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 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 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
September 30, 2012 § 6 Comments
Phew! I’m sitting at my desk right now, 3 hours after my arrival back home, and I can’t help but to keep grinning at all of the things that happened today. What an amazing experience. I can’t begin to stress how great it was, to see such happy pepole on a day like today. On any other day, we probably would have been miserable! The non-stop rain .. the endless, torrential downpour that pummeled the group today … But you know what? EVERYBODY was smiling. Not one person was unhappy about making the trek out to the fair to meet fellow instant photographers. I say it all the time, but it’s incredible the type of people that this medium attracts.
My day began, with knowing that it would be wet … REALLY wet today. The forecast was 80%-90% rain throughout the duration of the day with thunderstorms likely ALL day. What do you do, when you’ve organized an event and promoted it for a month. Do you abandon ship? No. You go through with it as planned and hope for the best. I can’t stress enough, that “the best” did occur.
Synthia and I left the house at noon, so we could make our way down to the Texas State Fair and grab a Fletcher’s corny dog before we hooked up with everybody else. Parking was fairly easy (plenty of spaces) and of course, there weren’t the usual crowds that normally accompany the fair’s 2nd day. We made our way in and I snapped off a couple of photos as we made our way towards Big Tex.
Daniel R. and Catherine met up with us first and they were both smiling. They rain hadn’t affected their moods in the slightest (i wouldn’t have thought so, they are really kind & cool people). After some chuckles and small talk, a fellow photographer I met online, Richard, made his way towards our group and introduced himself. He jumped in with both feet; pulled out his cameras, started gabbing photography, it was greatness! It seemed like he was really happy to be around other instant photographers. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he had to split early and didn’t end up hanging out with us. Hopefully he can make it out to the next event that gets organized. Before, he left I snapped a quick picture of him with his 680 SLR …
At this point, Christian & Elaine showed and were grinning from ear to ear as well. Christian helped promote this event and it was definitely appreciated. He mentioned that he had been so excited about this event that he could hardly sleep. Truth be told, I had been tossing and turning most of the week. A few minutes later, Jeremy & Amber showed up. I introduced them to everyone, passed off one of the Spectras I brought for them, and got them up to speed on the ins and outs of the camera. One of Daniel R’s students arrived, Adriana, and all of us introduced ourselves to her. She walked up holding this super cool pink, black and yellow neon Polaroid Cool Cam. It looked awesome! We waited around a little while longer for two more guys that I had met online; Daniel P. & Matthew. They drove in from Tyler and once they arrived, they were already soaked, but again nothing but smiles. I handed Daniel a Polaroid Automatic 100 with a few packs of FP-100C that I had promised him and we quickly organized a group photo.
Daniel R. spotted an interesting looking character walking towards a streamliner that was parked near Big Tex and asked him if he could take his photo. The moment I saw the guy, I knew it was “the voice of Big Tex”. I ran over there with my camera and once Daniel was done shooting this image on his Instax …
I snapped off a quick triptych on the SX-70 .. .
– CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER SIZE –
We all snapped off a few more photos, while we waited around a little while longer for any stragglers …
Then we started making our way towards The Midway area and commenced burning some film!
The rain was relentless! It just wouldn’t stop. I’m still in awe, that all of these people came out in such high spirits, despite the rain. Nothing was going to stop this group!! Rain?!? Pshaw!! Whatevs! After a while, we decided to make our way into the Food Court to dry off a little bit, relax and get to know each other a little more.
For Synthia and I, this was the first time we had met most of these people. I’m usually not the type to go out and seek the company of strangers for events, and for that matter, I really don’t like talking to strangers. It’s funny. My passion for using instant film is helping me turn a new leaf in my life. Many of you have never met me, and don’t know that I stutter. Sometimes it can get the best of me, but most of the time, it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, it doesn’t define me, but it has shaped me into the person that I am. For a guy like me, meeting strangers and talking to new people is a thing that I try and avoid most of the time. When I started thinking about hosting this PolaWalk, I knew that I would killing a few birds with one stone: 1) I’d get an opportunity to “break the mold” so to speak, and get out there and meet strangers and force myself over this hump. 2) I’d get the chance to spread the love of Impossible to other shooters. And 3) I’d be able to make new friends in the area that share the love that I feel for photography. All in all, it was a winning idea all around.
Anyhow, at this point Jeremy, Amber, Synthia and Adriana all had to bolt. So we packed up our things and made our way back outside. We started walking along and WHOOMFFF!! A huge gust of wind ripped apart my umbrella, haha! It was hilarious! Daniel R. snapped a quick pick while everybody was laughing. Later on, Amber wrote something about it being an UNbrella. Very fitting Amber …
We headed indoors to the petting zoo. Walked around a little while and eventually made our way back outside.
