Danae and Andrew Go Big in Impressive Film Comparison Video

I don't think too much about video making anymore but I felt really giddy and anxious about a recent project by Danae and Andrew. If you haven't been following their channel they have been making awesome videos on photography: street, film and everything in between. They recently made a one comparing 12 different C41 film stocks.

The thing that impressed me the most is the logistics of something like this. When I watch a video part of me is always trying to break down the process and decision making. The concept is pretty simple, compare 12 different film stocks. The team determined the best way to do this would be to purchase and load 12 of the same camera. They would eventually find that their first choice, the Konica S3, had a lot of variability from camera to camera due to being a rangefinders, each having their own lenses and possible issues. They eventually moved onto Minolta Maxxum 7000. This was a better option but they then had to trust the electronic shutters all worked the same.

After a lot of discussion and contemplating they ended up just loading the 12 cameras and shooting the same scene with each camera loaded with a different film stock. That sounds simple in but is actually a monumental task. You have to set up each shot exactly the same, you have to make sure you nail focus each time, and you have to be consistent as possible. Imagine trying to take the same photo 12 times and but then needing to switch to a different camera each time.

There are a couple of things I maybe would have done differently to make things a bit easier. First I would test each camera with a short black and white roll of film, maybe 4-5 images, just to see if they were functioning and consistent. I would have skipped the rangefinder too and just went off of the distance lens markings. This would have avoided any connection difficulties.

Lastly think about the costs associated with something like this. The 12 initial cameras purchased at lets say $50 each would of cost $500 and the other 12 cameras at $50 another $500 each. Developing the 24 rolls of film would of then cost roughly $360, $15 each roll. So imagine sending off all of these rolls in the mail hoping your $1,360 experiment made it.

My mom says one of my favorite quotes, the first time you do something it should suck. It reminds me to take it easy on myself when developing a new skill or process. But my first time is usually low risk stuff, not trying to nail something like this. Taking 12 photos of the same image with 12 of the same cameras is a big time project with a lot of logistics. And in the end they got 3 images to come out on every roll. My hands would have been shaking opening up that file link with the 12 folders.

I'm also hoping they release a book of the images. It's borderline performance art and the mistakes would even add some value. 12 x 12 x 36, 12 cameras, 12 rolls of film, and 36 images. It would just be a fun thing to see.

Many times I feel as a creator one of the biggest questions you have to answer is what risks are you going to take in your career. Who are you going to ask to work on a portrait, what big idea are you going to chase, and how are you going to stand out from the crowd. Projects like this remind me that a lot of risks can sound insane. Buying 12 cameras to test film samples is something I would have guffawed at when I was making videos. But watching Danae and Andrew pull off this amazing feat has me smiling ear to ear.

They had an idea for a project, thought it through, even with all the risk, invested in it, and in the end pulled it off. I'm sure they would even say they got lucky in some ways. But the act of trying and sticking through all the issues they encountered was even more special to me.

How to Make A Photo Book. Part 1: Why I Made One and Getting the Images

I recently took the big step of publishing a photo book last year. Somehow I got the book into various bookstores in my community and have nearly sold all of them out. By no means am I an expert photo book maker, but I learned a lot about the process that I'd like to share with you. This series of articles will go over the three biggest steps I had in publishing a book: why I wanted to do it, how I designed it and how I printed and sold it.

I wanted to make a photo book for two reasons. I wanted something physical that could be the culmination of images I was making for the tattoo project and secondly I wanted to see if it was possible. In the beginning there wasn't the faintest thought of making money or any idea of how to sell it. It was just trying to get enough images to make a book and then designing and printing it.

Every year for ten years.

Every year for ten years.

I have been making books since college. For ten years I would compile a Top Ten recap book/zine/journal of the previous year. A group of four to ten friends would send me their top ten lists and I would design and print it. It was a fun little project and I enjoyed the process of collating, editing and designing these yearly snapshots.

For the past three years since moving to Austin, I have been buying and studying photo books. Austin has a great library system and was able to quickly pick up many seminal photo books: Walker Evan's American Photographs, Robert Frank's The Americans, Stephen Shore's Uncommon Places and William Klein's New York 1954. They were all classic photo books that would give inspiration for what a great book could be.

A portion of the many pictures that I took

A portion of the many pictures that I took

The first part of making a photo book was the most enjoyable, taking the images. I shot as many tattoo shops as I could go to and spent a lot of time hanging around shops. I learned more about the tattoo community and a lot more about being a working artist. The more I was able to learn the more I was able to get deeper into the craft and profession, which helped open doors.

I also played a lot of little games when I shot. I had a running shot list in my head: people tattooing, flash, walls, desks and decoration. I wanted to capture the feel of a shop in two or three images. Each time I'd try and do something I hadn't tried before: seeing how close I could get, how much I could push my film, different lenses and etc.. Anything to get more variety on the images.

The most important thing I learned was how to enter a situation and get everyone at ease and slowly work your way into more intimate shots. I couldn't just walk up to someone I didn't know and get a shot of them tattooing at arms length right off the bat. I would need to make them ok with the fact that I was taking images and not getting in the way and that I wasn't a creep with a camera. You need to constantly read the room and be at ease that you're in a person's working space with a camera.

