For a while all I wanted for Christmas was to get back the last 24hrs.  I was an idiot.

Maybe I live too much in my own head.  Sorry, D.
But the thing is that I’m no longer afraid of looking like an idiot. Also I suppose Christmas Eve stupidity is sometimes needed.

All I want for Christmas is You

I hate Christmas music.  When I was a kid I had all of it I could ever want, with my mom putting on CD after CD of Christmas songs.  There were some pretty quality albums in there: Amy Grant, Sandy Patti, Roger Whittaker, Anne Murray, to name a few off the top of my head.  But being (eventually) forced to listen to them over and over again in an endless loop did me in long ago.  And the whole idea of a “Christmas Season” that gets longer and longer every year is incredibly frustrating and ultimately soul-sucking, when I’m constantly bombarded by not only the same “pop standards” over and over, but that there is absolutely no letup because every damn store in the country is playing them–the idiots would complain if they didn’t.  And again every year it starts earlier and earlier…

Wrong attribution, Laurence Harvey spoke that line, not Sinatra.

If only it were a mere 12 days…is that how it started?  But all the constant reminders of rampant consumerism are on full display usurping the True Meaning.  And anyone who doesn’t get with the program is immediately judged, labelled, and dismissed: for usually doing nothing but reacting against the constant barrage of advertising, songs, a whole zeitgeist based around a holiday that today means nothing to most people except as an excuse to spend a whole shitload of money.  But the whole thing is so ubiquitous that there is no escape but to hole up inside for at least 6 weeks, because even Thanksgiving isn’t safe anymore.  And I wouldn’t react as strongly as I do if I didn’t feel the weight of American culture demanding that I willingly accept such homogenized garbage.  I worked retail for a decade so believe me when I say that you guys out there are saints…especially with the added stress of the last few years!

That said, I can’t say that I hate what is probably the most polarizing Christmas song in recent times, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”  And that’s because I didn’t even know the song existed before I first watched Love Actually a bit over a decade ago, and also because I hate radio and try to avoid Christmas music as much as I possibly can.  Familiarity breeds contempt, especially when it comes to songs on heavy rotation.  And I suppose I don’t want to get tired of the song because honestly the sentiment behind the lyrics hits pretty close to home.  More on that in a second, but take a look at the music video, because it was shot on Super 8:

And you can mute it and just look if you need to, I won’t judge…

Super 8 was of course perfect to capture the feel of the home movies aesthetic, with the added benefit that more than 25 years later, it still looks beautiful, timeless, and carries all the benefits inherent with film over video.  According to Phil at Pro8mm who did all the processing and transfer, it was shot on Ektachrome 160 with a Beaulieu 7008, possibly by Annie Leibovitz, though I don’t know if it was confirmed.  The original transfer in 1994 was a projector captured with a video camera and transferred to BetaCam SP, and became the most-watched Super 8 film that has ever been made.  I guess the version above was from a 2K rescan that Pro8mm did just a couple years ago.  So now it gets shared every Christmas in the small format filmmaking groups I’m in on Facebook, with some weeping and gnashing of teeth.  And I get it, so here’s the other side of it which I really enjoy, which is all the wonderful memes that have arisen over the last couple years:

Because I love to keep it TV- and film-related…

Again, apologies to retail workers everywhere, I really do get you.  I just don’t have the same relationship with this song (yet) that you do.  Again the sentiment behind the lyrics is what hits me most because we have this cultural cache of Christmas being the time to take leaps of faith, ask out your crush, kiss under the mistletoe, and all that…but it’s also the time when so many people are lonely and driven to the point of suicide.  It’s certainly the time of the year when I am most cognizant of there being such an important part of my life being missing.  And that combined with the constant barrage of Christmastime Culture creates a feedback loop, which makes it hard to step back and get perspective.

I think the tendency to hook up during the most romantic holiday of the year is a hard one to withstand.  Probably a lot of bad relationships start because of people being uncomfortable without a partner, and I wonder how much the whole Christmastime Culture plays into that.  I understand the need for romance, Love, physical connection, and just needing to share things that are supposed to be shared–the older I get those are the things I most long for in my own life.  I’ve become accustomed to not getting what I want.  So while this song does represent that bittersweet longing for me, it also holds tinges of Hope: whether or not reality plays into that almost isn’t the case.  Because ultimately, all I really want for Christmas is You.

