B-mode Blues

In the ongoing Holga saga I accidently photographed in B mode for an entire, three week, holiday. Seven rolls of photos in various stages of blur were the result. 1. How on earth do I do this shit? 2. How is the Holga still my favorite camera when screw up so often with that thing? The answer to question no. 1 I don’t have. I surprised myself by how I could be so stupid that I didn’t look at the camera setting for three weeks. Not for the first time, too. But spilt milk and so on.

Why the Holga is still at number 1, I do know. No matter the stupid mistakes that I make, there are always some photos that are quite allright. Even in B-mode. Of course, a large part of the over 70 photos I took with the Holga in Scotland is crap. Overexposed, blurred, no good at all. But still, there are also quite a few pictures that are actually pretty nice.

Sure, these are not award winning pictures, I can see that too. But they are not all a complete failure, either. Pretty overexposed and not too sharp, but with a dreamy, kind of fairytale-like atmosphere. Especially in the black-and-white photos, which also have a kind of weird markings (dust? scratches?) that with a little goodwill could be mistaken for glitter in the sky, the unreal effect is strong. Of course, it helps when you have a landscape full of ruins and graveyards to get this slightly spooky effect. The color photographs are a little less dreamlike. They do have a certain picturesque quality. They have either a vintage sepia look because of the overexposure, or they have this purple color cast. A bit like a watercolor, if you will.

So, once again it appears that an apparent failure can sometimes produce some cool pictures after all.

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12 Months, 12 Projects – September Lightpainting

Withouth much enthusiasm, I decided to do some lightpainting. Project lightpainting had actually been on the program some months ago, but when I thought up my projects, I hadn’t realised that in summer, it’s not dark until close to midnight. Not practical. For several months, an excess of light was a good excuse to delay lightpainting.

It seemed to me such a complicated project. Where do I find a room that is sufficiently dark even at night in the fall? There seem to be a street lights, equipment LEDs, passing traffic, and what have not just about everywhere. So much hassle. But well, you cann’t be postpone chores forever, so with healthy reluctance I decided to use the last two instax pictures that were still in a camera. Just to get it over with.

So I turned off all the lights, faced the camera to the back of the room, away from the street light, put it on a tripod and opend the shutter in the B-mode. With a bicycle light I drew some spirals. I didn’t expect anything to come out of it, just wanted to be able to say: tried it, didnt work. But to my amazement, I saw a very small light on the picture. Well, allright then, I used the last shot, moved my light a bit slower for more exposure. And lo and behold! A lightpainting! Not the most exciting one, but hey, so much more than I had expected.

Lightpainting. Diana F + Intant Back with Fuji Instax Mini film.

Lightpainting. Diana F + Intant Back with Fuji Instax Mini film.

Well, and then it actually became fun. I still didn’t really feel like going out looking for a nice location, or complex experimenting, but a bit of tinkering on a rainy Saturday afternoon is allright. And I always wanted to try lightstencils. This site tells you how to handle that, with much better example photos than my final result.

First, just some ordinary light paintings with my bicycle lights, to get in the mood.

Lightpainting. Ricoh WG-4 on fireworks mode (F2.8, 4 sec, 125 ISO).

Lightpainting. Ricoh WG-4 on fireworks mode (F2.8, 4 sec, 125 ISO).

Lightpainting. Ricoh WG-4 on fireworks mode (F2.8, 4 sec, 125 ISO).

Lightpainting. Ricoh WG-4 on fireworks mode (F2.8, 4 sec, 125 ISO).

Lightpainting. Ricoh WG-4 on fireworks mode (F2.8, 4 sec, 125 ISO).

Lightpainting. Ricoh WG-4 on fireworks mode (F2.8, 4 sec, 125 ISO).

As you can see, I decided to do my project with the digicam. Even though my digicam doesn’t have full manual settings (I used the fireworks setting), the advantage is that I have not lost heaps of expensive film to some half-assed experiments. That’s a big plus, because the light stencil I cobbled together needed some test runs before it gave an even slightly acceptable result. Kind of. My flash gives so much light that I had to paste more and more layers of paper behind my template, because it would otherwise become an overexposed spot instead of a recognizable figure. But eventually there was a picture to see.