After about two years, I had close to 900 images and felt it was time to start putting something together. I was still visiting shops and getting photos but I felt that I had enough variety and quality of shots to get to another point in the project. So I then started to design the book.

Continued in Part 2.

Photo Tools: Daniel Arnold's Camera and other Tools

Who is Daniel Arnold?

There is a legacy of street photographers in New York City that goes back to the 1950's. The names are some of the best to have ever picked up a camera: Robert Frank, Garry Winongrand, Helen Levitt, Susan Mieselas and countless others. Daniel Arnold is currently carrying the torch from these legends and captures the streets from his own vision of a frantic and vibrant city.

Gear

Camera

"Contax G2-1" by  Lordcolus  is is licensed under  CC BY 2.0

"Contax G2-1" by Lordcolus is is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Daniel has stated that he uses many different cameras to capture his images: Leica M6, iPhone, Yashica T4 and Contax G2. The latter is the one I most associate him with and his shooting. Two video features on Daniel show his method, using the G2 with an external flash handheld at angles high and low, rarely looking through the viewfinder. Daniel talks about roaming the city for upwards of 8 hours a day on the hunt for his images.

Film

Daniel primarily uses Portra 400 and 800 film. He's stated that he really enjoys the look of film and hasn't found a digital alternative that can give a similar look (1).

Favorite Images

All of my favorite images from Daniel Arnold make me think, how the hell did he catch that. The people in the images aren't always having their best moments and no one seems to be posing directly for Arnold. For anyone attempting street photography know this is far less a byproduct of being lucky but due to his relentlessness in capturing images and being in the right place at the right time.

Books

Daniel currently doesn't have a book of his images out and I really hope he does one day. Currently the best place to see his work is on his instagram.

References

  1. Kim, E. (2015, June 02). "Be True to Yourself; Great Things Will Come": Interview with Daniel Arnold. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2015/06/02/be-true-to-yourself-great-things-will-come-interview-with-daniel-arnold/

  2. Rachel, T. C. (2017, February 13). Daniel Arnold on the Ethics of Street Photography. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://thecreativeindependent.com/people/daniel-arnold-on-the-ethics-of-street-photography/Schiffer,

  3. J. (2018, May 29). How Daniel Arnold translates street photography to fashion – Glossy. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://www.glossy.co/fashion-calendar/fashions-love-affair-with-daniel-arnold-highlights-a-dearth-of-candid-fashion-photography

Shooting Berlin in Berlin, a few rolls with Lomography Berlin Kino Black and White

It was pretty coincidental that Lomography would release Berlin Kino Black and White negative film around the same time that I would be traveling to Berlin to continue the tattoo project. When taking a big trip like this it's probably advisable to bring along tools that you are really comfortable with and that you can rely on. While I mainly shoot Ilford HP5 at 1600 for the entire project I really couldn't miss the opportunity to use some Berlin in the city it was named after.

The tattoo project is a great way to stress test black and white films. I'll need to push Berlin Kino to 1600 to use it indoors where I'm never sure of what type of lighting I'll deal with. I used one roll indoors and at Erntezeit Tatoiwergun and another roll exploring Kreuzberg, the neighborhood that I was staying in, and also took a few shots in Austin, TX.

Lomography touts the Berlin Kino being a cinema film with high dynamic range. I was a little surprised about the images from the tattoo shop coming back a little soft, flat and grainy when pushed at ISO 1600. The images outdoors shot at box speed faired a little bit better and highlight some of the advantages of Berlin Kinoç. Images have a pretty flat contrast profile and expanded dynamic range, giving you the ability to really adjust your images in post. Out of the box your images with Berlin Kino are not going to be extreme in either look or tone.

I couldn't find any real faults with the images that came back, but I also didn't feel like they fit my preferences for low grain and high contrast. Lomography has a knack for understanding the market and making films that constantly surprise me. While my feelings using Berlin Kino are less joyous than Lomography Color 800, I still feel proud that they are putting out news films and takings risks.

Lomography 800 Color Negative Review, Versatilely with little Compromise

My local camera store always has Lomography film in stock and I was surprised to see they had a new 800 speed color negative film in medium format. I've been shooting with Lomography 800 Color for a few months now and it's been something that has really surprised me.

Lomography 800 Color is a really great value. At only 6$ a roll it's an affordable film that gives you a much needed higher ISO for shooting with slower lenses. I reach for 800 speed film when I'm shooting in situations that I'm unsure how great the lighting scenarios will be. In the winter and fall this is pretty much anywhere outside and indoors in Texas.

During the summer and spring months it is also a great tool for shooting with toy cameras like the Diana and Holga. The extra stop of ISO gives you a little wiggle room for clouds and shadows. Spending a few extra dollars a roll for more exposure gives me a lot of peace of mind when developing my film too, and I'd gladly take a slightly overexposed shot than losing a shot or details to underexposure.

