May 26, 2012 § 13 Comments
A couple months ago, a friend of ours booked my wife and I to photograph her wedding in Terrell, Texas. She mentioned that it was going to be a small ceremony on May 26th, at a friend of a friend’s house, who happened to also own a few classic cars. I’ve known Amy for a while and I was happy to hear that she wanted to use us for the wedding. When I met up with her to talk things over, she mentioned that she loved our photography and was looking to have a classic, vintage look for her wedding photos. She also told me that she had been holding onto her great-grandmother’s camera and was trying to find the right home for it. It seemed fate was potentially going to have a hand in the outcome of these images …
Within a week or so, she contacted me and I swung up the road to pick up the camera. I had no idea what to expect, but was intrigued when she handed me a Pho-Tak Traveler 120 box camera. When I got back into the car, I examined the camera and knew that the “120” was probably an indication of what film it used. I opened it up and found a metal Kodak spool which was indeed for that size film. 120 is still made … how cool would it be to shoot some of her wedding photographs on her great-grandmothers’s camera? VERY COOL. I called her up and she was thrilled with the idea.
I took it over to my friend’s camera shop to clean it up and to determine what the shutter speed & aperture might be. This is a point-and-shoot camera in the most literal sense. It has one shutter speed & aperture, using a singlet lens, that produces a 6x9cm negative. We thought that it was probably sitting at about a 20th-30th of a second and possibly f/5.6. I tried a roll of Ilford 3200 indoors and it was extremely underexposed (3-4 stops). It’s not f/5.6. I talked it over with another friend and he mentioned, that since this camera was made in the 1950’s, it was probably meant to use ASA 100 speed film or slower. I had a ‘duh moment’. Having a shutter speed of only about 1/30th, using the sunny-16 rule, I figured it was probably sitting at about f/32. I tested out a roll of Fuji Acros 100 developed in Rodinal and had decent results. From the test roll I noticed a couple of things; it focuses about 5-10 feet away & you really have to make sure the camera is stable when exposing. The best way to trip this shutter is to slowly put consistent pressure on the shutter release until it clicks. The rollers in the camera did scratch the crap out of the negative but what are you gonna do? It’s an old box camera. The aged look it produced was perfect!
I packed a variety of film cameras to use on the day of the wedding; a Leica M2 (15mm + 50mm), a Polaroid SX-70, a Polaroid 100 Land Camera & the Pho-Tak Traveler 120. I figured with Amy’s request for vintage, classic images & the automobiles, bringing cameras relevant to the era would be a good idea. For film, I packed some Tri-X, Ektar 100, Impossible Project PX-70 COOL & some Fuji FP-100C. My wife was armed with our trusty Nikon D700, F100 and a Nikon FE. Our bases were covered …
I like having a plethora of cameras to choose from at our photo shoots. The beauty of having a variety of film cameras at your disposal, is that each camera is different and produces unique results. Forget trying to edit a digital image to match the results you get with film. 1) It can’t be replicated 2 ) it’s boooooooring and SO overdone. If you’re trying to emulate film it’s just a whole lot easier to shoot film. It takes less time in the long run to get really cool, unique, vintage images.
Anyhow, off the bat, the place looked to be really cool. The owner had pulled out a few of his classic cars and they were parked on the lot by the garage. We scouted out some locations around the area that would be good to shoot at during the wedding. I met up with the groom, Adam, and I pulled him aside to snap a pic of him on some of the Impossible Project PX-70 COOL I brought with me.
After a little bit I went over to where Amy was getting ready. I brought Hannah, the flower girl, outside for a snapshot on the front porch with the SX-70 and then one with the Pho-Tak box camera.
At this point, Amy was almost ready and we grabbed a few photos before the ceremony …
The ceremony was short & sweet! I did have enough time to knock out some pics on the M2, the FE, the Pho-Tak, the SX-70 and a few on the Polaroid 100.
