Well not quite a tribute but a first attempt to emulate his style! Shot again using sheets of Ilford HP5 film, and for all but two of these portraits, using a 300W fake Kino Flo from Amazon (Limo Studio) continuous fluorescent light source, a reflector, and some black and white filters. Having just recently worked on a film set producing some film stills and witnessing how film makers use continuous lights, my next plan is to add a second light using a 300 or 600W Arri tungsten light. There seems to be no end in sight for accumulating photography equipment!
I’ve gradually been experimenting further with portraiture using a Sinar F2 large format camera. This is a very slow form of photography and can take an hour or more to make two images (well until I’m more confident using the camera). The speed of using large format is part of the appeal! There’s a lot to think about and a lot that can go wrong. But when it goes right, it looks really good.
I had the help of my test subjects Simin (in the throes of PhD madness), Tim (a colleague from work), and Simon and Cilla (my landlord and his partner).
The Bad and the Ugly
I usually aim to take two portraits of each person using a single film holder (to make the film go further in terms of the variety of images I can create with one box of film). One of the steps when using large format is to prime the mechanical shutter on the lens before taking the shot. I was distracted chatting with Simon and Cilla and could not remember if I’d primed the shutter at the time of making their portrait. It turned out I had……and I therefore did this step twice, creating a double exposure………
For the second shot, I had problems with the darkslide sticking after making the exposure and it could not be closed fully. Two weeks later I discovered that the sheet of film and fallen inside the camera! I learned the hard way that the darkslide has to be removed from the film holder in a slow and steady manner otherwise the darkslide can pull the film out of the rails which keep it in place inside the film holder.
Here are some more test shots from the Sinar F2 large-format camera which I shot and developed a couple of months ago. It’s an interesting learning curve using a large format camera. There are a great number of steps involved to obtain a useable image when using large format, and mistakes can occur at any step along the way. The website Large Format Photography, has a long list of all of these potential errors here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/mistakes.html
The image of Mount Kaukau below is one example. This image turned out OK considering that I had to expose the same piece of film twice, and removed and re-loaded the film holder into the camera between my two exposure attempts. It was my first attempt at using bulb exposure with a large format (or generally any old mechanical) camera. The cable release (it’s an actual physical cable that mechanically activates the lens shutter) I depressed with my thumb, let go, counted the exposure time down, then pressed it again. Only after removing the film holder from the back of the camera did it occur to me that I actually need to physically hold the shutter open with the cable release for the period of exposure! I manged to get it right on the second attempt.
The other problem that can occur, and that I’ve now experienced, is that the camera rear standard can be moved or knocked when loading the film holder into the rear standard. If the camera’s movements are not locked sufficiently, it can result in the subject being out of focus.
G’day folks. It’s been a heck of a long time since I last posted on this blog. A desperate PhD student appropriated my computer over the past couple of months, but now that painful exercise is (practically) over, I have my computer back. First post of the New Year – perfect timing!
Several months ago I bought a portrait book by Gregory Heisler called 50 Portraits. I was immediately struck by the immense detail and amazing selective focus of his portraits, created (mostly) by using large format cameras. I’ve always wanted to test drive a large format camera.
Recently, I’ve begun to notice that the inverse square law appears to apply to more than just light: I find that where I have half as much time to concentrate on photography, I’m four times more likely to buy more camera gear! Perhaps it’s a convincing way to keep that photography dream alive and burning brightly when time is a scarce resource!
Anyway, long story short, I bought one of these babies (well, I collected the parts over several months): A Sinar F2 4×5 View camera.
Now, you’ll have to ignore the camera-shake riddled picture. It turns out iPhones are only good when used outdoors! Who would have thought.
View cameras are unique in that the lens plane and film plane can be moved independently of each other. These movements are useful of course in architectural photography for correcting perspective where you have converging horizontal or vertical lines of buildings. However the movements can also be used creatively for selective focus by manipulating the way the plane of focus intersects with the subject plane. Playing with selective focus for portraiture is my main interest in using this camera.
I’ve been testing the camera using Ilford Delta 100 4×5 sheet film which I develop myself using a MOD54 sheet film holder and a 3 reel Patterson developing tank:
The Mod54 is quite an ingenious design for developing 4×5 sheet film at home. It takes a little bit of practice learning how to fit the film into the device in darkness but it’s pretty simple after several practices, once you get a feel for it!
When using the view camera, you first focus the camera onto the subject using the ground glass and a focusing loupe. Ignoring the use of movements for the moment, you then stop the lens down to a suitable working aperture for the required exposure and depth of field, and remembering to close the lens preview lever, you slide the sheet film holder behind the ground glass.
It was at this point when taking my first test shot that I made a rookie mistake. The ground glass on the back of the camera can be rotated to shoot both portrait and landscape formats without having to move the position of the camera. I had only practiced loading the film holder into the camera once or twice and it seemed fairly straight forward. However I had overlooked the fact that unless the cameras movements are locked, it’s very easy to knock the camera’s position while trying to insert the film holder. It’s easier to load the holder into the camera while the ground glass is rotated in the portrait orientation rather than landscape. However I forgot to rotate it back again before taking the picture. Along with a substantial light leak, this was the result of my first shot using the view camera:
My next test shot of Lyall Bay was much better:
As I am interested in using the view camera primarily for portraits (plus maybe experimenting with landscapes) I did a test shot on the desperate PhD student mentioned above:
The above selective focus was achieved by employing the Scheimpflug principle, to orientate the plane of focus so that it is no longer parallel to the lens and film planes. This allows the use of larger apertures while keeping the main points of interest in focus. To achieve this effect, I employed swing movements to rotate the lens standard (the part of the camera the lens is mounted to) to the right, and the rear standard to rotate the film plane to the left.