Most of us were pretty tired and fairly soaked (COMPLETELY) so we decided to call it a day. We all parted ways and made our way out of the park. I snapped a couple of images on the way out, but by this time it really started pouring some heavy rain. I had no umbrel … UNbrella at this point, so I got even more soaked! Luckily, I had some plastic bags in my backpack and saved my gear & film from getting completely drenched.
Overall, an incredible experience! I can’t wait to schedule more of these around the metroplex and help spread the word about the greatness that is Impossible Project film. If you are interested in learning more about this medium, please get in touch with me. I’m an open door and would love to help you get into this medium. There’s nothing better for personal photography. Even more so, it’s a fantastic medium for the professional photographer. Offering this sort of “out of the box” photography is giving your clients something you can’t get anywhere else. There’s only ONE company making integral film. Get off your butts and support them! Doing so, gives the gift of “the polaroid” back to this generation and hopefully the next.
September 18, 2012 § 6 Comments
Last weekend, Synthia and I went to the ranch to photograph Erica Perry’s bridal & promo photos. When we were finished, we headed up to Synthia’s parents house to celebrate her niece’s b-day. While we were visiting, her mom told us that she had an old 35mm camera at the dentist office that she wanted to give us. The three of us cruised up the road and rummaged around the attic and found the camera; a Yashica inter-oral macro camera. The lens has an inner ring flash and is fixed to the body (pretty cool, needs an odd battery). While we were up there, Synthia’s mom mentioned that they might have an old Polaroid too. She went searching through some boxes and dug up a Polaroid Macro 5 SLR. I quickly figured out that this could use Impossible’s Spectra film.
The excitement was buzzing through me! Macros with a Polaroid??? I’d probably seen one of these in the past, but I’d never realized what it could do. With a SX-70, the closest you can focus is 10 inches. Being able to focus closer, provides a whole new realm of creativity to dive into.
When I got back home, I searched online and found the Polaroid Macro 5’s manual. There are 5 different distances in which you can focus the camera; 52, 26, 10, 5 and 3 inches. You press the shutter down 1/2 way and it emits two dots of light from the camera. As you bring the image into focus, the dots intersect and overlap each other; a dual-light rangefinder. There are two flashes on either side of the lens (which you can toggle on & off separately) and there’s also an external PC port on the camera, so you can slave flashes off-camera.
For those that are going to try any off-camera flash photography, you’ll find the following chart useful. You should note, that the Polaroid Macro 5 has a fixed shutter speed of 1/50th. For proper exposures using off-camera flash, you’ll need to use a handheld flash meter to figure out the right output for your strobes/flashes.
The first image I shot, cliche yes, was of Synthia’s eye. I wanted to get a feel for just how close this thing could focus. I set the Macro 5 to focus at its closest distance (3 inches), kept the exposure at neutral with the flashes on, and snapped the photo.
Later on, I went to Archinal Camera to show my friend Robert the newest acquisition. He’s got a TON of old cameras on a shelf above his desk. I grabbed an old Kodak camera and snapped another macro for the blog.
Afterwards, I went to my brother’s house and snapped a photo of Edie (my niece). She was hanging out under the kitchen table. I set the focus to 26 inches and started rocking back & forth until she was in focus. She wasn’t too fond of the focusing lights. When the image developed, I noticed a time stamp on top of the photo. I pressed the Mode button on the back until “– — —-” showed up, hoping it would turn off that feature. It did.
What about its off camera flash capabilities?? I set up a Nikon SB-600, set at 1/16th power, about 3 inches away from a dead fly I found. I figured, why not? I set the camera to its closest focusing distance (3 inches) and hooked up some Pocket Wizards. I turned the Macro 5’s internal flashes off and fired a photo.
As stated in the Macro 5’s manual, “Test exposures may be required to determine the correct location and settings for the auxiliary flash unit for correct exposure”. That’s definitely the case. My Sekonic L-358 can only meter up to f/90. I was guesstimating the right output on the SB-600 and the exposure is overexposed. Regardless of the outcome of this photo, it’s pretty nice that you CAN use slaved flashes if you want to venture down that path.
One more test shot with slaved flashes. This time I used a SB-600 & SB-800 and cross lit my Leica M2. I set the focusing distance to 10 inches and tested the flash output with the L-358. It was sitting around f/51-57.
