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.
July 28, 2012 § 24 Comments
Nowadays, when people start their journey into photography, most begin on the digital path using their phones, a point & shoot or an entry level DLSR. If you’re someone that really ‘gets the bug’, you’ll gain an increased awareness of the larger tools available to use with film. If photography is something you really enjoy, picking up a medium format film camera can open up a world of visual yumminess (yes, yumminess) that just isn’t possible with an entry-level digital setup. There are many options out there for medium format film photography. Holga, Kiev, Mamiya, Fuji, and Hasselblad are just a few of the cameras available, and you can find a wide variety of film at BHPhotoVideo or Adorama.
My current camera of choice for medium format is a Mamiya C330S. C330’s are TLR cameras that were made from the 70’s through the early 90’s and they are pretty fun to shoot. Because it’s fully mechanical and void of any electronics (like I like it), it slows you down and makes you think about everything regarding the image you want to take.
The HUGE advantage of shooting with medium and large format cameras, is that the surface area being exposed on the negative, is SO MUCH larger than what’s exposed on 35mm or P&S cameras. As a result, both quality and detail, are drastically improved.
I found a chart on Wikipedia by MarcusGR and for comparison, I added a couple of medium format film sizes (6×6 and 645). The chart shows up to 6×6, but you can also shoot 6×7, 6×9 and wider on medium format film.
Once it’s developed, film can be digitized with a dedicated film scanner. When medium format negatives are scanned, depending on the resolution chosen, you can have image sizes upward and well beyond of a hundred megapixels. Another bonus, is that once you have the digital negative, you can crop it to whatever aspect ratio you’d like (4×6, 5×7, 8×10 etc. if preferred). Granted, you can crop anything. However, when you have a massive amount of ‘information’ at your disposal with larger format negatives, cropping doesn’t drastically decrease the overall quality, like it can when cropping some digital images.
Another perk to MF & LF photography, is how depth of field (DOF) changes. If you’ve been shooting for a while in the 35mm format, you’re probably used to how f/2.8, f/4 & f/16 for example, changes DOF. As you move up in film size, the DOF decreases. When I started shooting MF, I quickly learned that f/8 on the Mamiya was not the same as f/8 on my 35mm cameras. You have to be a lot more careful when focusing with these larger formats, because even when ‘stopped down’, you might only be focusing a sliver of sharpness back and forth in the frame.
EDIT: My Dad pointed out a couple of things in the comments below .. “Two other benefits that 35mm film shooters may not be aware of are these 1) grain is less apparent when shooting higher speed films in medium format. The appearance of grain is inversely related to the size of the negative. The bigger the negative, the less apparent the grain. 2) the tonal range of any given film is more apparent. Again, it relates to the size of the negative. Here, the apparent tonal range is directly proportionate to the size of the negative: the large the negative, the more subtle the tones.”
There’s an undeniable, aesthetic appeal to the images created with MF & LF cameras. They create looks that just aren’t possible with P&S and 35mm cameras. In this day and age, because of the world’s focus on pixel-cramming digital technology, the price point to get the look of medium format film, is relatively low. Take advantage if you can.
A handful of medium format images …
Some medium format cameras can also use Polaroid backs as well. I’ve taken a bunch of Fuji peel-apart film, as well as an ever-increasing number of Impossible Project photos on the Mamiya RB67. You get great results with both types of instant film. Below are a couple of images shot with the RB67 and Fuji B&W peel-apart film. Note how much of the image is exposed through this method.
And finally as a bonus, some medium format cameras make for great props! 🙂
Thanks for reading! You are appreciated!
PS – MOST of these photos are available as prints. If you’d like more information on purchasing, contact me at email@example.com.
ON A SIDE NOTE: Last year, I was shooting a lot of portraits on B&W through the C330 and I made a stop-motion video promoting our business. The video consists of hundreds of images detailing part of the process of shooting, developing, scanning & retouching film portraits. The music is by Curt Bisquera; a ridiculously talented drummer/musician that I met a few years ago through my brother. The song “Pimp D” has a cool, west-coast vibe. If you haven’t seen the video before, it’s worth checking out on the larger size through YouTube.
