Perfectly Imperfect #23

August #23
Instax Wide 210 with close-up lens

This sunflower has been a useful subject whilst testing my instant cameras during Instant August. I found the close-up lens for the Instax Wide 210 this morning (it had become buried under the detritus on my desk) so despite the sunflower being way, way past it’s best it was the obvious subject. Especially with a blue sky against which to frame it.

By way of comparison, this was taken at the same time but with a Polaroid 635 camera.

Original prints copied using iPhone

Instant August – the backstory

Disclaimers: Firstly, I wrote this piece at the end of July – and didn’t  get around to posting it. As a result some things have already come to pass that I mentioned in my first draft as being on the cards, not least the Land Camera 1000, although I have hopefully edited those appropriately within the text (apart from the final Land Camera 1000 reference).  Secondly, this failure to post this piece, which I originally wrote in longhand on a yellow legal pad, was in many ways the catalyst for returning to wordpress.com. But anyway, onwards …

1977

  • Elvis Presley dies and has a posthumous number 1 with “Way Down”
  • Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Silver Jubilee
  • I left school and entered full time work
  • Polaroid launched the Land Camera 1000 in the UK

So, a seminal year.

I remember using a Polaroid camera right at the end of my time in the 6th form. Given it launched in the UK that year there is a fair chance I used one of the first cameras sold here in the UK.

Well, long story short, I’m playing with instant film again. Although you already know that if you’ve read any of my other recent posts.

INSTAX SQ6 (i)
Instax SQ6, one of the prints from the first pack of film

What? Why? Surely Dave you’re a “serious“ enthusiast photographer? Why such frivolous pursuits ?

Well, yes, I am serious about my photography but for me that means being open to experimentation too. I enjoy exploring different photographic mediums and trying other processes and alternative technologies.  Most importantly though I like to have a little fun along the way too and frankly, having been confined to base for several months now the fun has dwindled.  So in a bid to inject some fun back into proceedings I gave into a long term itch recently and purchased a Fuji Instax SQ6 instant camera and four packs of instant film.

Let’s get a couple of things out there to start with – this is not a cheap way to create photos. There I’ve said it.  Cost of film packs varies but so far I’ve averaged at 83p per print. Of course that is not 83p per “keeper”! That is for the Instax film; films for the old Polaroid cameras work out at around £2 per print, success or failure, so not for the faint hearted. But more of that later.

365-2019-216
Perfectly Imperfect. Double exposure using Fuji Instax SQ6.

Secondly, if you are a control freak then these basic, mainly plastic, mostly automatic, cameras with virtually no manual controls are not for you.  The latter point in particular is one I’ve heard mentioned a few times recently as a negative but for me the whole essence of these cameras is the lack of manual controls and the focus (pun intended) on creativity. This seeming drawback is in effect their USP. Strangely enough, the presence of a plastic lens in most of them barely gets a mention.

So, in a bid to give my mojo a kick I decided in late July to haunt a certain online auction site and pick up a few old Polaroid cameras to complement my two new Fuji Instax cameras. Two? Sorry, yes two, didn’t I mention that a Fuji Instax Wide 300 was recently added to the SQ6?  These cameras are not unduly expensive, they are plastic and basic, it’s the film,  that’s where you pay!

Perfectly Imperfect - Dean Clough
An homage to Bill Brandt … with an Instant camera, Instax Wide 300.

In order to give an added frisson to proceedings I decided at the end of July to take at least one instant film image each day throughout August to complement the ongoing 365 Challenge. Sounds easy, but realistically I cannot shoot dozens of images a day until I get “the one”. I have to nail it within three or four exposures otherwise the project will impair my ability to buy food and wine!  But it is this pressure that is proving to be the biggest motivator.

It’s had an unexpected side benefit too. I’ve started to read about the subject and as a result have also taken an interest in photography beyond what was needed for my daily image. This in turn has led me to read more generally and spend less time sat aimlessly with an iPad on my lap. Last week for example I read three classic novels from my “must read” list and started a fourth expanding my repertoire of authors in the process. In short, I’ve more enthusiasm all round.

August #1
August 1st and the first Instant August image

My online research into all things instant photography led to the purchase of two books, both of which I have now read cover to cover. It also led to the discovery that some instant cameras offer a degree of manual control; enter the Lomography Instant that I mentioned in a post a few days ago.

So there you have it. In a bid to rekindle my enthusiasm I have now added instant photography to my kit bag, or should that be bag of tricks, and whilst it’s still the honeymoon period I’ve a feeling that I will still be shooting instant film as we march bravely into 2020 and beyond.

