Sunday, November 30, 2008


i love this camera. sure, like the diana+ it too can be a little quirky and (at the risk of comparing a cheaply-made plastic cam to a really, really heavy, solidly-built tlr) i'd argue that the ikoflex, like diana+, is a fairly high-maintenance camera. that said, it seems that the aspects that make the iko-iko sometimes difficult to work with are opposite of the things that make diana+ difficult to work with. for instance, while i worry about dropping (and breaking) both cameras, diana+ feels like nothing much while you can definitely feel the weight of the ikoflex. and people actually wore these around their necks? yipes. the ikoflex is definitely not a strollable camera--not one you'd (or I'd) grab and take on a nature hike.

but i do love the photos it takes. i remember vividly when the first batch of negatives came back. i had been used to working with the holga, diana+ and the flipped-lens bhf and the sharpness of the ikoflex images, the way they seemed almost 3-D by comparision, was really jarring--but in a really good way.

. . .and even when the images are not that sharply in focus they are still interesting to me. (in my defense, it was really, really hard to hold this thing above my head while trying to compose, focus, etc. the shot. i tried a second shot but by that time my arms were shaking so much, well, that one was blurrier still.)

i'm not sure how or why i began thinking about the ikoflex since i had been on this russian camera kick at the time. i think i might have been researching lubitels when i came across this most excellent resource --a site that ended up serving (for the better part of the summer anyway) as a shopping/wish list generator of sorts. if i saw an image on flickr that i liked, i'd check to see if the camera was listed on the site and if the feedback was good, i'd go to ebay to see if one could be had and (if so) how much it might be had for.

when i saw the zeiss ikon ikoflex listed on ebay, it was originally listed as a Ia. but it's not--it's an early model IIa from 1950. while waiting for the camera to arrive, i downloaded and began looking at the manual for the Ia--i had been cautioned that this camera can be tricky to load and i wanted to get my mind around what i'd need to do to avoid loading problems and botching rolls of film. once the camera arrived things didn't necessarily translate from the manual to experience and it took a while for me to figure out that the camera i had in my hands was not, in fact, a Ia.

as i tended to spend the summer buying cameras in pairs (the holga and the diana, the zorki 4 and the kiev am), i was, at this same time, hoping to pick up a reasonably-priced yashica-D. i remember vividly hauling both cameras, my tripod and my digital camera (aka "light meter") up to campus on really, really hot day in June, eager to shoot test rolls with both cameras. yipes. definitely not strolling cameras.

the ikoflex is tricky to load--after you've wound the film on, you have to manually position the counter on the side to "1". if you forget this step, iko-iko acts up. problem is, the manual says that you are supposed to move the counter clockwise but i'm not thinking my likes moving in that direction. then again, i had a few botched shots with yesterday's film--times when the film advanced a bit beyond where it should have stopped so maybe i should have insisted we moved in a clockwise direction.

the viewing glass is really, really bright (making the iko more enjoyable to work with than the ysahica) but my ikoflex's duds are a bit worn and ragged in places--it could definitely use a new outfit (maybe something in saddle tan?)--but i find particularly daunting the idea of diy camera recovering. maybe it's something i can work up the courage to attempt next summer.

goop and play

despite promising myself that my next polaroid experiment would be an emulsion lift, i tried goop (gooping?) yesterday with the help of this site. i had read that any films slower than, say, 3000 might not work--all or that well--but i saved the negative part of a color image of the study and tried scanning that in as well. (see below) my original plan--after using up the last of the fuji color pack--was to try some of polaroid film to see how that compared with the fuji color film. instead, i opted to go with fuji b/w 3000 so i could see what a goopable negative looked like. i intentionally underexposed the image above in hopes of having a better negative to work with. i ended up getting more solarization than i wanted/expected/hoped for. (click to see postive image)

