Why Nikon? Because it is the first camera I bought, and once I began buying the lenses for that first body, I was unknowingly buying into a "system". As it happens, I like the Nikon system just fine. I would have liked the Canon system as well I am sure if the rebate that was being offered when I purchased my Nikon D300 (bottom left) had been offered on Canon.
Some of the above cameras were gifts, while others were purchased after much searching. Each one has its own memories and I have captured some great images will all. All are fully operational and three of them have seen overhauls to ensure they continue to operate for years to come. Eight are film with two digital cameras thrown in.
The second from top (left) is covered by the lens, but it is a Nikon EM. It was a gift from a friend along with a wonderful 50mm lens. This is the camera his late wife and he used to capture their family memories. It is the camera that traveled with them, in the back seat of a car, airplane and train. Many argue the EM is not a "real" camera because it is an aperture priority only camera. But the fact is that it is a light, reliable camera that is capable of capturing perfect images. I will always cherish it.
The Nikon D300 (bottom left) was my first "serious" camera and it introduced me to the wonders of photography. It still works flawlessly and I enjoy pulling it out for old times sake. The D800 was the upgrade I made for the 36mp sensor and it taught me that the 12mp sensor on the D300 was forgiving a great deal of mistakes. The D800 also taught me that the rapid fire of thousands of images was not the best way to get the most out of photography. Going out and planning the shot, contemplating the final image, and adjusting the composition resulted in fewer images of greater enjoyment.
The Nikon F2 (top right) was purchased with an overhaul in mind. I wanted to have a properly CLA camera and the F2 was the first attempt. The camera was working but now it is a dream to shoot.
The Nikon F (top left) was the camera that I always thought was ugly. That massive forehead was something that I could not get over. I then saw the images it took of the Vietnam war and I began to understand it. It has a place in history as the first SLR that the professional market bought into. Through this historical perspective, I began to love its looks. I found a great one for sale and while I paid a pretty penny for it, it is in perfect working order!
Each of these represents memories to me and to their previous owners. I treat them well and kept them fed with film. They are protected from the elements when not in use, but they are used often.
I fell in love with photography in 2009 with the purchase of my first Digital SLR a Nikon D300. I learned as much and as fast as I possibly could. My photography skills grew and I began liking the photographs I was taking.
Then in 2012 I was given my father’s Olympus OM-1 film camera. I knew that film was an interesting medium which I used to shoot before digital really took over but was unsure how to start. I cleaned the camera and set it aside.
In 2013, my sister and her family were coming for a visit. I pulled out the OM-1 and loaded it with some film. I decided some B&W film would be best but I have no idea why.
That day I took the entire roll and took some amazing photographs as well as some real lost shots. Manual focusing was an issue, taking the time to stop and set the exposure was another stumbling block. The last hurdle was the finite number of pictures I was able to capture.
I took the roll to be developed and eagerly awaited the results. A few days later, the images we returned with some small prints and the negatives. I flipped through the negatives and put them away. The double prints I got were put in some frames or given away.
Of the 36 images I believe that 8 shots were lost. Mostly due to focus issues. But the images that did work REALLY worked. There was a bit more intimacy with the subject and the contrast was perfectly imperfect. And I was hooked.
Four years later, I am sitting looking at a collection of about 40 film cameras including two 4x5, five medium format and the rest 35mm cameras. I develop my own film and print in a little darkroom I have set up.
Photography has changed for me. From the digital perfection to the beautiful, stubborn world of film photography. Yes I do waste film still today. Occasionally my focus is off, and sometimes I did not calculate the shot well. But the few images, where the camera works perfectly, my abilities are up to the task, light falls on the subject softly and the gods of luck smile upon my, I get an image so breathtaking I can call it art.
In the digital world I can get these images with a great deal more frequently if I am willing to spend some time in post processing.
What I do wonder is why we have to waste so much film in order to get to a place where we get an acceptable number of “hits”. With modern digital technology we should be able to prepare ourselves for film photography. The problem is that no one really sees the two mediums as connected. We wither shoot digital or film and there is nothing in between. Why can we not use one medium to springboard into the next.
I see plenty of people advocating picking up a film camera in order to learn photography. While I fully agree that film gives you a unique perspective, it seems an expensive way to learn photography.