All in all, I’m pleased with the images from the Pho-Tak Traveler box camera. Granted it uses a singlet lens and it’s not uber-sharp but who cares? It has that insta-vintage look without all the editing fuss. Also, it goes without saying, BUT the Impossible PX-70 COOL yielded some really neat analog results as well. I’ll definitely keep this stuff stocked for my future gigs and personal shoots. Their film deserves to be shot .. a lot.
Interested in booking us for your wedding? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 25, 2012 § 4 Comments
Last year, I got stuck on the idea of recreating an image of Forrest Gump at Monument Valley with my friend Justin. We talked it over and about 7 months later we set out on this incredible trip joined by our friend Richard. Justin (JV as we like to call him) had been growing out his beard specifically for this trip/image and by the end of the year was growing tired of his beastly beard. The trip (another blog post I need to write) was a success and we captured some awesome images around the four corners area of the US. Here are a couple of the images of JV in Monument Valley …
Once we got back home, JV was ready to shed the beast on his face. It was pretty out of control and understandably, he wanted that thing gone. I mentioned that it would be really funny if he let my wife shave his beard & head completely while I did some still photography in the studio for a stop motion video. He laughed and told me that he wasn’t interested in shaving it ALL off. A few days later I was talking to him and he said something about the video. It seemed he had come around and was willing to make the sacrifice 🙂
The video clip is comprised of about 1800 still images taken in a studio, then imported & converted into a short segment in iMovie. The music in the background is Maxwell (on a Maxwell kick lately – please don’t frown on its unauthorized use) .
May 16, 2012 § 4 Comments
At the end of last year, I was lucky enough to break away for a bit to visit my good friend Billy in San Francisco. He was the first person that I knew that was shooting Impossible Project’s film and he had been raving over it for months. I spent a handful of days there and ventured throughout the city with my Leica M2 and Mamiya C330. While I was there, we visited the coastal town of Pacifica and Billy had been shooting some IP film through his Polaroid Spectra AF. I was stunned by the results. The aesthetic qualities of the b+w’s are something that have imprinted themselves on my mind. Ghostly images bathed in degradation that I thought, up until then, only happened with time. He was shooting Impossible’s PZ600UV Silver Shade.
I started shooting IP’s films about a month ago and I’ve been actively looking for some other Polaroids to shoot their film with. I picked up a nice black Spectra AF from Ebay for about $20 a couple weeks ago. The day I got it in, my buddy at Archinal Camera, handed me another Spectra! And just the other day, one of my wife’s co-workers gave us another Spectra. I think somebody’s trying to tell me something …
The Spectra is a cool looking analogue camera. I’ve seen them before but never really paid any attention. They have a unique optical system utilizing a 135mm f/10 quintic lens. The focal length equivalency is about about 40mm in the 35mm format. Like most Polaroids, you don’t have a ton of control over the exposure. The most important options at your disposal are: an exposure lighten/darken switch, a switch to toggle the flash on/off, an AF override switch to set focus to infinity, a self timer and a tripod mount.
The autofocusing feature on Spectras, and many other Polaroids, is done by sonar. When you press the shutter halfway, it emits an inaudible sound wave to measure the distance between the camera and what you’re shooting. It sends the sound waves to the center of what’s in the viewfinder, the sound waves bounce back, and the distance is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder (there is a little switch to toggle between showing ft/m on the camera). There is an autofocus lock feature, in the sense that after you press the shutter halfway, you can hold the shutter and move your viewpoint to keep that particular distance focused.
That’s basically the gist of the camera.
I picked up some film and waited for the right time to shoot it. A baseball game with some of my family came up so it was a great opportunity to test out some shots at The Ballpark. I loaded up my camera bag with the Spectra, a pack of PZ680 and an icepack to keep the film cool while developing. Why not right?
Before I left, I called the Impossible Project space in New York to ask them a quick exposure question. I doubled checked to make sure that the PZ680 I was about to shoot was indeed 600-ish speed film. The reason for the “ish” is that Impossible’s film speeds sometimes are a little faster than what’s intended. Up until this point, with the PX-70 film in a SX-70 camera, I have been cranking exposure wheel all the way down. She told me that with the Spectra and the regular PZ680, it was spot on and no adjustments needed to be made. She did mention that the PZ680 COOL that just came out was running a little faster than 680 ASA, so an underexposure adjustment might be needed.
