Jim & Cindy Griggs: Blog http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog en-us (C) Jim & Cindy Griggs griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) Sun, 30 Apr 2017 18:32:00 GMT Sun, 30 Apr 2017 18:32:00 GMT http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/img/s/v-5/u41776239-o690571426-50.jpg Jim & Cindy Griggs: Blog http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog 120 84 Going Light - Micro Four-Thirds in Africa http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/4/going-light---micro-four-thirds-in-africa Shooting with Small Gear in the Field

How Well Did the M4/3 Equipment Perform in Tanzania?

 

My timing seems to be perfect.  About 20 years ago my eyes started needing glasses.  Along came really capable autofocus.  Shortly after that, good slide film was getting expensive to shoot.  Along came good digital.  Last year, my shoulders were getting tired of hauling around big boy cameras and the lenses that go with them plus there were restrictions starting to surface on international flights with carry on size and weight being enforced.  Along came the Micro 4/3 systems from Panasonic and Olympus.  Other mirrorless equipment was also taking a chunk of the weight away, Sony, Fuji and Canon were all in the game.  I bit early and bought a Canon “M” mirrorless.  It was the same crop sensor as my Canon 7DII.  I was not happy with the original version.  No eye level viewfinder primarily made this a non-winner.

I rented a Panasonic Lumix GX-7 and a couple of lenses to try out.  A day into the 5 day rental, I went online and ordered my own GX-7 camera and lenses.  I was totally intrigued with the size weight and performance of the little camera.  With a sensor one half the size of 35mm film, the camera had some drawbacks.  High ISO noise was worse than my full frame Canon 5DIII.  The software for noise control has come a long way since the introduction of digital cameras and this was seen only as a mild issue.  Built into the camera was a very simple to understand, set of menus.  In only a few minutes I was shooting time lapse video, panoramas and other interesting effects.  Several months later I bought an Olympus EM-10, the low end version of the Olympus Micro 4/3 camera.  It seems the Micro 4/3 standard was established by Olympus and Panasonic to promote a common lens mount and agreed upon standard for operation.  All the lenses interchange and work with the other companies cameras.

I acquired the amazingly sharp Olympus 7-14/2.8 PRO lens for its great wide angle range, equivalent to a 14-28/2.8 on my Canon 5DIII.  It is one sharp lens and my “go to” wide angle.  Shortly after that I bought the Olympus 40-150/2.8 PRO lens and matched 1.4X teleconverter.  That lens is another marvel of precision.  At the long end it is equivalent to my fixed Canon 300/2.8 but is easily to hand hold and weighs a lot less that 1/4 the weight of the large Canon lens.  Armed with the two bodies, the two top end lenses and the “kit” lens of 14-42mm, I left for Scotland.  My camera bag weighed about as much as my 5DIII and 300/2.8 lens but held a range of optics I only dreamed of prior to buying my Micro 4/3 gear.  The rather small backpack also held my 13” Macbook Air and a couple of hard drives for backing up photos.  Still, it was lighter than the single Canon full frame body with vertical gip and the 300/2.8!

If you are out to impress people with the size of your lens, forget buying any of the Micro 4/3 gear.  It is not impressive in scale and will not turn heads.  I did find that getting into places with restrictions on professional photography was easier when carrying what was perceived as amateur gear.  The trip to Scotland was a breeze!  No longer did I have to worry about fitting my camera bag into the overhead space of the commuter jets in use today plus putting it up there didn’t require a lot of back strain!

Once in Scotland, I discovered that I felt a freedom I had not felt with the more massive full frame gear.  I was able to downsize the tripod I normally would have carried and was not concerned about carrying my complete range of gear on a hike.  My old knee loved me for it.  At the end of the day I was not in pain and the images delivered were nothing short of superb.  Downloading and working thru the images in Lightroom proved that the gear was perfect for almost all my shooting situations.  What didn’t works well?   Tracking focus was the largest gap in performance between the Micro4/3 and my Canon gear.  It just flat would not work.  OK, so if I were going to Bosque del Apache to photograph the cranes or other locations to capture birds in flight I would take the Canon gear.  That was all with the M10 and GX-7.

I also discovered one major difference between the two M4/3 platforms.  Panasonic has moved in the direction if “in lens” stabilization while Olympus has decided on “in body” stabilization.  Based on this I needed to make a decision.  I decided that the in camera stabilization fit my needs a little better so Olympus was the route I was planning.

Let me interject that I looked at other mirrorless options.  Sony gets a lot of press with their full frame versions but that seemed to negate to weight issue requiring the same large lenses.  Fuji had a terrific system with a 1.6 crop factor versus the 2 crop factor of the M4/3 equipment.  Again, the lenses would be larger but not prohibitively so.  I decided to gamble that the noise issue of the smaller sensor would be less of an issue with the growth of the technology.  Four year old full frame cameras are about the same as the newest M4/3 bodies for noise at equivalent ISO’s.  I figure that my newest Olympus EM1 Mark II is about one stop noisier than my Canon 5DIII.  Not enough to concern myself with considering the weight and space savings in the camera bag.  It is a small gamble to take considering how much the technology has done to alleviate the noise issues over the years.

Performance:

Where the rubber meets the road!  The GX-7 and the M10 are both 16 megapixel cameras while the M1 Mark II is 20 megapixels.  Not much difference in my opinion so that doesn’t make much difference to me.  Anything at 16 or better will work for just about any photography I want to do.

A few months before the trip to Tanzania, Panasonic, working with Leica, introduced a new lens.  The range on that lens intrigued me, a 100-400mm.  In 35mm camera terms that is equivalent to a 200-800mm zoom!!!  I waited to see test reports on the lens.  SLRGEAR.COM showed it to be quite sharp all the way out with only a slight loss of sharpness wide open at 800mm equivalent.  I jumped all over that lens.  Here is where the Stabilization game gets tricky.  If I use the lens on the GX-7, i need to turn on the lens stabilization.  If I use it on the M1 Mark II I need to turn off the lens stabilization and let the camera body do the job.  I learned quickly that I could hardly use the lens on the M10 at the full 800mm equivalent for one main reason.  Olympus, for some reason has a noise maker and a vibrator so that when you shoot with the M10 it sounds like a traditional DSLR with mirror slap, etc.  That vibration is enough to play havoc with images made at the long end of the lens.  I tried bean bags, tripods, everything I could, but was unable to get sharp images at the longest zoom of the lens.  The M1 Mark II has a silent shooting mode and it handled the long end of the lens VERY well with very sharp images.  That meant that in Africa I used the M1 Mark II with the Leica 100-400, the M10 had the 40-150/2.8 and the GX-7 was fitted with the 7-14/2.8, a workable solution.

As for the different camera bodies, let me say that the GX-7 is nice, the M10 is OK but the M1 Mark II is a workhorse.  It does just about everything right.  I did have some issues (more on those later) but for almost all my shooting it was in my hands.  Because the camera and lens combo is so small and light you forget that you are shooting at 800mm equivalent.  At that level of magnification you need to be rock steady and use a fast shutter speed.  I shot mostly at ISO 400-1200 during the day to minimize and shake at the long focal length.  For the most part, the images were tack sharp.  Most of the unsharp images were directly traceable to screw ups on my part.

There are two silent mode shooting speeds on the M1 Mark II (M1MII).  You can custom set the top speed in each mode.  I was shooting the low speed and set the top speed for only 8 frames per second. The high speed silent mode will shoot at 60 frames per second!!!  I tried that a couple of times but was eating up SD card real estate at an alarming rate and knew that it would just result in lots of deleted photos later anyway.  

Bad photos from the M1MII were basically my own screw ups.  I was not totally familiar with controls and made a few mistakes along the way.  Canon controls are very familiar to me since they have only changed minimally over the past 7 to 8 years.  This is like a whole new ball game.  I will say that by the end of the trip, I was making changes on the fly without having to look closely at what I was doing.

I had one issue with the M1MII that is still not resolved.  When turning the camera on, sometimes it hangs up and never finishes “booting”.  If I turn it off and back on again it turns on completely.  The “Hang Up” position does not allow the focus to work or to make changes to settings, it just shows an image on the screen and viewfinder but nothing else works.  I tried wiggling the switch and sometimes that worked to get the boot routine to finish.  Other times it came on normally and other times it was slow to boot completely.  I am not sure if this is a serious defect or some mode I selected accidentally or dust in the switch.  Not sure but I need to contact Olympus to find out quickly.  Leaving for the Galapagos in a couple of weeks.  (Update to the above.   Not sure what the deal was but maybe a little dirty contacts but it seems to have gone away.)

I will say that I didn’t really get to use tracking focus on still images much but did use it on video mode.  I am bit confused by the tracking system in video mode.  I would be shooting video of a zebra (excellent contrast and a simple thing for digital tracking to follow or so you would think) walking along with tall grass in the background.  For a few seconds the tracking would be spot on, following the zebra, then it would get distracted and lock up on some nebulous spot on the grass.  As I panned it would stick to that goofy spot on the grass until it went out of frame then hunt and find the zebra again.  During that hunting period the camera would go out of focus and back in again.  I was really getting frustrated with it by the end of the trip.  Maybe there is something I was doing wrong in video mode but it seems to me black and white stripes should be a no-brainer for tracking.

Other than that, I had no issues that were a deal breaker.  I leave for the Galapagos Islands in less than 12 days and I am only taking Olympus gear plus a GoPro Hero4 for underwater shooting.  OMD-EM1 Mark II and OMD-EM10; 7-14/2.8Pro; 14-42 Kit Lens; 40-150/4-5.6; Leica 100-400.  The 40-150/2.8Pro and 1.4X are staying home in the interest of being even lighter.

Long term, my plans are to sell the M10 and either buy another M1MII or an M5MII but those investments will have to wait until the cash pipeline fills up again.

 

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/4/going-light---micro-four-thirds-in-africa Sun, 30 Apr 2017 18:31:34 GMT
Visiting East Africa http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/7/visiting-east-africa East Africa - Photographers Paradise

Whether you are going there for the abundant, exotic wildlife or the magnificent landscapes, East Africa is there to offer you the most superlative of experiences!

Selecting a trip can be both confusing and difficult.  Best place to visit?  Safest? Which company to go with?  Leader?

 

For most first time visitors this is also a ONE TIME visit, a trip of a lifetime.  That makes choosing a big gamble.  After doing some thorough reading and research we decided that we must see two places, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.  It just so happens that both of these are in Tanzania.  Our other research told us that Tanzania has both a stable and reliable government, great news as well.  Our first trip, we deferred to the leader to chose the tour company as he had been leading trips to East Africa for several years.  We were so pleased with the tour company, that we have been with them since 2001.

 

There are several different types of safaris, each varying in price and services offered.  

What we normally call a "sight-seeing" safari consists of the typical Land Rover/Cruiser with room for seven passengers plus driver/guide and every seat filled.  These tours stay in lodges/camps until mid-morning (9am) and then spend a few of hours in the bush, return for lunch, then go back out in the afternoon for a few more hours, returning to the lodge/camp in time for cocktails before dinner.  They range from 6 days to usually 12 days in length.  These are OK for families with small children and offer highlights of the parks visited and are the cheapest way to go if you are not a serious photographer.

In depth safaris usually last 10-12 days and spend more time out in the bush, usually not returning for lunch, but stopping with boxed lunches at one or more designated spots for picnics.  These generally are a little more expensive, a little less crowded and offer more time in the bush than the simple sight seeing trips.

True Photo Safari's utilize the same vehicles but limit the number of passengers in each vehicle.  The reason being that when there is action, it usually happens on one side of the vehicle.  With three to four photographers per vehicle, all have access to shooting space.  Try that with seven people on board and it is chaos!  The tours also leave the lodges/camps at or before sunrise to be out in the bush at first light, enjoy lunch out and return around sunset, maximizing time out in the wilds.

 

For us, we have never been on anything but Photo Safaris in East Africa.  We have seen plenty of the other groups, showing up at a location with wildlife just as the light got harsh, grabbing a few snapshots and hurrying away to see what other animals they can see.  Most of the budget groups have limitations on miles per day that the driver can use.  The top tour companies are open ended, meaning that the drivers are free to spend the maximum amount of time and miles making sure the photographers get great images, great angles and pleasing backgrounds.

​Choosing a leader is more difficult.  Ask for references, read reviews if available.  You don't want to be with a someone who is more interested in filing up their own portfolio rather than giving you the opportunity for the best shots.  It also helps to have a leader who has been there a few times before and understands and communicates with the driver/guides about expectations.  Almost all the driver/guides are good, having attended very intensive training at specific schools for their trade.  The differences are the best guides move up to the top companies and are not restricted in miles they can drive per day by the tour company owners.  We see many of the less well managed companies with poorly maintained vehicles, worn or even slick tires.  These are not good situations.