To complete the ‘vintage’ look, I developed the film in my bathroom. Throw in some dust and a couple of cats, and bingo, we have an old-looking photo. The borders were created by using a cardboard negative holder to digitise the negatives using the ‘Macro(lens) Method’ as I do not (as yet) own a scanner. No photoshop required!
Recently, for my personal photographic work, I’ve been getting into using film cameras (with the exception of projects where speed and accuracy are required) such as the 35mm rangefinder Voigtlander Bessa R3A and the medium format Mamiya 645. I really enjoy using these manual cameras when I have the time, as I find that it slows the whole process of photography down and it becomes more meditative as there is so much to think about as compared with the speed and immediate feedback of using digital cameras. Coupled with the costs involved with shooting film, I find I need to conceptualize and plan images ahead of time, and really think about the camera settings required to get the shot, and indeed, whether I even want to make a photo. It is a great way to learn how to visualise how to construct an image, rather than relying on the view screen of a digital camera. Don’t get me wrong, I love using digital for the ease, convenience, speed and accuracy, but I also find it can make me lazy photographer through having the immediate feedback on the view screen.
Plus I love using the Voigtlander (a Leica M would be great for convenience) as it is a very small, lightweight camera which I can carry with me all the time. The pics below were shot on a roll of Ilford HP5. Colour pics to come in the next post!
I’ve always wanted to try high-speed black and white film just to see how grainy the film would be in low-light conditions. These images were shot one night on Wellington’s Courtenay Place using a Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder. Shooting on the Voigtlander and using black and white, 3200 ISO film gave the images a gritty, documentary quality suitable for the late night hedonism and drunken, boisterous atmosphere that makes for a typical weekend on Courtenay Place. The rangefinder is a small, manual operated camera, ideally suited to candid, reportage style photography, where discretion is required. As you can see, some of the shots are rather grainy (bad exposure on my part) and getting a correct exposure in situations where there was little light and fast-moving action was definitely challenging if you didn’t want to miss the moment, especially when shutter speeds were down to 1/15 second.
For the past 6 months I have been working on a long-term documentary project about people who do unique and interesting professions. This project allows me to produce the reportage/documentary work I am passionate about, while simultaneously being easy enough to fit around my day job. The most difficult thing about doing documentary work is one, finding the time and/or resources need to work on documentary projects (i.e. some subject matter might require a persistent approach to build relationships with people before even lifting up your camera), and two, pitching the project idea and gaining access to the organisation and or community you wish to photograph. Hence the reason for me choosing the above subject.
The images below are the first set of images I have completed for this project and were exhibited at Kaititiro Collective’s first exhibition at Thistle Hall (see previous post).
The consistent winds on the Makara coast provide an ideal location for Meridian Energy’s wind farm development on the edge of the Cook Straight. With 40 metre-long blades, each turbine is capable of generating 2.3 megawatts of power, and the West Wind site is capable of producing enough power to supply 70,000 homes. Daryn Te Kere, one of several turbine technicians at the West Wind site, performs scheduled maintenance on one of 62 wind turbines. It is a calm and crisp winter’s day on the Makara coast, and as Daryn remarks, from 67 metres up, the work of a wind turbine technician affords “some of the best views in the world”. More of the images from this project can be viewed here.
A few weeks ago a few hundred people gathered in Wellington to protest the New Zealand governments proposed asset sales. An economic policy most of Europe experimented with 20 years ago. I used two cameras at this event: one digital Canon 5D mk iii and the other a film camera – a Voigtlander Bessa R3A shooting Ilford HP5 ISO 400 (plus a yellow filter). I find the comparison between the two mediums interesting. The digital is accurate, producing clean, colourful, and crisp pictures, whereas the B&W film produces a rough quality with a graphic contrast. Admittedly with digital I’m always disappointed when the auto-focus misses the subject or when there’s slight motion blur to ruin the image. With the B&W film shots, many of the images are not sharp and have a gritty, fluid quality to them. The soft images seem to suit the medium, and I prefer them to the clean digital versions. What do you think?
Haven’t been too savvy keeping this blog up-to-date lately, so thought I should make more of an effort. Here’s a couple of landscape pictures I did a wee while ago of Wellington’s rocky South Coast. Truth be known, sitting in front of a computer for 8-9 hours a day doesn’t overly inspire me to want to stare at a computer screen outside of work hours (unless it’s an absolute necessity!). Plus, lately a lot of my photography work has involved more of the admin side of photography than that of actually taking photos: fixing (trying to fix) websites, filling out tax forms, organising another exhibition space, researching future projects, fiendishly trying to figure out ways to drum up more photography work, eating lots of homemade croissants and bagels, playing the sax etc…..