June 27, 2012 § 5 Comments
The wonderful Sandy Hibbard, of Lyric Marketing & Design, hired me again this past week to take photos for a client of hers, Stephanie McAndrew. Stephanie is a writer/activist who promotes the empowerment of women & children in the states & abroad. When Sandy first approached me, she mentioned that along with the some of the more traditional headshot images, she also wanted something out of the box for Stephanie’s portrait. I racked my brain for a ideas and came up with a couple decent ones but never had “it” figured out.
About a week later, I went to The Film Depot in Richardson to pick up some film sleeves for the 120 & FP-100C I’d been shooting. Now, I’ve been to this place a kajillion times and I always browse through almost everything when I’m there. For some reason or another, I had never seen the brand-new-in-box Polaroid Emulsion/Image Transfer Kit that was sitting waaaay up high on the shelf. I asked the owner if I could pull it down to look at it .. she nodded her head. I grabbed the box and white flakes came floating down all over me. I took a deep breath, blew the top of the box and a cloud of dust flew through the store. The owner laughed, smiled and told me that she’d be willing to make a deal with me. The box said $25 but she’d take $15. I opened it up, saw that the deal was good and paid the kind lady. Score!
The week of the Stephanie’s shoot came up and I had been toying around with emulsion lifts/transfers. It didn’t quite dawn on me until a day or so before the shoot, but I knew that a collage of emulsion transfers would be a really cool fit for Stephanie’s portrait (out of the box? √ ). We discussed possible locations the day before and decided on using The Heard Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney.
The shoot was a blast! Stephanie & Sandy were in great spirits the whole time as I took them on a wild goose chase of a photoshoot. I had been to the Heard before with Synthia and remembered where some of the nicer ‘available light’ locations were. The only issue was we had to walk about 2-3 miles total to get to all of them (sorry again ladies ..). About 1/2 way through the shoot, we came to the spot I had planned on using for the collage of emulsion transfers. I had Stephanie sit on a bench and started snapping away with a Polaroid 100 Land Camera. I took 6 images in the style of David Hockney and tucked them away in my homemade box to dry.
A day later, once the prints had fully dried, I pulled the materials out of the Polaroid Emulsion/Image Transfer Kit and gathered anything else I needed ..
2 trays (8×10 or larger) to hold water
Rubber Brayer (a roller)
Wax Paper & Scissors (not included in kit)
Along with the kit I purchased, I received a step-by-step guide to emulsion transfers. If you’d like to view a PDF of it CLICK HERE.
The process was pretty simple ..
Once all of the images were trimmed and set up with contact paper, I started heating up some water on the stove. When the water was 160 degrees I poured it into the one of the trays and filled the other tray of water with tap water.
At this point, I cut an 8×10 piece of watercolor paper that I had lying around and submerged it in water for a few seconds. I pulled it out and layed it on an 8×10 piece of glass. I used the rubber roller to “mount it” to the glass. Almost time for the transfer …
When the piece dried, the watercolor paper wrinkled a bit and little portions of the transferred emulsions were rising up from the paper. I placed the piece in an 8×10 frame to flatten it but was bothered by the negative space that was surrounding the transferred images. I’m a stickler. I went back to the Heard a few days later and took 9 more photos at approximately the same time of day as the first shoot. The images dried and I transferred them to finish out the piece.
NOTE: If you’re experienced in transfers and have any suggestions/comments to share, I would love to hear from you!
Also, if you like this technique and would like to have a unique image created for you , email or call me! I’d be happy to create something original for you!
For those interested, I’ve attached a few of my favorite images from this session as well …
Thank you for your time!
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 5, 2012 § 8 Comments
For those of you unaware, FujiFilm’s FP-100C is peel apart film used in Polaroid cameras and other cameras equipped with a Polaroid back. I’ve been shooting the stuff for a few years on a Mamiya RB-67 and Polaroid pack film cameras (seen above). Other than Impossible Project films, Fuji’s peel-apart films are the only other dominate option for instant analogue photography.
