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
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 …
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.
July 16, 2012 § 11 Comments
We decided the night before, that we’d wake up early on Sunday and take the jeep to check out The Crystal Mill. From Aspen, it takes about an hour to get to Marble and the mill is 5 miles outside of town, only accessible by way of the Crystal River Jeep Trail. I’ve seen it books in the past and have always wanted to see it in person. After it was built in 1893, it used a water turbine to power an air compressor, for use in silver ore processing at two nearby mines. The drive in was gorgeous, but was no comparison to what was in store. Once we reached it, we were stunned!
I ran around like a nut snapping pictures with the SX-70, Leica and the Polaroid 100 (for an emulsion-transfer collage). We stayed there for the better part of an hour and when we were about to leave, two jacked-up jeeps came roaring around a bend in the road and parked by us. One of the drivers hopped out and started walking towards us and Kat asked him if there were other roads to take besides the one we drove in on. He smiled. “It depends on where you want to go. You can go all the way to Crested Butte if you like. But if you’re trying to get back to Marble, if you take this road just past the town of Crystal, the Lead King Basin trail will loop around and take you back into town. If you’ve never done it before, it is totally worth it. A little sketchy at times, with some challenging switchbacks and steps (he motioned his hands to represent about a foot’s height), but if you take it slow you’ll be fine.”
As soon as Kat confirmed some of the more important turns on the route, we hopped back in the jeep and drove up the road into the quasi-ghost town of Crystal, CO. The town (10 or so homes & structures) is only occupied in the summer, as it’s completely uninhabitable in the winter. When we drove into Crystal, it was a sight that I had always imagined but had never seen. Nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains, was this little slice of heaven .. an outdoor-lover’s paradise. We pulled up a bit but then we all decided, for the sake of time, we’d backtrack our way in. We busted a U and I snagged a quick frame of one of the homes on some PX-70 NIGO film.
When we drove back towards the Crystal Mill, the gent we had talked to earlier was standing near the middle of the road. He raised his arms in the air, put his hands on his hips and had a look of total disbelief. Kat chuckled and said “Oh lord, the Sheriff of Crystal …” He started shaking his head .. “I’m telling you guys, it’ll only tack on 30 minutes to your route. We’ll be right behind you if you come into a problem. We’re headed up the Schofield Pass, but we’ll be taking Lead King Basin on our way out.”
You just have to go with the flow sometimes. We busted another U and went back up the road into Crystal. As we were driving through the town, we passed a couple of kids who were playing with their dog, aptly named Crystal. The last home was deep inside a giant grove of Aspens before a fork in the road. As soon as we passed through the town, we all knew the man was correct; this was the way to go.
To the right was the trail to Crested Butte and to the left was our trail. In between the fork, was a giant sign that read “Extremely Rough Road Ahead – Vehicle Traffic Discouraged – 4×4 with Experienced Drivers and Narrow Wheel Base Only”. Kristina asked Kat “Uhh .. Kat? Are you an experienced driver?” “Yes, Kristina.”
It took us about 2 hours to drive 8 miles in some of the prettiest parts of Colorado I have ever seen …
When we went through Marble earlier on our way to the Crystal Mill, we passed a barbecue joint; Slow Groovin’ BBQ. We all were starving by this point, so we stopped in for some grub & beer.
When the first round of brews arrived, we saluted Kat’s driving abilities and then sat back and enjoyed the Colorado summer day. After some pretty tasty BBQ topped off with a root-beer float, we started to make our way to the Yule Marble Quarry. It only took about 10 minutes to get there, but when we arrived, it was yet another spectacular view.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We headed back to the house, to enjoy one last evening of hanging out before we had to leave in the AM. Due to a little bit of car trouble we had during the week (no road trip is complete without right?), we left a little later than we wanted to. As we were driving through the mountains on the way back, we both had that “why don’t we live here?” feeling. It’s just so nice in Colorado …
The drive out of the mountains was beautiful. Even though it was a little chilly, I rolled down the windows so I could breathe in the crisp mountain air one more time. I stopped a few times to take some snapshots …
When we passed through Westcliffe, about 30 miles outside, everyone was being stopped. Construction workers were telling everyone to turn around because the road had been washed out by a storm. The lady directing traffic told us that we’d have to go back into Westcliffe, and then make our way back up to Colorado City (about 60 miles away) to get towards I-25. She said from there, it would take about 20-30 minutes to get to the highway. Boo.
