Wednesday, July 7, 2010

process: on wax/on vellum

Inspired by this most excellent visual/verbal guide, I tried my hand at making a number of alternative film plane cameras starting in January 2010. For the first one, I pretty much tried to follow the online instructions, hacking apart a 110 camera that they I got as a freebie when I bought a Woca (a Holga camera with a glass, instead of plastic, lens) online. I used a piece of vellum for the first go-round (see "red bells" image above), but then began experimenting with wax paper. The problem with the wax paper is that it caused a hotspot or bright sunspot to appear toward the center of the images. I tried crinkling the wax paper to add more texture, but couldn't get rid of the bright spot. Putting layers of tape over the wax paper seemed to help some, but introduced other textures to the image that, given the graininess of the images to begin with, didn't always work well, visually-speaking.
By the time I took this image (called "fav five") I was using wax paper more often than vellum. I had also wanted to experiment with a larger film plane, so for my second attempt, I used one of the brownie hawkeye flash (120) cameras I had sitting around. Obviously, the tennis ball container I used for the 110 camera's film plane was too narrow for the bhf, so I used a small sized coffee container instead. [I also modified an old polaroid land camera to do these kinds of shots, but it's really cumbersome to handle and I have found it difficult to find or construct something that serves the function the tennis ball container and/or coffee can serves. In this way, too much light hits the surface of the vellum (or wax paper) preventing me from getting a decent exposure--especially if I'm trying to work outside.]

Whether one sees this as a perk (or, as I tend to do, a disadvantage) of this method, the images I took with the bhf, particularly when I was using unwrinkled vellum as the film plane, tend to look almost like regular film-based images. When I took this image of the place I call "the bend" in Patapsco Valley State Park, I remember thinking, "well, that could have been taken the old-fashioned (and I think much easier) way." The toughest thing about making images this way is that you definitely need two hands and all your wits about you. Not that I often operate a camera with one hand (though I do tend to do things rather mindlessly, or less pejoratively stated, "from the hip"), but it's tough to work the digital camera with one hand while using the other to keep the tennis ball container or coffee can steady and aligned correctly for the shot.

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