Thursday, April 30, 2009

The unexpected and the results of my Holga experiments

I promised I would post shots taken with my Holga and here they are...

Firstly, I experimented with it a great deal. I put two rolls of Tmax 320 B&W through it, shot all types of scenes. Then I shot another roll of ISO 400 color Fujifilm and one ISO 800 color Fujifilm as well. Now, there is something about a crude camera box and you and getting a good shot. It is really all about composition and light (I might add here that I completely messed up my roll of ISO 800 (zilt, nadah, is all I can say about that roll - shot inside a church in dim light, I totally underexposed the roll, forgot that the least I could have done was held down the button longer). Having to adjust to seeing everything in a square format is actually a rather refreshing experience coming from 35mm - I can also see how some shots are better suited for square format than others.

The fun part:

No. 1 - there is definitely light leak and I think I know where mine is coming from. I could tape it but that would take away the element of surprise. The vignetting is actually rather nice.

No. 2 - double exposing the same frame twice is so easy that if one is not careful, that becomes second nature. Well, unless you messed up so bad that you tie a little string around your index finger to remind youself to wind the film before you click that shutter again. I have one too many shots to prove how easy that is - however to my solace, it led to rather pleasant and unique results - see below. I was trying to figure out where I had taken that strange shot and then I realized it was two shots in one....


No. 3 - one definitely looks more inconspicious to others with this little cheap plastic camera than with a big Canon 5D and zoom lens. Theoretically, that means you are more likely to get the shots you want :) The shot below is a case in point.

Finally, as there is no way to control shutter speed but Bulb or N (is that 1/125? 1/250? that in itself is another mystery). Hence, the only way one could ever use it in dim light even with high speed film is the B setting on tripod, or hold down the shutter and time it yourself... that surely will contribute to even more unpredictable results if you get any at all...but I can see me testing that out....

Holga is cheap way to have a go at medium format. The camera is dirt cheap, the only expense is development and printing. The depth and clarity to me is still way better than similar shots on my 10D, may be I am biased.... but I think you would agree.

I did a little write up on Holgas and where you could get one cheaply... see link:
Holga's - the cult following

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Have fun !!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I am so happy I am giddy :)

I had been toying with getting a used medium format camera for the past few weeks. Tried bidding on ebay and always seems to be outbid minutes before the auction ended (never had any luck with ebay, there must be a trick :(. I was not going to get into a bidding war either). Anyhow, it crossed my mind perhaps to look for them in flea markets or antique shops where I might have better luck finding a decent one at the right price and I did!! three Saturdays ago at a Palo Alto Fleamarket.

It was a baby Yashica LM 44 (LM-selenium cell light meter - still works, and appears to be quite accurate now that I have tested it outdoor and indoor, 4x4 ). They said it was the poor man's Rollei (I see) It is in beautiful condition, with Copal SV 60mm fixed lens, cap, leatherette case etc, asking for $65!!.. The seller said he had picked up a bunch of stuffs at a Public Storage auction, guess whoever did not pay their public storage fee must be a camera buff, as there were other goodies, tripods, trumpets, clarinets etc.

The only thing that I was not sure before handing the $65 over was that it takes 127film,.... hmmm, was there ever a 127 film? This thing is older than I am. I called BelAir camera in Los Angeles, (my favorite camera store) and the girl at the film counter said "no, I don't think there is a 127 film" Yuks! I then called Foto Express in San Jose and was told the same thing, "we don't sell 127 film, I don't know if you can still get them anymore" ok, I started to waver....should I get it or shouldn't I? It is in such good shape and my heart is willing, my pocket book is wavering. It fits nicely in my hand, they said it is a lady's camera during those days due to its petite size. Oh, did I mention that the bright waist lever viewfinder is such a pleasure to use....

No surprise. I bought my new toy!! told myself that I will be just as happy to see it sit next to my beloved photo books. (does that sound familiar?)

