Monthly Archives: October 2008

Diana f+ maiden voyage

A spankin’-new bottle of Ilfosol 3 developer has finally arrived at my house and I’m pleased to be able to share the results. I got a Diana F+ a few weeks ago and took it for a spin on World Toy Camera Day then again this weekend at the Seawitch Festival in Rehoboth Beach, DE. I really love shooting with the Diana! So light and easy. Nice neckstrap, good lock on the bottom of the camera to keep the back firmly attached (unlike my lovely Holga) plus I got the Wide Angle and Close-Up lens package with my camera.

It was so very convienient and easy to use the Diana. I was able to do lots of ‘covert’ shooting by wearing my camera around my neck and looking the other way while snapping the shot that was right in front of me.

The Diana’s images are soft, fuzzy and dreamy. When I sit Holga and Diana images side by side the Holga shots look positively crisp compared to the Diana F+. It’s a great camera to use when you want your images to have that fantastical quality.

I haven’t developed any rolls yet using the close-up lens. Those images are still away at the lab. I plan on taking a few rolls using the close-up lens as one of the main reasons I purchased the Diana F+ was it’s ability to convert to a pinhole cam plus the lenses available to use.  A word about switching lenses. My original lens was extremely hard to get off. It wasn’t just as easy as twisting it like the directions suggested. I have a feeling the tabs that hold the lenses on may break off prematurely but it’s still a really nice feature to have in a toy camera.

Can’t wait to play with the Diana F+ more!

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Jungle Jim’s Waterpark

Travel down Route 1 south in Delaware and you’ll see lots of crazy stuff: the UFO building at Eagle’s Nest Airport, a tractor museum, an enourmous propellor in front of a restaurtant (which I hope to photograph in the future), 30ft. plastic neon-colored palm trees strung with blinky lights. None is as crazy, or inviting on a summer day, than Jungle Jim’s .
Situated in Rehoboth Beach, Jungle Jim’s is not just a waterpark. There’s also mini-golf, a batting cage, bumper boats and a go-kart track. It’s a great place to lose money and your mind.

Usually crowded to the max on summer days, I’m lucky enough to work at a place that holds it’s annual picnic at the park right after Labor Day. It’s perfect and this year was no exception. It was hot as hell and humid like nobody’s business. Four large waterslides offer the perfect way to start off your day. Get on a raft and ride the largest slide which shoots you uphill with a giant burst of water. Three of these slides are enclosed completely, adding to that horrific feeling of claustrophobia and not knowing what lies next around the turn.

When you’ve had enough of the slides, or you’ve lost your voice from screaming, head on over to the lazy river. Plop yourself in a tube and ride the current around the park. Look out for the waterfalls and the wave pool!

You may be hungry at about this point in your day. Head on over to the Cafe, located next to the restrooms and lockers. There you can get any number of fried or sugar-laden foods to satisfy your hungry tummy. Just look for the large plastic animals enjoying hot dogs and sodas.

Going to the Jungle with small children? No worries. There in the center island is a shallow pool with crazy squirting fountains, palm trees with coconuts that dump water on your head, a large pirate ship complete with water-guns, slides and cargo net and around the periphery of this shallow pool, a number of soft, small slides fit for the littlest visitor.

Feeling really fit? Try crossing the rope bridge with your hands. Below you are floating objects to give you a little help but without the proper upper body strenght, you’ll end up in the drink!

A fun-filled day for the whole family, Jungle Jim’s is a great alternative to the beach on those days when you just don’t want to clean sand from between your toes yet again. You can easily spend the entire day at the park and it’s a good thing since the price of admission is not cheap. Next time you’re travelling south on Route 1 and the kids are driving you crazy in the backseat, pull over at Jungle Jim’s and let them get their ya-yas out. Your wallet will be a little lighter but then again, a solid night of sleep is pretty much priceless.


Land Camera – not as easy as you’d think

I almost threw my ‘new’ Land Camera out the window today.

I finally got the batteries to work the shutter and after properly installing them, I promptly filled my camera’s hungry little belly with Fuji-100 instant film. I took a shot of three pumpkins in my backyard and went to pull the picture out of the side. No dice. It was stuck. Big Time! I pulled and pulled and pulled and only succeded in ripping tiny shreds of white paper from the tag of the film. I got tweezers, pliers (both flat and needle-nosed) and tried to extricate my film that way but only succeded in ripping the paper even more. I took it into a dark closet (even though we’ve only known each other a few days) and tried to re-load the film tags. What a nightmare! To spare you any further details I ended up with a big, goopy mess and wasted 75% of my film pack trying to free the pictures the correct way. I must’ve taken 10 pictures of those stupid pumpkins. It was time to consult the internet.

