The Techno-Impressionist Museum
Sunset from the ferry
Tony Karp
Sunset from the ferry - by Tony Karp
Many years ago, a fellow photographer and I took a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. It was late afternoon, near sunset. This is one of the pictures I took on that voyage.

In those days, cameras were very simple. There was no autofocus, no autoexposure, no automatic film advance, not even batteries. The only adjustments were f/stop and shutter speed. We used single lens reflexes because they gave a more accurate preview of what we would get. The lenses were interchangeable, and some let you focus and compose at maximum aperture, automatically stopping down when the picture was taken.

But with this simplicity came opportunities for all sorts of experimentation. One of the things I played with was building my own lenses. These were usually cobbled together from various sources of camera parts and accessories, and from lens elements, usually purchased from surplus dealers.

This picture was taken with a lens designed to produce a highly diffused image with a sharp central core. The glass was an objective from a 7 x 50 binocular. This gave it a focal length of about 200mm and speed of about f/4. I had to build a focusing mount to hold this piece of glass and attach it to the camera.

The secret ingredient that gave the diffusion was a set of carefully cut and applied strips of clear Scotch tape. The pattern of the tape on the front of the lens had to be just so, in order to get this sort of diffusion.