A bunch of Rolls with Fuji C200 A Review

Shooting film is not necessarily a cheap endeavor so I'm always looking for ways to save money. Fuji C200 or Fujicolor 200 is a very affordable film and is one of cheapest options to shoot color film on 36 frame rolls. I've been shooting heavily with C200 over the past year, taking more than 600 frames. When I’m looking at any film emulsion I want to consider just a few things, how versatile is it and how does it look. 

When you nail your exposure correctly Fuji C200 it is contrasty, rich and engaging. Similar to Superia 400 it leans towards red and green and represents color in a vivid and saturated way. It's not neutral but rarely comes off as extreme or gimmicky. This is the best strength of C200 and it's ability to enhance natural colors. It's a perfect film to take with you on a trip and even though it's only ISO 200 I didn't find too many scenarios where the film couldn't be shot. 

One weakness of Fuji C200 is that doesn’t overexpose well. I naturally overexpose my images, to error on the side of having too much light than not enough, and Fuji C200 didn’t respond as nicely to overexposure as Kodak Ektar does.  Fuji C200 loses both color saturation and contrast if overexposed more than one stop. The effect gives your images a washed out look that I don't really care for. I was able to reproduce the overexposure issue with different cameras and in different places, so it wasn’t isolated. On the other hand, you have to go out of way overexposing Ektar to get a loss of contrast and saturation, usually at 3-4 stops, and even with overexposure you’ll get some really interesting color shift and little loss of contrast.

At the end of the day this is a cheap film that works well in a variety of settings. It’s not designed to have the kind of versatility and range as Ektar or even Superia and that’s ok. In my workflow and shooting style I found it fell a little outside of what I would say is ideal. I’ll pick up this film in the future again but it's not something I'm particularly excited to reach for.

If you're interested in purchasing Fuji C200 please use this link to help support this site as well.
 

If Bokeh is the Best thing about your picture then it's not a good picture

I'm a huge fan of Kai and Lok era Digital Rev. Solid content, great writing and hilarious presentation. It set the standard for what photography reviews could be and how they should be handled. If there was one bad thing to come out of the Digital Rev era it has to be a focus on Bokeh. 

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Bokeh, as David Hancock reminds me is the quality of the out of focus areas in an image. Specifically at lower apertures. Historically having a really large lens opening was needed for the worst situations. You were in a room that was lit by candle light and you needed to drop your shutter speed to 1.5 seconds, pushing your film to 3200 mid roll and praying that something would come out.

Then digital arrived. No you can shoot all day and at shutter speeds that do not make sense. For example, my first fully manual camera was the digital  Nikon D40 and it had a top shutter speed of 1/10,000 of a second. No film camera is  mechanically is close to that speed. We could finally capture images at speeds and sharpness that were unheard of before, like catching sweat whip off a forehead or freeze a humming bird in mid-flight. 

These crazy shutter speeds enabled photographers to use large aperture cameras in the middle of the day, for portrait to separate the background from the foreground. Shooting at F1.8 in midday for most of photography required either extremely slow film or the use of light blocking Neutral Density (ND) Filters.

Digital Rev and other reviewers began to focus more on how nice the bokeh looked, pointing out when the highlights were perfectly round, a sign of extra aperture blades. The lenses that had square and more geometric bokeh were now considered distracting and unpleasant. Even old lens formulas were seen in a new light and cameras with properties we found distracting like Petzval and Sonnar, where the backgrounds swirled, suddenly became fashionable. 

I think bokeh is crutch. Meaning, composition and design are much more important. I never felt that a great picture was great because of how out clean the out of focus parts were. It's bizarre to grade lenses on how something out of focus looks. Of all the aspects of a lens, sharpness, color rendering and flare control it ranks pretty low.  

Seeing the lust after 0.95 and 1.1 f stops makes me pause. Aperture is another thing to chase and argue over but like other gear decisions doesn't lead to better pictures. Maybe if I shot a lot at night or really wanted to shoot like Phillip Barrow I would be more interested in lower f stops and bokeh. But I shoot film and the medium and camera doesn't allow for those options. I'm glad it doesn't. 

To Sell and be Sold 

Collecting things is a slow and gradual process. You buy an item here and an item here and suddenly you end up with way more than you ever needed. Last weekend I went to guy so sell some of the gear I had accumulated. All the tables had guys young and old trying to get rid of things they no longer needed. I looked to my neighboring table and saw a large collection of bags. "How did you end up with so many bags?" 

"How did you end up with so many cameras and all that stuff"

Touche. 

Writing multiple articles about buying things and selling things should get boring but maybe this is more for me to understand why I do things and how I can be better. You do art buy going out to make images and to make people feel something. You buy things to either use or collect, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference. Here's some of my reasoning to buy things in the past...

- It would be cool to get that camera to do a review. 
- A tilt shift lens is totally usable and a great tool. 
- You'll need that extra light and it will pay itself off in seconds. 
- You've made money with videos so you need to keep on making them. 

