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
October 5, 2012 § 16 Comments
About a week ago, I got in contact with Daniel Rodrigue, the journalism & photography instructor at Brookhaven College. He had seen a post about the PolaWalk that I was hosting at the State Fair and after a brief telephone conversation, we decided to meet up. When we did, he and I instantly clicked. We’re both like-minded individuals and the passion that we share for instant photography is one in the same. During our meeting, he asked me if I would mind talking to his students at his Photography 1 class about instant film & The Impossible Project. After some thought, I quickly agreed and it was decided that I’d meet with them the following Tuesday.
I messaged The Impossible Project and they were ecstatic that I had the opportunity to help spread the word about instant film and would send some promotional material for the students. I was really excited for the students and also very grateful for the opportunity from Daniel.
I’m not a public speaker. However, I’ve been inspired to talk a lot about this medium. It’s moved me in a way that no other facet of photography has. It’s incredibly unique and the company that provides it, is just as much.
Following my meeting with Daniel and my conversations with TIP, I wrote a three page introduction about the company and its films; history, how to use it, special techniques and finally, closed it with a little bit of motivation to help spread the word.
Tuesday came along and I was fully prepared with everything that was needed. I had a handful of cameras to show & use, Impossible Project film, an emulsion/lift transfer kit with examples, cork boards filled with many of my favorites Impossible images and finally, the confidence needed to pull this off. This was my FIRST public speaking event. I would by lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I woke up very early that day and was hyping myself up all morning. I knew I had the knowledge to give them, but more importantly, I hoped that some of the inspiration I’ve gotten from using instant film would rub off on them.
When I got to Brookhaven, Daniel was all smiles and very excited for his students. I brought in my box of goodies, gave Daniel a poster from The Impossible Project and started organizing all of the material. Students eventually started to make their way into class, and I could tell many of them were enthralled with some of the images I brought. It made me happy and also was a little calming to see the excitement that was brewing.
Ten-thirty rolled around and I began the class. I started off talking about why I like instant film, how it’s completely different than using digital and the ways it can help improve your skill set. One of the main reasons I love instant film, is that it forces you to slow down. When every shot really counts and burning images, like one does with digital isn’t an option, you think about EVERYTHING (light, exposure, composition, the development temperature, etc.) You inherently become a better shooter because of this. Doing this day in and day out, with every image you take, increases your awareness of what is needed for a successful image and improves on your ability to take great images. Slowing down helps you to produce quality images a lot more frequently.
I had an hour for this portion of the class and I was going to meet back up with the photography club at 3 o’clock to show them how to perform emulsion transfers & lifts. At this point, I had talked and answered questions for about 20 minutes, shown them various cameras that I use, but I really wanted to get some cameras & film into the hands of these people. Sometimes seeing & feeling what it’s like to shoot instant film, is what it really takes to push people past the tipping point. I went over how to shield their images, how to shoot the camera and off they went! The energy was palpable!
Armed with a handful of Polaroid One Steps, some PX-680 CP and PX600 film, the students ran outside and started snapping away! Daniel and I raced around, trying to find the groups of budding photographers that were snapping off instant film as if it were going out of style. Integral film was blazing out of these cameras. It was a sight to see! Many of the other students around campus were looking and I’m sure wondering “Why did I not take a photography class? Polaroids?!? ” Strangers were walking up to Daniel asking him what was going on. It was greatness!
Enjoy some of the images they took …
– Students, if you would like credit for the images you took, please email me and describe which one/s are yours and I will add credit (first & last name) to your image –
Some of the images I took of the action …
Unfortunately, it was nearing the end of the hour and the students had to get to their next class. We found most of them and regrouped for a quick photo.
I asked the students if they would mind if I held onto to some of the photos to scan for a blog post. All of them wanted to keep them (of course) but I assured them that I would bring them back within a couple of days. We spread out an assortment of photos that were taken and took a quick snapshot ..
Later on in the afternoon, I taught their photography club how to do emulsion transfers & lifts. I had made a few examples at my house a few days earlier.
Once everyone had arrived, we arranged some trays in a sink and I started showing them how to perform a transfer. For most, if not all of them, this was the first time they had seen anything like this. I really enjoy seeing people’s expressions, when they see the emulsion become detached from the plastic cover of integral film. Most jaws are usually dropped once the emulsion starts to separate. It looks like an octopus underwater! I wave my arms around, with octopus-like motions, or what I think an octopus-like motion looks like ;-), when I describe the process.