The tour company we use is locally owned, meaning that the profits stay in Tanzania and do not get sent to foreign owners in Germany, England, the USA or other places.  They are also in the top tier of tour companies in East Africa, offering the best experience, more versatility and have excellent reviews.  It is always delightful to hear our clients brag, saying, "Those had to be the best guides you ever had!"  We just agree knowing that we have had only great guides in all our years of working with our tour company.

 

​The differences in price among the various tours is substantial.  The more people you cram into a vehicle the less the cost in use of vehicles and driver/guides.  If you limit the miles a driver can maneuver per day, that contains cost somewhat as well.  Doing less maintenance and running tires to the ragged end saves money.  

On a good Photo Safari you can expect the costs to be 25-30% more per day than the lower end sight-seeing safaris.  So much depends on your expectations of a trip.

 

2017 will likely be the last trip we lead to Tanzania.  For those who have gone with us in the past, we hope it was a terrific experience.  Those going with us in 2017, it will be a great trip!  And for those planning to go after we stop leading these trips, we will have recommendations on the best experience for photographers.

 

For information on the 2017 Trip click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) Africa Tanzania camera photography safari wildlife http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/7/visiting-east-africa Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:47:16 GMT
What Was That? http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/11/what-was-that Earthquake! the movie, came out with rave reviews.  Something new had been added to the theaters showing the film, giant speakers with something called Sensurround.  This was 1974 and I could hardly wait to see it.  These giant speakers were supposed to give the same sensation as an actual earthquake.  Once in the theater I was almost delirious with anticipation.  When the first shakes hit the screen and the weird vibration started and ran thru my chest with a deep rumbling sound, nothing remotely seemed realistic, at least not to me.  It all seemed so fake, so Hollywood.  I was extremely disappointed in both the film and the supposedly super effects added via Sensurround.  Later that year the movie received an Academy Award for the Sensurround effect.  It was then that I decided that the Academy Awards were nothing more than a popularity contest.

 

Fast forward six years.  On vacation in California and in a small motel along a boulder choked river in the Sierra's with massive peaks all around us.  Sound asleep, I was awakened but a weird shaking of the bed that grew in intensity.  I woke up Cindy, or rather she worked up, too.  I watched the lamp on the night stand start walking toward the edge and grabbed it.  My change, wallet and keys had already walked off the same nightstand and had fallen to the floor.  We looked at each other and both asked, "What the heck is going on?"  I blurted out that the sound was really weird, just like in that movie, uh, Earthquake!  Then I almost yelled out loud, "Those guys did deserve that Academy Award!"  It is an EARTHQUAKE!!!!  My mind was thinking, "OK, we are in a canyon along a river with boulders all in the river and those boulders came DOWN from the walls of the canyon into the river from some outside influence, like maybe an earthquake???  What does one do?  I laid there and waited for a rock the size of a large truck to come rolling thru our room.  Nothing happened.

 

Later that morning we found out the epicenter was some 50 miles away and that it was a relatively small earthquake by California standards, only 5.8 but exciting enough for this cowboy.

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) earthquake sensurround http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/11/what-was-that Thu, 19 Nov 2015 14:34:30 GMT
Just a Book? http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/10/just-a-book

When is a book more than just its cover and content?  Read on...

1977 and I was a neophyte photography, lover of wilderness and living in New Jersey, a temporary assignment for a couple of years.  I was absorbing everything I could find about photography.  Our local camera store in Bound Brook, had a nice collection of books.  One title caught my eye.  Wilderness Photography by Boyd Norton.  Wilderness AND Photography in one title?  Perfect.  Boyd Norton?  Never heard of him but the book looked good on the shelf.  I parted with the $7+ and turned a corner in my life.  The book was perfect, perfect for me.  I read it, maybe three times in about two weeks.  "This guy, Norton, knows what he is talking about", kept running thru my head.  I told my wife, "I will meet this guy somehow."  That was 1977.  Fast forward to late 1978.  The company sold the business I was running in New Jersey, moved us to Denver and set me up in the R&D group doing development on new products.  I was putting up photos in my office when my secretary commented that my images were very nice and that the lady who ran the R&D library was married to a photographer.  I didn't give it a second thought except that I knew Boyd Norton lived near Denver.  Could it be?  No, not a chance.  Two days later I was in the library.  I did notice that the lady discussed earlier had a name plate on her desk but it was out of view.  I had to maneuver around the stacks on her desk to get a good look and DAMN!  It said "Barbara Norton"!  NORTON!  Could it be?  I walked up, introduced myself and asked, "Is your husbands name Boyd?"  "Why yes!  Do you know him?"  "No, but I have one of his books and it is absolutely the best book on photography I have ever read and I want to meet him and could we have dinner some time and where do you live and what type of food do you guys like and does he do any teaching and would he even talk to me?"  I am certain I didn't ask all those questions but they were running rampant in my head.  We did eventually meet for dinner at my house a few weeks later.  The following year, I attended one of Boyd's workshops and absolutely grew leaps and bounds in my photographic skills.  That workshop was a true turning point in my life.  I was in tears when the week was over.  I begged my wife to let me go again the following year.  Two kids, a mortgage, cars needing work and tires and I wanted to spend money on a photo workshop?!?!?  Two weeks after the workshop and my wife and I were in the process of figuring out how we could afford another one.  Boyd called.  He actually commented on how much he enjoyed having me work with some of the beginners.  Then, not missing a beat, he asked me to be an assistant at his workshop in Wyoming the following year.  I was floored, almost didn't say anything.  The next year, I joined Boyd in the Snowy Range for a week long workshop.  For the next 12 years we did workshops together in both Wyoming and Colorado catering to clients such as Smithsonian Tours. During those twelve years, Boyd became very busy with international assignments and he really didn't have time for devote to workshops.  Boyd reluctantly had to drop them from his schedule.  I was rather sad but also very busy as my own photo business was quite busy in addition to holding a full time position in tech sales.

 

What's in a book you ask?  In my case, it was a monumental change in my photographic skills and a switch in my outlook on conservation and life.  Today?  Boyd and I are great friends and are doing workshops together again on an exceptional ranch in Wyoming.  Check us out....

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) Boyd Norton camera photography wilderness workshops http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/10/just-a-book Mon, 12 Oct 2015 13:34:49 GMT
Micro 4/3rd's, Second Trip Completed - Scotland http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/9/micro-4/3rds-second-trip-completed It was inevitable!  The world of photography has changed once again.  I made my second trip with only the little Panasonic GX-7 and Olympus OMD-E-M10 plus four lenses.  The whole deal with spare batteries, chargers and a few other staples for digital photography weighed less than my Canon 5DIII, Vertical Grip and 70-200/2.8L IS lens combined.  The weight savings is amazing.  For lenses I carried the AMAZING Olympus 7-14/2.8 Pro lens, the Olympus 14-42, Panasonic 14-42 and the Olympus 40-150/4-5.6 plus a set of cute little extension tubes.  For those who do not know about the M4/3 cameras, the lenses are interchangeable as are the strobes.  Both Panasonic and Olympus make the bodies as well as lenses and you can mix and match as you please, sort of.  The big difference is the Image Stabilization process of the two companies is quite different.  Panasonic has a simple body IS system and a remarkable lens IS system.  Olympus relies on a very robust and functional body IS system.  Given a choice, I prefer the Olympus system.  Of the 3000+ images I shot during the nine days on the ground in Scotland, 75% were shot with the Olympus.  There are other things I liked about the Olympus body versus the Panasonic but are more just a personal preference for the interface than an actual difference in performance.  I will say that the Olympus performs much better at high ISO, working well all the way up to 6400.  With the Panasonic, I stuck to shooting at ISO 1000 or less.

 

The sensors in M4/3's cameras are half the size of what is in my Canon 5DIII so the crop factor is 2X.  This is a good thing on telephotos and not so good on wide angle.  At 2X, the lenses I carried were the equivalent in focal length from 14mm at the wide end to 300 mm at the long end.  I found this range adequate but sometimes wished for a little more reach, not badly enough to carry the heavy Canon gear for some of the treks we were on.  The great news is that the lighter equipment let me carry my Sirui carbon fiber tripod, a smaller and much lighter version of the tripod I use for the Canon equipment.  It is nice to have a small backpack with that much shooting power and be able to carry it so easily.  I will be expanding this system a little with the addition of more telephoto capability but not adding much to the weight as well as a newer body (once the newest version is released).

 

One of the beauties of the two camera systems is their ability to shoot HD video.  The newer Panasonic bodies are moving into 4K video, a plus for some people but not for me just yet.  What was really impressive was the Image Stabilization on the Olympus when shooting video.  It is almost like shooting with a full blown steady cam!!!  Hand holding is just unheard of in the world of video without some sort of steadying device.  I could hand hold with either system but the Olympus was just better.  

 

What did I miss?  Neither system does active focus very well.  While the Canon system can lock onto a bird in flight and keep it in focus as you shoot, the M4/3's equipment I own is just not there yet.  I have read that the latest versions have been improved drastically in this regard but have not tested them yet.  If they ever do reach that point, I might seriously look at selling my larger Canon gear!

 

How well did the equipment perform?  Take a look at the images and you decide.

 

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/9/micro-4/3rds-second-trip-completed Thu, 10 Sep 2015 02:02:14 GMT
Shutter Speed and a Waterfall http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/shutter-speed-and-a-waterfall I shot a sequence of photos of a waterfall in Wyoming last week to demonstrate the changes in appearance of the flowing water at various shutter speeds.

 

1/250th - 1/125th - 1/60th - 1/30th - 1/15th - 1/8th and 1/4 second respectfully  

 

With my camera firmly mounted on a tripod I varied the aperture value to give me single step shutter speed changes from 1/250th second to 1/4 of a second.  The changes in appearance are quite easy to see and should help you pick a combination you want to use for moving water and waterfalls.

 

 

 

1/250th

1/250th of a secondBrooklyn Waterfall in the Absaroka Range of Wyoming. Canon 5DIII and Canon 70-200/2.8L IS lens on a Feisol Tripod and Feisol Ballhead

 

 

 

1/125th

1/125th of a second

 

 

1/60th

1/60th of a second

 

 

1/30th

1/30th

 

 

 

1/15th

1/15th

 

 

 

 

1/8th

1/8th

 

 

 

1/4 second

1/4 second

 

 

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/shutter-speed-and-a-waterfall Sun, 26 Jul 2015 14:52:13 GMT
Mirrorless Cameras - The Standing 8 Count is On http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/mirrorless-cameras---the-standing-8-count-is-on At a little over 18 months of experimenting with various mirrorless cameras, things are shaking out well.  My first attempt at mirrorless was the Canon "M", a little guy that required an adapter to use my existing line of Canon lenses.  Not a big deal but the camera was somewhat disappointing for its intended use.  I had high hopes to use the camera for video.  The focus controls were less than stellar.  Turns out that Canon has released a new line of lenses called STM, to use for continuous focussing in video mode.  That sort of defeated my original intent of not having to have a second set of lenses for a different brand (I was thinking specifically of Sony).  About a year ago, I rented a Panasonic GX-7 for five days.  On day three, I ordered my own and a couple of lenses.  Turns out that the little thing had numerous features that were easy to access, time lapse as well as regular HD video, panorama and some other artistic modes that I didn't really bother to explore much, preferring to do those in post processing, but it performed extremely well except in low light and high ISO (above 1000).

Panasonic GX-7

 

 

This year I added an Olympus-D E-M10 for its unique built in camera body stabilization.  More on that later in comparisons.

Olympus E-M10

 

The nice thing about the Olympus and the Panasonic is they share a common lens mount and electrical connections, Micro 4/3rds.  Sounds impressive but there is more to it than that.  Impressively the lenses from Olympus work on the Panasonic and vice versa.  There is one hitch.  Panasonic relies heavily on lenses with stabilization while the Olympus line prefers to use camera body stabilization.  The Olympus 40-150 lens on the Olympus allows video use, basically hand held.  On the Panasonic?  You need a tripod or the videos are very shaky.  OK, so the lenses physically fit each others bodies and autofocus as well as respond to all the normal aperture settings but they are not what I would call "Totally Compatible".  For still images, they both perform quite well no matter which body is used.

In some instances I prefer manual focus, shooting grandkids baseball games thru the chainlink fence for example.  On the Panasonic there is a simple switch to select manual or autofocus.  On the Olympus, it is in a menu; a plus for the Olympus.  As long as we are discussing menus, I will say that the Panasonic menu items are larger in the screen and easier to read for my "Old Man Eyes" while the Olympus font is smaller.  This has not really been an issue as long as I have my glasses which I hopefully always do!

Both cameras have access to a touch screen which works well for setting up ISO, Shutter Speeds, etc.  The Panasonic seems little more intuitive but maybe it that is because I have had it for a year!