That's the trap. The gear and the purchases solve a problem that might not exist. I  don't need to buy another 50mm lens, but I'm still lusting after a Nikon 50mm LTM lens that supposedly renders greatly and has a trademark Sonnar look. Do I have scenarios when I need to shoot with a Sonnar Look? Probably not and spoiler, I bought it! 

Gear, it solves a problem. And when we aren't creating enough there are a lot of problems. Gear becomes an easy solution. I'm not sure how to break the cycle either. Do you shun the gear and sell everything you have? No! That can't be healthy.

Maybe you cull the heard. Look over the things you have, à la Marie Kondo and you honestly take into account things that make you happy. This lens just sits here and just brings me pain, I should sell it or give it away. And reversely, I love this lens even though I don't use it so I'll keep it. 

With all the gear and cameras I have I shouldn't need to search for any new gear until everything breaks. But I still look. I still have the used section of many sites bookmarked in my browser. I realize the futility of looking for gear, reviewing it and researching it when shooting and making images is the goal. Maybe it's another obstacle in the process though. Something you have to strive through to get better. I just wish I didn't enjoy the hunt and the packages hitting my doorstep so much.  

July 4th Used Film Camera Deals

This isn't the healthiest thing to do but hopefully you find some good deals in here. 

What is Left Out?

I picked up a Moviepass card earlier this year and have been able to watch a movie weekly. My main aim is to just relax, get caught up on what is in theaters and see some great cinematography. After seeing the recent "You We're Never Really Here", I was taken away by the movie and especially a few scenes.

The images and scenes reminded me of a quote in The Photographer's Playbook from Michael Schmelling.

I had a professor who once told me something like this: if you know what the picture is before you take it, it's not worth taking... I think it's always served as a reminder to avoid the obvious photos, and the easy explanations. You should take any photo you want to -just don't make the assumption about what they mean, or what they might mean later. 

The movie itself is similar to Taken about a teenager being abducted and the violent path to get her back. Unlike taken there is a lot of mood, open pacing and ambiguous shots. Shooting something ambiguously so the audience has to guess at the meaning or motive of the image is a difficult and rewarding task.  

Here are three shots from YWNRH that on stand on their own as images but don't give you enough to know anything else. All three play impactful parts to the stories. 

When I look through my photography, the images that I revisit the most have an open ended and ambiguous nature to them. Three of them happened when I shot in a Catholic high school parking lot, down the block from my house. I didn't have any intentions or goals when taking the images and it led to more interesting images. I actively try and recreate the same feelings now in my pictures but it's not something I can easily channel. 

Maybe it's how you approach the images and the scene and less about composition and lighting. Whatever it is I wish I could do it more. 

Watching more movies this year than I have in a long time has been a great learning experience. You can see how a director develops a story through images and also find little nuggets on how to better frame your photography. I'm really impressed with movies having scenes that leave the audience guessing. It doesn't always have to end up in purpose but it keeps me thinking and analyzing, something I hope to do with my images too. 

Leica IIF Review: A Throwback

History has a weird way of connecting things. We connect the greatest photographer of all time, Henri Cartier Bresson, with Leica who he adored and vaulted. The ultimate Leica is the M3 which was released in the 1950's. When Henri was making his incredible images in the 1930's he was using a variant of the Leica III and most likely a standard 50mm F3.5 lens. 

I had been looking for a reason to get the standard lens and when I saw a deal on the Leica IIF (no slower shutter speeds and self timer compared to the IIIF) I jumped on the deal. With a trip to San Antonio around the corner during the Fiesta celebration it would be a perfect time to test the old body and lens. 

The first thing I noticed about the camera was: it's definitely from a different era. Film loading is complicated. I needed to cut the film leader to accommodate the spool. Once trimmed you load the cartridge and place the roll and spool into the camera. One trick is to make sure the film is firmly locked on the advancing gears otherwise it will spin continuously without advancing the film, a problem with the newer M's too. 

Next the rangefinder and viewfinder are split both being in separate windows. With a camera like this I'm shooting using hyperlocal distance 85% of the time so it wasn't a huge issue. The times I had to switch between the rangefinder and viewfinder were a clumsy at first but became natural and fluid after a few rolls. Both viewfinder and rangefinder are also minuscule compared to modern standards. 

Advancing the film was done via a round dial and not a lever and film rewind was a simple knurled knob. It took extra time to do everything on the IIF. I've shot with some older cameras, and compared to the clunky and awkward Argus C3 the Leica was much closer to a modern shooting experience but still not as user friendly as a Pentax K1000 or Nikon FM.  

The other functions of the IIf are extremely familiar and intuitive. Aperture is set on the lens, shutter speeds set on the top of camera (only after the film is advanced) and focusing is normal. 

The camera once set up has an amazing ability to get out of the way. Being lighter and simpler than a SLR it can truly be a pocketable camera with a collapsible lens. I can easily see Henri Cartier Bresson keeping the camera on him at all times in a coat pocket and carrying a few extra rolls of film.

