February 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
A little over a week ago, we hosted our monthly PolaWalk with the Instant Film Society, this time in Deep Ellum. Steve Reeves, of Makeshift Photography, who was kind enough to let us use his studio for this particular get-together, set up his camera above the studio, snapped thousands of images during the 7+ hours we were there and created this really cool time-lapse video afterwards showcasing the event.
PS – Thanks so much for taking the time to create this Steve.
January 28, 2013 § 4 Comments
This past weekend, The Instant Film Society hosted, what was more than likely, the largest gathering of instant film enthusiasts in the state of Texas. More than fifty photographers and lovers of instant film gathered at Makeshift Photography‘s studio in Deep Ellum to participate in a PolaWalk and also have their portraits taken on Impossible’s 8×10 film.
A couple of days before the event, I spent a little time with Steve Reeves, Troy Bradford & Tyler Tyndell at Steve’s studio to get some things organized for this. We met up to talk 8×10 photography, get things set in place for Saturday’s PolaWalk and tested out a few things before we parted ways for the night. While we were there, we decided it would probably be best if we went ahead and knocked out a couple of the portraits before we had the rush of people that we were expecting on Saturday. Tyler took some great BTS photos of our meet up that evening.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was excited beyond belief. I couldn’t wait to get into the studio to set up for this particular PolaWalk. We’ve hosted quite a few since the Instant Film Society was founded, but nothing up to this point, had been as highly anticipated as this particular event. The lure of 8×10 cameras and large format instant film was creating quite a buzz within the photography community. About two weeks ago, I shot 8×10 instant film for the first time and immediately fell in love with the medium. It’s simply incredible. There’s nothing else like it out there in the market place and it’s quite honestly a rarity in a sense. At this point in time, only one company makes it and because of the high cost of materials & tools needed, most photographers don’t ever get a chance to see it or use it. Giving that opportunity to the D/FW instant community was something I was really looking forward to helping provide.
When Synthia and I got to MakeShift Photography’s studio on the day of the PolaWalk, Steve & Erin were prepping for the event and all of us were eager to get things started. Friends of ours started to trickle into the studio and within an hour or so, we were all gearing up for a busy day. I had split the 8×10 photo shoots up into two groups so it wouldn’t be too incredibly busy while we worked and by the time 3 o’clock rolled around, the studio was packed. Steve had his Toyo View 8×10 set up on one side of the studio utilizing a “blackground” and I was set up on the other side with my Burke & James Grover shooting towards a blank wall. Erin was loading up the 8×10 Polaroid holders and running the processor all afternoon and Synthia was scanning the 8×10’s, peeling the images and hanging them up to dry. It was definitely a group effort to get this whole shabang running quickly & smoothly.
When most of the participants had arrived, Daniel Rodrigue took the first group out to walk around Deep Ellum while the rest of us stuck around to start with 8×10 portraits. It was such a cool thing to be able to give this opportunity to these fellow photographers. I assume most hadn’t seen an 8×10 camera before. Everyone it seemed was just in awe of the process and I could tell were all stoked to have the chance to learn about this special way of creating images.
All in all, I think we ended up taking about 25+ 8×10 images and the ones who were photographed were thrilled to have an instant 8×10 portrait of their own. Attached are some of my personal favorites from our time at the studio …
A couple of friends of mine, Daniel Poe & Matthew Hogan were there at this event and I did let them take over and rearrange the setup for their images. These guys are brilliant with off-camera flash and there was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity to watch them work. They quickly rearranged the octabox & stripboxes for their portraits and when I took the test images on the “digi-roid”, I knew they had crafted something nice …
Because I was in the studio all day, I never had the chance to go out and shoot with the rest of the group that was wandering around Deep Ellum. It was really cool to see all of the great images that flooded into my inbox on Sunday. Here’s a handful of images from the PolaWalk portion of this event …
I haven’t mentioned this on my blog yet, but I was interviewed last week by the local ABC news affiliate, WFAA – Channel 8, for a story they are doing on people who choose older forms of technology even when newer more advanced technologies are available. One of the reporters was with the group on Saturday to tape our PolaWalk and ended up interviewing a lot of the participants. After he recorded all of this great footage, Ryan came up to me and told me that they were probably going to do a separate story on our event in addition to the one I was going to be featured in. That’s exciting. It’s promotion for The Instant Film Society and more promotion for instant film in general.