I kept adding more layers of paper between test shots because the was still too much light.

My stencil is a bit on the small side, but when you zoom in, the bat is actually recognizable. In any event, it raises hope for a second version, which is bigger, and on another flash. This time, I used my standard Lomography flash, but that’s is a bit small and awkward to use in this setup. It also produces a huge amount of light. In addition, my stencil was not very light-tight at the back, which made my hand and the box in which the stencil visible.

Lightpainting with light stencil. Ricoh WG-4 on fireworks mode (F2.8, 4 sec, 125 ISO).

Lightpainting with light stencil. Ricoh WG-4 on fireworks mode (F2.8, 4 sec, 125 ISO).

Still, this result is so encouraging that I might actually build a bigger version for one of the other flashes in my collection. A good excuse to use those as well.

Allright, as a bonus here’s another instax picture. I ♥ film, after all.

Lightpainting. Diana F + Intant Back with Fuji Instax Mini film.

Lightpainting. Diana F + Intant Back with Fuji Instax Mini film.

Anticipation

Random other folding camera in my collection: Agfa Isolette II shot with the Praktica MTL3 and Lomography Lady Gray 400 film.

Random other folding camera in my collection: Agfa Isolette II shot with the Praktica MTL3 and Lomography Lady Gray 400 film.

Although I have been true to my resolution for this year not to buy any new cameras, this resolution will not last the whole year. I have already ordered a new camera. That is, it still has to be made, and I’m not sure if I’ll have it this year. That’s one of the risks of a Kickstarter project.

The Jollylook will be a cardboard folding camera that uses Instax Mini film, and I am really looking forward to it. The thing was designed by an Ukarainian, who has gathered money through Kickstarter to produce his dream camera in China. It just goes to show that globalization can also be positive.

Approximately once a month, I get an update email containing all the problems and difficulties the design team has encountered in recent times. Plastic parts that do not quite fit, lenses with a deviation, holidays where the Chinese plants are closed, all kinds of small things, which pushes the delivery time back again.

That may all sound a bit dodgy, but I actually really like it. These updates provide a fascinating insight into what actually goes into producing even a fairly simple product. A good design is only the beginning. Prototypes need to be made, mass production materials must be selected, suppliers found to make all the loose parts, other suppliers to put everything together, you name it. Following a kickstarter like this would be a great learning case for students I guess. It definitely is for me.
With the added bonus that at the end of the ride I get a beautiful camera in the mailbox.

Because beautiful it is. This is one of the fun things of analog photography, that with very simple materials (cardboard and plastic) an actual, working, camera can be made.

Film: CFP Double-X

One of the advantages of black and white film is that you can mess up now and again without ruining your entire roll. Take this roll of black and white film I shot in Scotland. It’s full name is Camera Film Photo Double-X B&W, but the link on the Camera Film Photo webshop that sells this film under its own name, leads to the massive dev chart for Eastman Double-X. So Kodak it is. Double-X was originally intended for motion film, and not for photography, but it has been used for photography almost as long as it exists. I bought a roll a while ago because sometimes I like to try something new.

My messing up here was in devoloping the film. I had a bunch of different black and white films to process, and before I started, I first looked up the developing times for each film. Most of the times, there was a time for Rodinal 1 + 25, which I usually use. Only for Adox CMS there was only a times for 1 + 100. So I used that one. Well, you can guess the rest. After developing the Double-X, I realized that I had taken the Adox time. I did use the 1 + 100 dilution, so it wasn´t a total fuck-up, but still.
But to my relief, the result is not bad at all. The pictures do not have the most exciting contrast, but they are certainly not drab either. And considering that, due to the lack of working light meter in my camera, all the shutter speeds were merely guestimated, the result is definitely pretty good. Especially the cityscapes have a beautiful vintage atmosphere.

In my opinion, the Double-X is definitely a film to try again. I’d like to see what it does when I properly expose it and develop it correctly.

Location: The Falkirk Wheel

I love industrial heritage. Old factories, waterworks, mines, all beautiful. There is something in this kind of purely functional architecture that appeals to me. I can already enjoy a modern factory full of winding pipes and strange bits jutting out, but old industry is even more beautiful. Back then it had to be functional too, but there was even more room for a little frivolity here and there.

