Overheard on the scanner, 2014 edition

Overheard on the scanner recently:

Dispatch: “Ambulance 84?”

Ambulance 84: (sirens wailing) “84, go ahead.”

Dispatch: “84, are you taking the MVC call or the scheduled transfer?”

Ambulance 84: (sirens still wailing) “What?”

Dispatch: “84, are you taking the crash or the transfer?”

Ambulance 84: (siren now changed to Yelp mode) “[unintelligible]”

Dispatch: “84, are you doing the MVC?”

A84: “Yes.”

You could hear the sigh in his voice.  I wasn’t sure whether to scream at the radio or laugh.

Laughter is the best medicine, I guess.

Week 84 – Baby Graphic


For this week, something slightly different.  Located in the center above is my 1947 Graflex 2×3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic.  (Pictured either side are the Pacemaker Crown Graphic 4×5 and a Nikon FM2 for size comparison.)  I purchased it on Craigslist a year or so ago.  From the description, I initially thought it was another 4×5 camera, but it turned out to be the smaller 2×3″ version.

These cameras are less desired by collectors as 2×3 film is no longer available.  Mine has the standard, non-graflock back, so fitting other film is difficult.  I have obtained and fitted a Singer Graflex 120 roll film back. This required a semi-permanent removal of the ground glass focusing screen.

My Speed Graphic features a rear curtain shutter with speeds up to 1/1000.  The front standard carries an Ektar 101mm f4 lens in a 1/400 shutter.  It is fitted with a Kalart rangefinder which is currently not working.

I loaded it with Tri-X and took it on a photo walk this weekend at the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum in Chestnut Hill.  I had a lot of fun using it and can’t wait to get it outdoors in better light.  Unfortunately I mis-wound the curtain shutter and managed to ruin all but the first three shots on my roll.

Those three were worth the effort, though.

Metropolitan Waterworks Museum
Metropolitan Waterworks Museum
Metropolitan Waterworks Museum

More photos from the museum will be coming as I develop the rest of my film.

INBOX:zero / Let It go

Ahh, Gmail. That wondrous invention from Google which allows us to never misplace or lose an email. Anything anyone has ever sent us is only a quick search away.

Every FB status, every Twitter notification. Every shipped package. Every unwanted advertisement. More than a few Russian girlfriends and miracle herbal supplements.

It’s no secret that Mrs. Mack505 and I have been struggling with the level of STUFF and complexity in our lives. Today I looked at that mass of information and realized I don’t need it. We would never consider filing every piece of mail we receive, yet we’ve been seduced into doing exactly that with electronic correspondence.

I’ve been at work, so I can’t clean the house.  I can, however, key <Ctrl-A> <delete> repeatedly in my free minutes.  I sent 5 or 6 important things to my Evernote account, converted a few reminders into schedule items, and wielded the virtual flamethrower.

At this moment my entire Gmail account contains 2 – yes, TWO – emails.

In the place of all that clutter, I’ve created three folders: BILLS, ACTION ITEMS, and READ & FILE. Incoming email will be sorted, processed, dealt with, and shredded just like its paper ancestors.

Wish me luck.

Univex Mercury – results

The Mercury was fun to shoot, if a bit different. Focus is by scale only. Aperture is varied on the front of the lens. There is a depth of field scale on the front of the ‘parking meter’ bump, and a complicated manual exposure scale on the back of the camera. (I ignored it and used the Sunny 16 rule.)

Shutter speed is changed by adjusting a knob on the front of the camera, and a similar knob is used to wind the film and set the shutter.

The only control on the top plate is the shutter release.

In use, the rotary shutter design gives no audible feedback about speed. 1/1000 takes just as long and sounds the same as 1/15. It feels odd. There is also no way to verify film advance.

And there is the problem.

When I unloaded to develop it felt like the film had not been advancing correctly, and the developing tank confirmed my fears. Blank.

Better luck next time.

(Coming up: either the Nikon L35 or Olympus Stylus. I haven’t decided yet.)

Week 83 – Univex Mercury


Univex MercuryI can’t remember when I first heard about the Univex Mercury, but I immediately knew I wanted one.  Introduced in 1938 by the Universal Camera Company of New York, the Mercury was intended to compete with high-end German cameras of the time. It was the first American camera to achieve a shutter speed of 1/1000 by virtue of its interesting rotary shutter.

The shutter consists of two disks which rotate together at a fixed speed. Each disk has a hole, and adjusting the shutter speed setting adjusts the amount of overlap of the disks.  Thus, the ‘window’ to the film opens for a shorter or longer time. The rotary shutter is responsible for the bulge on top of the body and for the nickname ‘parking meter.’ This design also limits the camera to half-frame exposures.

The Mercury was also reportedly the first camera with a synchronized hot shoe for flash, but I don’t have the flash attachment for mine.

Later Mercury II versions used standard 35mm film cartridges; my original version uses proprietary film which is no longer available. Fortunately you can load and unload unspooled film in the darkroom.

I’ve been carrying the Mercury for a couple of weeks, and the film is in the tank right now. Hopefully I will have scans soon.




eBay – Mercurys aren’t currently very expensive, but you should hold out for the Mercury II unless you have access to a darkroom

Olympus Auto-Eye – Week 82 results

Beth and I took the Auto-Eye to Cape Ann on a photowalk with the Greater Boston Film Photographers meet up group. We shot HP5 and color, but the color is still at the lab.

The Auto-Eye is the only rangefinder I’ve ever used which also has zone focus.  Brackets on the focusing scale and notches in the mechanism indicate CLOSE, GROUP, or SCENE. With the automatic exposure it becomes possible to shoot from the hip if you wish.

The camera is lighter than my Uniomat, but it feels heavier than my Leicas. The aperture indicator in the viewfinder features arrows at either end of the scale showing which way to rotate the shutter speed dial to properly expose. It is, however, possible to ignore them and take an over- or underexposed image.

I find I am more comfortable with aperture priority exposure, but I really enjoyed working with the Auto-Eye. I think it’s a keeper.

Civic duty

In December of 1927, twelve citizens approached the Commonwealth of Massachusetts about something their local government couldn’t or wouldn’t do. They received a charter from the legislature for “the raising and obtaining of funds for the purchase and maintenance of fire fighting apparatus and equipment and for the protection of property from and during such fires as may occur in the town of Rowley and its vicinity.”

Within a year they had raised enough money on their own to buy a brand new Seagrave engine.

They owned one ladder. It took another 8 years to get a station of their own, and there were no fire hydrants until 1948.

The times and the town have changed, but the organization and the station still exist. Pretty cool.

Rescue Dog

Rescue Dog

I don’t often photograph people on the street. I’m just not comfortable approaching them. Today Beth and I went to Gloucester and Rockport with the Greater Boston Film Photographers meetup group. I met this man and his recently-adopted dog at Halibut Point State Park.

One of the nicest things about Instax is that you can shoot an extra to give to your subject. We parted with a smile.

Shot on the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic.

random musings from the life of a firefighter, paramedic, train buff, photographer, family man