Friday, November 28, 2008

striation situation

one more thing: so, i couldn't help noticing the striations marking both batches of diana+ pinhole negatives. the bookcase image to the left is one of the more extreme examples, but i noted that even the images from the first roll (see below) all had single lines running down or across the images.

i'll admit that my care and handling of negatives leaves a lot to be desired but my mishandling rarely results in patterns comprised of more or less straight lines. it looks as though something scratched both rolls of film while they were in the camera. ironically, this was the first time i've used the diana+ when advancing the film didn't feel like a be-all, end-all struggle for advancement. otherwise put, most times when i've used the diana+ there have been stretches during advancement when i've been sure that the film will break. if anything, i'd expect striations when the advancement is tight.

so i'm not sure what's up with this as i've never seen these kinds of marks before. i was using arista edu ultra film (both 100 and 400 speeds) and i've used this film before--though perhaps not in the diana+. i checked the inside of the camera as well, but nothing looked suspect (or potentially scratchifying) there. so maybe it's the camera/film combo? i thought about putting some electrical tape on the edges against which the film passes (i was advised to do this with the holga when running 35mm through it). then again, i might try another round of diana+ pinholes tomorrow using a different kind of film--maybe color?--and see if the situation repeats itself. another diana+ mystery.

the big chill

well, diana+ and i are (once again, what's new?) not speaking. if we were, i'm guessing the livingroom conversation today would have gone something like this:

me: sigh
diana+: [mocking me] sigh
me: what?
diana+: what?
me: wtf? quit mocking me--you're always mocking me. what's your problem?
diana+: i don't have a problem. the truth is, you've always been ambivalent about me. you don't think i pick up on that? the holga comparisons, the way you are always thinking, "why can't your plastic be thicker, sturdier? why does the loading and forwarding of film have to be such a grand production?"
me: so that's why sometimes you work and sometimes you don't?
diana+: 'xactly.
me: sigh
diana+: [mocking me] sigh

and it's true. i was more than a little disappointed when the diana+ arrived. and i did judge its weight, feel and temperament based on my interactions with the holga. truth was, i felt a little duped. the diana+ was the second film camera i purchased this summer (the holga was obviously the first). i had the camera shipped to my mom's as i was going home to participate in a relay for life event and figured that i could test out the diana--if not during that event, at least while i was at my mom's. i remember when the box arrived--how i couldn't wait to show my mom this new camera. i remember opening the box in front of her, lifting the diana out of the box and feeling. . .well, duped. the diana was about 20 bucks more than the holga was and it felt, well, like a two dollar camera. i liked the look of the diana but wasn't at all prepared for how cheap, how plastic, how delicate it felt. certainly not worth the 60 bucks or whatever i paid for it. maybe diana sensed, even then, my ambivalence, my doubt that anything good could come of (or from) this relationship. actually, i immediately regretted having it shipped to my mom's as i wondered how i'd get this back home without it ending up crushed into a million little pieces.

i got the diana home in one piece (well, technically three since that's what she comes with) and since june i've had occasion to take diana with me on other trips. but i have to say, when i take her out, load her up, i'm always thinking, "okay this will be a total crapshoot." and i don't mean "crapshoot" in the way taking any image with the diana or holga might be a crapshoot with lightleaks or other kinds of quirkiness. i mean "crapshoot" because i may or may not remember to take the lens cap off, the film might not advance easily (or seemingly at all). and even if everything on my end seemed to have gone all right, well, i can usually look forward to blank frames, to grossly over- or under-exposed images, to the sound of the shutter maybe working, and, yes, the fear always remains that diana will end up smashing (or being smashed) into a million little pieces. and the truth is, it does really bother me--how non-substantial this (not particularly inexpensive) camera feels whether in hands or hanging from the shoulder. often times, i left feeling just as duped as i felt when opening the box in front of my mom.

i'd like to say that i keep going back to diana+ because i like a challenge. and this would, i suppose, be half-true. one of the reasons i keep going back is that i want to be right and i want diana+ to admit it has been wrong. and part of me thinks that if i can work more successfully with diana+, i won't continue to feel duped.

