An unlikely source for film photography

Check this out: “First Person Shooter” is a new series where Vice gives a couple single-use cameras to a person so they can document their world over the course of a Friday night.  So far they’ve featured an Uber driver, a diner line cook, and a tattoo artist.  I’m someone who pretty loudly proclaims that I’m not defined by how I make a living, so I try not to do the same to other people, but I do still find this fascinating to catch this glimpse into other people’s lives, what their day jobs are like, and how they spend their time after-hours.  I see a lot of potential here for compelling material, and we’ve been treated to three wonderful glimpses already.  Vice might say that they’re “not expecting the shots to look ‘good,'” but really they’re better more times than their not.  Especially the tattoo artist’s take, I see a lot of imagery that I’m immediately drawn to, and I think his background as a visual artist can be seen in his compositions.  I’m also reminded a bit of Ray’s a Laugh by Emmet Gowin, the aesthetic of it all and also just being a glimpse into the reality of a person that couldn’t be (much) more different from myself.


We have picture!

Much to my surprise, all my super 8 footage is usable.  Here are a few screenshots just looking through the (very) big Quicktime file.

In fact, I wonder just what I’ve gotten myself into with these 4K log scans I got.  The above screenshots were much flatter, but I just brought them into Photoshop and added my standard still photography adjustments.  Now while evidently I can do somewhat the same taking video clips into Premiere or After Effects, it’s a steep learning curve for me and hasn’t been going too smoothly.  My only other option at the moment is to use the settings in Final Cut Pro X which are more rudimentary, with unsatisfying results.

I ended up sending my film to Pro8mm in California instead of my local stop, Cinemalab in Denver, which gave me more options than I needed, but also a better price all around.  Still I think that instead of 4K log scans, I’d have been better off with something that included their in-house color correction but I never asked how much that would cost.  I didn’t plan on using Pro8mm, but it turns out that Cinemalab, despite what they say on their website, does not offer super 8 processing.

So what will all this mean?  I suppose the final film won’t look quite as good as it has the potential to, honestly.  But then 20 years from now I can hire a professional to do the work for the re-release and charge you all more money to buy it.


This one goes back to Fall of last year, I forgot I had it (the roll of film predates this post).  Strangely enough I had a dream last night having to do with industrial waste, parking lots, and photography.  And Kodak.

An assignment for my Intro to Archaeology class, my friend and I studied a small parking lot to determine what information we could glean from what people leave behind them (in the form of trash, mostly), just as archaeologists can only learn about ancient peoples by what is left of them after being buried for millennia.  And I took pictures.

It was a good chance for me to try out a new lens (the Mamiya/Sekor 55mm 1.8), as I had just purchased a Mamiya 1000TL the week before at a thrift store.  I’ll try out the camera itself at a later time, but the lens is wonderfully sharp and I had no problem using it on my Spotmatic body.  I tried for a bit of a minimalist aesthetic, and still life subjects aren’t something with which I have a whole lot of experience.  The Mamiya/Sekor lens could focus quite close to my subjects, which was definitely useful for me.

Among the litter we surveyed, there were 7 straws, 2 cups, 4 pop cans, and 13 scraps of paper, but the most plentiful find was a total of 251 cigarette butts, which leads me to the conclusion that smokers are just assholes.


Ha, this made me chuckle…

There is a hierarchy in digital photography, and firmly at the bottom, it seems, are people who take pictures with their tablets.  I get it; too many people don’t really experience concerts, speeches, artist talks, anything that they go to, they miss real life because they’re too busy looking at it behind a screen.  Like the screen on your iPhone, right?  Like the screen on the back of every DSLR, perhaps?

It’s quite entertaining how concerned the author gets over things like the tablet’s battery life, quality of the tablet’s camera compared to a smart phone, and how ridiculous tablet photographers look (a point made several times).  Best quote: “To make matters worse, Apple keeps improving the iPad’s camera. With the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the company had the audacity to add a camera flash and 12-megapixel sensor to the tablet…”  The author also jokingly reflects on a dystopian future where lenses are obsolete, but I don’t see that as all that far-fetched.  I can see the end for DSLR technology; it might be closer than one thinks, if the majority of the consumer base moves away from “real” cameras.  It should be mentioned that what the average consumer considers good enough is quite underwhelming, one of the reasons digital photography became popular in the first place.  Convenience will trump quality, so why carry a bulky DSLR and zoom lens around when you can pull a thin tablet out of one’s shoulder bag?  Or a smart phone from one’s pocket. 

The comments are wonderfully entertaining as well, and it seems emotions run high over this subject.  At least there’s one badass on there who still shoots with single-use cameras; that guy is my hero.

I do wonder, with the larger size of the tablet, does that give increased room for larger and better sensors over a smart phone?  Will the tablet actually overtake the smart phone as the user camera of choice for the unwashed masses?  Will people frantically scramble to get extra sensors for their favorite DSLR and mirrorless cameras, will they cry when they give up the ghost after a decade?  Will they shell out huge amounts of money for the few remaining models, or scour thrift stores hoping for something a little nicer than an early ’00s 1MP point-and-shoot?  Will they bemoan the death of photography?

