Category Archives: Photography

All Things Photographic

First Resonator – Dobro Style Guitar Build/Repurpose Project


I saw an ad on CraigsList for a guitar that needed repair… for $15.00. How could I pass that up. In the ad picture it looked like it had been painted blue, but I didn’t care; I had a plan. Since the seller was a few minutes away, I called right then and he answered and said I could come right over. He brought the guitar out to the driveway and it was definitely in need of repair, or in my case, just what I needed to build a resonator style, delta blues slide guitar. I wish I had taken photos of this blue Johnson brand dreadnought with the bridge lifted 1/2″ off it’s very humped up front sound board. I asked him if it came apart “spontaneously”, and he said it did.

After I got it home to my garage “workshop” and gave it a further inspection it showed some evidence of probably being subject to never having been in a case and left here and there where various liquids had been spilled or splashed on it and being knocked around most of it’s life with a fair amount of player use. Since it was a Chinese made guitar and cost 15.00 I had no qualms about cutting it up.

I had purchased a Spider Resonator Kit from a Canadian company selling on EBay and only needed a hardwood bridge and new strings to complete the parts list.

I marked out the 10+” hole on center from the 12th fret and proceeded to cut it out with my 1991 Bosch Jigsaw; what a great investment… 25 years of service and still going strong with a new electrical cord! I saved all the cut out material incase I needed it for whatever reinforcement I might need. I used a lot of it filling the original sound hole and beefing up areas inside the guitar. I used 1/2″ plywood strips cut on my 1991 Delta Contractor 1-1/2HP, 10″ table saw… yep, another great investment. Not as portable as some of the newer contractor saws but I don’t need it to be. The cast iron center table is a great feature for keeping the saw solid feeling while ripping long boards or cutting large sheet pieces of plywood.

Then there was a lot of measuring and trimming, re-calculating, shimming, trimming, etc. Hey, it’s my first time cutting up and re-purposing a guitar and I was trying out for, someday, building one from scratch.

After I was happy with what seemed like the right dimensions for the resonator disc and cover plate a trial fitting worked well and after a few more refinements, I decided to fit the bridge. Whoa, the string height at the twelfth fret was about 5/8″. Wow, that was way too high for fretting, plus I had raised the nut about 1/16″

so string height at the first fret was about 1/8th of an inch. Okay, time to refer to the internet and find out about fitting the bridge on this style of guitar.

After cutting the bridge down and making it two pieces to allow a screwdriver down to the cone tensioner holding the spider to the cone, I strung it up so the string tension would push the cone down and, hopefully, lower the string heights. I did manage to get the string height down to about 7/16″, but that’s still way too high for fretting, so right now it’s a slide player only.

In the meantime, I was toying with a new paint job, but decided to tryout some decoupage of photos of me and my family, my wife’s art, my art and copies of money from some of our travels. It came out looking pretty cool, but I was concerned the layers of paper would affect the tone and volume of the guitar… and it did… in what I think is a positive way. It’s very loud and though there is still some warmth from the plywood body, the paper-glue-shellac shell created a harder, more gourd-like or soft metal resonance that I like a lot. The headstock logo is created from a scan of my business card and website logo merged in PhotoShop CC.

Next step is maybe to re-set the neck as I think that is where I can get the string height down to be fret-able.

UPDATE: I removed the strings, cone cover, cone, spider bridge and removed the hardwood   split bridge and cut it down by about 5/32″ and lowered the nut about 1/16″. Now the playing height is good, but it is strung with D’Addario .16-.56 Reso-phonic strings and they are like cables, so fretting is possible but not that comfortable. It does sound like I hoped it would and I plan to work on the slide playing with it as is for while longer before I test out smaller diameter string sets.

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Filed under Guitars, Music, Photography

1950 MG Y-Type or MG YA Goes to Work


I gave my 2000 Ford Focus to my daughter so the Y has become my daily driver. Since I am in the midst of a number of home improvement projects, including a studs-out bath redo, I fitted a Yakima rain gutter mount roof rack to my 1950 MGYA and went off to Home Depot and Rafael Lumber. The composite plastic bath was fairly light, but I did stack up 7 sheets of 1/2″ moisture resistant sheetrock for one trip. The Y made the trip with no complaints but the roof rack moaned and groaned a bit under the 300 pounds of rock. I also picked up a 24″x24″ vinyl slider window at Home Depot. As you can see, it pretty much filled the “boot”.

MG YA with Bathtub

 

MG YA with Sheet rock 1

 

MGYA with Sheet Rock 2

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Filed under Cars, Kenzmyth Blog, MG, MG Y-Type, MG YA, Photography

Update on Ken Smith and Kenzmyth Projects


I have not been idle, unlike this blog. Over the last 8 months since my last post, I have been working on finishing my 1950 MG YA restoration/rebuild project and am happy to announce it is on the road and only needing a few minor tweaks before being declared “complete”.

 

I have sold several black and white infrared landscape images through an art broker, from the Pub Republic solo show in Petaluma and at Room Art Gallery in Mill Valley.

 

I sold almost all my Canon Full Frame camera equipment and segued to Sony Mirrorless Full Frame A7 cameras and lenses, along with a full set of Rokinon Cine Lenses for video work.

 

Currently, I am working on two video projects for a corporate commercial client and am still occasionally shooting content for my second, self-funded documentary about a female, world class, Olympic style weightlifter.

 

And, to keep current with contemporary film making techniques, I purchased a drone camera and am in the early stages of flying and shooting 4K video.