to be fair, when the images are good, they are very good. although the image of the panda below always makes me sad, makes me want to cry (but this is basically true of animals in/and zoos in general), it remains one of my favorites. most tellingly though, i'm always misremembering things about this photo. i always think, for instance, that it was taken with the holga. (yeah, diana, i know. paybacks are gonna be a bitch.)

on my thanksgiving day pinhole woes: having recently claimed that there was nothing new i wanted to try on the photography front, it occurred to me that i wasn't trying hard enough to find new things to try. i turned to the alt group discussion threads and immediately learned about goop. half-truth: i saw this term there but had to search elsewhere to understand what it was. goop will have to wait since i've currently got non-goopable film in the polaroid and i've sworn that the next polaroid-related thing i'm going to try is an emulsion lift.

i've been fascinated with (and very much wanting to understand better and then to try) pinhole photography. i bought a couple of books pinhole photography but found this to be a very daunting prospect. i had taken a couple of pinhole shots with the diana months ago and thought that maybe i'd try my hand at this again and celebrate thanksgiving in a pinhole kinda fashion. since the matter of exposure times is one of the things i find most daunting about pinhole photography, i did a search on flickr and came upon this resource, put in an f-stop of 150 and printed out the exposure chart. diana+ and i (and my most sturdy tripod and dependable timer) were ready to go.

or three of us were, anyway. after setting up and taking/timing seven shots (the bulk of which were seven to fourteen minute exposures), i looked down and wondered if it was a huge problem that i'd neglected to flip the top switch from "N" to "B". i had the bottom switch set to "P" but couldn't remember if the top one needed to be on "B". i'm not, of course, blaming diana+ for this but it serves well as an example of why and how it is that we oftentimes do not get along well.

so fine. i develop this roll and since it's thanksgiving, i try not to focus on the seven blank frames that seem to be mocking me, and try to give thanks for the five frames shot after the lever had been switched to "B".

as i often find myself thinking/saying after working with diana+, "well, i guess i should be glad that there was at least one halfway decent shot out of the 12." (see phone image below)

. . .not wanting to admit defeat--particularly not on thanksgiving, i optimistically reasoned that the image of the paintbrushes below might serve as a catalyst for going back and reading up on the parallax error since i've finally experienced it.

. . .and here's one for the learning curve: this 49 minute exposure of 2 cats sleeping on a bed. no muy bueno. but i'm glad i tried it.

still committed to beating diana+ at her own game, i decide to reload but this time i use a roll of 400 speed film hoping that this might. . .well, speed things up.

and the good news--the great news, really--is all 12 frames had something scannable on them. not all of the images were good, but this hardly matters when it comes to my diana+ collaborations. what matters is that i saw something on the negatives for all 12 frames. there were, of course, a couple of accidental double-exposures. the not-so-funny thing is that these were almost back-to-back accidents. when i realized what i had done with the first botched shot, i moved the tripod upstairs, saying to myself, "okay, as soon as you get up there, don't forget to advance the film." but i did forget. and then i forgot again with the very next shot. could it be that there's something about my touching that most thin, fragile plastic body that automatically renders me, well, much denser, more thick-headed than usual?

but i really, really liked the mary jane shot (below) and the other two below that were okay-enough. mr. pinhole did say that the exposure times might need to be tweaked and where the mary jane shot is concerned, i really wish i would have gone longer than 13 mintues. all the shots, actually, could have used a little more light, a little more time. problem is, i'm not sure how much to increase things by--ten percent, twenty? i suppose once diana+ and i are again on speaking terms, we might work this out by restaging something like the mary jane shot and taking a series of exposures increasing the time by 5 percent, then 10 and so on. in the meantime, i've got some research to do. . .

