My Favorite Film Cameras and Film Choices

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We do so many cool things in P52 and this idea is one a lot of the photographers are picking up on.

We are going to have a fun little ‘assignment’ to shoot 24 frames of film in May. Just 24… but we want all of them to be ‘good shots’. What started as a one shot per day for 24 days morphed rather quickly into simply shooting 24 frames… not necessarily one per day. Quality is more important than the surreptitiously applied time frame of one per day.

And what is the point?

The point is to look at making an image as something important, something that can take some time to do. Without the ability to ‘check the screen’ we have to learn to trust our guts.

We also have to make very sure – very DAMN sure – we have the shot we want in the frame. Check the composition, then check the corners, then check it all again. Whether shooting 35MM or 6×7 all of the photographers will be treating the frame as though it was 8×10… taking their time to make sure the image in the lens is what they want to commit to.

One click.

Move on.

I have been asked about what cameras would be good for beginning film shooters.

I have some opinions on that (and I know you are all shocked… shocked to hear I have opinions on something), and here they are:

While I personally think that just about any old film camera will work for this project and almost anything else you want to do, I do have some favorites.

[EDITED TO ADD: If you have an old camera and need an instruction manual to figure it out, here is a resource for you. Yes, your eyes may bleed from the web design, but the content will make you smile.]

Nikon F2 Photomic.

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Here is one for about $150, but they can run up to $600 depending on how nicely they are cared for. A very simple camera with a nice feel in the hands, the F2 was a staple of commercial and editorial shooters for a decade. Simply a beautiful machine. Manual focus.

Nikon F3

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This was their flagship camera and the nicest camera I have ever owned. I love my F3. Light and smaller than the F2, it also has one of the best meters ever put into an SLR. I have found exposures running to about 30 minutes with it. The camera also has a mean “Auto” feature for aperture value shooting. An Ebay favorite, they run from about $200 to upwards of $600 again depending on how meticulously they were cared for. Manual focus.

Nikon FM2

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A staple in every Nikkon shooters bag back in the day. Why? Flash sync of 1/250 – twice as fast as the F3 sync due to vertical curtains. This is also one of Nikons best cameras. They were rugged and sure, and very easy to handle. You can pick up a Nikon FM for about $150 – $500. (Yeah, and a bit more – they are quite popular film cameras).

Nikon F4

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Their first autofocus camera. Big and versatile. It is a coveted camera for a lot of film shooters who rely on autofocus. These are actually less than the F2/F3 cameras on Ebay. Auto focus.

Canon F1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I never used it, but I knew a lot of guys who loved it. This is a ‘tank’ of a camera. The F1 is a Manual focus camera. Heavy and solid. They run about $300 – $500 on Ebay.

Canon AE1

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No list of film cameras would be complete without one of the classic film cameras of all time, the Canon AE1. Program mode, fast shutter speeds and a body that just goes and goes and goes. They run from about $100 – $250 on Ebay. The AE1 is a manual focus camera.

Canon EOS Cameras

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I purchased the EOS 1 the same month it was released… amazing camera and I still use it. The feel in my hand was simply amazing. I highly recommend these babies… and if you are a Canon shooter, you will feel right at home with the wheel on the back for adjusting the exposure. From about $200 to $500 depending. I have both the EOS 1 and the EOS 3N… lovely and wonderful cameras. These are both auto focus cameras.

MEDIUM FORMAT CAMERAS

I love shooting the big boys… and here are the ones I am most familiar with. All of these are manual focus cameras.

Mamiya RB67 (and the Mamiya RZ67 – not pictured)

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These are beasts of a camera. Very heavy, and well suited for tripods (unless you have upper body strength to spare). They make a 6x7cm image on a roll of 120 or 220 film, and you must have the correct film holder for either one of those. This means 10 shots on a roll of 120 and 20 shots on a roll of 220. The other feature is that the lenses are mounted on bellows, so they are focused by moving the bellows in and out with the wheels on the side, not by twisting the lens.

One of the features of this camera is that the back rotates so the camera is always shot in the same position, while the photographer rotates the back for a vertical image. They are affordable and present a whole new way of making images for those who are used to shooting SLR’s of any kind.