It also handles as a fully formed and developed camera, everything on the camera is laid out and connected in a logical way. It's the type of thing that you could pull out of your pocket, extend the lens and take a shot within seconds. The weight and balance of the camera are solid and the shutter is nearly silent.

Walking around in 2018 shooting a camera from the 1940s can be an awkward experience. If you're carrying around a TLR or Graflex, eyeballs are going to follow your every shot. The IIf blends into the scene with it's classic design and usability. No one asked what I was using and I rarely got a second glance.  

The images from the IIf came out as I expected. In direct sunlight metered correctly it performed extremely well, like all cameras should. Older lenses are known for being softer at lower apertures but I really couldn't find any conclusive examples. Shooting at hyperfocal near sunset gave me some great images with contrast and depth. I did have a few shots where a beam of light flared out the image but I think a hood should solve that issues easily. 

Shooting with the Leica IIf was a very fun and informative experience, I don't really need the camera but after buying it I'm going to keep it because of how portable and unique it is. It's not the type of camera I'd recommend for someone just getting into film or looking for a cheaper Leica experience, it's finicky and there are much easier ways to start. It is a throwback camera and a great portable system. As a backup or a change of pace camera it can be a real treasure. 

Automatic Documentation as Photography

In 2014, my brother and cousin and I went on a once in a lifetime trip. We had all gotten jobs and decided to go to the place we always dreamed about, Japan. My brother and cousin are Japanophiles and I was always down for adventure. Me being the photographer in the group, was charged with documenting the events and trip. 

I did a decent job taking photos, getting the touristy shots and pictures of us eating and being in a group. I documented the trip the in a way to help describe what we did and where we went. In other words, it was pretty boring and pretty basic. 

My cousin on the other hand had a much simpler way of documenting. Whenever he ate anything: a soda, soup or concoction from the street he took a picture of it. No matter how common or insignificant, he took a picture of the item and logged it.

When we got back home and looked at all of our pictures I was extremely jealous of my cousin's shots. What seemed less creative and simple at the time turned out to capture the trip in a more authentic and factual way. We could see what we ate, where we ate it and remember the stories about how we got there and felt. 

I've been trying to get better at shooting automatically and documenting things around me, starting a few series on items like: telephone poles, public payphone, beds I sleep in, good quotes and coffee cups. It makes shooting less of a creative task and more of a documentation routine. Although it's not creatively spectacular it's a way to make images that make you remember more of your days.

My cousin is a super smart guy and got the point of some trips is to not wait for an amazing moment to happen but to take a simple reminder of what happened that day so you could look back on it later. I'm glad I was able to share the trip with him and pick up that new skill. It's helped us create new stories and capture new memories. 

The 4 Best Places to buy Used Film Gear Online (USA) 

When I was making videos weekly for Youtube I would spend a lot of time on used photo gear websites. I still do, even though I don't really need any more new gear, it's a bad habit to break. Here are some of their strengths and weaknesses. Note, eBay is excluded here. eBay is a collection of shops, great and terrible and I'll do a future article on that. 

Adorama 

NYC based and a staple in photography community, Adorama is known for their  good deals and printing services. In terms of deals you can get some insane bargains on their website, but it usually comes with a gamble. 

I've purchased things from them that were too good to be true and have only returned a few items. Their grading and quality control is a bit hit or miss. A big difference between them and KEH is when that an "X" or "G" rating, heavily used and parts respectively, it means it and will be non functional.

Strengths: Really great bargains, Random listings and prices  
Weaknesses: Product descriptions of used items can be spotty. No images of some used items make it even more tough. 
Steals: Hasselblad Kit (650$) Leica M4-2 (200$, yeah) Multiple Nikon FM and F2s with broken meters (25$ or less)
Tips: The Hasselblad backs and Rangefinder section are something you can create manual alerts on. If you are looking for a bargain Leica I'm not sure there is a better place to keep your eyes glued to. 

B&H Photo Video

B&H are the other NYC staple of the photography world. While Adorama is known for having good deals and being accessible B&H simply sells the best stuff and has amazing customer service. 

This comes at a cost and B&H rarely have as many good used deals as Adorama and their focus mainly on having really great used gear and not messing around with beaters. 

Strengths: Really great quality used items
Weaknesses: Rare deals and higher priced than competitors
Steals: Manfrotto RC2 quick release (25$) Manfrotto fluid head 128 RC ($70)
Tips: I've been really lucky with used grip equipment on B&H photo. They don't treat tripod heads and accessories as preciously as their cameras. 

KEH Camera

The best and most dedicated used camera store in the USA. Their grading system is straightforward and simple to understand, an industry standard. They also continuously underrate their gear and I really only purchase bargain/ugly gear from them and haven't had a prolblem. 

Their returns are also great and they do repairs as well. Unlike Adorama they also don't sell garbage cameras, they will put these in lots and auctions on their eBay site though.