Both cameras have eye-level EVF's (electronic viewfinders).  The Panasonic viewfinder tilts up to 90 degrees to act as a sort of low level finder.  Both cameras have tilt out screens, not swivel but tilting on one plane.

As a test, I just returned from a couple of weeks on the Oregon Coast using only my mirrorless cameras.  I did bring along my Canon 5DIII and several big boy "L" lenses as a security blanket but these never came out of the pack.  How well did the little guys perform?  Below is a slide show of a lot of images done with the cameras.  Are these cameras everything I want in a camera?  Almost but not quite.  I wish they had better active focus systems to follow action better and focused faster.  My guess is that they will work for 95% of what I shoot and maybe even all of what I shoot if I invest in the top-of-the-line camera bodies instead of the mid-range equipment.

 

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) Olympus Panasonic mirrorless photography review http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/7/mirrorless-cameras---the-standing-8-count-is-on Tue, 07 Jul 2015 21:50:11 GMT
Travel - The Genetics of Packing http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/4/travel---the-genetics-of-packing Genetically, I came from some part of the human tree that traveled light and moved swiftly.  My wife came from a different branch, let's just call it the "Noah Branch" for it involves bringing two of almost everything.  I am not sure which is right or wrong but I can tell you that for a two week trip, I can be ready to go in about 40 minutes, tops.  Others, not so quickly.  My wife is one of those, not so quickly types.  Her genetic line made lists and then lists of the lists.  I need to slow down and make lists as well but I can't seem to bring myself to do it.  For a trip to Tanzania, I need certain drugs, clothes and camera gear.  If I am short on clothes?  The places we go have sinks, water and soap and I can wash in the evenings, no big deal.  Where do I make a list? Camera Gear.  That is what seems to me to be my focus, if you will allow that term.  Drugs?  We need certain things to stay healthy, keep the foreign critters from invading and doing harm so those should be on a list.  Back to clothes for a minute; I am quite certain that my shirts and pants do not match; never have; never will.  So far, no lion, cheetah, elephant or other wildlife has noticed OR complained.  Maybe it is this way with most ladies, but my wife worries about such things.  Thankfully she has learned not to point out that my socks are blue and my shoes are brown.  She knows it is insignificant to me.  The fact that I have socks and shoes on is enough for me.  She always looks great, and for that I am glad.  In many years of marriage none of her style and attention to detail has rubbed off.

 

My better half does a superb job of packing, bringing large varieties of stuff in small batch quantities so that they are not noticed until I need something that I forgot.  Then there she is, Johnny on the spot, helping me with whatever I left out of my travel gear.  I am envious.  Will I change?  Doubt it.  Can I change?  Doubt it.  You see, I am genetically preprogrammed to not get too carried away with packing.  If I had been in charge of packing for the moon landing in 1969, they might have arrived without oxygen or toilet paper or something like that.  What's really odd is that admittedly, I am a packrat.  I find stuff that people are throwing out and I grab it "just in case".  Why doesn't that carry over to travel and packing?  I am no psychologist.  I have no idea.  The two afflictions seem perfectly normal to me and should operate independently of each other.  Having a garage or basement full of others castaways seems perfectly normal.  Having a list of things to remember for a trip?  Well, this may sound odd, but that concept seems almost absurd.

 

We depart in less than two days.  My bag has been closed for two days.  My wife's?  Maybe things will start going into her bag tonight but probably not finished until late tomorrow.  

 

Thank goodness she covers for my shortcomings...

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/4/travel---the-genetics-of-packing Wed, 08 Apr 2015 21:39:13 GMT
NANPA Summit http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/2/nanpa-summit I just got back from the NANPA Summit in San Diego last night.  It was a grueling drive out there and back punctuated by some exceptional scenery along the way. I was a member of NANPA years ago but never did anything with the group.  Nothing, nada, zero, zip.  Last year I decided to join again and attend the meeting in San Diego.  I posted various things on Facebook about the meeting and the experience but nothing that really explained what the experience really felt like.  Was it expensive?  Yes and no.  I found it hard to justify many years ago when I first joined, not financially but time wise.  I was working full time, had limited vacation and was going to Tanzania with my time off.  NANPA and the summit seemed out of reach.

 

Now with sufficient time, the funds are somewhat limited.  First, let me say that this was a superb experience.  Although I felt like I was on the outside, there were many there with us that I spoke to who felt the same way.  Attending a meeting of a group doesn't necessarily get you "involved".  I really liked what I saw and heard at the summit.  Will I go again?  A lot depends on what happens over the next two years, as the summit is held every-other-year.  If I have the funds, yes, I will go.  Will I have the funds?  Who knows??  Being retired does have some serious drawbacks on the financial side but not on the time side!  I have had some questions about the "value" and "justification" for the cost to attend versus using the money to purchase more equipment.  I have no way of answering that for anyone.  I will say that after listening to Dewitt Jones' program the first night, that I am probably encumbered with too much equipment.  There are times I might need to upgrade to get better processing speed but I literally have too much to carry with me on most trips.  We all go through lulls in creativity.  There are times I wonder what the heck am I doing with all this stuff and spending my money on cameras, lenses, tripods and trips. Then I snap out of it and keep on creating.  I reached one of those lulls where I felt brain dead when it came to photography.  Half way to San Diego I was wondering "Why a I doing this?"  Two hours of sitting and listening to Dewitt answered that question for me; I love to create, I feel at home in the natural world and I need an artistic outlet.  

 

I know the expense of attending this meeting was fairly high but I also know the expense of sitting at home and always wondering, "Should I have gone?"  As for involvement? I have committed to run a NANPA Meet-up Group in the Great Plains.  The group will meet once a month to do photo outings, dinner, lunch, a photo walk, etc.  What else?  It depends on what the group wants to do together.  I also committed to one other part of the "team" that I will work into later this year after Tanzania.

 

Who were the speakers?

Dewitt Jones

Flip Nicklin

Steve Winter

Nevada Wier

Frans Lanting

 

These were the Keynote Speakers!  In addition, there were numerous sessions put on by both photographers and equipment suppliers.  I was able to attend seven of these and found them to be mostly brilliant and VERY informative.  The topics were varied from video production to book manufacturing.  Krysta Schlyer, Suzi Esterhas, Ellen Anon, Kathy Adams Clark, Ron Rosentstock, Jennifer Wu and many others!  I also bought a couple of books, one form Suzi Esterhas and one from Frans Lanting:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you decide whether it is worth it or not?  I have no idea.  For me, I needed this spark of creativity and to be around so many exceptional people AND photographers at one time is simply amazing.  The exhibit hall was filled almost wall to wall with:

 

Acratech, Inc.
Arizona Highway Photo Workshops
Astro Hutech
B&H Photo, Video, Pro Audio
Cognisys, Inc.
Datacolor
Daymen (Lowepro/Joby)
EIZO Inc.
Friesens
Holbrook Travel
Hunt’s Photo and Video
KEH Camera
LEE Filters
Lens Flipper by GoWing
Magna Chrome
Midwest Camera Repair
MindShift Gear
Mix – Camerawerx

 

 

My wife made me give her my credit card before I could go in!  Not on the list was Canon and Nikon.  Loved to see the new 11-24L lens from Canon as well as the 5Ds.

More Photos
MK Controls, Inc
Panasonic
Paxis
Piper Mackay Photography
Red River Paper
Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours
Samy’s Camera
Sigma
Strabo Photo Tour Collection
Swarovski Optik
Tamron, Inc. 
Tandayapa Bird Lodge
Think-Eleven
Tropical Birding Tours
Wimberley
Wacom

 

 

 

Will I go back?  Hard to say but I sure want to if for no other reason than to get inspired again.

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/2/nanpa-summit Wed, 25 Feb 2015 19:56:53 GMT
Shoot a LOT! http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/shoot-a-lot I keep hearing that shooting a lot of photos will improve your abilities.  I am not sure I buy that as a way to improve.  Maybe if you wrote down all the settings or at least reviewed them when looking at your images, maybe, but who is going to do that?  Not many people, that's for sure.  With film you could not afford to just go out and "shoot a bunch" of photos.  You had to learn another way, the right way.  Go way back to hand held meters that I started with and see what decisions you are faced with just to take your first exposure.

A hand held meter shows many choices.  It is up to the photographer to figure out which combination works the best for the situation you are facing.   The meter here is offering several choices, f/2.8 @ 1/500 or maybe f/8 @ 1/60 or even f/16 @ 1/15.  All of those choices deliver the same amount of light to your sensor.  Which one is the correct setting?  They all are but they are ALL dependent on the subject, too!  To me, learning to shoot using a hand held meter was the real key to understanding photography but it still didn't improve my images.  I still lumbered along with good exposures and the death of field I wanted but the images were still lacking.  

 

My mom thought my photos were great but as anyone understands, your own mom always thinks what you do is great.  I kept shooting away thinking that the difference between my photos and those I was seeing in the magazines was some secret filter or special film, some trick that those of us on the outside would never understand.  After almost 5 years of shooting and doing self evaluations I was convinced that no amount of anything was going to improve my photos.  Then I met Boyd Norton.  I had read a book of his, Wilderness Photography, and set a goal of meeting him.  By chance I moved to a new job in a new state and into a new office.  Across the hall in the Research Library was a lady named Barbara Norton who's husband was rumored to be a photographer.  I introduced myself and set the machinery in motion.  Boyd and Barb came to my house, he looked at my images, commented that they were good but just needed some polishing then suggested I attend one of his workshops.  I did just that about 9 months later.  I was amazed at what changes took place.  I started looking at things differently.  All of a sudden the world was a different place to me.  I understood the differences in how we perceive what is in front of us versus how the camera freezes it into submission.  If there was a "lightbulb" day, it was the second day of the workshop.  The choice of lenses AND position made such a huge difference in how perspective was rendered.  Understanding near-far relationships became obvious, something I had not considered as a control point in my images.

 

At some point I went home, the week was over, and I was upset.  Upset that I had spent almost 7 years shooting snapshots and not doing photography (there is a difference).  I wanted to go back to some of those places and reshoot with my new vision.  That will probably never happen and even if I did go back, the scene, mood and lighting would be different.  I vowed to move forward, concentrating on using what I had learned at the workshop, to open my eyes AND my brain when setting up a photograph.  I read as much as I could about composition.  I tore pages out of magazines of images that I really loved and spent hours looking at them and analyzing where the light was coming from, what lens was used, the position of the elements in the images; all of those things that attracted me to the photograph in the first place.  Some 35 years later, I still have a file folder with those images, the ones that I poured over to see how the photographer worked to turn them into magic.  I suppose I will throw them out or my kids will someday but they represent part of my learning curve.

 

When I see someone suggest that to improve your photos just go out and shoot a lot more, I cringe.  If shear volume were the only magic, then all semi-serious digital photographers would be superb.  Just like in golf, "Practice doesn't make perfect; only perfect practice makes PERFECT!"

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) camera lenses meters photography training workshop http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/shoot-a-lot Sat, 10 Jan 2015 03:49:10 GMT
Albert Casel Feemster http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/albert-casel-feemster Albert Casel Feemster

Born 28th of May 1889 in Mineral Springs, Arkansas

Died 16th of June 1972 in Shawnee, Oklahoma

My maternal grandfather was named Albert Casel Feemster.  I distinctly remember getting to the farm in Oklahoma when I was about 6 and running out into the field to walk with him while he plowed behind his team of horses.  That was in the early 1950's, a long time ago but way past the point that most farmers were using tractors to plow.  Albert never owned a tractor that I am aware of.  I also remember a photo hanging on the wall of the old farmhouse.  Inside the oval frame was a photo of him in his World War One uniform.  I was so proud of having a grandpa who was a war hero.  I asked him several times about what he did in the war.  He would only lower his head, shake it and say, "Nothing."  He never talked about it, never elaborated on it at all.  He told my grandmother, whom he married after returning from France and being Honorably Discharged, a few stories about it.  My mom knew, too, probably from grandma.  Mom told me about his unit from Arkansas arriving in England, doing some rudimentary training then leaving for France and the front lines.  Once ashore in France, he came down with the Measles, a devastating disease back in 1918.  He was loaded back onto a ship and sent back to a hospital in England.  A couple of weeks later he was shipped back to France only to find out that most of his outfit had been killed in a poisonous gas attack.  Mom told me about this several years after he had passed away.  Mom also gave me a group photo of my grandpa and his outfit in Arkansas before they shipped out.