I’m still a little stunned that we had around fifty photographers and instant film enthusiasts join us this past weekend. It’s a testament to the work we’ve been doing for months around the metroplex promoting instant film. On Sunday, when I created the new event page for our upcoming PolaWalk at Klyde Warren Park in February, within 24 hours, we had 30+ people who had signed up to join us. This special community of instant photographers is growing exponentially and I’m really excited to see how it will progress over the next year.
January 14, 2013 § 24 Comments
About a year ago, I was surfing the Craigslist photo ads here in Dallas and up came an ad for a free 8×10 view camera. I quickly emailed the person and within 15 minutes I received a message back. A gentlemen was moving out of town who had an old Burke & James Grover 8×10 that he had been meaning to restore & use but had never got around to it. He asked me if I was into large format and stated that he really wanted this camera to go to the right home. I enthusiastically conveyed to him that I was the right person and would eventually make my way up into the world of large format.
The Burke & James Grover is a utilitarian view camera that is meant to get the job done. It doesn’t have some of the bells & whistles that current 8×10’s have, but it works well, it’s pretty stable and for all intents and purposes, it was just what I had always wanted and needed.
When I arrived at the gentlemen’s home to pick it up, he had a few random camera accessories outside that he later told me was going to throw away on his porch. I looked at them in passing and then rang the door bell. When he greeted me, he was smiling while holding the Burke & James. This was the first time I had seen an 8×10 in person. It’s a pretty unique piece of equipment that’s been used for over a century in the world of photography. I can’t state just how excited I was to simply have the skeleton, if you will, of an 8×10. There was no lens, no 8×10 film holders, a busted lens board and frankly, the camera was pretty dusty. He stated that it had been in his garage for quite some time and he did not have the time to restore or use it. After about 20 minutes of photography small-talk, I thanked him emphatically for contacting me back. He chuckled and said “You know what? There were literally 15 to 20 emails about this 8×10 in 15 minutes. If you ever put “Free 8×10″ in an ad, you’d be surprised at how many respond to it.” I grinned a wide smile. “I bet.” I thanked him one last time and then made my exit.
I was on cloud nine. I had an 8×10. These things aren’t exactly cheap, and granted this thing isn’t the best 8×10 money can buy, but you know what? It was an 8×10 and more importantly, this 8×10 was going to get a lot of use … eventually.
When I got home and showed Synthia the newest acquisition, she was really shocked at the size of this thing and also a little nervous because she knows very well just how into things I can get. “How much is that thing going to cost to get up and running?” she said. “Ummmm .. well it’s not exactly going to be cheap. But, it’s not something I’m going to do tomorrow baby. It’s going to take some time to piece everything together that I’ll need for this.” This put her at ease a little bit and with the placement of the 8×10 on the top of a bookshelf, the notion of using this thing faded away.
A few months later, The Impossible Project announced that it was going to start making black & white 8×10 instant film. Whoa. At this point, I was shooting a lot of instant film and the dream of shooting instant film on 8×10 was just that .. a dream. There was no way I could get everything lined up to use this with instant film. It cost so much money and some of the required items needed (Polaroid 8×10 holder & the Polaroid 8×10 processor) were starting to go for astronomical prices on Ebay. On top of that, I didn’t have a lens and I still had a busted lens board. Oh well .. one day.
Months went by. My focus was on instant photography and eventually into promoting its use and helping others get into instant via the Instant Film Society. Some of you reading this might know that I’m a pretty persistent person and when I find things that truly strike a chord within me, I obsess over them and learn everything I can about it. That’s happened over the past 9 months with instant film and using Impossible’s film. I love it. In using and promoting this medium, I have come in contact with an amazing network of people that I would have otherwise never tapped into. I’ve met a slew of photographers, educators, enthusiasts and amateurs who all enjoy this form of art.
