When It’s Dark Out

When it’s dark out the light has to come from the inside! The light that got in, it has to be there, it can’t light the darkness if there isn’t anything inside. So when the light gets dim, when all the stuff the doctor prescribes, when it takes away all the things, everything, that makes the world look different STOP TAKInG THE DRUGS! Not forever, not ever forever, that doesn’t work, when you stop forever, for too long, it gets really hard to find the way back.

So you have to do it right. You have to tell the doctor. She gets mad if you stop without telling her, she isn’t happy about it, but at least when she knows she’s not mad like she’d be if she had to find out later from the emergency doctors, from the police. So STOP! Informed stop. But stop.

Then you can go out at night again. When you stop you get to where it isn’t any safer night or day and you get the fear, the real fear, all the time, so it doesn’t mater night or day. When you feel it, when you know they’re out there, the Minotaurs, GO AND SEE THEM! Show them, watch them pretend they don’t see. Then hit the shutter, Hit the shutter and leave it open, hold it or lock it, or hit it again and again and again. Expose over and over without motion, without concern.

Do it. Do it until even the Minotaurs can’t pretend they don’t see. Scare them. If we can’t scar them yet at least we run them off. This is what happens now. Say it, and push the release. This is what happens now, shutter.

When It's Dark Out

Neutral Density Filters

If you want to shoot with really long exposure, like maybe you want to make a photograph where the water flowing along in the little spillway up the road looks like flowing smoke instead of broken glass, or you want to make people disappear, you’ll need either a really slow film, a really small aperture, or a filter.

The above options work because you need a longer exposure to get the right exposure on the film, so that’s the story. Long exposure times make fleeting presences go away and moving things blur.

Slow film requires a long exposure, particularly in low light. A small aperture will do the same, require a longer exposure time, but maybe your camera only stops down to f-32. If it’s sunny out and you’ve loaded up some 100 ISO film you might still need to use a shutter speed of 1/500th.

What ND Filters Do

An ND filter will drop the quantity of light that gets to the film in a given period of time, good ones do it without any tint or image degradation–they absorb full spectrum light. Any filter is basically lowering the speed of the film you have in your camera. For color filters they’re slowing down only light of their own color, effectively raising the speed on the opposite wavelength.

You can use your ND filter to make your 100 ISO film work like it’s 50 ISO, 25 ISO, 12.5 ISO, 6.25 ISO or even less! They work across the board, they’re color neutral. ND filters are sold with different descriptions of their power, ND2, 1 Stop, Filter Factor 2, 2X, .5%, 1/2, or .3 are some examples, and those all mean the same thing. Like all things camera, they change in halves up or down the line, that is things move in stops. So if an ND1 lets by all of some quantity of light, an ND2 lets by one full stop less. That’s half the light that an ND1 does, and an ND4 lets by two full stops less or one quarter the light an ND1.

That means using an ND2 filter let’s you double the length of time your shutters open. If you needed 1/60th with no filter you’ll need 1/30th with an ND2 and 1/15th with an ND4. If you want to think about that in terms of film speed an ND2 turns your 400 ISO film into 200 ISO film and ND4 turn’s that 400 ISO film into 100 ISO. Thinking about it in terms of f-stop means you’ll get the same exposure time (but the resulting depth of field characteristics) using no filter and f-16 as you’ll get with an ND2 filter and f-8. So you could shoot wide open on a sunny day and get a nice soft background if you have a heavy enough ND filter in front of the lens.

Stacking Filters

There’s a big range of ND filters out there, from very minor ones that knock out a third of a stop (or even less) to ones that are almost opaque and cut ten stops or more. No one needs to buy every ND filter, you can get by with a few and just stack those to drop more stops of light as needed. Stacking works the way you’d think, an ND2 which takes one stop stacked with an ND8 which drops light by three stops, all together blocks four stops.

So how that works with math is 2×8=16. 16/2=8, 8/2=4, 4/2=2, 2/2=1. We had to divide by two four times to get to unity, so an ND2 stacked with an ND8 cuts the light by four whole stops. A 2x4x8 stack gives you sixty four which takes six steps of division by two to get to unity–so would cut the light by six stops. Don’t go thinking an ND2 with an ND4 equals an ND6, now you know better.

If you’re going to do any stacking always put your lightest ND filter farthest from the lens and the darkest closest. Darker filters have to block more light, heat up more, and as a result will degrade faster if they’re not great quality. Even if they’re top of the line that heat stress can do some damage so just believe it, alright? I also suspect that particularly with darker filters they’re less truly neutral in density.

What’s Your Exposure?

You got some 100 ISO film loaded up and you’ve stopped your aperture way down to f-32. You’re exposure meter gives you a shutter speed of 1/60th. Drop in an ND2 filter and you can now shoot at half that, 1/30th. Drop in another filter, maybe the next one from your set, ND4, and you can now shoot two stops slower than that, 1/8th. Drop in the next filter from your set so you now have three all in a line, ND2-ND4-ND8 and you get four more stops of exposure time for a 2 second exposure. Easy peasy.