Phew! Talk about a tough camera to shoot with off-camera flash! With a fixed shutter speed of 1/50th and also dealing with an aperture range of f/20 – f/100, it certainly makes it challenging. Now, I haven’t given up on its capabilities yet, however, I think I’ll save this thing for the next time I’m at the Dallas Arboretum. I would imagine this thing would be great for flower & insect macros.
Thanks for reading!
PS – Impossible Project has just announced their newest batch of film. To learn more about the latest advancements CLICK HERE.
September 4, 2012 § 6 Comments
Round three! Impossible improved on its previous version of PX-680 opacification test film and offered another batch to their pioneers to test. This time around, I picked up as many as I could (4 packs).
Luckily, a couple weeks ago, I had picked up a ND4 filter. I don’t have a 680 and/or 690 so this filter was going to come in VERY handy. For any non-photogs reading this, a ND4 filter reduces the amount of light that hits the film by a measurement of “2 stops”. When using a SX-70, a camera optimized for 100 speed film, a ND4 is necessary in order to get proper exposures with 600 speed film. You still have to underexpose, BUT it makes using PX-680 in a SX-70 do-able.
After the four packs of test film arrived, I loaded up the SX-70 and waited on an opportune time to head outside to snap some test images. After dinner, Synthia and I decided to walk around part of White Rock Lake. Killing two birds with one stone; a little bit of exercise & an opportunity to grab a frame …
I used the ND4 filter and cranked the exposure down 2/3’rds of the way. Trusting the ‘black paste’, I ejected it without shielding it, and tucked it away in my bag.
NOTE: When using a ND4 filter with PX-680 film in a SX-70, be aware that the camera is metering for 100 speed film. Exposures might be a little on the long side depending on where and what you are shooting. You’ll see examples of softer images in this blog post. DO NOT think for one second, that PX-680 isn’t sharp. It’s ridiculously crisp.
The following afternoon, I burned a few images on my buddy Mike Hawkins; a brilliant guy & solid friend. He’s been living in Alaska for the past year and just recently got accepted into the Peace Corps. He’s in town for a month before he makes his way out to Vanuatu (between Papa New Guinea & Fiji) to go teach English. Ya .. he’s one of those people 😉
I figured a triptych would suit him well. Hawkins-style; headband, RayBans, some old plaid shirt and his Nalgene. Word.
– Click the image for a larger size –
Later on that evening, Synthia and I went to my grandparents for dinner. When we arrived, it was nearing sunset, so I grabbed the two of them and snapped a couple of photos before it was too dark. You should have seen their faces. They lit up when the image came out of the SX-70. “A Polaroid!!!” Yes, Mema & Papa. That’s how I roll.
That weekend, my wife and I shot a wedding in Carrollton, TX. For almost all of the Impossible images I shot, I used PX-70 COOL, but for one image, I used this test film. There was an elderly couple, that had just finished dancing and I grabbed a quick pic of them as they were walking off the dance floor. I used the MINT flash bar and had it set, as suggested, at 1/2 power. I showed their son the image later on and he was ecstatic that I was going to give the bride & groom a stack of ‘polaroids’ that included this one …
A few days later, I went out to play some disc golf with Hawkins. I snapped one image while we were there. It was nearing twilight, so the light was fading quickly. The exposure was nearly a 1/3 – 1/2 of a second.
Later on during the week, I stopped by our local neighborhood convenient store to grab a drink. I’ve been going here for a good 15+ years and the owners are super friendly. Ryan, the one I seem to talk to the most was working this particular afternoon. As I was paying for my drink, I asked him if he would mind if I took a photo of him with this new test film I had. He smiled and said “Of course!” We stepped outside and I had him sit on the curb in front of the store. Because were we pretty deep in the shade, the exposure was a little long (maybe 1/10th).
After I snapped his photo, I took a quick snapshot of their sign (ND4 & -2/3rd’s). I ejected the film, without shielding it, in direct sunlight. I cruised back up there later on and gave Ryan the images I took. I figured he & his family would appreciate them.
Overall .. WOW! A huuuuuuuuge improvement in the color, compared to the PX-680 V4B that I tested out a month ago. ALL OF THESE images were shot without being shielded, upon ejection. The anti-opacification molecule is working wonders. Granted, if you don’t want a vintage look like the image above has, you might want to shield in direct sunlight. However, having that look as an option just gives you more creative flexibility on the spot. How cool is that?
The only thing I’m wondering is, upon the release of these new films, how long will it be before Impossible reveals the camera they have been working on?
