. The old film cameras has the problem that you can not check the photo at once, if the model blinks, then the photo is ruined and you will find out that a week later. But the advantage with that, are thaty due to the limited frames you have. You really have to see and plan the photo in your head before taking it. Planning, explaining to the model and a lot of thinking of different light settings, pose of teh model, what might work and what might not work. Everything needs to be considered before taking that photo.

With a digital camera its just to get the settings right, set the f-stop to get that depth of field you like. Then it is just to fire away. You can take a photo and then show it to the model to explain what you are wanting from the model and situation. It is a great aid, also if the model blinks. Just take a new photo. Or even better take 3 photos at the same time. After all the roll of film in the digital camera holds about 400 espousers (sort of).

But with your smart phone, there is no settings, nothing. Just point and shoot. The quality are perhaps not so great comparing with the professional camera. But the images are great anyway, all cameras are individuals. The same photo do not look the same with different cameras, as we realized during this series. Here is an image I made (with an app in my phone) where I joined all four cameras photos from the same scene.

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Here is one image with the four photos that I have been talking about the last topics. From left to right,
Kodak Box (1930) grainy but genuine.
Rolliecord (1952) the details are great crisp and nice.
Fujifilm X100 (2012) well, the colour and sharpness is fantastic.
iPhone 5s (2013) a good snapshot clear and nice.

The vintage cameras are about the same and so are the digital cameras about the same in style and quality. It all comes down to what you like and what you are going for. Using old vintage cameras with real film would be a great and fun thing if you had possibility to develop and print the photos your self. As an hobby it is just great! I know since I have been doing it. But the digital media is a huge advantage, you can sit by your computer and with a fairly good photo editor you can get really good results. Then the phone, well. If you are only taking photos for fun. For usage to take snapshots of the everyday life, the sunset at the vacation, that girl with the bicycle. Then you can tweak and adjust the photos in the phone it self and get amazing results. The question is, what do you like to get out of the photo? Now on those photos I have been showing you here, I have not edited them in any major way. Only putting my name on them and resize them, perhaps use a clearing up tool for compensating the loss of pixels in the down sizing process. That is it.

Just for fun I took out the phone while sitting on the subway going home from work one day. With an app I changed one of the photos I took with my phone. I started to change settings and colours. Just for fun making a “vintage” style photo. When putting it side by side with the “real” vintage photo like the one created by the Kodak Box. We clearly can see the differences. But when the photo are standing along by it self like below, it really has a feeling of an old photo. Made with a few swipes on a smart phone (that primary are a telephone…).

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So what can we say with all this? Any camera is great as long as you get the results you want and captures the scene you see. All cameras has their advantages and disadvantages. For me, the feeling of really taking a photo with the Rolliecord is special. But knowing the amazing results I can get with the Fujifilm really boosts the urge to taking one more photo. But as for pure fun factor nothing beats the iPhone. The accessibility, the easy to take a photo. The way you can take memory snapshots in the moment and still have a great quality photo. That makes the smart phone photos really fun and great to work with.

Just for fun, the photos I have been showing here are just simply examples. One of the reasons for the photo session was to get photos for this post. But we did not only take one photo, there was an entire series. Diferent poses, dresses and settings. Here is one more from that session.

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In short I would like to say like this. The best camera is the one you got with you.

The search for the perfect photo is making us wanting to take more photos.
After all the next photo you will take might be the perfect photo. Or the next, or the next after that…

Cameras and bicycles, part 4 ”iPhone 5s”

It is time for the last presentation in the series about the cameras that I used on the bicycle photo session a some weeks earlier.

This time I used my own regular mobile phone, an iPhone 5S. It is not only a simple telephone that you can make calls with. It is also an minicomputer, organiser, media player and flash-light. But there is also an very good camera in the phone. The iPhone, or lets us say smart phone since almost every smart phone today got these possibility, got excellent editing possibility with in it self for some after editing.
But with a few simple touches on the screen you can find a large selection of different programs/applications (apps) for photo editing. More of that later in this text.

At the bicycle photo session, after I used the 3 other cameras I mentioned in the earlier posts, the old Kodak box, the Rolleicord and the modern Fujifilm x100. I took out my phone out of my pocket and wiped the lens clean from fingerprints and dust. That is one small but very important thing to do. Grease or smudge on the lens always creates effects that bad. Such as lens flares or an “foggy” look on the photos. The best starting point are a clean image. Then you can let loose you creativity and add what effects you like and create artistic and fun photos later on.
Even lens flares and fog if you like.