Slowly, things started falling into place. A friend of mine had some extra large format lenses laying around that weren’t getting any use, so I borrowed one of them and ordered a lens board on Ebay that fit the Burke & James. Also, maybe two months ago, I was buying film at Don’s Used Photo Equipment here in Dallas and on my way out, I noticed a Polaroid 8×10 Land Film Holder sitting on the shelf. I walked passed it and before I got to the door, I thought to myself “This is one of those serendipitous situations”. I walked back over to the 8×10 holder and asked the owner, Todd, what he was selling this for. He said “Man .. I have no idea. Make me an offer.” I gave him a number which he liked and then out of nowhere he said “You know .. I might have some Polaroid 8×10 in the back. Let me go see.” I started to get excited. About 5 minutes later he came back with an unmarked box and was smiling. “Let’s open this thing up and see what’s in it.” A pocket knife flipped open and within a few seconds 15 negatives & positives of Polaroid 809 revealed themselves. I asked him if it had been cold stored. It hadn’t, but I knew that he kept his place at a decent temperature for storage. After some debate and negotiating, we made a deal that I was very happy with. When I got back home, I was curious if the pods that held the developer paste had dried up in storage (always a risk with expired instant film). I opened up the cartridge that held the 15 positives and gently touched a pod. They were soft to the touch. The magical goop hadn’t hardened at all.
There was still one key thing needed; an 8×10 Polaroid processor. In order to develop Polaroid 8×10 film, you need a machine that runs the positive and negative side of the film through these giant rollers (either electronically or manually) to spread the developing paste in between them so the development process starts. Polaroid checked out of the instant market in 2008 and these machines hadn’t been made in years. Sure they are out there, but they are expensive. These processors are in high demand. When Impossible Project announced they were going to start making 8×10 instant film, the price of the processors skyrocketed during the following months, from under $100 on average to $500-1000+. Yikes. Not exactly cheap. When I got back home from Don’s, I started looking at instant images shot on 8×10 cameras and I stumbled upon a girl in town who had shot Impossible’s 8×10 test film. I messaged her up and told her about my interest in 8×10 and asked if she had access to a Polaroid processor. Annie was in school in Florida, and she did have a working processor, but wasn’t going to be back until Christmas.
Some time went by and I continually scoured the internet, looking for something that I could possibly pick up. Nothing. Everything was out of my budget and it seemed like the 8×10 instant photography dream would just have to wait. Then one day, while searching online, I found a guy in Kansas that was selling one. I emailed him, told him a little about myself and what I was doing here in Texas to promote instant film with the Instant Film Society. I asked if he would be interested in donating the processor so I could use it to help teach others about instant photography and help spread the love of instant. He messaged me back, told me that he wished that he could donate to such a worthy cause, but he really needed the money for it. Totally understandable. It was worth a shot. He did say however, that he was willing to work with me on it and would like to come to some sort of an agreement that was beneficial for both us. After some quick negotiating a happy medium was met and within a few days he shipped off the processor. I had him send it to my friend’s camera repair shop, just in case I wasn’t home to receive it, and when I got the call that it had arrived, I raced up there to go pick it up and test it out.
I ran inside and picked up the box. Uh oh. I could hear what sounded like small bits of plastic moving around. I opened up the box, which was packaged to perfection I might add, and pulled out the 8×10 Polaroid Processor. I flipped the cover open, turned some tabs and removed the rollers. Oh boy. Sitting before me were two rollers that were completely detached and busted from the roller assembly that holds them in place. This is not good. I called the gentlemen that I had purchased it from on the phone and within a few minutes we were discussing how this could have happened and what we were going to do. Well, at least I had a processor. Not a functional one at this moment, but I knew with a little bit of work, things would be OK. I called my friend Steve (who was introduced to me by Annie actually and also has an 8×10 processor) on the phone and he and I started brainstorming on what we could possibly do. He stated that I probably shouldn’t repackage it up and ship it back, because at this point, a) I had a processor b) I might be able to find a non-working processor to repair this one and have extra parts for later .. good point .. and c) maybe .. just maybe we could get some parts printed with a 3D printer or have them created from a mold made from parts out of his. Challenging but possible. I assume these processors haven’t had replacement parts made for them in YEARS. My options were limited.
