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
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.