If I were to give advice to a young aspiring photographer, I would suggest they buy a used digital DSLR camera and some manual focus, prime lenses including a wide, normal and portrait (21 or 28mm, 50mm and 90mm) assuming a full frame camera is used.
I would then suggest to get small memory cards and to shoot in JPEG. Shooting in RAW gives you a great deal of room to rescue an improperly shot image. Shooting JPEG and judging your shot by what comes out of the camera is far better.
The idea is to give the quick feedback of digital while assuming some of the limitations of film cameras. Once more of your shots are in focus, and you understand the power and versatility of composition, film cameras can easily be brought in.
The end result would be a student who could practice a ton on very little money, would invest in glass that could be used later on a film camera and would be practicing all the skills needed to be a proficient film photographer. It would then be very easy for them to pick up a fully automatic digital camera if and when needed.
Here is the second roll in my Streets of Jakarta series. I must say that I am really enjoying this process. Not only does it give me something to do on the way to work, but it lets me really look at the city around me.
At first I wanted to hide the fact that these images were taken on a car, hoping to give me some interesting vantage points but mix the images with ones that I took on foot. I must admit that I like the aesthetic of the images taken out of a car window. I am embracing the little details that tells the viewer that they are looking out of a car window at life that is going by.
B&W is perfect for this and Jakarta is a perfect city. The traffic often requires me to take alternative routes giving me more of the city to see. The only draw back is that I leave the office too late to be able to capture any images. So I am left to enjoy the morning commute and ignore the way home.
Hope you enjoy it.
The digital age has brought with it unprecedented accuracy in everything we do. If you look at lens construction, in order to get a lens with minimal distortion 30 years ago you had to go to the Germans and hand built lenses. This would cost a ton and the results we good.
In today's world, virtually any lens manufacturer can produce lenses with less distortion then the old German glass and the price is extraordinary low. And we have digital sensors that can appreciate the quality of the glass and create a more accurate photograph. Computers have now stepped up to the plate and can correct for distortion automatically.
But how is it that we survived for so long with such poor quality glass and images? Well our search for perfection in the modern world is a wasted effort. This is a marketing gimmick that has been propagated to get us to buy equipment.
I was recently asked why I felt that most camera manufacturers do not make film cameras, if this is indeed a growing medium. The problem with camera manufacturers is that a film camera, well built and cared for, will last a lifetime. How many digital cameras does the average user buy these days? Certainly more that one in a lifetime!
Digital has given birth to the ability to enhance and correct images in camera. What this means is that on top of our ability to build the most accurate lenses ever, we can further improve the image in camera. Do we really need lenses that go to f/0.95 if we can increase the ISO of a camera to 250,000? Do we need lenses with zero distortion if we can manipulate the image to correct for these things?
I like images that are imperfect. This is one attraction of film. I have called it the 'perfect imperfections' and truly believe this to be true. The imperfection of a lens gives it character. It leaves its mark on the final image. These are the kind of lenses and photography I like. In fact, some of my favorite images I have ever taken were taken with a lens that had a great deal of fungus. It softened the image, reduced the sharpness and gave every image a unique soft glow to them.
I am not suggesting you purchase crap glass, all I am recommending is that we abandon the quest for a perfect lens and a perfect image. Let lines bend, let detail be lost and let imperfections shine through. It is the only difference between a human taking an image and the cameras of the future where robots will indeed take a perfect picture! What a terrible day that will be...
A few months ago I asked my mother to borrow her family photo album. I took macro photos of each of the pictures and will slowly try to digitally fix each. This will take a bit of time, however I believe it is time worth spent. I will also repair to album, clean it carefully and rebuild it. I hope to deliver it back to my mother in better condition with a digital copy of the fixed images.
Here we have my grandfather on my mother's side, standing not he far right in the light suit. He is standing next to friends or family (I am working to understand who) at a race track. I love the outfits and how they pose for the camera. This is a snapshot taken to remember a wonderful day among friends. It is something done quickly, without a great deal of planning, but over time it has gathered more importance.
For those that come after, simple photos of family takes on great importance. After a hurricane hits, or a tornado, you never hear people crying over their television sets, they all cry over lost photographs. My grandfather held this photo, he put it into the album to keep it. Now I will try to save it and digitally share it with other family members.
