Friday, December 31, 2010

best of 2010

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

flash attack!

What are the chances I'll catch another photog's flash in my photo? Actually the chances are really really small.  But it does happen occasionally. 

jammin' by nocklebeast

Now the interesting thing about looking through the viewfinder of a rangefinder is that sometimes I actually see the flash go off (there is no moving mirror that blocks my view as in an SLR).   One of my favorite photographs isn't very good. But it's one of my favorites because of how I experienced taking the photograph.  I see Boss Hogg's flash go off in the viewfinder, and it all happens in slow motion, as I'm suddenly aware of him far far in the background.

Blinded by Boss Hogg
Blinded by Boss Hogg by nocklebeast

Other times I won't see the flash in the viewfinder, but when the image pops up on the little TV screen on the back of the camera, I wonder if my camera's light meter is broken.

 what are the chances I'll catch another photog's flash in my photo?
 what are the chances I'll catch another photog's flash in my photo? by nocklebeast

The photo above was particularly hard to try to "fix" in software as the camera (in auto-ISO mode) metered at ISO 2500, but really the ISO should have been about ISO 320 or 160, after the flash cannon went off. It has a very low contrast almost solarized sort of look.

I actually caught Adrian Valenzuela's "flash cannons" (I think they were "alien bees") several times that night (Santa Cruz plays Jet City's Pink Pistols).

Sheila skates in bright light
Sheila skates in bright light by nocklebeast

again! by nocklebeast

bringing it home to Candieland
bringing it home to Candieland by nocklebeast

lots of numbers on the 3-foul white board list
lots of numbers on the 3-foul white board list  by nocklebeast

Ever since then sometimes other photographers helpfully supply some off camera flash for me (which makes me sometimes wonder...hmmm.... maybe there's something to this notion of off-camera flash).

flashed by nocklebeast

I think the off-camera flash at last year's Westerns (Derby on the Rocks in Denver) was helpfully supplied by Joe Rollerfan, but I can't be sure

Foul Bundy examines the line
Foul Bundy examines the line by nocklebeast

flashed by nocklebeast

flashed by nocklebeast

In this case the off-camera flash totally changed the nature of the color shift when shooting cross-processed slide film.

flash attack
flash attack by nocklebeast

In fact, most of the time I'll convert the photos to black and white because in addition to confusing the camera's exposure, it will confuse the cameras auto-white balance.  And often I won't be able to get the correct color adjustment in software, but sometimes I'll get close.

 skating through Pollywood

Some more "flash attacks" by other photogs:

off camera flash
off camera flash by nocklebeast

flash attack
flash attack by nocklebeast

catching another photog's flash
catching another photog's flash by nocklebeast

Roxy flashed me.
Roxy flashed me. by nocklebeast

And really, it's probably just as well, that most of the photogs at Rollin' on the River were not told that flash wasn't allowed.

the ref has a halo
the ref has a halo by nocklebeast

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

my shameless confession

My name is Mark “nocklebeast” Nockleby and I’m a roller derby fan and photographer.

My interest in photography has waxed and waned and waxed again since junior high/high school when I shot with a Minolta XG-M.  I took a black and white photography course in college.

hydrant by nocklebeast (1989)
After a dry spell, I was seduced my “lomography” and plastic cameras.   

Walkin' the dog
Walkin' the dog by nocklebeast (2007)

My experience with digital photography started with a couple of crappy point and shoots, which I mostly used to take photos of potholes. So I could more effectively complain about them.

Front Street pothole
Front Street pothole by nocklebeast (2007)

In the summer of 2007, I saw my first roller derby bout, the first round of the Rat City playoffs. It was epic.  I wrote a gushing fan boy account of the bout here:

For my choice of my first fancy digital camera, the seed was planted by a friend in Seattle, and in February 2008, I succumbed to Leica’s marketing and the notion of shooting with a digital camera with the least amount of computer in it.  One of the design goals of Leica’s first digital rangefinder was to use the same lenses as their film rangefinders, which meant lenses with manual aperture and manual focus. 