After a little bit of time, it was looking like creating a 3D print was going to be the best place to start. Steve got in contact with some friends at Dallas Maker Space, an organization he’s involved with in town and started sharing some of the images of the broken part via email . The feedback he got was positive so we met on a Thursday night and enlisted the help from one of its members to create a 3D model and print. Mike was all about it. He jumped right to it, set up his 3D printer, a Maker Bot I believe and began taking measurements, creating a model on his computer and eventually, after about 4-5 hours of work, began printing the part that was needed. His level of expertise and knowledge were greatly appreciated. This sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Mike ended up working late in the evening on this, but after some time, he told us he needed to clean up the 3D model a little more. He worked on it over the weekend and suggested we have the part printed up professionally once the model was finished. At this point in time, I’m in limbo and hope that this works. *my fingers are crossed*
I had booked a shoot with Sarah Sellers that upcoming weekend and I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally shoot this stuff. Even with the shipping mishap, luckily Annie (who left to go back to school for the semester) left her processor with Steve & I so we could use it while she was away. If you’re reading this Annie .. THANK YOU AGAIN. I picked up the processor and knew I had to test out a shot or two before Sarah’s shoot. Friday rolled around and I decided to cruise up to my friend’s studio to test out an image (probably a good idea right?). I set up a handful of strobes with stripboxes and an octabox. I framed Synthia holding a camera, loaded the negative into the Polaroid 81-06 holder, double checked my focus with a loupe on the 8×10, slid the holder into place, removed the dark slide and tripped the shutter. I gently slid the darkslide back into the holder and removed it from the 8×10. Nervously, I placed a positive sheet (which has the developer pods at the top) into the 81-09 tray, slid the Polaroid negative holder into place and pressed the button. The processor grabbed the negative & the positive and smeared developer paste between the two as they whirred through the rollers. Now the longest four minute wait of my life …
I was practically jumping up and down freaking out! I was in awe of just how incredible this looked! After my excitement wore off (really it never did) I messaged Sarah up telling her how excited and anxious I was about her shoot. It was going to be, for lack of a better word, epic. Epic beyond belief. 8×10 …
Saturday rolled around and my brother Josh, who’s worked extensively with Sarah over the past year producing new songs with her with his engineering parter Brad, opened up the music studio they work out of and we shot a handful of images there. For all of these images, I used a three light setup with Alien Bees. If you’re interested in heavy technical details I can give them to you. Just send a message my way to email@example.com and I’ll be happy to pass the info along.
I shot 3 images in 3 hours and frankly, I don’t ever want to create images in any other form or fashion again. I feel that using this 8×10 camera has spoiled me. There’s absolutely nothing like large format photography. I’m hooked …
Following Saturday’s shoot, we met back up on Sunday at a photography studio in Richardson to shoot some more material. This time around I wanted to capture a really good close-up of Sarah, a full length shot and of course anything else that came to mind. When she arrived, I set up a beauty dish and a couple of strip boxes and set the 8×10 up.
This time around, because of how close I had to focus, the bellows was extended waaaaay out. I think the bellows extension factor ended up being about a stop and a half if not a little more (thanks for the tip Mat Marrash). Nervously, I slipped the holder into place, held my breath, hoped that Sarah hadn’t rocked too far back or forward and tripped the shutter.
Sweet! Another successful image. Phew! Shooting this stuff isn’t exactly easy and it definitely makes you think about everything .. i mean EVERYTHING when shooting each image. It’s just a little bit stressful, but I’m OK with that. I set up the lights for a full length shot and Sarah got changed into another outfit. Admittedly, the first image I took in this scene was about a stop under-exposed (I had a hunch but didn’t listen to myself .. I’ll listen next time). I loaded up another image and tried one more time. Bam.
By this time, we had probably spent a good 2-3 hours in the studio setting up lights and arranging things so they were just right. Out of all the images taken, I had yet to take an image outdoors. Synthia had a great idea and asked what it would look like if Sarah held the close up we had taken earlier in front of her face for an image. Brilliant. I am a fan of picture in picture images. Why not take a picture in picture with Impossible’s 8×10 PQ?
We set up outdoors in the alleyway (it was so cold!) and I snapped this image of Sarah ..
