Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

Exa, Version 4, from Wikipedia, by Jaroslav A. Polák.

William and Martijntje Thysse, July 1964, Wawa, Ontario.

The Exa, with William and Martijntje Thysse, July 1964, Wawa, Ontario.

I entered  photography in the 1970′s while living in South Africa. Just a teen, I was lucky to receive as my first camera an old Exa (version 4, manufactured between 1956 and 1959) that my father had outgrown. It came with a 50mm lens, extension tubes and a hand-held light meter. This was the camera my father had used to document the family since the early 1960′s.

Unfortunately, my allowance was meagre and film was not often purchased so I gained little experience from this camera except that it taught me the basic principles of exposure. It was auto-nothing: no auto-aperture, no auto-mirror return, no auto-exposure, no auto-advance…just a fully manual mechanical SLR with a vertical viewfinder that gave an inverted (left to right) image. Working with the hand-held light meter and having to twiddle all the knobs, rings and dials to get the settings right, soon taught me the essentials of exposure. Later, I was also given the oddball Zeiss Ikon ‘Movikon 8, a clockwork 8mm manual movie camera, that helped cement my understanding of exposure.

The Exa was the budget line of the Exakta series of cameras, made by Ihagee Kamerawerk Steenbergen & Co, Dresden, Germany. Even as a budget version, it was still well made, a solid camera strong enough to defend yourself with. It had a few quirks, even for its day, but if all you have experienced is digital SLR’s, the following features should amaze you:

  • It used 35mm film (pronounced ‘fill-um’)
  • It had an interchangeable viewfinders, although we had only the hooded vertical finder (as above), so…
  • …the image was reversed, side to side, when viewed.
  • There was a ‘Sport’ finder, just a rectangular hole in the hood, that allowed for quick, if not accurate framing.
  • You could replace the viewfinder with the ‘Special Prism’ , a pentaprism like on todays DSLR’s.
  • The shutter was a function of the reflex mirror, not independent.
  • Shutter speed range was immense: B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/150 (that’s it!)
  • The shutter release was on the front, on the left-side of the lens. If you pressed the button where today’s shutter release sits, you would have activated the film rewind.

The lens was likely either an early version of the 50mm f2.8  Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens, a four-element lens that came with either coated or uncoated glass, or the three-element 50mm f2.9 Meyer-Optik Görlitz Trioplan. (I can’t quite make it out from the few pictures we have)

The IHAGEE & EXAKTA PRODUCTS AND HISTORY website has lots of information on the Exacta and Exa cameras, and also has the pdf manual for our version.

pop22_om2I photographed everything I could then, mostly family outings and nature, within the limits of my budget. That Exacta was left behind in South Africa in 1977, when my father commandeered it and traded it in for the latest technology, the Olympus OM2. For a few years my only camera was the Movikon.

Back in Canada, sometime around 1980, my father tired of the OM2, which he thought too small for his hands. He moved to the heftier Canon A1, and I, in turn, inherited the Olympus. That was a camera designed for macro…but that’s another story.

Posted in Camera, Canada, Edmonton, Equipment, General, History, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Introducing the Kunstkammer

Common Wasp

Common Wasp

Earlier this year I was thinking of occasionally adding old entomology prints to Splendour Awaits, but after dwelling on that idea for a while I though it better not to dilute the photographic focus of this blog and instead to nurture the old print obsession by starting-up another blog instead. I’ve built Museum Hadrianum to deal with this sideline, a blog where I will share a variety of old nature prints of a non-photographic origin, prints of those things which today many of us record with close-up and macro photography. Museum Hadrianum will be updated irregularly and un-systematically,  so if you are interested, it would probably be best to subscribe. I’ll try to dig out background information on each image, and categorize them, but the main criteria for inclusion is simply that they must draw my eye, and, in some way, inspire.

Posted in Art, Bugs, Collection, Exhibit, Inspiration, macro, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Red Leaf Beetles

Found these two red leaf beetles (possibly Tricholochmaea cavicollis) enjoying the view on the fringes of the pine sandhills at Halfmoon Lake Natural Area north of Edmonton. 

Tricholochmaea sp., possibly T. cavicollis

A natural history fail on my part, I did not note the plant they were cavorting on, otherwise naming them the cherry leaf beetle Tricholochmaea cavicollis (J. L. LeConte, 1865) would have made their ID more certain. 

Thanks to Gerald Hilchie, BugGuide and John Acorn for their contributions to the ID.

(12 June, 2014. Canon 5D Mk II with Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens and diffused Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite Flash. ISO 200, 1/200 sec. @ f16)

Posted in Alberta, Camera, Canada, Chrysomelidae, Coleoptera, Equipment, Flash, Habitat, in copula, Lenses, Mating, photography, Season, Summer Tagged , , , , , , |

Ellis Bird Farm Photography Workshops

Two repeat workshops are happening at the lovely Ellis Bird Farm in August!