Bronica GS1

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These very sleek medium format cameras also shoot 6×7, but the photographer must turn the camera from horizontal to vertical. The lenses are also focused with the traditional twist. There are a whole host of accessories for this camera, from lenses to prism finders. If you are looking for something with a lot of punch, but not as heavy as the RB67, look at these sweet cameras.

Running from about $350 – $700 on Ebay.

Hasselblad

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The big tuna… The Hassies are classic cameras that take a square 6×6 format image. That is 12 images per roll of 120. You must have the correct film holder for both the 120 and the 22o films. Extensive lens collections and amenities are found for this prestigious camera. They are running from about $500 to $900 depending on the condition.

THE 645 FORMATS

These are remarkable cameras as well as lighter and easier to carry than the ones above. Because of the way the film loads, the image is 6cm x 4.5cm – which results in 16 images per roll versus the 12 of the square format cameras.

All of these are great deals as well, with lots of lenses and additional tools available.

Bronica 645 – these run from about $250 to $600.

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Mamiya 645 – these run from about $250 – $600 as well.

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Pentax 6×7

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An esoteric favorite, the Pentax 6×7 handles like a giant SLR. There is an extensive lens line and many accessories. The lenses were considered second to none. This is still one of the cameras I coveted but never owned. It may be just the thing for you if you want to move into MF Film and like the handling of an SLR. This camera shoots a 6×7 image (10 per roll of 120). These cameras are in high demand, running between $500 to $1200 with a lens.

(Edited to Add)
Yashica Mat TLR (Twin Lens Reflex

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This is a 6×6 image camera (12 shots on a roll of 120) and is also a unique type of camera. You look through the top lens while the image is taken by the bottom lens. This camera focuses on bellows so there is no internal movement of glass within the lens. Inexpensive and quite fun to shoot. You are already used to shooting with one… the act is very similar to chimping, looking straight down into the camera to see the image on the ground glass. Image is reversed. From $100 – $400 on Ebay.

Shooting Film

Most of the film shooting I do these days is on C41 films (color negative). Most of the film I shot back in the day was chrome (E6), which is transparency film. I rarely shoot that these days as transparency and digital look so much alike. Color negative film has a different patina, a different color space than transparency.

I shoot Ektar 100 film in both the 35MM and the 120 roll sizes. Fine grain and very nice color range.

And I shoot Kodak Portra as well. Note, Portra comes in ISO 160, ISO 400 and ISO 800 flavors. I shoot the 160 ISO film at ISO 100… always have. I find that this film can take a bit of over exposure much better than any underexposure.

It is also fun to shoot traditional black and white ON black and white film. I recommend a set of filters if you do, but for many projects, filters are not needed. (I am referring to Red, Green, Yellow and Amber filters for darkening skies and lightening greens in landscape.)

My favorite Black and White films are the Kodak T-Max line, an Ilford film or two and a couple of Fuji’s.

NOTE: You can get all of these films in higher ISO’s, but I like the ISO 100 flavors for a lot of reasons. Choose the ISO range that works for you.

Shooting with film, things to remember;

  • You cannot see what you just did. Don’t try.
  • You must shoot the whole roll at the same ISO
  • When you get the film processed, it is somewhat fragile and can scratch. Be careful with it.
  • Film has more latitude, but prefers to be over exposed than underexposed
  • I prefer to get my scans at the time I process the film. Yes, it is more expensive, but I do not spray and pray with film.

Well – that is a very short list of cameras and film that I use for shooting film images. Use the comments below to share your favorite camera and or film… and let us know why.

See you next time.

 

“Air” by Meggan Joy Trobaugh

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At the Project 52 2014 group, the assignment was “Air”. There were many wonderful submissions. This one by Meggan Joy Trobaugh was exceptional I thought. She carefully planned out the work and made the elements for the final work with a previsualized image already in her mind.

Here are Meggan’s steps.


“I made this smokey ballerina to represent air. I wanted to make something that “felt like Monet” would like it. It might of ended up more along the lines of Degas but I will take it either way.

This image was made with only a tripod, smoke bombs, a patient husband and a well placed mask in Photoshop.

First, I sketched my idea. I would share my sketch but I actually lost it while shooting to some mud. Basically, imagine a very crude drawing of a stick figure with smoke all around it. THAT, was the starting point.

While I was sketching, I was trying to figure out what I needed to do to make it happen. I knew I could layer multiple images and mask out certain parts of them to make a negative human shape. So that was the rough plan.