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

why knitting never took

I was recently contacted by a current student who was asking for my help/input on an aspect of her final project. The student, who shall remain nameless but who, in profile, might be simply be referred to as “Braid” is working on a project that explores (by way of Robert Brooke’s work) Erving Goffman’s concept of underlife as it relates to student identity. Thus, for the past few weeks “Braid” has been contacting, via email, members of the class, asking them to bring something to class and/or do something in class that demonstrates or otherwise enacts some aspect of their non-student or extracurricular identity. Having planned on incorporating me into the project, I received an email from “Braid” who wrote (and I’m paraphrasing now): “Dr. ____, I wondering if you had any thoughts about what you might do to demonstrate aspects of your underlife? I was going to ask you to take photos in class but since you did that the other day, I’m not sure what to ask you to do, and thought you might have some ideas for me. I had thought about asking you to bring one of your cats to class, but that might be too difficult to do. . .if it’s even allowed. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Braid.”

Taking the email as a sign (though "Braid" assured me that this hadn't been her intent) that I have, indeed, become the person I’ve tried to deny having actually become—a middle-aged college professor whose life beyond researching, writing, attending conferences, and teaching revolves primarily around her cats (and more recently, photography)—I called my friend. “There’s got to be more, right?” I ask. “Well,” she says, “Hmmm. Maybe you can bring in some of your baskets of candy? Would that work? When I think of you, I think of all the candy you have squirreled away in your house.” Not wanting to haul the candy to class and (more than this) not wanting to have to explain why I won’t let anyone have some candy (i.e., because some of it, though I don’t remember which, is likely 2-3 years old), I ask again, “But isn’t there something else? There’s got to be something else that I do in addition to the research, writing, teaching, photography, and collecting candy, right?” I considered then how I might work into class discussion how much I like shopping at the dollar store but this road leads (as most others do nowadays) to photography. But the truth is, I like going to the dollar store because it's one of the few places i can drive to and because they have inexpensive frames, great deals on electrical tape for the holga, and because I’m always hoping that I’ll find a toy camera there. Students are more or less familiar with my aversion to driving so that aspect of my identity would hardly register as new or note-worthy.

But then I think about how I used to knit. (I’d never consider myself a knitter but I definitely used to knit.) Not being a fan of change, I thought the transition here would go more smoothly if I could carry with me into this new life aspects of, or habits associated with, my old life. Researching, teaching and writing articles was one aspect of my old life that would carry over here—giving me the sense that nothing much had really changed—but I thought maybe knitting could be another. Plus, I’d finally have a hobby. So, just prior to accepting this job and moving here, I’d asked a friend to teach me how to knit. I then began collecting and testing yarn at roughly the same pace I’ve been collecting and testing new cameras and film. Two poorly constructed scarves later, I became someone who used to knit. And someone with a ton of leftover yarn. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed knitting. And during the first semester or two, I would occasionally foreground this aspect of my non-professor identity as I found that knitting in class on large-group workshop days tended to provide students a chance to talk about their work and how it was progressing. I’d still be able to attend closely to what students said (perhaps because I could not afford to look at them for fear of losing my place, my listening skills were amplified or at least greatly enriched), but whatever part of my brain was most needed to stay on track with the knitting prevented me from talking too much. And this tended to work out well for everyone.

But knitting eventually fell by the wayside (though the baskets of yarn still remain front and center, strategically placed in different corners of the living room) and I’ve been thinking about why it is knitting never seemed to stick—why it never elicited the same kind of commitment or enthusiasm that photography has. Having always considered myself a book-learner (but being one who, in actuality, learns best by watching and talking about things with others), I think the main mistake I made with knitting is that after moving here I depended upon books for my information and inspiration. The truth is, I’d probably still be knitting if I had someone to knit with, someone from whom I might learn new things by watching what they do (and how), or someone with whom to simply discuss all things knitting. In comparing knitting to photography I certainly do not mean to elide their differences—the difference, say, between composing with yarn and composing with light—but, for me, my interest in both was partially motivated by the desire to experiment with new materials and composing techniques and to see if or how these experiments might map back onto (or transform) the way I’ve learn to think about composing things with/in words. If I could learn to compose something with yarn, where might that lead? What other materials might I attempt to weave together?