This photograph was part of my "Streets of Jakarta" photo story. I explained this in last week's post, but essentially I decided to take a camera to and from work with me to see what images I could capture from the car.
I was not driving. All shots were taken from the back seat of a car and NOT from the driver's position. That would be irresponsible.
Simple concept, this is a project where I take a series of detailed shots to help capture a feeling and series of emotions. These images are not about telling a story to someone else, but a way for me to trigger memories in the future.
I uncovered this idea when I was looking back at some of my older images where I was testing new cameras. I would have them delivered to my office, load a roll of film and shoot it quickly on the way home. Then I would develop to see if the camera was working well. The curious result however, was that I captured some scenes from my daily commute that now bring back a flood of memories. Nothing worth writing home about, but something that helps me remember my own story.
This picture was captured using a Nikon F3, set to Aperture Priority mode, with a 50mm f/1.8 lens on HP5+ film exposed at EI3200. This allowed me to capture fast shutter speed to make up for the movement of the vehicle.
I pass these men everyday on my way to the office. Effectively the construction of this building is ongoing and the workers are living there. So their rooms are open to the entire world, giving me the chance to glimpse into their lives. Where they wash their clothes, to how they sleep. There is a strong communal atmosphere but also an appreciation of alone time.
Some mornings I see the chatting and smoking together while at other times I see them sitting alone, staring at a wall. I have no idea what they do or how they determined that living in this way was the best option for them. All I know is that they have given up privacy and are living in a rather squalid environment and it reminds me of how lucky I am.
This picture is take from a purposefully wider vantage point, I did not was a voyeur look to these images. I framed the shot at an angle because I wanted it to appear natural. I could, and indeed did, take the image from the front but it appears too artificial. Shooting at EI3200, coupled with a semi-stand development process helps give me the contrast I was looking for.
I was able to capture the three men sitting together smoking as well as another three sitting alone. The cables, wooden scaffolding and street sign all give it a sense of place. While the rudimentary living conditions are clear the image is not intimate. We are still seeing the image from relative safety, we are not close up with them. We are removed.
The offset angle of the shot adds tension to the image. This is a quick glance, not a contemplative stare. It is fast moving, and the viewer is just glancing in. It is an alien lifestyle to us, and we are grateful for that. But these men, they still make up the fabric of the family of man. They still value friendship, and solitude, they still dream of a better future and wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Everyday I jump into a car and am driven to my office. Many people here in Jakarta have drivers as the traffic is horrendous. So each day I sit in the back seat and watch the streets of Jakarta fly by. Countless times I am wishing I had a camera with me as I watch some wonderful scenes go by.
I decided to give myself a bit of a assignment. I prepared one of my Nikon F3 with a roll of HP5+ film with a EI of 3,200. I want fast film to be able to set a fairly fast shutter speed and capture some scenes with a minimum movement. The assignment is to take it everyday to capture images from the back seat of the car. This is not street photography as there is no way to interact with my subjects, but it will give me something to do.
This is a raw test because I will be trying a few new things. First, I will be shooting from the back seat of a moving car. Secondly, the windows of the car is tinted so there is a light restriction. It is very hot so there is no way I will open the window. Finally, I am not sure of the quality of images I will get at EI 3,200. I have done it before with mixed results. In dark environments with heavy shadows it works well. But in daylight it ends up creating too much contrast.
On the back of the camera, I have labeled everything I will need to know to develop and understand what I was trying to do. This tape will be used around the canister that holds the exposed roll. I will then transfer it to the negative carrier that I use to film my negatives. It gives me everything I need to know and I have left room to note the results and any deviations i have made during development.
The results were interesting. I used Stand Development in Rodinal for one hour. This was simply because I did not have enough ID-11 to develop the rolls I had. Usually I prefer stand development for low ISO films. In this case I was shooting an ISO of 400 and an Exposure Index of 3200.
Amazingly I thought my issues would be the glass reflection and the movement of the vehicle however in the majority of the frames, it was the tough composition angles that threw most images off. Below are some of my favorites of this roll.