But I was still not sure it would visually work. So before I spent my afternoon shooting and the rest of the evening buried in Photoshop for nothing – I did a test shoot. That way, I could figure out any bugs and if the idea needed to be abandoned I could toss it and have plenty of time to come up with a new idea.

So I went to the backyard and “volun-told” my husband to stand in as my human shape to mask out in post.

It went bad.

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I learned that my background needed to be out of focus and that my human shape needed to be almost “too perfectly human” for the eye to recognize it. I also learned that I did not need a “real” human to stand in which was good because my husband was not enjoying this. We also figured out that we needed a better way to hold and manipulate the smoke bombs, because they actually get hot and can burn you. Go figure.

So while the test was ugly as all get out, it served it’s purpose. I regrouped the plan and found a better natural backdrop (that may or may not of been on private property) and made a container to hold the smoke bombs. We spent about an hour shooting different frames with smoke coming in all different directions. Also making sure to get a “blank slate” starting point to build off of.

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The technique I used to layer in the smoke is hard to see with the type of images I was using if you are unfamiliar with masks, selections and the like. So I will demonstrate what I did with some solid color adjustment layers. Then come back to the actual files later.

First, I made and saved a selection so that I could apply it to my mask for each individual layer and keep it matching. I purchased and used a ballerina vector file so I could get a head start using the magic wand tool, it cost me a dollar and saved me a couple hours of work. Well worth it in my opinion. But you could easily make a selection in any shape you wanted and it would work just as well. As it were, I ended up changing the shape of my ballerina quite a bit to suit my own tastes.

At this point, I would suggest saving your selection. You can find out how to do that in a quick google search. For now we’ll just assume you know what I mean when I say that.

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I am going to add a yellow fill layer to represent one of my smoke layers.

* there are a lot of ways to add a selection to a mask, this is just the way I do it *

To make a mask with my selection shape – I first, need to make sure I have the layer I want to cut out selected WHILE the marching ants are on my project.

From there, I just add a mask and POOF.

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I am sure there are much prettier and sexier photoshop ways to go about this, but this is what I did.

By nature of my image – being full of smoke and all – I needed to refine this mask to feel more smokey. You can do a gaussian blur or you can feather the mask – I did different versions of all of these, but I also used a custom brush tool that was made to look like smoke.

This brush was from a tutorial from www.Phlearn.com which is a go-to check every day website for me. This is the tutorial I learned this trick from it even has the brush I used there to download for free. http://phlearn.com/atmosphere-and-effect – it really is handy.

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I was being really heavy handed with the brush for this yellow layer – normally, I would have it at 10% opacity at the most and just build up into masking out parts that I don’t need.

However, my aforementioned finished image was a mix between the ballerina being shaped by negative space AND being filled with smoke in select places. So, on my next layer I need to do exactly the same thing only before I start refining it with a smoke brush I need to invert it.

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Inverting a mask is rather simple. Highlight the mask and hit Command-I / Control-I or you can double click the mask and a properties panel will show up with a invert button. That is also how you can easily feather the mask as well.

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These two layers demonstrate the basic principle of what I did. Only I did it with layers of photos of smoke taken on the tripod. Here is what my actual working file looked like while it was coming together. I will highlight the mask so you can see how each layer was built up.

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and …

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Some of my masks only included a tiny bit. This is because the smoke was all over the place. I had to create a uniform shape out of many images. To keep myself organized I cropped them and toned them all the same in Lightroom. Then I pulled each image in one by one depending on what I felt I needed.

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I would like to think it helps Photoshop run smoother if I keep the files out of the program until I absolutely have to use them.

Once I got my shape the way I like it, it still had that “photoshop” feeling to it. So to help bring it together I added a few adjustment layers. Including: a few washes of color with a blending mode, a brightness/contrast layer masked to fill just my “subject smoke” with more “light” and then a vignette made with a curves adjustment layer. I also sharpened a few things and added a blur around the edges with the Iris filter run on a stamp visible layer. If any of these details interest you, or confuse you – I suggest either Phlearn (again) or reading Lesa Snider’s Photoshop CC: The Missing Manual. (http://www.amazon.com/Photoshop-CC-The-Missing-Manual/dp/1449342418) Both of these resources are invaluable to me and could not come any more highly praised.

