Archive for the ‘film’ Category

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Mommy? Where do bagels come from?

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Okay, let’s a take a break from that street photography kick for a minute, and have a look at these delicious bagels that my sister made from scratch:

Home-Made Bagels

Home-Made Bagels

Home-Made Bagels

Home-Made Bagels

Home-Made Bagels

No earthshattering photographic insights to go along with this — just the insight that these things were tasty as hell.

Also, while I don’t consider these to be unusually exquisite examples of food photography — just snapshots really — I would much rather see images like these than the aggressively styled and lit “food as product” shots that populate the vast majority of cookbooks. Food is made in a kitchen, by human hands. Not in a light tent.

And if you want to see some photographs that are unusually exquisite examples of food photography, go read this book with photographs by this guy.

Another non-Sofobomo post

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Because yes, I suck. But, on the bright side, I just uploaded some Reala that I shot a week or two ago when I was taking a sofobomo break.


I never much liked the Fuji color negative stuff I had tried before. The medium and fast Superia variants never worked for me, and Pro 400H was a disappointment as well. But I have to say, this Reala stuff is absolutely fantastic.


It’s pretty slow (ISO 100), which is too bad. Not that I have a problem with slow film, per se, but ISO 100 is slow enough that I’m probably only going to use it for particular situations that call for it, rather than using it as one of my go-to films, like Portra 800 has been and Portra 400VC is probably going to be. Which is too bad, because Reala is affordable and very nice.

Sofobomo Silence and Koni-Omega Back in Action

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

So, I’ve been pretty silent on sofobomo. Unless you follow me on twitter, in which case you may have seen my intermittent bitching.

This isn’t due to lack of work — I’ve been shooting, scanning, and processing this whole time. In fact, I’m almost done. But I haven’t shared any of that, for a few different reasons — I’ve had some color balance problems with my calibration solution (don’t ask), which accounts for a lot of it, and more generally, I’ve sort of felt like this is something I don’t want to spam all over the internet until it’s one.

Of course, for the same reason, I’m probably just going to drop the sofobomo PDF in a hole when I’m done and do something completely different as the real output for the project. The issue is the 35-image limit — not because I don’t have enough images, and even (quite) because I don’t have enough good images — but because this project, and really most projects, I think, are not really well-served by a glut of images, which is what this amounts to.

Of course, this is probably just a failure of imagination on my part…I think next time I do sofobomo, if I do, I need to plan out several more or less discrete sub-topics…

Anyway, so as not to leave you dry, image-wise, let me drop a couple of shots from the 60mm f/5.6 that brought my Koni-Omega back into action after two, count ‘em, two 90mm lenses failed me. Unfortunately, it’s missing the finder, but I should be able to snag one on ebay if I’m patient.

Do click through and look at the larger sizes.

Test Roll w/60mm f/5.6

Test Roll w/60mm f/5.6


Needless to say, I am extremely pleased to have the K-O functioning again. Leica, shmeica. This is a rangefinder.

Parking Lot Palimpset

Monday, April 20th, 2009

I’ve been sort of laying low, photographically, for a while. Been shooting a lot of test rolls (which is fun, don’t get me wrong), a little purely utilitarian digital, and some bird stuff just to keep in practice. A lot of great potential images I’ve been banking for sofobomo.

But I did take out my RB67 a couple times last week — just long enough to convince myself that I need to get a proper camera backpack for sofobomo (I ordered one), and to take have my eye caught by a nice piece of accidental symbolism:


They’ve been updating the painted signs on the parking lot at work, and unsurprisingly, I suppose, they’re not taking any particular care with regard to the old markings. The result is that you have opposite symbols juxtaposed, as above, or words echoed or slurred:


And signs pertaining to wholly different audiences collide:



Friday, March 13th, 2009

So, I recently signed up to do SoFoBoMo. You can click through and read about it there, if you aren’t already familiar with it, but the short version is, it’s like NaNoWriMo for photography. I think it’s a great idea, although I don’t feel so positively about the name. It makes me think of someone trying to cuss me out while eating a peanut butter sandwich.

I signed up in part because I’m a sucker for stuff like this, but mostly because I have yet to do the sort of project where you conceive, execute, and output a bunch of images on a single subject in a delimited time window. And that seems like something I ought to be able to do, and ought to have practice doing.

I’ve debated a bit with myself on the topic. I was considering using my translation of Chapter 18 of the Mūlamadhyamikakārikāḥ (a Buddhist philosophical treatise in verse), but I think I should save that — I don’t think it would be best served by a rigid constraint on time and number of images.


So, I think I’m going to revisit a photograph (at right) I made some time ago, and with which I was never fully satisfied. The subject is a tree which is growing around a metal pole, and if allowed to continue growing, may at some point fully engulf the pole within itself. I plan to return to this subject, and to others like it, which embody the conflict of nature and civilization in small ways.

