Back when I was digital and high tech the subjects of my pictures were mainly beach scenes. Beautiful in their own right, but not much variation. Everything looks pretty at the beach and it inspires you to snap those digital shots quicker than the Road Runner running from Wylie E. Coyote. I was also not in the habit of taking my digital camera with me everywhere because it’s not exactly portable. The camera would come with me for walks on the beach as a family but would stay home on most other occasions.
Thank God for lo-fi photography! Because of it’s portability I learned to take my Holga everywhere. I wasn’t necessarily looking to get ‘the perfect shot’ and felt more freedom to take pictures of weird, random and funny things in everyday life. I was drawn to the way the plastic lens gives a warmth and interest to the mundane. The quirkiness of the medium made me relax and experiment with perspective, lighting and subject in way that I never had before. Since I didn’t expect perfection I was free to play! I also began to notice my photographic eye developing at a rapid pace. It was as if the digital camera had blinders on my eyes. I felt like I’d only been seeing part of what was out there. My eyes were wide open and starting to see great photo opportunities everywhere, not just in beautiful places like the beach.
Once I’d grown accustomed to the way toy and vintage cameras work I was better able to decide which subjects were best for this medium. In a broad sense I began turning away from the nature scenes of the beach and focusing more on man-made structures. Looking at other photography sites like Red Bubble and Flickr helped me decide what to focus on next (so to speak). I was really into photographing derelict buildings and barns in the spring. My area is a pretty good place for that. There are loads of inoperable mills, buildings, silos and old farmhouses just begging to have their pictures taken. Derelict buildings led to rusty and forgotten objects, then I discovered old cars. Their retro looks, fantastical lines, crazy fins and chrome are an ideal subject for lo-fi shots. I’ve always been drawn to taking pictures of odd signs and now that I was using lo-fi technology, these signs appeared in print as they appeared in my mind. The vignetting, fuzziness and odd colors served to highlight the absurdity that is seen driving down the highway.
This summer I decided to make the leap into (gasp) people shots. The idea of approaching people and asking them to fill out model release forms was a little overwhelming to me so I started off slowly. I did a photo shoot at the beach for some friends who were more than happy to sign the releases. I still haven’t gotten up the guts to approach strangers but I figure my portraiture skills need to improve before I start selling those shots.
The change of seasons brought me closer to my subjects. Now that I’ve got the right tools for macro Holga shots and have purchased the Diana F+ and the wide angle/close up lens combo, I can make the ordinary look really weird and big. I’ve always wanted a really nice macro lens but the images that I get with my toy cameras are far more interesting than something that’s perfectly in focus. My macro subjects of late have been antique items. Like antique cars, they’re fit for the lo-fi treatment.
Enough about me, what about you? Do you go through cycles or do you just shoot what walks in front of the lens? Do you go out searching for subjects? Leave me a comment. I’d like to know what inspires you to burn through a roll of film.
Now that the turkey has been eaten and the pumpkin pie put away, it’s time to get back to some camera talk.
Awhile back I posted some mods for my Polaroid Land Camera 220 so that it would accept Fuji instant film without getting stuck. I finally shot the last few pictures in that pack and was able to unload it and take pictures of what I actually did. Unfortunately I’m still running into problems with the Fuji film but more about that in a minute.
When you open up the back of your camera you’ll see this. That little metal bar, visible right below the roller towards the top of the camera, is the root of the Fuji film problem. In my camera that little bar was kind of bent down causing the film to jam up when I tried to pull it out. At first I tried bending the two prongs back. It didn’t work. Then I tried to bend to bar back into shape. That didn’t work either. If the camera was going to function properly the bar was going to need to be completely removed. I removed the two small screws, visible to the right of my thumb, and the screw in the top middle of the black plate which you can see is slightly recessed below the roller. Here are a couple of shots of the bar.
