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.


Fat Roll

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 400 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 400 film.

I should have seen it coming. When I put a new roll of film in my Holga, I forgot to stick pieces of cardboard under the film spools. These are necessary to keep the film tight. Once upon a time this was done by bits of foam, but I had long sice lost those.

I only realized I had forgotten the cardboard after I had advanced the film to number 1, and by then it was too late to do anything. “Well,” I thought, “how bad can it be?”. I saw that as soon as I had finished the film and opened the camera. I had a fat roll. Not really a welcome sight on a sunny day. You bet I didn’t forget the cardboard for the next film!

I’m not a big fan of light spots. I should be, I guess, being an enthusiastic Holga lover, but I’m not. Those red streaks never seem to be in the right place to create a cool image. So I’m one of those people who franticly covers any gap in her Holga with black tape, even if that means my camera is now covered in sticky glue residue.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 400 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 400 film.

But after developing my fat roll, I’m beginning to doubt my anti-light leak attitude. To my surprise, I think these leaks are actually quite beautiful. It does have a certain something, those jagged edges. It reminds me of the print that I once made during my film processing class by not immersing the photo in the developer, but brushing it on with a rough brush. The blurred edges go well with the plastic Holga lens.

Maybe next time, I’ll even leave those cartons out on purpose…

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 400 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 400 film.


Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

One of the fun techniques you can try with the Holga is that of microclicks. This form of panoramic photography yields stretched, a bit translucent images. The process is about the same as making an endless panorama: shoot a picture, do not advance all the way, shift your view a bit, and shoot again. Keep doing this until you have everything in the picture that you want. The difference is that with microclicks, you only advance a very small amount, two or three “clicks”. When advancing the film in the Holga, you hear or feel some kind of small clicks, like the teeth of a cog wheel. These are the microclicks you use as an indication for how far you advance.

Of course, you can do this trick with other cameras as well, as long as there is no guard agains double exposures and you can advance random distances. The advantage of the Holga is that it clicks audibly.

How many clicks you need to flush exactly depends on your preference. I myself find three a nice amount. With more clicks, it becomes an endless panorama. Nice too, but different. With fewer clicks, the picture can quickly become a but too stuffed.

Keep in mind that a microclick picture produces an overexposed picture, so 800 iso film may not be the best choice. Redscale works well, since it’s almost impossible to overexpose. Or black and white, that usually can take some extra light as well. Still, at first it will probably take some trial and error how many layers you can shoot for a good picture. I have obtained wonderful results, but also blurry blobs. Either way, it’s fun to play with. At best, you have beautiful, etheral landscapes. Or buildings that look like they are vibrating. The distinctive darkening strips on the side of the image give the picture a little extra depth. A little bit like looking through a tunnel, or going very fast in an old science fiction movie.

Holga Saga II

Santiago de Chile, Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Lady Grey 400 film.

Unsharp Santiago de Chile, Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Lady Grey 400 film.

It’s always something, with those Holga’s. Life with my favorite camera is not all roses.

Some time ago, my green Holga seemed to have finally kicked the bucket due to a broken advance button, so I bought a new one. Of course, I took it on vacation and shot half a dozen rolls in country far away where I may never visit again (Chile). After developing my first rolls, I found out that all my photos were unsharp. Ahrg! What happened? I soon realised that for the biggest part of the trip, my camera had been in in B mode.

A pretty bad beginners error, of course. But after giving it a bit more thought, I have decided it’s not quite a sign of early dementia. It was simply a coincidence of two peculiarities:

The Holga is not entirely consistent in what the correct position of the two setting switches should be. With the diaphragm switch, you will see the setting that is being used inside the switch. So for the right hand setting, slide the switch to the left, and vice versa.

diaphrama switch

Fot the shutter switch, on the other hand, the setting is visible above the switch, and you slide the switch towards the desired setting. So for the right hand setting, you slide the switch to the right, and vice versa.

time switch

If I think too hard about this inconsistency, I sometimes start doubting wether I have set it right.
In this case, the overthinking was triggered because the old Holga sounds different from the new one. In pressing down on the shutter button, Holga the First would say: “click” when in the N-position, and “click-click” when in B-mode. Holga the Second does the exact opposite: “click-click” in N-mode, “click” in B-mode.

Combine the confusing switches with th econfusing sounds, and there you go. Recipe for disaster.

Let’s just say that’s one mistake I’ll never make again…

Flashy Holga

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

One of the advantages of the Holga 12 CFN is the built-in flash. Not just any flash, but one with four color modes: white, yellow, red and blue. You can do fun things with a flash like that.

In general, don’t use the flash that often. With the simple cameras and flashes I prefer, when you use the flash you can easly kill a photo by flooding it with hard light. A colored flash in itself is not necessarily a bonus either. It can all too quickly lead to an monochrome flood of color. Maybe fun at start, but I quickly grow tired of it. This is actually the main reason why I was disappointed at first when I got my Colorsplash camera.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography  CN 800 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 800 film.

