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 email@example.com
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 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 1, 2012 § 8 Comments
Impossible Project announced to their pioneers last week, that their chief chemist Martin Steinmeijer, had invented a brand new opacification molecule. They said it’s designed to completely absorb light as the photograph exits the camera and remains colorless and transparent once the image has fully developed. TIP also stated “this new molecule is as powerful as the molecule used in the original Polaroid materials and for the first time will allow you to take your Impossible photographs without the need of immediate shielding.” THIS is what everyone has been waiting for.
I received the pioneer newsletter in my email one morning, and when I saw how fast the packs were going, I snagged two of them (limit of 4). I was going to wait, but I’m so glad I didn’t … they sold all 400 packs available in the states, in under 30 minutes. When the film came in the mail a few days later, I was pretty excited. This was the first time I’d been able to test a new batch of film … I ripped open the package.
I didn’t have a Polaroid 680/690 to shoot this film with, nor did I have a ND4 filter to slap on the SX-70 .. but I did have a Polaroid One Step Flash that had been sitting on my shelf. I figured I’d shoot a variety of subjects with the OneStepFlash, the RB67 and possibly the SX-70+ND2 lit by the mid-day sun, indoor on-camera flash, studio strobes, ambient light, long-exposures etc.
I loaded up the first pack of film and headed out with Synthia. We ended up going to the Design District Gallery Day to check out some new photographs that were at PDNB. I was going to snag some photos but it was 106 outdoors and nothing really looked worthy enough. We ended up cruising up the road to one of my favorite overlooks of downtown. Over the past couple of months, I had come here to snag two other impossible photos on an overcast day and in the evening. I jumped out of the car, cranked the exposure down & fired off a shot with the OneStepFlash. WITHOUT SHIELDING THE PHOTO, it ejected into the blazin’ sun when it was still 100+ degrees. During the ride home, the photo developed out in the open & in my lap for about 30 minutes (at 80ish degrees I would imagine).
Regarding the color you’ll see in these images, TIP stated “these packs are not yet fully optimized for color performance .. it is still being worked on at this time .. the focus was on the opacification layer.”
My friend JV had met up with us to check out the gallery, so after we got back home, I set up a few lights and took a picture of him. Don’t look too serious now buddy … 😉
I shot this particular impossible photo on the RB67. After I shot it, I went to a dark closet to extract the photo, put it in an empty PX-70 pack and slid it fully inside the SX-70. Then I brought the SX-70 out into a lit room, closed the front .. *camera ejects film* .. and BAM – opacification molecules doing their ‘thang’ in the light. It sat on a table for 25 minutes developing in the office.
Later on in the weekend, I figured a test of the highlights, and how the film handled harsh on-camera-flash would be good to have. I snapped a pic of Maybelle indoors (by enticing her with treats) and walked the exposed picture over to an area I had set up by the window. I shot a stop-motion video sequence with the D700 so I could show how the picture developed. I snapped a photo every 5-10 seconds over a 25 minute period, but admittedly it was probably every 3-5 once the development started to kick in. The image is about as good as I would expect from a OneStep indoors, with a bright blaring flash .. *poor Maybelle .. she got lots of love after being temporarily blinded*
The next day, I ended up experimenting a little bit and extracted a test photo *in the darkroom*, slid it inside an empty Spectra pack and loaded up my Spectra AF. Why not?
I went up the road and snagged a quick photo of a donut shop. The sun was probably a little behind me to my left and it was 4 o’clock. I shot it with an even exposure. When I got back home, I went back into the closet to do the impossible shuffle and again, brought the camera out to eject the photo into the light to test the new opacification molecule.
One thing I have noticed, is that the level of goopyness in the shadows isn’t as pronounced as it has been in the past. In previous versions of their films, there were blobs and a splotchiness to the images (which honestly I liked) which is not prevalent in these test packs.
I liked the outcome of the first Spectra image, so I loaded up another shot and went out later to test a long exposure. I ended up cruising to The Dog Stop; a place I ate at years ago with my wife one day. I set the Spectra up on a tripod and bumped the exposure up 1/3rd of the way; it was about a second or two as I recall. I drove back home and did the impossible shuffle yet again, so the image could develop in the light.
The following day, I stuck with the theme of ‘random-buildings-i-have-always-wanted-to-shoot-but-never-have’ around the area and snapped another photo with the Spectra.
OK – Enough with the building photos ..
I loaded up the PX680-V4B in my SX-70 and swung by the lake. The sun had just set and there was this incredible light on the lake (isn’t that always the case ;-)). I cranked the exposure dial all the way down and hoped for the best …
Again, less goopy-ness in the shadows. It does look like the overall quality of the highlights & shadows are improving. It seems, like in this image, it’s getting a little less gunked up and is rendering smoother tonal gradations. Now with that said, I love the gunk/funk of the old images. That’s part of what makes those old-gen, 12/11, NIGO and other variations so cool. I just like it gunky.
EDIT: One more from the RB …
Same thing. Did the impossible shuffle to extract the photo and get it into the SX-70, however, after I ejected the photo in the light, I stowed it away, a few seconds afterwards, in a box for the duration of the development @ 75 degrees.
Overall, it looks to be a massive improvement in the way their films can handle direct ambient indoor light & outdoor light once the image has started its development. The Impossible chemists have been trying to solve the opacification issue for a while. Soon in the near future, as I did with these, you WILL NOT HAVE TO SHIELD THE PHOTO as it ejects from the camera. This is a HUGE step forward. There will be no need to teach shielding techniques to new shooters, nor will there be a need to convince them that all the hassle is worth it. For the average person, who might want something special beyond a digital snapshot, this is a massive leap in their direction. Convincing them to use Impossible Project film will be a hell of a lot easier, when shielding the film isn’t a necessity. Bravo Impossible .. Bravo.