Pinhole photography is the most basic form of photography possible. If you want to remove everything between you and your subject, a pinhole camera is it. I love my digital cameras with a great number of buttons, but I also love the simplicity of my old analog cameras. But it is now time to go a bit further down the simplicity spectrum.
I have been looking at Ilford's Obscura camera for some time and finally found one during a recent trip to Perth Australia. I purchased it as quick as I could and brought it all the way back to Jakarta. I then put it on my shelf and began thinking what to use it for. I picked up my Edward Weston book and decided to try to photograph some peppers. Let me explain why, but first some of the technology employed.
It also comes with a wheel exposure calculator with simple diagrams of different lighting conditions. I have also downloaded an iPhone app called "Pinhole Assistant" which uses the iPhone camera to measure the light. Amazingly both the wheel and the application gave the same result.
If you want to give an artistic person the perfect gift, I would HIGHLY recommend the Ilford Obscura, a film changing bag and some developer, stop & fixer. Below I explain what I used. This will give them everything they need to make some amazing art in a unique and hands on way.
Now let me explain the story of the Pepper. It all began around 1930 (don't you just love stories that start that way....) when Edward Weston had followed his muse/lover to Mexico. Edward was taking some amazing nude photographs but his lover pushed him to shoot some still life as well. I am sure she was sick of posing for him.
He shot some of his most famous work including an image of a pepper that is, in my humble opinion, the best photograph ever taken. Below is a the image in question, and it is called "Pepper #30". You see, Edward was working hard on capturing the image of a pepper perfectly and had made various attempts with different peppers.
He finally got his hands on a wonderful pepper, and put it in a funnel to direct light evenly. He was using a view camera, which is problematic for close up shots because it has a very shallow depth of field. In order to get the entire pepper in focus, Edward had to stop down the lens beyond what it would normally do. He modified it and dropped it down to an f/260 to 300.
So his image required an exposure of 4-6 hr! It too a few attempts to get it right and below is the result of the endeavor. The worlds best photograph of a humble pepper.
People have tried to read into the photography as if it was a work of modern art. The issue is that Edward was in his "straight" photography phase and he just wanted to take a wonderful picture of a pepper. The great news is that he wrote in his journal about his time in Mexico and explained the origin of the pepper and how the picture came to be.
Fast forward 87 years, and there I sat in Jakarta Indonesia with a pinhole camera wondering what I should shoot. I decided to capture a pepper, not in the same way Edward did, I tried that for years and never succeeded, but a different pepper and a different goal. I want an imperfect image of a pepper.
I used Ilford FP4 film with a rated ISO of 125. This is not the film that came with the camera, but it is a box that was already open. Using the exposure dial that came with the camera I estimated a exposure time of 30 minutes. Using the application it came to an exposure of 28 minutes. Spot on if I do say so myself.
I set up a timer and set everything up. I flipped the shutter and started the timer. The great thing about a 30 minute exposure is that the error is small. So as long as I was close, the image exposure should be fine.
Everything should be in focus so the only thing that can go wrong is the framing of the shot. I decided that even if the framing is wrong the image might still work. So without too much hope took the shot.
I use BTZS Development tubes in my 4x5 development. They are not ideal, they are over priced and frankly a pain in the ass to use. But they work and other methods are just as painful. If you are going to shoot 4x5 just understand that development is not a fun part of the process (unlike 35mm and 6x6 film).
The tubes allow you to "develop in daylight" which is a bunch of hogwash. You need a darkroom plain and simple...but a dark closet works just as well.
In terms of timing, I used the Massive Development Chart application. For FP4 shot at 125 Exposure Index it asks for 11 minutes development time.
And here is the final result. I cropped this in a little bit but I have the full image below. This is how I had imagined it would come out. This shot was a full 30 minute exposure, and while the negative was still a bit flat, I believe I could have exposed for another 3-5 minutes, it is still a very workable image.
I am extremely impressed that a pinhole camera can produce such images, no lens to concentrate the light, no filter to enhance or remove characteristics, just a simple hole and.a sheet of film!
The shaft of light coming from the top is confusing. I am unsure where that element came in. Apparently there was a leak somewhere along the lines, but I believe it does not detract one bit from the image. Pinhole is not about perfection after all!
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.