I was also surprised with the look of Lomography 800 Color. While Lomography has a reputation for giving images that looks like expired film I found Lomography 800 Color to be a wonderful performer. It gives you a slightly warmer tone and the emulsion constantly gives you brilliant oranges and yellows. Color rendition is accurate and never loud, it's less saturated than Ektar but doesn't lose anything in accuracy or detail either.

At the end of the day Lomography 800 Color is my second favorite color film, Kodak Ektar 100 being first, it's the 120 color film that I use the most because it's versatility allows me to shoot with more cameras and in more situations. I'll admit it's not the greatest color film in medium format but it's found a permanent spot in my current film rotation.

The Simple and Reliable Sekonic L-308S

There's are only two things that I always have on me when I'm shooting film. The first is a camera loaded and the second The Sekonic L-308S is one of them. I actually started out with the more complicated and feature rich Sekonic L-358 but sold it because I never really used the flash sync and studio features. The basic Sekonic L-308S is a perfect shape, able to slip into my pocket pretty easily and barely larger than a deck of cards.

In use it's extremely simple, I usually keep it in ambient mode and take a reading of shadows and direct light. If the emulsion is versatile I'll just set my settings for shadows and overexpose the film a few stops. In cloudy weather where exposure is constantly changing, I'll remeasure my exposure whenever I think there's a large shift in light.

The device is pretty durable being able to take drops and get bounced around without affecting use. It also doesn't break the bank and can be had for around $50-$100. I got mine through a Craiglist purchase and wouldn't be surprised if there aren't a few available in your town as well.

It's rare in photography when a great tool doesn't come with a high price tag. When shooting film being able to know your exposure is correct and you are not underexposing frames is great insurance. The simple and affordable Sekonic L-308S delivers on that promise every time.

Kodak Ektar 100, My Favorite Medium Format Color Film

When it comes to 120 film you don't have as many choices with color film, or even black and white film for the matter. When you think medium format my tendency was to first consider slide films but the flexibility and cost savings of C-41 make it fit my workflow much better. What I look for in every film is versatility, consistency and value. And after 3 years of shooting various color films in 120, I've landed on Kodak Ektar 100 as my favorite color film for medium format.

Versatility

It seems a bit counterintuitive that a 100 speed film would be really versatile but the thing that makes Ektar great is the ability of it to be overexposed 3-4 stops with little downsides. When shooting medium format cameras like Hasseblad 500CM and Rolleiflexes, I'm less inclined to make quick changes in focus, aperture and shutter speed. My favorite combination at the moment is to have a 50mm lens on the 500CM and keep the aperture fixed at F4 and shutter speed at 125. This exposes the shadow fine in direct sunlight and allows me to hand hold the camera. It also adds the risk of overexposing the film multiple stops.

With other C42 films like Lomography 800 pushing the film 3-4 stops results in a pretty big loss of contrast and saturation. Ektar absorbs the extra stops well and only gives you a slight color shift, deep blues turn turquoise, and the images keep their characteristic contrast.

When shot at box speed and accurately exposed the film is saturated and contrasty. I especially likes how vibrantly Ektar renders reds and greens. It's a perfect film for landscapes and nature. Ektar is a natural extension of Kodachrome, albeit with toned down saturation and vibrancy.

The one downside of Ektar is that its ISO is so low. I only shoot Ektar when the sun is out and I have a lens that can stop down to at least F4. If it's cloudy out or getting later in the day I'll have to make sacrifices that are uncomfortable with Ektar. Either using specific lenses with larger apertures or lowering my shutter speed and hoping my hands don't shake.

Consistency

I haven't had a bad roll of Ektar yet even while making mistakes. The film reacts consistently to all lighting scenarios and is something I'm comfortable using in many different cameras. It's something I trust the more I use it and now something I can predict how how images will come out. That gives me a lot of pacee of mind in using it as a film for every scenario. Basically I grab it and go, it'll be fine.

Value

You'd think that a film this consistent with such good color rendition would cost a lot but Ektar currently hovers around $5 a roll and $25 for a five pack, a bargain. With Ektar I get a characteristic look I really enjoy at a really great price point. It's a great film to start with and a great film to get stuck with in the long run.

In the end Ektar comes out on top because it behaves nicely and gives me a consistent image that I'm happy with. While there are maybe better options out there in terms of color rendition and possibly quality I don't think anything matches the value proposition of Ektar. It's the film you'll find me shooting on most days with nearly every medium format camera I own.

Favorite Finds: Fura Tactical Folding Knife

Things that are designed well and look great are the tools that I use more often and enjoy. One of these most recent tools is the recent Fura tactical folding knife I purchased from Gearbest. I have dabbled with trying to carry a pocket knife every day but the every model I had (Spyderco, Leek and Benchmade) could never got enough out of the way or were way too over the top as a sharp blade. When you work in an office and take out a tactical looking knife there are going to be some questions of why do you need something like that. For the most part I didn't, but I liked having a handy blade on me.