Third from the right - Middle RowAlbert Casel Feemster It is really painful to think that all those guys around him never came back to the USA after the war.  I scanned the large 10" x 36" panorama image in sections, recombined it in Photoshop and cleaned up some stains and deterioration it had seen over the years.  I put one small scanned section on here so that it is easier to find grandpa in his position in the group, third from the right in the middle section in the blow up.  The photo has his unit name and information about them.  I also have other photos of him before they left for England, but none grab me like this group photo.  I find it hard to deal with the cruelty of that war and the true lack of information about it.  I did spend several hours at the World War One Museum in Kansas City learning more about the tragedy of those who served there in absolutely horrid conditions.  I highly recommend a trip to Kansas City and a visit to that museum for anyone with even the slightest interest.  And if you are in Kansas City, by all means go see it. Below are other images of my grandpa before he shipped out.

In the photo of the fake train, my grandpa was standing in the center.  The two photos below that are of him overseas posing for a photo before heading to the front as well as him with his best friend at a studio for a photo before shipping out to France.  His best friend was killed at the front.  Before departing for Europe he married my grandmother who's maiden name was Baber (for this who are into genealogy).  I attended one Baber reunion with my mom and dad several years ago shortly after mom had her stroke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Below are two photos of my grandparents together in a buggy a week before they got married and one from their wedding day.  There is a formal photo of them with their first two children, my mom, Alberta and my aunt, Pauline.  Below that is a photo of the entire family, L to R, Irving, Pauline, Grandma, Grandpa and my mom, Alberta.  Also included is a photo of them on their 50th Wedding Anniversary at the Dale Methodist Church in Dale, Oklahoma.  Below that, Albert Casel Feemster's Honorable Discharge Papers following the end of World War One.  Grandma and Grandma Feemster and their two daughtersMy mom, Alberta, is the oldest and tallest of the four children followed by Pauline, sitting on grandpa's lap. The Whole FamilyL to R, Irving, Pauline, Grandma, Grandpa, Arvel and my mom, Alberta Grandpa and Grandma50th Wedding Anniversary Dale Methodist Church Dale, Oklahoma

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) Baber Family Feemster History One WWI War World http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2015/1/albert-casel-feemster Wed, 07 Jan 2015 04:02:56 GMT
First Lion http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/first-lion  

I think everyone who goes to East Africa on a Photo Safari remembers their first lion in the wild.  I certainly do!  It is burned deep into my memory banks and exists as a series of slides exposed in the early dawn light.

 

We had flown for what seems like several days to get to Arusha, spent the night and then boarded a small aircraft to make the 90 minute flight to Seronera Airstrip in Central Serengeti.  Tanzania is a wild landscape viewed from above for the first time but the features were largely unrecognizable, this being our first trip.  We were met at the airstrip, loaded up into our vehicles and headed out on a game drive while our luggage was delivered to camp at a place called Naabi Hill.  We saw a variety of wildlife right at the "terminal"; zebra, gazelles, an odd little rat-like thing called a hyrax and a pile of pygmy mongoose rolling and tumbling along an abandoned termite mound.  In less than 30 minutes we were in close proximity to a number of elephants, several hippos and giraffes.  We got to camp in the late afternoon where the ground rules were explained.

The camp at Naabi Hill was down on the flats but backed up to the hillside.  The hillside was shrouded in acacia trees that escaped down the hill and filled in some voids in and around the tents.  The rules were simple:  "After dinner and our time around the campfire, we would be escorted to our tents by one of the camp staff. Do not come out of your tent at night without calling for a staff person to meet you in front of the tent.  We would be awakened the next morning for breakfast and escorted to the dining tent.  This is Africa, after all and the wildlife has the right-of-way.

I was good with the rules.  Seemed simple enough but so far I had not seen anything that looked like it could harm a person.  Promptly at 5:30 AM we were awakened as planned and headed to breakfast.  Afterwards we loaded up our camera gear and headed out from the camp just as the sun was coming up.  The sun was just glinting thru the trees as we pulled away.

After driving for at least 200 yards our driver stopped and asked if we wanted photos of a lion.  I jumped up and asked, "Where?"  The driver pointed back to the left side of the Rover and there he was, a magnificent male nestled back into the foliage with perfect light.  My first LION!

Do I remember that morning?  Absolutely!  I had figured that lions and other predators would not come near Naabi Hill with all the human activity going on with our camp and the HQ buildings located on top.  I figured WRONG!  Glad I wasn't interested in a morning walk.

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) Colorado Hill Naabi Tanzania antique camp lion photography rover tents http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/first-lion Tue, 23 Dec 2014 03:22:31 GMT
Which One? http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/which-one I must have inherited the gene, you know, the story telling gene.  My paternal grandfather had it.  My maternal grandmother had it.  My dad had it and so does his brother, my uncle.  There is one good thing about that gene, it keeps family stories alive.

 

When our son was just a baby, still in diapers, we took him to meet my maternal grandmother, Grandma Feemster.  She was anxious to meet her first great-grandson and we lived about 5 hours away.  As soon as things settled down with such a small baby, we made the drive from North Texas to Central Oklahoma.  Grandma was elated to have her photo taken with him and to hold and rock him in her favorite chair.  After a few hours together, the room took on a certain aroma not unlike an outhouse.  Yep, time for a diaper change.  As Cindy was doing the diaper change, Grandma Feemster told one of her funniest stories.

 

"Once we were driving from the farm here in Oklahoma back to Mena, Arkansas in our Model "A".  Of course the roads were just dirt and wound around all thru the  hills in Southeastern Oklahoma.  That old car was loaded with all four kids plus me and your Grandpa.  Somewhere along the way, your Uncle Irving, who was just a baby, did number two in his diaper.  Your Grandpa stopped along a creek so I could wash out the diaper.  When I unfolded the diaper, I was looking at the messiest number two I had ever seen.  I looked at your Grandpa and asked, 'Should I just throw it away?' and without hesitation he looked back at me and said, "Which one? The baby or the diaper?  You know that kid will do that again.""

 

We both broke up laughing.  What a funny story.  I just had to pass this one along.

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/which-one Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:37:46 GMT
Need for Photography - Part 2 http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-photography---part-2 With several weddings and a few portraits under my belt working for Allen Crenshaw at his studio in Denison, Texas, I felt fairly confident in photographing more people.  Allen and I had also done some amazing things with the historic side of photography but my full time job was calling.  We pulled up stakes and moved to New Jersey, of all places.  It was a two year assignment and I figured my only chance to visit the Northeast US.  Our little town was a short train ride away from New York City.  My wife was thinking about Broadway, plays, museums and sites to see.   I was thinking B&H Photo, Adorama and all the other camera stores!  We spent many Sundays cruising to the various camera stores and buying used equipment to grow my arsenal.

 

I was thinking I wanted to teach basic photography classes but was not sure I knew the correct flow, the lesson plan to keep it organized.  Cindy and I signed up for a basic photography course being taught by a local professional there in New Jersey.  I took extensive notes, learned a few things, but my goal was to get a good outline so I could do the same.  My job in New Jersey was very time intensive so I had very little free time but we did manage to get out and visit the states in the area, all except Rhode Island.  Missed that one for a few years.  We put a darkroom in the basement of the old house we bought there and I get to get my hands in the soup again.  I found a local camera store to keep my darkroom supplied giving me a pastime between long work hours.  One day, while at the local camera shop, I stumbled across a new book, "Wilderness Photography" by Boyd Norton.  I had never heard of him but flipping thru it, I was intrigued.  Bought it and read it.  I read it several times.  Seemed strange to read an instructional book more than once but this was a special book, an outline for field photography far from the comfort of your vehicle and an overlook.  I loved that book and have to admit that I read it maybe 4 times while living in New Jersey.  I wanted to meet Boyd.  He seemed like the type of person I would understand and get along with but he lived in Colorado.  I was in New Jersey.  At the end of that two year assignment the business in New Jersey was sold and I was offered a position in Denver.  Having lived in Colorado once before, we jumped at the chance to move back west and to the Rockies.

 

To make extra money for new camera gear, we shot weddings and portraits.  I also started teaching basic photography, doing small workshops and leading photo outings.  I had a fairly good following among several camera clubs in the Denver area and usually filled the classes.   I also got paid to do classes for some of the clubs at their meetings, basic 90 minute sessions.  Things were going well and I had my new office out in the foothills west of Denver working in a research center. 

 

My office at work had bare walls.  It needed photographs, my photographs.  I put up 5 or 6 images and got some nice compliments.  I was also told by the office manager that there was a lady working in the Research Library who's husband was a photographer.  I didn't think much of it but the next time I was in the library I looked around and found a name plate on the desk of Barbara NORTON!  I walked up to her and introduced myself and asked if her husband's name was Boyd?  She said, "Why, Yes!  Do you know him?"  I answered, "No, but I would love to meet him."  We made arrangements to have dinner together sometime soon.  WOW!  What kind of luck was that?  We invited Boyd and Barb to our house for dinner one Saturday evening.  I had forgotten that Cindy had to work that Saturday and would not be home until about 6.  Boyd and Barb were going to be at our house about 6:30 so I would have to cook.  I really wanted to make a great first impression with a superb dinner, so about two that afternoon, I started on the cooking.  The area we lived in had a lot of new construction going on with houses springing up all over the place.  About 2:15 the power went off.  The range and oven were electric.  I figured it would be OK, the power would come back on any minute; this had happened before.  About 5 with still no power, I went out onto our deck and fired up the gas grill.  Eventually, I cooked the entire meal on the gas grill including baking bread in a cast iron dutch oven set inside the grill.  I met Boyd and Barb out in the front yard with a camping lantern.  We ate by candlelight, flashlight and whatever else we had that could put off light.  Boyd walked around the inside of the house with a lantern looking at my images.  About 9 pm, the power came back on.  Great first impression!  Boyd made several comments about my photos then recommended that I attend one of his workshops.  I really wanted to do that.  I got info on his workshops and found the one I wanted.  It was held in Colorado at a ranch near Steamboat Springs.  The price was $1200 (1983 dollars). That was a lot for our growing family of four.  I signed up anyway at the urging of Cindy.

 

The workshop was scheduled for May, Springtime in the Rockies.  Boyd said I could ride up and back with him.  With a couple of six packs on ice we started the three hour drive up to the ranch.  We had also laid in provisions of jerky but that was gone by the time we got to Granby.  Had to stop for gas anyway and the convenience store sold some great elk jerky.  We were on our way.  Boyd had an "assistant" at the workshop, Les Line, editor of Audubon magazine.  I was totally impressed.  About a year earlier I had bought a very old 500mm lens, a 1968 vintage Soligor 500 f/5 with a massive lens cap, sort of like a medium sized dog dish.  I had tested that lens and it was sharp, very sharp.  I took it along.  The first day of the workshop, we were given an assignment, "Photograph Spring", and told to turn in our images by Friday afternoon, 10 - 12 slides depicting the subject.  I brought out my lenses and F-1's.  Les looked at the 500 and said, "You just haul that around to show off.  You don't really use it do you?" I said, "Les, I am going to shoot my assignment with three lenses, the 500, my 20mm and a 50 macro."  We made a little side bet that I could not do the assignment with only three lenses and definitely not the 500mm monster.  We had overnight service on slide developing by a lab in Denver.  Every morning someone from the ranch drove the film to the Steamboat airport where it was put into a courier bag and flown to be picked up in Denver.  Every afternoon, the processed film was returned to Steamboat the same way.  That was speedy!  See what you are missing shooting digital?

 

Friday afternoon came and we turned in our images.  Each person had slots to put their slides into in a tray.  Not knowing who's images he was reviewing, Les ran thru all the images a couple of times, once fast and the second time more slowly.  He finally said, "If I were picking a group of slides for the magazine, it would be this set.  Who's are these?"  I raised my hand.  He looked at me and said, "Uh oh.  We had a side bet didn't we?"  I said, "Yep!"  He went thru the images one at a time and said, "500, 50, 500, 20, 20, 500..." until he had seen them all.  Then he looked at me and said, "You shot the entire assignment with those three lenses."  I replied, "That's what I said I was going to do."  He just shook his head and said, "Great job."  I was elated.  Not only had he liked my images the best but I had done what I told him I was going to do that first day.

 

Saturday was "Light Table day".  We had been told to bring slide sheets from home, representative of our photography for review on the light table with Les.  Les Line was a hardened editor.  He had seen so many images that unless it struck him between the eyes, he would pass over some good images.  He also was very frank about his comments, sometimes almost cruel.  Several people were almost in tears coming out of the sessions on Saturday.  After about 6 people came thru the process and emerged, we looked at their faces  and were all afraid to go in, fearing that we would be told to take up knitting or worse.  My time came.  I walked in with my folder full of slide sheets, laid them on the table next to Les.  He looked at me and said, "I don't need to look at yours."  I was shocked and afraid of what was next.  Geeze, should I sell my gear and find another hobby?  What the heck was he saying?  I looked at Les inquisitively and he said, "Your images are excellent.  Too bad you live in Colorado.  I get tons of photographs of Colorado, the Rockies, the mountains and the west and if I see another image taken in Yosemite I am going to scream!"  I asked what he meant about me living in Colorado.  He replied, "There is so much going on in the plains, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and I can't find a good photographer there.  They all want to shoot in Colorado.  If you lived in the plains, I would give you an assignment today!"  I was really floored.  Me?  An assignment from Audubon magazine?  I had a new lease on life and on photography.

