April 2007


I drive by Krider’s Church Road every day on my way to work. I usually take Md Rte 97 North (Pennsylvania Avenue in Westminster, MD) after I cross downtown Westminster. Krider’s Church Road is a insignificant little road near the intersection of MD Rte 140 and Rte 97 North, just before the Carroll County Regional Airport . No one would notice the little road leading west if it weren’t for the tall steeple of Krider’s Church which is visible for miles around. I’ve photographed Krider’s Church several times, in color and Black & White, in different seasons, and with several cameras. The Church is surrounded by a parking lot and a lush green lawn, both of which don’t reflect much light upwards to illuminate the brickwork. The snow pictures were different though… the overcast sky and snow and the ground acted like a giant lightbox in the winter photograph. The pictures with the OM2n and Ricoh 500G were taken just a few minutes apart, but the clouds moved in quickly, and I lost the blue sky by the time I took the photograph below.

Krider’s Church – OM-2N

Photographed with an OM-2n, 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Xtra 200 film, 1/250 sec at f/16, Hoya 81A filter

Krider’s Church – BW – OM-1

Photographed with an OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, Ilford XP2 400 film, 1/250 sec at f/11; Tiffen Red 25 filter

Krider’s Church – OM-1
Krider’s Church – OM-1

Photographed with an OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, 1/250 sec at f/16; Fujicolor 200 ASA

Krider’s Church – Ricoh 500G
Krider’s Church – Ricoh 500G

Photographed with an Ricoh 500G Rangefinder, (Fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens) 1/250 sec at f/16; Fujicolor 200 ASA


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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More pictures from the Cherry Blossom festival – these are from my backup camera. I had taken the Ricoh 500G along. It’s small and unobtrusive, and good for close quarters street photography. I was using Fuji Super HQ 200 film in the Ricoh, and I used the Sunny f/16 rule for the exposure – basically 1/250 second at f/16 for the most part.


Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G

Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Cherry Blossoms – Ricoh 500G
Washington Monument, street photo- Ricoh 500G

Photographed with a Ricoh 500G Rangefinder (40mm f/2.8 fixed lens) and Fuji Super HQ 200 film. 1/250 sec at f/16



text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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This year the Cherry Blossoms peaked between April 01 – April 04. It was a beautiful day when we visited on Tuesday April 03, when the flowering was at it’s peak. After the dull and dreary winter, it would be more apt to name it the “Cheery” Blossom festival instead.

It was slightly windy at the Tidal Basin, just enough to blow some petals off – up in the high 70’s. A very bright and sunny day with lots of people around. It was hot later in the afternoon, and the Popsicle and cold beverage vendors were doing a brisk business.

No one minded the heat though, since everyone knew what was coming – the weather reports had called for rain and heavy winds later in the week, and nothing is as bad for the flowers as heavy rain and wind – the petals get knocked off or are blown away. It’s not very comfortable either, too cold and windy to be outdoors.

It seemed as though all of DC was at the Tidal basin that afternoon. I guess everybody who could get away made it to the Tidal Basin that day. Besides, it was a working day, and it’s very probably that people who work in the Government offices around the Tidal Basin would have all taken their lunch out there, or just taking a walk.

The weather went bad by Thursday, so people who had been planning to visit DC that weekend lost out. It’s been cold and rainy since then, and the trees have long since lost their flowers and leafed out. It’s still cold in the DC environs… very unseasonable for this time of year. Up here in Westminster, the Cherry Blossoms and dogwoods are still blooming.

I took the family, of course…. We visited Cherry Blossom Festival for the first time last year, and it literally took our breath away. We made a resolution right then to return every year as long as we lived in the DC area  We got there around 11 am, and were lucky enough to get parking right at the Tidal basin lot, close to the Washington Memorial.

I had originally hoped to get there early in the day to take advantage of the morning light. The late morning/early afternoon sun casts a very flat light, and that washes out colors and makes everything look flat and lifeless. I didn’t have much choice, though.

I had taken my Minolta Dynax 800si with a 28-105mm general purpose zoom lens with a Polarizing filter. I was using Fuji Superia 400 film with the camera, since last year was cloudy and overcast – this year, it was so bright and sunny that a 100 ASA film would have been ample. The polarizer served as a 2x neutral density filter as well, slowing down the film enough to shoot at around f/13. For these photographs, I used the landscape and portrait settings.


Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry Blossom Festival

Photographed with a Minolta Dynax 800si and Phoenix 28-105mm f/2.8-f/3.5 AF lens fitted with a Tiffen Polarizer. The film was Fuji Superia 400. I shot at f/13 at 1/350-1/750 second and used the Portrait and Landscape settings.



text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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I’ve always been interested in close-up photography, but the cost of a good MACRO lens usually put a damper on my enthusiasm. I’ve been looking for cheap alternatives. I have a set of closeup lenses (the ones you screw on the front of the lens, but they weren’t very satisfactory.

I bought the Panagor a while ago, it’s a true 1:1 Macro, and you can usually get one pretty reasonably on Ebay and elsewhere. The Panagor 90mm f/2.8 medium telephoto is a hidden gem. It was also marketed as a closeup Dental lens by Lester Dine. This particular lens was a real bargain, and because of it’s age, I was cconcerned about its condition, but I need not have worried. It was in pristine condition, the previous owner had good care of it and after all, Kino builds excellent lenses.

My other cheap alternative was the Kino made Vivitar 2X Macro teleconverter – this is the “good” one… with 7 elements instead of 4, and when you fit a Zuiko 50mm on it, it’s a 100mm portrait lens, and an excellent MACRO. The Zuiko 50mm is very sharp, and allows stopping down to f/16. The Vivitar Macro teleconverter is a beautiful optic, and is a true 1:1 macro. The teleconverter doubles the focal length to 100mm, but costs us 2 stops of light. However, it makes an excellent Macro lens.

I was in the backyard a couple of weeks ago, experimenting with the lenses, and here are the results. I used my OM-1.

Hand held macrophotography is tricky… focusing that close, lighting is critical, we have to be careful about shading the subject with the lens, hand shake is immediately obvious, and of course the extremely shallow depth of field means that if your subject matter is more than a few millimeters deep, it will be out of focus. Macro also photography makes for interesting bokeh, though.


Moss – Panagor 90mm Macro
Corncob – Panagor 90mm Macro

Photographed with an OM-1, 90mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro with Fuji Superia 400 ASA


Cherry Blossom – 50mm +2x macro
Cherry Blossom – 50mm +2x macro
Cherry Blossom – 50mm +2x macro
Cherry Blossom – 50mm +2x macro

Photographed with an OM-1, 50mm f/1.8 and Vivitar 2X 1:1 Macro Teleconverter, Fuji Superia 400 ASA


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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A few weeks ago, I came across a question by another WordPress blogger asking – why does anyone use film anymore? That got me thinking… I left a comment on the post, of course, but I felt that the “Why” aspect needed to be better clarified, and hence, this post.

I don’t shoot much slide film – too much of a hassle to develop and an even bigger hassle to convert to digital format. I’ve used ScanCafe in the past, and they provided me with EXCELLENT service. Still, it means waiting a week for your slides to come back from the film processor, and then shipping them to ScanCafe for scanning at 3000dpi, approving the scans online, and then waiting for the finished DVD – a process can take 3 to 4 weeks, depending on how backed up they are. I would probably shoot more slide film if it was a cheaper and faster proposition.

Now, I mainly shoot 200 ASA color negative film, and on special occasions, a roll or two of Ilford Black & White. There are so many costs associated, and being on a budget, I use my local Walmart in Westminster for processing. Since I have been dropping off film for a while now, all the photo technicians know me quite well, and take extra care when developing my rolls. I don’t make prints, just ask for the processing, and transfer to CD. They develop and put it on CD for me in just over an hour, no prints for $4.25. A 5 pack of Fuji 200 ASA costs about $5.99. So it costs about $5.45 to buy and process each roll of film.

Darn. Digital would be so much cheaper, and an Olympus E-500 package (8 MP, currently $650 with 2 lenses) would practically pay for it itself in the film cost equivalent of about 150 rolls. That said, there is always the higher resolution of film, when scanned. I get 13.2 Megabytes on average on my scans, but since I don’t make any prints, it’s a moot point. I always have to bring them down to about 200kB for posting online anyway. Besides, an Olympus xD 1 Gigabyte flash memory card only costs about $30, and can hold 200 pictures at 5 Mb each. That’s more than 8 rolls of standard 24 frame film.

For me, it’s about my manual cameras, and the manual lenses – not really about the media… What’s important to me is the way the feel in the hand, their heft and feedback, both tactile and audio. Now if there was someone manufacturing “digital” backs at a reasonable price that could be retrofitted onto all the beautifully engineered older cameras out there, I suspect that you’d probably see most of the film crowd abandoning the medium in droves.

