Love those trains II: Durango-Silverton

I was able to take a train ride while attending the Durango Independent Film Festival in the beginning of March.  Being winter, the line was only open for the bottom half, so it made a nice morning trip and something to do before attending my first screening at the festival.

While the scenery was nice, I was of course more interested in the steam locomotive itself.

On the festival circuit: Greetings from Durango

March 1-5, the Durango Independent Film Festival.

It seems that each festival I go to is a better experience than the last, but I don’t know that Durango can be topped.  They treated the filmmakers so nicely there, and it being 6 hours away from me, I decided to stay for the entire thing, which was definitely worth it.  I stayed in the General Palmer Hotel (living in Colorado Springs for so long, I could stay nowhere else) which looked largely untouched by time.  There were lots of activities I to do around town (like a trip on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad), plus a special filmmakers only-lounge in the basement of the local Irish pub…assuming you didn’t watch films, and I did try to catch as many programs as I could.  The best part though, was that the entire festival took place in the space of two blocks in downtown Durango, making everything nice and easy to get to.  I forged some great relationships with people and will definitely be going back in the future.

It’s growing on me…

I’ve always been more a fan of Fuji when it comes to color, even with Ektar, which really, I’ve yet to get the hang of.  However, I’ve seen so many good results for Kodak Gold 200, thanks to its popularity on the Pakon F135 users’ group on Facebook, and I decided to give it a go myself.

I have to say, I’m quite happy with what it can do so far.  As a plus, it’s readily available at the grocery store near my mom’s house, at a price of $9.00 per 3-pack no less.  I’ll definitely shoot more.

Aliens

Down in the San Luis Valley on SR17 between Moffatt and Hooper, is a center for extraterrestrial enthusiasts, a place that has a reputation for being frequented by UFOs.  People flock from all over America, perhaps the world, to sit on the observation deck at night looking for spacecraft.

According to the lady that runs it, Spanish conquistadors wrote in their diaries about witnessing UFOs landing on the plain when they were first traveling through this area in the 16th century.  I have not corroborated this claim, but just pass it along.  There is a garden that psychics say contains powerful energy spots, and it is traditional to leave something behind after visiting.  Walking the garden is said to heal you of diseases.

I stopped there after attending the Southern Colorado Film Festival, as a good place to use up two rolls of Fuji Reala (expired 1993) that were kindly given to me by a lady in a thrift store in Alamosa, CO.  I thought that in keeping with the always grainy, out of focus and generally crappy images of supposed flying saucers, 25-year-old film would be a good choice.  The only saucers I saw though, were grounded.

Final project: portraits – Intro to Photography

Fall 2013.  I had been taking portraits here and there throughout the semester, this time around I decided to pursue it in a more serious way.  I started looking at other photographers’ work more, looking at what it means to take a good portrait.  They say that all portraits are actually self-portraits of the photographer, to some degree.  Living in a small mountain town, I have some nice-looking backdrops pretty much wherever I go, and some pretty interesting-looking friends as well.  The first I found that was a keeper was actually taken Summer 2013 before the class even started, with the faulty Hi-matic 9 that I have since given away.  It featured a son of some friends of mine, one of my favorite photographic subjects:

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It’s really hard to just put these up without talking about them, so I’m going to group pictures a bit.

Woodland Park used to host several different series of local music, all non-profit (don’t know how many there are at the moment).  The one that I was affiliated with was called the Mountain Acoustic Music Association (MAMA), unfortunately due to lack of attendance and too large a venue, they had to shut down.  This was the last show they put on, bittersweet memories.

Being in a photo class, I decided I had an excuse to spend a few bucks on a portrait lens, and the local camera store just happened to have a few new Canon FD lenses in, which was nice because I really wanted to try out the AE-1 I’d been given and see how it compared to the Minolta.

It did alright, one thing I discovered was both light meters lied about their readings indoors: if I followed what they told me, I ended up overexposing by 1 stop with the Minolta, and underexposing 1 stop with the Canon.  I did like the winding action better with the Canon…  Up above are final presentations from two rolls of Tri-X and the only roll of Plus-X I ever bought.  Three out of four were with the 50mm 1.4 S.S.C. lens, so that $100 I spent on the 100mm 2.8 S.S.C. doesn’t seem quite worth it, and which lens did I return?  The fast-50.  The middle two came from a roll that I accidentally exposed by opening the back before I’d rewound the film.  Thankfully, it didn’t affect the early exposures!

In the Canon outtakes you’ll see a picture of two bearded individuals: that one was my original portrait, but the fact that I fudged the focus so badly (that Canon 50’s depth of field is narrow) nagged at me, and I redid it when I went over to my friend’s house to take more pictures of his beard.  I went back to the Minolta, because I still had a few more exposures in the Canon, and this particular roll I pushed 2 stops to get faster shutter speeds, the first time I’d ever pushed a roll of film before:

Once again, all on one roll.  Perhaps it was because I was just used to working with that camera?

The last thing I did was to make portraits of two newborn babies, as two sets of friends had just given birth (only hours apart).  I had just the week before (and only several days after buying that Canon 100mm lens) found a screw-mount portrait lens for the Spotmatic (and it didn’t cost $100 either) at a thrift store, a Chinon 135mm f/2.8.  I decided if there was ever a time to break out the Spotmatic, this was it.  Since both families wanted pictures in time to send out as Christmas cards, I decided using some chromogenic film was in order, and I bought a 36-exposure roll of Kodak BW400CN for that purpose, knowing I could get it developed and scanned in a day, then make my own prints at a more leisurely pace.