Does this lens work?
Does this lens work? by nocklebeast (2008)

In March 2008, I found a Santa Cruz Sentinel article about Santa Cruz Roller Girls’ first bout at the Civic. I kicked myself for missing it, and I immediately went online to buy tickets for the next bout.  The Civic’s website said that photography is forbidden for some of their events.  “Oh, I just got this fancy new camera! That would be a blast!”  (Never mind that rangefinders are supposedly not suited to sports photography).  I haven’t missed a Santa Cruz bout since (and I still occasionally shoot film at the bouts).

Get the jammer (black and white)
 Get the jammer  by nocklebeast (2008)

skating through trouble and green slime
skating through trouble and green slime by nocklebeast (2010)

reaching by nocklebeast (2010)

I’ve also attended some Silicon Valley and Bay Area bouts, and some WFTDA tournaments, and I made it back to Seattle for one Rat City bout since my first bout there.

Pia with the star off
Pia with the star off by nocklebeast (2009)

Burlybot skates fast
Burlybot skates fast by nocklebeast (2010)

blowin' kisses to the crowd
blowin' kisses to the crowd by nocklebeast (2008)

 Hambone, watching, waiting
 Hambone, watching, waiting by nocklebeast (2009)

Dumptruck calls it
Dumptruck calls it by nocklebeast (2010)

jammin' by nocklebeast (2010)

Psycho Babble
Psycho Babble by nocklebeast (2010)

put me in Coach
put me in Coach by nocklebeast (2009)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Every once in a while someone will ask me about prints.

For now, I'm not into trying to make money on prints. I'm just not.

But, that doesn't mean that you can't get prints, as I upload fairly high resolution versions of (derby) photos to my flickr page.

Normal resolution scans of 35mm film will be about 1544 x 1024 pixels big.

High resolution scans of 35mm film will be about 2048 x 3089 pixels big.

For the photos from my digital camera, I usually upload photos at 60% of full size to flickr so it doesn't take so long to upload.  These photos are 2350 x 1580 pixels big.  This is the size available for last weekend's bout. I think this size is okay for 8 by 12 inch prints.

Occassionally, I will upload photos at 100% size (3916 x 2634 pixels) like I did for last year's prom.

If you see a (digital) photo for which you want the largest size and it's only at the 60% size on the flickr site, send me a flickr-mail or a facebook-mail or whatever, and I'll find the original "digital negative" and I'll make a new "print" at the full size and re-upload it to flickr.

If it's a film photo the largest size is what's already on flickr.

My flickr account should be set up so that you can get to the original size photos without having a flickr account or sign into a flickr account. Here's one way to navigate to the original (largest) size photo that you'd like to get printed.

Click on the photo or on the magnifiying glass above the photo to the right.


After that page loads, click on "view all sizes" on the upper right.


Then click on "original" size on the upper right (that's where you'll see how many pixels the largest size is).


Once you got the largest resolution copies of photos you want printed, you take them to a place to get them printed.  Locally, that means Bay Photo.  That's where I get my film processed, and I've heard good things about their printing, but I haven't actually got prints from them for quite awhile.   I'm going to get a handful of 8x12 prints soon just to see how they look.  They do their printing locally, so their turn around times should be pretty good.  I've talked with them, and you could browse flickr for photos in their store, it sounds like they would prefer that you do all your flickr browsing at home first and bring in the high-res copies on CD or USB thumb drive to get the photos printed.

Another option is to go online to get prints.  I like  You create an account and upload the high resolution copies of the photos into an album and then there's tons of options for different sizes and finishes and what not (I like the metallic finish/prints).

I believe the online printing associated with flickr is snapfish, and I haven't been all that impressed with them. The black and white prints I got back from snapfish were okay, the color prints were not so hot.