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From there, I saved it back into Lightroom and did some final adjustments there. I like to add the split toning ext in Lightroom because I have custom presets made so that my full body of work feels more cohesive together. That is my personal preference because I certainly could of finished off the image completely in Photoshop with the same results.

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So there you have it. A ballerina-air-smoke thing. Made from a few smoke bombs and Photoshop.

P.S. It actually took much longer to type out what I did then actually completing the post processing, so don’t be intimidated. I also used a crappy old windows laptop and this was all done with just the trackpad. If I can do it, anyone can. So no excuses. And if you do make something similar – let me know! I really would love to see it.


Thank you so much Meggan. A wonderful tutorial for such a unique image.

Visit Meggan’s site.

A Fall Workshop in the Canyons Announced

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The workshop is a blast.

We all pile into a large, comfortable van and head off to Northern Arizona. Our first night is in Flagstaff, then off to the reservation lands of the Navajo, Vermillion Cliffs, Marble Canyon, Kaibab Plateau and more. We spend an afternoon and a morning in Zion National Park. We are up for dawn in Zion, watching the sun creep over the incredible formations of rock is simply amazing.

Then it is off to Bryce for an afternoon view of that incredible landscape. The next morning we watch the sun rise over Bryce… delicate lines of light and shadow are mesmerizing… and it is an event that will simply never be forgotten. Later that day we head to Page, Arizona for a trip to Upper Antelope Canyon with our own guide. The slot canyons are simply breathtaking and you will love being in them. We end that day photographically at Horseshoe Bend… a much photographed part of the Colorado River. Then for some wonderful Mexican food in Page.

Our final day finds us traveling through Navajo land to the East Entrance to the Grand Canyon. If you have never seen that part of the canyon it will be a highlight. We visit the south rim stopping at all the major overlooks, then into the lodge for ice cream and coffee. That night we travel back to Flagstaff for a good nights rest before heading back to Phoenix on Friday morning.

We arrive in Phoenix at approximately 2PM. We start on Sunday afternoon and back on Friday… this ain’t no ‘learn how to use your speedlights’ workshop.

More INFO here.

“Black Angels” – An Assignment for a CD Cover

This week the Project 52 PROS for 2014 are working on an CD album cover for a faux assignment. The music is George Crumb’s “Black Angels” for Electric String Quartet.

It is very challenging music.

The students for this morning’s Friday class really knocked it out of the park. Check out these amazing images.

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Karen Kaiser photographed a 200 year old violin that must contain a fantastic story.

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Meggan Trobaugh’s Light Painting technique.

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Jean Pierre De Rycke Photographed a child’s wings with this unique Photoshop technique in mind.

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Clare Bambers visited a local cemetery in the UK to shoot the various angels. The light she created with natural and reflected gold was amazing. The then composited them into this haunting image.

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Jay Chatzkel used a page of the original score for his background while adding a touch of whimsy in the colored paper.

You can see more of what these talented photographers are doing at Project 52 Pros.

Is Giving One’s Images Away for Free a Brilliant Marketing Move?

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… or a very very bad idea?

Trey Ratcliff (Lost in Customs) has always given his images away on the Non-Commercial Creative Commons License. What is new today is his link to grab ALL of his favorite 500 images for free and download them in full high res form.

See more here: Free Download: Trey Ratcliff’s 500 Best Photos in Full Resolution

This is the new paradigm of photography that wasn’t really around in the old days. There were professionals with very expensive and exotic gear and the rest of the world was happy with a point and shoot that took 2 rolls a year.

Now photography is ubiquitous. From cell phones to big DSLR’s more people are engaged than ever before.

This has created a new source for photographers to benefit from; the teaching of the amateur photographer who wants simply to be better at that activity.

When you think about it critically, it is just another source – a channel so to speak – of revenue. The vast majority of them do not wish to become ‘professionals’, they simply want to have fun, make cool imagery, and be a part of the rich heritage of photography.

Nothing wrong with that. Lots of people take piano lessons who do not have their eye on Carnegie Hall. Lots of people go to painting workshops to learn how to do their art without designs on the Met. Ballroom dancing, Yoga, creative writing, scrapbooking, running, Pilates…. the list is pretty long.

These people want to be better at something and there are professionals out there to help them become better.