 

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Well, there is no knobs or levers on the “camera” to be honest. Only a few buttons and an touch display. One of the ways you can activate the camera is by pressing the home or sleep button then swipe the camera symbol upwards. There you have the camera all running and reddy to shoot. In that mode you can swipe on the screen at the sides to get video mode or a square frame for the photo. There is other options to. But for now we will go with the standard camera settings. By looking at the screen you compose the photo, the press either the button on the screen (big red button, the shutter) or you press the volume up/down button, remote shutters releases. Then you have taken a photo. As simple as that.

 

Now when you have taken an photo that you are pleased with. The fun part of editing begins. With almost every smart phone today you have many different options of editing tools and helps. You can choose either with the smart phones own built in effects/filter options. Or you can download for free or buy an app for editing photos. I use the “camera+” app. It costed me a few dollars. But it works for me, I get the results I like.
Beside it is an easy and fun program with many pre set filter options to choose from. There are options for exposure adjustments, tone, colour, contrast and so on.

I will show a few settings how you can change the photo in the smart phone, just for fun.

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Here are some filter options to choose from, there are a few categories of filter styles. Colour, retro, Special, Hollywood and more.

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You can change the tint of the photo, highlights, shadows and even more light settings.

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There is a cropping tool, that make you either choose the crop yourself or use one of the many pre sets crops.


It is fun to take photos with my smart phone! After  The time just runs away and you will end up with even stranger results than intended from the start. Of, course it is a phone. Not a primarily camera. But for all those “on the go” photos and photos for social media like facebook and instagram the smart phone is a really good option. After all, instagram was designed to be used for smart phone photos. There is almost no end to what you can do with the photo. It is like having the entire film laboratory with all skill of the personnel at your finger tips. You take the photo, develop it and then you can get it to any style you like. Things that 20 years ago took many hours of skills and learning to create. There is an entire new way of creating images today. If you with the smart phone connects it to a printer made for phone photos and prints the image you have edited. You only delay is how fast/slow you work with your editing. No more waiting for a developer to do their work for a week or more. Here you got instant result!
Of course the charm of the old cameras has gone in a way. There is perhaps just a matter of simply changing focus. Perhaps there is charm in the modern way of creating photos? After all, everyone is using smart phones today and the best camera in the world “is the camera you have with you” as they say.

In this case, I had my bag with cameras. But when I was going to use the smart phone. I simply picked it up out of my pocket, started the camera, composed the image and pressed on the volume button. Because I use my phone on silent mode, there was no shutter sound (sound playback) As I wrote in last post about the Fujifilm X100 shutter sounds must exist. But here in Europe we can turn it off. So I pressed the shutter release button and…

“……” (no sound at all)

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Cameras and bicycles, part 3 ”Fujifilm X100”

It is time for part 3 in my series about cameras and bicycles.

After using old analogue cameras at the bicycle photo session. I started to use my main camera since 2 years back. The first version of the Fujifilm X100.
The X100 was introduced in 2010 at the Photokina show in September 2010 and become a huge success, both because of the amazing image quality. But also because it was one of the first “retro” cameras that combined a modern thinkiong with a stylish design. But they started to make the camera in larger series first in 2011. I got mine from England in early 2012, it came in a great looking box with original strap, some cables, charger for the battery and so on, of course the camera itself was included.

Now, why did I choose this camera? There are other cameras out there that are equally good or better, more “camera” cameras, with changeable lenses and all that extra everything. For me first of all, the X100 has a fixed prime lens (digital 23mm, that equals to about 35mm in the AOV system). So there is no zoom or anything like that. Second it uses the range finder system. That is when you are taking a photo, you are not looking at the object via the lens. But there is a separate window where you need to adjust the focus in and can compose the image in. It is just like my old Leica M camera, and other earlier 135 small frame cameras (including the Zorki 4K ).

The X100 has a unique feature of being able to mix the view finders real optical vision with a electronic information/frame that also creates a frame for the image, just like old the Leica. So you get all information of the digital camera, but you see the objects in real. Like a heads up display on fighter planes.
There are 2 settings for the view finder:
1, optical and digital. You see everything as a old camera but with the extra digital information
2, pure digital on the screen that pops up in the view finder when flicking the lever on the front of the camera. The extra screen shows the image that the information from the lens gives it also adds the histogram and , just like the regular back display on a digital camera battery status and remaining space on the memory card. With that view you see exactly what you get when pressing the release button.