After I had finished teaching the photography club, one of the students, Scott Mitchell, asked me if he could take my portrait for an article he was writing. He was going to pitch it to the school’s newspaper later on in the week. He wanted an image of me, with an assortment of Polaroids taken in their studio. I dragged the box of cameras in, arranged them on a prop table and he snapped this pic …
I had the most amazing time teaching these students. I wouldn’t have done this, if it hadn’t have been for my enormous love for instant photography. I want to infect people, like a virus, with the passion that I have for instant film.
A giant TEXAS-SIZED shout out to Impossible for providing such an incredible product. I can’t express enough, how incredibly happy each of them were during this whole process. Your film just makes people smile and brings joy into this world. Instant photography is so special. I haven’t met ONE person that doesn’t appreciate its value. THANK YOU for enabling me to give the gift of your product to these students. I have no doubt that I have impacted and inspired them. I am forever grateful …
August 17, 2012 § 7 Comments
A couple months ago, I shot a pictorial showing how to use Impossible Project film in a Mamiya RB67. Ever since then, I’ve been intrigued with the idea of using instant film in various cameras. The fact that you can use film in a camera it’s not intended for is so cool to me! You can breathe life into old cameras. This morning, I was looking at the size of PZ680 Spectra film, and I noticed a dusty old Polaroid 95A sitting on my shelf. When I got this thing, it was basically useless. Film for this camera hasn’t been made in a loooong time.
Would the back be big enough to fit a frame of Spectra film in?
Like a glove. I did some quick research online about the camera; f/8.8 with shutter speeds from 1/12th – 1/100th & a bulb setting. Using this technique, I extracted the photo from my Spectra and put it inside the 95A while in the darkroom,*my closet*. NOTE: When closed, the 95A’s back holds the film in place perfectly. Nothing extra is needed to keep the film flat & in place. If you’re removing film from your camera in the darkroom/closet, you will need a darkslide to put over the top of the cartridge BEFORE inserting it back in the camera.
The camera has notches for focusing from 3.5 – 50ft. To check its close focus, I snapped a quick photo inside my bathroom, with the lens roughly 21 inches away from the mirror. I metered the scene; 1/4th, f/8 @ 640. I tripped the shutter at the #1 setting @ 1/12th.
EDIT: Once I shot the image, I took the camera into the darkroom/closet to extract the photo, slid it back into an empty cartridge, stuck the cartridge in the Spectra and it ejected the image to start development.
SWEET. I went up the road to Archinal Camera and had Robert test the shutter speeds. On the 95A I have, the average shutter speeds are …
When testing, the speeds were a little erratic. They would jump around slightly, but for the most part, when I pressed the shutter release slowly, the results were fairly consistent.
NOTE: If this is something you are going to try, take in account that with the 95A you might have, there will be some variances to the shutter speeds because of aged mechanical parts. Also, when using this method, because of the 95A’s limited range of functionality & Impossible’s film sensitivity, you will be restricted as to where and when you can shoot.
I loaded up another image later on in the evening and shot a 1 second exposure of a reflection near my house focusing at 50 ft. I used the bulb setting on the 95A and estimated the one second exposure.
It’s a little overexposed (and not too great of an image) BUT at least I know for the things I’ll use this for, the focusing works.
Also, for close-ups at 3.5 ft, FRAMING IS DIFFICULT. I took a quick picture of my neighbor Tom and as you can see, I wasn’t quite centered completely. The viewfinder really doesn’t work for this distance, so you will have to try and position the lens where you think it should be for the composition. Tom was really excited to have his picture taken. His father used to take pics of him with a Polaroid 95A in the 50’s …
Later on in the evening, I grabbed a picture of the South Side building near downtown Dallas. NOTE: All images are reversed when shot through the 95A …
If you’ve got a Polaroid 95A just sitting on the shelf, like so many people do, it can still be used! When/if you try this, I WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK! As long as there are no light leaks and you gently handle the film when moving it from place to place, everything should be OK. Granted, it’s not the easiest way to make an image, and there are a handful of extra variables, but who cares. If you enjoy a roundabout creative process, pick yourself up some Spectra film and try it out!
