I seem to shoot a lot of film these days (keeps me interested in photography when I’m not able to photograph the subject matter I’m actually interested in), hence all the film landscape shots!
Recently I discovered the Law of Reciprocity the hard way. Reciprocity failure – defined as the non-linear decrease in light sensitivity (speed) of a film at the extremes of very short and very long exposures times. In real terms this means for long exposures a correction factor must be added to the exposure time in order to correctly expose a scene.
I’ve been shooting a series of pictures of Wellington at night using Fuji Velvia 50. For Velvia 50, any exposures longer than 1 second need to have the exposure times corrected to reflect the Law of Reciprocity. So for a marina lit by a full-moon at f8 with a 30 second exposure, would need a correction of 1 stop. Exposures beyond 32 seconds are not recommended. Being a slide film, Velvia only has an exposure latitude of 1/2 stop meaning that if my exposure is off by more than half a stop, you end up with an image that looks very much like this:
I was so horrified after paying $50 or so for developing two 120-rolls of Fuji Velvia, I switched to Fuji Provia instead. Reciprocity failure occurs with Provia at exposures longer than 128 seconds. My second attempt at producing a moonlit shot of Chaffers Marina looks like this:
I will go back to playing with Velvia now I know what I’m doing!
Finally managed to get around to developing some slide film of images shot during semi-recent day tramps in the Tararua Forest Park. This is a ‘sister’ post from an earlier entry back in March on the Goblin Forest. These images are stitched panoramas (one day I’d like to play with a true medium format panoramic camera) from 3-4 frames of Fuji Velvia 50, using a Mamiya 645 medium format camera.
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!
It’s been a while since I last updated this blog. Only two weeks to go now until the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2014 awards. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and we’ll see how things go!
I’ve been rather busy with administration stuff over the past few weeks as Kaititiro Collective are currently working on organising a large documentary photography exhibition. This requires applying for project funding, hence the substantial admin work…….Anyway watch this space……..
I’ve always been fascinated by the characteristic gestures which people exhibit while smoking: staring contemplatively into the distance, hiding in a doorway with the weight-of-the-world on their shoulders, or looking like a 50’s Hollywood icon as a cigarette dangles precariously from their lips.
This may yet turn into a project for the above mentioned exhibition (assuming I find time to shoot more portraits). Below are some examples of recent test shots using the Mamiya 645 and Kodak Portra 400 film. I have to say I do like the results so far and it appears my light-leak mending kit has fixed the cameras leaks.
Having only used this camera for landscapes and abstract shots in the past, it’s a steep learning curving photographing dynamic subjects. The depth of field can be marginal (say 10 centimetres or so at a subject distance of 1-2 metres) even when using mid-range apertures like f8/f11. It’s relatively easy to miss-focus if you or your subject moves in between focusing and pressing the shutter.
I’ve recently discovered a fascination with photographing abstract patterns, particularly using the Mamiya 645 film camera. It’s photography’s version of the Slow Food Movement for me! These were shot on Fuji Provia 400 colour reversal film.
Following on from my previous post here is a sample of street photography images taken around Wellington using the Voigtlander Bessa R3A and 40mm Nokton lens. The film used was Kodak Ektar 100. These were mainly shot during my lunchtime jaunts around Wellington while escaping the confines of the office!
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!