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Al Kaplan: How He Got That Shot
Old 12-28-2016   #1
Letter16 Press
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Al Kaplan: How He Got That Shot


One of the most satisfying things about having Letter16 Press publish a book of Al Kaplan’s photography – “There Was Always a Place to Crash: Al Kaplan’s Provincetown 1961-1966” – has been hearing from people who were touched in some way by Al’s work. Some have been folks from Boston’s bohemian scene who lost touch with Al after he moved to Miami in 1966 (and were pleasantly amazed to see their crowd from back in the day immortalized in B&W and between hardcovers). Others were folks from right here at rangefinder, who came to know Al through his many posts and his very helpful technical advice.


On that note, one question I heard a lot was simply: “How did Al get that shot?”


Fortunately, Al’s negatives were labeled with the specific camera, film, and (usually) the lens he used. Preparing several of Al’s prints for a new Provincetown-focused exhibition at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (see my other post in this same sub-forum), as well as clearing my desk off for the release of Letter16 Press’ new second book (“We Are Everywhere and We Shall Be Free: Charles Hashim’s Miami 1977-1983” – see my post in the Being A Photographer/Photo Books sub-forum), prompted me to go pull out my old notes.

One takeaway: As folks here at rangefinder know, Al loved his Leicas. Seriously. He *loved* them. But he was getting absolutely wonderful shots long before he could afford top-of-the-line gear. There’s a lesson in there.

So, for folks with a copy of Al’s book in hand, just check the date in each photo’s caption and SHAZAM! Here’s your handy reference guide:

Summer 1961: Exakta VX camera (yes, an East German model from the ‘50s), Biotar 58/2 lens, Kodak Tri-X film

June 1962: Miranda D camera, 58/2 Biotar lens, Kodak Plus X film

July 1962: Canon IIB camera, 35/1.8 Canon lens, Kodak Plus X film

August 1962: Miranda D camera, 58/2 Biotar lens, Kodak Plus X film

(Here’s a treat for compare & contrast gearheads… For the August 1962 Race Point Beach sequence beginning on page 58 it looks like Al was carrying two cameras and switching back and forth between them – and possibly using a different lens on the Miranda. It’s not noted for this specific set of negatives. BUT for some July 1962 shots – which didn’t make the cut for the book – he used a “90/2.5 Ang” lens on his Miranda instead of the 58/2 Biotar. I’m unsure what specifically “Ang” was shorthand for. Anybody? I’m preparing to slap my palm to my forehead in 3… 2… 1…)

p.58-59 Canon IIB camera, 35/1.8 Canon lens, Royal-X pan film
p.60-61 Miranda D, Plus X film
p.62-63 Canon IIB
p.64-67 Miranda D

Fall 1962 – Summer 1963: Miranda D, Plus X film, no specific lens noted

September 1965: Leica IIIf camera, Illford FP3 film, no specific lens noted

July 1966: Leica IIIf camera, Var-i-pan 200 film, 35/1.8 Canon lens
(Al was also using his Miranda with a Samigon 200/4.5 lens and Tri-X film that summer, but not for any of the shots we used in the book.)

Thanks to everybody here at rangefinder for all their support of the publication of Al’s book – as many folks have expressed, this community meant a lot to Al. It’s been incredibly heartening to see that feeling returned.

Cheers,
Brett Sokol

Letter16 Press co-founder and editor
Miami, Florida
www.letter16press.com



Last edited by Letter16 Press : 12-28-2016 at 14:17. Reason: adding link
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Old 12-28-2016   #2
Doug
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(Here’s a treat for compare & contrast gearheads… For the August 1962 Race Point Beach sequence beginning on page 58 it looks like Al was carrying two cameras and switching back and forth between them – and possibly using a different lens on the Miranda. It’s not noted for this specific set of negatives. BUT for some July 1962 shots – which didn’t make the cut for the book – he used a “90/2.5 Ang” lens on his Miranda instead of the 58/2 Biotar. I’m unsure what specifically “Ang” was shorthand for. Anybody? I’m preparing to slap my palm to my forehead in 3… 2… 1…)
Thanks for the interesting info! The 90/2.5 Ang is probably an Angénieux lens, French manufacturer known mainly for cine and zoom lenses. I don't think they still offer any still-camera lenses, but they did at one time. Alpa SLRs were usually fitted with Angénieux lenses, as I recall.
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Old 12-28-2016   #3
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Thanks for the interesting info! The 90/2.5 Ang is probably an Angénieux lens, French manufacturer known mainly for cine and zoom lenses. I don't think they still offer any still-camera lenses, but they did at one time. Alpa SLRs were usually fitted with Angénieux lenses, as I recall.
I agree, it all but a certainty that the "Ang" was short for Angénieux. They sold a number of lenses in Exakta mount and Miranda had an adapter, actually two, for using Exakta mount lenses. One of the adapters mounted the lens top up and the other rotated the lens so that the external auto/semi-auto shutter release on the lens would align with the shutter release on the front of the Miranda body.

Pierre Angénieux introduced the inverted-telephoto wide angle lens concept to 35mm cameras (Taylor-Hobson had used it earlier for Technicolor cine cameras) under what was originally their tradename, "retrofocus". They sold lenses in a range of popular European 35mm SLR mounts in the '50s and produced a 45-90 zoom for Leitz to sell for the Leicaflex.
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Old 12-29-2016   #4
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Thanks for the post Brett ... appreciated.
I`m sure that I recall Al mentioning an Angenieux lens in his blog.
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Old 12-29-2016   #5
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I agree, it all but a certainty that the "Ang" was short for Angénieux. They sold a number of lenses in Exakta mount and Miranda had an adapter, actually two, for using Exakta mount lenses.
Their original fame was for making the first retrofocal wide for a SLR, in 1950 - these Exakta lenses generally are that 28mm "Retrofocus".

Besides being a specialist SLR lens maker in the 50s/60s and a major player in the 8mm and 16mm semi-pro cine field, where French and Swiss lens makers had a strong standing given that the only two major European players in that camera segment (Beaulieu and Bolex) were French respectively French-Swiss, Angenieux had a rush of popularity as a third-party SLR lens maker in the eighties. From the mid eighties on they built a couple of (at that time fast, usually f/2.5) high quality lenses in the then popular SLR mounts, culminating in AF versions around 1990. The 90/2.5 is one of that set. Unfortunately these lenses were flimsy in build (for the price) and poorly sealed. While excellent at the start, my set soon wore out and developed internal haze, ending with worse image quality than the equivalent Nikkors within two or three years of PJ duty.
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Old 01-03-2017   #6
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Thanks to everybody for solving the "Ang" mystery! Definitely seems like it had to be an
Angénieux lens.

On a related note, we're working on an exhibition of Al's Provincetown photos (much more extensive than the small one currently up at the Stonewall National Museum & Archives) for this Summer 2017 in the Boston area, very near his early stomping grounds (hint, hint). And we're hoping to include some actual gear in the show so [shifting to "you kids get off my lawn!" tone of voice now] younger folks can get a better sense of what photography & darkroom work entailed in the early '60s.

More details as they firm up!

Cheers,
Brett Sokol

Letter16 Press co-founder and editor
Miami, Florida
www.letter16press.com
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Old 01-03-2017   #7
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Sounds good Brett
He was also known for his in situ shots using a wide angle lens in and around Miami.

It would be interesting to see a collection of those shots
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Old 01-03-2017   #8
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I always wondered the camera, lens and film that were used for famous photos. They never seem to give them like they did in the 60s. Thanks for this insight; Al and I were born the same year. He was someone I liked on RFF and his photo spirit.
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