Take your time and enjoy the fruits of your labor 😉
July 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
About a month ago, I was browsing the internet and came across Paul Giambarba’s website. Giambarba, is the graphic designer that created Polaroid’s iconic product identity. I read an article about the integral role he played in the branding of Polaroid and after reading it, I was so inspired by the designs he created, I rummaged around the house for materials and recreated one.
Since I’ve been back from our recent trip to Aspen, I’ve been pondering what to photograph and have had the itch to use the RB67 with some Impossible film. I picked up some PX-70 NIGO this month, and had a few images left from a pack I shot at the ranch. With the NIGO film, I’ve been carefully sneaking peeks at the colors as I’ve been shooting it, and I knew that an orange-framed photo about to surface.
I started to look through old Polaroid ads online and came across a strikingly simple image of a folded-up SX-70 partially pulled out of its case. A couple months ago, I picked up a first model SX-70 w/ case at an estate sale and knew that I had the equipment to recreate this image. The lighting aspect of it is quite simple. You only need one flash/strobe & a snoot w/ grids to light the subject.
I put together a quick studio setup and placed the camera on a piece of black foam core board. I boomed up a flash with a homemade snoot/grid and I dialed in the exposure with the D700. Once I had the light just right, I went to position the RB, but it turned out to be a little tricky. Of course when viewing the image, it was reversed. But even more challenging, because I was shooting vertically, the camera/subject was actually upside down when I was looking at it.
It took some time before I was ready to pull the trigger, but when I finally was, I did the Impossible/RB67 shuffle and created this image.
It seemed it wasn’t complete without text, so I photoshopped a scan from something Impossible I had in my house and overlaid it in CS. You can see the image here.
From my limited experience with TIP & flash, I am enjoying the level of control you have over the highlights in a ‘studio setting’. Metering scenes and knowing exactly how much juice I’m giving the negative always makes for a more consistent outcome. I look forward to the day that Impossible creates their own analog camera and I really hope it has manual settings and flash-sync capability …
Thanks for reading.
June 21, 2012 § 5 Comments
In my previous blog post, I touched briefly on Impossible’s viewfinder article on Patrick Clarke regarding his use of a Mamiya RB67 with Impossible Project film. The article did a great job of explaining how it works and for photography-minded individuals nothing further is needed. However, for people just getting into instant film or photography in general, a pictorial on the subject would clear up any potential guesswork that has be done.
This method (not what’s pictured above ;-)) works with Impossible’s SX-70 & 600 series film. When I first read about this, I was stoked because I knew I had the gear to try this out. It’s a pretty backwards way of taking a photo, BUT the fact that you’re able to do it, is really cool. Clarke touched on the RB67’s qualities in the article “… amazed at how technically perfect the camera and its lenses were. I could control the depth of field, the shutter speed and aperture exactly like I wanted. My exposures were dead on, and the images were sharp as I could want” .. I couldn’t agree more. The fact that you can utilize these qualities with Impossible film is awesome.
Now the how to’s ..
First, from this point forward, **anything inside asterisks MUST BE DONE in complete darkness (in a dark room, light-tight bag, dark closet etc.)** Dealing with undeveloped film, because it’s so sensitive to light, has to be kept in the dark until it’s developed. This particular method, extracting film from a cartridge for use in another camera, needs a certain level of care in order to keep the image undeveloped until you’re ready.
If you don’t have access to a darkroom or a really dark closet, you will need to insert a dark slide into the cartridge to protect the film from light before removing it.
There’s a great video on Impossible’s website that teaches you how to swap film packs between cameras that talks about these first steps if you’re interested.
At this point, you need to put the Polaroid back & the freshly removed film cartridge in a changing bag (a light tight bag used to extract film) or your darkroom ;-). In total darkness you will need to …
Go take a picture of something!
Once you have shot your image, remove the Polaroid back and put it back in the changing bag with the Impossible film cartridge & a SX-70/600 series camera (or go to a darkroom if you’re so lucky ;-)). Remove the exposed image from the Polaroid back and …
At this point, I normally slide an empty PX70 box inside the changing bag to store & remove the exposed image.
EXAMPLE: Note the reversed image when shooting this way …
That’s about it! Now this method will work with any NPC back that uses FP-100C film. The only question will be how much ‘real estate’ is being exposed on the negative.
Thanks for reading and thanks to this blog post for the inspiration!
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 10, 2012 § 12 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 ..