Remember Eeyore’s Birthday Party from a month a half ago? Sure, I shot the newest Olympus digital as the primary, but I also brought two other mystery cameras. Film cameras. So today topic? My experiments in analog during that event.
I’ve been playing with film ever since the end of last year. While I haven’t blogged about it much, I’ve continued to shoot analog and with different kinds of cameras. At Eeyore’s, I tried two new things. Instant film and cross processing film. I got mix results and learned some lessons. Film is different and can be more difficult, especially if you are used to the immediate feedback of digital.
Why shoot Instant film? The biggest reason is being able to share tangible, physical images with others. I did that at Eeyore’s and both Jordan and Ash loved it, as you can see in the first image. I shot several, I kept a few and gave them both their own copy. Hopefully, they’ll cherish it as an Eeyore’s momento. Over time these prints turn rigid like laminated paper and its physicality somehow makes it more precious than a digital photo. And, of course, each print is one of a kind.
As a photographer, there’s another reason to shoot instant. It’s challenging. Making exposures in digital is easy. Even standard negative film isn’t bad. But using these primitive, plastic cameras with low dynamic range film is another story. I’m using the Fujifilm Instax 210, which only has the most primitive controls.
Focus is by estimating distance. There is auto-exposure but not aways reliable and the film doesn’t have much latitude. Finally, you have to manually guess parallax, when framing close subjects. Since each shot is “one of a kind”, you won’t be able to post process the image either, before “printing”.
All this makes for an unpredictable experience, which I guess, is part of the fun. And for me, it’s particularly tough. You see, by nature, I tend to be empirical and process oriented. I like to find ways to create high quality, reliable and reproducible results. That seems like the antithesis to the instant photography movement. No doubt, with practice, I’ll get better but this is my attempt to embrace uncertainty. If digital is about precise, easily reproducible results, this is the opposite.
Under the guise of more unpredictable experimentation, I also took my first stab a cross processing film. Today, In color film, there are two popular types of chemistry, one for negatives and one for slides. You “cross process” when you use the “wrong” chemistry for the type of film you have. In my case, I shot Velvia 100 slide film and had it processed in C-41 chemicals, meant for negative film.
The result? You get strange color shifts, increased noise and more contrast. I shot these on a late 1960s Olympus Pen FT half frame camera. It shoots 72 images per roll, and makes perfectly nice pictures when processed with the right chemistry. It’s a great camera to experiment with since I get double the number of exposures per roll. I manually focus and manually meter with this fully mechanical camera. Yup, it’s a completely different world from digital.
Truth be told, I’m not satisfied with the effect I got. Through, I later found out that the cross processing color shift varies quite a bit with the type of film used — Velvia 100 tends to shift towards the reds. I want to play with more greens and blues.
I learn something different from every camera I use, probably because each camera has its own set of limitations. Film has changed the ways I look at a scene. I’m more aware of light levels, dynamic range and distance. All things that I rarely considered when shooting digital.
Of course the sophisticated computers in digital cameras only help with exposure and focus, which are the mechanical parts of photography. Creating a great image, now that’s an entirely different set of concerns.
What’s the first thing you do after riding 30 minutes to parade down Congress Avenue at the ROT Rally? Take a selfie of course. Or at least, use that smartphone to shoot the Texas State Capitol during blue hour.
It’s ROT Rally season again. Yes, many thousands of bikers have come to Austin to do what bikers do. I enjoy capturing the tamer aspects, via street photography, downtown. It’s my fifth year and things are about the same, every year. How do I keep it interesting?
Over the years, I’ve changed what I shoot. I started with sparkly neon bikes, when amped up with HDR, they look especially nice. It was a deliberate process, encumbered by using a tripod. More recently, I’m on a street photography kick, it’s light weight and fast.
My preferred cameras also change. It keeps things fresh and I get to play with my growing camera collection. Last year, the Fujifilm X100S was the primary with the Pentax K-01 in a small supporting role. This year, no surprise, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II gets top billing. I shot it with the Olympus 17mm which gives me about the same focal length as last year’s X100S. I also shot a few with the Pentax Q7, in black and white, which I really adore. Finally, I shot film too with a vintage Olympus Pen FT half frame camera.
I’ll do another posting when I finish the roll and eventually get it developed. But for tonight, I feature photos taken with the newest technology in the E-M5 Mark II. Yes, these photos are colorful, a bit gritty and with motion blur. They seem somewhat painterly and for me they capture the feel of the event.
This newest Olympus has some pretty special technologies. And while technology is always in service to the image and the creative goal, it’s interesting to talk about. These were all shot between 1/4 to 1/20 of a second or slower and are hand-held. Some are in-camera HDRs where the camera shoots 4 images at different shutter speeds, combines them accounting for camera shifts and people movement. The 5 axis, 5 stop image stabilization certainly helps but the sophistication behind this blows my mind. The net effect is that I get to create a different kind of image, in a way not possible before.
All the latest gadgetry is fine but I use it to explore photography. It’s also the reason I’m shooting film. Distinct technologies, old or new, create a different mix of advantages and disadvantages. New cameras create exposures too easily and I find myself pushing its boundaries. Conversely, exploring film counter balances all the new tech. Manually metering and manually focusing a 50-year-old camera pushes me in other ways. I’m really having fun challenging myself and it keeps things fresh, even if I do go to the same events year after year.
I was at a loss of how to use a fisheye lens. Sure it was fun shooting the book signing over at Precision Camera but what else? You know I’m a city person that likes architecture, but how wacky would a fisheye be? I decided to embrace the distortion head on and I found the perfect place to shoot it.
