Ilford 120 film packaging turns into a camera

From the dieline, a design/packaging blog I read regularly.

A student designed a package for ilford 120 rollfilm, that can be folded into a pinhole camera for said film.  Supercool, although it wasn’t clear whether this was an actual product or just a design concept.  Check the link for more images and info on the project.

darkly inspiring…

If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don’t even start.

This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs, and maybe your mind.

It could mean not eating for three or four days.
It could mean freezing on a park bench.
It could mean jail. It could mean derision.
It could mean mockery, isolation.

Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance.
Of how much you really want to do it.

And you’ll do it, despite rejection in the worst odds.
And it will be better than anything else you can imagine.

If you’re going to try, go all the way.

There is no other feeling like that.
You will be alone with the gods. And the nights will flame with fire.

You will ride life straight to perfect laughter.

It’s the only good fight there is.

Henry Charles Bukowski
1920 – 1994

nothing is original

From Jim Jarmusch’s Golden Rules:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

The Renaissance continues


Who woulda thunk it?  in a sea of digicams, Voigtlander goes ahead and releases a rangefinder. An analogue rangefinder.  A *medium format*, fixed lens, analogue rangefinder.  (and a folder to boot!).

Guess film isn’t dead after all 🙂  The Bessa III (as it is called) apparently will be available in may for about 2k. not too shabby!

Toy cameras and fixed-gears

577px-fixed_gear_cogWith my recent holga fascination and the seeming Renaissance of film that is going on in the photo-blogo-sphere (TM), it got me wondering – Why?

Look, by any technical measure, the Holga is a crappy camera.  It is flimsy, plastic, full of light leaks, blurry,  Basically the *exact opposite* of everything we look for in  a camera.  We will spend thousands of dollars for a little extra bump in that MTF curve,  or a fraction of a stop in increased lens speed – So why is my fancy-shmancy-SLR and High-end glass sitting on the shelf while I gleefully run around with a $25 toy camera with plastic lens?

Allow me to make an analogy (which I have used before, but applicable in this case as well!)  Consider the bicycle – Nowadays your average bike has 27-some odd gears, carbon fiber doohickeys, hydraulic disk brakes, and suspensions which will absorb a city curb or tree root with nary a complaint.  Pretty cool, huh? Gotta love technology (road bike tech is equally, if not more impressive).

Of course with all that, I can still walk into a bike shop and buy a “fixie” or “fixed-gear” bicycle.  Some shops even specialize in ’em!  To explain:  a fixed gear bicycle is a bike with 1 speed/1 gear.  No shifters, no suspension, no brakes (!) – just 2 pedals and 2 wheels.  Not only that, the bike cannot even “coast” as ther gear is “fixed” (hence “fixie”) – the pedals turn the wheel directly, with no freewheeling so you *must* pedal as fast as the bike is going.  To slow down/stop you simply slow your pedaling, or lock your legs and “skid” the bike to a stop.

Now at this point one may ask, why on earth someone would want to ride a bike like that (ahem -Holga) when they could get a 27 speed, freewheeling, brake-having, trigger-shifting racing bike instead? (DSLR)  And ultimately, everyone who rides a fixie has their own reason – but for many, it is *discipline*.

The Fixie keeps you honest.  It *forces* you to work on your riding technique.  It *forces* you to pedal properly, “spinning” as the pros call it.  It doesn’t allow you to slack off – if you don’t pedal, you don’t go – simple as that.

It eliminates everything non-essential, strips the act of riding down to it’s most basic fundamentals and beats you over the head with them until they are mastered.

Similarly, the holga doesn’t have any of the fancy bells and whistles of high end cameras.  It strips the camera down to it’s bare essentials – a box with film and a shutter (ok, so maybe a pinhole is more “bare essentials, but you can get holgas in “pinhole” version too!)  It forces you to work within it’s constraints, and thus compensate by using your other skills – composition, previsualization, etc…  Digital shooting makes you lazy – the Holga makes you *work* for your shot!

Furthermore, most fixed-gear cyclists will tell you that there is a certain “Zen” to riding a fixie.  No clicking freewheel, no worrying about shifting, just you and the bike -directly connected.  Just like the holga, its very primitiveness strips away distractions and complications, leaving us to concentrate on the act in it’s purest form – either riding or shooting.

So if you are feeling in a rut with your shooting, or are dreading over sorting through those 4,000 almost-identical shots you took on your last shoot, try it – grab a holga and a couple of rolls of ASA400 b/w film.   it’s only a few bucks, and can give you a whole new outlook on your photography!

An old flame…

It’s funny, there seems to be a kind of “collective unconscious” in the photo community… All the buzz about film lately, from discussions on strobist to Brian Auer’s fantastic “build a film developing kit for <$50”  Of course it just so happens that’s I’ve been rekindling my lost love affair with film as well…I started out developing film (from my 1967 Pentax spotmatic) and printing it in a wet darkroom.  Once I moved to digital, my 35mm film kind of fell by the wayside…

I picked up a Holga a while back with the intention of just messing around, running some 120 film etc…  At the time, I still had access to a pro darkroom, and intended to do my own processing and printing… Of course, that never happened.  With 99% of my work being digital, my poor rolls of 120 sat un-developed for <ahem> quite some time.