Had there been (or had I found) something like Flickr-for-Knitters three years ago, I might well have written back to “Braid” volunteering to knit something in class one day. How’s that for professor underlife? "Braid" (and her classmates) would then know that their professor’s underlife was not merely defined by cats but also decidedly informed by her passion for creating scarves, socks, hats, and the occasional tea cozy. Or maybe the reason why I never took to knitting has more to do with photography being a genetic, in-the-bloodline thing as there are far more photographers/directors/editors in the family than there are knitters. Though how this might inform the learning by observation/participation argument I’m hoping to make here doesn’t entirely follow. Rather, my sense is that after all those years of having to "pose," "hold still," "no--try that again!" and, finally, having to see myself in photos or in moving film makes a solid argument for my taking up knitting as a hobby. Otherwise put, I never had the occasion to play with cameras when I was growing up nor was I ever in the position to learn (or see) what happened between posing for a picture and then seeing the final result.

So I was a month or so into experimenting with film cameras this summer when I told my friend (not the candy friend, but another) that I hoped, within a year’s time, to try my hand at developing my own film. Like the good book learner I imagined I was, I ordered a bunch of books on the process, and began wondering then if maybe a more reasonable goal to set for myself was that within two year’s time I’d try my hand at developing my own film. At the time, I had been learning a lot from Flickr (or as I tended to refer to it throughout the summer as Flickr U or the U of Flickr). But my process was mainly one of searching for images I liked, trying to approximate them and/or looking at descriptions and tags to learn what camera the person used and (provided one like it could be had easily or cheaply) trying that camera. Otherwise put, I hadn’t really been using the discussion groups as a resource.

As I think about things today, I’m inclined to argue that the discussion threads were largely responsible for cementing my interest in, and enthusiasm for, photography as they revealed to me aspects of the process and potentials for experimentation that I wasn’t able to infer or glean from viewing specific images. (One exception to this would be the images of people’s at home development set-ups, images for which I've been incredibly grateful.) Bracketing off for a moment the most excellent discussions about modifications and the “how to unstick a sticky shutter” threads, where things really started kicking in for me is when I started running across (or seeking out) postings with links to videos and/or still images that illustrated specifically how people went about doing things. Though it’s decidedly text-centric (at least when compared to watching a video of someone going through the process of spooling film onto a reel or doing a Polaroid emulsion lift), I remain indebted to this site as it helped persuade me that I needn’t necessarily wait two years (or read a million books, take a couple classes, etc.) before trying my hand at developing b/w film at home. The experience of going through the motions once, twice, three times on my own (again, thanks largely to this site combined with videos that demonstrated what it looked like, what one needed to do, etc. to get the film from the camera into the tank), provided me with the a kind of foundation-for-experimentation on which I could build—something I want to argue that I didn’t really have with knitting—and it both informed and directed the kinds of information and links I sought in the discussion threads.

Certainly, this leaves me with little to offer "Braid"--this path too leads back to photography (and flickr and process)-as-underlife. But perhaps, just for old times' sake, I can find a way to justify devoting a potion of class time to having the class watch me watch videos on how to knit a scarf.

