You Have To Start Somewhere

We've been working a little more at the office, preparing to get back to business.  Makes me smile! 

To pass time while processing a couple of recent product photo shoots, I fired up my ancient, trusty, reliable, bullet proof, amazing 2005 Macintosh G4 with dual chrome doors.  This computer (know as MacZilla) is what I use to run all of my period correct film scanners and related software from.

Recently while archiving a stack of old film negatives , I came across what I believe to be the only exterior photo of our Plainfield Ill, Lockport street portrait studio.  It made me flash back to where we were over twenty years ago.

Seated on the sidewalk bench is my business partner Mary Price and her studio dog Samson.  I am certain that is taken early in the morning, when Mary was out walking Samson and I went across the street to get us some coffee.  I always carry a camera and took a quick snap shot while coming back.  I am so happy that I did.

It’s healthy to look back on your career, to remember how you started.  To ponder the struggles that you overcame, the help that you received from family and friends, the hours spent learning, crafting, honing your skill so that you could be better at what you love.

In our humble studio you entered a comfortable gallery waiting area that highlighted some of our portrait and wedding photography.  Our studio consisted of a formal office, changing room and large open studio, complete with state of the art cameras,  studio lighting and sound system.  Here we photographed scores of high school seniors, families, models, musicians and fine art portraits.  It was a very creative atmosphere and one that we loved working in.  

It is also the location where we received a call from a Michigan architect that asked us to photograph a location he had built just behind our studio.  “Shoot a roll and just send it to me, don’t develop it, I will take care of that myself”.  A week later I got a call from this seasoned architect to tell me that our film contained the best architectural photography work he had ever seen.  Would we be willing to travel and do more?  You bet, and so was the begining of our architectural work, which has now become our specialty.

Below are a couple of film shots from our days on Lockport Street.

Film Cameras: Leica M6

Whether amateur or professional part of our enjoyment of being a photographer is the satisfaction one gets from the camera they use.  No matter what, every camera is a different experience.  We all have our favorites, yet we are also willing to try as many different formats and brands as possible.

Some base their ownership on cost and exclusivity.  Others want to use the cameras that the pros use. For me personally, I have never been a ‘camera snob’, meaning I use what works best. Brand popularity doesn’t mean a hill of beans to me.  Results are what matters most.

In the camera world, especially when were talking about small format 35mm cameras, none have as much mystery or panache as Leica.  Maybe it’s because Leitz invented the 35mm camera or because of the German craftsmanship or that they seem to last forever?  There are so many reasons one can find to own a Leica.  Often still considered the finest cameras in the world.

My first Leica was a Leitz/minolta CL, then a Leica CL, then the M6 you see here. I had read all of the stories, all of the professional reviews and even my close friend photographer guru Bruce Starrenburg touted how the M6 was a camera he would never be without.  I think he sold his before I sold mine.

Purchased new, right out of the box the camera needed servicing. The lenses wouldn’t focus to infinity, that and the meter was off a good two stops.  Hmmm.

After a CLA (for a new camera.. really?) I was set.  I loaded some of my favorite Fuji film and went off to shoot.  

Things to like; the build quality is stellar, the viewfinder is crystal clear, the lenses are wonderful.  The shutter fire and wind is smooth, though not the smoothest.  (minolta XE holds the crown).  Easy to carry, fairly compact.

Things not to like; the ‘black chrome’ wears easily and looks ugly after a few hours of handling.  The viewfinder can ‘flare’ in some instances making it impossible to focus.  The bottom plate film loading is out of the Stone Age. Forget having to load in seconds, it’s going to take some time to learn to do this and it will never be quick.

There are also limitations using the rangefinder format.  Lens focal length is best kept to 50mm and wider.  Using a 90mm, the focusing patch is so small and the rangefinder length itself compromises the accuracy. 


I used mine regularly for about 6 years.  Diligently carrying it with me everywhere. But I never fell in love with it.  I hated having to remove my eye from the viewfinder to see the shutter speed. I hated having to load film into it.  Every time I had to wind a frame or release the shutter, I missed the precision and smoothness of my minolta XE.

While I did get many good shots, I also got as many over or under exposed images.  I never checked but I am certain that the metering is center weighted, as opposed to being bottomed weighted which yields better results.

I also came to realize why SLR’s took over in the professional field.  When you’re framing, you are actually looking through the picture taking lens, not an offset rangefinder.  

I also found that when I carry a camera for grab shots, I liked the 40-50mm focal length best.  The 45mm Rokkor pancake lens on my minolta XE-7 actually makes for a smaller package then the M6 with the 50mm Leitz Summircon attached. The minolta is also a much more enjoyable camera to use and the results are always perfect.  Always.

So it was an easy camera for me to part with.  Yes, I know some of you will die with your Leica M camera in your hands.  I won’t.  All in all the camera to me, was just another camera.  While I do enjoy using rangefinder cameras, this one really failed me in the ‘magic’ department.  It just didn’t have any. 

Creative Spotlight: Neff of Chicago

For several years I had the pleasure of working with Nancy Olive and Pat Borg, owners of Neff of Chicago.

It’s my understanding the both Nancy and Pat have moved on in their respective careers, but when they were heading up this custom design firm in Chicago, they stood among the top one or two in their field. 

Further, they were a joy to work with.  Especially Nancy.  Her level of professionalism, attention to detail and client satisfaction were evident with every project that we photographed for Neff. 

Here are a few shots of a project that we did back in 2015. 


Shot on Film: Metro

Taken at Union Station in Joliet Illinois around 2007.  To me this image evokes strength and power.  The massive steel wheels, the enormous braking system, the large coiled load springs and the big bell, rolled in and stopped right in front of me. Glistening in the afternoon sunlight was the radiant stainless steel panels of the coach car. 

This image was photographed using a Voitlander Bessa R rangefinder camera with a wartime era 50mm f2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens on Fuji black and white film. The image was scanned using a Minolta DiMage 5400 Elite scanner.  No image adjustments applied.

Creative Spotlight: Ryan LaHaie – 42 North Architecture

Last year we had the pleasure of shooting a Michigan residence designed by architect Ryan LaHaie.  This was our first impression of Ryan’s work and it was really outstanding.

The spaces are wide and open and yet they maintain a very cozy comfortable almost cabin like feel.   The main level of the home opens into a large gathering area with a spacious kitchen, dining and living room combination.  This is the perfect setting for large family gatherings where one can entertain as meals are prepared and conversation and drinks are enjoyed.

The home also is complete with private offices, sewing room, family room, bar area and home theater, and gym to name just a few of the spaces one can enjoy.

Below are a few of our favorite views from the photo shoot.