Of course that was before I discovered Diafine.  (for those who don’t know, Diafine is what is known as a “Compensating developer”  It comes in 2 parts, solution A, and solution B.   You pour in A, the film absorbs as much as it’s emulsion can hold, you then pour it out, and pour in B.  B reacts with A, doing the developing until A is all used up – then it stops (as there is no more A left to react.) essentially it is a “self terminating” development process.   What this means in practice is that it is just about the fastest, easiest way to develop black and white film that I have ever seen.  No carefully controlling temperatures of solutions (it works just fine anywhere from 68-80F), no exact timing down to the second (because it is self terminating, it doesn’t matter how long your film in).   You can load your film, pour in A, walk away and eat a sandwich, come back pour in B, go grab a beer, come back a half hour later, and your film will be done.  Just like that.

There are a couple of other cool features as well (eg it gives an effective “speed boost” of a stop or more to many films – my preferred HP5+ becomes effectively 800ISO when souped in diafine) and a few downsides.  It’s definitely not the developer to choose if you demand exacting precision & control over each step of the development process.  But for a low-fi neg like the holga produces it’s a match made in heaven.

Say what you will about film v. digital.  I love them both, I think they both have their place, and I think that every photographer should use both to at least some extent.   Even if you are die-hard 100% “digital is superiour to film in every way”, the “creative experience” of film is very different than digital.  It makes you shoot in a different way, think in a different way, see in a different way.  Not better, not worse, just different.  And that in my opinion is one of the great “creativity juicers” that we get.   So if you are in a creative rut, try it out.  Grab a holga and a few rolls of black and white 120 film ($30-40 bucks) and some diafine, and shoot some blurry, light-leaky, distorted, streaky, vignetted, *beautiful* frames.   Guaranteed to cure what ails ya!

All shot with the holga,  Ilford HP5+ film, processed in Diafine:

Philadelphia, Old and New

Independence Hall

At the Beach

Adrift on a sea of clouds


Seven photographs that changed fashion

You may have already seen it on the “What’s the jackanory?” blog, but I felt remiss if I didn’t at least mention the BBCs recent piece on fashion photographer Rankin reproducing 7 of the most iconic images by some of the masters of fashion photography.  It’s a really wonderful piece, with a lot of fascinating insights… worth the watch:

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

part 4:

part 5:

part 6:

part 7:

part 8:

Movie? Photography? Art?

This is a semi-oldie but a goodie… for those who haven’t seen it:

A fascinating and surreal piece of art… Paintings on walls/public spaces photographed and stitched together into a stop motion piece that really plays with the whole concept of photography in and of itself.

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

I love it when a shot comes together…

Last week Shari DeAngelo and I got together with model extraordinaire Maureen Haley for a faux “bridal shoot” for some portfolio building. The shoot was great, and when we finished up on location we went back to my studio to recoup/start packing up… we were supposed to finish around 6:30, and it was almost 9pm at this point. Now I had this idea kicking around in my head for a while… The first floor landing of the exit stairs in my building has this great grungy look – crumbling brick, peeling paint – the whole 9 yards. I had this vision of just tons of light streaming out the cracked door, and a model peering around, maybe a little curious or a little scared at what might be on the other side… kind of an “Alice in Wonderland meets Poltergeist” kinda vibe.

Of course Maureen, being the champ she is, was up for it!  Luckily I had tried out a few lighting setups a while ago when I first had the idea, so I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to light it – I need one big light for behind the door to make the light pouring out, then a 2nd snooted light to illuminate the face , and a 3rd for just a touch of foreground light (the cast shadows were an extra benefit).

We got everything set up and started shooting. Of course about 20 frames into the shot I realized I had flipped my camera into MF mode, and they were all out of focus (it was too dark to tell through the VF but I was wondering why my focus confirmation points weren’t lighting up). Luckily I realized early enough and was able to get a couple of good frames. Of course, about 3 frames after getting the shot the Vagabond powering the AB800 behind the door gave up the ghost!

Some processing in lightroom and the final result was just as I pictured it. Like I said, I love it when it all just comes together in the end 🙂 (link goes to larger image on flickr)

The Other Side...

The black-and-white project – wrap up

Well, as September is “officially” over, my black and white project is technically done… although I have to say, it was actually quite enjoyable… kind of “getting back to my roots”.

I definitely found myself rusty at first… I find that shooting b/w definitely requires “seeing” the scene differently… very quickly though I fell back into my old habits from my film days, looking more at light/contrast/texture rather than color…

It’s amazing how some self imposed “restrictions” can really get you out of a rut creatively & doing things differently. Definitely going to be concentrating more on b/w in the near future (and I haven’t even gotten my 120 film processed yet!)

a quick gallery of some pics from the month too…