Monday, November 24, 2008

on digitial differences

shortly after i began experimenting with film, i began searching flickr film groups for inspiration and tips. i couldn't help but note a number of digital-hating groups and i swore then that i wouldn't position myself that way. after all, some of my best friends (or fav photos) have been digital. (take, for example, this over-exposed iris.) never mind that when i joined flickr at the end of last april, i was taking two or three hundred digital pics a day, experimenting with composition, exposure, different kinds of lighting, etc.

but then, just the other day, the most curiously discomforting thing happened. i was checking out other people's work on flickr and ran across an image i loved and that i (wrongly) assumed was taken with a film camera. eager to add that camera to my collection, i searched the name of the camera and was--dare i say it? disappointed to find that the image was taken with a digital camera. at that moment, i hesitated about whether or not i even wanted to make the image a favorite.

i was left wondering/asking, "has it happened to me? will i soon be joining the various 'digital sucks' groups?" this would, of course, be dishonest since, technically speaking, all my images on flickr are digital images as i'm converting the negatives to jpgs before uploading or printing them. still, how to account for my disappointment at learning that the image i thought was taken with a film camera wasn't? actually my first response was kind alike, "oh, wow, that's so not fair."

and it wasn't that i was feeling i had been tricked--that what i thought was something taken with a film camera wasn't and it also wasn't a matter of my having camera envy (the digital camera that took the image was/is waaay out of my price range). it was more a matter of wanting to say to the image (as crazy as it sounds), "wow, you might have been created with film--sucks for you that you weren't." and even with this, i realize that it sounds as though i've gone to the other side.

but i'll insist that i haven't. in fact, i've spent the past couple of days wondering, asking myself this question: "why would someone choose to shoot digital (whether exclusively or every now and then) when film remains an option--(assuming film does remain an option for them)?" . . .and in the case of the image I assumed was film, i know film remains an option.

no doubt about it, i've not much used my canon powershot since i began experimenting with film. and when i do, it's usually employed as a light meter. to be fair, working with film is still new--and therefore still a novel experience for me. i started working with film mid-june and i only got into diy developing at the start of august. in this way, my main objective/motive is not necessarily to take good pictures but to learn what's possible to do--with different cameras, different films, different development techniques. having recently gotten to the point where there's nothing new that i'm eager to try (i.e., i haven't the funds or even the space left to keep acquiring new cameras, there's not a development technique or a mod i'd be capable of doing that i'm eager to try), what i appreciate most about these months of experimentation is that i'm finally in a position to say, "okay, based on what i've learned or tried thus far, i feel strongly that in this context, b/w film in a flipped lens bhf is the way to go" or "for this, i really want to use velvia and the holga." or, "I'd like to see what the bratz cam does in this context." what i've noticed, however, is that i rarely find myself thinking, "okay--for this, digital is the way to go."

and part of this is that i enjoy the process of film, feeling as though i'm doing more by way of participating in the making of the images. maybe i'd feel differently about the issue of participation if i had gotten into more post-processing techniques. as it is, whether i'm shooting digital or film, i rarely do a whole lot more than resize, adjust levels, do a little unsharp masking, maybe convert to b/w. in this way, the bulk of my participation takes place before/while shooting the images and prior to uploading them to flickr or printing them up. in this way, shooting digital feels a bit like eating out: i want something decent and soon, so i'll opt to go here. problem is, i really enjoy preparing meals for myself--i love the shopping, the deciding, the seasoning, the waiting, etc. perhaps not surprisingly, i'm not a huge fan of the post-processing part of meal prep--cleaning up, putting things away, etc.

so back to the question: why (or when) would someone choose to shoot digital if/when film remains an option? most recently, i offered to take pics of members of one of my classes and to post them to flickr so that other members of the class could grab images for their final projects. i had asked students to contact me if there were particular kinds of pics they wanted to have for their projects. for a previous class session, i had brought with me to class my yashica-D but it was difficult (given the lighting in the windowless classroom coupled with my not wanting to ask people to hold still while i metered, focused, etc.) to get many good shots. when a student contacted me requesting head and full body shots of each class member, i opted to use the canon powershot (see images left and below). but again, in this case, the main objective/motivation was to get decent shots, and to provide this student with as many shots as i could--to provide her with plenty from which to choose. and i think there were about 300 in all.