With the SX-70, I use a dark slide to protect the film from any direct light the moment it ejects out of the camera. I had planned on using a home-made dark slide but I ended up ejecting the film directly into the box after the photo was taken. The Spectra’s have a cool feature with their self timers. If you shoot a photo and hold down the shutter button, you can switch the timer on and it will keep the photo inside the camera until you toggle the switch back off. Since Impossible’s photos are so sensitive to light, this is a great feature to utilize. I used this method for all of these shots.
I cranked the exposure all the way down for this image. Otherwise the sky would have probably been completely blown out. The rest were shot in the neutral position on the exposure slider.
Overall I’m pleased with the film. However, I do think that it’s still probably sitting about a 1/2 a stop faster than what it’s advertised to be. But otherwise, it gives you a unique, vintage palette of colors. I really do like how Impossible films render scenes. Yes. It’s not perfect .. but that’s the point.
May 13, 2012 § 20 Comments
Many of you know that I really enjoy shooting instant film. I first got hooked on Fuji’s FP-100C a few years ago when I picked up a Polaroid back for the Mamiya RB67. I was in heaven! I had never shot the stuff before and I was really enthralled with the beauty of the images. Since then, I’ve really gotten into Impossible Project‘s films which are another beast in itself (great film).
The cool thing about Fuji’s instant film is that it is peel-apart film and it works on all 100 series Polaroid cameras & film backs. The not-so-cool thing about this type of film in general, is that when you peel it apart, you remove the print from the negative & the developing solution. That in turn leaves you with a somewhat vulnerable print that has to dry first before it can be touched & stored. It’s not really a problem if you’re only shooting a few and can hand hold the print a few minutes until it’s dry. It does turn into a bit of an issue however when you’re shooting a pack or more of prints fairly quickly and need to store them to dry. I run into this issue …
A while back, I started to brainstorm on how I could keep the exposed prints & negatives in a safe place when I was out and about shooting. One day, I was walking around an arts & crafts store and I stumbled upon a paper mache box that looked to be about the size of FP-100C’s prints. Voila! It was perfect!
Once it was complete I finally had a safe place to dry and store the prints/negatives. I just put it in the camera bag when I’m out and about.
Thanks for reading!
May 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
This morning I decided to check out the Texas Food Truck Fest at Valley View Mall. My wife and I were both craving something different so this was definitely in order. I read online that a portion of the proceeds was going to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so as a bonus for going, we were collecting some karma points ;-). I saw online that some friends of ours, Sarah (check out her food blog) & Sandy, went last night and Sandy was raving over the japanese Yume Burgers. I looked through the list of food trucks that were supposed to be there and figured .. what the hell.
When we got there it was larger than I had expected. There were probably 25 trucks with other booths set up for sampling other various items (beer, salsa etc.) Overall it seemed to be pretty well put together. We walked around for a little bit and finally did decide on the Yume Bugers.
They were offering two types of burgers and two types of hotdogs. We had the Poku Burger (hamburger w/ seared pork belly strip, creamy wasabi slaw & Japanese pickles) and the Japajam Burger (hamburger w/Japanese tomato jam, jalapeno jack cheese, fried egg, Japanese BBQ sauce & crispy onion strings).
They were both really good. The Poku was a little on the cold side but it’s understandable since they weren’t operating under normal conditions.
We hung around a little while longer and had an ice cream sandwich at the Cool Haus truck. It was uber-delicious. Vanilla ice cream wedged in between two tasty chocolate chip cookies. Worth it. If you have nothing going on today (May 12, 2012) you should go check it out! It’s going on until 10pm.
May 10, 2012 § 10 Comments
I woke up this morning, and for some reason or another, started looking for estate sales on craigslist in the hopes of seeing something interesting for sale. I stumbled upon one in particular that had a vague description about a camera collection just on the other side of town. I scrolled through some of the photos they had posted and noticed what looked to be a SX-70 case beside some junky 35mm cameras. Oh ya. That’s the winner. I had about an hour to get there so I grabbed an empty film pack to test it and ran out the door.
