Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Film Photography Podcast

Up to this point, most of my blog posts have revolved around my work.  Occasionally, I'll post a website, artist or photographic information that I come across which intrigues me.  I want to use this post specifically for that reason; and to show that good customer service does exist in today's world of bigger than life corporations that only care about the bottom line.

As most of you know, I've recently been experimenting with film photography.  I picked up my first film camera at my father-in-law's estate sale.  It was a Canon AE-1P; unfortunately, it was beyond repair and I was unable to use it.  It now has a prevalent position on our bookshelf.  The shop I took it to actually had a used AE-1P for sale and I purchased it.  I put two rolls of film through it; it was a bit daunting at first.  Switching back and forth from digital to film is not easy and I hadn't realized the full beauty of film until this year.  A few things fell into place that helped pave the way for me to embrace the analog nature of photography.  I received my first Lomography camera, a Holga, as a wedding present.  My wife gave me a Lomography Fisheye 2 camera for Christmas and a Polaroid SX-70 for my birthday.  I also stumbled upon a great podcast; the Film Photography Podcast.

The Film Photography Podcast (FPP) is hosted by Michael Raso, John Fedele and Mat Marrash.  These men love film photography and they bring that spirit to their podcasts.  There is something so unique about shooting film; it's really hard to explain unless you've experienced it.  This podcast has opened my eyes to the massive world of photography that I've yet to explore.  I've got a running list of books and magazines that they've referenced, I've found some great specialty labs for developing, I've learned about so many different styles of cameras, and I've opened up my work to more individuals than I have ever before.  Most importantly, I've been exposed to a community of great people that love photography as much as I do and just how much knowledge and experimentation that is waiting to be tapped in to.

In addition to their podcast, the FPP gang runs a blog, a YouTube channel, a Flickr group and a store.  To show support for their small operation, I purchased a few packs of Fuji 100C and Fuji 3000B pack film for my Polaroid 440 Land Camera.  I received the box in the mail today; it was missing the film.  There were two stamps on the box that stated the USPS received the box in damaged condition and they received it without contents.  This type of incident blows my mind!  How can a perfectly packaged box just be grossly mishandled and passed onto the final destination with the contents lost or stolen?  You would think this would've raised a red flag somewhere.  Well, apparently it didn't, and I ended up with an empty box.  I specifically purchased this film for a photo shoot that I have scheduled for this weekend.  I emailed the FPP store and in less than an hour, I received an extremely amazing reply from Michael Raso.  He apologized for the USPS mishap and reshipped my film via Priority Mail.  While I hope that I receive the film before I leave for my trip, it really didn't matter after I read Michael's email.  The level of customer service he demonstrated is outstanding.  The FPP is a small operation, but they care about their customers.  They know that every one of their customers, or listeners for that matter, is a huge fan of film photography and they are simply treating each one like they would want to be treated.  Michael Raso doesn't know me personally; yet, he took the time out of his busy day to write a personal response and send another package.  I wish all businesses would work in this manner; the world would definitely be a better place.

I hope I can attend an FPP meet up and meet Michael and the rest of the FPP gang.  You've helped open up a whole new aspect of photography for me and I appreciate that.  If anyone reading this blog is into film photography, thinking about getting into film photography or used to shoot film and wants to get back into doing it, I highly recommend FPP.

Here's the link:    Film Photography Podcast

Thanks again Michael and the FPP gang!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Holga + Medium Format Film = Love at First Shutter Click

Surprisingly, one of "my" wedding gifts was a Holga camera.  For those of you that don't know, a Holga is a plastic "toy" camera.  It's a very basic, "chunky" camera.  It was manufactured in Hong Kong in 1982; the term Holga is a European spin on "ho gwong," meaning "very bright."  The camera is as low tech as you can get; boasting a 60mm, f/8 plastic lens.  It has two apertures, f/8 and f/11 and shutter speeds of 1/125 and bulb (for long exposures).  It takes 120 roll film and negatives are produced in a 6x6 square, unless you use a smaller mask.