The neighborhood around the former Seaholm Power Plant is starting to take shape. The first phase is nearly complete, the corporate tenants are moving in and the first store has opened. In fact, the new residential towers in the area across from the Pfluger pedestrian bridge have turned into a quiet and desirable spot. The centerpiece of the pedestrian bridge is its circular ramp that allows joggers and cyclists to flow smoothly on to the bridge. The fisheye had an exceptionally nice effect, I think.
I headed across the bridge and towards the old power plant. I discovered that, used in a particular way, the wild curves are somewhat tamable. Sure the distortion is still there but I think these two shots don’t scream fisheye. The look more like super-wide angles.
I decide to convert these to black and whites, like the super-wides I created in downtown San Francisco. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the San Francisco architecture photographs and I wanted to echo the look but with a fisheye twist.
But of course, why use a fisheye to minimize the effect. Here I show it off. These stairs lead to underground parking for the entire complex which is comprised of the retrofitted Seaholm Power Plant, a small shopping area and a substantial condo building. You can see the condo in the background, which is the last to be completed.
I’m glad the architects kept the maze of steel and catwalks intact, behind the power plant. The utilitarian structure now acts as modern art that hints at the building’s original purpose. In fact, I’m sure the dark pipes in the second photo are actual art pieces added to the structure. I had a chance to visit Seaholm years ago, before any hint of renovation and I don’t recall these dark elements.
They’ve added skylights too, which should help light the multilayered substructure. You can see how the Seaholm Power Plant looked before the renovation, It was a fantastic industrial space. The main building is now corporate offices, which is disappointing. I was hoping the the power plant’s interior would house a large shopping mall where the public can admire its structure. The main hallway had the feel of an old train station, sort of like a minimalist, industrial Grand Central Station in New York City. Unfortunately, just a single tenant gets to enjoy this centerpiece. Perhaps they might let me take some “after” photos.
They also kept the giant smokestacks. They loosely define the boundary of the power plant from the new areas beyond. There’s a grassy plaza that forms a courtyard bounded by stores and the large condo. The three buildings forms a nice semi-enclosed space — I like how this turned out. Beyond the courtyard, to the east, the new Central Public Library is going up. To the north, the streets are now seamlessly connected to the neighborhood that continues to sprout new high-rises. To the south, the popular hike and bike trail and greenbelt that runs along the river.
Back across the pedestrian bridge, I’m now by the river front park. The framed opening is the same structure shown at the top of the post but from below. And just to show it’s not only architecture that can benefit from some fisheye fun, here’s a majestic Oak Tree.
The Olympus 8mm fisheye might be a very specialized lens but I certainly had more fun with it than expected. This Pro lens is high quality and expensive however, it might be just the ticket for anyone wanting to create that unique perspective. My thanks to Charles from Olympus that let me use it for a couple of weeks, before it hit the stores.
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A quick, fun comparison of Olympus’ newest lenses. The Pro grade 7-14mm f2.8 super-wide angle and the 8mm f1.8 fisheye. I snapped these outside my favorite store in Austin a couple of weeks ago.
I played with these lenses for a couple of weeks. I’ve done a few posts about them too.
I’ll add more links here as I do more postings.
Perhaps a bit of red, white and blue is a good way to start this post on Memorial Day. I shot this last week as I explored a few antique stores around Austin. My mission was two-fold. I was casually looking for interesting cameras to add to my collection and the dense assemblage of kitsch would make curious subjects for the new Olympus 7-14mm super-wide angle lens.
It’s rare for me to visit antique stores nowadays though I did frequent them as a kid in New York, back when I collected coins. Though my house tends to be modern, fairly minimal and devoid of antiques, I have a certain interest in old things. Maybe I’m getting more nostalgic as I grow older or it’s the appreciation of robust objects that weren’t simply tossed out when they broke.
I’ve bought a couple of classic film cameras this year, and have even shot them, though I have yet to blog about them. Both are beautifully made solid metal works of art, that happily still work. They are decorative pieces that I can use when I want to challenge myself with film. I was looking for more.
Conversely, I was hoping to find crappy but noteworthy plastic cameras from the 80s or 90s — the ones with prime lenses. These have very little aesthetic value but if cheap enough, they might be fun to shoot.
I visited three places, one up north and two on South Congress. These visually rich targets were certainly fun to shoot. The new Olympus 7-14mm f2.8 Pro lens worked beautifully, especially mounted to my OM-D E-M5 Mark II. I’ve already mentioned how the 5 stop in body image stabilization is a game changer. I shot all these photos at ISO 200 at f2.8. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/3 of a second to 1/30. Who needs tripods.
While I often shoot super-wides, this is the widest I ever shot. Back when I had my Canon 7D, I used a Sigma 10-20mm which gave me a 16mm equivalent. This Olympus super-wide goes to a 14mm equivalent (a 2x crop factor). After I sold my 7D, I shot with a modest but still wide 22mm for a while. Recently, both with my Olympus and Pentax Q7, I’m back to 18mm.
To be sure, shooting this super-wide at an antique store is unusual — the most typical usage is landscapes. This lens would have been fun at Big Bend and also for shooting star trails. Super-wides can be challenging to use. Typically you want interesting things in the foreground, mid-ground and background. This leads the eye through the entire frame.
My search for interesting cameras was a bust. Each store had s smattering of cameras but mostly useful as display pieces. I ideally want neat looking cameras that still work. Someday, in the future, I might get some display only models if the prices are right. One location had some cheap plastic cameras but they were zooms with slow lenses. Those aren’t worth much and they were asking too much for them.
This unconventional lens test worked out, I think. Interesting eye candy shot with an interesting lens. I’ll shoot architecture with it too – just to see what it can do. I have less than a week with this lens until I need to return it to Olympus. Unfortunately, the subtropical monsoons we are having in Austin puts a crimp in the photography schedule. At least the rains are making a dent in the drought.
That’s Texas weather for you. Perpetual drought broken up by floods.