On our cycling tours through Europe, we like to take some old industry into the route. By chance, we stumbled upon a nineteenth century boat lift in Germany. A beautiful thing, where we spent an hour wandering around to admire the enormous wrought iron constuction. This lift inspired us a few years later in Belgium to put shift our route along another complex of boat lifts. Just as much frivolous iron, again an imposing whole.

Last summer, in Scotland, we found our third boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel. This was a highlight on an allready quite memorable day. Narrow channels with old steel boats, tunnels, aqueducts, locks, the industrial enthusiast in me had a field day. But that wheel, that was really the top.

Built in 2002 and mainly used as a tourist attraction, it is not directly industrial heritage, but a fantastic thing it is. It was built to re-connect two Scottish channels – the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal – after the series of locks used earlier had fallen into disuse in the 1930s.
The Wheel looks like a kind of ships´s propellor. A boat goes into the bottom half, the wheel turns around its axis and lifts the boat with a circular movement. A beautiful piece of slightly useless construction work. Tourist boat up, tourist boat down, that’s about all it seems to do.

Nevertheless, we stood breathlessly in the rain for half and hour and watched the huge wheel turning.

Widelux 1500 Revisited

The Widelux 1500 is one of those cameras that I sometimes have to pull out of the mothballs. It’s a wonderful thing that deserves to be used. That’s easier said than done, because with its two kilos it’s not a camera you casually stick in a pocket. But I girded my loins and dragged it with me on a cycling trip to Lunteren and a trip to Amsterdam.

For once, I actually put the film in right. Usually, when I put the film in the camera, I fumble about a bit and lose the first shot. This time I had more patience and I read the instruction manual. It’s actually printed on the back of the camera, so it’s pretty stupid of me that I don’t do that every time. Out of a kind of misguided arrogance, I often skip the manual, and as a result, the first bit of film senslessly advanced. Anyway, this time I finally did it right.

Now the Widelux is a temperamentful beast, so there’s still enough that can go wrong. For lack of tripod, let alone a big, heavy tripod, I always shoot out of hand. Now, the Widelux rotating lens delivers quite a recoil, especially in the fast (1/250 sec) mode, and because the camera is so heavy, that almost always results in motion blur – or rather, some kind of double exposure. What helps is a) don´t use the fast mode and b) put the camera on top of some handy wall of bench or something.

The first photo I took (the forest creek) I shot in fast mode, but even the ‘slow’ photos were doubled this time. Strangely, only the photo I took out of hand (on the office buildings) did not get double exposed. Despite that, I kind of like the pictures. The one of the Rijksmuseum shows the chaos of the masses of tourists, and the golden office buildings are also nice (certainly nicer than they really are). These are my favorites from the roll, which show that the Widelux is a good combination with architecture and street photography.

Next time I’ll try redscale, see what that does.

Serial Shooter: Prodent

Near where I live is an old toothpaste factory. Following the recent trend of redeveloping old industrial properties into trendy new complexes, the factory has been transformed into a business premises for all kinds of small businesses. A trendy, edgy, restaurant, a custom bike shop, some craft shop, that kind of things. All very cool, but what keeps pulling me to that factory are the big letters PRODENT that are still on the roof.

Perhaps it’s a nostalgia to my youth, when we used to brush our teeth with Prodent (probably because it was the cheapest brand). Or it just is because it produces such nice photos, those big clean letters against the sky. The fact is that I have already shot those letters about half a dozen times, and I have to force myself not to take more pictures of them.

Because let’s be honest, there is not a lot of variation in my prodent pictures. There simpy is not a lot you can do with them, except shoot from below. Well, from the left side or the right, or perhaps with a wide angle lens, but that’s about it. The only picture that pops out is the one in which I shot the shadow of the letters.

And yet? Every time I pass that sigh I can’t help but think, this would be a nice shot. Now that I see the photos together, I immediately see options for some variations I haven’t done before: in color. The one color image in between is so gray that it seems black and white. A radiant blue sky, or something in redscale could be nice. I may have to go and shoot again…