so where to go from here? cause the thing is, when i started getting into film, it was simply about learning more about potentials for writing with light, and, in the end, preparing myself to have more choices, to fit the camera, film and technique to the situation. and it bothers me that when i think about digital i think of it as back-up: if the film doesn't turn out at least i'll have something to work with, to remember this trip, this person, etc. but that's not what i was thinking it would be, how it would end up. so maybe, since i've kinda hit a plateau with the film (again, i don't really have the time, money or even desire to test new-to-me film cameras or dev techniques--though i'm sure the desire would come back if i could afford my dream camera--the Kiev 88), i should begin reading up on and experimenting with things i can do with digital, post-process. cause, really, i don't think it is a matter of being pro-film or anti-digital but a matter of liking (needing? needing to continue learning from?) the kind of participation i am currently associating with as well as experiencing while working with film.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

in retrospect

i'm feeling a little guilty about crabbing so much about my lack of access to new and exciting content. it's not that campus is a bad place to take photos (same goes for my yard, the woods, stuff inside the house, etc.). it's more a matter of wanting to add more variety to the mix.

and actually, the vistaquest shot of the sondheim statue (above) is still one of my favorites. and i've actually been pretty surprised by how. . .i don't know, surreal or fairy-tale some of the shots i've taken on/around campus can look, especially those taken around the library pond area. at this point, i guess i'm also given the occasion to rethink the comments i've made about the lomo x-film, since the first shot below (taken with the smena) was taken with that film. the one below that--of the walking path leading to the library--was taken with the holga and that stretch of path is one of my favorite places on campus to take photos.

two more recent campus holgas:

and then there were these double (maybe even triple?) exposures taken on/around campus this summer with the non-spidered praktica mtl3:

bratz cam

shortly after i began experimenting with different kinds of film cameras, i found this bratz cam. the good news is that it was more or less a freebie. . .

well, it was free provided that you purchased the bratz doll and this ended up posing a small problem since i couldn't justify spending 20 bucks for the camera and throwing the doll out. i could have, of course, tried giving the doll to one of the neighborhood kids but i wasn't sure how parents would feel about this. with my luck, i'd give it to someone whose parents had forbidden them to play with bratz dolls. as luck would have it, my mom found, purchased, and sent to me last month a deeply-discounted doll and cameras set. (in the end, i ended up keeping the doll even though i noted that one of the neighborhood kids does, in fact, ride a bratz bike and guessed at least her parents might not object to her receiving a free bratz doll.)

so, let the experimentation begin! . . . on second thought, if i'm being truthful, my response was more timid, less committed, less hopeful. more like, "let the experimentation begin?" at the time i received the bratz cam i had just experienced a run of really bad camera luck. it felt like everything i touched or tried to do came out the opposite of okay. first, there was the dead-spider-in-the-praktica-viewfinder situation that i was never able to solve. miraculously, i did find a post from another person--i think it may have been on flickr--who described having the same problem with his praktica. at first, i thought it might be the person who sold the camera to me but his was a different model. unfortunately, no one responded to his post and to this day, i wonder how the spider got in there. i tried taking the top off the camera, no luck. i got the screws out but the top wasn't budging. (again, left wondering how the spider got in there.) of course, it didn't need to be a total loss. i could always try to frame shots around (or inspite of) the spider, but it kinda made me queasy to look through the viewfinder.

and then there was the polaroid 225 misfortune. the camera only cost me 2 bucks "as is" and i was hoping that cleaning up the piggy little camera and installing a new battery would do the trick. no luck. i read up on how its electromagnetic shutter system worked, tried different tests to see if the shutter was firing as it should. no dice. 225 was placed in the "no bueno" box, where it is currently hanging with mr. praktica-with-spider. (fortunately the polaroid 220 I had purchased for 3 bucks arrived a few days after the bratz cam did and it works wonderfully--didn't even need a bath.)