The amateur photographer is a canny animal – not being collectors, we are usually on a shoestring budget, and while the pleasures of film are considerable, the disadvantages have to be considered as well. Film does holds one back from experimenting and improving as a photographer, since we never get to explore various perspectives and multiple shots since the cost of film processing is always at the back of our minds. Digital media offers the opportunity to shoot the same scene at different exposures without worrying about using up film. Since practice makes perfect, digital cameras do help us improve and grow as photographers, since there is no cost barrier once the initial (considerable) investment on the DSLR is made.

As for me, although I love my solidly built manual cameras, they are only light-tight boxes. I am an user, and I like to take pictures. If film finally becomes a cost-prohibitive barrier to shooting, then I will have to bow to the inevitable. I would hesitate to call it progress, though. Ha ha. I know that I can use my beautiful Zuiko, Kiron, Komine and Panagor lenses on a Olympus DSLR, but the Olympus made OM to Four Thirds MF-1 adapter has lots of limitations, and that worries me. I have 10 Zuiko lenses and a bunch of Kiron, Vivitar and Komines. I would really like to use them on a Digital SLR, but the adapters available may just not permit it.

The Olympus MF-1 OM Four Thirds Adapter manual lists the compatible lenses, and that is pretty extensive – what is troublesome is that most of the OM series lenses will only work in a limited f stop range – typically f/4 – f/8, and thats not much use to me, since I hardly every shoot in that range, except in overcast conditions and for portraits. I generally set my lenses in the f/11 – f/22 range as I use the Sunny 16 rule, most often at f/16 (f/11 if I am using a polarizer).

I am holding out because I feel that we haven’t seen the best that Digital SLRS can offer yet. Olympus is selling the 10 megapixel E-400 only in Europe, for some reason – in the US, we have the 8 megapixel E-500, and the older E-300, E-330 and E-1 models available. Olympus announced the 10 Megapixel E-510 bundle late last month, but they are not in stores yet, although most sellers are accepting orders. The E-510 with the 2 lenses should come in at less than $1000, which is a great price (although not as attractive as $650 for the E-500).They also announced the E-410 for the US market, and I expect that it will have a pricepoint a little below the E-510.

As an alternative, I could also choose a Sony Alpha 100 (Minolta) body and get to use my Maxxum AF lenses (1.5x on the Alpha – ie, my 50mm will be a 75mm as opposed to the 2x on the Olympus eSeries). The Sony Alpha 100 is a great camera as well, and costs about $1050 for the 2 lens kit. I don’t particularly like Sony’s proprietary memory sticks, but thankfully, the Alpha takes a CompactFlash or a CF MicroDrive, same as the E-500. Hey, the xD card is a proprietary card as well. I wish they’d all stick to one format – say Secure Digital cards which have a much higher memory storage capacity. (or build in a 4 or 8 Gigabyte CompactFlash microdrive into every camera as internal memory and be done with it).

The one very great advantage of the Sony Alpha 100 is that it will take ALL my Minolta AF Maxxum and 3rd party AF lenses made in the last 20 odd years without an adapter – I’ve a Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro, a Maxxum AF 50mm f/1.7 standard lens (simply superb), a Maxxum AF 28-80mm xi, a Maxxum AF 80-200mm, a Maxxum AF 35-105mm, a surprisingly excellent Phoenix 28-105mm (I consider this a hidden gem), and a Tamron 70-300mm and a couple of T-mount preset lenses – all in all, a considerable investment that would happily not go to waste… in addition, I have a fine little Bower made Olympus lens to Minolta AF body adapter that allows me to fit my precious Zuiko and other 3rd party Olympus lenses to the Sony Alpha. Thank you Sony, for respecting all the Minolta AF camera users and retaining the solid Minolta AF mount.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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Yet another hiking trip to Sugarloaf Mountain, this time with 3 little kids in tow – Vasudev, Sunayana and Abhiram. Sunayana and my two nephews are real troopers. We hiked for nearly 3 hours, and we managed to do the Orange and Red trails.

We started at the Eastview Overlook AND returned via the steps to the West view overlook point, and then wearily trudged back to the Eastview parking lot. The weather was cloudy all day and comfortable, except for a cool breeze that kept things nippy. The sky was overcast, but the light was fairly bright, perfectly even, shadowless light.

Since I had to keep 3 kids in tow, I had originally intended to carry a simple, focus-free, no frills camera like the Olympus Trip 35 or the Ricoh 500 rangefinder, but at the last minute, I decided to take something just as simple and rugged – the Ricoh CR-5 manual camera, with it’s sharp little Rikenon 55mm f/2.2 lens.

Now, the Ricoh is one of my accidentally acquired cameras, and I had not used it since I replaced the light seals late last summer. Even though the light meter works fine with the new batteries, I don’t really like to depend on flaky old light meters, and instead prefer to use the Sunny 16 rule, which works fine for me in daylight situations. Besides, since I could not stand around fiddling with focusing, I used Hyperfocal distance settings so that I could just aim and shoot whenever I got the youngsters to sit down and take a break during the hike.