Synthia and I rode quietly in the car together for about an hour until we crested over a one of the mountains in the San Isabel National Forest. To my right, was something I hadn’t seen in years; The Bishop Castle. About 25 years ago, my family used to occasionally come to Colorado in the summer, to stay near Wescliffe. We had taken this route at one point, and I vaguely remembered visiting this castle as a kid. One man, Jim Bishop, has built this castle by himself over the past 40+ years …
As a scale reference, there is a man on top of the right tower in the image above …
Once the initial excitement of seeing this structure wore off, we hopped back in the car and made our way towards I-25 ..
We merged onto the highway and cruised down to Raton, NM. When we started heading east towards Dumas, we drove right into a rainstorm ..
After a while the storms gave way, and we drove the 400-ish miles we had left on our journey through the clear of the night …
It was a trip that I will remember for a lifetime. Synthia and I can’t thank Kristina and Kat enough for showing us such an incredible time, yet again, in Colorado. We love you guys so much!
BTW, Impossible Project – A big thank you to the chemistry of your product; from the way the film “sees” a scene, to the soft colors, to the painterly quality of the images, to the rich analog life it has .. all make me crave its photographic substance a little more. Diving deeper into instant photography is something I do not regret. Thank you for making such a quality product and for the inspiration.
July 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
The following day, we decided to drive up Aspen Mountain to play some frisbee golf. When we got to the top, the signs read “highest disc golf course in the world!”. At 11,200 feet, it was an awesome place to play some disc. The course had 18 holes which zig-zagged their way down & up the side of the mountain.
We ended up playing about 1/2 of the course and then decided to walk over to The Sundeck to take a break.
When we were finished, we took the jeep down the backside of the mountain towards Hunter Creek Rd. to get back into town.
We eventually parted ways and Synthia and I decided to go up Independence Pass to check out the Lost Man Lake trail. The trail goes up to two lakes, Independence and Lost Man, which are near the top of the continental divide. We started at the Roaring Fork Trailhead and once we walked in about 1000 feet, it was like we had stepped into another part of the world. Dense, lush, spongy landscape rich with wildflowers and moss covered rocks. Just beautiful …
This was one of many moments on this trip, in which I was really glad we brought our boxer with us. Seeing her run up and down the trail, prancing around was a sight to see. She was so happy!
While we were en route, we could see a few people alongside a ridge about another mile up the trail. That was our goal. I knew that over that distant ridge was either Lost Man Lake or at the very least, an amazing view. Once we got to Independence Lake, we knew that Lost Man was just over the ridge. We passed a hiker on the way up, and mentioned something about it being our first time on the trail. A broad smile appeared, and he assured us that the view the first time, was something we’d never forget … he was SO right. When we reached the top, I was completely wowed. All I could do was stumble around in awe, as I gawked at the wondrous display of nature that was before me. We stayed up there for a good 30-45 minutes, just soaking it in …
It was nearing 7 o’clock and some storms started rolling in. We put on some parkas and made our way back down the trail. We were supposed to have dinner at Steakhouse 316 with Kristina and Kat at 9, so it was a good thing the impending storm nudged us along.
Dinner was scrumdiddlyumptious! If you’re ever in the Aspen area, you have got to go check this place out. Kat is the ridiculously talented executive chef at Steakhouse 316, and everything, I mean EVERYTHING she makes is fantastic. Hands down .. the things she has cooked has been some of the best food I’ve had in my life. The four of us enjoyed a delicious spread at the restaurant which included jumbo lump crab cakes and savory steaks, along with many highly delectable sides. By the time we finished our food, they were closing down so we walked back home to relax the rest of the evening …
Synthia: Relaxed? We actually went home to enjoy our 4th bottle of wine …
To be continued …
July 12, 2012 § 4 Comments
The next morning, Kristina & Synthia went to breakfast while Kat went to do some prep-work at the restaurant. I took the jeep out and cruised up to The Grottos to check out the ice cave. When we visited last year in June, the entrance was blocked with ice and there wasn’t a path. I was anxious to see if there was a clear route through the ice this time around. Luckily, there was and I made my way down and crawled inside …
Later on that day, I found some info on this cave in Hiking Colorado’s Geology ebook online. “The Grottos formed when the Roaring Fork River was swollen with meltwater from receding Ice Age glaciers about 15,000 years ago. The meltwater coursed over the granitic bedrock carrying rocks and other debris that sculpted the cavern’s walls through abrasive action. Today, the river has abandoned the channel through the Grottos, leaving behind a slot canyon with windows open to the sky. Unlike most caverns, which are created where limestone is dissolved by water, the Grottos are carved in solid Precambrian granitic rock (1.4 billion-year-old quartz monzonite).”
