A Collection of My Petapixel Articles

by Johnny Martyr

I take some shit from other film photography bloggers for writing for Petapixel. The consensus is that we want to keep film photography blogs within our community. And I can respect that but I also like the idea of letting the rest of the photographic world know that film is still alive and well by interjecting topics that aren’t often in the mainstream news. One of the things I enjoy about Petapixel is that the editors keep film topics in rotation, unlike most other large photography publications.

My latest article in Petapixel, published at the end of last year was also one of my all-time favorites. In Barnack Quirks: An Intro to Shooting with Early 35mm Leica Cameras, I identify some of the challenges of learning to use an original Leica screw mount camera made between the 1930’s and 50’s. This article of course was popular in the vintage Leica groups on Facebook and hopefully elsewhere. It took many years of shooting with several different models and reading about them in great detail to put this together. Culling together once scattered information that helps people enjoy vintage camera photography is one of my favorite things to write about. It’s a bit of a mission of mine to remind camera collectors and those interested in film photography, that we should be using our vintage cameras and not just appreciating their past lives.

I’ve long been fascinated by the controversy that is stirred on how to travel with photographic film. Some people say to have it hand-checked, some people say put it in a lead bag, some people say let it get x-rayed and some people say don’t shoot film whilst traveling at all. In my younger years I liked to put my opinions out there pretty aggressively and imagined that people with whom I disagreed would acquiesce to force and logic. But that was stupid and ineffective. So in my article, Flying with Film: How to Handle X-ray Checkpoints as a Photographer, I attempted to convey my position that we should not let security deter us from shooting film but that it is important for us to communicate with them to ensure best results. I did this by simply telling the story of how I travelled with film to France recently and how well it worked out. Lead by example, I suppose was my concept. I hope that it helped some folks and was more enjoyable and informative than a previous attempt on the same topic that I made back in 2017.

In November of 2022, I was excited to publish A Decade Later and I’m Still Married to Black and White Film. This was a bit of a fluff piece that I’m almost surprised that Petapixel accepted. I’m quite sure it brought little to no traffic because, let’s be honest, the photos aren’t extraordinary and people don’t care about mushy romancey wedding photography. What I was trying to do though was correlate the state of the film industry, using a ten year wedding anniversary as my framework. For everyone complaining about price hikes on film, they seem to be forgetting that just a decade ago, Kodak was bankrupt, numerous stocks had been discontinued and the future of film was looking all together impossible. While the cost of film photography in 2022 was a struggle for all of us, I prefer it to not having film at all!

July was exciting because I bought my first new film camera in probably more than a decade and wrote a review for it – Kodak Ektar H35 Half Frame Camera Review: Out-Of-The-Box Fun. I honestly have only used it a few more times since the review but this camera certainly added to the happiness of this past summer and I intend to make better use of it this year.

Sadly, shortly after I published the triumphant and nostalgic A Little Baltimore Camera Repair Shop That Survived the Digital Revolution, Baltimore Photo-Electronic Services was ironically forced to close its doors. I’ve been struggling to find a good local repair shop since and am endlessly grateful for the memories I was able to share in this article, only months before the era had ended.

Here was another silly article. I was on a Leica group on Facebook one afternoon and stumbled across an unbelievable story – Teen Finds Entire Leica M Camera Kit at Church Sale for $15. In a sea of bad news, sometimes it’s nice to see that someone walked away with an unexpectedly fortunate story!

It’s hard to believe that the rumor mill about the yet-unreleased new Leica M6 was grinding so strongly in January of 2021. But I was a part of it. I had myself convinced that Leica would release a totally new M built in Portugal with a shorter baselength and magnesium alloy parts like a Voigtlander in order to produce an affordable, Post COVID M body. Wow, What a New, Budget-Friendly Leica M 35mm Camera Might Be Like turned out to be a terribly inaccurate prediction no matter how well-thought-out it had been. What’s funnier still is that I invited Dan Tamarkin and Jason Nicholson for another prediction about a year later and we still didn’t come up with the re-release of the M6 as a possibility!

Bill Biggart: The Hero Photographer Who Died Capturing 9/11 is one of my proudest moments in being a writer in general. Being able to tell the story of a photographer I admire on a platform as big as Petapixel, then being contacted by the deceased’s wife was just an honor. I am just so happy that I was able to bring this story back out to the public in a fresh new way.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since I published Photographing Fireworks with a 90-Year-Old Leica. This was probably the first really successful set of images that I’d done with my beloved 1930 Leica and I was proud that Petapixel was interested. I took the photos during the last Forth of July before the pandemic and published the article when many people couldn’t get out to see public fireworks displays due to COVID restrictions. I hope that my b&w fireworks images gave them something to look at and consider the current state of photography too!

Something you’ll hear at the crux of many of my arguments about rangefinder is choosing the appropriate effective baselength. I didn’t think this topic had been covered adequately so I put together a very comprehensive blog about it and Petapixel ran with it. Two years later, I still cite What’s Your Rangefinder’s Effective Base Length? in many of my online discussions and I see others such as Mr. Leica himself, Matt Osborne himself are doing the same. I believe there was even a bit of a copycat article put out by one of the bigger blog sites without any credit to me. Anyway, EBL. It’s important!

I have never gotten as much hate mail as after I wrote The Leica M6 TTL .85 is the Best 35mm Film Camera Ever Conceived. It’s really staggering the number of nasty messages I received – some from some very well known folks in the film community. I’m still not sure if it was useful attention or not but it certainly got me noticed by some folks who were not previously aware of me. And to be fair, I got some very encouraging messages too – from the people who understood my humor, and also from those who realised that yes, the Leica M6 TTL 0.85 is actually the best 35mm film camera ever conceived! It’s probably worth noting that my original title for the article was IMHO: Leica M6 TTL .85 and there was a bit more swearing – both of which, I think, added to how obviously over-the-top I was trying to be. A few folks have also told me that my silly little article may have contributed to the recent skyrocketing in prices for Leica M6′. I don’t know about all that but I’m still very happy to have gotten this article out of my system!

