How To Reload A Medium Format Film Camera

2016-07-11 11.38.14

This is just a short post to tell you stuff that old skool film photographers know in their sleep but that new users of film might be genuinely perplexed by. 35mm film is pretty straightforward because it comes in a light-proof canister, that you rewind back into when you are done, and you simply take it back out again. Medium format is a little different.

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Easy C-41 (Colour Negative Film Processing at Home)

C-41 Press Kit

C-41 Press Kit

I know there are a few guides out there for home processing, some of which were instrumental in helping me get over my fears. All of these other guides seemed to be a little incomplete and that lack of detail made me wait longer than I should have before taking the plunge. In reality, it’s EASY to do your film at home. Let me show you!

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Plastic Fantastic V

Plastic Fantastic V

What equipment do you need to take a great photograph?

This photograph was taken with a cheap plastic camera with a plastic lens bought at a drug store in South Africa. It was loaded with the cheap Fuji film that they give you for free in Qatar when you get your film processed and pay for prints. Whatever redeeming qualities this picture have did not come from the crappy camera or the crappy film.

So what equipment do you need?

I recommend the following equipment list:

  1. One or two eyes. You should keep these open. Try to use them to really see the world around you. If it seems like everything is the same hour by hour and day by day then consult your user manual. You are not using them properly
  2. One heart. Keep it soft. Allow things to move you. If you have set up a firewall and access control list to limit what has access to your heart consider drastically opening the ruleset. A lot of mundane things are often part of a default “ignore” list. Although this is considered an industry standard “best practice” I strongly advise you to consider removing most items from this list
  3. One brain. Use this to store as much technique as you can. Try every new technique you hear about that interests you until you don’t have to think about it. Store macros for all your commonly used camera equipment. Consider not adding to your equipment until you have all commands for all your current equipment automated. One word of caution: use your brain to automate the process of capturing what your heart and eyes are captured by. Do not expect good results from simply firing off these automated processes at random objects that your eyes have not been captivated by or your heart has not been moved by

Well, that’s it. Take with you the above three items and use them as directed. Along with that you should have some sort of camera or camera phone (or even pen and paper). If you make proper use of your equipment you should have no trouble at all making stunning world class photographs!

Najma Area Construction II

Najma Area Construction II

Ah, the magic of urban long exposures!

As I sit here in my San Francisco hotel room I really need to get to bed but the travel half way around the world seems to have whacked my body clock. So I’m exposing.

I made a very conscious decision on this trip that I didn’t want to be wasting my time getting sucked into “tourist snapping”. No digital, no 35mm SLR. I took only the Crown Graphic to force myself to be selective and not be tempted into any “casual” photography.

Large format is not casual.

However, I did want something carryable so I also took along my Grandfather’s old tourist camera from the 1950s — his Kodak Retinette. No exposure meter, no rangefinder for focus. Just a peephole for framing.

It is so freeing.

I’ve just taken two shots off the balcony at f11 and two minutes. Well, two minutes felt right. That should be about EV0. Assuming that there is iso100 film loaded in that camera. I’m actually not sure. Just did this last one about four minutes twenty. It should fill in the shadows a little more.

Now I’m off to try to sleep. I won’t see anything that I’ve taken until I get back. Maybe even some time after I get back depending how busy I am. I know I’ll have some thick tasty negatives to work with at some point. And that is good enough for me.

I’m free.

Forest Dream II

Forest Dream II

Black and White

I grew up in Alaska and I knew the name of one photographer. The name everyone knew. Ansel Adams. I love his work and the power that it evokes. I love the way black and white focuses you in on the essentials in a picture. And yet, I can hardly bear to shoot any.

I love colour. The bolder the better. The richer the better. I don’t like colour to look too unnatural but I just love amazing colour. When nature presents amazing colour it is that amazing colour I want to capture!

This is a shot I took when I first got my large format camera. The shop I bought it from only had black and white film in stock. I like it. I like it for all the reasons mentioned above. But I’m not sure I can bring myself to do it again…