When Given Cold Weather…

A flash-frozen soap bubble.

When given lemons, make lemonade. 

When given subzero temperatures, freeze soap bubbles. 

This is one of those things that I have wanted to do for some years.  Living in a place where the temperatures drop to levels well below those in your freezer that solidify water and can preserve slabs of reindeer meat, each year I enjoy a few days of dangerously cold weather.   One can throw a pot of hot water up in the air and it turns into a spectacular cloud of steam and snow; no liquid lands on the ground!  It is also possible to blow soap bubbles that freeze into gossamer ice globes.  They are delicate and beautiful, and I have long wanted to photograph them.

Each year when the outdoor temperatures drop sufficiently, I have tried to do this.  Invariably, there is too much wind—any wind is too much—and the bubbles wander away.  The ones I can catch, usually burst before I can take their picture.

This year however, I had a new strategy.  We recently installed windows on our outdoor screen porch.  The temperature remains cold, but the wind is completely blocked.  I can now make soap bubbles and they won’t get away!

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Of Nikons and Nikomats

Showing a few bruises from years of heavy use in my home, at school, during protest marches and on backpacking trips, this is my first single lens reflex camera, the Nikomat brought back from Japan by my dad’s business contact.

A half-century ago I was a teenager in high school, fascinated with cameras and photography.  I had progressed from my first Kodak Instamatic to a (used) Kodak Retina-II 35mm; both are considered “rangefinder” cameras:  you looked through a viewfinder that simulates what the lens sees.  

But what I really wanted was a single lens reflex camera, a Nikomat, a camera one step down from the famous flagship product of the Japanese camera maker, Nikon.  A “single lens reflex” (SLR) is a high-performance camera, where the view through the eyepiece comes through a complex arrangement of mirrors and prisms from the very lens that will be recording the picture.  The key to this magic is a mirror on a spring-loaded hinge that provides the periscope-like view through the lens while aiming and composing the shot.  When the shutter release button is pressed, the mirror swings out of the way just in time for the shutter to open and expose the film.

I acquired my first SLR by saving the earnings from my summer job flipping hamburgers at the local drive-in.  Except it wasn’t enough.  My dad helped out, not by a contribution, but by asking an associate who occasionally made business trips to Japan to make a camera purchase on my behalf, since the local cost was significantly lower than the imported retail price in the U.S. and, crucially, within my savings.  At that time such long-distance business trips were rare, and I had to wait several more months for my camera to arrive.  

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