As soon as I got home, I went online, found out that one could still get the 127 films, Efke B&W and IR from Freestyle and Provia film and slide films from Bhphotovideo (now I am really happy I am giddy). There are apparently quite a few classic camera buffs out there still actively using their baby Yashica, Rollei and other 127 film format cameras...I ordered 3 rolls of B&W and one rolls of IR films and they arrived in 2 days. I am now running the films through it and shot a roll in downtown San Francisco near Embarcadero.....I had a couple of envious looks, from people who either knew exactly what it was and from those who wondered if I was shooting video as I was looking through the viewfinder. I know now how one could be rather inconspicious using the TLR's with the waist level viewfinder if you think about :). Will be processing the films myself and if they turn out half way decent, I shall scan the neg's and post them on my blog.

Don't laugh at me if I tell you that I slept with the baby Yashica next to me the night I brought it home, you can imagine how giddy I am :)

For those who are curious about the Yashica and the Rollei TLR's and other classics in this digital age, here is a really good link: -Karen Nakamura- The definitive guide to classic film cameras -I love her site

Suppliers of 127 films: 127 films 127 films

Frugal Photographer

read my other blog entries here

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A trip to the city...

A San Francisco travelogue

Having read that there was a camera swap meet in south San Francisco Saturday, I decided to take the BART to town which is really the best way to travel to the city. I did plenty of walking and savored the sights and sounds and spent a good hour at the swap meet. I struck up a nice conversation with an old school commercial photographer on the Mamiya C33 twin lens reflex medium format camera he was selling. We chatted, mostly with me picking his brain...and wishing the good old days had not gone away so quickly. We talked about how producing beautiful photography is still about having your techniques solidly grounded, and knowing your wares....having the eyes for the light.....and that his very first used medium format camera he bought from some guy when he first started and how he produced great pictures with it. Later that morning, I walked to the waterfront of Embarcadero. As it was a Saturday, a bustling outdoor market was in session. Crowded with locals and tourists alike, it was at times elbow to elbow walking room. I did the quick tour, and some photography and soon found myself checking out the artists selling their work under big white tents in the park away from the crowd.

"Who is this man?"

I soon struck up another long conversation with an artist whose attire was rather nomadic, who interestingly has a Chinese sounding last name but grew up in Nicaragua as I later learned (not surprisingly, as many set sail to seek work and fortune some two hundred years ago and many went to South America). A photographer who spends a few months each year outside the country in search of inspiration, his works of brightly colored weathered buildings from Cuba to Nicaragua and Rajistan first caught my attention. There was also the image of two canoes in the morning light with the Bay Bridge in the background still shrouded in fog. Then as I looked to the floor, there was a photo of a young boy cloaked in red sitting on the floor of a monastery. He was holding up a long stick, pointing to a chalk board of sentences as if to repeat after his master. On the left, soft light flooded the dim room casting a small shadow on the boy sitting cross legged on the floor. The image stopped me in my track. I lingered on and looked at it for a long time. My mind wondered back to Asia, to the people and the colorful cultures, to the villages. Sometimes an image speaks to the soul and it takes one on a journey....may be because I grew up in Asia and had traveled to many corners of Southeast Asia where life is simple and yet plentiful...and learning and acquiring knowledge is what every parent wants for their child. It was the very poignant scene that moved the photographer and caught his eyes as he took that one and only shot.

"I am the proud owner of the photo - getting it dark wood with border"

It no longer matters if I took any photo at all with my camera. The sights and sounds of the San Francisco waterfront, the hustle and bustle had suddenly taken a back seat without my knowing.

Sometimes a photograph speaks to one's soul and it is that simple. I could not help but remembering the works of Dorothea Lange, her photographs of the "Migrant Woman" and the "Man in the Bread Line". Humanity and the ability to connect and feel is such a rare commodity in today's material world, I was so very glad to know it has not completely gone away.

"The artist's gallery along the San Francisco waterfront"

As I sat on the BART train heading back to Fremont and San Jose, I was deep in my thoughts. It was a good thought. I had bought the photograph from the artist whom I had gotten to know and we made some plans for collaborative projects in the coming weeks, stay tuned......