August 24, 2012 § 6 Comments
A new batch of test film via The Impossible Project! This particular batch is PX-70, optimized for use in SX-70 cameras. PX-70 is rated at 125 ASA, where as the PX-680 V4B I tested was rated about 640 ASA. For these tests, I’ll be shooting in various lighting scenarios; in the shade, overcast day, sunny day, indoors, using flash etc.
— The first image I shot was of our boxer, Maybelle. She’s been catching/chewing up sticks & tennis balls in the backyard lately. I shot this with a dark-slide protecting the image from direct light nearing sundown, however when I went back inside and removed the photo, I placed it right side up to develop. I’m guessing, but it looks as if the anti-opacification juice has been ‘upped’ a little bit. As stated on their website, this version of PX-70 does take 35-45 minutes to fully develop.
Off the bat, A HUGE IMPROVEMENT over the PX680 I tested a few weeks ago. The colors that were in the scene are represented very well in this image.
— My wife and I had a portrait shoot in downtown Dallas. While I was in the Arts District, I grabbed a quick photo of the new Museum Tower. When the newsletter came out for this particular test film, Impossible stated that you should “shield from direct sunlight, with little stress if the sun hits it shortly”. It was an overcast morning, and admittedly I was overcautious. I did shield this particular image and tucked it away in a box to develop. I cranked the exposure all the way down and fired away. I checked on it every minute or so for the first 15 minutes and then brought it out into the open light to watch it develop.
— Fair Park: For the following, the image was taken with the exposure dial cranked all the way down and the image was ejected into the open in the shade. The image was exposed to ambient light for about 5-10 seconds, while I flipped it over and tucked it away in a box. There looks to be little difference in the sky, between the image shielded at the Museum Tower and the image of the Texas Star Ferris Wheel.
— I had picked up some flowers for Synthia, so I decided to use them to test the color indoors. I set them near the window and cranked the exposure dial down 2/3’rds of the way on the SX-70. I’m weary of over-exposure; can you tell? For this image, it was shot near a window indoors, without being shielded, and was developed out in the open. To be honest, I would probably focus this a little differently if I had the chance to do it over. In my hurried state of excitement, I just let the autofocus go where it wanted to.
— I went out later to a DART rail station by my house. The sun had just set, so I went ahead and shot the image, cranked 2/3’rds of the way down & unshielded. Once it ejected, I tucked it away in my bag. When I got back to my car (after maybe 2 minutes), I pulled the image out and drove back home.
— Another image grabbed was at a Rangers game. The last time I went to one, I had shot some with a Spectra & some PZ680. This time around, I was happy to have the SX-70 loaded up with this test film 🙂 We had tickets alllllllll the way up top and I snapped an image of the viewpoint. This was shot unshielded @ 2/3’rds dark and was tucked away into a box to develop seconds afterwards.
Unfortunately, since it was an evening game, I didn’t get to shoot as much as I would have liked. The ambient light faded quickly and I decided to NOT test fate on iffy exposures.
— I went up to Zak’s Donuts to snag a quick pic of a donut with sprinkles. It would be a good test of the film’s sharpness. I did the, now, normal routine of shooting it unshielded & tucked it away in the box. I shot this @ 2/3’rds dark, near a window. NOTE: As as I’ve also seen some state online, this particular batch of PX-70 film needs a little more exposure than what you’re used to giving it. I probably could have shot this at 1/2 – 1/3 dark and been OK.
— A quick shot of Synthia at the park. I used the Impossible flash bar by MINT @ 1/2 power and had the exposure dial set in the center. Shot unshielded and tucked away. It’s a little underexposed. I’ll try full power and maybe 1/3’rd dark next time around at this distance.
— We ate at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Rockwall, TX. I snagged this photo just outside the restaurant/bar that’s located in the marina. Synthia suggested to shoot it upside-down. It was a little tricky but not too bad. This image was shot 2/3’rds dark and unshielded.
The last example image shot was the one at the beginning of the article. I used the Impossible Flash Bar at 1/2 power to fire 3 other flashes in a small studio setup. I used two strip boxes and a SB-800 flash to help illuminate the scene. Please excuse the flash stand haha …
If you’ve never shot Impossible Film before, NOW IS THE TIME to get on the wagon. Word on the street is that these versions of their films will be available THIS FALL. Think about it. Pick yourself up any type of Polaroid 600, Spectra, or SX-70 and you’ll be set! Because the newer batches of film aren’t as sensitive to light, all you have to do is tuck the image away within a few seconds to develop, OR if you’re indoors, you can watch it develop! Up until this point, the images have needed a high level of protection in order to keep them safe from ambient light when the initial stages of development had begun. Shielding the film has been a necessity. Very quickly, that level of protection is becoming less & less needed.