The Fura is a complete rip off of the Vosofferyn FricBric Friction Folding Blade / Bottle Opener that was funded on Kickstarter and sadly never fully delivered to it's backers. While I don't condone copying and stealing, this may be one case where it's semi-acceptable. The knife itself looks like a stubby aluminum flash drive. The edges unlike most knives are all square and perpendicular. The blade itself is thick and looks more like a cleaver than a typical tear drop.

In your pocket it disappears due to its small size, but has enough heft to not feel flimsy either. It's something I find myself carrying around every day and is finally something that I can use to cut open the occasional box, string, plastic or letter and also take out in a meeting without anyone knowing the better.

It's not a great idea to tie the effectiveness of a product to how others will view it, but in the case of this small knife it's the difference between using it all the time or keeping it at home and avoiding office discomfort.

If you’re thinking about buying this knife, feel free to use this link. I’ll get a kickback that will help support the making of this content.

Eyeworms: Toussaint by Dana Lixenberg

There aren't too many images that you can remember with your eyes closed. A few months ago I remembered the stark black and white image of a young black man in a chair with a solid grey sweater looking strikingly at the camera.

What was that image? Touissant, by Dana Lixenberg. And I started to do breakdown why I would remember this image among all the thousand of images that crosses my screen and mind.

Toussaint, 1993 © Dana Lixenberg. Courtesy of the artist and Grimm, Amsterdam

Toussaint, 1993 © Dana Lixenberg. Courtesy of the artist and Grimm, Amsterdam

There's the way he's seated, at ease with the situation and the person looking at him. There's the way he looks at the camera and the photographer, he's open and aware of the situation. And there is the fabulous texture throughout the scene: in his sweater, hair, sheen from sweat.

Compositionally all the lines in the building lead towards the subject and nearly all the contrast in the scene occurs in his face and hands, strategically spaced at different diagonals across the screen.

But if there is one thing that makes the image unforgettable for me it's his gaze. Touissant's gaze is heavy and bleary. His eyes look through whatever is behind the camera to the issue he's wrestling at the moment. And for Dana Lixenberg, who would be 30 at the time, had found herself in a housing project in Watts, CA, seeking out communities and people who weren't being photographed and putting in a light that contradicted what the narrative of the time.

Lastly, there isn't the feel of "the other" that I sometimes feel from Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Dana is not traveling through these people communities onto her next shot or project, she is with them and present. The project itself would last over a decade and be culminated in Imperial Courts, which collects the images she took in Watts during those years. It's something I need to get my hands on and study. She's able to do something I hope I can with my photography, to break down complex situations and feelings of a time into scenes we can all understand and relate too.

Buying Guide to Cheap Fixed Focal Length Plastic Cameras AKA Crappy Plastic Cameras

You'd think when it comes to something like a cheap plastic camera there would not be a lot of quality difference. The cameras already have barely any features: a fixed focal length where everything is in focus, a fixed shutter speed and no metal anywhere to be seen. In the 90's they were giveaways for magazine subscriptions and practically disposable toys. We pretty much have the same options as we did back then, with some notable exceptions. Hopefully this guide will help you pick up a decent one.

I started my search for plastic cameras after a challenge by David S Allen. He said, "if you can take good images with a cheap plastic cameras you can take good images with anything." While it sounds like there would be a bunch of options it's actually a pretty limited field of cameras. You have the disposable cameras which have a problem of being one time use and then needing to be modded to shoot additional rolls. And then you have all the "oops I forgot my camera" so I need to pick one up from the drug store cameras.

When looking for these cameras you want to keep a ,few things in mind. You want the camera to be as dumb as possible, so no flash and batteries, no film advancing system and no metering. You basically want a plastic toy with a spring for a shutter. This is a camera that you'll throw into your bag and take out for snapshots. Can you use it more seriously? Of course, but these cameras were designed to be barely a step above disposable.

There are two cameras that lead the crop of focus free 35mm snap shooters. The Vivitar Ultra Wide 22mm and the Bell & Howell Promotional Camera with a 28mm lens. If you do a quick eBay search you'll notice that nearly all of the focus free cameras come at a 35mm focal length. While this is a great focal length having the lens be slightly wider gives you some advantages. First the images will look a bit different at 22mm and you'll be able to get closer to your subjects. The hyperlocal distance of a 22mm lens and a 35mm lens are 6.6ft and 16.7ft respectively. The shorter lens gives you a little more range and versatility.

Secondly these cameras were built well. I currently own a Bell & Howell and it's a great camera. Last year a I purchased a knockoff version that was made with much lighter plastic and felt like a hollow version of the original. The camera has has a sturdy heft for what it is and works wonderfully.

One thing to be aware of, the straps on the camera somehow is really attracted to the lens. It's such a small camera that it's really easy to cover up the lens. It's been such an issue that I'm thinking about cutting off the straps on both cameras so they don't get in the shot. Secondly, I'd recommend going with a faster film than the recommended ISO 400. An extra stop with a ISO 800 speed film is going to make shooting in shadows more possible and also give you a little bit more leeway later in the day. It can be a little costlier but I've been really enjoying Lomography 800 recently and find it to be perfectly usable and surprisingly great.