Considering a Project

There is at present in my camera, in my Diana F+ fitted out with the 135 film back and the panoramic-with-sprocket-holes mask a found roll on 400 ISO AgfaColor. It came to me as so much does, in a box of vaguely remembered origin. It’s two thirds spent now, guessing it was not previously exposed or fogged. Being unsure of the state of the film I was little concerned when I lost a frame here or there as it tumbled about in bags and desk drawers; fire a frame once and again; fire a frame of the ground.

I like the ground. I don’t have to worry what I might see, not on the ground. That could be why making photos of the ground started for me. I propose it should continue because it’s interesting. Landscapes look up and out, scenic overlooks, vistas. Dull. I’m closer to the ground. I think about the ground. I look at the ground. I touch it, feel it, hear it. It supports me and one day, protesting and unwilling, I’ll disappear entirely within it.

I propose to make pictures of the ground.

For the project not any camera will do, not any lens. Something that focuses close, real close. A lot of lenses can focus down to a meter, that’s not close enough. A meter’s far enough that there’ll be the temptation to put the camera up, to look through it. Looking through a viewfinder is never good for anyone.

So use a wide angle lens, put a close up lens on it. The Diana F+ has a 55mm that focuses at 17cm with the close up supplemental lens in place. That’s a bit close but it’s better than most other options. That’s the lens then. For the first roll, I think a square format, but not 120 film, the 135 film back then, and the square mask, that’ll do more frames on a roll and that’s good seeing as the ground changes so often.

Yes, when I finish this roll the project will begin. Square frames, of the ground, from a hands distance. Until then I re-read The Secret-Life of Dust last night when I couldn’t sleep and I’ve just started The Ground Beneath Us.

The Best Exposure Meter

A Light Meter is not an Exposure Meter

Some people call it a light meter, but it’s not. A light meter probably won’t help you with photography. Knowing that there’s slightly more foot-candles or lumens here or there doesn’t help. Knowing what shutter speed you need for a given scene, what f-stop you would need for your fixed shutter speed, that’s useful, and that’s what an exposure meter can tell you.

What’s the best all-time exposure meter?

Hands down, it’s the GE PR-1

Why is the GE PR-1 the best exposure meter?

  1. It’s cheap, maybe all of 10 bucks on eBay including shipping.
  2. It’s built like a tank so just about every single meter ever made is still in circulation
  3. It’s a selenium cell meter so you don’t need a battery.
  4. The zero point is adjustable so you can make sure it’s accurate.
  5. The needle locks into place once you’ve taken your reading.
  6. It has a massive range across two sweeps of the meter so a shift of a given amount of light registers as more movement on the GE PR-1 compared to other meters.
  7. The GE PR-1 “trident” let’s you get readings for bracketing your shot almost instantly
  8. It can measure reflected and incident lighting.
  9. Huge range of film speeds, from ISO .2 to ISO 1600
  10. Huge range of f-stops, from 1 to 128
  11. Huge range of shutter speeds, from 1/3000th to 2 minutes

Use Example

So say you have a Lomography Diana +/F+ and you want to shoot without the lens and do some pinhole work. Grab a tripod and your GE PR-1. The Diana’s pinhole is f-128 just take your reading and you can see immediately that you need a two second exposure or whatever. Yes, you can do that with other meters and just count stops to get the right speed but it’s nice that you don’t have to.

If you have a shot that you absolutely need to have come out, meter it. Then you just do a bit of quick math in your head to bracket it. If you want to bracket but want to mix things up and not have the same shot use the meter. Here’s how, take your reading, and line up the center tine of the trident with the reading. Make your exposure for the f-stop or shutter speed you want. Then if you want to shoot one stop more or less exposed you can just turn the dial to the + or – tines. Easy enough to do in your head, but with the meter you got the information all right in front of you. Want to shoot it a stop under and wide open for some bokeh, read it off the meter. Worried about shake so much you want to use a fast shutter but still shoot a stop over, line up the + tine and read it off the meter.

Can you do that all just counting stops in your head? Absolutely, but just because you can bake a cake from scratch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a box of Betty Crocker for convenience.

Scanned Manuals – Two Versions

GE PR-1 Manual 1 CoverGE PR-1 Manual 2 Cover

Copal SV & Copal MXV Shutter Repair


If the Copal SV and MXV shutters in your camera (seen in Yashica TLR’s, among others) doesn’t fire, fires but is sticky on slow speeds, or has otherwise broken, chances are it’s a fault in the self timer. Thankfully there’s a easy fix; just take the self timer out. Unless you know what your doing, in which case you wouldn’t bother reading this post, it’s not worth the effort to try and fix and given the frequency with which the self timer jams you shouldn’t be using it anyway.

Required Tools

Small flathead screwdriver set, 1 cotton swab, patience, PVA glue (to re-attach the camera wrap).

How To

Step 1

Peel the leatherette off the front focus assembly. Don’t pry against the edge of the frame or you’ll scratch and ding the lightweight metal. Just wedge the tip of a broad thin screwdriver under one edge and once there’s enough worked up to grab onto pull it up carefully with your fingers.