Thanks to Flickr I found a Polaroid Land Camera group that had a big thread relating to such problems. It took a bit of searching and of course now I can’t find my way back to that glorious thread, but here’s the basic problem. It seems as though there are two little pins near the rollers that cause undue tension on Fuji film. It was recommended that you either bend back these pins or break them off and pop a piece of weather stripping in it’s place. After a little surgery my film was still sticking. I did some further modification on my own by completely removing the bar that holds these two pins. This bar was bent up and was putting more tension on the film than just those two stupid little pins ever could have. After throughly cleaning the rollers and checking the battery connections I was FINALLLY able to get my Land Camera working! I’ll post pictures of my modification and a direct link to the ever-so-helpful mod directions in a later blog. Until then….


What $3.00 will buy you

I had a Halloween-type party to attend this weekend (Saturday Oct. 18 which was World Toy Camera Day, but more about that later) and wanted to attend as a press photographer circa 1950’s so I could incorporate my toy cameras into the outfit. I was browsing the men’s suit section looking for a jacket that was classy yet over-the-top. The best I could find was a Master’s-Green polyester number. Not quite the look I was going for. OK, maybe I could go as Laverne from the old “Laverne & Shirley” T.V. show? Nope, no luck finding a workers shirt or suitable pencil-thin capri pants. I hate shopping and was getting really frustrated. All hopes of finding a cool retro Halloween outfit were shot. I figured, while I was in a thrift store I’d have more fun searching for something useful, thus began my quest last week for, you guessed it, a ‘new’ bargain vintage camera.

I got lucky at the first store. In the camera section, hidden behind a busted Olympus body, was an Action Sampler with film still inside! I grabbed it off the shelf and tried it out and unfortunately the four shutters weren’t firing correctly. Other than a few junker cams there was nothing of real interest.

At the second place I was able to procure a 5-pack of 35mm expired Kodak Gold 24 film for $5.00. That made me pretty happy but I was left wanting more. It was time to go hard core. With some child-free time on my hands, I decided to hit a few antiques stores.

I drove to a nearby town and at the first store I was greeted by a friendly grey cat. I couldn’t go past the foyer until the kitty was petted a few times. This place had some great stuff — old military uniforms, football helmets, bitters bottles and toys caught my eye — but no cameras in sight. I went up the rickety wooden stairs to the second story, which looked to be mostly furniture, lacy things and moldy-looking Christmas decorations, and struck gold. I found a complete Polaroid Land Camera 220 kit, complete with bag, instruction booklet and stiff mounting paper, for $3.00! I was like a kid at Christmas. I marveled over the crazy construction of the camera, it’s bellows and sliding focus system. There were even some notes left in the bag written by the camera’s owner (who was clearly as anal-retentive as I am about my equipment) reminding her of what batteries and flash the camera used. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was which size film it used. If Fuji’s instant film fit the camera it would truly be a great score but if not, I’d only be out three bucks and I’d be able to use it until Polaroid film dissapeared.

I logged onto The Land List, a comprehensive categorization of virtually every Polaroid camera known to man. If you haven’t yet visited the site, check it out. Much to my shock and amazement my new treasure indeed accepts the Fuji! I was so completely stoked! Even my husband was thrilled and how could he not be? For $3 I had a great camera in my hands. The Land Cam is heavy but fits in the hands quite well. All the controls you need are easy to reach. The only awarkward part is the bellows, but that’s what gives it that distinct, retro look. As far as I can tell Aunt Bertha (or whoever owned it before me) took great care of this specimen. It smells a little funky (like the moth-balled top of someone’s closet) but other than that it’s very clean. I even had fun reading the instruction book. My favorite quote: “As soon as you open the film pack you will begin to accumulate waste paper. There will be more when you develop the pictures. We hope that it won’t become litter in the streets or be scattered around the landscape”.

I’ve seen Land Cameras at other thrift stores selling for around $5.00 so they can definetly be had on-the-cheap. Instead of eBay for Polaroid cameras check out your local thrift or antiques store. Many people have no idea that you can still get film for these beauties and prematurely abandon lovely, working relics. Remember that most of these cameras need batteries, a fact I found out the hard way. After wasting a few pictures and exposing nearly the entire pack to light, it became evident that my shutter wasn’t opening (even though it sounded like it was) because there were no batteries in the camera. Again, with the help of The Land List, I was able to order the correct sized 4.5Volt battery with snap-ends from batterymart.com. Once it arrives I’ll begin viewing the world through my Land Cams eyes.


How Much Do I Love My Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim ?

Since I’ve started my lo-fi photography journey I’ve stumbled across many a camera that I’d like to give a test spin. Some are wonderful but out of my price range (the new Blackbird, and sadly the LC-A) and some seem like too much work (Kodak Brownie. I don’t want to re-spool 120 film to use in a 127 sized camera). Then I started hearing about the little wonder that is the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. I’d heard about the vignetting and vibrant colors but when I found out I could get it for only $10 USD, it had to be mine.