If you read this far you're probably firing up eBay to do some hunting or thinking about the next time you'll can scour a thrift store or garage sale for one of these cameras. I'd take the extra time and look for a good one. The cost to develop film make shooting a luxury and having a tool that is reliable and takes great images it something I wish I took more seriously in the beginning. So find one of these gems and start shooting your eyeballs out.

Are there some cheap fixed focus cameras I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Ways I Found to Shoot More Photos

I'm not a super prolific shooter. I average a roll a week and I have bursts where I shoot three to four rolls a day. But I always aim for at least one to keep a routine and continue a habit. I used to find myself needing a lot of things to be right to shoot but the more I get out there the less I try to bring and expect.

Recent walk in December. Parking lot near the art supply store.

Recent walk in December. Parking lot near the art supply store.

Set a time

I have a way easier time shooting in a new environment and exploring than staying in my neighborhood and finding different angles on similar scenes. I shoot a roll of film on Sunday or Saturday when I can drive off and go somewhere new. The routine is simple, I drive around find a spot I like and get out and walk around for an hour or so. I'll go for some really common themes I always chase and some motifs I'm big on (painted poles, messy corners and offbeat colors). Once done I'll walk back to my car and drop off the film. I used to think it was a waste of time but it's become just another way of walking and looking at the world.

Ol’ trusty

Ol’ trusty

Make a bug out bag

Having a camera in mind before you walk out the door is a huge deal to me. A lot of time we can get stuck in experimentation and gear. Last year the camera I ended up using the most was the Canon GIII QL 17. I had lusted for a Leica for years and then put it on the shelf for the majority of 2018 in favor of a pretty affordable camera. Why?

It's easy to use and load. Lens sharpness is probably not on the Leica level but I'm also never afraid to drop it or have it banged around. I grab a light meter, a roll of film I'm testing and get out. And every damn time I go I'm having the same thoughts you have too. This is silly and I should be doing something else, and how in the hell is this going to work out. Somehow it always does and I get a few shots I'm really happy about. I'm realizing the act of shooting, even if you're not motivated can lead to great images.


Somebody souped their film and didn’t tell the store. :(

Somebody souped their film and didn’t tell the store. :(

Accept the duds

Making art for me now is about finding personal growth and enjoying the process. And to get that growth you have to live with some pretty terrible rolls and some shots you just miss. The act of always shooting and being ready has yielded more great images than any other thing I have ever done.

So I try not to dwell too much on the little failures. That perfect shot of your siblings was ruined by a passerby, happens. The time you accidentally opened the back of the camera when the roll wasn't rewound, not an isolated thing. These blunders come with shooting and the more you shoot the more blunders you'll encounter. But you'll make a ton of images too because you didn't let the mistakes stop your practice. And this change in mindset allowed me to just be a bit looser and happier with all the images I take.

What things do you do to shoot more? Are there games you play or routines you found that work? If so put them in the comments.

4 Ways to Save Money Shooting Film

With all the ways we have to take photos now, shooting film is definitely not one of the cheapest. You constantly have to buy film, develop it and find a way to scan it. I still love it for the surprise factor and that it forces you to pay a little more attention. But what about the costs? For about 15$ a roll with scans things can add up fast. For me, one roll a week would add up to 676$ a year! That hurts even doing he calculation.

Even though it cost more, doesn't mean there aren't ways we can make shooting film cheaper. Here are my top 4 ways to cut costs.

1. Developing Film

The biggest way to save money on film cost is learning to develop film yourself. Black and white film development, which is a bit simpler than C-41, cuts cost down to about $7 for each roll and even less if you develop in bulk. You'll learn a lot more about the development process and have total control over how the image comes out.

Some negatives I developed back in the day.

Some negatives I developed back in the day.

The reason I don’t develop my own film is time. The development part isn’t too bad but the scanning part can be very tedious. You’ll need to get a flatbed scanner and spend time getting your images into a digital format. A lot of people enjoy scanning and having absolute control over the entire process. If you do everything in house you'll save a lot of dollars too.

2. Choose your chemistry wisely

Different types of films are gong to cost different prices to develop. If you’re developing yourself or going through a third party the cost of processing from highest to lowest is typically going to be slide (E6)/Black & white/color negative (C41). C41 at third parties developers is going to be the cheapest because the process was pretty well automated since the early 2000s, or peak film use. We used to have one hour film development in every drug store and camera shop and those same old machines are still in use today.

Back in the early 2000's C41 was the most widely available and accessible film. E6 slide film was more niche and professional and typically sent out for development from specialized labs. The same is true now, there are three film developers in Austin and none of them develop E6 on the premises anymore, it’s all sent out of state for development.

Lastly E6 film is typically more expensive than C41 films. You can get three rolls of Fuji Superia 400 for the cost of one roll of Fuji Velvia 100. The additional developing costs due to having to send the film out compounds the cost of shooting E6 over C41.

3. Shoot more films per roll

My local camera store sells expired film at $2 bargain basement prices. I’ve been a huge sucker for it and purchase whatever seems interesting at the time: Superia 200/800, York film, even garbage Walgreens film. It let's you get a taste of what the film is like at a ow cost. But I realized it was also eating my paycheck and making me shoot less.