So, with it's extremely low-tech nature, why use a camera such as this?  Well, a few reasons.  First, film is fun.  Growing up, film was still the method of photography, but it was on its way out.  My parents had some very automatic 35mm cameras and I can remember having a Kodak 110 as a kid.  As I got older, photography was quickly moving into the digital realm and when I became very interested in it as an artistic medium, it was almost by default that I started with a digital camera.  In my three years of shooting, I've been exposed to a number of formats and processes that I've wanted to experiment with.  Film being one of them, as I've mentioned in my previous posts.  Honestly, I had never heard of 120 roll film; however, now that I've shot with it, I can tell you that it's great and I love it.  I love the square images that it produces.  They're much different than 35mm negatives and it's very satisfying to get them developed.  Also, I've shot three total rolls of 35mm and sometimes it's a long process to finish off a roll of 24-36 exposures.  With 120 film, you have 12-16 and it's a little less daunting. 

Is a Holga the only medium format camera?  Of course not!  There are so many medium format cameras; in fact there are amazing, expensive models that boast optics and results better than any digital camera on the market.  The beauty of the Holga is the sometimes unexpected and experimental results you can achieve.  A Holga can be prone to light leaks, creating interesting effects on the exposed emulsion.  The lens of a Holga has a sharp focus center, but the rest of the image is usually very soft.  Vignetting can also occur.  However, these are only a few interesting effects that can be achieved by using the Holga.  Holga's have been modified, they come in various models and the work from Holga's have also been shown in galleries around the world.  So, let this be a lesson that you don't need the sharpest, most expensive digital camera to have your work shown in a gallery.  A camera is simply a tool; photography is the vision of the artist and a camera is merely the means to achieve that vision.  So, I try to think outside the digital box and create what I want and how I want without confining myself to rules.  I could take the sharpest picture, perfectly exposed picture on the planet; however, it still might not measure up to an image that was taken with a pinhole camera.  It's about the artistic vision and that's where I'm trying to take my photography.  Feel free to comment and let me know if you think I'm moving that direction with my photography.

Enjoy my first Holga images; there will be many more in the future.  These images were taken with a Holga 120N camera and were shot on Kodak Plus-X 125 film.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Experiment in Film Images

Experiment in Film

So, as I've mentioned a few times on this blog, I've recently begun experimenting with film photography.  Don't get me wrong, I still love my Canon EOS 50D DSLR camera and I believe it's been an amazing tool that has helped me obtain my creative vision with my images.  However, there's something very authentic about film photography.  There's no instant gratification.  With digital, you can immediately react to the image you just shot and answer the following questions:  Did I get the right exposure?  Did I frame the shot as I envisioned it?  Did I achieve the composition I set out to achieve?  Did I waste an exposure or did I take a quality image?  It may be weeks before you receive the answers to those questions when shooting film, but that's part of the fun.  Film photography also allows you to be more selective with what you decide to shoot, where as if you are shooting with a digital camera, you can just fire away and switch out memory cards once the current one is full.  There are so many film cameras available today that were made decades ago; and they still work.  All you need is the correct film and you're off shooting with a vintage camera.  Will we be saying that about our current digital cameras decades from now?  Absolutely not.  Digital cameras are full of the latest electronic technology; technology that becomes obsolete almost immediately.  The cameras today aren't built to last decades.  We have become so consumed with immediate gratification that the fundamentals of photography are now a lost art.  Pictures are sent from a memory card onto a computer; they can be lost in the shuffle with hundreds, even thousands of digital files never to end up on a print.  You can't replace the feeling of getting your negatives and prints back after shooting a roll of film.  It's exciting and it makes me want to go out and shoot many more rolls of film until I produce the results I know I'm capable of producing.  Film is not dead and is currently experiencing a renaissance; if you're interested, go to your local thrift store, hit up a garage sale, estate sale or auction, or head over to eBay and pick up a vintage camera, a roll of film and have fun.

The subsequent post will contain what was my second roll of film ever.  The images do not compare to the standards set by my digital images, but they are a great deal better than my first roll of film.  I shot the images with my Canon AE-1P, Canon FL 50mm lens and Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white negative film.  Feel free to comment and critique and stay tuned for more rolls.  Don't worry digital heads, I'll still be shooting with my 50D and posting those images as well.