 

The workshop ended.  I was really down.  I had just spent one of the greatest weeks of my life at that workshop and it was over.  I wanted to go back.  How to come up with the money?  I needed more photo equipment.  The car needed new tires.  The kids needed new shoes, clothes, school supplies.  Cindy and I decided to set aside some money every month for Boyd's Wyoming workshop the next year.  The Wyoming workshop was held in a much more rustic setting and was much cheaper, less than $800 for the weeklong event.  About three weeks after getting home from the Steamboat workshop, Boyd called me and said, "I really liked the way you helped some of the less experienced photographers at the workshop."  I replied, "It was fun.  I like teaching the basic stuff."  He replied, "I want you to go to my Wyoming workshop next year."  I said, "We were just discussing it and how to save money so I could go."  Boyd said, "I want you to be my assistant."  Wow!  Now that was an honor but I still wondered if I could afford it so I asked, "How much will it cost?"  Boyd replied, "Maybe you don't understand, but I am going to pay you."  That didn't immediately sink in.  Getting paid to do something you love?  How weird is that???  I would have paid part of my way just to be there but here is a strange deal, getting paid to go to a workshop.  I was both shocked and honored.  To be really honest, I didn't want to scream out loud but this was just too good to be true.  Boyd and I talked it over and made a deal!

I have many vivid memories of those workshops in Wyoming.  They were, quite simply, a BLAST.  We, Boyd and I, worked together well as a team.  I did a lot of the field stuff and some classroom and Boyd did the serious classroom and some of the field instruction.  We built on each others strengths and gave not only first rate photo instruction but also a great experience.  The Wyoming Workshops were held at a place called the University of the Wilderness in the Snowy Range.  Back then, the Snowy Range was a little know place that thousands of people drove right past on their way to Yellowstone and the Tetons.  Most people had no clue what they were missing.  Only a few hours from Denver, it was almost the private playground of the folks in Laramie and the University of Wyoming.  The road across the Snowy Range is closed in the winter and for good reason!  The place gets pounded with feet of snow.  The road really suffers and is worked on almost annually which brings up a really funny moment.  The lodge we used had no real plumbing except for the kitchen.  There was a central bathhouse with 6 showers.  On the door outside was a holder with a sign marked "Men" on one side and "Women" on the other.  if no one was inside, the sign was in a pocket on the door.  If a man went inside, you just pulled out the sign and hung it with "Men" showing.  When you left, you put the sign back.  One evening about 5pm one of our male workshop participants went to take a shower, set up the sign and got undressed and into the huge open shower area.  A few minutes into his shower he heard other showers turning on and knew he had been joined.  Washing the soap out of his hair, he opened his eyes and there were four nice looking young ladies in there showering with him.  OH GEEZE!  He turned away from them, rinsed off and got out.  He checked the door and sure enough it said, "Men".

 

That evening at dinner he told about what had happened to him in the shower.  The lodge manager started laughing.  It seems the road crew sign girls (Slow signs) were all coeds at the University of Wyoming up working on the highway that summer and wanted to shower before going to a party down in Laramie.  The lodge manager had sent them to the shower house without thinking that one of us would be in there.  He also failed to explain the sign protocol.  We all thought it was funny but you could see the envy in every man's eye in the room.  The next night precisely at 5pm the shower was full of guys, waiting for the road crew.  No show.

 

On one excursion into the wilds of the Snowy Range, we had hiked into a remote lake and were photographing the wildflowers on the hillside adjacent to the shallow alpine lake.  Boyd had a brand new Nikon F2 with a motor drive sent to him by Nikon to test and keep.  He had just finished shooting a bunch of Columbine flowers and sat the camera down, turned away and heard a thump, thump, thump.  He turned to watch as the brand new Nikon F2 and motor drive rolled down the hillside and into the shallow water.  We scrambled down to get it.  It was drowned.  The lens was totally flooded and ruined.  We took the camera back and dried it best we could, blowing it with a hairdryer.  The camera finally had one shutter speed that worked but nothing else worked.  The motor drive was dried but not functional.  Boyd sent it back to Nikon and said it quit working.  They never questioned anything and sent him another new camera and motor drive.  That lake was henceforth known as Nikon Lake.  I marked it as such on my maps.

 

For eleven years, Boyd and I did workshops together.  Those were fun times.  Photography was still something difficult to understand.  Automatic was a transmission choice in cars but not in cameras; yet.  At the end of the eleven year run we both decided that the automatic trend in cameras was going to be the end of our workshops.  We had people at our last workshop who said they didn't care about f-stops and shutter speeds because they had automatic Minolta's.  Those same Minolta's had autofocus.  We could hear them whining away in the field trying to find something to focus on.  I despised Minolta and their slogan, "Only from the Mind of Minolta."  Those Minolta shooters attending the workshops fought focus issues, exposure issues yet the mind of Minolta was going to save their bacon.  Yeah, RIGHT!   During those eleven years, Boyd and I became great friends and we did a workshop for Smithsonian Tours out of Washington, D. C.  We were treated like royalty and it was a fun workshop.  But, the automatic world of photography was on the upswing.  Canon and Nikon had jumped on the bandwagon as well.  It was time to move on.  Boyd did one more workshop without me then stopped doing them altogether.  He started leading trips across the pond, to various places that seemed strange and out of reach for me.  I had never been out of the US except to Canada and brief excursions into Mexico along the border.

Next - More moves, more photography

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-photography---part-2 Fri, 12 Dec 2014 01:08:11 GMT
Need for Photography - Part 1 http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-photography---part-1 I started drawing and painting when I was three according to my mom.  I always liked art; no, I loved art.  My first watercolor painting was of a forest scene with birds, a rabbit, a skunk and who knows what else.  I was three years old.   I always wanted realism in the stuff I drew.  None of it every made me proud.  My mom kept a load of my paintings and drawings and even a few of my notebooks from high school with very few if any notes in them, just sketches.  I took art classes until I decided to go into Engineering.  That was about the 8th grade.  Living near the planned NASA Manned Spacecraft Center just outside of Houston influenced the techie side of me.

 

I made a few oil paintings but only one I really liked, of a pheasant in the snow, I gave it away to a girl I liked.  After graduation from High School, I bought my first 35mm camera.  It was a non-coupled rangefinder 35mm made in Germany.  Felt very precise and did amazingly well for the weird shortcomings it had.  I gave exactly $7 for it.  Bought it from a guy in the Navy at the Houston Bus Depot who needed some cash.  It was a Regula, 

built by King with an extinction meter, something I had no idea how to use or even what it did until sometime in college.  I shot a load of Kodachrome thru that thing using a small handheld meter I bought for $12 at a discount store.  Starting with that simple meter really helped me understand the choices there are to make in photography plus having a non-coupled rangefinder did slow things down a lot, almost like using a View Camera.  

 

While I was in college the school newspaper was looking for a darkroom technician so I applied.  I had been in several dark rooms but not really in a darkroom but they trained me; taught me how to load and develop film then make prints.  That was cool and really sold me the farm when it came to photography.  A couple of hours with my hands in the "soup" and I was hooked.  Developing other people's film taught me the value of a great exposure, in the camera.  I still only had the little King but I was now shooting B&W with it.  Fun to process and print your own stuff plus I had access to the darkroom and it was essentially free!  I did get to use a Nikon F sometimes that belonged to the school.  I loved that thing except for loading film.  The back and bottom of the camera were one piece and had to be removed to load a roll of film.  What a pain that thing was to use in the field.  If it was raining or the wind was howling (West Texas, remember?) then you could count on having issues.  I promised myself I would not own a Nikon F when I could afford my own cameras.

 

After graduation, I went and priced cameras and delayed any purchase!  I was newly married and my wife had two more years of college to complete on my dime and I had a school loan to pay off.  Big time income stream though!  Engineers were in demand in 1969 and I was making a whopping $10,000 a year.  Doesn't sound like much now but the average graduate in 1969 was being offered jobs in the $5,000 to $6,000 a year range.  I felt wealthy but I hate debt so we were on a cash only program credit cards not being a big deal back then.  After six months of income stream we had put enough aside to buy a Miranda Sensorex and a 50/1.8 lens or we could wait a  couple more months and buy a better SLR.  The Miranda was rated fairly high in the magazines so rather than wait, I parted with what we had saved and took home the Miranda.  During that first six months of ownership it was in the shop twice.  The third time I got rid of it.  It was one of the worst cameras I had ever been around.  I had a friend headed to Vietnam for 6 weeks so I asked him to buy me a camera.  I gave him a budget of $200 which would land you a good Pentax or Canon SLR back then.  Instead he came home with a lens, a 28mm f/3.5 wide angle lens.  It was a Canon but rather useless without a body to put it on.  I think it cost me $35.

 

I went to the local camera store and handed the guy my lens and said "I need a camera to fit this."  He must have thought I was nuts.  Off the shelf came a brand new Canon FT-QL SLR body.  It was $150, about what I had paid for the Miranda with a lens.  The store owner told me he would stand behind it for 18 months.  SOLD.  My funds were depleted but I had a good quality SLR and a great wide angle lens.  I shot with that combo for many months before I could buy another lens.  Next I found a great used 200mm f/3.5 telephoto. and again, blew my funds.  Now I had a wide angle and a telephoto to use.  I put them thru the wringer.  Loved the perspective choices I had!  About then Canon announced their new professional model, the F-1.  Sounded cool, much like the race series I liked so how could I go wrong?  I was working at Texas Instruments in Dallas where several people in our group were making trips to Tokyo almost monthly.  One guy I knew well did me a huge favor and brought back a Canon F-1 with a  50mm f/1.4 lens that he bought for me in Tokyo for $225. They were selling here in the USA for almost $300.  That thing was rock solid, felt like the old Nikon F that I used in college but had a regular back on it.  I still own that original F-1 and the 28mm lens.  Both still work, by the way.

 

Cindy and I both took a photography class from Bob Smith in Dallas.  Bob was a magazine and assignment editorial photographer and a great teacher.  I really got to understand the demands of shooting what an editor wanted during that semester.  We also joined the Sierra Club and started going on outings to West Texas, mainly Big Bend National Park.  Backpacking in the desert wilderness of that park opened my eyes to conservation and shooting nature photos.  I carried my F-1 on every trip as well as all three of my lenses!  After every trip there was a slide show gathering of the Dallas Sierra Club group to relive the trip thru images.  Mine always seemed to be the best exposed thanks to my training in college with the newspaper and to the extremely tight tolerance on the shutter speeds of that F-1.  I checked the speeds on a device at the camera store religiously and my F-1 was always, always as close to perfection as any camera they had seen.  The F-1 had one meter system, a spot meter.  I grew to love having a spot meter.  This allowed me to get precise metering on a subject then recompose and shoot.  Years later when I switched to the EOS line of Canon SLR's I was lost.  I didn't trust anything that said the meter was "intelligent" such as Minolta claimed on their cameras and Canon's new line of cameras had several meter modes but none of them were spots!  I had to learn a new meter pattern before I trusted it.  A light meter is dumb as a load of rocks.  You had better know what it is telling you or you are setting yourself up for failure.

 

I great thing happened in 1973!  I moved to Denison, Texas and eventually met Allen Crenshaw.  Allen owned a photo studio in Denison and was without a doubt the best portrait photographer I had ever met.  He was also capable of making astounding photos in nature.  His compositional skills were what really set his images apart from everything else I had seen.  I started working with Allen, at first doing a catalog shoot for a peanut distribution company.  I distinctly remember; well sort of remember; OK, it is a bit fuzzy but you will understand once I explain.  We were going to shoot some ad pages for their catalog with peanuts in various still life layouts.  Included in each shot would be a mug, glass or stein of beer with a good head on it.  We collected all the beer steins and glasses, etc. we could find; put those in the freezer and put a bunch of beer in the refrigerator at the studio.  We did the first set up, grabbed an icy stein and poured a beer in to get just the right head, started shooting and within a couple of minutes the head was essentially gone.  The only thing to do was to pour another beer; but what to do with the one we had just shot?  Simple, we took turns drinking them as they lost their head.  I know the shooting session last 3 maybe 12 hours; honestly I don't remember but I do know my wife had to come pick me up.  Allen lived close to the studio so he was able to crawl home easily.