There is settings for different classical Fujifilm films programmed into the camera. You can choose normal, black and white, different versions of Fuji colour films. For example I have always used the settings in digital cameras that gave me more richness in the colours. In the X100 settings there is an option to simulate the “Velvia” film that Fujifilm developed as an alternative to Kodaks Kodachrome 25 film back in the 1990’s. With this setting the colours are becoming richer and there is more power in the photos. To be honest I am not a big fan of pre-production/editing of photos. Once there was a famous photographer that once said that” he crops the photo in the view finder instead of cropping the photo in the development process”. That quote got stuck with me since I started to take photos and I always tries to take photos like that. What I see, is what I want the image to look like. With the possibility of different colour settings in the camera I most rarely need to adjust the colour tones in the post production.
I only edits the photos when I want a black and white photo. Then I convert the image to black and white, raise the contrast quite a bit. Just to get the feel of grainy b/w photos. The old Kodak TRI-X feeling (witch is impossible to mimic).

Back to the X100. One of the other main advantages with the camera is that the aperture and shutter speeds are placed on knobs that are just like a “real” camera. That is the shutter speed is set with a knob beside the shutter release button. The aperture are set with a ring on the lens, like a real camera. I can very easily choose the settings as I like them and also change then in a quick manner. Both on the aperture and the shutter settings there is an “A” mode, so I do not have to think as much. Of course there is also the other digital advantages like menus, settings and a digital display on the back of the camera.
But for me that have been using a Leica M camera for many years, I used a Pentax SLR camera for a short period. But I used mainly the range finder cameras Leica, Zorki and others. I am used to how they works and all that. It feels comfortable for me.

I remember when using the X100 for the first time, realizing that the zoom is in your feet again. The way I had to bend my knees and crawl on the floor to get the image I wanted. It was just like the olden days, except my knees hurts now, must be of not using them. It can’t be the age showing?
It was a way of taking photos that I had forgotten, but quickly got back to. Sometimes I wish there was a possibility to change lenses. Or even be able to fit my old Russian lenses on the camera, it would be fun. But a classical 35 mm lens is good for so many different things, portraits, landscape, everyday life.
I like the X100 very much, but there is a X100s out there that is even better so I heard. It even got the old focusing prism style range finder so I am told. Did I mention that you can focus by turning on the focusing ring on the X100 lens? It is a great camera!

One of the huge advantages with an digital camera is the storage for the photos. As I mentioned the the 2 earlier parts in the series. The Kodak box had space for 8 photos on one roll of 120 film. The Rolliecord had 12 photos on the same type of film. The digital camera uses a memory card, if you use one with 8 GB space and the settings on the camera are set to medium image quality. Then you can fit 4000 images or there about. There is no need to look at every photo you take, just fire away. Take 3-4 photos more than just one, then save all. You never know when you are going back and looking at the ones that was bad at first look, they might be really good at a second look or when looking at them in the computer. That brings us to the second huge advantage, that is the possibility to look at the images at once. Just press the play button to watch what you just took a photo of. Perhaps when having a photo session with a model, you can show the model straight away the look and your visions of how the result would be. After all, the model never knows what you “see”. With a digital camera you can show in a easy way. So the model understands you and can help you to get that perfect image that all photographers are searching for.

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The “old” look of the Fujifilm X100 is very genuine, especially after I added an twinned leather strap and my soft release button (the big red dot on the top fo the camera). Also on the top you can see the shutter speed selector know, there is a compensation knob to. That ones allows you to force the camera to create darker or lighter photos. Back in the old days you had to calculate that by yourself. On the front of the camera is the lens and a small lever. That lever controls the digital display in the view finder. But it looks like a old rewind lever. On the back there is buttons for the digital menus and an large display.  As an option I bought an UV filter so the lens would be protected against dust and fingerprints. I do not want to cereate scratches on teh lens, so I have always used UV filters. Some say that using a filter like that is distorting the image. If it does, I do not know. But I am not selling my photos, so for me it is no big difference. Then I bought an lens hood. That is one more thing that I always have used, also to prevent scratches and accidental damages to the lens. The camera looks way more cooler too with a lens hood….

After using the vintage cameras I brought out the X100 camera out of the back. The girl was standing by the bicycle waiting. The camera was set to auto on everything. Now there is a silly thing with the camera. I think it is because of a thing I heard a while ago. In Japan it is illegal to take photos with out a shutter sound. So in the menu of the camera there is an option of 3 different settings of shutter sounds. It is not the shutter itself that makes a sound. It is a pre-recorded sound than mimics a shutter. So there are three sounds, all slightly different. “click”, “clock”and “clack” sort of. Very strange. Since the digital camera has no shutter in that way. The only sounds you can hear with taking a photo is the silent whisper when the aperture sets. But it is so silent it is silly, I think a flies cough is louder.

Anyway, I started it up, looked in the view finder and composed the image and pressed the release button.

“click”, or something like that.

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