It was getting close to sunset, so we decided to take a break and would meet back up in an hour to take another image. For this image, which ended up being the final one of the day, I wanted to shoot a silhouette of Sarah’s profile using a two light setup. I set up a speedlight behind her with a reflector around it to create a circular shape on the wall and then set up a strobe with a stripbox to shine a little bit of light on her face. Once it was metered out and she was in the right position, you guessed it, I did the 8×10 Polaroid shuffle and waited with Sarah as the image developed.
My thoughts on this film? Challenging, elegant and unforgiving. There are so many variables that you have to think of and be aware of when shooting 8×10 instant film. It really tests your skills. This stuff isn’t child’s play. I can’t stress enough just how stressful it can be to shoot, but are the results worth it? Absolutely. The experience of shooting Impossible’s 8×10 instant film are unlike any other that you will have. It creates a special bond between the photographer and the person being shot. You know that all of the work put into each image will create something unique .. something beautiful. When you shoot 8×10 instant film, you’re not just creating a photograph .. you’re creating a tangible, analog work of art.
What’s next in my journey with 8×10? Sharing this experience with others. On January 26th, I’m hosting a PolaWalk in Dallas, TX with the Instant Film Society. If you’re in the area and would like to witness this process in action, you’re more than welcome to join us. We’ll be shooting 8×10 instant images of the participants of the walk at the cost of film (hopefully we’ll have enough). If you’d like more information, click here.
Thank you Impossible for bringing back this legendary film format. Keep doing what you’re doing …
PS – Sarah Sellers, thank you for trusting me to shoot these images with you. Synthia and I had such a great time. It was a weekend we will NEVER forget.
December 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
This past Saturday, the Instant Film Society was at it again storming the streets with our Polaroids in hand. I’ve started to organize monthly meet ups around the D/FW area to help promote and encourage the use of instant film. While doing so, I’ve met an incredible amount of talented and passionate people that enjoy instant photography. Besides the ones that were already into it, I’ve helped a lot of my friends get their feet wet and most if not all, LOVE it. The tangible instant gratification is something that I think appeals to everyone that tries it out.
The weather on the day of was perfect. You really couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was slightly overcast and 70 degrees … in December. You’ve got to love Texas. Anyhow, I cruised out to Ft. Worth with my friend Jama and we ended up making it out there a little early. Made our way over to the The Flying Saucer (the meet up spot) and I saw Troy B. making his way towards us. I’ve interacted with Troy online quite a few times, but this was the first time he was able to attend one of these events with us. Long story short, he’s a super nice guy and his presence was definitely a bonus. We instantly started gabbing all things photography and clicked off the bat. By this time, Annie, another person I’d met online, showed up and you could tell that she was happy to be there amongst like-minded peeps. Come to think of it, most of the people that came to this particular walk were new to the group and had not been to a previous one. For me, that’s really encouraging. It means that this positive vibe I’m throwing out there, into the world about instant photography, is working. I truly believe the world reciprocates positivity when you give it the same. That seems to be happening with the Instant Film Society. I couldn’t be happier.
We waited around for the rest of the group to show up while talking shop with each other. Richard, who was at our first event, joined up with us and I’m so glad he came back. His energy is palpable and he’s so much fun to be around. My good friend Justin V. (JV) and his son Callum showed up .. which was awesome. Amanda P., this super nice girl I’d met online who’s working on a long term photo project (Impossibly Expired) came to the walk too and ended up loaning Callum a SX-70 and a pack of film to shoot with! Anyhow, JV later said that seeing Callum’s eyes at that moment was the highlight of his night. 🙂 RJ, a fellow film lover that I had met online was there. Amy, my good friend that has dove head first into Polaroid cruised out too. Laidric, one of the now regulars in our group came out again. He’s always fun to hang around with. Jessica H., a girl that knows one of my best friends, showed up with one of her friends (I forgot your name .. sorry!) Annie, whom I mentioned earlier, got me in touch with two photographers, Steve & Erin, who are into vintage cameras a few weeks ago and they of course showed up too! Last but certainly not least, Christian, Elaine and a group of their family/friends met up with us as well. Christian is a big promoter of instant film around his neck of the woods and has been to every event we’ve had. I just can’t say enough just how cool all of these people are and how much I enjoy their company. Alright, enough with the role call …
This walk, was mainly geared towards shooting instant film at night and shooting long exposures. We had about an hour of light before the sun set when we began. As things got darker, most used tripods to help steady their exposures during this PolaWalk. One of the things I love about photography and also hosting these events, is that I get to see and share unique perspectives from a variety of instant photographers. From beginners to professionals, each have their own approach in how they see and capture the subject which is reflected in these images.