In the meantime, fast forward 42 years from the last time I remember using a Polaroid camera and I’m awaiting delivery of my latest camera purchase … you’ve guessed it … a Polaroid Land Camera 1000!

Instant August – Week 1

As I’ve already mentioned, in order to mark my resurgent interest in instant photography I have set myself an additional daily challenge for August. In addition to the ongoing 365 Challenge I am also making at least one instant photo a day using the instant cameras that I’ve been acquiring from a well-known online auction site over the last few weeks.

So, the first two weeks are now past and it’s certainly been an interesting couple of weeks. The project is not just about the experience of using these cameras, some of which are over forty years old, and whilst the problem solving is something I enjoy the key element has to be the images themselves.

(c) Dave Whenham

Instant Trials

To mark my resurgent interest in instant photography I have set myself an additional daily challenge for August. In addition to the ongoing 365 Challenge I am also making at least one instant photo a day using the instant cameras that I’ve been acquiring from a well-known online auction site. But, it seems that not every day is suitable for instant photography, at least not when you’re still only a tiny way along the learning curve; my SX-70 Sonar for example uses 100 ISO film and needs lots of light or a tripod.

August #16
Instax Wide 210 – slightly more forgiving with 800 ISO film

The Lomo’ Instant uses Instax Mini film which is rated at 800 ISO so I thought I would use it for my daily image on 16th. Now, I am already liking the aesthetic from the Lomo Instant – I am amazed at how differently it renders images than say the Instax when they are using the same film stock. One thing however that is becoming very clear is that setting the correct exposure first time is going to come from experience. My Fuji Instax cameras generally do very well in Automatic mode and do it consistently but results from the first pack of film in the Lomo Instant are certainly not consistent and I am already sensing a tendency to underexpose.

LOMO TEST STRIP
Three test shots – Lomo’ Instant and Fuji Instax Mini film

For my first shot I left the camera on the Automatic everything setting and the result was very under exposed so I then shot another at Automatic but with +2EV of compensation set with much better results. For good measure I also shot a third image at +1EV for comparison. The results are shown above. In the end I used the version from the Instax Wide 210 shown at the top of the page for my Daily Instant but I have to say that the Lomo has the potential for much more atmospheric images once I’ve mastered it’s foibles.

To be fair this was not an easy scene on a dull day when it was actually raining but it’s an exercise I can repeat on a brighter day to see what happens in different conditions. I will also put the camera on a tripod and play with an external light meter to see how well the camera settings relate to light meter readings.

Instant Photography

Stuck at home. Stuck shooting the same things for my 365 Project. Stuck, stuck, stuck.

Stuck in a rut!

No citation needed …

Now, in the past, with a decent salary coming in, I would simply buy some new kit. It works every time … or at least I convince myself it does. But, with just my pension now (yup – I’m getting old) the funds for such indulgences are simply not there. So, what about eBay? A secondhand (has to be, they haven’t been made since the 1980s) Polaroid Land Camera 1000 for under £30 was a temptation too far (why do I browse eBay when I’m low on funds?) and two weeks later I have a desk covered in Polaroids and Instax instant prints. Oh, yes, I found a brand-new Fuji Instax SQ6 half-price too 🙂

© Dave Whenham
First play … Fuji Instax Square SQ6

What a blast!

I am still stuck at home and still stuck with the same subjects BUT I am re-energised! Learning a new discipline, working out the quirks of each camera and film combination, re-learning the joys of shooting with a Polaroid Land Camera 1000. Every day is a school day at present. I had forgotten the pure fun that this type of photography provides. The picture literally develops before your eyes. Now I know that digital is the ultimate in instant photography, on my iPhone a big, clear image is ready to view instantly, but I cannot produce a physical print that I can hold and pass around. The grandchildren’s faces as the print whirrs its way out of the camera is a delight to see. Indeed, Harry, who usually hides his head when you point your phone at him, smiles and says “cheese” whenever I pick up an instant camera.

© Dave Whenham

Zac, Harry and I spent an hour shooting with the Instax on its first outing – priceless!

So, I did succumb to GAS and bought some kit. But, film aside, it was in my defence relatively cheap kit and used at that. The cost of film means that I will need to limit my instant shooting BUT that is part of the joy too. Press the shutter of the Instax and my subconscious thinks “80p” whereas pressing the shutter of the Polaroid it registers nearer £2. Cost never enters my head whenever I press the shutter of my Fuji X-H1 – yet the camera and lenses cost a considerable amount of real, hard cash. When I’ve some time I will work out the relative costs per shutter press – but I’m too busy having fun at the moment!