 [Edit on 13 January 2012: You're welcome to make prints for your personal use.  For commercial use or use for merchandising (selling prints), you'll need a license from me.  Contact me, we'll work something out. nockleby - at - nocklebeast - dot - net]

Monday, August 16, 2010

an unconventional tool for the job

Every once in a while, when I'm at a roller derby bout, people will ask me,

"Hey! Is that a film camera?"

"No, this one's digital, but I got a film camera in the bag," I reply.  While tapping on the chrome top of my digital rangefinder, I added,

"I think people ask me if it's a film camera because it's so cute."

"No, it's because it looks like the camera my father used in the seventy's," he replied.

compare and contrast
 The camera your father used in the seventy's by nocklebeast.

The sort of camera your father (or was it your mother?) likely used in the 1970's was something called a rangefinder camera.  The first rangefinders appeared early in the 20th century and were popular from the 1930's to the 1970's.

By the time the 1980's rolled around, your father was probably shooting with something called an SLR, a single lens reflex camera. Besides digital point-n-shoots and smart-phones, the (digital) SLR is the sort of camera you most often see at roller derby bouts. They're big. They have big lenses. And they're very professional looking. Lots of them have fancy features like auto-focus and image stabilization and what-not.

When a photographer looks through the viewfinder of an SLR, they see an image from the lens that is focused on a bit of ground glass. When the photo is taken, a mirror moves out of the way and the light is focused on the film or the digital sensor and an image is recorded. If the lens is a zoom lens or a telephoto lens, then the image the photographer sees in the viewfinder is magnified as well.

However, with a rangefinder, the lens doesn't magnify the image the photographer sees in the viewfinder at all.  The viewfinder simply consists of a little glass window with some rectangular lines showing where the frame of the photo will approximately be. When the focus ring of the lens is manually turned, a little prism moves, which moves a secondary image in the viewfinder, sometimes known as a "focus patch."  Let's consult the friendly manual from your father's seventy's rangefinder,

"While looking through the viewfinder, turn the focusing lever. The subject is in focus when the double image merges into one precise image in the center of the viewfinder." [emphasis added.]

the subject is in focus when the double image merges into one precise image in the center of the viewfinder. 
the subject is in focus when the double image merges into one precise image in the center of the viewfinder by nocklebeast

Let's take a closer look at what the view in the viewfinder of a modern rangefinder looks like.

RF viewfinder 
RF viewfinder by nocklebeast

Everything (subjects both near and far) in the viewfinder appears to be in perfect focus, just as if you were looking out of a window in your home.  In the center of the frame, we see a double image of George the yard gnome. Just a small clockwise turn of the lens will move George's ear in the secondary image of the focus patch to line up with the primary image of his ear in the viewfinder.  We also see two sets of rectangular frame lines, one for a 50mm lens and a smaller frame line for a 75mm lens.  Of course, a photo taken with the longer focal length lens (75mm in this case) records an image that appears closer to the subject than with a lens with a smaller focal length (50mm), but the photographer's view in the viewfinder doesn't change with the focal length of the lens used.  In addition to seeing what is inside the frame lines, the photographer also sees what lies outside of the frame lines. In this way, the photographer sees how a scene develops and can snap the photo when interesting subjects move into the frame from outside the frame. This is one of the primary differences between rangefinders and SLRs.  One of the best webular articles about the differences between rangefinders and SLRs can be found here:

Let's take a second look through the viewfinder of the rangefinder shall we?

RF viewfinder 
RF viewfinder by nocklebeast

In aperture-priority mode, we see the shutter speed that will be be used for the correct exposure in the lower part of the view (1/180th of a second).  And we see the lens in the lower right hand corner in the viewfinder.  This is something you would never see when using an SLR.  The image seen in the viewfinder of an SLR originates from light entering the lens of the SLR.  With a rangefinder however, if the lens is particularly long or wide the lens will partially block the view in the viewfinder.  In the photo above we see the lens and lens hood of one of my favorite lenses, the fast Hexanon f1.2 60mm lens.  Because the lens is so wide, it can collect lots of light in low light conditions, but that means it blocks some of the view in the viewfinder.  In addition to that, it has a bit of an oddball focal length of 60mm.  This doesn't correspond to either the 50mm or the 75mm frame lines, and so the photographer will need to imagine where the 60mm frame lines might lie between the 50mm and the 75mm frame lines.

