I was lucky enough to take another trip out to Anza Borrego State Park these past few days, and managed to take my paper photography gear with me. Luckily, my friends are amazing, and let me take the long exposures required to get these shots right! The image below was taken of a gas station in Borrego Springs, which had only a single pump. Though the street was busy and people came and went, the long exposure made them disappear, and makes it look as though the station is abandoned. So far, this might be my favorite shot with this new method.
Thanksgiving week, I drove out to Utah from San Diego. And because I was with my family, we planned to spend the night in Las Vegas to split the long car ride in half. The photo above was shot from our room at the Paris hotel, looking down towards the heart of the lower strip. It was shot on my Blackbird, Fly 35mm TLR camera on cheap Kodak Gold film. Though I love the results that this camera gives, after spending 6+ hours scanning in a mere three rolls of film, I'm seriously considering selling it. Granted, I can get more than what I paid for it if I play my cards right. But it's just hard to give up such a quirky little camera.
I love film, don't get me wrong. There's something just insanely special about permanently capturing light onto a physical object, as opposed to mere digital image sensor. The whole concept of that particular frame on the negative actually having been where it was taken just makes the photograph feel more intimate and personal. Call it nostalgia (even though I'm a youngin'), or call it hipster vintage. Either way, film is something that I just can't seem to detach myself from.
That being said, dealing with film is one of the most annoying things in the entire world. First of all, it costs a lot of money. If you can manage to find cheap C-41 film for $2 a roll, then develop just the negatives at a big-box retailer for another $2 a roll, you've already cost yourself $4 for anywhere from 24 to 36 exposures. Add on top of this the time you spend having to scan the negatives into a digital environment, and multiply this by however many rolls you plan to shoot, and you've just gained yourself a load of misery. To make matters worse, the film cameras I use are both unreliable. Sure, the results are often interesting and add a level of charm to the image, but I just wish my FED-3 at least had an exposure meter.
Still, I just can't shake the desire to shoot on film. Last year, I would shoot on cheap black and white film from China and develop it myself in a daylight loading tank with my trusty bottle of Diafine. Sadly, I needed money at the time, and decided to sell off much of that equipment. No matter how hard I try though, I know that I'll always come back to film, if only for a roll or two a couple times a year.
The FED-2 Soviet Russian camera that I owned last year was a trusty beast. It never failed me, and the optical quality was superb. The FED-3 that I bought a few weeks back? Not so much, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. One of the first problems I've found with the FED-3 is that it experiences light leaks, and I'm not sure where they're coming from. It doesn't occur on all frames, and the ones that are affected range in severity from a slight blue haze over the image to a blown out mess. But that's just part of the fun, right?
The first photograph above was taken at the outlet malls in Primm, Nevada, and the second one was taken at the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah. Both were shot on the FED-3 with an Industar 61 L/D lens, and with cheap (and expired) Fuji 400 iso film. They are fairly grainy because of this fact, but I am still surprised at how well these shots turned out. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something personally appealing about the color tones found in these images that I just can't replicate with digital.
The first photographs from my recently-purchased FED-3 are in, and I couldn't be happier with the results. Though my local Wal-Mart still hasn't fixed their C-41 processing equipment, I actually shot a quick test roll with the camera right after I received it in the mail and prior to leaving on my trip. I didn't have a film scanner at the time, but I knew that even the negatives would be a good indicator of whether or not the camera produced satisfactory results. And my assumptions are now confirmed a couple weeks later.
Not only that, but I was also able to test out the scanning power of my new film scanner. I knew the Epson V500 was supposed to be good, but I am honestly blown away by how much quality this monster of a scanner offers at such low a price. I even had to knock the optical scanning quality of my scans from 6400dpi to 3200dpi, which still results in photo resolutions around 4400 x 2740 for a 35mm negative. It never hurts to have options though, right?
Veronica Belmont wrote on her personal blog yesterday about a new application called Poladroid. The software, a simple program offered in French and English, is currently available in beta for Mac OS 10.4 or later on www.poladroid.net. So what does this little 10mb program do? One thing, and one thing only. Polaroid.
Polaroid Corporation, makers of the retro instant-developing photo products we all love[d], actually filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Since then, all products branded "Polaroid" have merely licensed the name, and were most likely cheaply made in China (read: avoid anything with the name "Polaroid" on it). With the advent of digital photography, Polaroid cameras and film slowly entered into obscurity. Their simple nature and slow shot-to-shot speed made them a staple of urban street photography and contemporary vintage art movements. With digital, though, consumers could take shot after shot without much thought (rhyme zing!). Poladroid's purpose is to take those shots and turn them into the much-loved Polaroid-esque images of the past.
So why not just use a Photoshop plugin or batch script? Well, Poladroid is free, simple and fun. In order to process an image, all you do is drag the jpeg onto the program. A few seconds later, the "undeveloped" Polaroid is spit out, and begins slowly developing. Then you wait. And wait. And even though there's absolutely no reason for you to wait, you wait some more. And this is what makes Poladroid so charming. It's just like using a Polaroid camera, in a sense. You can only process up to 10 images too, just like a Polaroid film cartridge. And if you ask me, the results look pretty cool.
You can check out some of the images I've processed below, or you can find more on the program's official Flickr group.
In 1979, Olympus introduced a camera into the market that was years ahead of its time. The aperture-priority camera featured a 6 element F.Zuiko 35mm f/2.8-f/22 lens with true rangefinder focusing that was somehow squeezed into a body small enough to fit into one's pocket. This camera, a marvel of Japanese engineering, also featured a leaf shutter, meaning the slightest pressure on the shutter button triggered the camera. These factors are what made the Olympus XA such a revolutionary device, and are what causes it to still have a cult following in the modern digital world.
Most modern consumers don't appreciate the beauty of a good quality camera. These individuals only care about megapixels and pocketability. I would honestly say that no modern pocket camera could come close to what the Olympus XA is capable of. The image above was taken at night, hand held, at an LA intersection. Because the lens can open up to f2.8, the camera is great in low-light situations. The leaf-shutter is also a great feature, as camera shake isn't introduced by the press of a button. Though a photograph like this is easy to take with an SLR or DSLR, it would be impossible on the majority of pocket cameras on the market.
Because the unit is so small and quiet, it's naturally a fantastic street photography camera. Though the slightly blurry photograph above is of a bad example due to the fact that I was walking when I took it and couldn't stop without being noticed, the camera could easily go unnoticed in most situations. When you carry around a DSLR with a portrait grip and a backpack full of lenses, people notice you. When you innocently snap a photo with an outdated and seemingly simple film camera, no one cares. Having such a small yet advanced camera opens up a whole new world of opportunities.
Unfortunately, my Olympus XA was one of the first cameras to go when I started selling off my film equipment for the much needed cash. I also couldn't keep up with the work that went into developing my own film and scanning the photos in with my deathly slow film scanner. If Olympus decided to introduce a digital version of this camera, I would be one of the first buyers. I have an unnatural love for rangefinders, and due to its unusual form factor and former popularity, the Olympus XA is a great cheap starter-rangefinder.