Almost exactly a year before Nikon announced its discontinuation, I had a lot of fun interviewing Thomas Eisl about his experience of, and reasons for, buying a brand new Nikon F6 just before the 2019 holiday season. A central topic of my writing is to encourage film photographers, who are naturally inclined to buy vintage and used paraphernalia, to consider new film-centric products in order to support our own economy. Sadly, my efforts either caused a surge in F6 sales that depleted what was rumored to be a NOS stockpile, or simply had no positive affect on Nikon’s film camera segment at all. Shortly after writing about the F6, I continued my crusade when I published Nikon Film Shooters, Buy New! But today, most of these lenses and accessories have also been quietly discontinued or are nearly impossible to find at retailers.

A photo that I’ve always been somewhat obsessed by is the one used on The Clash’s London Calling album taken by Pennie Smith. Images like this are what inspired me to pick up a camera in the first place, and to eventually understand that perfection is not only boring but often times very ineffective in art. I did a considerable amount of research into the actual taking of the photo and tried to piece together a total retelling of the event. I reached out to Ms. Smith, as did Petapixel but we were unable to hear back from her. Though I am still hoping to one day talk to her directly, The Internet seemed to appreciate the context that I provided for this image. DIY Photographer editors reached out to me for a republish and this is how I also met Stephen Dowling from Kosmo Foto, who is also a big fan of this photo and did his own article discussing the time that he actually shot alongside Ms. Smith. Wow! If you’re going to be upstaged, this is the best way to have it happen!

An article that I will be forever proud of and honestly, felt at the tope of my game at the time was Shooting Weddings on ISO 3200 Film, Full Manual, and No Flash. I wrote this article for my personal blog here at JohnnyMartyr.Wordpress.com/ but a number of sites picked it up, both with and without permission, as well as did variations on it after speaking with me. This article put me in touch with Michael Raso of Film Photography Project and he, and other retailers began using my photos and quotes to advertise Kodak TMAX P3200 and Ilford Delta 3200. For a moment, I felt like the Matt Day or Joe Grier of 3200 speed film.

Perhaps the reason that my wedding reception article caused such a spotlight on my work, was because in 2018 I told the story of the First Photos Shot on Kodak’s Rebooted TMAX P3200 Film. This article kicked off my relationship with Petapixel and so many followers who love shooting in the dark. Tim Ryugo from Kodak was researching photographers who would be good to send some of the re-released film to for promotion. I’d just written a blog about how much I missed the film so the timing was perfect. I knew I’d have to find a great subject if I wanted not only to show people what I could do with the film but, more importantly, what THEY could do with TMAX P3200. I was shooting a lot of concerts at the time so I chose a favorite local band, Vinyl Rhino who I knew would be lit well and put on a great show. I shot, processed and edited the photos within a couple days of receiving the film from Kodak. Getting them out quickly was important and Petapixel really helped me spread the word. In July of 2019, I attended another Vinyl Rhino concert that turned out to be the last I’d ever see because the band broke up during the pandemic. During the show, lead singer Ashley Marie who is still making beautiful music introduced me to the crowd as a “famous guest” in our little town. I felt like I’d made it.

I can’t believe you made it to the bottom of my self-congratulatory blog! Thanks! It means alot. Even if you skipped over a bunch of stuff, I still appreciate that you’re here! I just sort of wanted to catalog my work with Petapixel and reflect on the direction of things. Thank you for being here and discussing some cool film stuff with me along the way. Let’s keep it going for Petapixel readers who may or may not shoot film. And for all my friends here. Cheers to a film-filled 2023!

Thanks for reading, happy shooting!

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6 thoughts on “A Collection of My Petapixel Articles

Add yours

  1. Johnny

    I read your Petapixel piece on shooting with Barnacks. I have been shooting with a iiif and iiig now for two years working on a portraits project. (Instagram, @70cubed). I was not comfortable with portraiture before starting on this project. The learning curve for both the camera and taking the portraits has been an amazing journey.

    I wanted to make a comment on loading Barnacks. I had very poor success loading before I starting removing the lens and opening the shutter to make sure the film was seating properly. When using this method there is no need to trim the leader. When I have the film properly seated I re-install the lens and close the shutter and camera. Then with the film in the “advance” mode and without raising the rewind knob I rewind the film until it is relatively tight. I usually feel and hear a sound when the film gets seated on the sprocket as I do this. Since adopting this method my loading has worked first attempt 100% of the time. By the way Youxin Ye confirmed that in his opinion it is the best way to load a Barnack.

    Do you live in Baltimore? My daughter and her family are there. Would love to grab a coffee with you sometime when visiting them. I enjoy your columns very much.

    Best wishes,

    bob

    Bob Bloom bbloom425@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Bob! Your IG page is great. I do not live in Baltimore anymore but still love the city!

      Good details on your loading technique, always interesting to hear what works for people – particularly when supported by Ye!

      Like

  2. I am quite surprised that you are getting angry responses for working with Petapixel. It should be in everyone’s interest that film photography is talked about. It nearly seems like gatekeeping, honestly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I honestly don’t think that the guys who respond this way are gatekeeping. They have legitimate concerns about how Petapixel in particular vacuums up their traffic. I certainly do not want to paint anyone in a bad light. Everyone has their own supported reasons for their actions. I just wanted to restate mine in case any of those folks happen to be reading and for anyone else who might wonder what I’m doing. Thank you for your support though!

      Liked by 1 person

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