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Foray into Large Format

May 22nd, 2009 No comments

Recently I got my hands on a Linhof Color Kardan 4×5 camera on the cheap.  I’ve been wanting to try my hand at large format for a while now, and it was a case of the right price at the right time, so I took the plunge.  Unfortunately the camera was just that, however: just the camera.  What I didn’t really appreciate at the time (but I do now) is how much else you need to put together a full large format kit.  After weeks of scrounging, however, I finally have a more or less complete setup and am ready to take some pictures. 🙂  Here’s the full accounting to date:

Linhof Color Kardan 45s monorail camera body (c. 1975 or so): $50
Bogen/Manfrotto 3021 tripod with 3030 pan/tilt head: $60
Film holders, darkroom supplies, and various odds and ends: $70
Caltar II-N 135mm f/5.6 lens + shipping: $350
Ilford HP5+ 4×5 film (25 pack): $25

Grand total to date: $535

Ouch.

So it got a bit more expensive than I originally planned.  But on the bright side, I had a lot of fun doing the scavenger hunt for all of the parts (and I could have spent a TON more money buying everything new).  Craigslist is awesome like that.

So tonight I did my best to block off all of the light coming into my bathroom and loaded up my film holders.  It was actually quite a bit easier than I had anticipated.  The film loading that is.  Darkening up the backroom not so much.  I was amazed how much light leaked in though my flimsy brown-paper-bag-over-the-window job.  There was also a bit of light leaking in through the door jam (I did block the bottom with a towel).  So yeah… I’m hoping it didn’t fog my 400-speed film too much….  Well, I’ll find out soon enough. 🙂

Now all I have to do is get my butt up in the morning and find some subjects to shoot.

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How to Become the Enemy of a Country

May 2nd, 2009 No comments

[RKL: Note no Chapter 1 title.  No one needs to a title to identify Chapter 1.  And I’ll leave the mystery of whether this is a “chapters” book for a little while.  Everyone loves a good mystery.  Not that this is actually a mystery story.  Or is it….  (It isn’t — seriously†).]

Come with me, dear readers, to a country where freedom of speech is hampered.  The citizens are governed — nay Protected — by the People.  But the the People are harsh protectors.  Communication is an Enemy of the citizens, say the People, and so the citizens must be protected, even if that means, “our dear citizens, that we, the People, must limit communications about anything that might harm the System. And so the citizens live under a cloud of oppression and fear that if they complain too often or too loudly they make may be perceived as harming the System, and be dealt with by the People.

But there is a gaping hole called the Network. There are numerous portals into the network, much like our phone booths. But these portals are monitored — watched — by the People. They may be used, but the Watchers are always there, viewing the conversation.  But slowly the citizens have found those portals that have not been watched yet or have had their Watchers fall asleep or break.  The citizens communicate between those few portals, spreading the locations of the other open portals at odd hours in encrypted files with passcodes passed covert channels.  Such “Open Portals” — or ops in slang; their rogue maintainers known as Ops — are often shut down, however, with those citizens closest to them “disappearing” (as the papers said).  But the Ops keep finding more portals to open.  The back and forth battle has been going on for years, with advances in technique on both sides refining the field.  But the battle is far from over.  Both sides are too strong to be stopped in one blow.  It will take time to whittle away or dismantle either side, and both sides are comfortable in that fact.  For now the stalemate draws on.

[RKL:†  This is a dagger sign.  It’s like an asterisk, but better.  It usually means, roughly, “I already used the asterisk, and I’m too lazy and/or elitist to go back and change my footnotes to numerals so you get to deal with funny typographical symbols, nya nya nya.”  But I didn’t use an asterisk.  Hmm… why didn’t I use an asterisk?  Perhaps that’s part of the mystery.  Or perhaps I’ve just never used one before and wanted to skip ahead in the “Teach Yourself Editing” textbook.  You’ll have to read on to find out.  To be continued… Bum! Bum! Bahhh!!!]

[RKL: Okay, last note… please ignore these comments if you actually want to read the story.  They’re very much commentary from my inner-Python and will almost certainly severely hamper your ability to enjoy the story.]

Chapter 2

But into this stasis comes a new player.  Into this fray a lone Writer has slipped an innocuous wisp of binary data — bindat — into the latest system software for the portals.  The code is subtle… so subtle that it passes the scrupulous inspection of the People’s Readers, who are said to be rewarded handsomely for finding — and dealing with — such “Bugs”.  His name is Bakh.

Bakh had had a close friend delt with last week.  Kaleel went quietly, without kicking and screaming or crying as they usually did.  He had just hung his head in defeat as he walked away between the uniformed People’s Police.  The walk to the door and out of everyone’s lives had seemed all the more horrific for its absolute and staring silence.  The PPs scared Bakh.  They scared everybody, but Bakh was different.  To Bakh the PPs were the physical embodiment of fear.  His parents had been of the old values, and were that deadly combination of universally strict and unquestioningly loyal to their leaders.  Bakh had been drilled from a boy to follow the instructions of the PPs exactly, without question or hesitation.  Any hint of rebellion was ruthlessly quashed by his father, with his mother looking on in stern approval.  His punishments always ended with a cold admonishment that punishment from the PPs would make his parents’ wrath pale in comparison.

And so Bakh lived with a constant tingling fear of encountering the PPs.  He avoided contact with them whenever possible, but he could not avoid dealing with the PPs entirely.  Their influence was just too pervasive.  Bakh always felt drained after dealing with the PPs from the clinching fear that they would find some fault in him and deal out the punishment his parents had promised.

Kaleel’s departure had terrified Bakh.  He replayed the walk to the door over and over in his mind, the howling silence echoing in this dreams.  In his mind Bakh always screamed for Kaleel, his throat burning with the effort, but no sound penetrated the silence.  Each morning he started awake gasping and drenched in cold sweat.

Bakh had no idea what Kaleel’s plan had been;  just that he had one.  But everyone had one.  Bakh didn’t know Kaleel well, and had no idea how competent a Writer he had been.  But after seeing Kaleel leave a broken man Bakh had had a sinking feeling — now deeply buried beneath layers of fear — that Kaleel’s had been very good.  But it wasn’t good enough.  Almost none of them were.  It was rumored in back rooms in hushed wispers that even those plans did make it almost always didn’t work.  It was not easy to satisfy the three opposing goals of writing something that was invisible, powerful, and functional.  Add to that the requirement that it work in one try.  Because you usually didn’t get a second chance.

Despite the overwhelming sense of terror curling his stomach into knots, Bakh had stayed with his plan.  He had to stay with his plan.  Not because it was noble or right.  It wasn’t for revenge.  He did it because it was time.  Literally.

[RKL: Here’s the horrifically bad first draft of that last paragraph:

Despite the overwhelming sense of terror curling his stomach into knots, Bakh had stayed with his plan.  He had to stay with his plan.  There was not bravado in it.  Neither chivalry, nor honor, nor class.  No purist elitism, no patriotism, no bohemian pizazz.  He didn’t do it for revenge or hate, or to self congratulate.  He did it because… because… because… he did it because it was time.

No, literally.

Yeah… good edit.]

Timing was important to Bakh’s plan.  The Bug depended on the exact time it was activated, and another such chance wouldn’t come for over thirty years.  Bakh had been committed for a long time now.  From the first changes to the bindat Bakh had been on a course that could not be stopped.  If he tried to take the Bug out, the unauthorized change would be noticed.  If he tried to stop or delay the Bug’s deployment it would cause a failure that would be discovered, analyzed and traced back to him.  Bakh went on because that was the only way to go.

Chapter 3

[RKL: To be continued…]

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