Strengths: The best rating system, lots of photos and good descriptions of cameras, incredibly nice sales people, best website to navigate
Weaknesses: Can be a little expensive, some of their best deals on eBay, really great sales can be random and cleaned out quickly
Steals: Hold your drink....Nikon SB-24 (17$ BGN), Nikon 105mm F2.5 (109$) Manfrotto Magic Arm (40$)
Tips: You won't get too many steals but you'll always get a good price. Also their grips and flash section has some absolute bargains. 

Used Photo Pro

I'm late to the game when it comes to Used Photo Pro. They have a huge selection of stuff which get's turned over pretty quickly. They price things to move which is great and also annoying. I always feel like I'm missing out on something when I go to the website and they tease you with the "just sold" items. 

I've also gotten some really great deals on their website and think their listing system is pretty good. They also have the best use of social media out of all the online used photo retailers. One issue is their testing can be hit or miss, a few items I've bought haven't worked and should of been sold as parts. 

Strengths: Really great prices that move items. 
Weaknesses: You have to check in often to make sure you are getting good deals. I check almost daily and things slip by really quickly. 
Steals: Summicron 50mm F2 ($400) Olympus Stylus (17$) Olympus OM-1 ($20)
Tips: Check often and use their automatic sale codes TAKEFIVE to get 5% off items. If you buy fro them it's like an insider secret. 

Hope you enjoyed that overview. Any shops that I missed? Any tips you have for these sites as well? 

The Six Infinity Films

We usually rate film emulsions by their ability to chemically render the world around us. We also know that there are some films that go beyond this and are magical. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe can have infinity stones, film shooters might as well have their infinity films. 

Space Film - Power of space and the ability to teleport between worlds. 

This should be a film that could take someone from the digital universe to the film universe. With it's availability and great potential, the Space Film would be Kodak Ektar 100. The ability to easily develop via C-41 and the gorgeous color rendering of Ektar will have you jumping from digital to film pretty quick. 

Mind Film - Control the minds of others.

Maybe you don't want to go film and feel that digital can give you everything film can. Which film would I show you to change your mind? Ilford HP5. 

The ability of HP5 to go from ISO 400 to 3200 and adapt as it's pushed and pulled is extraordinary. When I began shooting black and white film I was stuck on the great Tax 100 but used HP5 out of necessity. I'm so glad I did as HP5 can be used in almost every situation well while still maintaining it's signature look and feel. 

Reality Film - Ability to Manipulate Matter. 

Lomography's Lomochrome purple is an amazing film to shoot with.  The power to turn green landscapes into pink and purple worlds shocked me. I shot a few rolls earlier this month and was stunned to see how strong the effect was and how fantastic it could turn standard green scenery.  

Power Film - Energy, enough to destroy worlds. 

Kodachrome was a film used in some of the most powerful images of our times. A favorite of Steve McCurry, William Eggleston and Alex Webb. The color red especially popped off the images. It was also a very dangerous film to produce and develop, with harsh chemicals and toxins. Although it was beautiful and powerful it was just as dangerous.

Time Film - Go back and forth in time. 

Kodak Tri-X has been is use since 1954 and is the defacto street photography film Tused by greats like Garry Winongrand, William Klein and still a favorite of modern photographers like Andre Wagner. The contrasty images and telltale grain structure make it a timeless film that works well in any era. Your grandfather was shooting with it and one day your kids could easily be shooting with it too. 

Soul Film - Control Souls. 

No spoilers but this film should come at a great cost. Fuji Acros was discontinued earlier this year. A black and white emulsion that is beloved by those who shoot with it. I've never seen as much pure adoration and hurt when I heard the film was cancelled earlier this year. That's the tough part of Acros, you can start shooting with it but you know it's only going to be here a couple more months.

Any film that I missed or decisions that you didn't like? Let me know in the comments.  

3 ways to deal with Failure/Mistakes

I have made some pretty big mistakes in life. Not going to the doctor for a big issue, overlooking important dates, not trying hard enough and etc. We have all been there and people have failed in larger and bigger ways than me and survived. I wanted to write this to describe how I dealt with some big failures and how it could it help you deal with them as well. 

1. Reframe failure 

I used to believe that failure was a sign that you did something wrong. My goal in photography is to take good photos. Hopefully I can do this over and over and suddenly become a good photographer someday. What if the good photo wasn't the challenge though? What if the challenge was growth? 

The truth of the matter is that understanding development comes from failure. People begin to get better when they fail, they move towards failure, they discover something as a result of failing, they fail again, they discover something else, they fail again, they discover something else. So the model for personal development is antithetical to the model for professional success. - Milton Glaser 

This quote from Milton Glaser changed how I looked at photography and failure. If you want to grow in photography or anything else there needs to a steady stream of learning and failure. Maybe I someday I will master the ability to walk into a tattoo shop and shoot amazing pictures. If I only focus on this I'm pretty sure I will eventually get better but it doesn't mean I will grow, to do that I'll need to push myself to make mistakes and take bad shots.