Trey’s always given his images as CC Non-Commercial, so they are not really seen as commercial anyway. His main revenue source is the amateur photographer who wants to make a ‘cool’ HDR shot on vacation. He has, to my knowledge, never pretended to be something he is not (and there are plenty of those folks who do out there) but has always maintained his amateur status as teacher and photographic vagabond. Actions/Presets/Ebooks/workshops.

Professional photographers will someday realize that the amateur and advanced amateur is as viable a market as corporations and ad agencies. And this new market carries no guilt or ‘wannabee’ status at all. It is a person wanting to know ‘how you do that’ so they can do it too.

Is that ‘pure photography’?

I am not sure I even know what ‘pure photography’ is these days… in fact: We must understand that what was once a “photographer” is now a different categorical definition. Where once non-photographers maybe shot a roll or two per year, they now shoot tens of thousands of images per year.


His market is a great swath of people who love making photographs that please them, and their own audience. We can sit on high and pass judgement, but that is sort of like telling me that nobody likes Rap music because it takes little to no musical ability.

True on what it takes, wrong on who likes it.

Photography is now a ‘participation’ hobby, with a possible nod to sports. It is no longer in the confines of the ‘professional’ with lots of exotic gear and expensive tools. It is open to the masses and they are eating it up with gusto.

Photography is no longer a narrow niche. It is no longer in the purview of the professional. It will NEVER go back. Never.

Trey (and others in that genre) are not interested in shooting for corporations or ad agencies or for magazines, he is of a newer breed of photographer who recognizes a market and fills that market with educational tools and intellectual property that it craves.

Where once we had two channels – professional photographers / the rest of the world – we now have dozens or more.

Professional photographers.
Professional photographic educators.
Semi-professional artists, semi-professional consumer photographers.
Serious amateurs who devote tens of thousands of dollars to participate.
Instagrammers and Hipstagrammers and the companies that print books.
Blurb, Artifact Uprising, MILK and more
Wedding pros / wedding amateurs…
Vigorous amateur participation that brings BILLIONS into the genre.

Why we continue to find fault with this new and widely diverse new model simply stumps me.

Pianists teach people who do not want to be professionals.
Guitar and drums and trumpet and french horn teachers do the same.
There are painting and poetry and creative writing workshops and education for people who do not want to be professional, just better at what they love.

Universities keep turning out people with sociology degrees, and early french literature degrees, and philosophy degrees (and hundred thousand dollar debt) to people who will never be able to make a living with that information.

Why is it wrong, or somehow devastating to some, that a guy like Trey comes along and says.. “Hey, I have a different approach. I don’t want to make money from my photographs, I want to teach and help and be compensated for that.”

As far as I know, he has never offered anyone the “Tips to a Six Figure Business” or the “Seven Secrets Every Photographer Should Know”… He has a loyal and fairly deep fan base that loves what he does and compensates him for doing it.

That his business model seems to worry so many “professionals” is far more troubling to me. We better learn to embrace the change or we will all be old farts sitting around bitching while the youngsters spin circles around our tired asses.

“What Should Photographers Charge in 2014?” – A Discussion with Rosh Sillars

My bud Rosh Sillars’ recent article on “What Should Photographers Charge in 2014?” really hit home with me and a lot of my Project 52 PRO’s. Pricing and figuring out what to charge is always a very difficult part of starting a photo business, and Rosh takes a very pragmatic, and value producing look at this timeless conundrum.

A significant truth:

“Here is the bottom line:  You can’t win if you play the lowest-price game. You can’t beat free and stay in business. Friends with cameras, cell phones and free stock photography are going to win every time if you don’t have something better to offer.”

Rosh makes the point that setting ourselves apart from the mediocre, and the mundane is absolutely necessary. Whether in the work we do or the way we do business, bringing value to the table for our clients is a game changer.

Another real world challenge is that the day of the ‘button pusher’ is over. Amateurs with talent can make images that are far beyond what the best shooters were able to make 20 years ago. The technical skill involved is learnable for free, and there are many, many talented people with great ‘eyes’ for imagery.

You simply cannot be “average” anymore.

“Just because your friends and family tell you that you have a good eye doesn’t mean people will pay you for your photography.  We are in the heyday of photography. Photos are everywhere. Unfortunately, being able to create an in-focus, well-exposed and nicely composed photograph is not enough for a photography career.  You need more.”

I hope you enjoy this interview and the great questions that were asked by our Project 52 PRO’s.

Thanks for watching.