The Nikon F4 used in my photo project work

For some reason I keep hanging heavier and heavier cameras around my neck!  I went from a Pentax Spotmatic to the Nikon F to a few different compact cameras back to the F and then the F2, and now the F4.  In actual use it’s really not that much heavier, and I’ve gotten used to it.  I’ve used three lenses with it, the 28mm f/2.8 AI-s Nikkor, 35mm f/2 AI-s Nikkor, and 85mm f/2 AI Nikkor, the three most modern lenses I own, and I’ve been very happy with the matrix metering so far; there have only been a couple occasions in 5 rolls where the shot I wanted wasn’t exposed properly.  This is one fully-electronic camera that you don’t have to worry about turning on every time you use it, I keep it set to S from the time I take it out in the morning to putting it away at night, and it’s always ready to take fantastic pictures, no drain on the batteries as far as I can tell.

Maybe it’s the updated multicoating of the lenses, maybe the lighting was just better in those few weeks, and maybe I wasn’t necessarily nailing the exposure before, but I’m in love with the look of all of these.  Is this going to supplant my F2s?  No.  The only thing I really have against the Nikon F4 is its bulk and weight but the amount of features you’re getting for that definitely tip the balance in the F4’s favor.  What I will use this camera for is:
-autoexposure-necessary shots: slide film, low-ASA, or any other speed besides 400 with which I’m really not that familiar
-fast-paced shoots where I need a motordrive

First try with Cinestill 400D: peeling back the hype

I’m happy it’s here and that it exists, because during the current color film drought Cinestill 800T has consistently been the one emulsion that was still readily available; 50D sold out every once in a while but at the time of this writing it’s back in stock, as is the new 400D.  I put it to the test on a recent family event, my brother’s graduation from police academy:

But while Cinestill bills this as “400Dynamic,” I have yet to see that it behaves differently than any other daylight-balanced color film.  If you believe the hype then it’s supposed to be kind of like the old Ektachrome 160 type G which was a super 8 emulsion that supposedly could be used indoors and outdoors with equally good results, but from what I read that was also more marketing hype than truth.  I’m not a master of color film, I mostly shoot black & white, and there was quite a lot of playing around with the color balance to get something approaching what everything should have looked like (the last shot is the exception, being taken outside in direct sunlight; it required only a little effort to remove the green cast).  I’m used to some measure of tweaking with the 800T, of course.

before & after, to the best of my abilities

When we peel back Cinestill’s hype, what I can tell about the film is that it isn’t just a straight-up cinema stock that’s been repackaged, because the perforations are the standard we’re used to seeing in 35mm still film, not the Bell&Howell style that you get on motion picture film (like I’ve seen with 800T and 50D in the past, and also Double-X).  I’m guessing this means that Cinestill is big enough that they’re buying a master roll from Kodak and that it’s slit and perforated to their specifications, and probably never had the remjet added so there’s no need to remove it (and their “anti-static lubricant” added).  I don’t think that the emulsion is specifically formulated for them entirely from scratch, there are still characteristics that are unique to Cinestill as opposed to standard still photography emulsions, like the halation effect and the short shelf life.  I’ve never shot Vision3 250D but wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s not too far removed from this film stock, whatever tweaking has been done to it.  It ran through my auto-winding Nikon F4 just fine and I didn’t do anything to cover up the little window in the door; I didn’t try to push a heavy framerate at all.

Before the film was released to the general public I ran into a kind and generous Leica shooter who traded me a roll of his 400D for one of my rolls of Ferrania P30 that I’d been carrying around, so I could try it out.  Most of those shots were at work outdoors and it’s readily apparent in the colors:

There was still some tweaking I had to do because it seems that when my Pakon F335 scans this film it has a green cast over everything (greenish-yellow indoors) and I was able to get rid of that much more easily when editing in post.  I still wouldn’t say that they’re perfect but I like the colors much better than what I shot indoors.  The problem however, is that I have no idea how this particular roll of film was stored and you might be able to see that it’s a bit grainier in the shadows.  A good reminder that you want to buy this film fresh, keep it at least refrigerated, and use it promptly.  Cinema stocks are not meant to be hoarded for years and years, they just don’t keep as well.

Ghost pants

21oz denim jeans from Brave Star Selvage, my indigo invitational competition pair.

With heavy weight denim it will often stand up on its own, especially right after a wash.  I was trying to take pictures that would illustrate that, just in the parlor outside my room.

It would also have made a nice joke to play on one of my housemates if anyone had discovered the jeans without me there; it wouldn’t be the first time I heard this place was haunted…