You have a couple of ways to look at bad shots now. One is that you went for something and it didn't work out. The other is that these shots are signs that you are growing and not being complacent. 

2. You aren't your failures 

I'm not the greatest person with feedback. I usually personalize my work and creations as ways to measure myself. If this photograph is bad it's because I'm not a good photographer and can't take good shots. If you fall into this came realize you are not alone. <link to clip on PBS> https://youtu.be/2LNiJK3rK9s?t=1m9s

Last week I was in a work meeting and gave out an idea. My boss ripped into it, for a good five minutes. My boss and I think through talking so we we're both realizing why it was a bad idea and how it would be seen from different angles. The shocking part for me was how well I handled it. I expected myself to upset or hurt but found myself treating the idea as a totally independent thing outside of myself. It was so damn freeing. 

You aren't your shots, or what you say, or the failures you had, or what people think, or what you own/wear/live/have access to. You are you. And unless you are a terrible human being who does things to purposely hurt and harm others, then you are perfectly fine. As a whole you are more than your qualifiers and achievements. Just because a photo is bad or report is wrong does not make you less worthy or flawed. If you never took another photo in your life it wouldn't make you less of person either. 

Stepping back and realizing that what you have done is not you and does not represent the entireness of your worth is a healthier way to think about your work and life. I haven't fully mastered this yet but I hope I can always remember it. 

3. Without a Net 

IN high school I played tennis. I was never great and lost a lot but it was important to my life. I remember a really important discussion I had with my coach about teammate and me. 

"The difference between you and him is that you don't play with a net. You know that if you fall or fail you'll there is net there you won't die. And maybe you do crash, it's not that bad you can always get back up" 

It's weird what stays in your mind as you grow older but I've always remembered this quote when taking risks. The worst thing that can happen isn't that bad and even if it is bad you can probably survive it. This doesn't mean I'm skydiving pretty soon but I've developed an ability to walk into some pretty weird situations to see how they'll play out.

I'll push hard on things and take weird turns because I like not knowing how this will end. All of these things allow me to be in places and take pictures where I would of never expected. 

Failures and mistakes are a large part of getting better. Looking at them in new ways, realizing they don't represent you and being realistic about consequences has helped me take more risks. For the past couple of years I've been pretty complacent with work and art and now it's all a bit hairy and difficult. It's stressful at times not knowing how everything will work out but I'm so glad to be in a situation where the ending isn't pre-written and I always know I'm growing.

My Favorite Photo

My favorite photo is more about chance than the image. It was from my brother's birthday party when he was 11, guessing from the candles. His best friends had come over and we had purchased a Baskin Robin's Ice Cream cake. At the time the best cake a kid could have. 

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The reason it's my favorite photo is because I didn't process the roll until 2010, nearly 10 years after it was shot. It should have been lost to time, decay and carelessness. It survived though and it's a perfect little moment. He's about to blow out the candles, Donald is laughing and our cousin is waiting. That's the thing about this photo and photography. This photo literally brought back a memory I forgot and now can cherish forever. 

Why I Stick with Prime Lenses

If you bought a camera up until the late 1990's the lens you were probably getting was a fixed lens, usually 50mm. It wasn't until autofocus in SLR cameras not only got better but cheaper and zoom lenses utilized this autofocus did consumers really clamor for zoom lenses.

Zoom lenses are a really interesting engineering problem. In order to have a lens that can focus as wide as 35mm and as far as 70mm you're going to need to make some sacrifices. First the aperture is going to need to be higher to keep the size of the lens down, you'll notice most zoom lenses with a low fixed aperture are really expensive and much larger than standard zoom lenses. Secondly you can't have sharpness throughout the range, so you can shoot at 35mm and 70mm but the image quality usually differs between the two. All these critiques are technical and about tradeoffs but what really turns me off from zooms is how they are typically used. 

With a zoom lens you can cheat a bit more. Many years ago I was living in Boston for graduate school and went to go see the Boston Marathon. I sat on a corner with my friends cheering and taking a bunch of pictures. With my zoom lens and good view I could snap away, zoom a little in here and zoom a bit out later.  

These shots came out fine, I captured the event but the biggest issue is I didn't move. I sat in one place the whole time. And that is why primes and especially a 50mm lens, closest to actual human field of view, was so instrumental in my development as a photographer. In order to get closer with a prime you have to physically move in and out of a shot. If I wanted to get closer to a runner I'd have to stand in the street a bit. If I wanted a wider shot, I'd have to go back and possibly climb some stairs. 

This act of moving opens up options too. Now I'm in the street, maybe I can crouch a bit to to get a different angle? Maybe I should go over to that bench and get an overhead shot? This is how I learned to use my legs and position to develop different shots.

The physical act of moving toward a subject and away from a subject changes the images too. Getting a tattoo shot five feet away and one foot away are totally different things and encroaching on different personal boundaries. Being that close because you have to adds a tension to the image that otherwise would not be there. 