When a normal or telephoto lens is used with a rangefinder (as opposed to a wide-angle lens), it is sometimes helpful to increase the magnification of the viewfinder by screwing on a little magnifying glass to the viewfinder as shown below (lower left).

focus assist 
focus assist by nocklebeast

In this case, attaching a 1.4x magnifier to the viewfinder window gives a 0.95 magnification factor through the viewfinder.  With the magnification factor so close to one, this allows the photographer to open they're left eye and see a view with their left eye with nearly the same magnification as the right eye looking through the viewfinder of the camera.  In this way, the photographer can become even more aware of what subjects lie outside of the photo frame, but which may move into the photo frame at any given moment. (Maybe that's why all the photos of photographers in the friendly manual for the camera your father shot with in the 1970's have they're eyes open.)

I once remarked to Sharkey at the 2009 WFTDA Western Regional roller derby tournament that viewing a roller derby bout behind a viewfinder is a different way of seeing the bout.  He agreed, replying that he could see the expression on the roller girls' faces as they're skating towards him.  I thought to myself, "oh. I don't see that so much. I guess SLRs really are different than rangefinders."  Sharkey was referring to the fact that his view in the viewfinder is magnified, and so he can see expressions close up, that aren't as readily seen by someone merely close to the action.  I see the expressions everyone else sees (normal view, not telephoto).

Pixie yells 
Pixie yells by nocklebeast

I suppose what I really meant was that seeing the bout behind a viewfinder of a camera is a different way of paying attention to a bout.

Many digital SLRs have some sort of auto focus.  Dynamic 50-point, phase contrast, infrared laser assist, auto focus.  I'm not really sure what any of that means.  My idea of focus assist is to glue on a little plastic knobby ring onto the manual focus ring of the lens. The knobs allow me to find the focus ring on the lens quickly by feel.

focus assist 
focus assist by nocklebeast

Many SLRs since the 1980's have an auto-exposure program called shutter-speed priority.  The photographer sets the shutter speed to a fixed value, and the camera's light meter determines the aperture of the lens depending on the light of in the scene. This feature comes in handy for fast moving subjects such as sports. A fast shutter speed is selected to "freeze" the action. But some rangefinders have shutter-speed priority as well.  If, in the 1970's, your father used a Canonet QL17, shutter-speed priority was described as "automatic electric eye photography" in the friendly manual.

automatic electric eye photographyautomatic electric eye photography by nocklebeast

My rangefinder has an aperture-priority auto-exposure program. (This feature is common to SLRs as well.) The aperture is set manually and the light meter in the camera chooses an appropriate shutter speed depending on how the scene is lit.  

I once compared notes with another photographer at a roller derby bout in San Francisco. I was trying to explain an exposure scheme I came up with which I thought was really clever.  I set the shutter speed to 1/125th of a second, which is maybe just barely fast enough to freeze the action. And I'll pretty much leave it at that shutter speed for the entire bout.  I'll manually adjust the aperture in the f1.2 to f2.8 range, and I'll set the ISO to auto-ISO. This way, depending on the aperture and shutter speed and how the scene is lit, the light meter of the camera will set the "film sensitivity" or ISO to get the correct exposure (in the range of 160 to 2500).  It's sort of a pseudo-shutter speed priority.  The other photographer looked at me, looked a the camera and said, "It has a lot of manual controls, then, huh?"  "Um... yeah," I replied.

rangefinders don't do sports

The conventional wisdom is SLRs are better suited to sports photography than rangefinders. Frank Van Riper in a recent "Talking photography" article (in which he compares Leica's latest rangefinder to, of all things, an iPad) says, "Leica rangefinders don't do sports, but they are great for most everything else."