Truth be told, the break was more for resting MY weary bones, since I had hiked the White Trail with Jayaram just the previous day, and it was all I could do to keep up with them. Two 4 year olds and a 9 year old have so much energy between them that I was questioning my sanity in bringing them along without another adult to help supervise and keep them on the trails.

The kids are good with hikes though – they’ve been out with me enough times. I usually remind them why it’s important to keep on the trails, and how to follow the marked Trail blazes. Thankfully, the 2 youngsters know all about trails and paths and maps from the TV show Diego and from Dora. Thanks, Nickelodeon!

The pictures were taken at several points along the Orange and Red Trails on Sugarloaf Mountain, and at the peak. As I mentioned, the light was just right for closeup color photography, although the overcast sky made the surrounding countryside hazy.

The Ricoh CR-5 is a simple, reliable, rugged SLR and comes standard with a Rikenon 55mm f/2.2 lens. Since it was cloudy, I used a Sky 1A filter to cut the blue of the UV and to provide slight warmth, and as I was using 200 ASA film, I set the shutter at 1/250 second and the aperture at f/5.6.


Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR

Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR
Ricoh CR-5 SLR

Photographed with a Ricoh CR-5 and 55mm f/2.2 lens, 1/250 second at f/5.6 on Fuji Super HQ 200 film. I used a Skylight filter (very pale rose) to cut the blue and render the colors naturally.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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This is a follow-up to the post I had a couple of weeks back where I described the merits of really cheap T mount long focus non-mirror lenses.

One of the lenses I had discussed was the ubiquituous Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 T mount pre-set lens, which appears in many different incarnations labelled variously as Spiratone, Lentar, Soligor, Tele-Astranar, Howard Sterling, Cambron etc etc. They are essentially the same lens, from the same manufacturing line, possibly Tamron.

Anyway, I took the opportunity last week when the weather was superlative, and the sun really bright to try some hand-held shots with the Spiratone. I like opportunistic photography, so even though I have a tripod in the trunk, I rarely use it. Tripods are great assets, but for a driveby opportunity or quickly changing situations, forget it. 🙂

I generally use 200 ASA film, but this time, my OM-1 was loaded with 400 ASA, so I decided to try the Spiratone out hand-held, using the Sunny F16 rule. With the 400 ASA film, the Sunny f/16 rule calls for a shutter speed setting of 1/500 second and an aperture of f/16. I was using a polarizer, so I used a setting of f/11 instead of f/16 to compensate for the filter.

Using the Spiratone 400mm’s aperture preset rings is really easy – there are 2 rings, use the first to set the aperture to the desired setting f/6.3 through f/32, and the other ring to Open or Close the aperture. Set the aperture, focus with the aperture ring set at Open, and when satisfied with the focus, turn the ring to the Close position, and take the shot. It’s much simpler and intuitive to do than it is to describe.

These pictures were taken around Carroll County on Frodinger Road, the farmer busily preparing his fields for Spring planting was about 1/4 mile away, and oblivious to me pulled up by the side of the road. I stayed in the car, so I could use the window as a support since the lens is so long.

The sunset was on my way home from work on MD Rte 27. The sun’s disk was positioned just above the horizon when I stopped. I had originally meant to use the Tripod, but I had very little time, so I ended up taking the shot hand held. The perspective compression of the 400mm lens is apparent in the flattening of the sun’s disk. I used a polarizer, and kept my sunshades on to protect my eyes. I avoided looking at the disk, just setting the lens focus at infinity.


Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3

Photographed with an OM-1 and Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 lens, 1/500 at f/11, Polarizing filter, Fuji Superia 400mm

Spiratone 400mm f/6.3
Spiratone 400mm f/6.3

These definitely could have benefited from the tripod. The moon photograph was at 1/500, f/6.3 (wide open, no filter). The horses were at 1/500 and f/11 with polarizer. Photographed with an OM-1 and Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 lens, Polarizing filter, Fuji Superia 400mm


Compare the same scene, but this time shot with a Zuiko 200mm f/4, again using the Sunny f/16 rule, 1/500 sec at f/11 (instead of f/16, to compensate for the polarizer.)

Zuiko 200mm f/4
Zuiko 200mm f/4
Zuiko 200mm f/4

Here are the related Posts:
Cheap Super Telephoto Lenses Part I
Cheap Super Telephoto Lenses Part III
Learning to love your Mirror Lens


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.
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