 

Stay tuned, as I will be posting more on each of the above. For now, enjoy this:

 

1950 MG YA in Novato

 

 

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Filed under Cars, Kenzmyth Blog, Photography

Black and White Film Photography; Hooked Again!


I recently switched camera systems from Canon to Sony. Sony? Isn’t Canon the camera of the pro-photographers?

Well, yes , it is. However, I decided in favor of 36 mega-pixels over the 5DMkIII 22MP. My subject matter has become much more personal POV focused on people and I wanted the ability to crop up to 60%, if need be, to get those perfect candid images. The Sony A7r does not function better than the 5D and as a system is lens poor. Since this is not a review or rating,  I’ll leave it at that. I do love the smaller form factor, 3 new ultra sharp Zeiss lenses, flip up BRIGHT lcd screen and very fast focusing on the prime lenses. Cartier-Bresson might have been strict about his camera, lens, film, processing and no-crop credo, but I am much freer in my esthetic.

But, this post isn’t about digital camera created images, it’s about my re-entry into analogue, film based photography. My commercial studio work left film behind in 1995 with the acquisition of a Dicomed or Betterlight Scanning Back designed for continuous light photography with a 4×5 view camera. Once Kodak and Canon teamed up to create the 560c 6MP EOS 1n camera, I paid 23K for one and bought just about every lens Canon made at the time.  A lot of money to pay for a second generation, crop framed sensor camera, but it paid for itself many times over in my studio. But, the batteries lasted about 45 minutes to an hour and the miniature HD storage disks only held a few hundred MB. It was not conducive to a day of location or natural light outdoor shooting , and the thought of stalking around with a 23,000.00 camera dulled the desire to shoot on the street.

I played around with Polaroid PN55 and a Horseman 4×5 in the early 2000’s but it was clunky, painfully slow, created lot’s of un-recyclable refuse and expensive. As the MP count went up in the Canon 1Ds to 11MP, the 5D to 12MP, the MkII to 21MP I was happy to shoot digital for clients and for my art, too. Then in 2007, I bought a Canon 5D Infrared camera and created many infrared black and white landscape images which have been  in a Mill Valley gallery since 2010.

A few months ago I was looking at images created with cheap plastic cameras on the Lomography site and thought maybe I’d like to shoot a little film once in a while. That got me enthused to go through my archives of street photography from the 1980s and 1990s and extended into several series of images I made with medium format b&w films in the 1980s and 1990s. I am amazed at the incredible gray-scale tonal quality and accutance of  the AGFA APX100, Ilford FP4 and Kodak Panatomic X in those images. I had to get a camera to shoot medium format again.

Well, as you might guess, film cameras are pretty much dirt cheap these days, so I bought 4 to test out! I got a Fujica GM670 with a 100mm f2.8 lens, Pentax 67 with a 90mm f2.8 lens, a Bronica ETRS with a 75mm f2.8 lens and a Mamiya RZ67 with a 100mm f4 lens. They are all big, heavy and bit clumsy to use, but I have been making some very nice images once I got past the brief test phase. I am not abandoning the A7r, but I do enjoy looking at real film negatives and scanning for the longest gray-scale. I will NOT be going back into the darkroom, however. I never really enjoyed it that much. The images below were shot with a Pentax 67, 90mm f2.8, Ilford HP5+ processed Normal in a D76-like developer.

Charlotte Kisses Rita 2

Lucia & Eddy 6-14-14 Ginger in Window 6-14-14 Nikko on Wall 6-14-14 Ginger with Balloons 6-14-14 Kiki with Balloons 6-14-14 Charlotte Braids 6-12-14 Lucia 6-14-14

 

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Filed under Black and White Photography, Documentary, Film Photography, Kenzmyth Blog, Photography

Kenzmyth Productions Reel


I decided to put together a reel of some interviews from recent and current projects. It was a daunting task considering the amount footage in the archive. I would appreciate any input or feedback from you. Cheers, Ken.

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Filed under Documentary, Kenzmyth Blog, Photography, Videography

Architectural Interiors with Video


Last fall, Bill and I worked on an architectural interior project for a San Francisco builder. The flat was in a building on Pacific @ Gough. Needless to say, there was a meaningful sum invested in the project, which was first rate. The builder, his wife and his brother staged the flat for our two day photo and video shoot. I shot the stills and Bill shot the video with a Canon t4i augmenting the natural light with CFL light banks. We think this beautiful home took on a special aura through our efforts. Enjoy!

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Filed under Canon 5D Mk2, Documentary, Music, Photography, Videography

Prologis Impact Day


We went to four locations to shoot this year’s installment of Rebuilding America featuring Prologis Impact Day in San Francisco. Bill Zemanek shot stills and some video clips with his 5dMk2 for this project and I shot video with my Panasonic AG-HMC150.Since we were going to be on the run to four very different locations with unique shooting challenges, I opted for a tried and true video camcorder that could do it all with excellent sound except for shallow depth of field.

We met up wit the Prologis folks at Glide Memorial at 9AM for 45 minutes of hectic shooting. Next, we were off to a SOMA residential hotel to film a gang of painters on the fifth floor. I do not know how I avoided getting into the wet paint. After about 45 minutes in the hotel we rushed across town to an elementary school on Broadway near Sansome to document Prologis staffers teaching K-4 students about reading, real world math, basic politics and language skills. Our final stop was a block from Candlestick Point at the CA State Parks nursery where Prologis employees dug, raked, trimmed, planted, watered and potted flora being nurtured as replacement native plants on the Point. Whew, what a whirlwind of shooting, interviewing and logistics of transport North and South in San Francisco.

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Filed under Documentary, Infrared Photography, Kenzmyth Blog, Music, Photography, Videography