We live in an analogue world in which everything seems to be connected. A small change in a minute part of the system effects the remainder of the general system. Our recent advents into the realm of digitization at the basic component level i
eally made possible by passive analogue devices which compartmentalize the rich scales of light, color and sound in our natural environment into fixed steps or numerical values. In fact my process for putting together this article, in transferring my thoughts to this medium begins for me with pen and paper and then later is entered into the computer via word processor. Having said that I’ll stop my Zen like – Chaos theory banter and say a little more about picture taking itself. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEw8xpb1aRA)
I don’t profess to be a photographic expert and I don’t make a living from the craft, however I can talk a little bit about the direction my photography has been going lately, and that is in reverse, or at least back to using film with less sophisticated cameras. Perhaps because my daily nine to five grind throughout the years has become more and more automated and computerized, it is why I have begun to enjoy using less technology with my hobby in my private time. Maybe in the end I will be reduced to witling my own cameras out of wood.
For some time I had wanted to try medium format photography and a while back I came across a beautiful used Bronica SQ-Ai camera with 80mm 2.8 lens in a “Downtown Camera” store for a reasonable price.
The camera comes with a detachable film back and viewfinder and although there are viewfinders with electronic light metering, the one that I purchased is all manual, so I purchased a handheld light meter to boot. The viewfinder I have requires you to look through at eye level and although there are waist level finders for this model I have heard that it is hard to get crisp focus with those. Although not appropriate for all shooting situations, I enjoy the process of having to slow down, hand hold the light meter to read ambient light levels, and set camera aperture and shutter time manually. It has made me think more critically about existing light levels. I have found that ambient light metering has by far given me results in exposure and color rendition much truer to how I saw it at the time of the photograph.
I would also add that film for me captures more depth and tonality then my six mega pixel camera particularly in dark areas and highlights or high contrast scenes. I find my DLSR does well in controlled or even lighting. Here is Zoe on the backyard bench taken with the Nikon D70s DSLR and Voigtlander 58mm 1.4 manual lens.
I love the subtle graduations of color produced by film. There is no purple fringing or banding or unruly artifacts. To me shooting raw is the negative you get from shooting film. I prefer to get a cd with a moderate size scan done at the time of lab film processing as opposed to scanning it on my Epson flatbed myself – which could be a separate article written about tedium
I will say that getting medium format film developed is like sanding against the grain. There are just fewer and fewer places around that will develop it now, at least here in the west end of Toronto, without having to wait a week for it to come back or finding a student at the local art collage to do it.
So for me the cost of getting that nice square format and huge amount of information provided in the large negative means waiting until I have several rolls to process before driving off across town.
This leads me into the next camera I own which I purchased online through the lomographic society in New York City.
The LC-A+ is a magical little point and shoot 35mm camera that’s built like a brick shit house and looks like it came out of a Cheerio’s box. I’ve dropped mine on solid concrete from waist level without so much as a slight marring of the plastic on the corner edge. The original camera, made of all metal, was originally designed and built in Russia and is now produced by the Lomo society, made of plastic and manufactured in China. Optically this little gem is the same as the original make. You can visit there site for all the details of this camera at http://www.lomography.com/. Focus is by a small lever beside the lens which allows you to switch from 0.8m to 1.5m to 3m to infinity. An alternate model provides aperture control via an additional lever on the other side of the lens but I much prefer simplicity leaving me free to frame the picture in the moment. There is a film ASA switch and multiple exposure slider if you want to expose more then one shot on a single film negative.
Exposure control is done through a photo cell which measures reflected light levels and there is a single pin hot shoe on top which will accept just about any old flash. The camera fires the flash on rear curtain sync which adds for interesting effects.
Lomo sells a color splash flash with colour gels but I picked up a used Pentax auto flash from the camera store for $20.00. It works great.
Standing a little over six feet tall, I know that if I hold my hand straight out and touch my subject with finger tips that my subject will be in focus but after a few rolls of film, I find I can judge 0.8m quite accurately without going through the motion. You might try using a piece of string for this measurement to start out if you’re of lower frame. Characteristics of this camera include slight vignetting in the corners, strong color rendition and when close focusing produces beautiful bouquet in the background.
I buy Kodak film in bulk from the big box store in “Mallsville” for cheep. Originally I started scanning my negs myself on my Epson v600 but this is incredibly time consuming when for $3.50 I can get film processed and a cd with scans on it made just about anywhere.
I take my film to the local Drug mart a block away and their small commercial scanner can produce 1.1 meg files in under an hour that my Epson can’t come close to touching. For the most part they come out exactly how I like them without needing retouching. I’ve made eight by twelve enlargements with these size files with great results.
These days I’m typically using my images in four by six albums or books I create online with Blurb. Blurb provides software for free to create your books on your computer which you upload or “publish“ to their site when you’re done. I submitted my book Monday and received it Friday priority express from over the border USA. Creating books online is highly addictive and again that could be fodder for a complete other article. To learn more about making books visit their site here http://www.blurb.com.
Why do I take pictures? Because I like to. Because it’s a way of documenting my life, of remembering the good times and the bad, and as all things are impermanent, it’s a way of passing along what I have learned and experienced. Also possibly to capture beauty and uniqueness in life’s subtleties sometimes.
I like the idea that photography can be accessible to anyone willing to invest some of their time and effort and that one doesn’t need to have expensive equipment to become a richer person from what photography can show us.
About the Author:
Matthew grew up in the Toronto area and has been practising photography ever since his father gave him a manual focus Pentax camera at the age of fourteen. Currently he works as a machine technician in downtown Toronto and raises his two beautiful daughters with his wife in Mississauga.