You really don’t lose out on shooting a roll of 24 but you pay for it in development costs, which is typically the same for a roll of 24 vs 36. So let’s just say a scan and dev cost you 13$ a roll. That’ll be $0.54 an image for the roll of 24 exposures and $0.36 for a roll of 36 exposures. The number of images adds up too. Shooting 10 rolls of 24 exposure rolls is going to be 240 images vs 360 on 36 exposure rolls. There aren’t many 36 exposure roll color films out there but seeking them out is going to save you a pretty penny.

4. Making Sure Your Gear is Solid

You can lose a lot of frames due to light leaks, underexposure and flare. Sometimes the effects are very cool and for some, a big reason why they shoot film, the random organic chaos you can have in an image. When I'm not experimenting I like to have consistent images and repeatability. Here are some simple tips to keeping your camera in check.

That’s a leak.

That’s a leak.

When light seals go bad you get light leaks, usually really small ones add a little flavor to your images but big ones destroy images. Changing your seals is pretty simple and something worth learning. It'll save you a lot of time and money down the line.

Second, use a lens hood. It's one the best ways to cut down on flare, haze and increase contrast in an image. My camera feels a bit naked without it so I have a few metal ones I use on different lenses with step-up and step-down adapters. It's one of the best $10 investments you can make for a lens regardless of film or digital.

Even after shooting as many rolls as I have, I'm not comfortable in guessing my exposures with film. I always carry around a simple light meter to start any shoot. This has saved my butt in difficult metering circumstances like cloudy days and shooting indoors. I recommend the classic Sekonic L-308 which is a workhorse and just dead simple to use. I get more usable shots using a light meter and that saves me money and time.

Shooting with film should be fun, and it shouldn't bankrupt you either. With a couple of tweaks to your practice you can save a few dollars that will hopefully allow you to tackle bigger projects. Do you have other ways to save money shooting film?

The Five Murals You Need to See in Austin and other things to do when you get there

Last year I spent a few months documenting the murals in and around Austin. Here’s a list of my top five, also major thanks to Austinot for their great post on Austin Mural History. This article would be lesser without that assistance.

Hope Outdoor Gallery

1101 Baylor St

Hope Outdoor Gallery is an open air gallery, living mural space and one of my favorite things to do in Austin. The unfinished building project has taken on a life of it’s own as artist in town and across the country go to paint there. Some of the great pieces there last a couple months while everything else is covered and recovered every few days. If you only see one mural in Austin, this is it.

Tips

  • You’ll see a lot of the $2 Walmart brand spray paint cans there and they are pretty terrible quality wise and jam easily. The next level up in spray paint cans is going to be worth the savings and Asel Art Supply downtown will be able to point you in the right direction.

  • There isn’t really parking next to the gallery. It’s in a mix residential and business neighborhood and it can get packed quickly. Better to park across the street in Duncan Neighborhood Park by the 7 Eleven or at the Book People parking lot and walk over on really crowded days.

Nearby

Fresca’s Al Carbon on Lamar is a pretty great spot for local Mexican food. Down the street is also 24 Diner and Counter Cafe which are some of the best diner spots in town as well. You also have Book People, one of the greatest bookstores in town who are also carrying my book. Waterloo Records across the street from Book People is an amazing record store too.

The 2 Daniel Johnston’s

Hi How Are You? 408 W 21st St, Love is the Question, 1115 Lynn St.

If you’re not familiar with Daniel Johnnston, he's the musician whose songs about love and loss are coveted for being raw and off center. His struggles with schizophrenia is well documented in both song and media. Daniel actually has two murals in town. The first and most popular and iconic is "Hi, How Are You?" near the UT campus. The second is Love is the Answer in Tarrytown near one of the oldest ice cream parlors in Austin. Both are pretty symbolic of the Austin's art for art's sake nature.

Tips

  • Parking near UT is a headache, my favorite option is the little outdoor parking spot behind Electric 13 tattoo if you can find a spot. Street parking near the sign is an option as well but it's all one way streets and traffic which makes it a pain.

  • The second mural in Tarrytown has better chances of off-street parking and depending on the day you’ll get a great view of the mural.

Nearby

Like everywhere else in Austin there is great food to be found here. Near UT, I’d recommend the Via 313 which is always in contention for best pizza in Austin as well as Arlo’s for veggie burgers that taste just like regulars burgers, trust me. Also, if this is your only time in Austin you should stop by Torchys and get a migas taco with queso dip. While many will argue they aren’t the best at either they do make them both extremely well and are a good example of the Tex-Mex Austin and Texas is known for.

Near Tarrytown, there's a bunch of great spots to go but nothing more iconic than getting an ice cream at Nau Enfield's Drug which has been around forever. Cafe Medici not far down the street is also known as one of the best coffee spots in town too.

Greetings from Austin

1720 1st St.