This little cassette-tape sized wonder is completely plastic – lens and all – and it behaves as most plastic cameras do – like a dream. From the eye-popping colors to the insane vignetting that occurs in just about every frame, you’d think this baby was produced right alongside the most popular lomo cameras. The 22mm lens gives you an ultra-wide perspective so just like with a Holga, you’re bound to get more than what you see in the viewfinder when you develop your film. It is a 35mm camera with an aperture of f11 and shutter speed of 1/125, which adds up to phenomenal shots in bright light. Again, as with a Holga, the Vivitar UWS will perform best in bright light conditions with 100-400 speed film. I’ve run black & white, color and slide film through my Vivitar with amazing results every time. Another perk? No stinkin’ batteries!

A few tips – make sure the camera strap and your finger are both out of the picture. Remember, this is a super wide angle lens. I thought I read somewhere that you shouldn’t get any closer than about 5 feet from the subject. This just isn’t the case. The Vivi makes far away subjects appear even farther away. A nice effect if that’s what you’re going for but I suggest you get closer. It makes for an kind of fish-eye effect and will really make your subjects appear dramatic.

I have to say that this was the best $10 I’ve spent in a long time.


Lubitel: Persnickity and full of Personality

Them: “Wow, that must be a really old camera”

Me: “Well, it was made in 1986”

Them: “Does it work?”
Me: “Yes it does and it takes great pictures”

This is how many conversations begin when I’m using my Lubitel and it’s at this point that I can educate the curious masses about lomography and lo-fi photography. At first I fell in love with the Lubitel’s looks too, but if beauty is more than skin deep than this little camera is beautiful to the core.

After diving into lomography with a Holga I wanted my next camera to come with a few more bells and whistles and a little more reliability. It would also have to look as good as it performed and be relatively inexpensive. TLR cameras are endlessly fascinating to me with their alien good looks. The vertical lenses are so very flounder-like on the front of it’s boxy frame. I found a Lubitel in need of a home on eBay and after an agonizing month-long wait, it arrived at my house.

My Lubitel had been sitting virtually untouched at the top of someone’s closet since it’s production, a fact that was reinforced upon opening the box covered in cyrillic writing. It smelled of communism and sensibility. It’s construction and heft told me I had a real workhorse on my hands. The Lubitel is all these things plus, like other lomocams, it has it’s own personality.

Persnickity at times and stubborn at others, the Lubitel always delivers a phenomenal picture as long as you treat it right. In getting to know my camera I’ve realized one needs plenty of time. It takes awhile to figure out all those switches and knobs as the Lubitel is a bit more complicated than your typical analogue instrument. It also takes awhile to properly take a great picture. You must set up your shot and focus then check to make sure all settings are correct. Cock the shutter, then hold your breath and trip the switch for a medium format work of art. I find that using my Lubitel is rather Zen-like at times. It’s as if I have to be ‘in the zone’ to make all the elements of my picture align.

If you treat your Lubitel right it will be a wonderful machine for many years. I’ve found that, just like you, the Lubitel needs a little tune-up occasionally. When those gears mesh together you get great results but when they’re out of whack the Luby develops a thousand-yard-stare type of focus that’s only good for taking far away landscape shots. I just tuned up my Lubitel recently and have achieved some great results in my last few shoots. I’ve even gotten some consistently great macro shots lately.

I love taking my Lubitel out for a spin. It’s a real conversation starter so I have to make sure to be in a sociable mood when using it because inevitably someone wants to know, “Does that camera really work?”

Here are some of my crazy macro shots, all cross-processed Fuji film.


Macro Lubitel

So, I’m really excited because my macro Lubitel experiment seemed to work really well!

I was thinking the other day that there’s got to be an easier way than just guessing the distance, like you do with macro Holga. I thought, if I set the focus to infinity and then put the diopter up to the viewing lens I should be able to move in & out on my subject until I find a spot that is in focus. After finding the spot of focus comes the tricky part: moving the camera a few inches up to get the picture-taking lens on the subject while simultaneously holding the diopter up to that same lens.

I loaded up my freshly-calibrated Lubitel (more on the calibration in another post) with slide film and headed to the playground with Elias. Then it was off to the Rehoboth Block Party on September 23 with some Rollei 100 film. I developed those last night and much to my surprise, macro Lubitel took hold! This is a shot of a bottle that my friends Amy and Barbara make and sell. They etch the glass then insert a string of holiday lights inside. They’re beautiful.

I’ve found that there is very little room for error when using the +10 diopter. I’ll do some experimenting with my +3 diopter and see if there’s a little more play in the focusing spot, which would come in handy when taking pictures in an unpredictable environment, like outside at this street party. By the way, I had quite a few people ask me about my Lubitel. It’s so fun to explain to people that it is indeed a real camera and takes wonderful pictures.


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