Enjoy a healthy mix of Impossible Project, expired Polaroid, and Fuji peel-apart images …
At the end of the night, a group of us met back up at The Flying Saucer and grabbed a few beers while talking about all things photography. Steve set up his Polaroid 600SE and snapped a couple of long exposures on his Polaroid using Fuji’s FP-100C. The following exposures were set up from the area we were hanging out at, exposed for 30 minutes due to the reciprocity failure of the film and were, as Steve said, “fueled by a Left Hand Milk Stout” 🙂
Are you interested in joining us for our next PolaWalk? We’ll be shooting around Deep Ellum in Dallas, TX on January 26th. If you’d like more info, you can find it here.
Twitter user? Follow us: @UseInstantFilm
As always, thanks for reading.
December 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
So you’re interested in learning more about this whole instant photography thing? I know the feeling. I can go on and on about why I love it, but I’d rather take this time to tell about some of the options that are available.
Fuji makes a couple of types of instant: integral film for their Instax camera line (the Instax mini & Instax wide) and peel-apart film for Polaroid pack film cameras. The Instax system is a great entry-level start into the world of instant. If you’re looking to capture candid images at a club, a party, hanging out with friends, this is a ideal choice. It fires a flash every time and takes good images. Food for thought: If you really get into instant, you might find that that this camera system is restricted when compared against others in the field. However, it’s all in how you use it. I’ve seen some incredible work produced from professionals who shoot with Instax cameras.
Fuji’s peel-apart film, FP-100C (color) & FP-3000B (B&W), is used in 100 series Polaroids, cameras which use a NPC Polaroid back or ones that have been converted to use pack film (Polaroid 110A & Polaroid 110B’s come to mind). Pack-film Polaroid cameras are a lot of fun to use. You can find them for $10-50 (on average) for the cameras with automatic exposure and for the models with manual exposure settings you’ll spend $300+ (Polaroid 180, 185, 190, 195, 600SE, Fuji FP-1). When looking for one, inspect to make sure there are no light leaks in the bellows. Use a flashlight to shine around in the camera when the back is open and look on the outside of the bellows for leaks. Check to make sure the rollers move freely and are fairly clean (wipe them down with a damp paper towel to remove any gunk you might find). Also, the required battery needed to run the meter is a little hard to find. Most people I’ve found covert the camera to use either AA or AAA batteries. It’s really simple. This a great tutorial on how to do it. Just be mindful of whether you need to convert to 3V or 4.5V which is easily determined by looking at the underside of the battery compartment door. But don’t let this technical mumbo-jumbo fool you. Once you get your camera in operating condition, the fun you’ll have with it is endless.
Fuji’s peel-apart film has a very clean look to it. The colors are pleasantly saturated, and the detail & clarity is very good.
Each exposure, when peeled, has a positive print and a negative. Further adding to the enjoyment of it, when shooting color film, the FP-100C negative can be salvaged to scan by bleaching the negative.
As I mentioned earlier, you can use any camera that has a NPC Polaroid back with peel-apart as well. I use a RB67 + a NPC Polaroid back and get great results. Note the black unexposed portion of the frame when shooting with a RB67.
You might be thinking .. What about all of those other Polaroids cameras? Do they still make film for those?? Luckily, since The Impossible Project stepped into the game, they do! They’ve re-invented integral film for literally hundreds of thousands of Polaroids that are still out there. Any of the Polaroid 600 series, Spectra/Image or SX-70 cameras can still be used. Beyond that, they’ve brought 8×10 instant film back into the marketplace.