But, I wonder. Is it the wrong camera? Or the wrong sport? Maybe, photographers should be taking their rangefinders to, yeah, you guessed it, roller derby!

vampires suck 
vampires suck by nocklebeast

Sheila vs Tonka  
Sheila vs Tonka by nocklebeast

flashed by nocklebeast    

Slambi is wearing the lucky Dan Green star  
Slambi is wearing the lucky Dan Green star by nocklebeast

just a little practicin' before the big bout  
just a little practicin' before the big bout by nocklebeast

a little crazy look 
 a little crazy look by nocklebeast

calling off the jam  
 calling off the jam by nocklebeast

Sometimes, a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second isn't quite fast enough to freeze the action.

ohmagawd! Shammy! ohmagawd! Shammy! by nocklebeast

How do you catch the action with a manual focus lens?  One approach is to prefocus the lens to a certain distance, and wait until the roller girls skate into focus. Now the rules of roller derby require that helmet cover colors must meet a definition of high contrast beyond a reasonable doubt. Which may explain why sometimes I find the jammer's star to be in the place of most precise focus in the dead center of the frame (where the rangefinder's focus patch is).

I found the original digital negative sprinting by nocklebeast

Although if the skaters skate slow enough I can keep up with them with my manual focus ring.

What did photographer's do before SLRs were invented?  One of the most astonishing photographs (and it's much better as a 10x14 inch reproduction, instead of this 3x5 inch reproduction on the web) is Alexander Rodchenko's Horse Race.

Horse Race by Alexander Rodchenko

He took the photo with his Leica rangefinder with an Elmar 50mm lens on 35mm film in 1935. "To take this picture Rodchenko almost lay on the track, sure that the horses would not step on him. But he would not repeat this trick."

Kinda puts sitting in the suicide zone during a grom bout in perspective.

oh, this is a little close oh, this is a little close by nocklebeast

Sometimes, if you are not that close to the action, you just put on a really long lens on the camera and aim. In this case we get a nice "Mystery Science Theater 3000" effect, shooting from the stands shooting with a 135mm lens.   I think Crow T Robot is somewhere in the suicide zone cheering on Bloody Mary of the Texas Texacutioners.

blowin' kisses to the crowd blowin' kisses to the crowd by nocklebeast

Sometimes, when I have a telephoto lens on the camera I'll find it a bit too long for the intended subject.   With a fixed focal length lens you have to zoom with your feet.  But what if there isn't room enough to walk back and fit the subject in the frame?  That situation may require a bit of improvising.

sometimes the blood is so thick on the track sometimes the blood is so thick on the track by nocklebeast

Just turn the camera so the subject is within the framelines.  Problem solved.

Now roller derby is a sport, but it isn't merely a sport. There's lots of stuff besides girls on skates to make photos of.

go Oakland! go Oakland! by nocklebeast

lookin' Fierce! lookin' Fierce! by nocklebeast

put your hands together Seattle! put your hands together Seattle by nocklebeast

a penalty becomes a teachable moment for a young grom  a penalty becomes a teachable moment for a young grom by nocklebeast 

Sexay Beeeast! Sexay Beeeast! by nocklebeast

Miss Whoop D. Doo!
Miss Whoop D. Doo! by nocklebeast

cha-cha-cha! by nocklebeast

shevil dead skeleton man shevil dead skeleton man by nocklebeast

with a little encouragement and training that severed limb might make the team with a little encouragement and training that severed limb might just make the team by nocklebeast

And of course there are other photographers getting shots at roller derby bouts (there's lots of shots to get at roller derby bouts)

ah! I hope he got that shot! ah! I hope he got that shot! by nocklebeast

Even during halftime.

taking photos taking photos by nocklebeast