 

I wound up doing weddings for Allen as well as a few portraits and some commercial stuff.  Allen was working on an Masters of Fine Arts in photography at Austin College nearby and decided to recreate as many of the historic photographic process as was possible starting with a Daguerrotype.  He asked me to help him with the chemistry side of things as well as the process procedures.  We spent many hours making our first Daguerrotype plate and sensitizing it.  A cooper sheet was polished to a high sheen then electroplated with silver and again polished to a mirror finish.  Next, to sensitize it we had to go into a dark room and expose the plate to the fumes of Bromine, then Iodine and then back to Bromine.  All were heated by a small candle to get the fumes really rolling and ALL those chemicals were marked as poisonous and to avoid breathing their fumes.  Oh, GEEZE!  We were locked up in a darkroom with these wicked things sitting over a candle in a small beaker.  We figured, anything for ART!  Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead.  We exposed the plate then came the development process.  Suspend the plate over a beaker of Mercury that is heated and let the fumes of the Mercury develop the image, then run the plate thru stop bath and fixer to stabilize the image.  Mercury?  That stuff is known to cause brain defects and issues.  We both sort of figured we were half nuts to be doing this in the first place so we might as well complete the process and be totally nuts when the semester was over.

 

For more on the craziness of the old process and to learn about the Great Tintype Conglomerate, read my early blogs concerning that topic.

Part 2 Coming Up Shortly!

 

 

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-photography---part-1 Tue, 09 Dec 2014 01:01:00 GMT
Need for Speed - Part 7 Rutherford http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed---part-7-heroes The church I grew up in had a "mentor program".  If there was some adult in the church who worked in a field you were interested in, then that person would become a mentor for you thru High School.  My mentor was Bill Brooks, a degreed Engineer who worked in metallurgy.  He offered me assistance with geometry, algebra, physics and other tech areas my senior year at South Houston High School.  He knew I loved racing and invited me to go with him to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Banquet in Houston in January 1965.  The guest speaker was going to be AJ Foyt, not my favorite but a driver with a great record of wins in a lot of vehicles.

 

The evening of the banquet, Mr. Brooks picked me up and we headed to downtown Houston.  He asked me if I liked AJ Foyt.  I said, "He will not be here.  He broke his back in a stock car crash at Riverside over the weekend."  Mr. Brooks was worried that no one would be there of interest.  We walked in and got seated at our table.  Up front on a platform was a long table with all the SAE leaders in the area and in the middle sat Johnny Rutherford!  I was elated.  Johnny drove more sports cars than AJ and was a real hero of mine.  I told Mr. Brooks, "That's Johnny Rutherford."  He asked if that was a good stand in.  I said, "Definitely!"  Things got rolling with the usual Pledge of Allegiance and an opening prayer and then they introduced Johnny Rutherford, explaining about AJ Foyt's mishap in California.  We watched a movie about racing at the Brickyard that lasted about 15 minutes, then Johnny told a few stories about his racing career.  Shortly after that the floor was opened for questions.

 

I was almost embarrassed by the questions I heard.  

Q)  "What is the fastest you have ever driven?"  A)  "Speed is a relative thing.  I have driven upside down and backwards faster than anyone in this room."  Bunch of laughter followed that one.

The questions kept rolling in, none technical, none that I would have expected from Automotive Engineers.  Finally the questions died down and I wanted to ask a question.

 

I asked Mr. Brooks if I could ask a question and he said go ahead.  I raised my hand and Johnny looked at me and said, "Yes?"  My question was rather straightforward; "Do you see any advantage to the independent rear suspensions on the mid engine Lotus cars over the De Dion rear axles of the traditional front engine roadsters at Indy?"  He looked at me and said, "Yes.  They keep a larger contact patch thru the corners.  That lets them carry a little more speed onto the straights."

No other questions so I raised my hand again.  "Do you see any difference in the current F-1 drivers style at the oval track versus the traditional Roadster drivers who are used to driving on ovals?"  

"Well, I decided to follow Jim Clark in his Lotus to see what line he was taking in the corners.  After two laps, he was too far ahead for me to follow."  People laughed.  Again, no more questions.

I raised my hand.  "The higher revving, short stroke DOHC Ford V8's seem to turn out more horsepower than the long stroke Offenhauser four cylinder power plants in the front engine roadsters.   What are the advantages of the V8 versus the 4?"  

"Great question", he said.  "The higher the RPM the more horsepower you can generate.  The Offy's have a bunch of torque, great for exiting the pits but for shear speed down the straights you need horsepower.  What isn't known is the reliability of those engines"  

I remember asking several more questions, all technical in nature, to which Johnny gave brilliant answers. The Q&A session was closed and the banquet adjourned.  We were getting up to leave and Mr. Brooks looked around and saw Johnny pushing his way thru to our table.  Johnny got to me and stuck out his hand and said, "Johnny Rutherford.  What's your name?"  I shook his hand and answered, almost in shock.  Then he said something to me that I will never forget. "I wanted to meet you.  I figure that one of these days I will either be driving against you or driving your cars!"  He laughed and asked for my address which I printed out on a piece of paper for him.  We shook again and left.  I was a High School Senior and I was elated to meet and talk to Johnny Rutherford in person.

 

During the month of May, Johnny sent me a daily subscription to the Indianapolis newspaper so I could follow all that was going on.  He also sent me an 11 X 14 photo of his car and the team parked at the start/finish line with the bricks and a cool letter.  Sadly, all that stuff is gone.  Probably tossed when my parents moved back to Oklahoma after retirement.

 

That was not to be my final contact with Mr. Rutherford.  During my senior year at Texas Tech, the Ford Cavalcade of Speed came to Lubbock at the Ford dealer downtown.  I went there to see the Ford GT-40 on display.  This was the car from LeMans with the bubble on the roof to allow Dan Gurney to fit inside.  There were also several Ford powered dragsters and a couple of stack cars back when stock cars were built from real cars.  Johnny Rutherford was scheduled to be there on Sunday afternoon talking to visitors.  I scheduled myself back there on Sunday and got in line to shake hands again with one of my heroes.  When I got up to him I said, "I met you in Houston four years ago at a banquet.  I asked a load of questions and you came and shook my hand."  He remembered and asked what I was doing here.  I told him I was getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He asked me to hang around so I stood aside then as people left he took me on a tour of the GT-40.  I sat in it, sort of.  Not a great fit but it did have the Gurney bubble on the roof so I could have closed the door.  The interior was nothing short of cramped.  It was really cool to have him remember me and to get me inside my dream car even though it was another car I could not fit very well.

In 1986, I was living in Indiana and went to Carburetor Day with a pass into Gasoline Alley.  I met Johnny there and had him sign my hat.  I mentioned the Houston thing but he was in his driving suit and headed to the track so he only said, "Sure, I remember."  That was asking a lot!

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed---part-7-heroes Mon, 08 Dec 2014 04:29:31 GMT
Need for Speed Part 6 - Wheels http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-6---wheels Those who have been following this blog know that I was and really still am a "Car Guy" of sorts.  With the kart, I learned a ton about what really interested me, chassis set up, engines, driving and a host of other vehicle dynamics topics.

 

I was really excited to get my learners permit, allowing me to drive on the road as long as an adult with a valid drivers license was in the front seat with me.  To be honest, I had driven all over the farm in Oklahoma in dad's old pick up as well as my grandparents cars.  All were stick shift.  I knew clutches and smooth starts so when I finally could drive on the street, I felt at home behind the wheel.  Nothing exciting to report about street driving in our old 1958 Chevy except for one trip home from Oklahoma!  We had left the farm about 8pm and dad was driving.  I was riding shotgun to read signs and watch for traffic.  About 10pm dad said he was tired and needed to rest.  He was going to stop in a roadside park and sleep for an hour or two then go on.  I offered to drive and he could relax.  Dad was reluctant since I had not driven much at night and never on a highway.  He agreed, pulled over and I slipped into the drivers seat.  Dad hated Dallas, literally hated that town.  I don't think we ever drove thru Dallas without getting lost or in a traffic jam.  Dad had tried ever route conceivable; Loop 12 was his favorite but seemed crazy to me compared to just driving thru on US 75.  Within minutes of me taking the wheel, everybody in the car was asleep with the exception of me.  Dad was really knocked out.  He woke up about 3am, looked around and asked where we were?  I said we were near Centerville, Texas and needed gas.  He asked, "What about Dallas?"  I said, "We went thru there a long time ago."  He couldn't believe it.  I had driven all those hours and even thru that most evil of towns, Dallas, practically all alone.  I can tell you that from that day forward it was my job to drive us thru Dallas both going to Oklahoma and coming home.

 

 How about my own real world wheels?  In high school a lot of my friends had cars.  I figured they were either from wealthy families or were owned by their cars; meaning every cent they had went into insurance, gas, etc.  I worked at a local grocery store, wanted to go to college so owning a car was not a good option.  I was saving for an education.  Some of you may find it weird that I didn't own a car until the middle of my sophomore year at Texas Tech, but it was one interesting car.  Dad had said he would buy me a car if it was cheap enough and was an economy version AND made in the USA.  We hunted around Houston during Thanksgiving break; found nothing that we could agree on.  Over Christmas break, we found a 1965 Corvair; economy car - check; made in the USA - check; under $1000 - check.  In fact it was $900 even.  I really wanted that car.  Four wheel independent suspension like the F-1 cars I loved so much and lurking under the, uh, trunk lid was a four carburetor, 140 hp flat opposed, air cooled six cylinder engine.  Same engine layout as Dan Gurney's F-1 Porsche's but of course it was a street car and had no pizzaz whatsoever.  That last part appealed to dad although he thought the four carbs would be a pain.  

 

 

I had read enough to know that the four carb version of the Corvair engine had larger valves than the single carb 110hp version and some cam tweaks.  I didn't tell dad about the differences.  He would have bought me a Buick had I mentioned any of this about the sleeper.  Most of the 140hp versions of this car were the top of the line body style.  Mine?  The "500" version, cheapest body style offered, two door hardtop with nothing to make anyone get excited.  In fact most of my friends felt sorry for me because I had a "plain jane" car.  I loved that thing.  There were so many complaints about the handling on Corvairs.  The ones built prior to 1965 had swing arm rear axles, probably one of the worst designs ever for car stability and handling.  Mine?  Starting in 1965 all Corvairs had true independent suspension rear ends.  It was rear heavy and handled like a go kart.  That was perfect in my book.  Lubbock had a lot of brick streets downtown.  If you have ever driven on wet brick streets, you know how slick they become.  Every time it rained, which was not that often in West Texas, me and the Corvair headed downtown to do some slithering on those streets. That car seemed to love to slide a little on ever corner.  Of course, I never took any real chances but I did get sideways a few times when there was no traffic.  If I got stopped by the cops I figured I could blame it on the "stupid Corvair" and get away with it.  Shortly after graduation from Tech and about a year into married life, the Corvair died.  100,000 miles of fun came to a halt.  I sold the car to some Corvair guys who wanted the heads and cam for other cars.  It was a bittersweet good-bye but by then I had another love affair going with my Morgan.  

 

The Morgan was a hand built British sports car.  Like any true sports car, when it rained, you got wet.  When it was cold, you froze. When it was hot, you burned up.  Morgan's were considered exotic sports cars.  After owning it for about a year, it seemed less exotic and more classic.  The lines were simply those of a by-gone era.  The long hood with the leather strap was just pure auto history.  Even though my "Moog", as the purists called them, was built in 1964, it still looked like something from the 1930's.  British sports cars all shared some weird characteristics.  One, stiff suspension.  We nicknamed our Moog, "Teddy Roosevelt" and even had a name tag made for it which was stuck to the solid wood dash.  The name come from our feelings that this car was one "Rough Riding, SOB!"  Two, to make up for the stiff suspension, the chassis flexed.  Driving across a dip at an angle you could feel the whole car twist and squirm under your butt.   This was unsettling at first but became second nature to me after a few weeks.  Three, all British sports cars had SU carbs, meaning you needed to spend as much time working on them as driving them.  BINGO!  Whoever owned this Moog had torn off the SU's and put on a Lotus log manifold and twin Weber 40DCOE sidedraft carbs.  The Webers were highly tune-able, a blessing and a curse.  I carried a small fishing tackle divided case in the glove box filled with fuel and air correction jets for changes in the weather.  Webers were just so cool.  You could change the jets in about a minute per carb, AND they were the same brand of carb used by Ferrari and most of the F-1 teams!!!  It was not unusual for me to drive the Moog to work in the morning and then change the jets in the afternoon before I drove home.