Hit a good amount of traffic on the way but managed to get there with about 10 minutes to spare. As I approached the house, I noticed a good amount of people outside .. probably 40+. Everyone was waiting in a line and a few were gathered underneath a tree in the yard. Hmmmm … haha. I had to do something to get inside and get to that camera first. After a little while, I saw a few people looking through the front windows. I moseyed my way up to the porch fake-texting on my phone and reached the front of the house. Typically, I would not condone this type of behavior BUT in this circumstance .. I figured it was probably OK. I peeked in the window and saw a pristine Polaroid case sitting on a table along with a few other cameras. The door opened up and I heard “OK – We are going to take the first 30 people …” Well .. I did come all this way for the camera. I snuck inside and went directly to it, pulled it out of the case just a little bit (pristine condition), noticed the sticker price ($70) and I went to the front to pay. “You sure were on a mission weren’t you??” The lady said .. haha. On my way out the door I hear a few people asking where the cameras were .. sorry guys.
Once I got to the car, I put an empty pack of film in the camera and knocked off a few exposures. It sounded great! Happy with the new acquisition I cruised back home.
Once I got there, I started fiddling with it again and then noticed, the whirring noise it was making when doing its ejecting business, was sounding a little strained. I pulled the pack out and put it back in and the whirring started … but then the motor kept running. The mechanism that spits out the dark slide & photos was not working .. haha. NooooooOOOOoOo! I just got this thing … I took the pack out and searched online for a fix.
I found a couple so I pulled out the tools. Now I thought about writing this blog post AFTER I had already taken off the back cover so you’ll just have to imagine what that looked like 😉 I just pulled off the leather from the corner using a little screwdriver to first start removing it and then I peeled back the foil cover that was glued to the back. The steps are:
Phew! That was close! Now if you’re wondering, there are SX-70 leather replacement kits online. They are about $20. Anyhow, I put in a pack of Impossible Project PX-70 old gen stuff and took a quick test shot …
It looks to be working fine! Can’t wait to shoot the rest of this pack over the next day or so ..
May 7, 2012 § 8 Comments
Back in 2010, I was given one roll of Kodachrome from my Dad when I was visiting over the holidays. He informed me that I had less than a week to shoot it and get it to Dwayne’s Photo. As many of you might know, Kodachrome is no longer being made and/or processed and Dec. 30th, 2010 was the deadline to get your film turned in to have it developed. For a film lover, I was excited to have the chance to shoot it. To this day, I still kick myself for not shooting more of it while it was around.
Anyhow, my visit ended and I returned home Monday night (Dec. 27th). The next morning, I loaded the roll of Kodachrome in my M2 and knocked off a couple of frames. Unfortunately, it was a dreary day in Dallas and the forecast was calling for rain the rest of the day. Kodachrome’s film speed was pretty slow and this particular roll was ASA 64; not ideal for the day ahead. When I had returned home I thought the deadline was noon on December 31st. When I went to visit Dwayne’s website and figured out the deadline was noon on Thursday the 30th I started to panic. Whoops! I quickly looked up shipping options to get it there by noon on Thursday. The cost was about $35..
Hmmmm .. why not just drive up there, shoot the film on the way and document one of the final days at Dwayne’s? I started making some calls and ended up finding a travel buddy with my friend Mike Hawkins. He is a phenomenal shooter and one of the few photographers in Dallas that I enjoy hanging out with. We agreed to leave at 8am the following morning.
Mike cruised over in the AM and we quickly packed up his car. It was an ugly overcast morning and I prayed that the clouds would lift in Oklahoma and we would at least have somewhat decent light to work with.
We started cruising up 75 and thought about what we might encounter on the way. The consensus; not much haha. There were a handful of things I thought were worth photographing …
The coolest thing encountered in Oklahoma was a McDonald’s built over the highway in Vinita. It was formerly the world’s largest McDonald’s but now I believe it ranks #3.
