Monthly Archives: December 2009

XA4 is X-Cellent!

Okay, I know it’s a cheesy title but it’s the damn truth!! I thought I loved my Olympus XA2? Ha–I didn’t know what love was!! Let me explain in a round-a-bout sort of way.

My husband and I ran our first 5K race in September–a monumental occasion for a self-professed hater of running. Of course, I had to photograph the event but it was rainy and nasty. I didn’t want to bring a precious little digital camera with me that might get it’s panties in a bunch and decide to stop working because of a little precipitation, so I brought my Olympus XA2. I needed something with reliable results and, preferably, a flash since the weather was a bit dreary.

I’m happy to say we ran the ENTIRE race and finished without dying. Since this race was sponsored by our fantastic local brewery, Dogfish Head, we all got free food and beer at the end. It was great. I was happily documenting the day and was looking forward to getting the film developed.

Then, disaster struck as I attempted to rewind my film. It was really hard to do, I mean really hard. The film must’ve gotten damp from the weather and began sticking to itself because I ended up breaking the film rewind knob clean off the camera. I was distraught. I really loved this camera. I searched eBay for extra parts and got them but not before hitting pay dirt in my favorite local thrift shop.

I went in to poke around and what did I find? An Olympus XA4 for a mere DOLLAR!! Let me say it again…for A DOLLAR! I felt like I was stealing the thing as I handed over my little bill and skipped out of the store.

What makes the XA4 so special, you ask? Well my friend, it has MACRO capabilities. You can get as close to your subject as a foot. Not only that, but instead of the usual 3 zone focusing, there are 7 zones that range from one foot to infinity. The lens is different; a 28/3.5 five element lens instead of the XA’s 35/2.8. That lovely A11 flash unit that I got with my XA2? Totally compatible with the XA4. Brilliant (pun intended)! It is the most flexible point and shoot film camera I own. It’s wonderful to be able to get close to objects without holding a crazy diopter up to the lens.

According to the site cameraquest.com, the XA4 was made in 1985 and for only a year at that, making it pretty difficult to find (and making my thrift store find that much sweeter). It’s one of the first cameras to use DX film coding and has programmed exposure times from 2 seconds at f/3.5 to 1/750th of a second at f/14. You’ll even be warned by a little light if your shutter speed is below 1/30th so that you can set up a tripod or use flash.

If you’re a fan of  the LC-A, or the XA family of cameras you’ll love the XA4. You’ll want to marry it and have it’s babies. So get to looking! Maybe you’ll score big like I did. Good luck!


The Art of Waiting

I’ve been doing the whole lo-fi photography thing pretty much solo for awhile now and have only collaborated with one other photographer. My Italian lomo-friend Stiff and I created an excellent doubles roll last winter. It was great fun. I haven’t done any large or long-term projects but that’s all going to change thanks to Jeff Nachtigall a.k.a. Dirklancer.

He’s invited a group of analogue photographers to join him on a year-long journey to explore what it is to wait. Through written submissions and photographs, we will delve into a subject that I find quite pertinent to our modern-day world of instant-this and faster-that.

In fact, on the day I received his invite (though snail mail written in a font called ‘patient page’ no less) I was on my way home with the kids when traffic suddenly stopped. Two cars had skidded off the road about 5 car-lengths ahead of us. It was sleeting and we were on a two-way road that is the straightest way home, plus, we were all pretty miserable as we’d been in the car for the better part of an hour and 15 minutes.

[Quick sidebar: My husband and I refuse to buy a VCR for the car. We suffered through monumental car trips as kids and, as much as we both hated it, we agree that it taught us a lot about patience and entertaining yourself.  My older two children had their Nintendo devices to play with but my poor youngest son had nothing. Fortunately, he’d been asleep most of the time.]