For new and prospective owners of a DSLR, this workshop will help you understand your camera and how to use it. We will cover camera functions and handling as well as provide information on lenses, equipment and accessories. Then, we will work on understanding exposure, composition and techniques: all the skills needed to create the photographs you imagine. The afternoon session will include practice sessions on the grounds of the Ellis Bird Farm. If you already have a DSLR and other equipment, please bring it, otherwise some loaner equipment will be available for use.

  • AM Intro to the DSLR, Equipment and Accessories.
  • PM Understanding Exposure. Basic Skills, Composition,Techniques and Practice.
For photographers who already own a DSLR and are familiar with manual exposure, this workshop will introduce you to the fascinating world of close-up and macro photography. We will look at specialized equipment and accessories as well as simple ways to achieve great results, no matter what type of DSLR you own. Then, we will work on techniques to overcome the inherent difficulties of magnified photography. We will do an overview of basic composition and have opportunities to practice macro photography on the beautiful grounds of the Ellis Bird Farm. Some loaner equipment and accessories will be available. As a minimum, please bring your camera and lens, and if you have them, a macro lens, an external flash and tripod.
  • AM Equipment and Accessories, Understanding exposure.
  • PM Techniques with Natural Light and Flash, Composition and Practice.
Posted in Accessories, Alberta, Alberta, Camera, Canada, Equipment, Flash, Lenses, macro, photography, Season, Summer, Workshop Tagged , , , , , , , |

Wasp Nest Squatter

I was forced to destroy the wasp nest that had been growing on our garage door frame, as it was becoming a danger to us when we entered or left the garage. The morning after my dastardly night foray, I took a look at the remnants of the nest. While spraying had damaged the outer covering, the internal combs were undamaged, so I gently scraped it away from the frame and took it inside for a closer look. Surprisingly, while all the adults were killed, many of the young larvae, in a variety of stages, survived. And not just the larvae. When I pulled away the remnants of the paper maché shell, a movement caught my eye, and I was surprised to find a small pseudoscorpion scurrying about the inner surface.


Besides having rather effective-looking claws, each of which contain a venom gland in the moveable ‘finger’, …


..they have a formidable set of mouthparts, which also have silk glands for making cocoons for when they need protection when molting or during the cold season.

Glad this pseudoscorpion is only 2mm long.

Venomous claws and barbed, piercing mouthparts make this a formidable predator…

…thankfully, with a body length of only 2 mm, we have nothing to fear from this tiny arachnid.

How did it get into the nest? Most likely it was an opportunist, latching on a foraging wasp with a claw and getting a free ride (known as ‘phoresy) to the nest.

For more on these tiny terrors, head to Expiscor and read Ten facts about Pseudoscorpions.

(27 July, 2014. Canon 5D Mk II with Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens and diffused Canon MT-24EX Twin Lite Flash. Top photo, ISO 200, 1/125 sec. @ f11, two middle white background photos @f9 and last photo with mm scale: f13.)

Posted in Accessories, Alberta, Arachnid, arthropods, Bugs, Camera, Canada, Edmonton, Equipment, Flash, Hymenoptera, macro, MP-E65, Phoresy, photography, Season, Summer, Vespidae, White Studio Tagged , , , |

One for the 0.1%

Chloealtis conspersa

Most likely Chloealtis conspersa , the Cow Grasshopper.

Found this dapper hopper at the Halfmoon Lake Natural Area on June 12 this year.  Says our local Orthopterid expert, Dan Johnson, in a Facebook interaction:

“If I am correct judging from the photo, it is a good find, Chloealtis conspersa (Acrididae, Gomphocerinae), or Cow Grasshopper, yes a 5th and probably a female. Some people call it Sprinkled Locust or Sprinkled Grasshopper, especially when it is spotted like this one (some are uniformly grey or tan, and some are two-tone in solid sections). It is a slant-faced grasshopper that has short, rough tegmina (hind wings) in the adult, and hangs around moist habitat, often near wetlands or trees. I have found these around Cold Lake, Bonnyville, Buck Lake, Swan Hills, Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Westlock, down the Rockies into the USA (MT, ID, CO, etc.) and even Cypress Hills. In SK, I found them near Prince Albert and many other sites, even Kyle, and Great Sand Hills, but they are never common, usually much less than 0.1%. Chloealtis conspersa and Chloealtis abdominalis have a range of variation and look alike until the adult.”

…and they prefer to eat bluegrass.

(Just love it when an ID source gives so much background information, I hardly have to write a blog post at all! :) )

12 June, 2014. Canon T2i with Tamron Telephoto SP AF 180mm f/3.5 Di LD IF Macro Autofocus Lens and diffused  Canon Speedlite 270EX II. ISO 400, 1/200 sec. @ f14



Posted in Acrididae, Alberta, Bugs, Camera, Canada, Equipment, Flash, Insect, Lenses, macro, Orthoptera, photography, Season, Spring Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |