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.



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.

Travel Blues

Olympus OM-1 met in 2005 verlopen Kruidvat CN 200 film.

Random Olympus photo because I don’t have time to photograph the spare parts and the holiday pictures have not yet been processed. Olympus OM-1 with 2005 Kruidvat CN 200 film.

I went on a tree week cycling trip. It seemed to go allright with my cameras in the bicycle pack, but in the end it was proved that a cycling holiday is worse for cameras than a hiking holiday. Still, the lens was okay. I had made an impromptu lens cap out of thick paper and tape to protect my Olympus lens from scratches, and it worked.

But somewhere in the last week I encountered a small black thingy in my pack. After some thought, I recognized it: it was the self-timer switch. Crap. I have tried to put it back on camera (it came off by itself, so it should be possible to put it back fairly easily, you would say), but without success. The switch is dangling sadly, and the metal pallet that is visible does not do much. Now I never use the self-timer, so it’s not a big loss, but it’s a pity.

When unpacking my bag after returning home, I found another problem: the hotshoe fell off! What the hell, Olympus? I tried to push it back, but again without success. It seems that the thing was glued on or something? And that glue has now dissolved. I’m going to have to some more research into it, I fear. Ugh.

Fortunately, all the cheap plastic cameras (Holga, Spinner and Snapsights) held up fine in the bicycle pack.

Vacation stress

Schotland in the rain. Holga 120 CFN and Kodak Portra VC 400 film.

Schotland in the rain. Holga 120 CFN and Kodak Portra VC 400 film.

In a shot time I will leave for a vacation. A route has been planned, books are loaded on the e-reader, and further the preparations are well on their way. The only thing I still worry about, is which cameras to bring. Thsi is, of course, an not the first time. Every vacation again, I ponder which cameras I will take along. This time it’s harder to decide, though. The trip is going to Scotland, by bike. This means there are two issues.

First of all, there’s the weather. It can be glorious summer weather in Scotland, but the odds are that this will not be the case. Not all the time, anyway. I can take a bit of rain, I’m not extremely worried about my cameras. They are tools to be used, not just to look pretty. But there’s a limit to how wet I want them to get (not very wet). And I can try to keep them dry, but it will always get a little damp. Okay if you’re only out for a few days but three weeks is a bit much. I don’t know if I want to expose my beloved Horizon to that, for instance. But I would like to make panoramas, so there’s a dilemma.

Additionally, keeping cameras in a bike pack is much less convenient than in a backpack. You might not think so, but in my experience it’s true. You can wrap them carefully, so they are well protected, but then you have to dig deep into bags and wraps every time you want to take a picture. The alternative is to keep them loose at the top of the bike pack, relatively easy to grab, but then they tend to bump into each other and into other things that need to be aesily accesible. And before you know it, you´ll have scratches on the lens or other misery. So they need to be sturdy, or with not too much emotional value.

The best thing is a camera that you can just hang around your neck (weather permitting) or that fits in a (slightly damp) coat pocket. On the wish list of what the cameras should be able to do are:

  • Something with a good (glass) lens, like a SLR.
  • Something capable of close-up shots.
  • Something for panorama’s.
  • Something weatherproof.

For the time being, I’m leaning towards the Holga, the Spinner 360 (as a panoramic compromise), the Olympus OM-1 and maybe the Snapsights for when it’s raining.

Now to worry about the film…

Yashica D and Lomography X-Pro Slide 200

Tame wildlife

Deep down inside, I would love to make impressive wildlife photos. Awesome close-ups of lions and elephants or, closer to home, of wild boars and their striped piglets, or rutting deer. I’ll even settle for an impressive close-up of a blue tit. But to get pictures like these, you need all kinds of things.
– An environment with wildlife of course, although that doesn´t have to be a jungle or savannah.
– A decent telelens, because it’s hard to get really close to wildlife.
– And, last but not least, a lot of patience. In interviews most wildlife photographers stress that you have to wait a long time for the most beautiful pictures, quietly and often in an uncomfortable shelter.

And that’s where it goes wrong for me. Deer and foxes abound in the forest around the corner, and I have a huge telelens (a lucky yard sale find). But those hours of waiting in the right spot at the right time, waiting for an animal that may not even show up, oof. I just don’t have the patience.

So in order to satisfy my inner wildlife photographer a bit, I fallen into cattle as my wildlife equivalent. Cattle often stays calm when you get closer, or even approaches you itself out of curiosity. It is safely behind a fence and often docile enough to allow for a perfect close-up. Thus, over the years, I have accumulated a nice series of farm animal portraits. There may not be a melancholic monkey or exotic giraffe in my pictures, but cows can look into the lens with a lot of feeling too. Goats can be photogenic.

And that’s how I sometimes pretend a little to be the next Frans Lanting.

Echo: Cape

In a ditant past (well, last year) I often visited rock festivals. I must have attended the Belgian Rock Werchter almost 20 times, many of which with the same group of people (former fellows of my love). Over the course of time, solid patterns have crystallized in that festival group. H takes care of the morning the coffee, P is the breakfast egg master, D takes the gazebo, that kind of thing.

Going trough my old festival photos, I came across another small pattern: A takes a raincape, and when it rains, T takes shelter with A. When I took the second picture, I already realized: I ​​have taken this picture before. And indeed I did.

Sheltering in 2014. Snapsights underwater camera and Lomography CN 800 film.

Sheltering in 2014. Snapsights underwater camera and Lomography CN 800 film.

If it had rained more ofted during Rock Werchter’s I would have shot this picture even more often. As it is, I doubt it there will be more of this picture. All of us are getting older, kids and jobs interfere with festival schedules, and we´ve already seen most of the bands (which not as good as the bands we used to have anyways). Been there, done that.

But then again, who knows, maybe there will be new festivals. Never say never.

Sheltering in 2016. Snapsights underwater camera and Lomography CN 800 film.

Sheltering in 2016. Snapsights underwater camera and Lomography CN 800 film.

Always too much, never enough

Iceland. Snapsights underwater camera and Fuji Velvia 50 film.

Iceland. Snapsights underwater camera and Fuji Velvia 50 film.

I love taking pictures, lots of them. Especially on holiday, of course, because who knows when you´ll get the chance to visit again. You may never get another chance to take that photo. Still, I generally try to hold back a bit. After all, you have to be able to just enjoy what you´re doing without obsessively looking through a lens and worrying about the best angle. Besides, I often feel like I´m taking loads of near identical pictures. For example, when I went hiking in winterery Iceland I had a beautifull view. I took lots of pictures, until I decide I had enough for now, I was overdoing it. I must surely have filled almost a roll by now, and how many pictures of a mountain do you need? Back home, my pictures turned out great, and I was sorry I didn’t take a lot more.

That’s how it often goes: I feel like I’m taking way too many pictures, but afterwards I regret not taking more. Of course, this problem exists mainly in my head. Just as often my pictures are not all that great, and I’m glad I didn’t waste more film on them. The real problem is that it’s not always easy to determine what it’s going to be: not enough beauty or too much mediocrity.
Over the years I have learned to make a pretty good estimation of what will work and what not. I know my tools, and know that even though my eyes can still see fine in the dusk, the tiny plastic lens of my Diana Mini doesn’t. And those snow covered hills with tiny trees may look very pretty in real life, the pictures I take of them tend to be rather bland. And how many German spring forests can you see before they all start looking the same? Especially when you do all your hiking with the same people…

But of course, I still take a camera everywhere I go, even when I’m not expecting pretty weather, or when I’ve allready visited a million times. And every time I take some pictures, and wonder at the same time: why am I taking this picture? I already have this picture. And every time there will be a few gorgeous pictures and I’ll think: why didn’t I take more?