When I rode around in my friends Austin Healy Sprite, before I owned the Moog, we would wave at other people in sports cars much the way Harley riders wave today.  The other British car owners waved back.  The Porsche owners?  No way would they acknowledge a lowly Sprite with a wave.  Same with Jaguars.  I said if I ever owned a sports car I would wave to every other sports car owner I saw.  Once I owned the Moog, I tried to uphold that promise.  It paid off one morning when I met a guy in a deTomaso Pantera, an exotic Italian sports car with a mid mounted Ford 351 V8 running thru a ZF transaxle.  We waved and the driver motioned me into a parking lot.  We took turns looking at each others rides.  Then we swapped keys for a few minutes.  We took each other around a few blocks.  The Pantera was pure genius in design and stability plus it had the deep throated roar of huge American iron sitting inched behind your head.  The suspension was agile like a cat.  The chassis was stiff; the opposite of British sports cars.  I really wanted that car but it was even less practical on the street than my Moog plus my head rubbed against the roof.  Within a week of owning and driving one I would probably be bald!  After that, the only cars I lusted after were Ferrari's and Ford GT-40's.

After a few years of owning the Morgan I had a very solid job offer from a company in Denver.  I could not bring myself to take the Morgan to Colorado and not have a good solid garage to put it in so I sold it.  It was the ONLY car I ever bought and sold and made a profit.  I sold it for $4500 having parted with $3000 two years earlier.  Today, that Morgan would fetch $35,000 or more.  I sometimes wonder if I would have enjoyed it as much with kids around.  Probably not.  Not much room in them for sure.  I will say that it will hold me and two young ladies quite well!  One evening, my wife sent me to the grocery store to buy some milk.  As I got to the corner of our street one of my neighbors college age daughters and her friend were in the yard and waved for me to stop.  They wanted to go for a ride.  I said I would take them one at a time but they insisted they could both fit although it would be crowded.  With flip flops, shorts and tee shirts on they scrunched in and off we went.  Shifting was rather dicey.  First and second were OK and third was way up against one of their thighs.  I never went for fourth.  I (OK, we) were gone about an hour.  I dropped them off at the corner and drove home and into the garage, walked into the house and my wife asked, "Where is the milk?"  I just said, "What milk?"  Somehow I had been distracted.  I don't think my wife is reading these blogs so I should be OK.  If you don't see any more from me; well, she read this one.

 

I went thru the usual family cars except for a 1962 Chevrolet pickup, 1/2 ton short/wide bed.  Car guys will know what I am talking about.  I helped a friend rebuild it and put in new "stuff".  His wife got pregnant and he needed to sell it.  I gave him $650 for it.  The stuff we had added was a short list:  350 V8, Twin Holley four barrel double pumpers, custom exhaust with headers, a mild street cam, power steering, a close ratio 4 speed out of a Camaro and a Hurst shifter.   I later added aluminum wheels and wide tires.  It looked like Sanford and Son with colors not exactly matching on the fenders but it went FAST.   I owned and drove that truck for several years then parted with it to move on to other projects.  Evidently my son liked it, too.  He drove it to Prom in High School.  I wanted to add disk brakes.  Stopping was not a forte on that truck!!

 

Currently I have my grand parents 1955 Chevy which they bought in 1955.  It is not a show car but in nice shape and with the help of a good friend, Rob Pike, it is a solid car to drive.  It was recently featured on "Sunflower Journeys" on Kansas Public Television.  It has a little over 100,000 miles on it with the engine overhauled at 90,000 miles.  Rob and I put a lot of new stuff on that car including springs, shocks, brakes, brake lines, Master and slave cylinders, gas tank, fuel pump and electric windshield wipers.  The carb was overhauled, too.  We drove it in the Great White Way car run in May 2014 putting over 400 miles on it that day.  I can say that if I drove it everyday, my shoulders and arms would be much more muscular!  The steering wheel looks huge when you first get in it but once you start driving you know why it is so large.

 

 

 

This is me being interviewed on PBS about the car and the run that day.  Lucky me!  I found a shirt that was 1955 Chevy Camo Green!!

 

Video of the Sunflowers Journey Episode

 

Time to close this and get busy on some photography work I have hanging over me!  Keep it between the ditches!

 

 

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-6---wheels Mon, 08 Dec 2014 00:03:27 GMT
Need for Speed Part 5 http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-5 In 1977 we were living in New Jersey.  I was plant manager of a small plant, we had one child and we had tickets to the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, NY for the September race.  I was finally going to see my favorite cars and drivers in action.  I have to explain that there is nothing to compare an F-1 car to in the real world of transportation.  We watched a demo on the front straight at Watkins Glen where a Ferrari F-1 car accelerated from a standing start to 100 and back to a full stop in under 5 seconds.  These things looked quick on television but they were terrifying to watch live.  And the noise!  When we first got to the track there was a practice session for a support race of other sports cars.  A pack of them could drive past the grandstands where we were seated and we could talk to each other, loudly but audible.  That session ended.  They cleared the pits, right across from our seats, and rolled at a JPS Lotus with a Cosworth V8.  This was Mario Andretti's car.  When they fired it up, the noise was deafening.   We literally had to use sign language.  Our two year old son was along.  We had brought along ear plugs for us and complete ear covers for him.  We were wishing we had full ear covers as well.  I was so impressed.  F-1 was way different back then.  We bought passes to walk thru the garage areas.  I was seeing the cars of my dreams and my heroes.  The motel we stayed in was also the home to the Warsteiner Team.  We met several of the mechanics.  It was like the old days at SCCA racing except the cars and budgets were on steroids.  A typical team budget in F-1 for one race would pay for a single teams whole season in Indy Car racing.  These were cars designed and tweaked as far as things could go for that period.  F-1 is and always has been an Engineers race series.   The team with the best Engineers is always slightly better than the rest.  NASCAR racing is about the drivers personalities, Indy Car racing is about spec engines and chassis and ends up being a crew and driver racing series but F-1 is strictly who has the most clever design team.  Most clever at the time was Lotus, headed by Colin Chapman.  He was my idea of the ultimate Engineer and his innovations are still at the forefront of racing some 30 years later. Believe it or not, me and my friend Gary White, both Engineers working for the same company tried to run our company with F-1 precision and cutting edge designs.  Our efforts paid off in a big way when the company was sold and we got rewarded for our efforts; but that is a different story....

 

 

Fast forward to 1985.  Two kids and starting on my third job, this time in South Bend, Indiana, I was close enough to go to the Indy 500.  And we did.  It was exciting to be there and see the massive crowds, hear the cars and watch the speeds but it was no match for Watkins Glen and the F-1 cars, not even close, but I did get to check that one off the list.  We stumbled across an ad for the "World's Largest Go Kart Street Race", the Elkhart Grand Prix, run thru the streets of Elkhart, Indiana.  We lived about 10 miles from Elkhart and the race was sponsored by a magazine, National Kart News located in Mishawaka, Indiana, just a few miles from our house.  I called the magazine and asked if they had a photographer covering the race.  Curt Paluzzi, the editor and brains behind the magazine said, "No.  Can you write a story to go with it?"  I said, "Sure!"  Then he asked if I had a portfolio of racing photos.  Zing!  "Of course", I said, but explained that they were go kart race photos from several years ago.  I printed out a bunch of the photos from that first kart race in Dallas and took those to Curt.  He looked them over and said, "Perfect.  I will get you the necessary pass and other things you will need."  I asked for two passes.  I wanted to take my son along and give him an automatic camera and let him shoot in one corner while I roamed around the track shooting other things.  Race day arrived and it was maddening.  The local police had no idea what a go kart was, thinking maybe a bunch of Briggs & Stratton lawnmower motors on some frames putting around at 25-30 mph.  The shifter karts, outfitted with 125cc motocross engines and transmissions, four wheel brakes and radiators were capable of hitting 125 mph on the straights and could out corner  almost anything on any race track.  There were about 1/2 the number of hay bales needed and NO fencing to restrain crowds.  During practice I saw people stroll across the street and karts spinning to avoid hitting those idiots.  It was pure mayhem.  I found Curt and asked him if there was anything I could do to help.  He replied, "Pray for rain", turned and went looking for the police chief.  The races had their moments but everyone survived and the racers were delighted at the layout and the chance to race thru city streets; Monaco comes to Indiana!  My son and I got almost the whole next issue with photos and the story I wrote.  A week after the race my son said, "Dad, that looked like fun."  I didn't need any more encouragement than that.  I called Curt and asked what it cost to get into this at the junior level.  He had a son just moving up from the junior classes and wanted to sell everything for $1200.  We bought it, signed Jesse (our son) up for a drivers school at the racetrack in South Bend and went racing.  This time I would be wrenching for my own kid.   Awesome.

 

The drivers school was interesting in that they had karts for those who signed up.  Since we had our own kart, they encouraged us to bring it.  Our chassis was from Denmark and was extremely neutral in handling.  The engine?  A Briggs & Stratton 5hp lawnmower engine and with a few exceptions, stock.  First, it was "blueprinted" meaning that the bore and stroke were at the top end of the tolerance maximizing displacement and the head was ground down to the minimum bumping up compression.  It was running on 100% Methanol with the jets modified for more fuel flow.  We ran synthetic oil.  I am not sure about RPM but it turned much faster than any lawnmower I ever owned.  After following an instructor around the track, each driver would pass the instructor and then he would follow them.  Meetings were held detailing correct lines thru corners and how to maximize the speed at the end of a straight.  Our kart had instrumentation!  The display mounted in the center of the steering wheel read out cylinder head temperature, RPM and Miles Per Hour.  Each was used in a different way.  Cylinder head temp would tell you how well the fuel flow was adjusted.  Too hot, add more fuel; too cold, reduce fuel flow.  RPM was used to check  sprocket ratios.  Ideally the RPM of the engine would hit maximum close to the end of any straightaway.  The speedometer, while probably not extremely accurate, ran off an inductor and a toothed gear on the rear axle.  By trying different lines thru a corner, the driver could watch the speed at the end of the straight and determine which way around a bend would give him the fastest speed down the straight thus allowing for a better chance of passing someone, or a bunch of someones.

 

At the end of the drivers school there was a 10 lap race.  The drivers drew for starting positions.  Jesse was starting on row three.  At then end of the first lap he was in second place.  During lap two he passed for the lead and pulled out a 3/4 lap lead by the end of the race despite a few bobbles.  He got a trophy for winning that race although they forgot the trophies and it took some reminding from me to finally get it from the organizers of the school many months later.

 

Our first club race was a true learning experience.  There is a minimum weight requirement for driver AND kart.  Both are placed on a scale.  We were about 25 pounds light.  The guy pitted next to us came over and loaned us some lead sheets to go under the drivers seat.  This brought us up to minimum and lowered the center of gravity.  He also mentioned we probably needed new tires, told me where to get the correct "spec" tires for the junior class.  Not only were the tires spec'd, we also ran a restrictor plate between the carb and the intake port of the engine.  During any drivers first three race weekends a large black "X" is taped to the back of his helmet to inform those who are passing that this is a rookie.  We really celebrated removing those rookie stripes a few weeks later.  The new tires came in and we needed to get them on.  One piece mag wheels that wide?  How do you do this?  I called Curt.  He said, "Great idea!  Bring the kart, stand, camera and some lights over and we will do a How-to article on changing tires."  We loaded everything up and went to the magazine, changed the tires, took a lot of photos of the process and wrote up the procedure.   It was in the next issue.  From then on, anything we did to the kart, we documented and wrote articles.  Everything from simply setting up weight balance with scales to chasing handling issues with track set up.  We must have written a dozen articles that first year, maybe more.  Curt called me several times to photograph testing of new equipment at a local track.  Seems we had articles in almost every issue of the magazine.  Like those old kart photos from Dallas, this, too, would pay off later at a place called Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterrey, California.

 

At the end of the first year, we moved up to the KT100 class, ditching the Briggs & Stratton and installing a Yamaha 100cc two stroke engine.  This little power plant turned some 14,000 rpm, had no flywheel and cranked out around 12 horsepower.  The new clutch was adjustable for stall speed. We had a long learning curve ahead of us but that meant more articles.  We raced until Jesse finished high school then sold everything to a friend in McPherson, Kansas.  Six months later, we moved to McPherson.  Small world.