A good Polaroid to start off with that shoots integral film would be any of the Polaroid One Steps/600 series cameras. You know the ones; boxy, most flipped open and have a flash. Nearly every office in the 80’s & 90’s had one for employee photos. They are fairly easy to use and shoot color (PX-680) or B&W (PX-600) film. There are a large variety of 600 series cameras available. If you’re purchasing on Ebay or Craiglist, you’ll find One Steps from $10-$100+ on average depending on the model and if it’s a collectible. The camera has two focusing distances (2-4ft and 4ft – infinity) and takes good images.
Polaroid Spectra cameras are another great option and are pretty durable cameras too. If you’re going to be roughing it while out and about, this particular camera is perfect for the job. I’ve been using these for a while and they produce really nice results. Most of the Spectra cameras I’ve picked up have been $10-20. They use color (PZ680) or B&W (PZ600) Impossible Project film, use inaudible sound waves to aid in auto-focusing and are pretty user friendly. I took one to a Texas Rangers game at the Ballpark in Arlington this past summer. If you’re interested in reading a little more about the camera & how it works, you can find that here.
This brings me to Polaroid SX-70’s. These are some of my favorite Polaroid cameras to use. They are really fun to operate. Unlike all of the other cameras as fore mentioned, because this particular camera is a SLR, what you see in the viewfinder is what you get. The Sonar SX-70, like the Spectra, also uses inaudible sound waves to measure the subject’s distance from the camera. If you get lucky, you can find these for around $20. But most of the various SX-70 models go anywhere from $40-100 depending on its condition and whether it’s been serviced/refurbished etc. Using SX-70’s with Impossible film can be a little challenging, however once you get over the learning curve and get a handle on how to best utilize their films with this camera, it produces some awesome results.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Polaroid SLR680/SLR690. These are top of the line Polaroids that shoot 600 speed film (PX-680 or PX-600). I’ve seen these online anywhere from $75-$200+, again, depending on the typical used-camera variables. They are modeled after the SX-70. Their rollers spread the film a little more even, it has more focusing zones than the Sonar SX-70 and they come equipped with a flash that can be toggled on/off.
When looking for a used camera, of course look for signs of damage, but even more so, check the lens to make sure it’s clean. Inspect the rollers; they should move somewhat freely. If you bring an empty film pack with you, you can check to make sure the camera’s ejection mechanism is working (this is not needed on Polaroids which use peel-apart film). Simply slide a darkslide into the empty pack, put it into the camera and if everything functioning properly, when you close the film door, the darkslide should eject out. Some cameras might sound slow or sluggish if they haven’t been used in a while. Actuate the shutter a handful of times. It will help move the gears and get the juices flowing. If you’re in the D/FW area, I have a few empty packs laying around. I’ll mail you one if you’re in need.
A big thanks to Daniel Rodrigue, Mark Goode, Patrick Clarke, Annie Donovan, Laidric Stevenson, John Morrison & Synthia Goode for letting me use their images to fill out this blog post. It is appreciated!
If you’d like to know more, send a message my way. I’d be happy to help you in any way that I can. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 12, 2012 § 10 Comments
The meet-up at the fair was the inaugural event for the Instant Film Society, an organization I’m helping start that promotes the use, accessibility and education of analog instant photography. Following the success of the State Fair PolaWalk, we were all anxious to hook up again for another. The next event was scheduled for November 10th. The weather up ended being gorgeous and the turnout was phenomenal.
On the day of, I packed a Polaroid Sonar SX-70, a SLR680 and a handful of packs of Impossible Project PX-70 COOL & PX-680 CP. Synthia had her trusty Spectra AF with some Polaroid Softtone film. We threw in a couple more Polaroid cameras for some friends to borrow, hopped in the car and made our way over to Ft. Worth.
The evening before I had been contacted by one of my cousins, Luke. To my surprise, he told me his family was going to join us at the zoo and needed to know where he could pick up some film. I mentioned I had a One Step he could borrow and directed him to Urban Outfitters. He ended picking up a pack of Impossible’s Rainbow Frame film. Another friend of ours, Amy, joined as well. She had been keeping up with the blog and was interested in learning more about The Impossible Project and instant film in general. In fact, they weren’t the only ones who were new to the walk. While promoting this event, I got connected with a few other photographers online who came and a large group from Brookhaven met up too. We had more than 20 people there. It’s really cool that we all met up for the love of instant film.