Step 2

Remove the four largest screws. Once those are out you can lift off the front assembly all in one unit. You can leave those screws for later and work with the camera body attached but it’s easier to lose screws if they drop to the table from the extra two inches or so the body adds. Once it’s off put the body aside. (I didn’t do this but I’ve no fear of losing screws).

Step 3

Now remove the little screws that hold the front focus assembly cover, the ones on the outside edge of the unit. Once those are off you may lift off the thing metal trim piece.

Step 4

Now remove the even smaller screws that hold the bay 1 lens covers and aperture and shutter speed knobs. Lift that off to expose the shutter and lens assembly.

Step 5

Carefully twist off and set aside the tacking lens. This is actually only one half of the tacking lens, the rest is on the underside below the shutter blades. The lower (film-side) taking lens elements can be left in place.

Step 6

Copal-MXV on Yashica-Mat EM

Give the small silver retaining screw that was hidden under the front element of the taking lens a half screw so that it no longer keeps the scalloped retaining ring locked. Once thats done take and pull off the fuzzy end of your cotton swab so that you have a blunt, paper stick. Push the blunt end into one of the scallops, with a little pressure you should be able to unscrew the retaining ring without scratching or bending anything.

Retaining ring removed

Step 7

Pull off the marked speed and aperture ring. Once thats out of the way you can lift off the speed cam. Getting it off is a bit easier if you open the aperture up all the way.

Step 8

Removed lever and lock ring

First pull off the spring arm that rests on top of the self timer escapement, its on the right side. Then locate the small black post with a lock ring on it, Place your finger lightly over it and carefully pry it off with a small screwdriver. Finally check to see if your shutter has a lock-screw holding the self timer escapement in place, if it does it will be at the far left of the escapement, on the inside near the lens mount. If you see a screw there, give it a quarter turn to release the self timer.

Step 9

Removed self timer casement with lever set to position necessary for removal.

Slowly and carefully remove the self timer escapement from the shutter assembly. It will lift straight up. When it catches on the threaded lens mount cock the self timer lever until it’s toothed gear presents it’s flat side to the lens mount, that will free it up to lift out.

Step 10

Use the lever that projects straight down from the rear of the shutter to cock it and test the shutter a few times. If it all goes well place the speed cam back on and hold it in place while testing the other speeds, they should all fire without lag but the timing accuracy is dependent on the springs strength. If all goes well re-assemble the shutter and reinstall the whole unit.

Revealed speed cam, place back after self timer removed.

Do You See Them?

I can see them. I am a camera, I think that’s why, that and the light. I’m full of light. It got in during the surgery I think. When they had my chest open? When they had my heart out, just a little out, so they could close up the hole. They said the hole was letting my blood go backwards, letting it out of one chamber or something. Maybe that was it, the hole let the light in too.



Here’s one of them. I hate to be so close but the secret is control. All about control. Keep your mouth tight closed. Keep your eyes tight closed. Don’t let the light out. They can’t see you, not till you let the light out. Do you see it? So close, makes my skin crawl.


See where it went? See it! They run fast, they always run too fast. I think it’s ’cause they know. They have to know. After the first one, after the negative they catch a glimpse, they see. I hate them. I will stop them.

Lomography Diana + & F+ Lenses Field of View

In a previous post I calculated the f-stops of the Cloudy, Partly, and Sunny, settings for the various Lomography Diana + & F+ lenses. Now I will dig out a trig textbook and do the same for the field of view. It bears mentioning that when I type field of view I should be calling it the angle of view. Angle of view is the same thing in a sense but it’s represented by degrees while field of view is properly described as a specific distance. I should first note that this is based on the horizontal field of view and that I performed the calculation for both the 42x42mm mask and 52x52mm mask. After before I figured it out on paper I stuck three strips of tape over the mask, took the back of the camera and sat it on a tripod in my basement (creatively ’cause the tripod socket is on the camera back). That done I put a pair of lamps at the far end of the basement and moved them apart until each bulb just fit in the frame of the 42×42 mask. Then I measured the three sides of the triangle from the lens to each lamp together with the distance of each lamp from the other. Then some different trig calculations were made, those values are called “practical” in the table below. I was only able to do this for the three lenses I currently have. Here’s what I came up with:

20mm Fish-Eye lens

42×42 = 92.8°     52×52 = 105°

38mm Super-Wide lens

42×42 = 57.9°.    52×52 = 68.8°     practical = 53.8°

55mm Wide lens

42×42 = 41.8°     52×52 = 50.6°

75mm Normal lens

42×42 = 31.3°     52×52 = 38.2°     practical = 33.9°

110mm Soft-Telephoto lens

42×42 = 21.6°     52×52 = 26.6°     practical = 24.4°

What’s interesting is that Lomography doesn’t provide this information anywhere that I’ve found unless you count this where they describe the 38mm Super-Wide as “…yielding a 120° view angle.” Or this where the 20mm Fish-Eye is presented as having “[a] 180-degree image!” Which is interesting, as you can then immediately see that the sample images contradict the claim.