There are always exceptions. You can get a really good zoom lens, like a 24-70 F2.8 to overcome the issues with cheaper zooms. For professional sports and fashion photographers who work in confined fix spaces most are sporting 70-200mm F2.8 that comes at a pretty high cost. 

Photographers with zooms can actively think about moving around more and using different positions too. The trap of zooms is that using it to get closer and farther made me focus on one aspect of the image, distance. Using a fixed lens made me think about movement and relation to a subject. I saw my photography get more creative and more personal the more I used fixed lenses. Instead of sitting in one spot and capturing the world with a zoom, with a fixed I had to physically approach if I wanted to get closer. It get's your butt out of your seats and out of your comfort zones.

Dying on the Crappy Camera Hill

I've been having a fallout with gear over the past year. Gear doesn't matter! You can take great pictures with crappy cameras! It's all about your vision and skill as a photographer and not the camera! 

That's all good and I've stood on that corner for a hot second but I have to be truthful as well. Gear isn't everything to a point.

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I've been going through a recent phase buying a lot of plastic cameras and crappy lenses to make this to point myself. It's also taught me that using crappy gear is a pain in the ass. 

Plastic cameras can sometimes be sharp and take good pictures but aren't the greatest things to handle. I had a weird camera strap in half of my pictures and didn't realize it. It also really limits you ability to shoot in shadows and gives you little options for control. That was the point in the beginning but missing or not getting shots isn't a good consequence. 

There is happy medium to all things. Good food, housing and camera purchases. It sounds fun and adventurous to use nothing but Holgas and Dianas but it's also incredibly limiting. We have access to so much good and affordable gear at the moment and we don't need to define ourselves with what we're shooting. I should focus more on going out and getting great shots with whatever camera I'm shooting rather on trying to squeeze out hitters with a crappy camera. I've replaced one gear problem, thinking better gear leads to better pictures with another. Getting great pictures out of bad gear is somehow more admirable. 

Canon A-1 Review finally...

I hate to admit it but when I was reviewing a majority of the cameras for my Youtube channel I rarely shot with them. Most of the cameras were purchased rather cheaply and didn't work, or had enough issues it wouldn't be fun to shoot with. Now that I'm not in a position to turn out a camera review weekly I can rent cameras and shoot them at my own pace. 

The Canon AE-1 was always a camera I steered people against. It had issues with an electronic shutter and was usually more expensive than the Pentax K1000, which I loved. What if I was wrong? I wanted to shoot with it at least once before I steered more people against the AE-1. When Austin Camera had a copy of the A-1, a slightly upgraded AE-1, in store I jumped at the chance to be able to see how it performs.

The A-1 is feature rich. It can shoot in full auto, exposure priority and shutter priority mode. I never understood why the AE-1 chose shutter priority over aperture but it wasn't an issue here. 

The layout of the camera is extremely clean and intuitive with the program modes being easily accessible and labeled. The exposure compensation on the left side of the camera is easily readable and adjustable as well. In terms of camera design and functionality it was a real joy to use and shoot with. 

Beyond design build quality here is great as well. Where the AE-1 had always felt a bit light and fragile everything with the A-1 is solid and tight. Film advancing, removing lenses, changing shutter speeds and rewinding all felt accurate and smooth. It feels like a camera that was designed to last a long time and many copies have survived due to this great engineering. 

One feature really surprised me, the double exposure lever. When this camera was originally released in 1978 was double exposure so prominent that they needed to add dedicated lever for it? Were photographers clamoring over this and willing to pay for it? Even today I would find it hard to see any manufacturer adding a double exposure button to a digital camera. 

I ended up shooting a few rolls with the double exposure lever. It works like this, you take an image and then activate double exposure lever. When you advance the film advance handle it will now only cock the shutter and not advance the film, allowing you to get a double exposure. While I appreciate the feature, it wasn't always a smooth process and I had few double exposures end up being weird singles because the latch didn't catch. Not a big deal if you're not shooting a lot of double exposures but something to be aware of. 

The images that came back were fine. The Canon FD lens  is one of the most widely produced lenses of all time and performs well here. I did get a higher volume of shots out of focus but that has more to do with me getting used to zone focusing on a SLR and not being familiar with a camera.

Shooting with the A-1 was a fun experience. I can also see why people gravitate toward cameras like the AE-1 and A-1. They allow you to take a step back and just shoot. They are good enough to get out of the way and the controls are straightforward enough to allow you shoot without fussing around too much. When a camera can get out of the way, be reliable and produce results its a great camera and the A-1 falls here too. I'm glad I finally gave it a chance and would be happy to recommend it as well.

Photo Assignments #1: Arm's Length

This is an ongoing series on photo assignments from The Photographer's Playbook. Which I highly recommend getting if you're looking for new ways to shoot and think about photography. 

This was Susan Meiselas's, the renowned documentary photographer, assingment. It's inspired from the often used Robert Capa quote. 