also joining the 225 and the praktica in the "no bueno" box were the parts and pieces of two of the dollar store trashcams i had recently purchased and proceeded to break (or to not be able to get back together--at least not in working order) while attempting to flip their lenses. needless to say, when the bratz cam arrived, i was feeling like i had something decidely opposite of the midas touch when it came to cameras. and it didn't help that i had wanted the bratz cam for so long and that it was a gift from my mom. if i were to mess this one up to. . .well, i'm thinking that would have pushed me over the edge.

on the first modification. the great new was that the bratz cam is fairly idiot-proof when it comes to getting it apart and gaining access to the lens. unlike the other two trashcams in the "no bueno" box, i could flip the lens on the bratz cam and get the camera together again without messing up the shutter mechanism. the four pictures below were taken after i had inserted one of the lenses from one of the broken trashcams. i flipped, (lightly glued) and placed the other lens in the bratz cam. the lens was very similar in both size and shape to the lens that came with the bratz but this one had a little bit more plastic around the outside of the lens, making it easier to glue and hold in place. i was bummed when i scanned in the negatives--hanging there to dry, the negatives looked pretty promising. otherwise put, it appeared as though something would actually be in focus. no bueno.

on the second modification. i am, if nothing else, persistently hopeful. plus, i knew that i had at least two more lenses left to experiment with. and if all else failed, i could just use the camera as it was intended to be used--with the original non-flipped lens. for the next modification, i decided to insert and again lightly glue in place the lens from a suprema sunshine trashcam. compared with the original bratz lens and the lens used in the first modification, this lens was much larger and much flatter. i'm pretty sure i flipped it before putting it in place, but the lens was flat enough that it was kind of hard to tell.

once again, no point of focus but after viewing the negatives, i hadn't expected as much. but in this case, the images really grew on me. but maybe it had more to do with my actually working up the courage enough to drive myself somewhere (in this case, ellicott city) so that i could take pictures of things that were not in my house, backyard or on campus. . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

on films

Finally. A film I will (probably) never, ever buy again. Lomo x-pro slide film. What a bunch of yuck. In addition to spending the past couple of months testing out new (new to me, anyway) cameras, development processes, modifications, etc., I’ve also been testing out different films. Most times, I’ll order something new and like it so much, I’ll order more, leaving behind or neglecting the last bunch of film I loved so much that I just had to have more of. The thing that really stinks about this lomo hooey is that I bought three rolls up at once so I have one roll left to shoot. I hate the idea of just pitching it. It would be great to give it away but since I don’t know of anyone else (i.e., within handing or driving distance) who shoots film, I’ll just have to use it. (That said, my biggest fear is that the final roll will actually look good, making me think the first two were flukes, thereby pitching me back into the ordering more lomo loop.)

And it’s hard to say just what it is that I dislike so much about this film. Maybe I expected more vibrant colors? Or something more like what I’d get with the fuji slide films? I ran the first roll through a non-lomo camera and thought maybe the drab, washed-out and uninteresting colors had something to do with that—or maybe my color dev was shot? So I shot the second roll with the Smena 8 and while a few of the images were do-able/viewable as color, most of them were only salvageable if I flipped them to b/w in photoshop. (As for my color dev kit, I developed other film between and it still seems to be okay.) Suffice it to say that the best part of trying this lomo cross-pro is that I can now say that there’s most definitely a film I will not purchase again. The hard part will be remembering that I ever felt this way (or that I ever tried this film) three months from now when I’m looking for new films to test.

. . .As for brands/types I’m definitely loving. Walgreens' color negative film. Holy smokes. Surprisingly great results with this incredibly low-cost film. Had it not been on super-sale (or had I not noticed it was on super sale) the last time I stopped in to Walgreens. . .well, I’d still be mainly/only using the fujicolor from Walmart. In terms of (far less-inexpensive) b/w film, I’m loving the adox chs art film. Double holy smokes. If I had to choose only one b/w film to work with (and if I could afford to work only with this film), this would be it. Bad, bad lomo. Delightful, delightful adox chs art (see images below).