Holga 120 Panoramic Camera

Last week I found a roll of 120 Ilford Delta 400 in the back of a drawer that had lain there for goodness only knows how long. Nothing on the label told me what camera it had been through (I have four that take 120 roll film) nor what was actually on the film. I’ve only recently packed away the darkroom and with it the film processing tools as well so it was sent off to Ag Photographic for processing.

On its return it was clearly the test roll I had put through a Holga Panoramic camera early last year and totally forgotten about in the meantime. Four strips of film, around 6cm x 12cm, each containing one image. I popped the first on to the small light box I still hang on to and it was immediately clear that they were all horribly over-exposed, a fact that I’d already been able to see just by glancing at them in their protective sheet. I wasn’t particularly surprised, the “controls” on the Holga 120 Panoramic are rudimentary to say the least and this was the first roll through the camera.

Undaunted I popped the first on to the scanner (a rather outdated Epson Perfection V550 that I have had since at least 2013) and fired up the interface. It took quite a lot of tweaking to get detail appearing and it took around fifteen minutes to scan the first negative. I scanned at 3200dpi (the scanner has an optical max of 6400) and saved the resultant scan as a 16-bit grayscale TIFF file.

© Dave Whenham
The shot here does have a certain atmosphere or charm I guess.

Why did I buy such a camera in the first place? Tempted by the hype in one online review on the Lomography website perhaps?

“One could argue that its 90mm ‘OPTICAL LENS’ is a piece of crap. I would argue that the fancier competitors (e.g. Linhof, Horseman etc…) produce cold, sad, perfect panoramic shots you wouldn’t even consider hanging in your toilet. Or maybe I’m just frustrated I can’t afford one of these monsters… Anyhow, the usual soft focus and vignette produced by the dirt-cheap lens give the warmth and dreaminess we all love in lomographs”

Well, as you can see the 90mm lens is definitely soft and the promised soft focus and vignetting is there for all to see.

© Dave Whenham
Soft & really? Or just crap?

© Dave Whenham
Can you see any sharps spots?

Well, I paid over my pennies as you can see and I took the camera for a wander down Gog Hill (above) to the Elland Bridge (first picture) and shot the allotted four frames. Then promptly forgot about it! I was probably waiting to process it with another 120 roll film but got diverted and started playing with the 35mm film SLRs instead.

© Dave Whenham
All images Holga 120 Panoramic with Ilford Delta 400 roll film.

What do I think now? Well, the images are everything I thought they would be so no disappointments there, but they probably don’t sit with the type of work I’m doing right now. They have taken a fair bit of work to look half decent, and I’ve not tried printing them yet. But the fact that they don’t “sit well” with my current work is perhaps irrelevant. We all experiment at times, or at least we should experiment, and these have produced images with the characteristic Holga charm. Charm is highly subjective of course and one mans charming image is another’s out-of-focus, soft piece of crap I guess.

Yesterday I was ready to ditch the Holga, even offering it to anyone who wanted it amongst my Flickr friends. But this morning, having processed the other three negatives I’m a little less inclined to ditch the experiment altogether. I won’t be rushing off to put another roll through the plastic-fantastic but it will live to see another film at some point I think.

 

 

Kentmere 400

If you are a film photographer you probably know what Kentmere 400 is. If you are not however I shall explain.

Kentmere 400 is a fast speed black and white camera film which is suitable for all aspects of general purpose photography, and is capable of generating high quality images.  Being rated at ISO 400, it makes it particularly suitable for working with action shots and available light situations.

OK, so I pinched the description from Kentmere’s website but I figure that if any prospective customer reads this they would want accuracy!

Dave Whenham
Nikon AF, fixed 35mm lens – Pudsey, West Yorkshire

All of the images here were shot on Kentmere 400, 35mm film and the negatives scanned using an Epson V550 flatbed scanner and finished in Photoshop.  When I say finished I mean mainly spotting out dust marks, cropping in some cases and some minor dodging and burning. All things I’d do in my darkroom if it wasn’t currently being used as a store room!

© Dave Whenham
Nikon AF. Sky burnt in during processing

I have used a variety of cameras whilst testing this film including a Nikon AF which has a fixed 35mm lens and very little in the way of manual capability. The challenge here therefore was to concentrate on composition and trying to avoid excessive contrasts in the scene.

© Dave Whenham
In a field somewhere in Scotland – Nikon F80

The Nikon F80 was introduced in February 2000 and was considered by many to be the best 35mm film camera for serious amateur photographers until those amateurs went digital. It’s a relatively new addition to my kit bag and as ever with these old cameras I enjoyed putting it through its paces.

© Dave Whenham
After the Storm – Nikon F80

© Dave Whenham
Nikon F80 – a field in Scotland!

© Dave Whenham
Nikon AF – Pudsey, West Yorkshire