If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough.

Meiselas's assignment was to use a lens that could focus at arms length and tape the lens at that focal distance and shoot a roll of film. I ended up using my Nikon FM and pancake 50mm lens which luckily focused at a meter, my arms length. I waited till sunset and left the house. 

This assignment was incredibly fun. Shooting at a short focal length I had to use my legs to focus on the image, I also had to get uncomfortably close to things I would typically shoot from 3-4 extra feet away. Both of these differences made me think a differently about how I approached the shots and how I took the shots. I took more steps toward things and moved in and out of images much slower. After a few shots I got more comfortable and  quickly finished my roll of Fuji Superia 400. 

I'll post the entire roll for these assignments and mark the images I like. Shooting at a short focal length adds a little separation to the image and increases the focus on the subject. There was also the increased amount of detail I found in the images too. Leaves, woodgrain and paint chips aren't my normal subjects but rendered well here. Overall these images have a naturalness I'm always leaning toward but was surprised to find in these closeup conditions.

I need to do this assignment more and found it an overall success. It's a nice way to break out of my normal routine and I was surprised with how many shots I liked. This assignment also doesn't require any extra gear or conditions. You can use the camera you have, tape the lens down to arm's length and go have fun.

Kodak P3200 Old and New

When Kodak announced it would re-release P32000 I was excited. I had only shot a very expired roll of the film last year and the results weren't great. You should expect that from a high speed film that has been out of production for over a decade. I also wanted to know if shooting a true 3200 speed film was a better option than just pushing 400 speed film. 

My original roll of P3200 came out insanely grainy and I underexposed quite a bit. A good rule of thumb is to add 1 stop to every 10 years a film is expired for black and white and 2 for color. High speed films, anything over 800 ISO, degrades even faster so an extra stop is good. A golden rule to negative film is overexposure hurts a lot less than underexposure. I shot at 1600 and wish I shot at 800 to get better results. 

Now armed with a fresh new roll of P3200 I could now see how the film was supposed to work. I planned on using it at night in a tattoo shop and exposed for 3200. I was pretty happy with the extra stop it gave me, giving me F2.8 at 1,125th indoors. When I got the scans back I was a little disappointed to see that I had underexposed a little, and the exposures were pretty thin. 

The images turned out fine and I liked the look. When pushing HP5 this to 3200 the contrast increases greatly but P3200 gave a  very mellow range of tones. The grain itself was subdued and in all the images I made that day the grain didn't stand out, good or bad. Having more dynamic range at 3200 is a real strength of P3200 and a really good reason to have an emergency roll around. 

Kodak P32000 is a film to to shoot in pretty dark scenarios and need to keep contrast and grain low. Pushing 400 speed film is going to be more economical in the long run but you can't subtract the contrast you add by pushing, if you have a way let me know. I'm also excited to see a niche film like this get its due again. While P3200 won't be in constant rotation for me it is still a very specific tool that does its job well. If I'm ever shooting portraits by moonlight it's my first choice. 

Why I Took a Break from Youtube

I made a lot of Youtube videos. Two Hundred and ninety-three to be exact. Then I made less and less and currently haven't made one for three months. There are many reasons why but the big decision I had to make was how do I want to spend my time and what do I want to get good at.

I'm grateful for my channel and the fact that it makes money. I made a few videos that did well and continue to do well. I use this funding for my photography now and is something I'm really proud of. Without those videos I would not be shooting film like I am. 

When I started out Shawnee Union, I was living in Kansas and had access to many thrift and antique stores. Since rent was low and the cameras weren't very expensive I was able to accumulate a lot of cameras quickly. I bought every film SLR and rangefinder I could find and started to make short videos with them. I was using a cheap digital camera and an Ipad with iMovie to edit. It's still the most affordable way to edit videos. 

I owe most of my channel to David Hancock, I watched his videos of camera overviews and wanted to make the same thing just much shorter. His videos would be 15-30 minutes long and mine would be 5 minutes long. It's ironic that David and I met up in real life eventually and are friends today. There wasn't many film Youtubers back then.  

The premise for the videos is always the same, here is a camera, here is how to use it, show some pictures and say if you liked it. I did this for about 3-4 years and bought many cameras. I was totally enjoying this process too, seeing my subscriber count grow and slowly starting to make money. 

Once I was able to make money I wanted to make videos that did well. I used Google to find cameras people didn't review or review things that were popular. So I continued to make videos of these cameras but knew deep down I was getting bored of doing it. 

The more cameras I handled and purchased the more I realized most cameras are perfectly fine and usable. Most of us are unable to outperform our cameras so finding a good one and starting to shoot should be the goal. Always researching and looking at new gear get's in the way of photography.

It wasn't until I moved to Austin and was down the street from a camera store that developed film did I finally start shooting film. For years I had all these film cameras and only had 4-5 rolls developed. I started buying a lot of film and a few books and went out to shoot everything I could.