After we arrived and hooked up with everybody, we started making our way around the zoo. The images shot were a mix of Impossible Project, expired Polaroid and Fuji instant film. Enjoy the pics!
Some of the group has wandered off at this point and had gone their own way. We regrouped as many of us as we could and snapped a quick shot about halfway through the afternoon.
Throughout the day, we were approached by strangers inquiring about the event and just what all this was about. Everyone was thrilled that you could still buy instant film, smiled at the sight of the cameras and were glad to know that it was still being produced. We passed out handfuls of flyers & stickers from Impossible and helped spread the word about all things instant.
The next day I talked with many of the people that joined up with us. Everyone loved the event and most were already talking about the next. I could feel the energy & excitement. One in particular said she spent her Sunday afternoon obsessively looking on Ebay for Polaroid cameras and felt as if somehow she was supposed to stumble upon this hobby. That’s what this is all about for me. Spreading the love of instant photography to others and inspiring more people to reach out and try it. Once you shoot it and feel it .. it’s really hard not to love it.
Want to learn more? Come to our next PolaWalk on December 15th in Sundance Square. You can find details here.
October 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve recently started using Impossible’s LIFT IT! brush set for emulsion transfers. Included in the set are four brushes, varying in size, which aide in the removal, positioning & manipulation of the gelatinous emulsion during transfers. In the past, I was using regular watercolor brushes to remove the emulsion from the mylar surface of instant images. That had been working OK, but since I’ve gotten these, I’m never turning back …
I’ve heard, “Aren’t these the same as brushes that I can pick up at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby?” At first, I assumed they might be. Not quite the case. When I would use other brushes, the bristles would flare out and I’d end up using the base of the bristles to push off & remove the emulsion. Sometimes I would end up tearing the emulsion while I was removing it, because invariably I was using the metal/wood portion at the base of the bristles. The LIFT IT brushes are designed well. The brushes that need to stay ridged and/or soft deliver. The #1 brush for instance, stays ridged while you use the soft bristles of the brush to remove the emulsion. This helps the user remove it without the heightened risk of tearing it. When you’re dealing with a gelatinous material, being as careful as you can is key.
Since I’ve started using the LIFT IT kit, I’ve made a handful of transfers for family & friends. I made a couple more this evening for this blog post to walk you through the steps. The steps might vary from person to person. This is one of the methods I use. I used three images to make two emulsion transfers. One will be dried & stowed away in the “another random transfer” file & the other will end up being a card for my grandmother.
Brush #3 was made to shape, distort and to remove contortions after the transfer, however, I found that it also served well as a tool to wipe away the developer residue from the backside of the emulsion. The brush is super soft and the fine bristles worked really well at this task.
At this point, I used brush #4 to brush away some of the creases. After a little bit of brushing the creases grew on me; I decided to leave it alone and let it dry.
Positioning these onto paper can be a little difficult. It’s best to use small delicate motions with the brushes to move it around. Once the emulsion is spread out, I’ve found you can position the paper underneath, and use gentle side-to-side motions to carefully make water movement push the image around. It takes a little bit of practice. Once I get the image where I want it, I slide a brush underneath the paper and gently push up from the middle to bring it out of the water.
About halfway through this process, brush #4 was a little gunked up with the gelatinous goo. Nothing a quick dip in cold water couldn’t fix; it was as good as new.
When I was finished transferring the emulsions, I used the soap provided in the LIFT IT kit and thoroughly cleaned the bristles. They were clean within a matter of seconds and I set them aside to dry.
– The Transfers –
Should you buy it? Of course. Why? For a couple of reasons .. the main one is they really do work well and if cared for properly, these brushes should last you many, many, many transfers (years!). #2 – Do I really have to say it? You’ll be supporting one of the only instant photography companies by purchasing it. Buying their products empowers them to keep providing us with great analog materials to create art. It’s a no brainer!
Help keep instant alive!
If you have ANY questions whatsoever, please send a message my way. I’m always happy to help in any way that I can.
Thanks for your time!