Once I was done chillin’ in the ice cave, I walked around for a bit and eventually sat down at this bench to watch the cascades …
I made my way back down the mountain and met up with Kristina & Synthia at Victoria’s coffee shop. By the time I downed the best Cafe Mocha I’ve had in my life .. literally, Kat had cruised up on her bike. Maybe it was the coffee, but I was antsy to get back out there and ‘do something’ but Kristina & Synthia were content just hanging out sippin’ on their wine (I can’t particularly blame them now can I?). Something about hiking the Ute Trail was mentioned, and both Kat and I decided that was a good idea.
We brought the dogs with us, Diego & Maybelle, and made our way to the trailhead. Kristina & Kat had both warned me that this hike was BRUTAL … I had no idea. It was literally like being on a stair-master for almost an hour .. intense. The hike is about a mile up and you gain 1,300 feet of elevation during the hike.
The whole way up, we were both huffin’ and puffin’, but as we passed people who were hiking down, they all said the view was completely worth it. Kat mentioned, that there are people that have lived their whole life in Aspen and have never made it to the top. A shame, considering the stunning view that awaits its victors …
Unfortunately, it started to rain and Kat had to make it back into work. We hauled booty back down the ever-increasing slippery trail, but by the time we got back to the jeep, the rain was letting up.
Once we got back to the casa, Synthia had made a picnic dinner for the two of us and wanted to go lay out somewhere to enjoy the scenery .. uhh Ya! 🙂
I wanted to show her the ice cave, so we drove back to The Grottos and made our way up to this great little nook at the top of the cascades. It was away from the traffic of most of the visitors and to be honest, we saw maybe 10 people in the 3 hours that we were there.
When we got back, I ‘pulled the old man card’ and relaxed the rest of the evening. I had to get a jump start on writing about our trip 🙂 Synthia eventually met up with K&K when they got off work, and the ladies came giggling back after the bars closed.
To be continued …
July 11, 2012 § 6 Comments
A road trip to Aspen. Two of my favorite people, Kristina & Kat, are fortunate enough to live there and my wife and I have visited them a couple of times since they moved. We have vowed to make the trip every year at least once. If you drive to Aspen it’s about ~ 16 hours from Dallas, but totally worth it. Granted, it takes 10 hours to get out of Texas, but who cares .. the last 6 are filled with an inspiring landscape worthy of any road trip. Colorado just makes you feel so good. Being there replenishes my soul ..
The plan was to leave on Tuesday night, July 3rd. We’d drive through the evening, take a nap for a few hours in Raton, NM and then hit the road again. Luckily, the adrenaline of being on a road trip usually just keeps me going. We decided to take Maybelle, one of our dogs, with us. She’s a 2 1/2 year old boxer and we knew that she would have the time of her life up there.
I brought a variety of cameras with me; a Leica M2, a Polaroid Sonar SX-70, a Polaroid 100 Land Camera and a Mamiya C330. For film, I brought some PX-70 COOL & NIGO, Kodak Ektar 100, Fuji Acros 100 & Adox CMS 20. 🙂 Synthia brought her Spectra SE and her grab bag of Spectra film. She’s been shooting a lot with it and is loving the black frame PZ600. It has this really cool vintage look and it ended being a perfect fit for the images she shot on this trip.
We packed all of the other essentials and ended up leaving at 7 o’clock. After we drove 6 hours and made it into Amarillo, we chose to just make the push to Aspen without stopping, and took turns driving and sleeping through the night. I can’t believe we had it in us to drive straight to Aspen from Dallas.
Once we got over Independence Pass and were making our way into town, we stopped at a grove of trees and Synthia snapped this killer B&W shot with some black frame PZ600 …
Our little Scion arrived in Aspen at 11am, just enough time to take a quick shower and find a spot to relax before the July 4th parade started. The four of us sat down at Hunters Bar and enjoyed some good ol’ fashioned ‘merican food (beer, burgers & dogs) while watching the parade from a distance. We both snuck up for a couple of frames of the festivities …
After the parade was over, Kristina and Kat had to head into work so Synthia and I went back to their place and passed out. When we woke up from our much needed nap, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat.
We ended up going to New York Pizza. Last year, I had met a local photographer by the name of Michael Brands there when I was in town. He had mentioned that his friend had just opened up a photography gallery in Aspen called The Nugget that was worth checking out. I made a point to stop in again this year to show Synthia and to introduce myself to the owner, Ross. When we walked inside, there were some fantastic photo-realistic paintings that a friend of his was showing. We started talking photography and about 1/2 way through our conversation, I asked him if he still shot instant film and if he had heard of The Impossible Project. He had not 🙂 I filled him in on the details and his interest seemed to pique when I mentioned that Impossible was now making 8×0 film as well. Later in the evening, when Synthia and I were walking around, she chuckled and said that TIP needs to hire me as a spokesman for their product. I’m practically an evangelist for them! But you know what? They deserve all of the positive press they can get.
The next morning, we all woke up and hiked part of Lost Man Loop. We probably hiked about an hour or so before turning around. It was a great warm up for us and I’m glad we ended up taking it a little easy. I think Synthia and I were still a little beat from the drive and adjusting to the altitude.
After we got back, we were starving so we all ordered some grub from The Big Wrap. Kat recommended I have the Babs-E-Que and I’m so glad I did .. it was CRAZY good! Apparently this joint is packed all the time and rightfully so.
When the ladies went off to work, Synthia and I took their jeep out and drove up Hunter Creek Rd. to the ghost town of Ashcroft.
We had snowshoed right by this place in Feburary of 2011. To see it again in the summer was really cool. The town sprung up in in the early 1880’s when there was a silver boom in the area. At its peak, there were about 2,000 people living and working there. The mines initially produced 14,000 ounces of silver to the ton, but unfortunately for Ashcroft, it turned out to just be shallow deposits. As quickly as it boomed, Ashcroft went a bust.
After a little while, a family met up with us and asked Synthia to snap a photo with their camera. When she was handing it back, she asked them if they wanted an instant photo. At first they said no because they didn’t want us to waste our film, but after showing them a photo that Synthia took of me on the hotel steps, their attitudes changed.
“Did you use some sort of filter for that?” “No. It’s just the way this particular film looks …” Synthia replied. After she shot their family photo and tucked it away in a brochure, we explained to them that they had to wait a little while before taking a peek. They were grateful and went on their way.
We moseyed our way back through the ghost town and then stopped at a nearby picnic table so we could just soak in the surroundings …
To be continued …
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!
June 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
My brother and I were talking the other day and he mentioned that he needed promotional photos for his new website. Josh is an uber-talented producer, singer/songwriter, musician, composer & arranger (the boy’s a musical genius .. it’s true). I had taken a photo of him a while back on Impossible’s PX-70 Old Gen film. He liked the look of instant film and definitely wanted that type of vibe for the images on his website.
The vintage-y look was definitely the right fit. I told him what might be cool is a series of photos that showcased the wide array of musical abilities he has and some of the equipment he uses. He liked the idea and we figured out a time to get together …
On the morning of the shoot, I was finishing up a blog post on using Impossible images in a RB67 and knew I needed something to post for the example. I had used the method before BUT the image I took was of a friend and felt it didn’t quite showcase the RB’s optical abilities. I cruised over to his place, mentioned the blog post and started off the shoot using the RB …
For the rest of the shoot, I used a Polaroid Sonar SX-70, mounted on a tripod if I was indoors. Most of the indoor images (unless taken by a window) were longer exposures. I mixed some strobes into one of the pictures (first photo below) but mainly used available light. You can tell which images were taken in rooms heavily lit with incandescents and which photos were taken by natural light. When shooting longer exposures indoors, incandescents will cast a yellow-orange hue into the image. Combined with Impossible’s films, it helps to add a vintage look that’s pleasing to the eye.
I’m pleased with the images that were captured. I think these are a great start for his website and will help set the right vibe for who he is and what he does.
PLUG: Josh Goode and his engineering partner, Bradley Prakope, are INCREDIBLE producers. If you are a musician in the north Texas area and are actively looking for QUALITY people to work with that produce viable music for the masses, these are the guys. If you are curious about their services please contact Josh at – email@example.com