We’ll see how that works out for me. I plan to use my RB67 and shoot the whole thing on Portra 800, a film I know fairly well and from which I believe I can get good results in a wide variety of conditions. This will have the advantage of giving me high-quality output I know how to work with, along with a degree of built-in consistency. This is good, because consistency between images is not something I’ve previously worked to achieve; normally, I treat every image as a task unto itself. I don’t generally try to match the look of one image to another.

The downside is that this means shooting 35 images on 120 film (minimum four rolls; with any degree of redundancy, more like six-eight), and getting them developed and scanned, which adds overhead in the chronology.

Well, we’ll see.

Peek w/case

Right now what I’m doing is scouting potential subjects. I may do a few still life images at home (likely with vegetables), but for the most part, this is going to be about things found in the “wild,” as it were. I normally just wait and shoot subjects as I come across them, but for this, I’ll need to make a lot of images in a comparatively short period of time in order to have the time needed to develop, scan, process, and design. Thus the need to plan ahead.

To do this, I’ve been using the combination of my Peek email device and Remember the Milk, an online todo list service with particularly good email integration. When I pass by something that I particularly like, I send an email to RTM, along with a reminder date (shooting for sofobomo won’t start for a while) and an instruction to file it in a separate sofobomo list.

I could, of course, keep a paper list, but the metadata aspect is really appealing, and paper doesn’t remind you when to do something. And while paper is great for some things (like taking notes while I’m shooting), I find it doesn’t work well for me when I’m aggregating lots of little notes over time. Either I make the notes in a fixed-page journal, in which case I have trouble finding them all later in the midst of the other text, or else I make them on a removable-page notepad, in which case I tend to lose the pages.

So, yay for technology….

Ektar 100

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

It’s nice that Kodak isn’t just gradually eliminating film types from its lineup. They’re also adding some. Ektar 100 — available now in 35mm and soon in 120 (a particularly good sign), this is a super-fine-grain, super-saturated, high-contrast film. It appears to look best somewhat overexposed, which — unfortunately for handholders — means shooting it at ISO 50.

Ektar 100 exposed at ISO 50

It’s not really my cup of tea — I prefer Portra 800, with its more neutral colors, and its lovely grain. Not to mention its high speed But the Ektar definitely has its own charms. And working with the slower shutter speeds and wider apertures dictated by working with Ektar handheld can lead to some interesting results…

Ektar 100 exposed at ISO 50

push it!

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I went to a photowalk on Monday night — a first for me. It was nice to have an excuse to go out and photograph at night, which is something I don’t do often enough. I took my D40, Nikkormat, and tripod, and got some interesting shots — a mixture of half-baked long exposure stuff and street/event photography, some of which I was tolerably pleased with.

Ferry Building Photowalk

Ferry Building Photowalk

I mostly shot with the 35mm f/1.4 AIS on the D40 and the 105mm f/2.5 K on the Nikkormat, although I popped the 35mm on the Nikkormat as well later in the evening and put the D40 away.

I had Tri-X in the Nikkormat, rated at 1600. This was my first time pushing film, and I was surprised at how well it came out. The grain, while certainly plentiful, is not unpleasant, and pretty much all the important detail was captured. The contrast worked out quite nicely.

SF Photowalk 2/2/9 (Tri-X)

SF Photowalk 2/2/9 (Tri-X)

SF Photowalk 2/2/9 (Tri-X)

By the way, in case you’re wondering what I look like when I’m setting up a shot on a tripod, the answer is here. In my defense, the camera adds ten pounds and turns you into a grimacing wallaby.

Nick vs. Arista Premium 100

Friday, October 10th, 2008

My normal mode of film buying is to pick up a few rolls at a time. This is partly because I’m a stingy bastard, even with my own hobbies, but mostly it’s because I haven’t really settled into a groove regarding what emulsions work well for me. I definitely love Portra 800, but shooting a steady diet of just that wouldn’t make a lot of economic sense.

I recently broke with this trend to pick up ten rolls each of Arista Premium 100 and Arista Premium 400. These are — by all reports — rebadged Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X. I need to shoot these films for the Laney photo classes, so they make sense in that regard. I also find myself really warming to Plus-X, now that I no longer suck so hard at shooting it.

I recently developed and scanned the first roll of Premium 100, and I got some shots — particularly with the 35mm f/1.4 AIS — with which I am extremely pleased. Maybe unreasonably so.