 

Laguna Seca Raceway has a very famous series of corners called "The Corkscrew", a descending series of switchbacks that drop over 100 feet.  I was in Monterrey playing golf and took off to find the track and to see the corner.  It was a Thursday.  No races, no practice.  The visitors center in the infield was open but they told me there was no access to the corkscrew except on race days BUT, if I walked next door to the Skip Barber Racing School I could get a glimpse of the famous corner from their garage area.  I walked next door and inquired about seeing the corkscrew.  I was handed a waiver to sign and a young guy walked out and said, "So you want to see the Corkscrew?"  I said, "Yes."  He asked, "What do you know about racing?"  I responded, "I had a twin engined kart when I was a kid, had crewed on an SCCA team out of Dallas and that my son had raced in the CIKA series and we had done articles for National Kart News."  He asked, "What is your name?"  I told him, then he said, "Wow.  We have read your articles!"  Stuck out his hand and said, "Great to meet you.  Come with me" and led me out into the garage area where he introduced me to all the driving instructors and mechanics explaining that I was a writer/photographer for National Kart News.  Celebrity status without being a celebrity.  Weird but accepted.  He asked me if I had a camera, I nodded and he said, "Go get it."  I went back to my rental car and grabbed my Canon A-1 with the motor drive, some film and two lenses, a 20mm and a 300mm.  We walked out onto the paddock area to one of the school cars and he said, "Get in and strap in tight.  I will show you the Corkscrew."  I loaded film, put on the 20mm lens and stuffed the 300 into a corner of the seat securely.  I tightened the seat belt and shoulder harness as tight as I thought it needed to be.  Wrong.  I soon found out that if you have your lungs compressed and can hardly breath, that is about tight enough.  We pulled out onto the front straight and nailed it.  Up thru the gears and we came screaming down on the first corner.  I thought, he is going to kill us both, but he grabbed some brakes, downshifted and threw the car around the corner.  The tires were screaming, I was jammed against the side window and he looked over at me and nonchalantly said, "A squealing tire is a happy tire!"  We continued on this first lap thru several corners and up a long hill.  He asked if I recognized anything.  I said, "Corkscrew, coming up."  He just smiled and turned the wheel slightly as we rocketed over the edge and the bottom dropped out.  I was shooting away, banging the camera against my forehead and eyeball and feeling my stomach crawl up into my throat while being slammed from one side of the seat to the other.  I kept telling myself, it would not be nice for a race enthusiast and celebrity to puke all over the inside of this car.  I relaxed and held on for the wildest ride I had ever been on.  We made two hot laps around the track at what he described as "Fast enough to qualify near the front" speed.  When we stepped out of the car in the pits, my legs were Jello and the rest of me was shaking with adrenaline.  I was pumped.  We talked for about 30 minutes while I got the rest of the tour.  I went back out to my rental car and promptly called my friend Gary White.  The conversation went something like this:

"Where are you?  I thought you were on vacation?"

"I am on vacation.  I am sitting in the infield at Laguna Seca."

"Wow!  Did you get to see the Corkscrew?"

"Up close and personal."

"Cool.  How does it look?"

"The bottom dropped out when we crested the top of the corner."

"You got out onto the track?"

"Yep.  Made two hot laps with a driving instructor from Skip Barber Racing School."

"Damn.  Only YOU could pull that off."

I kept thinking, "I am one lucky guy."  My Need for Speed was intensified for a few months.  I will likely go back to Skip Barber and take a one day class called introduction to racing.  Need to check that off the list.

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-5 Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:44:24 GMT
Need for Speed Part 4 http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-4 While I was in college, I worked for the school newspaper in the darkroom developing film and making prints for the college newspaper.  Needless to say the photo bug hit me hard.  I was torn between needing speed and needing a camera!  Life offers many choices and sometimes you need to compromise.  I wasn't ready to let go of the speed addiction but photography was letting me do things that I strived to do with sketching and painting, express my artistic self, more clearly.  One of my friends at Texas Tech lived in Houston and had a Formula Vee race car.  He invited me over to drive it some afternoon during the summer months.  Cindy and I drove over to meet him.  I fell in love with the FV.  Open wheeled, simple and elegantly designed.  It was a race car, full fledged but honestly about as ugly as home made soap.  Skinny VW wheels and tires (although they were slicks) and with the VW trailing arm suspension up front and the swing arms in the back: but it was a purpose built race car.  I climbed in and discovered one of the same big problems I had with the kart.  I was sort of tall.  For a person who was 6 feet tall in the 6th grade, fitting my now, 6-1, 185 pound body into that thing was nothing short of a miracle.  I wanted to drive it very badly and they had laid out a track on a new housing development that had gone under with only roads built (PERFECT!) so I drove the FV behind the others in a street car to the "track" and followed them around the course.  I made a few laps, getting up to good lap times as I was told, very quickly.  I have to admit that fitting my feet between the frame and NOT hitting the brake a clutch at the same time was a real challenge.  It was about this point that I realized that most of the great drivers I knew about were maybe 5-5 and 140 pounds.  Maybe I wasn't meant to race sports cars.  Maybe I was meant to photograph them or maybe work on them or better yet, do a movie about them.  I still wish I had a Formula Vee for Solo racing (a form of racing with only YOU on the track trying to establish a great lap time).  I just have too many things I would like to do and a shortage of both time and resources (OK, that means money) to get them all done.

 

We put together a fairly crude darkroom using our one and only apartment bathroom.  I needed to work in a darkroom!  Found an ad about a go kart race being run in Dallas.  We went just because I wanted to go and I wanted to take photos.  I bought a bunch of rolls of Tri-X and took my only camera and both lenses, 28mm and 200mm.  We spent all day Saturday at the track photographing practice and qualifying runs, raced back home and started developing film.  As soon as the film was dry, we started printing 8 X 10's.  I know we finished printing about 4 am and went to bed.  The next day we were at the track with races scheduled to start at 10 am.  It was pouring down rain.  I mentioned to the announcer that we had images from the day before for sale at $5 each for an 8 X 10.  The images were good with action shots of almost every driver.  We were swamped with people wanting to buy images of themselves.  I think we took in over $400 that day.  Expenses were almost $50 for everything except our time.  We netted about $375 that day.  My full time Engineering job was paying me $830 a month.  I thought, this is crazy!  I can make money with photography!  That was the kick start for selling images.  Those same negatives paid off handsomely 15 years later as you will find out.

 

With a new house purchased we were solid citizens in a quiet residential area of Dallas and we had bought our first sports car, a Morgan!  I wanted a darkroom.  We needed furniture.  Perplexing situation.  I was out riding my bike down the alley one evening and spied an empty box of Kodabromide B&W photo paper in the neighbors trash can.  A DARKROOM!  As I rode around to the front of the house, the owner was standing out in front of his house so I rode up and introduced myself.  Remember, I only had two loves at this point, racing and photography.  Henk deWit was the neighbors name.  I mentioned seeing the empty box in his trash can and asked if he had a darkroom.  He said sure!  Come on over and use it anytime.  WOW!  I felt lucky.  He asked about my job.  I told him I worked at Texas Instruments as an Engineer.  I asked what he did.  Henk replied, "I am the Director of Photography for CBS News in Dallas."  HOT DAMN!  BINGO!  WE HAVE A WINNER!  I was close to heaven.  Then Henk asked if I was the guy who owned the Morgan.  Most people have no clue what a Morgan is other than a horse.  I was impressed that he knew what it was.  He wanted to know what engine it had.  I told him, "A 1500cc, reverse flow Ford with a Lotus log Manifold and a Weber 40DCOE sidedraft carb."  What Henk said next started my head spinning; "That's the same engine I have in my race car."  I asked him to repeat that.  He did then led me into his garage to see the car he raced in SCCA racing in the SW Region.  I was not believing my luck.  Photography, racing, darkroom, neighbor.  We became very good friends.  I became his mechanic and went to races with Henk as his crew.  Every once in awhile he would hand me a 16mm movie camera from the TV station and let me shoot film.  I thought that was the life, wrenching for an SCCA team (we were sponsored by Cowsert Automotive)and taking movies as well as stills.  Just a mention of Cowsert Automotive.  Great place.  Specialized in exotic cars.  Saw several Ferrari's there as well as Lamborghini's and Maserati's, Jaguars, the odd Lotus and one very special McLaren from the endurance racing world.  Eventually Henk got tired of racing, sold the car, bought a sailboat and started racing it on White Rock Lake in Dallas.  I moved on but not before learning a ton about chassis set up with Koni adjustable shocks and spring rate changes as well as sway bar placement.  By the time Henk sold the car, we had added a dry sump, oil cooling system and forged crank, pistons and rods.  The little Ford 1500cc engine was redlined at 10,500 RPM!  A screamer for sure.  Shortly after Henk sold the car, there was a Pro Formula Ford race at a track in Fort Worth, Green Valley Raceway.  Henk and I went out there to shoot some film for the nightly news.  He was tired and handed me the camera, asking me to go shoot some footage.  When you walk around at a race track with your 35mm camera you get hustled away from the fences and told to go back to the spectator areas.  With a big 16mm camera resting on your shoulder plastered with CBS News stickers, the corner workers invite you out to the edge of the track with them.  I was out shooting when one of the regular cameramen from CBS showed up with an identical camera.  Of course, he asked me where I got the camera.  I explained about Henk being in my van asleep sending me out to shoot stuff.  When the race was over we went back to the van, had a beer and then Henk handed him my camera and said go process yours and his and pick about 7 minutes for tonights news.  Amazingly, they used my film.  Henk laughingly told me that the regular cameraman was embarrassed that my footage was way better than his.  Of course he asked Henk who I was and what I did. Henk told him I was an Engineer at Texas Instruments just playing around with film for the first time.  We both had a good laugh from that one.

 

My old Morgan was fun to drive and work on.  Fairly simple and an eye-catcher, it turned heads everywhere we went.  I had more people mention what I great job I did of restoring it.  It was not a restoration, they were built that way right from the factory in Malvern Link, Britain.  Peter Morgan had a way of making a classic car from new parts.  I got a new job in Denver and not wanting to drive it in the snow, I sold the Morgan, a move I regret to this day.  Photography came back to being my main passion.  Speed took a back seat unless you are talking about skis on the snow!

 

Watch for Need for Speed - Part 5 - We get back into kart racing in a big way!

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-4 Wed, 03 Dec 2014 04:17:31 GMT
Need for Speed Part 3 http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-3 Dad and I loaded the kart up and took it all the way Oklahoma and the farm just east of Oklahoma City.  Along the north side of my grandpa's farm they were building a new type road called an Interstate Highway.  This one was to be designated Interstate 40.  It looked so smooth.  We lifted the kart over the fence and set it on the road.  Unlike the roads in Oklahoma today, this was smooth as silk.  I fired up both engines and took off, went a mile and turned around, stopped and waited for dad to wave his arm.  I took off when he did accelerating to full speed in a short distance.  When I got where we had invaded the construction site, dad clicked the stopwatch.  In one mile, from a standing start, I had averaged 64 mph.  My grandpa was there and had only one comment about me sitting there on the kart with my knees up even with my shoulders; "You look like a dog who sat in some kerosene."  Dad and I were laughing so hard.  I never drove the kart on a regular road except that one time and then it was on a road that was not yet open.  

 

I kept the go kart all thru high school still going and driving it just for the thrill of going 60 mph while sitting on the ground (almost!).  I could not fit my hand underneath the frame.  Sitting that low and doing 60-65 mph feels like you are going 150.  A few years earlier I was really anticipating getting a drivers license and getting to drive real cars.  I remember being very disappointed.  Even at 70 miles per hour on the highway (way over the 55 limit at the time), the only thrill was wondering if the old cars we drove back then would just fall apart.  No feeling of speed, just you basic boring.  Driving a regular car was nothing to get very excited about.  Having the experience of driving fast took away any speed demon ideas about driving a real car.  The thrill was just not there, at least in the cars we owned, Chevrolet's with "stove bolt" sixes and "three on the tree" shifters.  When I left for college, the kart sat in the garage at home.  I drove it a couple of times when I was home for Spring break, Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I never lost the thrill of hearing those twin engines pop to life, idling at a mere 2000 RPM.  

 

During one of my trips home for Thanksgiving I ran into the cutest thing I had laid eyes on and asked her out for a date.  Something clicked.  She seemed very special but I needed to see if she was a "speed" person.  We made plans for another date in December when I was home for Christmas break.  I asked her to get us tickets to see "Grand Prix" in the new super wide theater called a Cinerama.  Grand Prix was about F-1 racing and proved to be a great film for someone like me.  She seemed to enjoy it too.  Next test; can she or better yet, will she drive the kart at speed.  We took it to the parking lot and Cindy got on, made a few mediocre laps then a few fairly fast rounds and was grinning from ear-to-ear.  i figured we must be compatible.  We got engaged about a year later and were married shortly after I graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  Dad let the kart take up space in his garage while my new bride and I lived in Dallas, some 250 miles away.  I really would miss my friend, the Hellcat, but I needed money and dad had a buyer wanting the thing for $100.  Like saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time, I could not be there to see it hauled off to who knows what sort of life, so I let dad handle the transaction.  That $100 was put to good use.  We bought a 12" B&W television so we could watch the moon landing of Apollo 11, in July 1969.

Stay tuned for "Part Four, Driving a Formula Vee and SCCA"

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griggsjiml@me.com (Jim & Cindy Griggs) http://jimcindygriggsphotography.zenfolio.com/blog/2014/12/need-for-speed-part-3 Tue, 02 Dec 2014 14:48:23 GMT