At the time, I’d never used Photoshop for correction, and the scans I got back were actually pretty low-contrast.  I have to say, now that I know what I’m doing I quite like the look of BW400CN.  Unfortunately, it’s no longer made.  The Chinon turned out to be a worthy lens, but I sort of retired it after I found the 135mm Super-Takumar.

I spent more time talking to my subjects than I did taking pictures, and usually I’d be taking 5-7 shots in a row; it seems that burning a couple shots up front helped my subjects relax, helped me get more natural looks.  My little bit of street photography experience helped me out as well, as some of those portraits were completely candid.

I have lots of pictures that I didn’t end up using, and they can be found here.

Ektar 100+Summarit 1.5

My first two rolls through my new (2nd) Canon 7, which I bought to be able to use some nice German-made lenses for Leica cameras.  These lenses are quite old even by my standards: the Leitz 5cm Summarit f/1.5 that I have is a relatively modern copy from 1953, and while it is coated (single coated), the contrast is not nearly what I’m used to with my Pentax lenses (younger by approximately 20 years).  The Summarit also has a reputation for being rather soft, though shooting as much as I could at f/8, I think it’s sharp enough for what I’m doing here (not as sharp as my Takumars though).  I’d still like to pick up a screw-mount collapsible Summicron for landscape pictures, but in a pinch the Summarit does nicely.  I’ve wondered about getting one of the modern Voigtlander lenses (or Lomography’s new Jupiter 3+) for color work, as I wasn’t sure how the low-contrast Leitz lenses from the ’50s and earlier would handle color film, but I was also curious what an ultra-saturated film like Ektar 100 would look like, and here are some of the results.

I need to shoot in the sun more, most of the time I was out it was overcast and that didn’t help much, but also I wonder if they weren’t underexposed a bit too.  I don’t have enough experience with Ektar to say if this is indeed the case, but roll #2 (the last 5 pics) show much improved color to my eyes.  I might just buy a few more rolls and continue testing this film/lens combination at some point.

I processed these pictures the same way I’ve been doing black & white, which is taking PSI output at -30 contrast and adding contrast back in using Photoshop.  I also have the regular PSI output, but prefer the added control.  This film captures quite a lot of information, and as someone who has more experience with black & white, it’s hard to get the color I think this film should have while still retaining detail in highlights/shadows.  But I’m learning.

I’ll probably be going back to black & white next for this camera and lens, but the experiments with color will continue!  I plan to shoot a roll or two of Provia and Velvia through the Canon 7 this Summer, and I hope that I’ll like the results of that, as I’m more used to Fuji’s color than I am to Kodak’s.  And Ferrania is coming soon as well, I hope.  I will say this about Ektar though: it handles different and mixed lighting extremely well!  I shot about half of my 2nd roll indoors and usually under fluorescent lights, and was quite satisfied with the colors even working straight out of PSI; very little tweaking was needed, and it was quite easy (a few examples are here).  Yes it was a bit slow for that purpose, but it has me considering Portra 400 for occasional indoor work now

A budget for super 8 film

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Some very kind donations/loans, a Canon 1014XL-S and 4 reels of film

I make a big deal here about motion picture film, talking about super 8, Kodak, and other things, quite a big deal considering I’ve never actually shot any myself.  That will change in the next coming weeks, thankfully.  I’ve made a few short films before, exclusively using my 35mm still cameras, have even posted two of them (here and here), and was planning on doing the same for this next project.  However, thanks to winning a grant from my university, I have an actual budget, with an increasing amount of it being dedicated to shooting on super 8 film.

I plan on keeping my shooting ratio as close as possible to 1:2, something I don’t necessarily know if I’ll be able to accomplish, but depending on how long the finished film ends up being, I’d like to see approximately 50% of the film ending up being super 8, the other half being 35mm stills, so for a ~15min film, say 6-7min or so.

Though I’ve read of plenty low-budget productions that have found it possible to shoot film, it gets a bit hard for no-budget projects.  If the option exists to borrow a DSLR from a friend, use school equipment, etc, that’s understandable.  It’s hard to argue for film when you have no money for it.  With a budget of $1000, I’m putting roughly 70% of that toward super 8 film and processing.  When there’s a will to shoot film, a way appears.  And it seems that once you’re over that initial hurdle, it gets easier.  The cost differences between 8mm processing/scanning vs. 16mm are very low, and most of the extra costs you incur come from longer film lengths in larger formats (50ft of super 8 film is equivalent time-wise to 100ft 16mm, etc).  It’s enough to make me wish I had access to a 16mm camera…maybe someday!

Colorado really is a film-user’s dream in some respects.  I found out in my research that there happens to be a full-service photochemical lab for motion picture film just up the road in Denver, so I don’t even have to send my film out of state.  I suppose they get a lot of business from the University of Colorado film school in Boulder, which by all accounts a great school (and headed up by director Alex Cox).  UCCS really is the baby brother here.  In addition to this, all of Kodak’s 8mm and 16mm film is slit in a facility near Fort Collins; pretty neat.  I’m proud to be able to finally take part in this rich Colorado film history.