It’s not really a piece for my portfolio website. Well, not yet at least. It’s an ongoing long term project, that is, if the act of teaching yourself a new trade could be considered as such.
Just shy of three years ago, I went in on a Nikon D80 with my dad. It was Summer 2007, he was about to take his annual trip to aide a Haitian community, and I was looking forward to my Fall semester where a sort-of-photography class was waiting for me. I say sort-of because although it qualified as a graphic design course, we needed to own a digital camera for the duration. I figured it was a great opportunity to get a relatively decent DSLR to make the most of my work — something that could outlive merely one semester at MICA. Plus, being able to share it with my dad cut the cost in half!
This is my Norwegian friend and co-worker, Hallvard Fjeldbraaten. He’s an excellent copy writer by trade, and photographer by hobby. I caught him snapping some photos of the Chicago river from the window, with his Asahi Pentax Spotmatic. This led to our immediate discussion about his camera, which led to my handling and inspection of said camera, which led to my now-frequented ebay account… Well, these days me and my formerly-government-owned Honeywell Spotmatic are doing just fine!
Yes, I said Honeywell — for those of you who think it’s the second rate version of Asahi’s model. Although it sort of is, specifically it’s just the American version. The way I see it, a manual camera like this is just a box that houses the film. Less deserving of a feud over image quality, than most DSLRs are today.
Ah, and here’s a shot of the Chicago river in early Fall, for sake of my visual narrative.
My experience with my Nikon D80 has given me a lot of leverage with manual settings, and I think I’d lend thanks to that previous knowledge for giving me only a few over exposed images from my first couple rolls of film. I’ve been using my Spotmatic to document my new life in Chicago as well as shooting a few special projects along the way. I’ve been exploring different brands of film, as well as a variety of speeds. I’m still trying to harmonize with Ilford, not giving up hope just yet — it just seems to me that so far, Kodak truly has given me the richest blacks and agreeable exposures.
On that note, I have only shot a few rolls of color film and those were mostly in the beginning. I quickly decided that the combination of color film and this old camera only lead to aged and de-saturated images. Although I can see the nostalgic value that appeals to a lot of people, these photos still leave me wanting more in the way of contrast; light moments are so quickly blown out and feel very hot in comparison to an otherwise bland image. I will say, there were a couple color photos that came out okay, but until I get sick of grayscale, grayscale wins!
In terms of those couple color photos, here is a small batch from the holidays in Venice Beach, Florida in December 2009. These were taken at my aunt’s beach house and along the water nearby.
I didn’t pack any film with me before I left for Tampa, because the security x-ray procedure at airports can ruin undeveloped film. So I was banking on a local CVS to supply me with some Kodak for the visit. Sure enough, I found a 3-pack of Kodak HD color film.
Yea, weird… but I bought a pack out of sheer curiosity. What turned out to be even weirder was the way that the color blue reacted to direct sunlight. The images I’m sharing are all scanned from the film and entirely untouched in Photoshop. The following two, blew (pun!) me away when I saw the developed prints; they’re obviously not what I was aiming for, but in a weird SoCal punk sort of way, I really like them!
How Ed Templeton of me, right?
I have found that I’ve taken far less photos with my Nikon ever since I got into the Spotmatic. For a beginner I think it’s more fun; the adventure, the uncertainty, the unexpected results. I’ve been talking with a close friend about a collaborative effort involving black and white photography. That will be the true test — how do I hold up under pressure of a job? With the Nikon it was no big deal, but things are a little bit more of a puzzle now. But puzzles are fun!
I think I might make it a regular feature on the blog to share my newest photos. Perhaps a weekly edition — a daily routine might be too aggressive for me, afterall I’m a firm believer of quality over quantity.
I’ll wrap up with what I believe to be one of the best images I’ve ever produced. Frankly, I don’t know what I love more about it; the near perfect exposure, the elegant and intimate composition, or the fact that I’m going to marry the beautiful girl in the photo.