But unlike the Colorsplash, you can make double exposures with the Holga CFN. And then those colored flashes do become fun. By shooting a few layers while flashing with a different color each time, a festive mix of colored layers is created. Especially in party situations, this works very well, as if you are recording the disco strobe. But a harsh camping trip also can also be improveved with some colors.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography  CN 800 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 800 film.

It works best when it’s dark. In theory, you could also flash in daylight and make multiple layers. However, with too much light, the different color layers don´t really come across.

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

A variant is advancing the film al bit between each layer you shoot. This will give you a more elongated photo in which the time passes in different colors.
It’s a simple trick that gives a spectacular result.

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga Saga I

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

Random Holga picture. Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

With fantastic timing, a few weeks after it was announced that the production of the cameras would be stopped, my Holga gave up the ghost. A sad moment, because the Holga is high in my top five of all time favorite cameras. Even my digitally minded friends found it a cool thing, and nicknamed it The Big Green Monster. I did see it coming a little bit. It had been slowly crumbling ever since I bought it a year or five ago.

Now the whole Holga charm is that it’s a cheap Chinese plastic camera, so small wonder that it’s not top quality. Moreover, I did not treat the thing very gently. It was dragged halfway around the world, loosely trown in a backpack, trough rainy northern swamps, dusty Mediterranean islands, hot and humid Asia… All this time losing small bits of itself and producing gorgeous photo’s.

The foam-rubber cubes that kept the film tight in the camera were the first to go, with the first roll of film that I ever shot with the Holga. The foam was rolled into the film, leaving sticky glue residues inside the camera. I learned that those bits of foam are superfluous. Film can be kept tight just as well with some pieces of cardboard.

During a trip to Ireland, I then lost the lens cap. A pity, but no drama.

It was a lot more annoying when, on a next holiday in Corsica, the glue that kept the advance knob in place melted. With some difficulty I could still push the knob down on the shaft and advance the film. When the groove in the shaft was worn out, the knob no longer had grip and didn’t work anymore. I had to try to re-attach the knob. Different kinds of glue all failed because no glue could stand the forces working on the knob when advancing film. For a while, I used pliers to grab the shaft and turn it. In the end, it seemed like Sugru, a kind of instant rubber did the trick to hold the knob in place.

Next, the nib that held the film spool in place broke off. A little more cardboard solve that again.

The light leaks became slightly larger, but some more black tape along the edge of the door helped to correct it.

Then the advance knob came loose again. There were some pictures left on the film, so I thought I’d use the pliers again for a while to finish the film. Then I’d try to fix it again with fresh sugru. But this time I squeezed too hard and the shaft broke off. This really seemed to be the end of the camera.

I just bought a new Holga the Second.

Then one day I came across a crowdfunding thing for a new repair product, the Formcard. I’m a fan of the rubbery Sugru, but that wasn’t strong enough for the knob, especially with only small bit of shaft left to attach it to. The Formcard is a hard plastic that you heat in water, and then it becoms mallable. When it cools, it hardens again. I saw possibilities! Of course, I hadn’t trown Holga the First away, because you never know. A few weeks after later a couple of credit card sized bits of plastic arrived in the mail. No green unfortunately. But black kind of fits the wear and tear on the camera, so black it was.

And lo and behold! It works! Out of the hot plastic I formed a little knob (without burning my fingers too much), pushed it on the Holga (with a piece of aluminum foil underneath so that it would stick to the shaft only and not to the camera body) and waited until it cooled and cured. Pretso! A working knob! It´s may not be the best looking knob, and I had to carve away a bit with a knife to make it run smoothly, but it works.

Holga the First lives!

Crummy tablet picture of Holga the First and it's new Formcard advance button.

Crummy tablet picture of Holga the First and it’s new Formcard advance button.

Book: Holga – Life Trough A Plastic Lens

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Provia 400 film.

Random Holga picture. Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Provia 400 film.

In the series of books that come with Lomography cameras, I have the book Holga – The World Trough a Plastic Lens. I got it when I bought Holga the First from the Lomography Shop. I got Holga the Second from a diffrent shop, so no book with that one. The book is not a publication of the Holga manufacturer. It was written/compiled by Adam Scott, a Holga enthusiast who got Lomography to publish his book. It is more or less the same book that comes with all Lomography cameras: lost of photos in bright x-pro colors, tips on tricks that you can use with the Holga, and mini portraits and testimonials of Holga users from the Lomography community.

It’s all not terrible exhaustive. It’s a nice little book if you’re not yet familiar with toycameras and Lomography. However, the seasoned lomographer does not find much news in the book. These are the same tips I have read in half a dozen other books: multiple exposures, colored flashes, endless panoramas… That a lot of tips appear in the book several times (first ‘officially’, then repeated in the chapter with tips from Holga users) does not really help either.

Still, it’s nice to browse through the book for the pictures. It can get a bit tiresome, all those hysterical colors and extreme points of view, but hey. It does contain some really nice pictures. So we probably just shouldn’t look the gift horse too deeply into its mouth.