I just recently found out how to salvage the negatives from FP-100C. For years I’ve just peeled off the exposed prints and disposed of the “other part”. I have been missing out! Not any more however 😉
My wife and I took a trip to our friend’s ranch a few weeks ago and she shot a lot of FP-100C while we were there. We saved all of her negatives and stored them in a box once they had all dried. Side note: I’ve found if you stash the negative away in a dark dry place, you can still salvage it. If it’s left out in the open sun to dry, exposure will run its course and the negative will be overexposed/washed out. Anyhow, she took an image of me plinking away with a bb gun on their back porch. It’s a little dark on the print but I’ll be able to pull out some shadow detail once the negative has been scanned (that’s one of the cool things about this).
To salvage the negative it’s quite simple actually. You’ll need:
– 8×10-ish piece of glass
– small paint brush
– container to hold bleach
– rubber gloves
– clips to dry the negative
All you have to do is …
Here are a few other examples:
Thanks for taking the time!
Got an old pack film camera sitting around? You can buy FP-100C here. Aaaaand just because I love these peeps I gotta mention them again … Impossible Project is selling some of the last sepia toned polaroid peel apart film available. Buy it here.
May 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
I’ve decided to start blogging about my experience with different types of films and cameras to throw a little pro film love “out there” … a small part of me hopes it drums up more interest in the art of film photography. 😉
My good friend, Billy Baque, has nudged me a few times about making a blog and I’ve never really had the inclination to. That all has changed over the past month.
I regularly browse CraigsList ads in the hopes that I’ll find a good deal on any number of cameras on the ever-growing want list. About a month ago, a Polaroid Sonar SX-70 popped up for $20. I was lucky enough to get a hold of the guy before anybody else did and within about an hour I had it in my hands. Because of my inner-geek, I raced home, set up some studio lights, shot a photo on FP-100C of the SX-70 on a Mamiya RB67, bleached the negative, let it dry, scanned it and then admired the pic with all its bleachy-scanned-goodness. Why not right?
Anyhow .. back to the task at hand …
I have known about and seen Impossible Project film for quite some time. Billy shoots a lot of it in the San Francisco bay area and has been raving over the stuff for months. Up until last month, the only camera I had that could have used it was an older Polaroid OneStep Flash. I really didn’t want to test fate and use that for my first experience with Impossible film. I ordered a few boxes of film from the Impossible peeps and was pleased when it arrived within a couple days at my door (their shipping times are quite fast I’ve found).
The first box I shot was PX-100 Silver Shade and I , for whatever reason, did not read the directions before hand. The first couple exposures were pretty blown out and then I realized that I needed to crank the light/darken wheel all the way down to get a decent exposure. I didn’t capture anything that was really good from that first box, but the challenge was something that tugged an inner chord in me. The best from the batch was from a car show that I went to with a friend of mine. At this point, my interest was growing, but I hadn’t really seen what all the fuss was about.
I had also picked up two boxes of PX-70 Color Shade (one regular and one NIGO). I saved those and used them when I visited my friend’s ranch in Texas. I had learned by this time that Impossible Project films were a little unpredictable and needed to be babied in order to get the results I wanted.
The first image I took with PX-70 Color Shade at the ranch was of a pair of purple coneflowers. I shot this in the shade about 8:30 in the morning when it was probably 60-65 degrees outside. I tucked it away in a box and snuck a peek at it after about 2 hours.
I experimented with a couple shots in direct sunlight and made the quick realization that the emulsion couldn’t handle it. Later on I read on their website … “Truth be told, the speed (light sensitivity) of this film is not totally where we expected it to be for the average SX 70 camera, and especially in bright summer light, the tendency for overexposed images is high.”
Throughout the rest of the week, I babied what little film I had to shoot and shot the rest of the two packs I had brought with me. I did notice different variations between the regular pack and the NIGO pack. The NIGO pack must have had a different developer mixture as it rendered colors differently and there were no undeveloped patches. Check out some of the results ..
All in all, I am VERY pleased and impressed with this film. It has a unique,artistic quality that is unparalleled in the world of photography. There are no other films out there that can create an organic, analog, classic image like the Impossible Project Films do. They provide a rare, original medium in which to create art.