I tend to enjoy the things that I like concurrently. So when friends, appropriate beverages, fires, and photography come together…interesting things happen. Sometimes I feel weird bringing such a large camera to an event, and putting a different sort of effort into my frames. Most people are taking photos with phones and point-n-shoots, with desire for looking good rather than a good looking photograph. So I feel like an ugly ducking for a while; until I realize we’re all there to have fun…and until I’ve had an appropriate beverage.
Some of the frames from these instances are less than ideal. After all, I’m there to spend time with people I enjoy. Photography in those instances is second-hand. Nonetheless, it’s still enjoyable and even though I’m not concentrating as hard on the exposure, I still get good frames. So, who’s having the next party to which I will bring my camera?
I was really excited when my father asked if I’d be able to hang out with him for a few days in NYC while he was there for a meeting. It’d meant that we hang out and have fun at night, and I’d have most of the day to myself to do what I pleased. I chose to take that time to relax before pending exams, and to exposure a few rolls. I wanted to try my hand at street principles I mentioned before. I have to say, photographing with the Bessa R and the heretofore unmentioned Canon 50/1.8 is a blast; a breeze with the Carry Speed sling strap. My desire to be surreptitious overcame my intent of image capture, and prevented me from slowing down to really think about my frame (as I had talked about in regards to medium format). From my first roll, I came away with a lot of frames with motion; due not to slow shutter speed (I successfully hand-hold 1/30s with a 50mm lens) but due to nerves…I was trying to put the camera back down as soon as I could.
I also learned that pre-focusing is not equivalent to zone-focusing. I tried to pre-focus and anticipate how far I’d be from what I wanted in focus. This led to more unsharp images. I had challenged myself to peer through the viewfinder for my frames, and that was good. Next time, I’ll have to take a pause and actively focus.
Other than the mentioned ailments, I think my frames came out more or less how I had planned for. This is encouraging. Although it’s a good reminder that I photograph to photograph; it’s a real pleasure and is certainly relaxing. Developing, editing, self-critiquing etc. are distinct processes that do not diminish the photographing experience.
I have a very odd relationship with medium format film. I love the technical advantages it offers: quality, depth of field, relative grain size, etc. A lot of my medium format frames come out looking great, and I suppose this is due to the restraints imposed by the camera I use. I have a Seagull TLR with no meter and no prism finder (finder image is horizontally reversed). This necessitates more thought and effort put into making a frame; otherwise we’re using up one frame out of the twelve in a $5 roll. Not exactly economical.
I was so excited to use my new medium format TLR when I bought it back in 2008. So much so that I messed up my framing, which lead to some overlapping frames. (The Seagull TLR I have allows for 6×6 or 6×4.5. I prefer the square 6×6.) Looking at the large waist-level focusing plate was ephemeral; elemental. I loved it, despite the lack of meter and the frustrating horizontal reversal of the finder.
Overlapping frames from my first roll of 120.
I suppose those frustrations, and a constant cognizance for economy, led to only a handful of rolls exposed over these years. (Can you believe I had one roll in the camera for over a year?) But medium format is always on my mind. Always wanting to expose more frames. Thoughts of what to photograph. I have this restricting urge to only photograph meaningful frames with 120 film. After all, it’s an expensive roll with few frames. I’m more willing to fire the shutter without looking through the viewfinder of a 35mm camera; it’s only one frame of up to 36.
From a more recent roll.
In retrospect, some of my better frames have been exposed on medium format film. I’ve been trying more frames; and plan to soon make the plunge into color, and pay a lab to develop for me. Let’s see where this leads..
Back when I began taking photos I would typically see a situation I wanted to photograph, and take it in whichever way I could that was as unobtrusive as possible. In public, this led to a lot of reflection images, stills from behind a stranger’s back or distance between me and the subject of interest.
My earlier days of street photography.
My first real exposure to somewhat invasive street photography was when I was studying art in Italy and was being exposed to various forms, media, et cetera. I became more curious about art in general. I came across a video of Bruce Gilden (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRBARi09je8) and thought it was hilariously ballsy. Recently I’ve been observing self-proclaimed streetogs such as Eric Kim and Kaiman Wong, and it has encouraged me to actually try what they do to see if it fits me. I’m not quite as up-in-your-face as Bruce Gilden, but I do like photographing in public and I’ve been getting closer to the strangers I photograph. It’s fun to exercise different techniques and set-ups. Mostly, I’m just looking for what’s most enjoyable to use while yielding good results.
A walk around NYC a few weeks ago. Zorki 6 and Industar 50/3.5.
The Zorki 6 offers a compact solution with a quiet cloth shutter (something many people make a huge fuss about) and excellent lens selection (it’s Leica screw mount after all). I purchased it from someone in Brooklyn with an Industar 50/3.5 that yields excellent results. Subsequent light leaks and a desire for a light meter under darker situations (as well as other woes associated with using a half-century-old device) left me in desire. A recent sale of deprecated videography equipment funded the purchase of a used Bessa R, which has satisfied my steepened demands of a photographic tool. Its shutter is significantly louder, but I’ve realized that doesn’t bother me (it’s the mirror slap of SLRs that has always bothered me). The Bessa has lifted many of the limitations I felt imposed by my equipment, and has made a significant step (may I say a significant few steps?) towards removing the camera from my photographic vision.
Hanging out in a friend's future neighborhood. Bessa R and Industar 50/3.5.
I’ve had somewhat of a personal renaissance with photography this year. My rate of capturing images and developing film has experienced an exponential rise, which will soon plateau off if only for the sake of my wallet. I’ve sold cameras I don’t use, bought new (old) ones, bought new lenses, bought old lenses, I’ve tried new developers, new techniques, and been reading a lot. Ever since I started in high school, I could always make a decent photograph. Funny how now I realize how little I knew back then about how a camera works and what actually makes a photograph.
The reason for this new section to the dot org is that I’ve felt unfulfilled. I take photos (a process I love), develop them (a necessary nuisance), scan them, and then look at them. It seems sort of anti-climactic. So I wanted something more. Hence, this new installation. What will come of it, I do not know. I want to post some of my frames here, maybe detail some of my experiences in a blog form. This isn’t really a means to an end, but more of an exploratory affair. We’ll see where it ends up, but let’s just hope it brings more good than not.