Inspired by an old postcard this is on the southern side of the Roadside Relics and my favorite mural in Austin. It’s vintage and has a really great feel. The neighborhood this mural lives in is a really great place to walk around and get food.

Tips

  • To get a really good picture of the mural you’re going to need to stand in the street. It’s sketchy and it sucks but it’s the best way to do it. Go early on a Sunday or Saturday and be careful with traffic.

Nearby

This is a great neighborhood for everything. The nearby Bouldin Creek Cafe is known for some of the best vegetarian food in the city and Churro Co. is the best churro I have ever had. The campfire churros with gingerbread, caramel and marshmallows with a scoop of vanilla is my favorite dessert in Austin, maybe ever. The new Loro restaurant a bit up the street is a great place to have a casual meal and if you're there at the right time get some of the world known brisket from Franklin's Barbecue.

Historic 6th Street Mural

582 N Interstate 35 Frontage Rd

Murals - 11.jpg

The story goes that the people of Sanctuary Printshop, now defunct, painted this massive mural in a span of 1 night. The iconic mural has been re-appropriated greatly and the colors either came to embody Austin or were the direct extension of it.

Tips

It’s hard to get a great shot of this mural and you need to cross the street near the underpass to get it all in one shot. Standing in the street to get a good picture is possible if it wasn’t directly in sight of a freeway off ramp, so try and be safe.

Nearby

Passing from Downtown Austin to East Austin is relatively safe but this area is known for having a large homeless community and can be a little dicey at times. There are some great food options like the immaculate Easy Tiger Bakery, Koriente, which everyone raves about, and Camino el Camino whose burgers I’ve heard are some of the best in town.

I love you so much

1300 S Congress Ave

The story behind "I love you so much" is that musician Amy Cook painted the phrase on the side of her partner's business Jo's Coffee to make her happier. The handwritten red on green text has been iconic since and become a great place to grab an iced turbo, seriously try it, and a photo. It's made all of Austin happier since.

Tips

Parking on Congress Ave. is pretty tough. There are a lot of spots on Congress that you'll have to literally back into, it's safer, but most locals park in the adjacent neighborhoods and walk over.

Nearby

There are a couple of awesome murals nearby I love you so much too. The Fred Rodgers by Home Slice and the Willie near STAG provisions (see below). If your by Home Slice their pizza is pretty amazing as well and you have Amy's Ice Cream, get the mexican vanilla, and the Continental Club which I hear great things about.

Honorable Mentions

There are so many good murals in town it's unfair to make such a short list. Here are a bunch of quick takes on the rest.

Any shortlist is going to miss a bunch of great things you couldn’t fit in. Anything else you think should be on the list?

Not Second Fiddle, A review of the Canon GIII QL 17

I've been using the Canon GIII QL17 for the past couple of months. Before that my main rangefinders was the Leica M4-2 and the Canon P. Both the Leica and the Canon P are much larger than the GIII QL17 and things I wasn't totally comfortable traveling with, mostly due to how rough I am on my gear during travel. Things get banged around and I'm not a huge fan of shooting with flashy cameras. So far the Canon GIII has been an amazing travel partner.

The Canon GIII is a very productive and solid shooter. I purchased one with a broken shutter that needed repairing and a broken meter that I can live with. The lens is a 40mm F1.7 with a very awkward 48mm diameter ring, luckily there are plenty of step up rings. Having a large aperture gives you a little bit more reach when you need it.

Unlike the Leica IIf which was my previous travel rangefinder the GIII is extremely straightforward to use. The QL (Quick Load) feature makes loading film quick and stress free. You drop the film on the plane and you can start shooting immediately, I end up getting an extra frame or two on each roll.

The camera is light but made of sturdy materials. While I don't feel that it can withstand a large fall it has been an object that has lasted many decades and works fine mechanically. I replaced the light seals when I got the camera and haven't found any other issues that need addressing.

There are a few glaring issues I find with the camera. When I first began using the camera I had a had time with framing. Unlike the simpler Leica and other rangefinders the incorporation of the light meter readings on the right hand doesn't give the photographer an intuitive frame of reference for where the image ends on the right side of the frame, it actually ends at the left most edge of the meter bar. I've gotten used to shooting with it over time but I still find myself questioning where I am in the frame.

The most problematic issue of the GIII is the lack of zone focusing on the lens. While this camera was aimed at the prosumer this is a gigantic oversight. Being able to use a rangefinder to control focus is something we can take for granted but I'd trade a rangefinder for zone focusing marks any day. With a 40mm lens and a compact package this camera benefits greatly from being able to set your focus at a hyperlocal distance and fire aware. I found myself having to memorize a few measurements and contemplated if I needed to add the zone focusing marks myself to increase the functionality of the camera. I can see how Canon tried to market this camera to a wider audience but a few extra lines of paint would have made this an even more perfect camera.

Lastly the images from the camera are great. Colors are accurate and punchy, even across different film stocks. The black and white images are sharp and contrasty and the lens doesn't bring in too much character but isn't boring as well.