Two Leaves (Arista Premium/PX:015:25)

Recovered Shopping Cart (Arista Premium/PX:015:20)

Recovered Shopping Cart (Arista Premium/PX:015:21)

Banana Bell (Arista PX:015:15) (View Large)

It’s a bit odd. One of — if not the — main things that initially appealed to me about film was the ability to shoot grainy images at high sensitivities and get usable results. For this reason, I expected Tri-X to immediately rock my world, but I find that the contrast of Plus-X has an immense appeal that Tri-X does not automatically provide. I really do need to start developing at home, because I know there are ways to get Tri-X to behave more like I want it to. : )

Plus-X Strikes Back

Friday, September 12th, 2008

So, the fall semester is here, and I’m once again using my staff fee waiver to take a film photo class — this time for “Beginning Pro,” which is a pretty highfalutin way of saying “second semester.” : )

The first thing I did was run a couple of rolls of Plus-X through my Nikkormat — including a few frames which were part of an assignment to shoot a self-portrait which “reveals something” about oneself. I developed them as soon as the lab was open, and was rather surprised at the results. Definitely an improvement from what I was doing earlier this year with Plus-X — maybe photography is like level-grinding in an RPG, and all the C-41, E-6, and digital I shot over the summer — plus all those Espers I found while riding my Chocobo — have left me better prepared to deal with black and white now.

Or maybe I just got lucky. : )





Nick vs. Composition

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Composition is something that I sometimes find quite difficult. When composing an image, there are two things that you need to (or at least ought to) achieve:

* Fill the frame with what is important. Exclude what is not.
* Find the framing which places the elements in the frame in the correct relationship to one another.

Everything about this process is subjective. How do we decide what is important? How do we decide how objects and shapes and colors are supposed to be related to one another? These are not things one can prescribe. But unless attention (whether this attention takes the form of conscious deliberation or something else) is paid to these issues, the resulting image is likely to be poorly composed. Which does not mean that it fails some test or will be butchered on critique forums; it means that the viewer will not be able to get past unhappy accidents of composition to whatever it is that the photographer was trying to share by means of the photograph.

My habitual approach to composition is to find something that seizes my attention and get close enough to it to fill the frame with it. With birds, this is usually straightforward. You find a bird, you get as close to it as you can by using the longest lens and by using your feet as much as you dare. And it’s not hard to use the same approach with macro photography or with non-macro close-up work. Heck, it even works for portraits, up to a point. No good for landscapes, but I find landscape photography to be utterly abominably boring, so that’s no big deal.

But you know where it doesn’t work? With my Olympus XA. The XA doesn’t have very good close focusing capabilities, and it’s semi-wide angle 35mm lens is not good for cherry-picking elements from a scene. And the images I’ve gotten from it so far have not proven amenable to deep cropping. This has forced me to start looking at a different scale than I usually look — forced me to take a slightly wider view, as it were. In particular, I find myself having to look for multiple medium-large objects covering an area of 10-20 feet and at least 5-10 feet away.

I find this to be surprisingly difficult. But after running quite a few rolls of film through the XA, I believe I’m starting to get somewhere with it.

Two Chair Backs

In this example, the element that caught my eye was the shadow of the two adjacent chair backs sitting at the bottom of the pool of light projected through the window of this restaurant. I couldn’t capture just that shape with the XA, and even if I could, there would be no real up-shot to getting closer. There was no deal to be had; just light and shadow, only the shape of it. So I worked to carefully include the mundane elements at the border. The legs of the chairs provided context, located the image. The additional illuminated areas pointed beyond the frame, implied repetition.

Portra 400-001-27

Here, it was just a sort of race to contain all the repeating shapes — lines, intersections, angles, squiggles. This is from a construction project near work that I’ve been trying to make good images of for a while and mostly failing — it’s almost done now, so I’m not going to get anything more out of it. It’s tricky, because the immediate vicinity is filled with very boring architecture, boring lawn, etc. (And not even boring in an interesting way.) This was the vantage that allowed me to include as much of these proliferating shapes as possible with as little of the devstatingly uninteresting context as possible.

I’ve also started trying to import some of this awareness back into my SLR shooting, so that just because I can discard the majority of a scene in favor of one compelling element, I don’t automatically do so.

The Point Stays Free

I shot this with my D40 from many, many different angles, each of which proved totally unsatisfactory. I had just about given up, and was actually in the process of moving out of the way to let a driver pass, when stumbled into this angle — one which contained the lines in the concrete, the curving cracks, and the fixture in the lower left — and which contained them in a configuration and proportion which retained something dynamic about it.

Pepper and Salt (Portra 800:004:28)

This is an example from my Nikkormat. I had my 55mm f/3.5 Micro, and I actually succumbed just moments after this to the impulse to use it to get a full-on (and fully tedious) close-up of the pepper shaker’s top. But before I did, I paused to get this shot, with the 35mm f/2 O, which includes the salt shaker companion in the background and the lovely, blank green expanse of the table.

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