Back to the story. The kids kept asking if there was any other way we could go: “Mom, why don’t we just go up and around? Why do we have to sit here in line?” My honest answer was that there really wasn’t a better way. Going around the accident would’ve meant tacking on at least an hour to the already long trip. Well, we sat and waited and waited and waited. For 45 minutes as EMS personnel extracted the passengers from their vehicles and cleared the roadway of debris, we drew on the foggy windows and watched the action. Then came the tow trucks haul what was left of the vehicles away. This was all extremely thrilling to my 3 1/2-year-old boy but my girls didn’t find it quite as much fun as car-dancing and requesting a change in music every 5 minutes.  It was an 45 extra minutes to goof around that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Pretty nice gift, huh?

I had been anticipating the arrival of Jeff’s invitation and had a good laugh when I opened up the mail that night and found it. It’s going to be a lot of fun thinking and creating on this subject. You can follow along at www.theartofwaiting.com, however you won’t see any of our photos until 2011. We’re waiting until the end of the year to develop our film.


Action Pinhole

After reading the latest issue of Light Leaks, the fantastic magazine dedicated to lo-fi photography, I was inspired to try my hand at pinhole photography…again.

I should explain that my first foray into the world of pinhole consisted of me constructing a thrift store pinhole cam which was fun but ultimately anti-climactic. After constructing the camera, which took place over a couple of days I took it out for a spin. Since I’d never shot with a pinhole, nor seen many pinhole images, I was unsure what subjects would be best photographed through this primitive device. The result was a mediocre roll of 36 exposures, with the exception of a few goofy shots I took on a roll of black and white. I was happy my photos actually came out but the thrift store panoramic camera is not something I’ve used more than two times.

Enter the latest issue of Light Leaks. The gallery of photos was impressive and proved that there’s much more to pinhole photography than just opening the shutter and hoping your film is exposed to enough light. Images of idyllic landscapes and ordinary restaurants were laced with gauzy, ghostly impressions of people moving about, leaves blowing in the breeze and even a little camera shake. The contrast between the sharply focused static objects and carefree blurry moving ones was beautiful. After absorbing it all I decided it was time to play with my Diana F+ on pinhole setting.

I titled this blog  ‘Action Pinhole’ because I decided to focus on capturing moving objects against a static background. These were the type of pinhole photos that were most striking to me.

First up was the bowling alley, a place my family loves to go on rainy days. I first set Diana up right in front of the ball return chute facing the lanes and left the shutter open for about 10 minutes.

I then moved it right in front of the gutter and exposed the shot for 15 minutes.

For the third shot I aimed it at the lane to our left which was empty for about 5 minutes then became active with bowlers for the last half of the frame’s exposure time.

Finally I set the camera on the armrest of one of the chairs nearest the lanes. This picture came out the blurriest and most abstract of all due to the fact that my 3 year-old was jumping in and out of my lap for most of the exposure time. It kind of looks like those NASA shots of the surface of Jupiter.

Pinhole Diana’s next action-adventure was swim team practice at the YMCA. My girls practice for an intense hour, giving me plenty of time to snap off a few frames. My methods were similar to the bowling alley trip in that I left the film exposed for 10 then 15 minutes except this time I only changed the point of view slightly as I was limited to the viewing area outside the pool deck. My shots weren’t as blurry because the camera was sitting, undisturbed, on the windowsill. I really love the way the pool looks rather ghostly. There’s no evidence of life in the photo at all when, in fact, the pool was buzzing with about a hundred kids.

All in all, this was a really fun experiment. I’m going to replicate it again for sure. It’s the first time I’ve ever used the pinhole setting on my Diana and I was very pleased with the results. Although making my own pinhole camera was a lot of fun (and frustrating at times) , I’d rather focus on making the images as interesting as possible. With my free time somewhat limited, it’s Zen-like aspect of the pinhole experience that appeals to me: The careful selection of subject and the waiting of multiple minutes for a shot to expose on the film. The simplicity of pinhole photography and the unique results are just one more reason why film is such a special and irreplaceable medium.


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