Once that metal bar was removed I throughly cleaned the rollers, which were all gunked up with glue from the film. I used rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip and scrubbed until they gleamed. I thought my problems were over so I loaded up another pack of film and went searching for suitable subjects around town. All was going well until the 5th or 6th picture then things started jamming up again. I wasted the last half of the pack trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
I discovered that my rollers were, again, totally clogged with glue residue. Look closely at the sides of the rollers in the first picture and you’ll get an idea of what happenend. There were even little bits of the paper tabs stuck in the glue. Now I’m baffled. I don’t know how to fix this problem. I clean the rollers after each and every pack of film and it doesn’t make much difference. If anyone has a suitable solution by all means, post it please!! I’m going to go surf the net now to see if I can find some answers. Until then, here are some of the good shots I got with my crazy Land Camera.
At long last I have gotten all my pictures from World Toy Camera Day (WTCD) developed. You’re probably asking what and when is WTCD? Let me explain.
It seems like everything under the sun has a day devoted to it. For instance, just in November there is Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day, Chaos Never Dies Day, False Confession Day, Button Day and Gunpowder Day. Think I’m kidding? Check out this link for bizzare and unique holidays.
Anyways, a very creative spirit by the name of Becky Ramotowski took her idea from World Pinhole Camera Day and decided those of us that play with toy cameras should celebrate the lo-fi-ness of it all and take pictures exclusively with Brownie, Holga, Diana, Polaroid, etc. on one day in October each year. The madness started in 2002 and has spawned lively discussions and critiques as well as a few great Flickr groups (World Toy Camera Day, Toy Camera Day 2008).
This year is the first time I’ve participated in WTCD and I was in a great location to take some very interesting pictures. Friends of mine held their 5th Annual Lawn Tractor Races on October 18, 2008 and I was giddy that I was able to get off work and document the day with my Holga and Diana F+. The Lawn Tractor Races, as Mike puts it “is the world’s biggest drinking game”. You bring your riding lawn mower and wear a costume. In teams of 2 you must chug a beer (or non-alcoholic carbonated beverage of your choice), jump on the tractor and do a lap around the course then a pit stop. Your partner then chugs a beer and jumps on to do a lap around the course. This goes on for 7 laps until a winner is crowned. Pre-race handicapping occurs as Mike takes each tractor for a spin and determines how fast it is, letting those who have the slowest vehicles start first. This year, the Gangstas won, but were disqualified when it was discovered they added a super-fast high speed gear to their tractor that they didn’t activate until after handicapping. I swear they were doing 35mph around the course! So, the prize went to the Rednecks. It was WAY too much fun and I can only hope the race will be held again on WTCD in 2009.
To see some pictures from toy camera photographers around the world, check out the two Flickr groups whose links are posted above. Until then, I’ll be counting the days until 2009’s celebration.
In these tough economic times it can be hard to part with your cash, even in support of your photography addiction. If you’re longing for an LC-A but just can’t scrape together the money, try an Olympus XA2, often called the ‘Poor Man’s LC-A”
An evolution of the Olympus XA, the XA2 has more auto controls and is less expensive. The original XA has a more complex lens compared to the XA2’s Zuiko F 3.5. But you’ll never notice the difference. It’s 3-zone focusing system (similar to Holga and Diana) allows you to get within a meter of your subject at close range for crisp shots with all the character of an analogue camera. There is a small degree of vignetting but for the most part this is a tough, reliable camera that will become a staple in your bag of tricks.
It’s clam shell design provides protection for the lens and camera controls. Open it up and the zone-focusing switch defaults to mid-range. A very nice feature. Set your film speed with a flick of the switch below the lens. The XA2 has quite a range, from ISO 25 to 800. I’ve run 100-400 speed fims through my camera with beautiful results. Black and white film also comes out quite nicely. A snazzy little flash is attached to the left side of the camera. The A11 flash unit is pretty weak and only effective at short ranges, but at least it’s an option. In addition to film you’ll need 2 SR44 batteries to get your XA2 rolling.
I’ve been quite pleased with the XA2 and am very content to play around with it for awhile until I can stash enough money away to get an LC-A. Purchased for just $11.00 on e-Bay, it was well worth the money. Thanks to www.diaxa.com for technical information.
WordPress has a cool new feature that allows you to create polls. I love polls. I’m a sucker for filling them out when someone sends them to me on myspace so I’ve decided to periodically add a few to the blog. Give me your answers and I’ll post them in future posts! Yippie!