As time marches on and professional digital cameras are abandoned in favor of tablets with lenses on them, I will watch and cackle like a crazy person.  Me and all the others kooks still hung up on our light-sensitive little pieces of plastic…

An old film resurrected by Japan Camera Hunter and AGFA

Pretty awesome.  Initially looking at the headlines, I wondered who made the film, what emulsion he was using, etc, if it was going to be a standard Lomography MO of repackaging expired film under their own brand (though they have started ordering special runs from film manufacturers in the last few years).  Bellamy has an excellent reputation for quality and transparency, and I needn’t have worried.  Even looking right at the film box, it reads quite clearly at the bottom, “Made in Belgium,” which of course means it was made by AGFA-Gevaert.  In fact, he gives plenty of details about the film: evidently the emulsion is a discontinued AGFA traffic surveillance film.  It’s an ASA400 black & white film with near-infrared sensitivity, costs about $8.75 per roll (sold in packs of 10).  Look at the shots on the announcement above, buy some film here.  Having just dropped money on the Cinestill campaign, I don’t have the money to support this at the moment, but I’d encourage everyone reading this to help out if you can.

In other news, I missed the announcement, but Bergger (better known as a paper manufacturer) has brought out a new ASA400 black & white film in large format 4×5, 5×7, and 8×10 quite recently.

All this new film coming out makes me a bit giddy, but I can see the upside and downside of this.  The first thing I wonder about is why we need another 400-speed black & white film, with versions from Kodak, Ilford (and Kentmere), Rollei/AGFA, Foma, plus Bergger already (which I believe is ORWO motion picture film?) so does the JCH film really offer anything new?  At least Bergger is making film in large format sheets, that’s a market that isn’t already saturated.  It seems like we could really use more specialty films, for lack of a better word.  Speed-wise at least, something around 1600, or 25-50.  There aren’t many offerings on the really fast and slow sides of the spectrum.

Sadly, we’re not likely to see many films like that nowadays, because the demand isn’t high enough.  I was getting into film just about the same time that T-Max 3200 and Neopan 1600 were going away, and even today the fastest color film is 800.  I don’t think Kodak or anyone else is investing capital into film technology R&D, so all “new” film from 2010 forward is likely to be emulsions that were discontinued years ago.  It would be awesome in the future to be able to shoot near-grainless native speed 3200-6400 film, what we’re more likely to see is companies digging into their back catalogs, making film photography more like traveling back to the past.  This is what JCH is, and also Ferrania.  I really hope we will see truly new film technology above and beyond Ektar 100 and Portra 400 someday, but for now, I’m happy that at least something new is coming out.

Project part 2 – Advanced Photography

Our assignment for this round was to produce one image ten different ways.  This is my take on that, building on what I did for the last critique.


So I think that critique went as well as the first one, if not better.  I’m really happy that the ones that I wasn’t sure about were still successful; it seemed to me that the entire series could be a bit of a gamble.  I really did try to blend the two pictures together on a case-by-case basis, to achieve a balance where each was visible, but if the class thinks it’s better to pick a number/percentage and stick with it, I can live with that.  This is my first time doing anything like this before, so I wasn’t even sure if I was doing it the right way or not…everything I do in Photoshop is just by feeling my way around, and I’m sure that getting help from someone a bit more knowledgeable couldn’t hurt.

I still get the sense from the class that they still think that what I’m making is something approaching a traditional film which is not the case, so they bring expectations to it, like wanting to see sets, cast, crew, etc.  I suppose maybe I could have picked some pictures that were from what I shot, but those never seemed as interesting, either by itself or in combination, but they are on the contact sheets.  There really isn’t much else there, and pretty much everything I shot with the still camera for the film was also on the contact sheets.  Of course, there was one more roll of film that I finished shooting Friday, but too late to use so it goes into the next critique.

I do think that the class (and the teacher) seem to project their own expectations of my experience onto the pictures, and not that that is a bad thing, but it makes a difference to me about what I can get away with, if I can put it that way.  The whisky picture might seem loaded to some people, but I can’t really say anything that I didn’t already say about in class, and how much of what I can say will take away from the mystique of it?  People find their own meaning.  The internet notice picture was another experiment for me because I thought that even though it isn’t an interesting picture, everyone would immediately relate it to a sense of being overwhelmed.  In actuality, it had nothing to do with me, my roommate takes care of the internet bill, and recently his bank had to issue him a new card/number.  The hardest part for me was that the entire process took about two weeks, which is a long time to go without internet in your apartment, especially when I don’t have a phone: I did all my connecting with the outside world while I was at school.  Somehow, that story doesn’t seem as fulfilling as what the class was projecting onto that particular picture, and if they had known the real story, it wouldn’t have spoken to them as much.

I’m not really sure where I’ll go from here.  Admittedly, I haven’t shot as many waking up or pre-sleep pictures in the last week or so, but I will continue doing them because at the moment I don’t have any better ideas.  I shot a lot in a more condensed time period this weekend which is a departure.  It will be interesting to see just how the project changes with the inclusion of a partner, but I’m going to try to go into that with no expectations.