One thing I'm realizing is that the images a camera takes also is affected by the ability of the camera to blend in. The GIII is as inconspicuous camera and sometimes looks more like a toy than a serious instrument. For shooting in tight settings and in close quarters taking out the GIII doesn't change the moment, like a Leica and Hasselblad do. Because of it's approachability I find it easier to take intimate shots and get closer to people.

If you're looking for a Leica alternative for a rangefinder you can't do much better than the Canon GIII QL17. It's a simple camera that has almost all the things I love in a rangefinder. More importantly, it is a camera that totally gets out of the way and allows you to just focus on capturing images and moving around as simply as possible.

Superia-Light a review of Fuji Pro 400H

I usually shoot with the cheapest color films available. In the beginning the main reason was that it was cheaper. I didn't really have a grasp of what slide film was and everything I was shooting was going to get developed at the local Walgreens. I was lucky to land quickly on Superia 400 and loved it's strong contrast and saturation, especially of greens and reds.

Conversely, professional color films promise a more realistic color rendition and less contrast so the photographer has a bit more control over the images. I found box of 5 rolls Fuji Pro 400H (expired 2013) in 120mm and jumped at the chance to try it out. To truly experience any emulsion I'd recommend trying it in 120mm. The larger format allows you to see the film on a larger scale that really tames any variation you may have from frame to frame on 35mm. 120 is going to make any strengths and issues with an emulsion apparent very quickly.

My approach with Fuji Pro 400H was to continue the same color and subject analysis as I had been doing with 35mm. I was shooting 400H with a Yeshica D TLR and a Hasseblad 500CM. I also added a roll of 220 (expired 2008) that provided very similar results as the fresher rolls.

Fuji color films always lean warm. 400H has the same characteristic saturation but it's much more subdued. While the reds and greens popped, they didn't take over the scene like they did with Superia. Blues and yellows weren't as fun but accurate and in control. Overall everything was accurate but flat.

The negatives that came back gave a much lower contrast profile that looked like I overexposed the images. I had to add contrast adjustment to most images I posted with 400H to get the typical look I preferred with Superia. It's interesting that Kodak's current color professional negative emulsion, Ektar, has strong contrast and warm profile that you'd expect from Fuji.

This leaves 400H in a weird spot. It falls into a no man's land for color emulsions. If you want the most accurate color emulsion you are going with Velvia while you can find it. If you want to shoot a negative film with more character you're better off with Ektar. If you want pleasing and accurate skin tones you go with Portra. If you want to save a few dollars you can try Lomography 400 which will give you accurate colors and a washed out look. That leaves 400H being the king of the color negative with a flatter contrast profile and slightly saturated greens and reds.

Color films should have a look that distances them from color digital where saturation and color are set on being as accurate, and boring, as possible. The emulsions that we associate with most with color film, Kodachrome, knew back then it wasn't accuracy that was king but enhancing what was already there. For me, Fuji Pro 400H doesn't do enough enhancement to stand out from it's peers.

Rediscovering the Canon S90 in 2018

I came of age in the early 2000's when digital cameras were a necessity and not an add on to a smart phone. We all carried around small digital point and shoot cameras that could take some video (badly), had a strong flash and dedicated modes that you selected with dials and buttons. When we all went to smart phones we traded in the convenience of always being able to take a picture with all those photo dedicated buttons and settings small point and shoot cameras had. I enjoy shooting with my iPhone but deep down know that it's always awkward and something I never really love.

Luck has it that I live next to a Goodwill that sells old digital point and shoot cameras for 4-5$. I started to buy a couple and take them home to shoot and was instantly hooked. The cameras served a very clear purpose during the 00's and still serve that purpose today. They were smaller than film cameras, took great images and had all the functionality you could want or need.

If there was one crown jewel of that period it had to be the Canon S90. It had some very simple functions and a really intuitive click wheel that you could use to change your focal length (my fave), ISO or aperture. On top of that it was the first camera at the time to take relatively great photos in low light settings and had a F2.0 aperture throughout the entire focal range.

I've been shooting with it for the past couple of weeks and having a blast. It slips seamlessly into my front pocket and weighs close to nothing. In the hand it feels extremely well made, perfectly proportioned and simple to use. I can fire it up and take a picture in less than three seconds and with the dedicated camera functions and dials doesn't feel like your losing control over your image.

Negatives, the images don't have the greatest dynamic range and low light images leave a lot to be desired but I find myself just shooting a lot more in places I wouldn't be shooting: at work, in the car and going to and from work. The images are fun and simple, and I'm slowly building up the discipline to not just take a quick snap but to really frame my scene.

As much as I love shooting film it can also be a crutch at times to take "special" images due to the added cost of shooting on acetate. With a small digital camera you can experiment a little more and be a little less disciplined with the fear of blowing through frames and dollars. I'm glad I started with film first and learned that discipline, even with digital I shoot largely with no photo review out of habit, but I'm happy to bring back digital into my shooting style to allow me to take more photos.

At the end of the day we have a lot of reasons not to shoot. Cost, portability and image quality are all things we juggle with in our modern photographic landscape. With the very old and still capable Canon S90 I really don't feel like I'm sacrificing anything.