We crossed into Kansas and chuckled at the insignificance of the sign. Mike mentioned that whenever he’s entered back into Texas from another state there’s typically a GIANT sign that exemplifies Texas in all its glory.
By this time, only a handful of frames had been burned on the roll of film. As we were nearing Parsons, I realized we had some work ahead of us. If there was going to be anything worthwhile on this roll we had to find something in town and around the area. Parsons is pretty plain. Set in the southern part of Kansas, I imagine that what we saw here could be encountered around most of middle America in its many small towns.
Mike and I drove straight to Dwayne’s Photo and I gawked at the size of the building and its operation. I had read online that they employ about 100 people. Parsons has a population of about 12,000. Walked indoors and initially we weren’t too impressed. I hear the ringing of phones and noticed about 5 people answering phones in a front office crammed with envelopes. Most of the phones calls we heard were “No. It’s been posted for over a year. The deadline to get your Kodachrome in is noon on Thursday the 30th not Friday the 31st.” I’m glad we decided to drive up and drop off this roll. We told one of the employees that we’re going to knock off some frames around town and we’d be back before they closed at 5.
I knocked off a frame of the drive thru window (what film lab has this anymore??) and we went back into town.
Grub time @ Chick’s Diner.
We were greeted by a friendly waitress that looked happy to have customers. The country-fried steak was calling both of our names. The food was decent . . .
We went to the front to pay and I snagged an image of our waitress.
We cruised around town and stopped a few more places (which included a park to throw 2 holes of disc golf I might add) and then made our way back to Dwayne’s Photo lab.
Got back to Dwayne’s and asked one of the ladies up front if there was any way we could go in the back and photograph the lab. “Of course! The VP of Operations, Grant (Dwayne’s son) is giving a tour right now. As soon as he’s done you can go check it out.” I looked out the window and noticed three guys walking around the front snagging images on film cameras. I thought to myself “Well .. we’re not the only crazy ones that made this trip.” They walked indoors and we quickly find out that they’ve come from Connecticut and have been shooting Kodachrome the whole way. They all had film cameras made about 30 years ago (Canon and Nikon SLR’s) and were happy to have made it to Dwayne’s. Mike and I were escorted back and I was a little shocked at how many envelopes I saw in the first room around the corner. That was only the beginning …
The place was nuts! Thousands and thousands of rolls that had been rushed in to get developed …
We saw a tub of empty canisters (something I had thought about potentially seeing when we were cruising up) and immediately snagged some frames.
Mike was about to take an image and his ‘Blad locked up on him.
Oh boy … he was not too happy. I passed him my D700. He thanked me but did not look too pleased. If you’ve driven 6 hours and LOVE shooting film on a Hassie, the last thing you want to do is shoot a digital camera at the last lab that is processing this iconic film. It’s the principle of it! He quickly searched the Internet on his iPhone to find a quick fix for the lock-up. Meanwhile, we made our way back up to the front and were greeted by a group of people that had made their way from Belgium! They had come all of this way to film a documentary (shot on 8mm Kodachrome) about the last days of Kodachrome.
Mike found a quick-fix online and we were escorted back in the warehouse to the workshop to get a small flathead so the ‘blad could be unlocked (I believe the mirror locked up for some reason if I recall correctly). After the Hassie was fixed we were then escorted back to the developing room. *jaw dropped* I would have NEVER in my life thought that this machine would have been so big.
For the next two hours we spent our time walking through Dwayne’s snapping off frames to document the end of Kodachrome’s era.
Seeing and experiencing this was a journey I will never forget. I’ve always enjoyed looking at images shot on Kodachrome. So many iconic images have been captured through this particular medium. From iconic National Geographic images, to the thousands of Kodachrome slides that my great-grandmother shot in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. There’s simply nothing like it and it will never be replicated through a digital medium.
With that said, the variety of film that’s out there won’t be around forever so do yourself a favor and SHOOT IT BEFORE IT’S GONE.