I knew that I had to make decision between making videos or taking pictures. My time was more limited in my new job and I didn't want to pursue both half heartedly. I also knew I was making videos not because I was interested in them but because people would watch them and they could possibly make me money down the line. There wasn't much more I felt I could say and was interested in saying about cameras. My recent photography and this blog are reactions to those feelings. 

I try not to close the door or any hobby or passion. You never know what may happen in the future or where you could end up. It is fine to be honest with yourself and take breaks when needed too. I am more of a photographer now who occasionally does video rather than a YouTuber who rarely shoots. Maybe there is a happier medium with both in the future but right now I'm having a great time just shooting and being a bit more true to what I want to do. If you'd like to see me write more about Youtube and getting started let me know too. 

Shooting more is Shooting Better

I started out this year trying to shoot a roll a week. A quarter way through they year I'm still on track and shooting a bit extra, in case I have a busy weekend or week. As I read more about art making and photography, projects like this can lead to large impacts on work. Take this story from Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. 

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Shooting more is going to make your photography improve. Ironically I shoot more now with film than I ever did with digital. With film having a set number of shots, a roll of 24 or 36 a week, is an easy thing to track. I just need to leave the house with a camera, a light meter and a roll to keep the streak going. Shooting a thousand shots in one sitting with digital isn't the goal here but shooting 100 shots a week for ten weeks is. 

Shooting like this every week also keeps my brain in gear and always on the lookout for photos. Once it became a habit I find more things that interest me and more techniques I want to try. Imagine if you had to eat a pound of chicken a week for a year, if you didn't find some new recipes you would get pretty bored.

The most important part is shooting when you don't feel like it. There will be those cloudy days where the weather is blah and nothing is going on. I literally drive to corner or walk around and just start snapping. The images may not be amazing but are always better than I expected. The act of shooting all the time and making mistakes teaches you more than waiting for the perfect subject or set of conditions to happen. I can't control the perfect shooting conditions but I can prepare myself to be ready and better when they come around. 

Visual Attractions, Letting your Photographic Instincts Guide You

On the weekends I like to do photowalks by myself. Sometimes I'll have a specific goal like shooting at sunset to learn how to use shadows better, a la Alex Webb. Most of the time I define an area I have noticed from my car or randomly pick a spot to walk around and take pictures. 

My goal here is twofold, get better at shooting anywhere and finding out what my eye is naturally attracted to. I'll walk around the area and be open with what I shoot. As long as I feel like shooting it, I'll take the picture. It can be trash, cracks in the sidewalk and silly lettering. The goal is to scratch the visual itch.

Over a year I found I was drawn to colored poles. The common large electrical/communication poles around town. Austin hasn't buried their lines yet and you will see the poles carrying power and cable everywhere. Austin being Austin, people paint and decorate the poles and I must of noticed and started capturing them. Once I started seeing the pattern I leaned into it and am now actively trying to capture these poles.

Stepping back that all sounds silly. Why shoot poles? There must be millions of other things that are easier and more interesting to shoot. Poles though, when no one was watching was what I naturally shot and drawn to. A few photographers made careers by shooting collections of sweaty people smooshed against subway windows, faces extremely close to the camera or a fire fighter training facility outside of an office window. All those in retrospect sound silly too. 

I'm not shooting poles to make a book or to be famous. I'm doing it to find out what makes me tick and tap into whatever could interest me. I didn't want to my interest to be something that sounds interesting to others or gets a lot of likes on Instagram. My images and natural tendencies made themselves clear, poles it is.

Bergger Pancro 400 Review

Bergger Pancro 400 is a relatively new, since 2016, black and white (B&W) film. I'm pretty particular with B&W film, relying heavily on Ilford HP5 and pushing it to 1600 to shoot indoors for the tattoo project. It never hurts to try new things, so I picked up a few rolls of Pancro 400 to shoot. Maybe it could find a way into my rotation?

Pancro 400 has been described as a low contrast and a fine grain film. My results matched this description. Switching between HP5 and Pancro 400 there was a drop off in contrast and increase in dynamic range. Pancro 400 shows more details in the shadows and allowed me more control over contrast. The downside of that control is the image loses too much contrast for my liking.

When shooting film the less I need to adjust in post the better. If I continued shooting with Pancro I would need to adjust my curves to increase contrast on almost every image. I rarely need to do anything with my images from Ilford HP5 at 1600 and it will continue being my main choice for B&W film. Pancro 400 would be a good option when the subject requires more dynamic range, like medium format and portraiture, things I shoot much less of.

Bergger deserves credit and praise for bringing a new film to the world. As a community we romanticize the days when there was more variety of emulsions. These days I'll continue supporting efforts to bring new emulsions to the world. They won't always replace my favorites but they don't have to. By just existing they give me the ability to experiment and new options for shooting, and that is more than enough.

If this review helped you and you're going to purchase Bergger Pancro feel free to use this link, it helps out the page and allows me to continue reviewing and shooting film.